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…