The Black Mountains - Gliffaes Country House Hotel - Brecon Beacons National Park (Crickhowell)

7 days of wellness – an alternative guide to National Spa Week

Looking for a relaxing, post-Christmas short break? You’ve come to the right place.

With National Spa Week behind us (31 Oct – 4 Nov), here’s some alternative short break inspiration to encourage you to take time out from the daily grind…

Day 1 at Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

The experience: Fly fishing on the River Usk

Get back to nature with a spot of fly fishing on the River Usk. If you’re a keen angler, there’s no better place for a short break than Gliffaes. The Brecon Beacons hideaway is The Good Hotel Guide’s Fishing Hotel of the Year 2017 (and also won in 2015). The hotel is just 150ft above the river and has around 1¾ miles of bank fishing available to guests. Why cast off? Well, studies show it can boost your concentration, lower stress levels and give your upper body a decent work out. Spending more time outdoors during winter also helps boost your Vitamin D levels, which help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Day 2 at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, Dedham Vale, Suffolk/Essex

The experience: Rowing on the River Stour

Hire a rowing boat and take a leisurely trip down the River Stour, one of Britain’s most scenic spots for a boat ride. Here, you’re in the very heart of ‘Constable Country’ – the area that inspired local son John Constable. You can hire boats between March-October from the Boathouse restaurant in Dedham. About a mile and a half down river you’ll find Flatford Mill, made famous by Constable in his 1816 painting of the same name (The Hay Wain, which is arguably his most famous work, was painted from the front of the mill). As well as finding inspiration in the same spot as a great artist, your rowing trip on the River Stour provides a fantastic, low-impact form of exercise. It builds muscle strength in your arms, thighs and back, and the rhythmic action helps reduce stress levels. Stoke by Nayland Hotel is also home to Peake Spa and MT Physio Clinic.

Day 3 at Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel, Lake District (Windermere)

The experience: Reiki

Lindeth Howe has a menu of holistic therapies to complement its traditional spa treatments. Treat yourself to a 45-minute reiki session. This alternative therapy was developed by a Japanese Buddhist in the 1920s and involves an experienced practioner laying their hands on non-intrusive areas of the body (you remain fully clothed). Reiki advocates believe that a treatment creates a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Lindeth Howe’s other holistic treatments include Indian head massage and reflexology.

Day 4 at Chase Hotel, Wye Valley (Forest of Dean)

The experience: Visit St Mary’s Church cemetery

It’s not the most obvious place to restore your sense of wellbeing, but a quiet trip to a cemetery offers several benefits. It’s a chance to pay your respects to those who have passed – loved ones, well-known figures who’ve inspired or veterans of past conflicts. Secondly, it’s a time out from daily life, a chance to both reflect on the past and – in winter – to focus on the year to come. Cemeteries give us, perhaps, some perspective – a sense of the cycle of life, and of gratitude. There are few more serene spots to contemplate the big picture than St Mary’s Church in Ross-on-Wye, which has stunning views over the River Wye towards the Welsh Mountains.

Day 5 at Dartington Hall Hotel, Totnes, South Devon

The experience: Earth Talks at Dartington

It’s always good to listen to thought-provoking speakers and new ideas (just look at the success of TED around the globe). Dartington Hall in Devon has an inspiring events programme of talks including a regular Earth Talks series. Coming up in late November is one on Gross National Happiness – an alternative to GDP created in Bhutan to focus on the wellbeing and happiness of societies. If you’ve missed that, the next talk on 12th December is called Tender is the Night, a look at the idea of dusk and its significance in different cultures.

Day 6 at Hintlesham Hall Hotel, Ipswich, Suffolk

The experience: A walk in the woods

Pull on your wellies and take a peaceful walk in Bradfield Woods. The ash stools (created by coppicing) in this ancient woodland are believed to be the oldest living things in Suffolk. Winter coppicing work has taken place in these woods for centuries, adding to the sense of timelessness. The health benefits of walking in the woods go beyond the many pluses of a tramp through the streets. Walking through trees has been shown to boost memory, to reduce blood pressure and to reduce levels of stress. Unwind even more with a trip to the spa at Hintlesham Hall, which offers Elemis treatments.

Day 7 at Imperial Hotel, Llandudno (Promenade), North Wales

The experience: Microlighting over Snowdownia

If you’re guilty of spending too much time hunched over your phone or laptop, this could be the activity for you. Put down the devices, get out of your head and away from it all with a microlighting adventure in Wales. Microlights are small, light aircraft that hold a maximum of two passengers. New Heights Microlight School offers thrilling flights over Snowdownia, the Great Orme and the North Wales coastline. Feel the wind in your face and look down on some of the UK’s most awe-inspiring scenery on a 30-minute, 45-minute or 1-hour flight. How’s that for a screen break?

And Spa at Milford Hall Hotel & Spa, Salisbury (City Centre), Wiltshire

We wouldn’t want you to think that we’re not keen on spas. We love a pampering spa treatment. So, if you really want to boost your sense of wellbeing, then skip the manicures and facials, and opt for a relaxing massage instead. Massage has many benefits – it’s proven to soothe sore muscles, can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and – some studies have suggested – boost your immunity. Book a stay at Milford Hall in Salisbury and treat yourself to a massage at its Lime Tree Spa. Choose from Indian head massage, a hot shell massage, a deep muscle treatment or splurge on its personalised ‘ultimate signature massage.’

Start 2017 with peace and poise by enjoying one of these rejuvenating short break experiences. From outdoor activities, to inspiring talks or forays into the natural world, these alternative experiences offer different ways to boost your sense of wellbeing, try new activities, or simply get some much needed rest and relaxation.

Share this post with your family and friends. Start planning your next great British adventure…

Photo credit: The Black Mountains: © Crown copyright (2016) Visit Wales.

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