Gentle countryside, gentle yoga, Norfolk
Yoga at the Mill runs a wonderful mindfulness for wellbeing break in theNorfolk countryside at Fishley Hall. Accessible by train to Acle, on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth line, the four-day retreat with Lucia and Vikki offers lots of gentle movement, mindfulness and the opportunity to relax. The focus is on yoga practices that are influenced by the contemplative aspects of the wider yoga tradition, such as nidra. Lovely local walks fill your free time and tasty vegetarian food nourishes the body and spirit. We left refreshed and energised.
Llandudno is my quiet place
Needing space to recharge after Christmas and not wishing to go on a holiday where I’d feel pressure to do something every day, I bought the cheapest train to the cheapest accommodation by the sea. For me, that was Llandudno. I bought books, paid a visit to the charming Mostyn Gallery, took walks around its two promenades and gazed down from the Great Orme. Llandudno’s mix of quiet, natural beauty and its proximity to Manchester made it perfect for me to get away from the air and noise pollution. Just like its original Victorian visitors did 150 years ago.
Special Offa clears the mind
In 2019 and 2022, in two one-week holidays, we walked the Offa’s Dyke path, 177 miles in total along the Wales-England border. We travelled by train and took camping gear, stopping each night in pubs, B&Bs and campsites. We walked about 15 miles a day and despite poor weather it was one of the most restful trips I have ever been on – there was simply nothing to worry about apart from putting one foot in front of the other until you got to your night stop. The path is easy to follow, well waymarked and not particularly technical. It passes plenty of pubs (particularly in the south) and some of the scenery is spectacular.
Pods on the edge, Land’s End
In winter, the self-contained pods of Land’s End Camping (£255 for three nights, sleep four, max two adults) feel as if they’re at the end of the world. Just a few hundred metres from the most westerly edge of Cornwall’s rocky shores, the pods offer an off-season retreat from the noise and high velocity of modern life, and a grandstand view of the skies and seas as they veer between serenity and rage. Sea birds fill the sky as the colours of the setting sun illuminate the waves, cliffs and fields. The pubs are empty but will offer a friendly smile and jovial chat as you retreat from the elements for chips and ale. At Sennen Cove you might detect faint echoes of summer crowds. Your feet may get sodden in an inescapable downpour, but your heart will be warm and light.
Every visit to Dhanakosa in the southern part of the Highlands of Scotland feels like a homecoming. The centre, which is in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park, offers a range of wellness retreats. There is no requirement to be a Buddhist or have any knowledge of meditation – just a willingness to be open to what’s offer. Retreats include walking, nature, yoga and, new on the menu, wild swimming (the beautiful Loch Voil is on the doorstep). There is no charge for retreats: payment is by donation (for one week, £400-£600 is suggested). Retreats are fully catered.
Massages in the Algarve backcountry
While Lagos is a renowned party town in the Algarve, last spring I had a fantastic solo trip to a sustainable guest house just outside the city called Monte Rosa Portugal (doubles from €70). I stayed in a cute white apartment in the permaculture garden, with my own hammock. There’s a shared outdoor kitchen, a pool, pet chickens and a stunning yoga studio where you can also book fabulous massages. The onsite chef prepared breakfasts and dinners, all local food and reasonably priced, and catered to my gluten-free diet. The site is rural, but about 20 minutes’ walk away is a friendly village with a great market and a vegetarian cafe. It was a relaxing and inspiring place for painting and writing. The house also runs yoga and massage weeks from €545 in the low season.
Walking for wellbeing, Cornwall
No wellbeing event beats walking the South West Coast Path. Nothing to remember, nobody to rely on, other than your feet, and the need to keep an eye on the path. I’d advise booking accommodation beforehand to save on the need for planning while you are walking, but take into account your walking pace, ability and desire for exhaustion of course. Turn off the phone during the day to enjoy the beautiful scenery, exchange a few words with friendly walkers you meet, appreciate the beauty of the small things in life and arrive nicely tired at your next B&B. Return to normality relaxed with a refreshed mind and plenty of new, rich experiences.
I feel healed, Montenegro
For some down-to-earth healing, the forests, gorges and high peaks of the Unesco-listed Durmitor national park in Montenegro form the perfect remedy to the hassles of city living. Many of the hotels here have excellent spa facilities, such as the Hotel Soa, in Zabljak town, but we stayed at the pleasantly simple Hikers Den hostel. It’s run by Alex and Gina, who are really friendly and knowledgable and help people out with tips and even equipment. They held daily morning meetings to brief hikers on conditions in the mountains. It’s a great base for swimming, hiking and cycling.
Detox on the Danube, Romania
Following a tip from a Bucharest railway ticket inspector I took a trip to the Lebada spa resort (doubles from about £100), in the Danube delta last year. Just inland from the Black Sea in an extensive wetland area, Lebada is only accessible by boat – giving it a natural, peaceful vibe totally immersed in nature. Home to over 300 species of bird and wild horses, the idyllic, Unesco-protected landscapes of the delta are enough to make your shoulders roll freely and your mind open. Sauna, pool gym and detox programmes are available from just £10 a session, along with exercise classes and kayaking on the river. I felt ready to face a trip to Transylvania to meet Dracula after a few days here.
Winning tip: The wonders of west Dorset
With fresh local food, simple rooms and wonderful views of the Jurassic Coast, Othona West Dorset, between Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury, offers a wealth of courses, community weekends, specialist breaks and family celebrations which are genuinely physically and spiritually nourishing. All are welcomed regardless of religious leanings or lack of them. Whether it is walking, singing, yoga or simply being, Othona offers lovely breaks. Places such as Charmouth and Lyme Regis are close at hand too. If you are especially lucky, you may even glimpse a passing dolphin or a stunning starling murmuration from the coast path, which runs past the bottom of the garden.
Contribute to next week’s readers’ tips: Favourite trips in Ireland
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