Perhaps more than ever before, people are discovering the mental health benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
Nothing beats immersing yourself in a residential retreat, though, and whether you’re interested in delving into the millennia-old wisdom of Buddhist teaching or prefer a strictly secular approach, there’s a range of options available to you.
Many of these companies also offer online courses alongside their regular schedule, so you can join in from home.
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Location: Ashprington, Devon
The exquisitely manicured gardens of Capability Brown form a suitably relaxing backdrop for meditation retreats at Sharpham House, an elegant 18th-century estate in rural Devon. If you’re a total novice, or looking to rekindle a long-neglected meditation practice, a one-day mindfulness course is a good place to start; other shorter events include foraging and wild medicine days in the estate’s rich woodland. For a more immersive wellness retreat, five-night residential courses are on offer which bring together classes in mindful moving, creative writing, guided meditation and woodland walks into a holistic retreat which rejuvenates body and mind.
Four-night Yoga and Nature Connection retreat from £495.
The Zest Life
Location: Plas Cadnant, Anglesey, Wales
The Zest Life offers three-day retreats at the rustic Plas Cadnant estate in the east of Anglesey, with the daily schedule divided between meditation, yoga, massage and guided walks in the countryside. Luxurious accommodation is in the estate’s historic coach house, while the vegetarian food, free of sugar and dairy, is wholesome and restorative. The estate’s own river provides opportunities for a bracing wild dip, after which the living room’s log fire is all the more inviting.
Three-day courses from £653 per person.
Rivendell Retreat Centre
Location: High Hurstwood, East Sussex
If you’re interested in discovering more about the Buddhist origins of mindfulness meditation, a retreat at Sussex’s Rivendell Centre might be for you. The centre is run by the Triratna Buddhist community, which stresses that the retreats are open to those of all faiths and none; a good place to start is a weekend-long introduction to meditation, focusing on breathing exercises and emotional positivity. More advanced week-long courses are on offer for those comfortable with long sessions of sitting meditation and periods of silent retreat. Rivendell sits in idyllic surroundings in a Victorian rectory set in the rolling hills and woodlands of the Sussex Weald; to really get away from it all, you can also choose to stay in a standalone wooden chalet in the garden, with vegan food delivered to your door.
Weekend courses from £289 per person.
Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery
Location: Harnham, Northumberland
Ready to really take your meditation practice to the next level? A truly immersive retreat in the wilds of Northumberland awaits guests at Aruna Ratanigiri monastery. Run by monks and nuns from the Thai Forest Tradition of Buddhism, the monastery follows a tough daily schedule: with days starting at 5am with morning prayers and chores, and silence from 9pm every night, this is not for the casual practitioner. However, the serenity and beauty of the Northumberland countryside, with the peaceful Bolam Lake Country Park and Whalton Manor Gardens nearby, are highly conducive to meditative practice – particularly when adorned with the frost and snow of winter. Retreat lengths vary widely, going up to several weeks in duration; if you’d like a taster of monastery life but don’t want to commit, it’s possible to arrange to stay for one night only.
Monastery runs on donations; contact them to arrange one-night visits or multi-day retreats.
Dorset Fitness Retreat
Location: Lyme Regis, Dorset
Wellness traditions of all kinds, whether ancient or modern, religious or secular, know that “body and mind” is a false dichotomy. Physical and mental fitness are inextricably connected, and both are the priority at Dorset Fitness Retreat, which combines yoga and meditation with punishing bootcamp classes. After several days of home-cooked organic food, HIIT classes, swimming and paddle boarding off the Jurassic Coast, and restorative yoga sessions, you’ll feel reborn. Home for the duration is the charming Westwood House, an elegant guesthouse in Lyme Regis, while an in-house chef prepares life-giving organic, vegetarian or vegan meals throughout, depending on your dietary needs; a treat evening at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage is also included in the price.
Prices for three-night fitness retreats from £1,095 per person.
Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre
Location: Balquhidder, Scotland
British landscapes don’t come much more transcendent than those of the Scottish Highlands, and the shimmering lakes and mighty mountains of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park make a jaw-dropping setting for wellness getaways at Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre. The programmes here are eclectic, with courses combining tai chi, poetry, meditation and photography – bringing together multiple disciplines to promise the perfect tonic for body, mind and soul. Your surroundings here, though, are medicine enough: your room from the whitewashed farmhouse building overlooks the mirror-like surface of Loch Vail, and the forested hills all around offer endless opportunities for relaxing walks.
Suggested donations begin at £210 for a weekend course.
Maenllwyd Retreat Centre
Location: Powys, Wales
To really get away from it all, it’s hard to imagine a better spot than the Maenllwyd Retreat Centre, hidden in a remote valley in Powys, mid-Wales. With no electricity or phone reception, and spartan accommodation in a draughty wooden farm building heated by paraffin stove, this is not one for beginners. It is, however, a fantastic setting for delving deep into extended periods of intensive meditation, with your fellow practitioners and the odd passing sheep the only other souls in sight. The centre is maintained by the Western Chan Fellowship, a lay Buddhist organisation, and healthy vegetarian food comes courtesy of a Zen Buddhist cook.
Prices on application.
Location: Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
The tiny Dumfries and Galloway village of Eskdalemuir is an unlikely setting for the oldest Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West, but that’s exactly what you’ll find here in the form of the eye-catching Samye Ling Monastery. David Bowie and Leonard Cohen were among the high-profile students here in the 1960s, and today it remains a fantastic place to escape to for a wellness weekend. There are courses on Buddhist meditation, teaching and art, but there are also more secular offerings such as the relaxing Mindfulness in Nature weekend, based around mindful walking and Qigong practice. Accommodation and meals are also offered within the monastery itself.
From £165 for a two-night Mindfulness Introduction stay.
Land of Joy Retreat Community
The forests and fells of Northumberland National Park comprise one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country, making the perfect setting for a peaceful weekend away. Land of Joy Retreat Community offers a range of both Buddhist and secular courses, from family weekend arts and crafts escapes to the eight-day Eco Dharma programme, which explores our relationship to the natural world through wildlife watching, walks in ancient woodland, and meditation sessions. Northumberland is also home to the darkest skies in England, making night-time mindful walks a particularly awe-inspiring experience.
Donate what you want; no minimum price.
Location: Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Few places in England bring to mind wildness like Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor, and at Cabilla, a variety of wellness retreats are on offer with the express intention of immersing you in the natural environment. Combining pyramidal log cabin accommodation with great facilities – woodland sauna, sound baths, a plant-based kitchen – this is the perfect escape for style-conscious eco-warriors. Cabilla is home to a beaver enclosure, serving as a sanctuary to these native and recently-returned British animals (the resident beavers are called Sigourney and Jean-Claude) and an area of temperate rainforest, now a rare and endangered environment in Britain. Courses include rainforest walks, beaver watching, and live music performances around a firepit.
Ground & Grow two-night retreats from £865pp for double occupancy.
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