The Body Retreat review
Effective, warm-hearted retreats in UK & Spain
The Quick Read: The Body Retreat runs small, immaculately planned retreats for busy, professional women who need to lose weight, get fit, de-stress, detox and/or rethink their lives. They use a range of high class, extremely comfortable properties in the UK and a remote and beautiful farmhouse in southern Spain. Expect full schedules with lots of varied exercise – they’ll stretch you but equally will adapt the programme to your health and needs. The mood is upbeat, supportive, inclusive and fun – and regardless of the programme, if you need to lose weight, you will. There’s a strong emphasis on mind as well as body – co-founder Juls is a qualified NLP instructor and hypnotherapist, so everything is geared towards long- lasting, sustainable change.
More on the healthy activities: Each of the main retreats includes plenty of exercise and classes and activities are very varied – the aim is to introduce you to lots of different types of exercise and motivate you to try different things (so you can continue your exercise habit at home). Walking is a large part of any retreat – with Julie guiding group hikes out into the (always lovely) surrounding countryside – read a word from the queen on her retreat. Sometimes Nordic poles are used, to swing the changes. Julie’s workouts tend to be simple, straightforward and highly effective – expect circuits (using a mix of body weight, hand weights and some pieces of kit – step, rebounder); band, fitball and kettlebell classes. Visiting instructors take yoga, Pilates and a variety of dance classes. Because classes tend to be small, there’s an emphasis on individual attention and correction of technique. The Body Retreat are partnered with Mio Skincare and all their guests receive a goodie bag of luxury Mio products plus two Mio body treatments during the retreat.
More on the Somerset venue: The Somerset retreat is held near Wellington, in a very quiet spot, surrounded by farmland and fields. It’s a large house decorated in a neutral style (cream, beige, wood and stone floors, the odd splash of green). Downstairs there’s a large exercise space and a kitchen/dining room with a huge wooden table (you can watch Juls preparing the food). The indoor swimming pool is spotless and long enough for laps (it’s also all the same depth so good for impromptu aqua aerobics); there’s an equally immaculate (and hot) sauna and, outside, a Jacuzzi.
Upstairs, four bedrooms adjoin a central meeting/relaxing space with help-yourself herbal teas and water. Bedrooms are modern with large beds and lovely bedlinen. The bathrooms are large with walk-in showers and two have huge freestanding baths with TV at the end. The Somerset venue is around 2 hours by car from central London. Transfers can be arranged from Tiverton Parkway station (from £8 per person).
More on the Dorset venue: This is a stylish house, built from mellow stone, wood and slate. It’s contemporary country in feel yet still deeply comfortable. The aim is for you to feel it’s a home from home (but better). The sitting rooms have large comfy sofas and the private gardens have plenty of sun loungers and benches for sunny days. Bedrooms are cool and stylish, with crisp white linen offsetting the muted greys and soft mauve (with flashes of maroon and candy pink). Bathrooms are luxurious with either power showers or deep baths. There’s an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and an outdoor hot tub. The Dorset venue is 2 hours by car from central London. Transfers can be arranged from Crewkerne station (from £8 per person).
More on the Spanish venue: Set in the Andalucian hills, this is a traditional Spanish cortijo (farmhouse) set in its own olive grove with uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside. The feel is traditional with artistic quirks. The owner is an artist and it shows – there’s a fabulous use of colour throughout and local artwork is displayed all through the house. The sitting room has large comfy sofas and a big open fire for chilly evenings. There’s a TV and DVD player with a selection of DVDs.
Outside there are private terraces with large rattan sofas and chairs plus a secluded Art Garden with shaded areas and seats. The pool has sun loungers alongside and a Moroccan area with a large day bed, music system and floaty curtains to protect you from the sun. Scheduled transfers from Malaga airport are included in the price of retreats at the Spanish venue. Private transfers can be arranged for other times from €80.
Food and drink: Whichever retreat or venue you choose, food is all freshly cooked using mainly organic and locally produced food where possible. The usual daily regime revolves around three main meals and three smaller snacks, to keep blood sugar regulated. It’s predominantly vegetarian with a few additions of chicken, fish and seafood but all meals can be adapted to your dietary requirements and Juls posts the menu in advance so you can request tweaks if a dish features something you dislike. Food choices vary depending on the style of retreat but breakfast could be Bircher muesli or a ‘Breakfast on the Go’ smoothie (banana, pineapple, wheatgerm, linseed, yoghurt, apple).
Sample lunches might include Avocado and Artichoke or Salmon salad, Middle Eastern Vegetable stew or mushroom and pine-nut stuffed peppers. Suppers are light – superfood salad with roasted vegetables and quinoa, leek and cannellini bean soup, chicken and bean broth. Snacks include hummus with crudités; apple and nut butter ‘sandwiches’; Superberry juice or Virgin coladas. The Spanish retreat includes a make your own pizza night on which you’re taught how to make healthy pizza (chickpea and spinach bases are absolutely delicious!) The focus is on creating habits you can continue at home so no unusual or difficult to acquire ingredients are used – and you’re given a booklet of recipes to take home. They also send you on your way with a pack lunch so you don’t succumb to sandwiches on the journey home.
Fellow guests: Guests have ranged from women in their late twenties through to their seventies but they’re predominantly professional women in their forties and fifties. The vast majority come from the UK and Ireland, although some guests travel from Europe.
What’s queenly: The retreats are seriously well-planned, supportive and incredibly friendly. They’re ideal for solo retreaters (The Body Retreat actually prefer people to come alone) and we like the focus on realistic exercise and food (so you can continue good habits at home).
What’s lowly: The yoga didn’t quite hit the spot for us. A little more initial orientation would have been good. But really, this is nitpicking.
Reviewed by Jane Alexander
© Queen of Retreats
Restorative self-catering in the Cotswolds