From hill walks and yoga to foraging and wild swimming: 12 of the best active UK retreats

From hill walks and yoga to foraging and wild swimming: 12 of the best active UK retreats


Dip and chill, Mull and Iona

Swimming coach Emma MacDonald set up Wild Hebridean Swimming in 2022 after moving back to Mull. The company offers holidays for open water swimmers, but also retreats for those who can only tread water or do a bit of doggy paddle. These involve short dips in the clear waters of the Inner Hebrides, where there are seals, underwater kelp forests and waterfalls. Longer swims can be arranged on request. The programme also includes a guided walk on Iona, the burial place of 48 Scottish kings including Macbeth. Guests stay at Achaban House, which has woodburners and a wood-fired hot tub, where there is a choice of activities, including yoga and massage.
From £895 including all meals and wine, next retreat 8-11 March, wildhebrideanswimming.com

Poetry, yoga and forest bathing, Monmouthshire

Photograph: Gemma Kate Woods/Andy Squiff

There are regular yoga and forest-bathing retreats at family-run Hill Farm, a 15-acre site in Tintern. In May, poetry-writing will be added to the programme on a women-only retreat co-led by the former Hampshire poet laureate Kathryn Bevis. As well as yoga, writing and forest bathing, there will be free time to enjoy the hot tub, sauna and plunge pool in the wood-fired eco-spa, and to share favourite poems around the fire in the evenings. Guests can bring their own tents or camper vans, or book a bell tent, yurt or room in the farmhouse. Vegetarian meals are included; massages and other treatments are extra.
From £375, 3-5 May, forestretreats.co.uk

Rewild yourself, Lancashire

Seasonal retreats take place on a 220-acre, partially rewilded family farm amid pasture, woodland and swimming ponds, overlooking the salt marshes of Morecambe Bay. The spring retreat, Awaken Your Senses, combines nature and creativity: there are clay and driftwood workshops, hedgerow foraging and sourdough baking, plus coastal walks, swimming and bonfires. The summer retreat (28-30 June) focuses on midsummer folklore, with barefoot walking and dancing round the maypole, while the autumn retreat (20-22 September) involves mushroom cultivation and handcrafting with leather. Guests stay in converted barns, cottages or cabins, eat communal meals, take part in daily meditation and alternate cold water therapy with dips in the wood-fired hot tub.
From £420, 5-7 April, the-rewilding.com

Sound healing and art, Norfolk

Ubuntu Spirit runs inclusive and accessible community events in London, from African drumming to art therapy to sound baths. It also runs an affordable spring retreat at West Lexham, a wellness centre in 21 acres of Norfolk countryside. It is packed full of activities; attendees can take part in as many or as few as they like. Classes include hatha and yin yoga, meditation and breathwork, dance fitness and Zumba, sound healing and gong baths. Workshops cover African drumming and art, plus nature walks and fire pit gatherings. Guests can also swim in the pool or lake, and go canoeing or boating. Accommodation ranges from bell tents to cabins, treehouses and a converted barn.
From £290 including all meals, 10-12 May, ubuntuspirit.co.uk

Women’s sailing, Norfolk Broads

Eastwood Whelpton, a family-run sailing company, ran Women on the Water evening sailing sessions on the Broads for the first time last summer. They proved so popular that this year it is branching out with a weekend wellbeing retreat for women. The retreat takes place on traditional Broads yachts, with the focus on relaxing in nature and having fun on the water. No sailing experience is necessary to book a berth, as there are skippers at the helm. As well as exploring the waterways – the River Ant, Barton Broad – there are stops for nature walks, yoga and art activities, and visits to local landmarks such as How Hill. Breakfast and lunch are eaten on board, and the boats moor up at waterside pubs for dinner.
£379.90, 17-19 May, eastwood-whelpton.co.uk

Woodland retreat, Cornwall

Photograph: Jenna Foxton

Cabilla Cornwall, an upland hill farm on Bodmin Moor, is restoring its ancient oak woodland, temperate rainforest, wildflower meadows and rivers. On its “dirty weekends”, visitors can get stuck in to some restoration work in the rainforest, go on a guided nature walk to learn about soil health and species reintroduction, and meet the beavers, Sigourney and Jean-Claude. As well as the hard work, there’s a relaxing yoga class, sound bath and woodland sauna session. Food is cooked by guest chefs and evenings are spent round the fire, listening to live music. Guests stay in cabins with wood-burning stoves and Bramley toiletries, and share communal facilities in the barns, including a sitting room and monsoon showers.
From £425, two retreats this month and three in August, cabillacornwall.com

Woodland yoga, near Bath

This off-grid summer yoga retreat takes place in a secret woodland near Bath. There are five yoga classes – dynamic in the mornings, more introspective in the evenings – and free time for walking in the surrounding hills, swimming in the lake (a short walk down the valley), and relaxing in the wood-fired sauna or round the campfire. Food is prepared by an expert in outdoor cooking, and guests share the Treeshack, which has warm showers and compost toilets. There is space for a couple of tents; other options include yurts, cabins, shepherd’s huts and a cob roundhouse. All have been made by hand using traditional building techniques with timber from the woods and each of them has a wood-burning stove.
From £425, 12-15 July, reclaimyourself.co.uk

Mindful hill walking, the Peak District

Mind Over Mountains is a charity that organises nature walks and talks with professional counsellors. As well as one-day hill walks, there are regular weekend retreats, which include check-ins on Zoom before and after; two days of hill walking with mountain leaders; life-coaching, mindfulness and meditation sessions; dormitory accommodation and all meals. On a forthcoming retreat in Dovedale in the Peak District, for example, the walks take in hilltops, riversides, rock formations and caves. There are mindfulness stops along the way, and the chance to talk one-on-one with mental health counsellors and coaches – who walk alongside participants – without any pressure. Other retreat locations include Dolgellau in Eryri (Snowdonia), Wasdale in the Lake District and, Denbighshire.
£320 for two nights (bursaries available for those needing support), 22-24 March, mindovermountains.org.uk

Men’s bushcraft in the South Downs

The Sustainability Centre is set in woodland near Petersfield in the South Downs national park. It runs courses and workshops focusing on green living, rural skills and bushcraft. In September, a men’s bushcraft retreat in the woods is designed to give participants time away from screens. They will learn how to identify trees, plants, wild foods and herbal medicine; make natural cordage using plants; build a fire using different methods; rig a tarp, tie knots and throw ropes, and apply these skills to set up a shelter. It is a one-day course, but attendees get 10% off two nights’ accommodation – hostel or B&B at the on-site South Downs Eco Lodge, which opened in 2021 – staying in either , or camping in tents or yurts.
Course £80, camping from £13.50 a night, 28 September, sustainability-centre.org

Foraging, brewing and crafts, Lake District

Wild Human leads expeditions all over the world: tracking mountain lions in Colorado, exploring jungles in Borneo and learning survival skills on an uninhabited island in Panama. More achievable for most Britons are its bushcraft courses in the UK, on three private estates in the Lake District. Past courses have ranged from beginner to advanced bushcraft skills; foraging, including smoking, pickling, preserving and brewing; and crafts, such as building cob and clay ovens. This year, there is a five-day spring workshop based on living off 100% wild foods – details to be finalised when the founders return from Borneo this month. Participants will wild camp, either in their own tents, under a tarp, in a hammock or in a self-made natural shelter.
£595, 29 April-3 May, wildhuman.com

Back to nature in a forest garden, Devon

The Art of Rewilding, run by Natasha Lythgoe, offers retreats with a focus on a full immersion in the natural world, designed to allow participants to connect to their “wild” selves. As well as longer “vision quests” which involve solo time in the wild, this year’s programme includes the four-day Call of the Wild for Women in east Devon in August. The retreat takes place in a private forest garden in the Blackdown Hills, which has been transformed from a horse paddock into a rewilded landscape with edible plants and a natural swimming pool. Over a long weekend the retreat explores the “Celtic wheel of the year” with guided nature-connection practises (activities to help you slow down and sense nature), wild swimming, sharing circles and time around the fire, with guests camping or staying in nearby B&Bs.
£545 (bursaries available), 8-11 August, theartofrewilding

Men’s wellbeing in Hertfordshire

Surrounded by woodlands on one side and the rolling Chilterns hills of Great Gaddesden on the other, the Croft Farm Escape outside Hemel Hempstead is a great place to unwind and hosts regular retreats. The Men’s Wild Retreat, held in April, is designed to help participants slow down and rejuvenate, with a schedule that includes a hike, yoga, axe throwing and a gym session, as well as a sauna and ice bath, fire gathering and cacao ceremony. Wholesome meals and accommodation in the converted barn is included.
£299, 5-7 April, thecroftfarmescape.com



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