Feeling good is not just about spas, as Katie McGonagle’s pick of wellness escapes shows.
Wellbeing can span many things. Over the past few months, it might have been as simple as parents being home for their kids’ bath and bedtime, finding time to cook healthier food, or finally getting a fitness regime going thanks to the flexibility of working from home.
However they define wellness, many of your clients may have spent time recently reassessing their priorities. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a handful of the best wellness breaks around the UK and Ireland, from appreciating our wildlife and wild countryside, to yoga retreats and mindfulness sessions, all designed to keep your clients feeling good long after lockdown is over.
1. Walk the West Highland Way
This 95-mile walking route through the Scottish Highlands is the ultimate in social distancing. You could traverse its entire length and barely see another soul, concentrating instead on tackling Conic Hill (worth it for the views of Loch Lomond alone) and the challenging Devil’s Staircase. Ben Thorburn of Wilderness Scotland, which recently ramped up efforts to work with the UK trade, says: “After lockdown and forced restrictions on our travels, it’s natural for us all to want space to expand our horizons once again. On a self-guided walk along the iconic West Highland Way, space is one thing that can be guaranteed. Journeying through the landscapes on foot, guests will find that with a slower pace of travel, they will experience more.”
“You could traverse its entire length and barely see another soul, concentrating instead on tackling Conic Hill and the challenging Devil’s Staircase.”
Book it: The Self-Guided West Highland Way starts at £840 including eight nights’ B&B accommodation, luggage transfers and route notes.
2. Get fit in Guildford
If lockdown has your customers picking up their exercise regime a few notches – or needing a kick-start to get into gear – the Flexible Fitness package at Grayshott Health Spa in Surrey might be the way to go. Wellbeing Escapes founder Stella Photi says: “Grayshott Spa has been a firm favourite with our clients for years for a short wellness break, but also if you have specific goals such as weight loss, getting fit or dealing with stress. We are hoping they will reopen by August as it will be an easy and safe solution for those wanting to stay in the UK for their wellness break.”
“If lockdown has your customers picking up their exercise regime a few notches the Flexible Fitness package at Grayshott Health Spa in Surrey might be the way to go.”
Book it: Wellbeing Escapes’ Exclusive Flexible Fitness programme starts at £1,274 for four nights with daily private fitness sessions (personal training, stretching, tennis or golf), plus exercise classes such as circuit training and yoga, a massage, full-board meals, talks and spa access.
Find your sense of calm with Wellbeing at Home webinars, featuring meditation,
yoga and exercises led by therapists from the world’s best wellness retreats. Sessions are Saturdays at 11am.
Pre-register at eepurl.com/5S26
3. See wildlife in Scilly
Nature has been one of the few beneficiaries of the current crisis, with fewer carbon emissions clogging the air. If customers are keen to reconnect with the environment, look out for new nature-focused product: Wildlife Worldwide has added a trip to Northumberland, while Prestige Holidays has reintroduced an Isles of Scilly wildlife tour. The latter is led by ornithologist Will Wagstaff, with boat trips to see Atlantic grey seals, dolphins and birds including oystercatchers, puffins, night herons and redstarts. General sales manager Lee Hamilton says: “The lockdown has led to greater interest in holidays that enable us to appreciate scenery, wildlife and flora. Over the next 18 months, I think holidays with a slower pace closer to home will have great appeal.”
“Prestige Holidays has reintroduced an Isles of Scilly wildlife tour, led by ornithologist Will Wagstaff with boat trips to see Atlantic grey seals.”
Book it: Prestige Holidays’ six-day Flora and Wildlife holiday on the Isles of Scilly costs from £1,449 departing April 23, 2021, including ferry from Penzance, five nights’ half-board and excursions.
4. Woodland wellness
Mindfulness went from buzzword to cliché with astonishing alacrity, but it could see a resurgence as guests look to put mental health at the top of their list of priorities. Country-house hotel Beaverbrook in Surrey – set to reopen on July 4 – has responded with wellness packages for clients readjusting to life after lockdown. Activities include an hour-long Awaken the Senses session, where guests are led blindfolded and barefoot through the forest then pause to listen to birdsong and try new foods, plus a silent meditative walk through the woods and a breathing therapy drawing on Buddhist techniques to relieve stress.
“Activities include an hour-long Awaken the Senses session, where guests are led blindfolded and barefoot through the forest then pause to listen to birdsong.”
Book it: A half-day package starts at £150 for day visitors or £100 for hotel guests, including two wellness sessions, a light picnic and use of the spa.
5. Do sun salutations by the sea
Tired of trying to master warrior pose or downward-facing dog over a Zoom-based yoga class? While there have been good efforts to improve wellness via virtual platforms, nothing beats an instructor talking you through it and checking your posture in person. That’s why The Gallivant, a 20-room hotel set in Camber on the Sussex coast, has added to its daily yoga, Pilates and meditation classes – which are free for overnight guests, and take place in the hotel’s new Summer House yoga studio – with a series of dedicated yoga retreats that also touch on nutrition, meditation and breathing.
“While there have been good efforts to improve wellness via virtual platforms, nothing beats an instructor talking you through it and checking your posture in person.”
Book it: A three-day yoga retreat at The Gallivant starts from £450 per person based on two sharing or £550 for single occupancy, and includes accommodation with meals and healthy snacks, yoga sessions at sunrise and throughout the day, plus a sunset beach walk.
6. Equestrian escapes
While the future of spas remains uncertain for now, hotels are turning to other forms of wellness. Luxury country estate Lucknam Park, near Bath, which has announced a planned reopening date of July 13, is making use of its on-site equestrian centre and stable of 30 horses to offer “equine therapy”, where guests spend time with horses and learn to control them through body language. Equestrian centre manager Dawn Cameron says: “Lucknam Park will be relaunching its equine therapy sessions, in which we anticipate a surge of interest. The sessions are a form of mindfulness and an opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in the outdoors to help them learn how to communicate with others and release anxiety – skills even more meaningful in recent times.”
“Luxury country estate Lucknam Park is making use of its on-site equestrian centre and stable of 30 horses to offer “equine therapy”.”
Book it: Lucknam Park offers Equine Connect packages, including time working with horses, a night’s accommodation with breakfast and three-course dinner, and use of the spa, from £717 based on double occupancy in August.
Best of the rest
Forage for food on the Irish coast: Kuoni’s new UK and Ireland programme, in partnership with McKinlay Kidd, includes a foodfocused drive along the Wild Atlantic Way from Cork to County Clare, with a guided walk to forage for seaweed along the Kerry coast in Caherdaniel. Guests can try carrageen moss, sea lettuce and duileasc, and learn about their health benefits.
Try ‘bunker yoga’ in Jersey: This Channel island is home to a host of wellness experiences, from “forest bathing” in a west-coast nature reserve to stand-up paddleboarding yoga off the north coast. But one of its most unusual options has to be “bunker yoga”, where vinyasa yoga classes are taught in the open air on top of some of Jersey’s historic beachfront bunkers.
Spot puffins in Northumberland: Anticipating renewed interest in slow travel, Wildlife Worldwide has introduced a tour of Northumberland and the Farne Islands, where highlights include spotting puffins and Arctic terns nesting on the islands, as well as cuckoos, redstarts, red grouse and spotted flycatchers in the Cheviot Hills.