The Arrigo Programme review | holistic hideaway, Somerset
Uncurl yourself on a bespoke healing retreat in the country
The Quick Read: The creation of one of the UK’s leading healers, The Arrigo Programme is a clever, bespoke, serious healing retreat devised to meet all your wellbeing needs whilst cocooned from the stresses of everyday life. Choose to come whenever you want and stay in your own private cottage for 4 nights or more. You’ll have healthy meals delivered to your door, and a range of top notch hand-picked therapists turning up to treat you, including Biodynamic Psychologist, Life Coach and Esoteric Psychologist Fiona Arrigo. It’s ideal for anyone looking for deep rest, help rebalancing your lifestyle, support dealing with a physical or emotional issue or time and space to totally rethink your life. You’ll leave unfurled and with practical advice to continue your journey at home.
Who it’s best for: Women and men of all ages and life stages who need total time out alone away from work and family with emotional and physical support to defrag, rethink and deal with burning issues. Couples who want to come together to specifically reconnect can also book a stay.
What you can do: An ‘Angel’ is appointed to greet you on arrival, help you with your meals, light your fire, tidy your cottage and generally look after you – discreetly. Emerge from your bedroom each morning – wood burner lit, tea lights burning, breakfast made – and prepare to begin your day of (usually four) treatments, with therapists who arrive at your door wearing either all black or all white and ready for action. Each cottage has its own treatment room.
Your schedule is carefully devised after a telephone consultation with Fiona Arrigo before you arrive, and will include whatever she thinks you need, drawing on different systems of health to get you back into balance. This is a serious programme, and the treatments are orchestrated treatment by treatment, to generate deeper unwinding and mental emotional clarity as the days go by.
Sessions will probably pivot around psychotherapy with Fiona, who is emotionally intelligent and compassionate, and could also include massages of all kinds, Five Elements acupuncture, reflexology, Kinesiology, Tibetan pulsing and other holistic therapies and even Evolutionary Astrology sessions. If you come as a couple, sessions are devised to help you deepen your understanding of one another away from the demands of everyday life, and can include time with intimacy and relationship experts Kalindi Jordan and Peter Womack.
You’re encouraged to truly rest in between sessions, with daily epsom salt baths (salts are provided), some light local walking, extra sleeps, journalling or just curling up by the fire. You’re likely to go through a range of emotions and feelings, and the therapists talk to Fiona and each other after each session so that your daily state of mind and body is beautifully supported. There’s a lot of talk about ‘energy’ and the need to ‘unravel, unfurl and uncover’, and there is always aftercare support by phone and email.
Where you stay: In one of a range of comfortable, converted self-catering cottages in the Somerset countryside, which you’ll have all to yourself. Toxin-free toiletries hand made in the West Country by Bramley are provided, as are epsom salts. We stayed at The Long Barn in Coxbridge (about 20 minutes from Tiverton station), a homely, spacious place with lots of natural light centred around a lovely sitting room with a large sofa just made for thinking on, complete with warming fluffy white throw. On our visit there was a huge central vase of fresh flowers and a cosy wood burner too. Furniture and decor is good quality and comfortable, rather than anything with contemporary ‘wow’ factor. We hear that Upper Crannal cottage is especially good if you’re looking for total privacy and extended countryside views. There’s a little library of self help books for you to choose from in each cottage, with titles such as Women who Run with the Wolves or Recovery of your Inner Child.
How was it for us: I tried a weekend version of The Arrigo Programme one cold February. On arrival there were lit tea lights surrounded at their base by dried rose petals dotted all over my cottage, vases of flowers everywhere, a roaring fire and an essential oil burner wafting the fragrance of basil around the room. My ‘Angel’, Joanna, greeted me dressed all in black, made me tea and scrambled eggs with spinach on toast (I was hungry) and settled me in. So began two glorious days of treatments and total privacy.
I had two sessions with Fiona, and enjoyed my time with her enormously. She is strong, warm and funny, with a winning smile, her glasses perched right at the end of her nose as she watches you and listens well, asking poignant questions to slowly tease out my issues. We chat about mothering, the challenges of bringing up a child in today’s society, my perception of how much space and time I have (more than I think) and how to trust my creativity to create the flow in my life I need. She’s wise and perceptive, and I would love to spend hours with her. (The best bit of her advice for me: ‘We create so much better from space rather than pressure’. Ain’t that the truth).
Other treatments – with each building on the work done in the previous session – included a daily two-hour long and extremely good deep tissue massage – something I always crave on any retreat but which is rarely provided. Both therapists (Stacey and Caroline) are genuinely good, and spend long enough to get truly, madly, deeply into my tight muscles. I also enjoy wonderfully relaxing sessions of Five Elements acupuncture with Amanda, and of Kinesiology with EFT with Louisa (‘to help rebalance my wood and fire elements’). And a sensational hour of Tibetan Pulsing, an extraordinary therapy invented by an American in India which works on the pressure points of the body to rebalance energy. I had mine with Anna, who turned up dressed all in white (a nice change to the black!), looked into my irises to diagnose my health, and settled me fully clothed on a deeply comfortable wide white mat infront of the fire before total switch-off time.
With all this deep therapy, my body didn’t quite know what had hit it during my downtime. I ambled about feeling a little flummoxed, slept deeply, and sat staring into the fire a lot, my hair full of oil and a permanent light detox headache at my temples.
I also had real time out: curling up to watch an episode of Mr Selfridge and sipping a delicious Thai soup with toast; doing my own very gentle yoga (with a mat I asked them to provide); going for plenty of short walks in the driving rain (the weather was suitably terrible on my visit, which gave me even more of an excuse to really rest); soaking in hot epsom salt baths by candle light and listening (on Fiona’s advice) to The Power of the Crone by Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés (fascinating stuff).
My final session took me by surprise. Skeptical of astrology, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of Evolutionary Astrology with writer-turned-astrologist Simon Heathcote, but over tea with him I fully engaged as he told me all about my chart (he’d asked for my birth details before my visit) and shared some uncannily accurate things about the recurring themes in my life (the best bit of his advice for me: ‘Discover the witness in myself’).
I leave my cottage on the last afternoon unwillingly, and over the following weeks continue to unfurl.
What we took home: My sense of smell (I’d had a cold), a peachy-coloured skin (on arrival it had been a strange shade of yellow), a hardback notebook given to me for journalling, some flowers, a tupperware of healthy snacks, an Alpine Mint Bush Bush Flower Remedy (given by Louisa for ‘overwhelm’), a mantra about creating space, lots of insights and a determination to try to have a conversation with my inner child (at Simon’s suggestion).
Would we go back: Without a doubt – for a week next time to give more space to defrag and emerge.
People watch: Therapists (usually from Glastonbury and Frome) were all exceptionally good and personable, but the leading light of this retreat is its compassionate and grounded founder Fiona Arrigo, who has over 25 years of experience as a qualified Biodynamic Psychologist, Life Coach and Esoteric Psychologist. Fiona launched Stop the World with Camilla Ker in 1990, the first alternative health retreat in the UK, and from 1984 to 2006 she ran a private practice in London as well as individual and group programmes in Ireland. She draws on her clinical expertise, leading-edge research, innate wisdom and her background in Eastern philosophy and numerous bodywork disciplines in her work – you will be in safe hands.
Food watch: Food is simple and healthy fare using ingredients sourced locally or from the nearby Tesco organic range. It’s prepared off site by a chef and delivered to you in tupperware, so you can warm through yourself or have your ‘Angel’ (helper) do it for you. Expect simple smoothies and juices whizzed up on site, granola or eggs on toast, soups, salads and simple suppers – vegan, vegetarian or with meat and fish according to your desires.
What’s lowly: Though healthy, we didn’t find the food exciting or tip-top enough for a retreat of this calibre. We would have preferred to have been surprised by super-tasty vegan fare (going vegan always feels like the right thing to do on a retreat of this kind).
Insider tip: You can go as deep into yourself as you want to here, so don’t be scared to try whatever the therapists suggest. It’s a supported space in which to learn more about yourself so you can truly start to make the changes you need, rather than just have a relaxing stay.
Price with a companion: From £1,580 per person per day full board in a private cottage including all meals and four treatments per day (from 90 mins to 2 hours per session).
Price going solo: As above.
Value for Money: The price for the minimum four nights is steep, but it’s an investment in your self. We would feel it was better value for money if the cottages had real wow! factor and the food was second to none, but the therapists are top notch, you get total privacy and the price includes four treatments a day plus real emotional support and after care.
Sister retreats: A one day 5-hour session with Fiona in London or Somerset is also available, and Fiona organises retreats for women in France.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
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