Natalie French

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From full moon retreats in the South Downs National Park to cold water dipping on the east Coast of Scotland, Natalie French shares some of the best wellness retreats for 2024. 

Escape to the Cornish coast to the wellness resort of St Michaels in Falmouth to understand the nations new obsession with bathing in ice. This 3-night Wim Hof Break explores the power of breathwork and mindfulness; dip your toe into cold water endurance – both wild swimming and the infamous ice baths - under Level 2 Wim Hof instructor, Cat Peterson. You’ll leave with a new appreciation of the power of cold water (be warned: it’s addictive) and tools to help you overcome every day stress and mental fatigue.  

Re-wild your senses on this celestial-inspired retreat during the magic of a full moon (howling, optional). Located in a Dark Sky Reserve in the heart of the South Down National Park, you’ll be guided by forest bathing guru, Helena Skoog - who was born and raised in the forests of Sweden and now lives off-grid in ancient forestry in Sussex. As well as learning to slow down and immerse yourself in nature – embracing the Japanese art of Shinrin yoku - the retreat also includes early morning yoga, an isopod flotation session, aroma massage and evening polestar meditation. 

Pack your pyjamas and retreat to South Lodge for their new serene Pro-Sleep Spa Retreat. Unravel in the eco-friendly spa, set into the landscape with views out across the South Downs, before sauntering off for your 80-minute Tranquillity Pro-Sleep Ritual for two. Post-treatment drift back to your bedroom in a haze of heavenly-scented Comfort Zone products and take advantage of your in-room goodies - Camellia’s Tea House Sleep Well Tea and OHMG Magnesium Water – before sinking into the super-comfy bed. 

For a short but very special time of year, the surrounding woodlands at Green Farm in Kent are graced with the elusive Nightingale. Roughly the same size as a robin, these secretive and extremely localised birds are able to produce over 1000 different sounds. During the Nightingales Spa & Yoga Retreat you can enjoy a campfire supper in the ancient woodlands, followed by a late-night stroll to hear the melodic birdsong – celebrated by writers and poets. The retreat also includes yoga classes, pranayama (breathing) techniques, meditation, as well as a 55-minute ESPA treatment and mini consultation with the in-house nutritional therapist. 

Around 13 million women are dealing with brain fog, mood swings, hot flashes or any of the other 30 recognised symptoms of menopause. Thankfully, Menopause retreats are springing up across the UK, including Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa in the New Forest. Enjoy a 60-minute personalised massage using essential oils from The Menopause Boutique; bubble away in the hydrotherapy zone or cool off in the ice room, before feasting on a two-course lunch in the Thai-inspired Zen Garden restaurant. 

If fitness is your focus this year, head to the five star hotel and wellness retreat, Grantley Hall in the Yorkshire Dales. Their four-day intensive Health Enhancer Retreat programme uses expert coaches to kick start your health; expect a deep dive into nutrition with a consultation and food intolerance test, before working on your fitness levels with personal training sessions, use of an underwater treadmill and a session in the cryotherapy chamber. Massages and wellness workshops will leave you feeling rebalanced. 

Located on the East Coast of Scotland, Old Course Hotel have teamed up with triple Olympian swimmer, Keri-anne Payne, to offer a restorative retreat to explore the magic of cold water dipping. Known to reduce stress, boost the immune system and improve mental clarity, the three-day retreat includes a guided open water dips in beaches, lochs and tidal pools, taking in the magic light of sunrise and sunset. You can also hang out the hotels Kohler Waters Spa – complete with its very own plunge pool – and enjoy a soothing treatment. 

Lakes by YOO is an exclusive resort set in 850 acres of the Cotswold countryside. Aimed at the cash-rich market, the resort is home to super-luxury lakeside cabins with design partners including Philippe Starck, Kelly Hoppen and Kate Moss; keep your eye out for artwork from David Hockney. The Spa by Yoo recently opened its doors to non-residents; the Mum-to-be Retreat is designed to provide some much-needed me time in serene surroundings. The Half Day Spa Retreat includes a 55-minute Wildsmith Skin New Life Pregnancy Massage and a slap-up brunch in The Lakes Bar and Kitchen. 

Need a little direction for the year ahead? Sign up for the two-night Visionary Yoga Retreat at The Grove in Hertfordshire, just 18 miles from London. Led by Julie from Identity Yoga – who brings 12 years of experience from international retreats - the retreat promises to help you realise and achieve your personal intentions through meditation, yoga, journaling and breathwork. Julie uses positive psychology to leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired. Don’t miss a visit to the Sequoia Spa too; a Bamford or Natura Bisse spa treatment will leave you thoroughly renewed. 

‘Blue Health’ is the trend du jour. Try it for yourself at Seaham Hall on the Durham Heritage Coast. Experience the healing power of the seaweed with a heavenly 90-minute ishga Five Senses Ritual which, as the name suggests, incorporates sight, touch, taste, smell and sound to transport you to a state of deep relaxation. Post-treatment get horizontal on a vibroacoustic lounger in the Swell Relaxation Suite, guaranteed to soothe even the most highly strung of creatures. A Doctor Seaweed smoothie shot will bring you round, followed by a two-course lunch at the pan-Asian-inspired Ozone restaurant. 

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