Sometimes a spa day isn’t quite enough. You may be at a point where you need a few days to reset and reboot, or kickstart a new lifestyle. Spa hotels across the UK offer retreat packages, either with a specific theme – to improve sleep, diet, combat stress, or get fit – or simply to relax, spa and take time out.
Retreats traditionally create a nurturing space that is protected from the outside world. Within that space, the pressure is removed. You can take care of your wellbeing without being tempted by outside influences, but also not being judged or forced to do anything you don’t want to.
Spa retreats add an element of luxury – your vegan diet will be of a gourmet standard, your bedroom luxurious, and the spa will relax your mind, body and soul, delivering treatments to match the retreat’s ethos.
Often, experts are called in to run the retreat weekend for you, drawing in a number of elements for a truly holistic experience – diet, yoga and meditation, exercise classes, personal training sessions, talks, workshops, consultations, tests, therapies and spa treatments. Resident experts can offer support, encouragement and motivation, things that are often absent when you try to do it alone.
At the end of the retreat, you will be sent home with your own bespoke health programme so that you continue the good work and make necessary changes to your life. In our experience, spa retreats really can change your life.
Release your wild side in style and escape among the trees at Forest Retreats run by Hayley and Tom Court – Hayley does the yoga, Tom the forest bathing (he’s a qualified eco-therapist). Hill Farm has 15-acres of grounds with stunning views of the forests of Tintern and The Wye Valley. You can book to stay in a double room with a view, a terribly chic bell tent for four or bring your own tent and camp. Food is vegetarian, sourced locally and cooked by Tom. After a day of yoga and forest meditation, relax in the outdoor eco spa with its wood fired sauna and hot tub. There are lots of activities on hand for the outdoors-y types.
Champneys' four destination spas are great places to focus on maximising your physical potential, be it fitness bootcamps or weight loss and detox. The advantage of staying in a dedicated health retreat where everyone is focused on the good stuff reduces temptation: also the beautiful gardens, sumptuous relaxation spaces, plus the dizzying range of spa facilities, treatments and classes mean you will be less inclined to make a run for the sweet shop. If you really want to transform your body, try the Six Night Boot Camp at Forest Mere – don’t worry they say it’s more of a holistic approach than the military style bootcamps of yore, although four to six hours of exercise a day and a weight loss menu is not for the faint-hearted. You will be rewarded with some gorgeous body treatments and hopefully a better relationship with food and your bod.
Ragdale Hall is a destination spa, a huge country house in acres of parkland and countryside, entirely dedicated to wellbeing. It boasts a magical thermal journey, plenty of pools including a huge swimming pool, a gym and a roof top hydro pool where you can gaze at the countryside from Ragdale’s crenelated roof. They offer a tempting spread of retreats, from running, dancercise, Pilates, yoga, detox and mindful martial arts – browse through the special offers section of their website and see what appeals. Each retreat is run by an expert and member of their elite fitness team.
Gut health is becoming a big thing in the UK as we learn more about how our gut bacteria – the microbiome – can impact our physical and mental wellbeing. More spas are clued up to gut friendly foods with probiotics, fermented foods and rinks and good bacteria. Homefield Grange is a boutique retreat set in a pretty stone farmhouse and stables in the Northamptonshire countryside. It’s tastefully rustic chic, with a lovely modern Scandi spa offering delicious treatments that will take your mind off your rumbling tummy. Food is prepared by a gourmet raw food chef: after a while, your body will be satiated with nutrients and you won’t feel hungry – guests choose a juice fast or a raw vegan menu. Your incredibly comfy stay will include a consultation and tests, and your treatments and meals tailored forthwith, as well as yoga, meditation classes and Nordic walking.
The Clover Mill calls itself a boutique Ayurvedic spa, so expect a little rustic luxury, delicious healthy food and plenty of yoga while fully immersed in the pretty Worcestershire countryside near Malvern. Stay in a stylish Scandi-style eco-lodge with feature windows opening onto private decking overlooking the lake and trees. A typical day includes a personal dosha (body type) assessment; daily Ayurvedic treatments, daily Hatha yoga (the gentle kind), pranayama (breathing) and meditation classes in the yoga loft studios; and Ayurveda inspired meals using freshly plucked ingredients from the vegetable gardens and orchards. On the 5-day retreat, you can also enjoy a cookery demonstration and healing gong sound bath. The spa has a steam room and relaxation areas.
The Scarlet Hotel is perched on a clifftop overlooking Mawgan Porth beach and the wild Atlantic ocean. Their pool is a regular in our best spa pool roundups with its floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning oceanic scenery – never mind the outdoor barrel hot-tubs with their vertiginous views. The light and modern spa has a range of retreats and spa breaks to satisfy the discerning spa-ista in search of some beachside R&R. Each will include a sea-view bedroom, a four-hour Scarlet Journey, use of the facilities indoor and out (we love their hanging cocoon chairs and lantern-lit treatment tents). This year, they are launching their first yoga retreat, so add some privately tutored sessions and group classes, morning and evening meditations, plus a Happi Empire journal and top tips for setting your intentions. Namaste.
This elegant country house surrounded by acres of gardens, parks and woodland has a classy modern spa with an outdoor pool and a beautiful livery stables for some equine therapy. In 2020 we enjoyed a sleep retreat here run by hypnotherapist, Fiona Lamb, who explores and breaks down your blocks to sleep. The programme included sound gong sessions, where you lie in a yoga studio and let the vibrations of gongs and prayer bells rock you into a state of deep relaxation. But the best part was the equine therapy run by stable manager Dawn Cameron, where each person gets to tame their own horse – a very special experience for our Spa Spy. You can also book riding lessons or instructional hacks as part of your stay.
If you are going through, or have been through, something major – illness, cancer, bereavement – then Lifehouse is set up to take care of you. Their Remedy Retreat is two nights and begins with a consultation with the resident naturopath, so that your stay can be tailored to suit your needs. As well as free reign of the delightful modern spa, beautiful gardens, yoga and Pilates classes, you will also get two Made For Life Organic treatments, an energy healing or Reiki session, healthy meals and smoothies. Lifehouse also have retreats for menopause, digestive health, juice cleansing and stress: you can add certain therapies such as private meditation or Reiki to your stay at a discounted rate.