Cugó Gran, Menorca
Spoiling, impactful wellness retreats at impeccable serviced villa
Best for: The time-poor craving beauty & lasting change
Not for: Anyone on a budget
Takes up to 12 guests
Cugó Gran is a stylish and spacious fully-serviced luxury villa on a private 250-acre estate in the countryside just outside Menorca’s capital, Mahon, which hosts clever wellbeing retreats on set dates each Spring and Autumn. Choose The Gut Makeover Retreat to replenish your microbiome with leading nutritionist Jeanette Hyde, or The Movement Retreat to get fitter with mobility specialists Diego Degiovanni and Elena Baracco. Whichever you choose you can enjoy gorgeous treatments, a serene pool, flower-filled grounds and tip top navy-clad staff with a can-do attitude.
The genuine friendliness and can-do attitude of Cugó Gran’s hosts Toby and Tamsin and their rather dashing team of helpers, and the keen attention to beauty and service throughout which will help you relax and regroup, whichever retreat you choose.
Tea will be served in a glass teapot on a gorgeous tray decked out with a little pot of fresh flowers or a sprig of lavender in a ceramic vase. On retiring after dinner, you’ll find candles lighting your way up the stairs, and in your room, your clothes tidied and hung up, PJs at the ready and bed turned down.
The swimming pool was cold to swim in on our visit in late April – though we did brave it twice. Only one room has a bath to have a nice long soak in, and as yet there are no hot tub or steam facilities.
Read our personal review
Caroline Sylger Jones reviews this wellness retreat for the gut on Menorca and happily enjoys abundant meals, a particularly glorious day bed and intelligent advice from leading nutritionist Jeanette Hyde
The next Gut Makeover Retreat is 4 – 9 October 2017. The next Movement Retreat is Friday 27 – 30 October 2017.
Choose from one of two retreats and enjoy gorgeous surroundings, cosseting treatments, coastal walks or bike rides and a spot of retail therapy on the side.
The Gut Makeover Retreat is a 5 night break led by London-based nutritionist Jeannette Hyde that combines nutrition consultations, Pilates classes, spa treatments and gut-friendly healthy meals to tease back into shape your gut’s micro biome – known as your ‘second brain’, this is the bacteria we carry around inside us that has been scientifically proven to affect our weight, physical health and emotional and mental wellbeing.
The retreat is ideal for stressed professionals short on time and energy and those who Iive on what Jeannette calls ‘a Western beige diet’, and is most effective if taken as a kick start to Jeanette’s four week eating plan outlined in her book The Gut Makeover, designed to heal and restore your digestive health. Starting with this break and carrying on for a total of four weeks, you’re likely to lose any weight you need to, rebalance your physical, emotional and mental health, and deal with health issues that have been bugging you for years – from immunity problems, anxiety and bad skin to IBS.
There’s a pre-retreat consultation, so Jeannette can get to grips with your personal health issues and what it is you need, then during the retreat you’ll have two one-to-one nutrition consultations as well as a few easy-to-understand group sessions explaining gut-friendly ways of eating and health issues such as ‘leaky gut’.
Rather gloriously, considering you’re set to lose weight, eating also takes up a large part of your day – you’ll have thee divine-tasting, abundant, gut-friendly meals daily with four hour gaps between (no snacks allowed), and you’re encourage to eat well and chew everything thoroughly.
Jeanette Hyde is a former travel editor of The Observer who became a nutritionist after her own burnout over 10 years ago and is a personable, straightforward, easy-to-be-with and highly knowledgeable BSc-trained nutritional therapist whose knowledge you can mine whenever you want throughout the week.
A key part of The Gut Makeover Retreat is individual and group Pilates sessions with Ireland-born Pilates teacher Bernadette Phillips, a friendly, witty and expert teacher who uses a highly effective, sport-performance focused method to help you improve flexibility, core strength and posture in a fun way and also teaches you her own little ‘face gym’ to ease out any wrinkles.
The Movement Retreat is a 3 night holistic break run by a Menorca-based couple, movement specialists Diego Degiovanni and Elena Baracco, who pay attention to the mind as well as the body. They combine personal training, yoga and Pilates classes with delicious, nutritious meals and have designed the retreat to help you increase your energy, improve your resilience and feel better emotionally, mentally and physically.
The daily classes are based on Diego and Elena’s own vision of wellness to ‘live now’ (be in the here and now), ‘stay good’ (learn how to nourish both body and soul) and ‘move better’ (get the most of out of your body through progressive and targeted physical training). For each group session guests will be split into different groups according to their level of experience.
The couple are both highly skilled yoga and Pilates teachers and personal trainers who have been teaching since 2010. They speak fluent Spanish, English and Italian, they walk their talk and they’re personable too – a professional athlete, Diego is super passionate about movement but also believes in the power of books, electric guitar and a good dinner with friends, while Elena is a patient and meticulous teacher who loves dance, animals and walking bare-foot where there are no cars or wi-fi.
LI’TYA, Rosalena Skincare or bespoke Cugó Gran beauty treatments and massages are available with the sweet, caring and exceptionally well turned out Kim Holland, who trained at Champneys beauty school in Hertfordshire and helped to launch Pennyhill Park’s great little spa in the UK but now lives on the island. Kim will tailor all your treatments to your knots and needs.
Two massages are included in the price of the retreat, and you can book extra if you want them. The facial massage with the gorgeous and pure Rosalena hydrating oils comes particularly recommended, and there’s a good range of rituals and therapies using LI’TYA skin, hair and body products. Meaning ‘Of the Earth’, these are based on modern and indigenous herbalism, aromatherapy and touch therapy from the traditional Australian Aboriginals.
For the two 45 minute treatments included in each retreat you can choose a classic Cugó Gran Swedish massage to relax you, increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins and improve circulation and flexibility, or the Miji Kodo (or ‘little melody’), a rhythmic body massage inspired by traditional Australian Aboriginal techniques which work to balance and re-align energy flow, enhancing mind and body wellness.
A driver and vehicle is at the group’s disposal on each retreat, so do make time to explore the island. Walking along sections of the famous Camí de Cavalls is a real treat – it’s an ancient path which encircles the island and provides idyllic, uplifting views of the coastline and is dotted with small traditional white coastal houses and other-worldly caves built into the rock by locals. Trips to local beaches, bike rides and horse riding can also be arranged, and kayaks are available to hire at an extra cost. You can also go on a boat trip in a traditional Menorcan llaut to find out about the island’s rich naval history or take a tour of a local cheese factory.
If shopping is your thing you’re likely to love Mahon, which has a range of traditional shops, new boutiques and food markets. Bring a bag with plenty of extra space in it should you choose to stock up on treats such as locally made Minorcan baskets, pairs of traditional Avarca de Menorca sandals, the acclaimed acclaimed Mahón-Menorca cheese and bottles of Xoriguer Gin for gifts back home. The oldest shop in Menorca is in Mahon and worth a visit – it’s a lovely old leather shop which sells saddles, Menorcan woven baskets, espadrilles, and lots of other things.
Pack walking shoes, a light waterproof jacket incase of rain and sunscreen. Do book any extra treatments you might want before you arrive, as these slots get booked up quickly.
The level of care you receive here is exceptional , but the retreats are short – try to leave your iPad alone so you can be fully absorbed in the moment and make the most of it.
You can also hire the house on an exclusive use basis during peak season, and stay as a B&B guest between March and June and September and October.
When to Go
The weather in late April and May on Menorca is like a decent British Summer, with an incredible range of Spring flowers and a lovely buzz on the island. September and October are lovely and warm months, with the sea still warm enough to swim in (in fact, people swim up until December!).
Cugó Gran employs a resident in-house chef each season – for 2017 it’s Jono Raeburn, an imaginative Head Chef with 15 years’ experience who has worked all over the world in Michelin-starred restaurants, for private households and on super yachts. The food ethos varies on each retreat, but you can always expect lovely meals served on impeccably-laid tables and using fruits and vegetables from Cugó Gran’s kitchen garden, eggs from the estate’s free range chickens and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.
Meals are served beautifully at spacious serene eating areas which vary according to the weather. Breakfast is a relaxed occasion, when guests can come down any time between 8 and 9am and eat where they like – in the dining room, in a more intimate lobby area or outside. Evening meals are usually eaten in the dining room, at a long communal table graced with interesting displays of fruit and flowers. Lunch could take place at the outside BBQ area near the swimming pool or at tables on the lower terrace in front of the main house.
Sustenance on The Gut Retreat: The basic eating principles of The Gut Makeover are to avoid snacking and eat three proper meals a day, preferably with a four hour gap between each of them, and to fast overnight for 12 hours (very easy – it just means if you finish eating at 8pm, you do not eat again till 8am). It’s the colour and fibre of food that helps heal and replenish the microbiome, so the idea is to eat at least 20-30 varieties of different coloured vegetables, fresh herbs and some fruits during the week (then for three weeks after), trying for seven portions a day together, served with best-quality protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds). You add to that a mix of Prebiotic foods (such as bananas, leeks and cold potatoes) and Probiotic foods (such as kefir, miso and sauerkraut). You avoid grains, caffeine, alcohol and all sugars.
This a diet of abundance rather than deprivation, and Jeannette works closely with Cugó Gran’s chef to devise delicious, gut-friendly meals inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, from spag bol on courgette spaghetti to extravagant, mind-glowingly tasty salads with barbecued prawns. Breakfast might be abundant fresh fruits, kefir, nuts, seeds and banana bread with an egg-based dish of the day (using fresh eggs collected from their own hens that morning), and all dishes use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, including some of the herbs, vegetables and fruits from their own kitchen garden. For drinks there’s kombucha, ginger tea, herbal teas and delicious evening mocktails.
Sustenance on The Movement Retreat: During this retreat Diego and Elena aim to nourish the body with balanced meals using seasonal fresh produce from the estate and the island. The focus is on light, healthy and nutritional food, though it’s not a detox retreat, so guests can have a glass of wine with their meal if they like (which costs extra) and dishes include meat and fish.
Cugó Gran has its own osmosis system, naturally filtering its water from the estate’s three wells, and it uses solar panels to heat the swimming pool. It recycles all products, and gives all organic food waste to the chickens.
Cugó Gran, Cami de sa Forana, San Climent, Mahon 07712, Menorca
Transfer Time: 10 minutes