Chicest style and life-affirming substance:
The Well Connected in the Lake District
I’m dubious when I arrive at the Brimstone Hotel in the Lake District for The Well Connected’s debut yoga retreat – the last thing I want is to be force-fed jaunty activities and cucumber salad. Luckily, my doubts are quickly quashed; my huge mezzanine room’s log fire and pin-drop quiet start to lure me in. I spend the afternoon lounging in my king-sized double, but nobody minds. Unlike other retreats I’ve been on, there isn’t an ounce of pressure to participate in anything but relaxation, whether that means eating alone in your room or hiking through all assigned downtime.
Throughout the three days, retreat founder Nici Hewitson ensures the focus remains on abundance, healing and enjoying the epic mountainous landscape. Though there’s plenty of opportunity to make new friends, this trip is ideal for tentative introverts like me who want the security of a group that they are free to ignore. Hesitant yogis and the less-fit are also well catered for: our instructor, London-based yogi Charlie Morgan loves teaching all levels and weaves the perfect balance between challenge and release.
Peppering the class with quotes from leading thinkers, historical figures or spiritual teachers, from editor and writer Ariana Huffington to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Charlie’s creative fusion of fun, sweat and stillness is both inspiring and invigorating. To help facilitate our feeling pampered, Nici has thought of every little detail, from handwritten notes accompanying night-time gifts, to a welcome pack with quality bath salts and body spray.
There’s a creative edge to the optional activity choices, too – one night we’re involved in a traditional Asian tea-making ceremony with London Tea Club founder, Cecelia Lau, who takes us through the mindful practice of making and sipping oolong tea. It’s a memorable and thought-provoking experience, not to mention the best (and quietest) cup of tea I’ve ever had. Rush less, ‘be’ more, comes the message. Yoga, nature and green tea really are a magic formula.
Words Lucy Fry
The Well Connected is holding retreats at Brimstone Hotel with yoga instructor Charlie Morgan throughout the year, starting at £690 for double occupancy (£1,175 for single occupancy), all food and unlimited healthy snacks included for three nights.
Holistic healing with communal spirit:
42 Acres, Somerset
‘A home for truth, growth and change from the inside out,’ is the strapline. Now, that’s appealing. Walking through the door of 42 Acres, you always feel an unmistakeable sense of coming home. With nature and community at the heart of its vision, the retreat centre perfectly embodies the wildness of the Somerset woodland surrounding it with a warmth and intimacy that allow its visitors to dive into all modes of self-inquiry with comfort and care.
From the beautifully decorated bedrooms and group space to the cosy crackling fireplaces, Moroccan tiled bathrooms and intimate country kitchen, every corner has been designed to nurture the spirit and soothe the senses.
Outside of group work, the burgeoning alternative library provides hours of insight and inspiration, while snug sofas and hidden nooks allow a sense of retreat within the communal spaces. Sheepskins, tapestries, linens and rustic textures remind you of the wilderness beyond, where winding forest paths and a secluded lake wait to be explored. Founders Lara and Seth Tabatznik welcome a wide range of therapists and groups to the space from all over the world, spanning yoga, nutrition, sound healing and more, and it is fast becoming a hub for some of the UK’s most exciting holistic practitioners.
Words Xochi Balfour
Outdoor challenges with inner peace:
Green Farm Fitness, Kent
The Grade II-listed private farm – set in 12,500 acres of wood- and farmland – is an idyllic location. But bluebells and birdsong aren’t quite the expected recipe when you sign up for a fitness weekend. Having sworn off bootcamps ever since I was blacklisted for swearing at a very shouty instructor, I’ve been keen to find a spot that ‘gets’ our need for real R&R – meditation, yoga, nature walks – while also understanding that our oft-sedentary bottoms might benefit from a motivational confidence boost, too. GFF – run by Kathryn Freeland, who also founded Absolute Fitness – excels here.
The two days (arrive Friday night for dinner and orientation, leave 4pm on Sunday) are a perfect balance of sweaty, uphill struggle (and subsequent blissful adrenaline rush) and dreamy TLC (yoga, meditation, hot tubs) – nourished with home-cooked healthy food.
There are early starts (7.30am for breakfast, which is a bit of a wrench, given it’s a very rare weekend away without kids), but the morning circuits in the lush forest wake me up in a way that feels revelatory – this is me, at 9am, using my body to do stretchy, speedy, strong-ish things.
The real joy is what comes with the setting – lungfuls of fresh air, rosy cheeks, brighter eyes, great long sleeps as your well-used body recoups, and the freshly baked banana loaf that greets you after a two-hour cross-country hike. In places like this, you realise that life can be so simple – use your brilliant body – push it, challenge yourself, then cosy up with a pot of tea as you think back on what you’ve just done (after you told yourself you couldn’t do it). I’ll be back.
Words Eminé Ali Rushton
All-inclusive, with home-cooked and locally sourced food; yoga, walks, hikes, group sessions; hot tub, sauna, bike rides. Single occupancy of double room £495pp; double occupancy of twin or super-king room
(ideal for friends or couples) £395pp.
Hand-holding and profound recuperation:
The Arrigo Programme, Personal Retreat, Somerset
It’s all about ‘Woman’ here, but not in a hairy armpit way. Fiona Arrigo is a true heart-healer and trained psychotherapist, who offers essential advice and deep support on a life-changing level akin to the Hoffman Process, but delivered one-to-one and in a much softer style. Fiona is passionate about the need to nurture and find stillness. Her programmes are wholesome, grounding, clarifying, relaxing – combining hand-picked therapists, home-cooked food, countryside walks and fireside chats. You stay in a cute country cottage, but don’t let that fool you that the work undertaken here isn’t in earnest.
Arrive when you like, stay as long as you can. The rest of the world feels a world away. Slowly the layers start to fall off and you feel yourself dropping. You are looked after superbly. An ‘angel’ housekeeper magically appears to light candles, meals are delivered in a no-contact way.
Perhaps some unravelling acupuncture, transformational breathing or a profound body massage – therapies are picked in tune with your mood and needs, carefully calibrated from day to day with sensitivity. If you’re seeking privacy, a return to self, and a renewed sense of vibrancy, few boltholes compare or offer such palpable results. Fiona can expertly and gently open up issues surrounding addiction, depression, grief – you name it, she’ll walk it with you. You can’t put a price on that kind of love.
Words Daisy Finer
This is one of the original ‘health farms’ and remains a favourite, having won a clutch of awards over its 50-year history. Set in the Surrey countryside amid 47 acres of grounds, Grayshott offers a health programme including wellbeing days, recuperation, digestive cleansing and spa stays. They do what they do as they have always done – unfussily and very well – to help you de-stress, get fit or simply get away from it all. From cosy, homely rooms, to wholly delicious, clean food, it’s an affordable haven, just an hour outside of London. Where they excel, as you’d hope, is with treatments that go deeper – my last visit paired me with a therapist who’d worked there for 25 years and her intuition made for an unforgettable series of massages.
Short breaks from £495pp for two nights all-inclusive, including three treatments.
Words Eminé Ali Rushton
This is the first property in the world to offer the incredible Annee de Mamiel Rhythm of Nature Holistic Facial, in its Cottage Garden boutique spa. All therapists have been personally trained by Annee (one of the world’s best acupuncturists and aromatherapists), and mix traditional Chinese medical diagnostic methods with acupressure, Qi massage and herbal compresses. All of this makes for a healing journey that is ideal when taken as part of a long rejuvenating weekend. Longueville has glowing reviews on TripAdvisor and a five-star AA rating, making it the ideal place to indulge and unwind. Before you sink too deeply into an armchair, leave a little time to explore the gorgeous surroundings, too.
Words Ali Jones
Nightly rates start from £195 based on two sharing on a B&B basis, and the Annee de Mamiel Rhythm of Nature Holistic Facial costs £140 for the 90-minute treatment.