Middle Piccadilly review | holistic retreat Dorset
Holistic retreat with sublime therapists in Dorset
The Quick Read: Middle Piccadilly isn’t a spa; it’s an idiosyncratic retreat in the old sense of the word. It’s a place to withdraw from the hubbub and just ‘be’, to ponder and potter, to recharge your batteries and maybe delve a little deeper into the world of spirit and soul. It’s not smart or ritzy and you will need to turn a blind eye and a forgiving heart to the less than shiny bits. But the treatments are the major draw here – truly superb therapists work with skill, dedication and heart. It’s rather special.
More on the treatments: Middle Piccadilly has the knack of finding (and keeping) really special therapists. The menu is deliberately small and quite quirky in its selection. There are a fair few wraps going on – including a Detox Mud Wrap – and four different scrub treatments. We tested the Therapeutic massage with Angela Short and it was exceptional – Angela works deep into the fascia but can adapt the pressure to your taste. Another guest had the same treatment with Maya and also raved about it. If you’re prefer a lighter touch, try the Holistic massage. We also rated the Hand on Heart treatment, a gentle nurturing and energy balancing therapy using Spiezia products, a lovely organic range from Cornwall. There’s also Reiki, LaStone Therapy, Indian Head Massage and an Organic Facial. If you want colonics to accompany your detox, the team will take you off site for a session with an experienced practitioner.
But the signature treatment has to be the Shamanic Healing, 90 minutes of mind and body-blowing that is quite extraordinary. Read a word from the queen on her experience.
Timetabling allowing, guests can book in for a session in the Infra-red sauna or a Moor mud bath (at no extra cost).
More on the detox retreats: MP offer a six night Get Clean Retreat with three days on juices followed by three days on a raw food diet. It includes a series of accompanying treatments – Thai foot massage, Exfoliating body scrub, Detox mud body wrap, Facial rejuvenation and Shamanic healing. Or you can opt for a flexible approach – MP will tailor a detox to your needs, whether you’re a die-hard detoxer or a newbie who’s collapsing on his or her feet. You can opt for wheatgrass shots if you like, or include psyllium and bentonite clay (following a discussion discussing what you want to get from the detox). Our only quibble is that juices are made in advance so, if you’re late for a meal, your juice could have sat around for a bit.
More on the Emergence retreat: A ‘soul’ retreat, aimed at those who’re feeling disconnected and unbalanced in life, particularly as a result of grief, illness, stress or the breakdown of a relationship. The retreat lasts four days and each day starts with a session with Maya, a shamanic practitioner and bodyworker who will work with you to untangle the root causes of your current state. She will then prescribe various shamanic practices and bodywork sessions to support your journey. She also gives ‘homework’ – maybe a simple mindfulness exercise or something to help connect you with nature and its healing energy. No shamanic experience is necessary but Maya’s work is powerful and you need to come with a wide open mind.
More on other activities: Middle Piccadilly doesn’t major in masses of activities. The emphasis is on retreating and relaxing. Yoga sessions can be arranged if you book in advance – but on a one-to-one basis (there aren’t regular classes). There’s a nice circular walk (around an hour) from the centre or, if you’re feeling the need to get out and about, there are lovely walks a short drive away.
More on the property: Middle Piccadilly is set in Dorset farming country (there’s a working farm next door but, while you do hear the odd vehicle moseying around, there are no barnyard smells wafting over). There’s a mellow thatched farmhouse with converted outbuildings and a more modern (1980s) extension which houses most of the bedrooms. It’s a curious place and won’t be to all tastes by any means. If you like your accommodation uber-smart or boutique bijoux, forget it – Middle Piccadilly will irritate the hell out of you. But if you’re into quirky places and don’t mind decor that isn’t contemporary or state of the art, then you might be a kindred spirit. The communal spaces are a bit scattered. Meals are held in the family kitchen which could have come straight out of The Hobbit: solid wood, stained glass, row upon row of earthenware pots and jars. The living room is off and away in a former barn – it’s a high-ceilinged space packed with curiosities (paintings, old books, hangings, objects garnered from around the world). There is wi-fi available in one area of the retreat, leaving a signal-free zone for those wanting a digital detox.
Treatment rooms are small yet snug and cosy – with candles, soft music and low lights. There’s also a separate annex with an infrared sauna, a deep square treatment bath and shower.
Tucked away in the grounds is the Star House, a wooden hexagonal shaped building on stilts over a pond. Inside it’s beautiful – a gorgeous airy space with the feel of a wooden tepee (with a window in the apex of the ceiling). This is where the original co-founder of MP, Eliana, holds shamanic workshops and it’s also used for yoga. But it’s always open and makes a lovely place in which to meditate or follow your own yoga practice. Strictly non-denominational (or rather, all-denominational) it has images from many religious traditions, and, in the centre (under the star window) is a small medicine wheel of crystals. Outside, however, it could do with a bit of a power-hose.
The grounds aren’t extensive but you could easily lose yourself, and there’s the odd bench or seat. Tidy freaks might itch to call in a skip and clear out the bits of old play equipment lurking around. Gardeners might itch to pull out a trowel.
More on the bedrooms: We stayed in the one ensuite room. It was warm, comfortable and clean but small, with just enough room for a small double bed, pine wardrobe, leather chair and two pine bedside tables. The view, disappointingly, was of the carpark. There’s tea-making facilities (Clipper teas) and a warm blanket and hot water bottle if you’re feeling in need of comfort. The bathroom was a bit chilly but clean and functional. Products on our visit were from Damana (labelled ‘organic’ but they do contain a few of the less heinous chemicals and perfume).
The other bedrooms all share bathrooms and none are inspiringly decked out or huge, but they’re all clean and comfortable. There are also two bedrooms with a television. The bedroom (two single beds) off the living room has its bathroom across the living room and down a corridor which might not be ideal for night-time loo runs.
Food and drink: Co-owner Dominic runs the kitchen and is a passionate vegetarian chef, with a particular interest in raw food. You can choose a full vegetarian diet, a raw food diet, or have a juice fast. He endeavours to use organic where possible and at present it’s about 50/50 organic to conventionally grown produce. We sampled the raw food on our visit and were impressed by how filling, appetising and – amazingly – comforting it was, even in the heart of winter.
Breakfast is a help yourself affair and quite basic: a selection of cereals in large glass jars and a loaf of bread by the toaster, plus butter and home-made jams. There’s a fruit bowl, a jug of orange juice, and you can make tea or coffee. The raw food breakfast was soaked oats with nuts and seeds on our visit. Lunch is also simple and comprises soup, bread, salad and a selection of cheeses (Cheddar, Brie and a round of delicious goat’s cheese when we visited).
The evening meal is more elaborate. There’s only one choice for each style of menu but it’s solid and comforting. Vegetarian mains might be a Port and mushroom ragout with matured cheddar gougere or nut burgers with steamed vegetables. Puddings include delicious crumbles or a raspberry parfait. Raw food options could include Pad Thai with rainforest nut butter puree or a ‘creamy’ curry with parsnip and nut ‘rice’. Pudding could be light and dark raw chocolate mousse on a cashew raisin crust. There’s also a juice option with three juices a day. These are served at the same time as the other eating options and juicing at the same table as guests eating full meals might be a stretch for some people.
Middle Piccadilly can cater for intolerances if given advance warning and allergies if accompanied by a doctor’s note.
Fellow guests: The clientele is very varied with ages ranging from early 20s to 80s (and a ratio of 80:20 women to men). The majority of guests are women from 35-50 and it tends to attract burnt-out career people looking to escape the city and take a look at their diet and lifestyle issues.
What’s queenly: The treatments are sublime with therapists who really take time and treat you as a real person. The raw food was a revelation – bizarrely warming, filling and nourishing. The shamanic healing mustn’t be missed.
What’s lowly: The grounds really need a good going over to remove old clutter. A fire in the living room was sorely missed on a cold winter weekend. More variety at breakfast would be good. The rooms could do with a revamp.
Getting there: Middle Piccadilly is four miles from Sherborne rail station (with direct links to London Waterloo and Exeter). A local taxi company (or the centre itself) can collect you from here. The centre is 11 miles from the A303 which connects with the M3 and M5.
Costs: Full board costs £100 per person per night (no single supplements) for the vegetarian or juicing options. If you opt for the raw food diet, it costs £125 per night. The 6-night Get Clean Retreat costs £850 (including five treatments). The 4-night Emergence Retreat costs £860 (including four sessions with Maya and four treatments tailored to your needs). One to one yoga or Pilates classes cost £30 for an hour (book in advance). Treatments range from £35 – £85. Therapeutic massage and Spiezia Hand on Heart both cost £75. The Shamanic healing costs £80.
The 3-night Yoga Retreat cost £445 (including accommodation, food, 4 x 2 hour yoga sessions and a therapeutic massage). £100 single supplement for double rooms.
Reviewed by Jane Alexander
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