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Activities Travel Well-being


wellness breaks

By Bernadette Fallon

Looking for a staycation with a difference? Add some restorative healing to your break – whether that’s by reading, detoxing or walking with llamas!

Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales: books

Reading can help to reduce stress and, studies show, it works better and faster than listening to music or going for a walk. And where better to read than a book town? There are only three book towns in Britain; Hay-on-Wye in Wales, Wigtown in Scotland and – the most recent addition to the list – Sedbergh in Cumbria. 

As you would expect, Sedbergh has plenty of bookshops, selling both new and second-hand volumes, including the wonderful Westwood Books at the end of the town with over 70,000 titles in stock, including rare and first editions. There are books to buy in the tourist office, books to browse in the bars, cafes and restaurants and books to read in the local chippy. There are even books in the outdoor clothing shop, which has a very nice collection of vintage children’s literature. And there’s a book shelter in the middle of the high street, stocked with a range of books to take home and return after reading.

There are also craft shops and a weaving studio and – with the Yorkshire Dales on your doorstep – many wonderful walks, from a simple wander up the hills at the top of the high street to hard core hikes over stunning terrain.

Where to stay: Revamped former 17th century coaching inn, the Black Bull, has chic contemporary rooms upstairs, kitted out in deluxe style with locally made furniture and sleek bathrooms. Downstairs there’s a cosy bar and a light-flooded dining room, serving the best of local produce cooked with a European/Asian twist. 

B&B from £125 per night; theblackbullsedbergh.co.uk

Rudgwick, West Sussex: detox

Detox diets are designed to eliminate toxins from your body, improve health and promote weight loss, leaving you feeling lighter, more relaxed and – usually – glowing. The Simply Healing retreat in Sussex offers a variety of detox juice diets and weight-loss programmes and has been voted by Vogue as one of the best detox centres in the country. The Telegraph says it’s “arguably the best in the UK”. 

The programme includes juice five times a day, vegetable soup in the evening, cleansing herbs, daily meditation, holistic treatments and colonic hydrotherapy. The retreat has a 68% visitor return rate and regularly hosts celebrities and royalty. 

It’s run by Vivien Kay, a trained British healer and shaman who has worked all over the world, starting in California where she introduced her juice retreats 30 years ago after using the approach to heal her own health issues. She’s run healing clinics around the UK and Ireland, led pilgrimages to sacred sites in Peru, Egypt and Mexico and still takes regular tours to meet the shamans of Manu Picchu.

Where to stay: The centre is residential and housed in a lovely red-bricked house in rolling countryside. Bedrooms are large and light-filled with beautiful views, stocked with magazines and DVD players. There are sun-loungers in the garden and a hanging swing under the trees. It’s as sociable as you want it to be; juice is served in the communal dining room several times a day, there’s also a daily afternoon (herbal) tea in the foyer. You can hang out with the other guests in the book-filled sitting room, hook up for walks or simply enjoy some time to yourself in your room or in the exercise lounge.

Prices from £1000 for the 5-day juice cleanse, from £1500 with treatments; simplyhealingcentre.com

Godalming, Surrey: llamas

Llama treks are big news in wellness, a new form of meditation and a novel way to de-stress – taking a llama for a walk is popular worldwide. Llamas are beautiful and very gentle animals, curious, friendly and very calming company. 

The Merrier Harrier’s in Godalming, Surrey, offers a variety of different treks, from simple walks lasting an hour and a half to luxury champagne picnic expeditions, with a choice of 10 llamas. Prices start from £55.20 per adult and £27.60 for children.

Treks are through the Surrey countryside surrounding the inn, across beautiful meadows and tree-filled landscapes but, be warned, llamas love to eat (they have three stomachs to fill!) and you’ll be given some carrot snacks to keep your llama out of the hedgerows as you walk. The walks are suitable for anyone over the age of eight and llamas are known to have a particularly calming effect on children with special needs or anyone suffering from anxiety. 

Where to stay: The Merry Harrier’s Inn also offers accommodation in rooms over the bar, in garden cottages or – the best! – in shepherd’s huts around a fishpond in the next-door meadow. Kitted out with mini kitchens and Shaker-style wooden walls and floors, there are snuggly fur throws on the chairs and a wood-burning stove to cosy up to. 

B&B from £115 per night at the inn, garden rooms £110, shepherd’s huts £195, Or opt for a B&B trek – from £305 for two or £390 if you stay in a shepherd’s hut – with picnic llama walk and two-course dinner in the pub; merryharriers.com