The effects of Covid-19 run deep, playing havoc not just with our holidays, our work and social lives, but also with our physical and mental health. You can see it in the furrowed brows and frown lines visible above face masks, feel it in the aches and pains in places we never knew existed after months of unergonomic working from the front room and being confined to our homes. And the practitioners we would normally turn to for help – the osteopaths and physiotherapists, the therapists and wellness healers of the spa world – have been out of reach.
So as restrictions ease, we’re emerging from our homes to find that we’ve neglected some part of our health – whether we’ve forgotten how to exercise, piled on Covid kilos, become borderline alcoholics or underestimated the psychological impact of the pandemic, not just on ourselves but on our families, too.
Now, thankfully, restrictions in the wellness industry are slowly loosening. New guidelines are being implemented, and hygiene practices ramped up, so that we can seek the healing powers of spas safely. Tension-melting thermal facilities, including steam rooms and saunas, are permitted to reopen, and close-contact services (such as facials) can resume, with therapists clad in protective face masks and visors and gloves.
This is the time to reset, and address issues ahead of what could be a very testing winter. The NHS is already preparing for growing numbers of people suffering anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of the pandemic. Prevention is key – and now is the time to start looking after ourselves better, physically and mentally.
Like the rest of the travel industry, the spa world has been looking at inventive ways around the restrictions, in order to help you feel better. Find a place and a treatment that you and your family feel comfortable with – whether that’s non-contact treatments, or packages to boost immunity; something that allows you to reconnect with yourself or with partners, or help children, who have been hit hard by lockdown, to redress the balance.
Here we select some of the country’s best spas and retreats to help get you all back on track.
Mother’s Little Helper
The Coach House Spa at 19th-century French chateau-style former home of press baron Lord Beaverbrook really is another level – it has to be, with spa members paying £3,000 a year to use the extensive facilities (not all fully operational at the moment).
The brave, eclectic mix shouldn’t work; from immune-boosting medical grade IV drips by Harley Street’s NADclinic (from Aug 15 to Sept 15) to ancient shamanistic fire ceremonies in the grounds. But oh, it does! Mainly because it is under the expert eye of spa director Rene van Eyssen, formerly of the Aman group, who picks the treatments and therapists herself.
The Joy of Connection, from their on-trend Wild Wellness Collection, is a package perfect for those wanting to keep a healthy distance from other bubblers while reconnecting with themselves or a loved one. A 90-minute Bioenergy Woodland Walk combines meditative mental stillness with gentle movement and heightened awareness of nature, to centre and invigorate the whole body and mind. It’s followed by a 60-minute ancient purifying fire-smoking ritual, a picnic in the grounds and use of all facilities currently open.
Children are not just tolerated here, they are positively encouraged, as the outdoor, nature-immersed kids’ clubs for all ages attest.
Doubles from £385 (room only). Spa days start from £150; The Joy of Connection, £150pp; IV drip programmes from £299. beaverbrook.co.uk
The Couples’ Retreat
Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, Windermere, Lake District
Set in 21 private acres with rooms and a culture designed for personal space and disconnecting from the outside world (the patchy mobile signal may even be intentional), this place naturally creates a healthy distance from fellow guests. The new Spa Lodges are even roomier than the existing ones with lounge, large circular stone bath, a walled garden with private hot tub, steam room, sauna and treatment room equipped with infrared lounge beds – basically a private spa for two, with a bedroom.
Hands-on massages are off the table for now, literally – instead, you can have a thoroughly modern massage that takes place in a state-of-the-art Japanese massage chair with powerful wavelike kneading, foot rollers and synchronised airbags that increase blood circulation at the touch of a button. Or book into the Lake House and The Jetty Spa Trail, a three-and-a-half-hour ritual involving local aromatic spa products, private swims, saunas, sipping cold champagne in a hot tub, and some time in that magic massage chair.
The new Spa Lodge 100 costs from £795 a night (based on two sharing) and excludes Lake House facilities such as the pool. Japanese chair massages from £30 for 20 mins. Jetty Spa Trail, £200 for two people. thegilpin.co.uk
The Tween Screen Saviour
At The Chapel, Bruton, Somerset
Take a beautiful, cool, Grade II listed, 18th-century former congregational chapel, with simple, calming rooms, cracking down-to-earth food (the famed chargrilled Castlemead Farm chicken, lemon, thyme and aioli will have you returning by itself) in dreamy Brut
on, Somerset, and add a collective of terrific local facialists and body workers brought together by savvy owner Catherine Butler (all at the top of their game and at a snip of the price of most top spas) – and you get a very different, very unorthodox bolt-hole with well-being bolt-ons.
Drop the kids off for the day at Mill on the Brue, a trusted Swallows and Amazons-esque natural adventure camp with more than 40 activities (none of which involves a blasted screen) then head to Lucinda Wallop’s private practice room a short drive away. Her stunning facial treatment is rooted in Ayurveda and uses a massage technique without oil or cream, relying solely on the power of her incredible touch. Her specialist strokes release tension in the muscles and connective tissue of the face (not to mention the psyche), so that collagen and elastin production is rebooted and that lockdown furrow practically erased.
Then there’s Kinga Karlsson, a superb bodyworker qualified as a medical massage therapist, with expert skills including deep tissue, Swedish massage and reflexology. Deep-tissue massage for an hour is astonishingly affordable (£55 for 60 mins), so go the whole hog and book the 90-minute treatment (£80).
Glowing freedom faces all round come dinner time.
At The Chapel (atthechapel.co.uk), doubles from £160; The Attic Room, perfect for older children, £125 B&B. Treatments with Lucinda, £65 (book direct at yuvafacemassage.com); treatments with Kinga start at £55 (kingakarlsson.com)
The Alternative Regroup
At the seriously “out there” Mandrake on a cute little street in Fitzrovia, hedonism lives cheek by jowl with spiritualism, and the hotel’s very own Spiritual Concierge proves the point. A weekly events roster includes a spectrum of modalities from restorative sound healing sessions, bespoke shamanic ceremonies and rituals through to energy-cleansing work for the open-minded and consciousness- curious: a very alternative antidote to the usual city spa break, to say the least.
Morning meditations are held on Jurema, the evergreen terrace, and groups of up to six can book group wellness sessions in the new cabanas, too. The hotel has pushed the boat out with two new packages: the Soul Reset two-night stay (Monday to Thursday) and access to any of the group well-being sessions, and the Soul Awakener; a three-night weekend stay including a bespoke private spiritual well-being session in your room (usually £300), whether it’s a sound-healing shamanic ceremony, energy cleansing or reiki. Treatments are hands-off here, but they are very much on-trend.
The Soul Reset costs from £370; including two nights’ B&B; The Soul Awakener, from £420, includes three nights B&B. themandrake.com
Cliveden House, Berkshire
This spa, exclusively for members and hotel residents, has a “less is more” approach with scaled-back treatment menus – the idea being that therapists can create fully bespoke treatments for each and every guest’s each and every need. Something most of us dream of, surely, Covid-19 or not. So if all you really want is a personalised massage with body brushing or much-needed scalp massage, just say the word. A facial with some extra neck and shoulder massage? No problem. Just tell them what you want, and how long for, and the intuitive therapists will take it from there.
Massages are on treatment beds with “waterbed toppers” that almost immediately melt tech-neck and laptop back pain. They do Skinesis facials, too.
Doubles from £495 B&B; spa treatments from £90. clivedenhouse.co.uk
Hard And Fast Weight Loss
Grayshott Health Spa, Surrey
Situated in sprawling grounds in serene and leafy Surrey (hardly famed for wellness culture), good old Grayshott has been cleansing the guts and minds of its residents for decades, way before gut health became a focus here in the UK.
Then, in 2017, it was taken over by Austrian health resort specialists the Lanserhof Group, famed for their glorification of the gut and hard-and-fast weight loss.
It is the first registered facility in the UK to offer a residential eight-day Mayr fasting cure (blood is drawn at dawn, infusions are prescribed and the regimented Mayr diet is adapted to the 21st century, involving repeatedly chewed toasted bread roll and milk for meals to rest the gut, because digestion starts in the mouth). The Regime is perhaps the most perfect lockdown tonic, with weight loss the focus on a seven-night nutrition-led educational and therapeutic programme in serene surroundings. Phones are banned, too – detoxification at Grayshott works on many levels.
The Regime package costs from £1,950 all-inclusive, including all consultations and therapies, seven nights’ full board and use of facilities. grayshottspa.com
The Fit Hit
Being the intimate, up-close-and-personal sort of destination that it is, this boutique bolt-hole has had its five-day rural retreat given a serious Covid-compliance once-over by a hospitality consultant to keep both staff and guests safe.
Numbers are currently limited to just 10 people per retreat. A post-lockdown addition to the programme is a breathing workshop that focuses on strengthening the lungs and respiratory system.
The cosy eco-cottages are rustic-luxe with wood burners, while the surrounding great outdoors offers a life-affirming itinerary of activities including coastline hiking, outdoor circuits, archery, sea kayaking, wild swimming and surfing.
The delicious, plant-based menu (free of – hold tight – caffeine, refined sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol and meat) will help kick the bad habits intensified by lockdown (such as weekday wine drinking and excess comfort eating). Add in truly wonderful, deeply therapeutic treatments, top-notch daily yoga and early nights, and your mental as well as physical health will be restored in the number of days you can count on one hand.
Children aged 12 and over are welcomed with a parent and can join in with all activities; teenagers find that they thrive in nature here – and revel in the freedom from their phones: a winner all around.
The five-day all-inclusive programme, including private transfers from Tiverton Parkway, costs from £1,950 per person staying in a Classic Farmhouse Room, and up to £3,500 for the Eco Cottage suite. yeotown.com.
Go With Your Gut
Retreats in Petersham, Richmond, and Wiltshire
Thought up and led by Anna Boglione, daughter of Petersham Nurseries founders Gael and Francesco, The Gut’s new super-personalised retreats are designed to reset everything from your microbiome out. Anna works alongside organic farmers, dietitians, herbalists and Petersham nurseries’ chefs to create programmes centring around gut health, time in nature and specialist holistic practitioners at both Petersham House in Richmond and residential retreats in Wiltshire (here, personal and group retreats are tailored to the nth degree).
The day retreats at Petersham House tend to have a more specific focus, such as, detox, mood and weight loss, and will have you doing yoga, meditation and sound baths.
Stays in Wiltshire (and, FYI, The Gut’s three and five-day sojourns to luxurious French alpine log cabins, Tuscan farmhouses and Portuguese beach houses) allow a more immersive dip into nature with wild swimming, foraging, climbing and walking.
Retreat prices on application. thegut.co.uk
The Ultimate Group Therapy
The Arrigo Programme, Somerset
If you have deep issues to work through – a marriage to salvage, a child with addiction or eating issues, or unprocessed grief – the Arrigo Programme is the super-serious option. It has elements of rehab, but is more enlightened, kinder and softer – the ultimate lifeline.
Hole up in self-isolating cosy cottages while biodynamic psychotherapist, intuitive healer and mentor Fiona Arrigo and her incredibly experienced practitioners and specialists meet your every need (beds are made, meals prepared, candles and log burners lit with you barely noticing). Arrigo’s team includes leading clinical psychiatrists, nutritionists, psychotherapists, relationship counsellors, addiction therapists, breath workers, meditation teachers and practitioners of cranial work, qi gong, massage, reflexology and yoga, who arrive at your cottage door with a reassuring, gentle knock. Enter a new chapter. You really couldn’t be in better hands.
From £2,500 per day, including an average of four treatments per day, cottage accommodation and all meals. thearrigoprogramme.com