Newbold House review
Wellbeing retreats in Forres, Scotland
The Quick Read: A grand Victorian mansion surrounded by acres of beautiful woodland in Forres, North-East Scotland, Newbold House is a workshop and retreat centre run by a small community whose focus is sustainable living. It offers personalised, private wellbeing retreats and a range of other relaxing and rejuvenating breaks, courses and events which support wellbeing and living sustainably. Families are welcome.
More on the personalised wellbeing retreats: Newbold House specialises in short, personalised, private wellbeing retreats, each tailored to an individual’s needs and encompassing activities such as morning yoga, meditation, bread-making, gardening and wild food foraging with an extensive array of holistic therapies and downtime when you can go walking, curl up with a book, chill out in the peace garden or do whatever else you want. Read a word from the queen on her stay. The retreat co-ordinator can help you decide what to go for during the booking process. You’ll always get a single room unless you come as a couple.
More on the wellbeing activities: As a retreatant at Newbold House you can get a real taste of the good life. Experience bread-making and home preserving, or try your hand at woodland and bushcraft skills such as herbal medicine, wildlife tracking or wild food foraging. The foraging was a particular highlight for us – develop a taste for raspberry-leaf tea or learn how to source water in the wild with knowledge guide, Ruaraidh, who often takes teenagers and children out on foraging workshops too. River trips, horse riding and the chance to see seals or dolphins on a wildlife watching excursion can also be arranged.
More on the holistic therapies: There’s one simple, neutrally decorated treatment room located in the courtyard with a single massage bed and a heater to ensure that the room is nice and toasty. An essential oil burner emits scented oil throughout your time. Choose from a dazzling array of therapies with masses of talented integrative therapy practitioners living in the local area.
Therapists on offer include all sorts of things, from Shamanic Soul Retrieval and reflexology to dance therapy and the more obscure Holographic Reprogramming. Heather Walley offers exceptionally good Esalen massage – not to be missed if you prefer long, flowing stokes along the body rather than the vigorous pummelling of other massage techniques.
More on the yoga: Ceri Oakley is the in-house yoga teacher. She trained and lived at the Sivananda yoga Ashram in India and has taught in India, the USA and Canada. She has a gentle and classic teaching style, weaving meditation and chant into her sessions, skillfully adapting them for old and young. She has had a yoga practice for 25 years.
More on the meditation: The morning meditation is a simple silent meditation. If someone was new to meditation they would be given some basic guidance such as to focus on the breath going in and out, noticing any thoughts that arise and just gently letting them go – returning to the breath.
More on Taize: For a touch of communal activity and to try something different, you can also attend Taize singing and meditation early each morning in the Sanctuary with the staff and volunteers. Taize singing originates from a Christian community in the South of France – songs are sung in Latin, Italian, French and Spanish, and the music emphasises simple phrases, usually from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, though you don’t have to be a believer to attend.
More on Newbold’s other retreats: As well as their personalised wellbeing retreats Newbold House hosts yoga and meditation courses, dance, creative arts and community living retreats, sustainability and herbalism workshops and food and music festivals – take a look at their event calendar here. The house is also the base for Wild at Heart eco holidays, who run special family weeks run during school holidays here.
More on wellbeing for families: Newbold is a good place for families because of its large grounds and woodlands. There are eggs to collect and fruit to pick, regular fetes, and an in-house wildlife and environmental education provider offering dolphin, seal and bird watching trips, wildlife tracking, bushcraft and nature based arts, crafts and games. There’s no childcare, but a local babysitter can be booked if parents want time out for treatments.
More on the property: Built as a private house in 1900 and then taken over by an intentional community in 1979, Newbold House still retains its original Victorian features with moulded decorative ceilings. The main workshops take place in the old ballroom, which has stained glass and a lovely fireplace. The walls are mainly cream and decorated with local artwork by Carola Splettoesser, which creates dramatic splashes of colour. Guests are encouraged to take off their shoes at the main entrance, as the centre is house is carpeted throughout. One of the best places to relax inside the house is the first floor where you can rest on comfy sofas and browse through magazines – even play the house guitar.
The seven acres of gardens have quirky features such as the ‘living chairs’ made from turf and an original Victorian glasshouse – a lovely space to chill out surrounded by figs and sub-tropical plants. There’s a peace garden and a garden stupa (Buddhist prayer tower) for outdoor meditation. The woodland is full or Spruce, Scots Pine and Copper Beech trees, which helps you feel enclosed and protected by nature.
More on the bedrooms: There are seven bedrooms in total including singles, twins and two rooms with up to five beds for families or friends sharing. All rooms have their own hand basins and lovely views of the surrounding gardens and woodland. Only one bedroom (room four) has an en-suite bathroom – the rest are shared. Bring a sleeping mask if you’re a light sleeper as the bedrooms don’t have black-out blinds, and slippers as the house has a shoes-off policy. There is a disabled toilet and shower on the ground floors but there is no wheelchair access for bedrooms.
Food and drink: Newbold House grows most of its vegetables, herbs and fruits in its walled garden, makes its own bread and preserves, and buys dry goods from a workers co-operative. You eat in the dining room, which has plenty of light created by the bay windows and a wonderful view overlooking the ornamental gardens. When it’s chilly, a blazing fire will be roaring in the wood-burning stove. Gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free diets can be catered for, and all meals are vegetarian.
Healthy breakfasts feature figs, dates, yoghurt and museli, while lunches and evening meals include inventive dishes such as delicious red lentil puree, exotic salads with ingredients from the organic garden and stunning soups (we loved the tomato and coconut cream). Clipper fair trade organic teas, Twinings organic earl grey, a variety of herbal teas from Heath and Heather and Fair Trade coffee is available for guests throughout the day. The retreat has a beehive, and hopes to produce its own honey in the near future.
Fellow guests: Newbold House attracts men and women, usually between 30 to 60-something, and a mix of couples and solo travellers from across the UK looking for a break from the hectic pace of life and to re-connect to nature. The personalised wellbeing retreats are extremely popular, and would appeal to anyone looking to rest and be pampered by holistic therapies and/or rejuvenate with more energetic activities such as wild food foraging or gardening.
What’s queenly: The gardens are outstandingly beautiful and the house is in a truly tranquil spot. The experienced and intuitive retreat co-ordinator will go out of their way to design a personalised retreat that fits your mood and life situation. Staff and volunteers make guests feel truly welcome and part of the existing community.
What’s lowly: Bathrooms are shared, but they’re wonderfully clean. There is also no dividing line between guests and staff as both eat in the same dining room – so this is not for those who expect staff to remain firmly ‘downstairs’ and unseen.
Getting there: There are good rail and bus links to Inverness from all over the UK. The nearest train station is Forres. There are trains from Inverness station to Forres every hour – Forres train station is about 4 miles from Newbold, and taxis cost £6. There are excellent services from London to Inverness. If you’re coming from the South of England, the Caledonian sleeper service runs from London Euston to Inverness. National Express, City Link and Megabus all run regular and reasonably priced coach services to the Highlands.
The nearest airport is Inverness – Easyjet and Flybe run flights from most major UK cities. Take a connecting number 11 bus just outside the airport terminal straight through to Forres high street. Taxis from Inverness airport cost approximately £45.
Costs: Bespoke wellbeing breaks costs £285 per person for two nights, £475 for four nights and £730 for seven nights, including accommodation, meals and treatments.You’ll always get a single room unless you come as a couple. Bedrooms are often shared for other types of workshops and group events, but single rooms are available for a supplement of £10 per person per night.
Reviewed by Karen Higginbottom
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