Sometimes the only way to truly unwind is to leave the Big Smoke behind. These are some of the best wellness retreats in the UK to press reset.
The city’s environs are peppered with delightful, classic, quirky or contemporary stays that will give you the all-important verve to face the frenzy of the city. We’ve handpicked some of our favourite stress-relieving stopovers less than three hours from the capital that will tempt you into the countryside again and again…
Cliveden House Hotel and Spa
This magnificently elegant hotel, set in a 17th century mansion with a luxury spa and an outdoor pool, plus fine dining in leafy Buckinghamshire is just a 40 minute train ride away from Paddington.
A former home of Dukes and Duchesses, this palatial retreat has known an illustrious history. Cliveden has been synonymous with celebrities and statesmen from the world over, who come here for the ultimate in luxury breaks. With landscaped gardens managed by the National Trust, a fully refurbished spa with high-tech UV sauna and the notorious open-air pool where John Profumo and Christine Keeler first met in 1961, creating one of the 20th century’s biggest and juiciest political scandals.
While Cliveden’s impressive appearance and idyllic setting might suggest pompousness, the staff are noted for their delightful friendliness, and the hotel evidently enjoys its naughty reputation – DVDs of Scandal (the movie about the Profumo Affair) are on sale in the gift shop, and the portrait of the Manor’s first resident, the Duke of Buckingham, is hung right beside that of his mistress!
Healthy Gut Retreat with The Clover Mill
An escape from the city that focuses on food? We’re listening…
The ultimate in getaways to rest and digest, The Clover Mill has created a health retreat focused on nutrition and better digestion that deems to tackle gluten-intolerance, stress, anxiety, digestive issues, joint pain, chronic tiredness, weight management, and improve the body’s overall wellbeing – wow!
The gut microbiome is often referred to as ‘the second brain’. This is a varied culture of billions of bacteria that live in our lower intestine and are responsible for producing almost all of the dopamine and serotonin chemicals that control our moods and our emotions. The Healthy Gut retreat aims to reset gut balance with a menu of delicious pre and probiotic seasonal foods, Ayurvedic abdominal massage and yoga nidra, which encourages the gut-to-brain connection and increases overall health.
Guests will also receive a goody box at the end of the retreat, including a personalised yoga practice for home, massage oils and spice mixes that compliment your ‘dosha’.
Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa
Less than an hour south of the capital is a little known treasure trove. The cluster of buildings that make up Ockenden Manor play host to a sumptuous spa featuring 8 treatment rooms, gym, fitness studio, walk-through rainforest shower and Isopod flotation tanks among other facilities. Guests have a choice of taking the plunge in the indoor or outdoor pools, and a warm up in the saunas and steam rooms. If that doesn’t hook you, then the Manor’s delectable menu of seasonal offerings will: using top quality local meats from the nearby Balcombe Estate – venison and pheasant are typical features.
The hotel is quaint – just 28 rooms, and classical English is the décor of choice. The cosy-feeling rooms have old-fashioned charm but are surprisingly spacious with all the necessary mod cons. A quintessentially English weekend of recuperation!
Lime Wood, New Forest
Set in a fantasy-like glade in the midst of Hampshire’s New Forest, with wild ponies roaming free outside the grounds, Lime Wood Hotel is just 90 minutes from London. The exceptional restaurant is headed up by Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett, and the pretty courtyard bar is lovely enough to while away the whole weekend.
The hotel also features a steam-room, sauna and hydro-pool, as well as an outdoor pool and ‘mudhouse’ that overlook the forest. Guests may also access the rooftop herb garden to take in the scents while engaging in yoga or morning meditation. The main house has beautiful, opulent rooms, or you can stay in secluded log cabins with verandas to take in the picturesque views and log fires to curl up by when night draws in.
Gainsborough Spa Hotel, Bath
For the last two centuries it has been the fashion to take t0 the waters in the historic city of Bath. The trend remains today, at nowhere more chic than the Gainsborough Hotel. The jewel in the Gainsborough’s crown is seriously cool unique selling point – it has Britain’s only natural thermal water spa.
If you’re able to pull yourself away from the ancient, mineral-rich waters, you’ll discover the sumptuous restaurant menu curated by West Country born Dan Moon, rising star on the culinary scene. The cocktail menu has a distinctly apothecary theme – why not end a day of treatments with a thirst quenching remedy.
The Gainsborough Hotel is set in a 19th century former hospital, with a massive, 14,000 sq ft double-level spa and 3 connected thermal pools. Three of the most lavish suites have bathtubs connected to the thermal spring for guests to enjoy a thoroughly private natural bathing experience.
The Vineyard, Newbury
Just 50 minutes from London, outside the pretty town of Newbury, The Vineyard is a retreat with a difference. Focusing on fine wines, delivered directly from the owner’s California estate, and housed in a magnificent double floored glass cellar cabinet, guests can enjoy an unending list of superior tipples. They recommend a wine ‘flight’ with the sumptuous 5-course tasting menu that can be enjoyed while surrounded by the owner’s vast collection of impressionist paintings.
If that’s not enough, then of course there is a spa too. The team of therapists focus primarily on joint pain and massage working on those niggling knots. Also available are a circular pool with ‘swan jets’ and a current machine, along with Jacuzzi and steam rooms. Lunch can be enjoyed by the pool if so desired.
Totally switch off, disconnect and regain inner focus for a whole weekend. Escape the city for a retreat to rural Norfolk designed to include both beginners and experienced yoga buffs. With the focus mainly on meditation, with gentle yoga too, the guests will experience 48 hours of thorough unwinding. Including a menu of wholesome, vegetarian meals to aid the full body relaxation, enjoyed among the picturesque woodland that surrounds the gorgeous boutique mansion house base, guests will leave so well-rested you’ll wish a weekend was longer. Your phone can stay put in the bottom of your bag until Monday!
The next weekend away is scheduled May 18-21, and another in December with dates to be finalised in the coming months.
Special Mention – just a little further from London
Mindfulness for Women by The Sharpham Trust
Set within the enchanting Devon countryside, this Grade I listed manor house is a stunning base for a wellness break. Retreat days consist of guided meditation sessions, morning yoga, free time over lunch to exploit the warren of walking trails outside the grounds, before heading back to the manor for more mindful meditation.
The Sharpham Trust runs courses exclusively for women, providing a safe and supportive environment. “Using simple mark-making exercises, journaling, creative writing, stillness and movement, sound-making and listening, simple games and partner-work, we explore the present moment in fun and interesting ways.” Ideal for like-minded ladies to engage, connect, focus and relax in amiable company. All meals are provided as well.
Accessible in less than 4 hours by car or 3 by train from London, this hidden slice of heaven also offers day courses, weekend breaks and even 8-week sessions, where guests can receive an in-depth exploration of mindfulness recognised by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.
The next women-only retreat is May 27th to 31st.