New Year, New You: Top 6 Spas
Where to go to beat the Christmas calories and reboot for the new year…
Spa and Wellness Journalist, Suzanne Duckett is Spa Editor of Tatler Spa Guide, a regular contributor for The Telegraph and Contributing Wellness Editor of Psychologies magazine.
The Devon Detox – Yeotown, Devon
To lose weight, gain energy and cleanse in a nurturing, cosseting rather than punishing boot camp sort of way – Yeotown, in north Devon, is one of the UK’s more luxurious retreats.
Each day is carefully crafted to break you in gently. The ‘Yeotox’ personalised programme aims to build stamina and endurance. It was created by Mercedes Ngoh, an in-demand Vinyasa-yoga teacher, and her surf/health-devotee husband Simon Sieff.
It’s at their super-stylish, cosy-meets-coastal, 18th century farmhouse that you hole up for five nights. There, you’ll embark on a few days of the best hiking, healthy eating, yoga, t’ai-chi, exercise and massage on offer.
You’ll even get to experience some pretty off-the-wall alternative treatments, such as singing therapy (you might shed a tear or two) and even a gong bath – a type of sound therapy that might send you to sleep.The new spacious eco-rooms are more modern, bright and breezy and their newest luxury suite comes with double-height ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, a lovely warming double-sided fireplace, an outside patio space and its own meditation pod.
Days kick off at 7am in the yoga sala, followed by a liver-cleansing breakfast smoothie. You’ll hike along the coast, feel the sun, wind and rain on your face (outdoor activities take place whatever the weather), stretch and strengthen your core, then meditate, sit by the fire and zone out with evening massages to release your taxed muscles.
Food is delicious (on-trend chia puddings, quinoa salads drizzled with delicious dressings, vegetarian curries), all free from gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol (of course). You won’t go hungry, but you’ll still drop a few pounds and, more importantly, feel ready to take on the world.
Gracious Wellbeing At Grayshott
Set in nearly 50 acres of pretty gardens and grounds amidst 700 acres of stunning National Trust countryside, people have flocked to Grayshott to diet and detox since the 1960s. It’s a kind of swanky boarding school for grown-ups meets traditional country hotel and health spa.
Experts here believe that optimum health starts with a fully functioning digestive system, so fasting and dieting is their forte. The ‘Health Regime’, an intensive digestive cleanse, lasts a minimum seven days and includes the works. First, a pre-visit call from a health consultant to discuss your stay and take in your medical history, all the way through to a blood analysis and thorough look at your nutritional and dietary needs. So as not to shock your system, slow gentle changes take place.
The focus is on ‘gut restoration’ and ‘immune strengthening’ rather than hardcore detoxing (majorly important after the biggest yearly binge called Christmas). The plan is based on naturopathic principles, which consider the system as a whole, to prevent and treat disease.
And get ready for some health-boosting spa treatments, too – abdominal massage, hydro baths and liver-boosting castor-oil compresses. Optional ‘accelerator’ treatments – from cranial sacral therapy, acupuncture or Hopi ear candling – help rev up the healing process.
Sonnhof, Austria – Ayurveda In Austria
Head for the Alps to the family-run eco-chic Sonnhof Resort in Austria and gorge on therapeutic Ayurvedic treatments and brilliant back-to-back therapy sessions. They have a registered international trademark for European Ayurveda because they have brilliantly taken the principles of Indian healing and adapted them to suit our Western tastebuds. In addition to classic Indian ingredients, such as coriander, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon, they also use the healing powers of more local European herbs, such as thyme, basil and fennel.
Food is seen as medicine here and lies at the very core of the regime. To bring mind, body and spirit into balance, you eat according to your ‘dosha’, the bodily humour (whether Vata, Pitta or Kapha) that makes up your constitution. They have a Swiss Ayurvedic chef (cracking combo) who used to cook for temple monks in India, so the cuisine is light, tasty and consists of mainly veggie and fish dishes.
The rest of the day involves gentle classes and treatments, ranging from acupuncture to massages and anti-ageing facials. Supper is rice and vegetable broth, a warm welcome after a day sans solids.
The BodyHoliday, St Lucia – Caribbean Getaway With A Fitness Twist
Hidden away in a private cove in northwest St Lucia, this all-inclusive Caribbean resort even includes a daily 50-minute spa treatment and exercise classes (except on arrival and departure days).
They were early adopters of the spa-in-hotel scene, incorporating – and still hugely passionate about – the weaving of wellness into your holiday. Never fear though, rum punches by the pool from midday are also very much part of the culture. Their latest investment (other than the $20m refurb) is the BodySciencePlus programme, which focuses on a form of DNA testing, using a combination of Western science with Ayurvedic guidelines. For your bespoke health reboot, kits are delivered to you at home, then sent on to a Danish lab, which forwards the results to St Lucia in time for your arrival.
Programmes focus on digestive health, detox, fitness, weight management, de-stress or healthy ageing. All aim to beat sluggishness and get you eating an ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet and following an achievable exercise regime, with hormone supplements, if need be.
Other activities include t’ai chi, Pilates, yoga, spinning, fencing, tennis, golf, volleyball, sailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing and scuba diving. It’s not called the BodyHoliday for nothing.
Moving It In Morocco – In:spa, Morocco Fitness And Detox Holiday
On top of a winding hill in the Atlas mountains, the In:spa takeover of Le Palais Paysan, a contemporary 16-room boutique hotel in what feels like the middle of nowhere, for a physically transforming seven-night action-packed stay.
First-timers may not quite grasp what a healthy detox holiday means in practice until they find their bespoke agenda in their Berber-carpeted, Atlas Mountain-facing rooms. The schedule mixes up group circuit and fitness training (often two sessions per day) with (usually) two yoga sessions per day, as well as one-to-ones with the nutritionist and personal trainers. Two very deep sports massages included in the week are essential after the vigorous outdoor exercise classes, as are the downtime slots that typically see people congregating on the mountain-facing sun loungers to absorb their winter vitamin D down by the pool.
The food is exceptional, gluten and dairy free and made by an English chef brought in to work with the nutritionist. Although not a boot camp, if the diet and exercise is taken seriously, it is a week where you can see satisfyingly visible results, particularly if you start reducing the usual suspects, such as caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates and red meat a fortnight before you get here.
SHA Wellness Clinic, Alicante – Energise In Spain
SHA is one of the most well-known destination spas in Europe and ideal for the cool, trendy spa seeker who wants a mix of east-meets-west health and beauty treatments and slick, modernist design.
Set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain views and the sparkling Mediterranean, the building and way of life is unlike any of the surrounding rustic Spanish homes in the residential neighbourhood. Instead super-modern, minimal and almost masculine in design and the stark white-and-decked rooftop pool area and restaurant could be in a trendy design hotel in Greece.
Bedrooms are just as clean-lined and pared down, with dashes of calming taupe and cream. Inside, a crack team of specialists from practically every field of wellbeing awaits.
They’re serious about whipping you into shape, with a macrobiotic diet that fuses the best of Japanese and Mediterranean food philosophies (predominantly whole grains, vegetables, soya protein, seaweeds, fish and next to no meat and dairy). Plus, there are heart-rate-raising coastal walks before breakfast, personal trainers and exercise choices galore. There’s also an organic hair salon, a tea lounge, lecture room and a kitchen where you can take part in macrobiotic cookery classes and learn how to nail making miso soup.
And what a hydrotherapy suite… you could wallow for hours in the circuit of pools with varying temperatures and massage jets and cedar-lined saunas and steamy Turkish baths. The Hydroenergetic Detox Cure involves potent essential oils, a gooey seaweed wrap and a bracing hosedown (think fireman’s hose) that will leave you brimming with energy and thrilled with the instant firmness of your thighs.
But there is a softer side to SHA – wonderful yogis and calming meditation experts and a Watsu therapist who will cradle you in a warm, candlelit pool and unfurl your mind and spine simultaneously.