Year-round detox retreat in Somerset
The Quick Read: Set up by Pilates teacher and raw food chef Karen Boyle and her partner Justin, Amchara Health Retreats in Somerset offers a comfortable space to get your body and mind into better shape. Guests come to detox and lose weight, focus on health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue or address hormonal issues around fertility, menstruation or the menopause. You’ll get a programme tailored to fit and plenty of one-to-one support to guide you through their rigorous juicing, fasting and healthy eating programmes. 17 guests can be accommodated at any one time, so book a solo room for total privacy. Read a word from one of our queens on a week-long detox at Amchara. Amchara also runs a sister set up on the island of Gozo too, though we have not checked that out.
More on the health retreats: You can stay for 3 days, a week, a month or more – you choose. Come for a general detox, though increasingly people are here to address serious health issues such as candida, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diabetes, infertility or the menopause, anxiety, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME or skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Dedicated programmes for breast health and arthritis are also available.
Whatever your reason to visit, you complete a health questionnaire before arrival, which is reviewed by the talented Dr Nyjon Eccles, a Harley Street physician, who makes his own recommendations for your programme. In conjunction with Dr Eccles, owner Justin has also created a blood test programme to help with hormone imbalances and aid fertility. If you opt for this you’ll be sent a finger-prick blood test to do before arrival.
Combined with yoga, tai chi and Pilates, colonics, massage therapies, country walks and a range of talks on food and nutrition, the complete experience offers a professional, practical and spiritual approach to creating a happier, healthier lifestyle and helping you make the small but powerful changes that will take you there.
More on the detoxing: Opt for a juicing programme, or if you don’t want to fast, there are also healthy vegan and raw food programmes, when you’ll be encouraged to avoid colonics and do enemas instead. The on-site naturopath is always on hand if you have any questions and if anything isn’t working for you, they’ll suggest alternatives. Juices are made freshly four times a day, and there is plenty of information provided about the supplements taken alongside – specifically psyllium husks, bentonite clay, digestive enzymes and probiotics. Shots of nutritional super supplements, including chlorella, blue-green algae and aloe ferox, are available at £40 for a seven-day course, taken twice a day.
For those staying the full week, the first 4 days involve a pure juice fast, with broth in the evenings during the winter, and simple fruit and raw veg on the remaining two days, before the raw feast on the last evening. Elimination or detoxification methods can include colonic irrigation, coffee enemas, water enemas and liver flushes, depending on your body and your aims.
More on the therapists and teachers: All the staff are incredibly friendly and accessible. Each person introduces themselves at the welcome chat on day one and are always happy to stop for a chat or to offer words of support, encouragement or further explanation when they’re needed.
Founder of Amchara Karen Boyle is a pilates teacher and a raw culinary arts chef and offers classes in both. She is a walking advertisement for the benefits of her lifestyle and for regular fasting – she really walks the talk and is warm and welcoming along with it.
Both the yoga teachers (Lesley Cabral and Noelle Burville) and Amchara’s team of qualified naturopaths and nutritional therapists work on two-week rotations. Kirstie Chisholm, the lead naturopath and a herbalist, makes sure her colleagues are all singing from the same hymn sheet, so whoever’s working when you visit will offer the same consistently knowledgeable, supportive approach. The naturopaths at Amchara are some of the best trained in the country. They’ll monitor your progress and make adjustments if needs be.
Naturopath Rhaya Jordan instills confidence and has a good pedigree – she was senior lecturer in Health Sciences at the University of Westminster teaching anatomy, nutrition and bio chemistry amongst other things, and imparts some of her vast knowledge with humour and insight during the lunchtime talks. A psychotherapist is on call for those who need.
Other experts: There are also other teachers and therapists who pop in to complete the team. These include from Lori Hillman, an acupuncturist and expert on traditional Chinese medicine and mindfulness meditation; Tai Chi teacher Malcolm Droy, who also presents on positive thinking, and Anna Middleton, who gives the raw food demo.
More on the yoga: The twice-daily yoga classes are designed to be gentle to a body that’s detoxing and possibly low on energy. The morning session includes a series of exercises to stretch the spine, sun salutations and then warrior poses and forward bends, plus some floorwork to stretch the hamstrings, quads and gluts. The focus is on deep stretching rather than dynamic movement as energy levels come and go during the course of the fast. The class ends with meditation. Evening sessions are candlelit and about opening the hips and stretching, followed by a longer meditation.
More on the treatments: Massages, reiki, acupuncture, reflexology and energy healing are also available for an extra cost of around £60 for 55 minutes, or you can buy a bundle for £550 which entitles you to ten 55-minute treatments. The therapists are friendly, efficient and professional – and offer a willing ear as much as strong hands to work away persistent knots and tension.
More on the location: Amchara’s base is Bindon House, a private country house at Langford Budville, 10 minutes’ drive West of Taunton. It has 13 guest bedrooms, sleeping up to 18, and lots of character – you can expect traditional decor, real fires, tapestries on the walls, cosy communal sitting rooms as well as an infra-red sauna, a swimming pool (for use in the summertime only) and WiFi throughout, which is a little bit sketchy in the bedrooms.
Fellow guests: You can expect up to 17 people here at any one time – 25 per cent usually share a room, while the remaining take a room alone. Both men and women come alone, or as a couple, and ages are usually 30-60 though all are welcome. Many are new to detoxing and mainly motivated by weight loss or the idea of kick starting a new healthcare regime. Increasingly guests are here to address a serious health issue.
What’s lowly: There are quite a few extras not included in the price, including super supplements and therapies, so do budget for extras. It can get busy, so you sometimes might feel you are not getting the 100% attention you need.
Getting there: It’s then a 20 minute taxi ride from Taunton station to Bindon House. If you’re coming from London, the train from London Paddington to Taunton takes nearly two hours.
Costs: Three nights cost from £595 for a person staying alone in a basic room to £995 in a master suite, or from £450 in the basic room to £695 in the suite for two people sharing. Two weeks single occupancy cost from £2180 in a basic room to £2980 in a master suite or from £1500 in a basic room to £1990 in a suite for two people sharing.
Reviewed by Olivia Mackinder
© Queen of Retreats