Sleep tight!

pebbles 4A good night’s sleep is important for emotional, physical and mental wellbeing especially in our fast-paced lifestyles. There is an increasing number of therapies and products to help induce this much needed slumber. Hastings Hotels have introduced a natural therapy in the form of a tailor-made new Sleep Ritual spa ritual.

Performed in calming, candlelit surroundings, the ESPA Sleep Ritual is offered at The Culloden Estate & Spa and the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in Northern Ireland. The treatment includes breathing and visualisation techniques to release physical and emotional anxiety and restore energy. A deep tissue massage to release deep-seated muscular tension is combined with hot stones and warmed fragrant ESPA oil poured onto the body. This concludes with a soothing scalp massage to relieve any final signs of stress ensuring guests completely switch off.

The 5* Culloden Estate & Spa stands on the forested slopes of the Holywood hills, overlooking Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coastline. In close proximity to Belfast City Centre, the luxurious spa is Northern Ireland’s premier sanctuary for mind, body and soul. Guests can revel in a range of ESPA products and therapies with eight treatment suites, two pre and post treatment relaxation rooms. The hotel also offers a variety of different classes at the Health Club including Aquafit, Yogalates and Pilates. Guests can also enjoy relaxing in the pool, Jacuzzi and eucalyptus steam room. In 2017, Hastings Hotels celebrated 50 years of the ownership of the jewel in its crown, the Culloden Estate & Spa, as well as the completion of a £4.8M renovation programme at the hotel over the last three years.

The Slieve Donard Resort & Spa is situated on the seashores of the Irish Sea on Newcastle Bay. The hotel looks out to the Mountains of Mourne. Set in six acres of private grounds, the property is famous for its expansive and luxurious spa. Guests can escape to a cocoon of calm with over two floors of tranquillity, including a 20 metre swimming pool and Vitality Pool, amethyst steam room and high-tech fitness studio.

Needles at the ready for a Fair Isle escape

Perfect for relaxing, distressing and enjoying the surrounding countryside, ECT Travel is offering a Shetland Knitting tour with expert, Alison Crowther-Smith. Guests can experience the magic and history of Northern Scotland while learning the traditional Fair Isle knitting technique in the very birthplace of the craft. This five-day break will take place from the 27th – 31st July.

Guests will receive daily instruction on how to knit Fair Isle accessories. There will be visits to the Norse and pre-historic Jarlshof settlements, one of the most important and awe-inspiring archaeological sites in Scotland. There will also be voyages to the Shetland Museum and Archives, a guided tour of the Shetland Textile Museum as well as a guided tour of Jamieson & Smith Wool Brokers, the main manufacturer of Shetland produced wool.

Guests will also discover the mystery of the sweet and secluded isle of Lerwick. With wide open spaces and pure air Lerwick is Shetland’s only real town and houses a textile museum where participants can learn even more about the island’s heritage of crafting and fabrics. A restored fishing station, the building is steeped in culture as the birthplace of Arthur Anderson who introduced Shetland to Queen Victoria after gifting her some fine lace stockings.

Guide prices start from £1,059 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room a half-board basis at the Shetland Hotel in Lerwick.
Tel: 01225 333747

New England rated a healthy choice

Old Lyme, CT
Three New England states are listed as the top 10 healthiest American states according to a new report.
Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have been listed in the top 10 healthiest US states. The 28th annual report from the United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association examined 35 measures including environment, obesity and air pollution. Maine and Rhode Island also rated well in this report.
Connecticut has parks and forests with many trails to explore covering mountain, trail and road biking. Hiking is a popular activity especially to Bear Mountain in Salisbury, Connecticut’s highest peak, for panoramic views of Connecticut and Massachusetts and trails that link with the Appalachian Trail – visit

For a breath of fresh air, Maine is well known for its miles of coastline, availability of seafood and being home to the Acadia National Park. In Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island there are numerous carriage trails with picturesque views through the mountains and valleys, running for almost 124 miles from the coast. Visitors can cycle and horse ride on the wild blueberry-lined, historic carriage trails, or hike into the higher regions.

In winter, Maine on average has 100 inches of snow fall annually. With areas that have easy trails for beginners and challenging black diamond slopes, it’s a great state for winter sports and visitors of all abilities. Maine’s two largest resorts are Sugarloaf and Sunday River.  
In Boston, Massachusetts enjoy the various food markets including the Boston Public Market, Eataly and Faneuil Hall. Visitors in Boston can exercise and explore at the same time with Bike Bus – a bus tour powered by passengers cycling, while in the Berkshires, the Kripalu Center offers a yoga retreat.

In New Hampshire venture to Mount Washington, the highest peak in the North Eastern US, perfect for hiking and mountain climbing.
During the winter, from 31 January – 1 March enjoy unique Ice Fishing session on the frozen lakes and ponds in the Lakes Region. The state is also the perfect place for winter sports. It’s where Bode Miller, a former American World Cup Alpine Ski Racer called home.  In January each year its learn to ski and snowboard month throughout the state with many resorts onboard offering learning incentives.
In Newport, Rhode Island enjoy 3.4 miles of rocky cliff walks, as well as the impressionable mansions and country houses. The Newport Mansions are famous and were built in the late 19th century by entrepreneurs as their summer homes enjoying magnificent ocean views. They are now open for public touring.

Rhode Island’s waters are a diver’s paradise with more shipwrecks per square mile than any other state in New England – over 2,000 shipwrecks to explore. There are also full-service dive shops throughout the state and guided excursions for novice and advanced divers.

The Next Big Thing in Wellness – Costa Rica 2018

The Costa Rica Tourism Board has launched a new tourism strategy for 2018 – ‘Wellness Pura Vida’ – a new ethos that redefines what it means to look after the body and soul.  According to the World Health Organization, “burnout”, the state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, is now a global issue. To combat this, UK travellers are increasingly combining travel with wellness, a trend that the tourist board is responding to with this new movement for 2018.

The phrase “Pura Vida” itself can be heard echoing throughout Costa Rica. Used as a greeting or expression of happiness, the phrase literally translates to “pure life,” however its truer meaning is “full of life,” which accurately symbolises the Costa Rican mind-set of energy and positivism that awaits visitors.

Costa Rica offers a huge number of authentic natural wellness experiences for all visitors looking for a healing holiday. These activities include yoga, meditation, earthing, forest bathing, treatments with hot springs, thalassotherapy amongst others, and can be carried out in pleasant and tranquil natural spaces throughout the country. Smoking volcanoes, dense virgin forests, unique wildlife and endless tropical beaches make this Central American destination one of the most diverse places on earth for a healing holiday.

Costa Rica is not only renowned for being one of the happiest places on Earth, but also one where people live the longest. The Nicoya Peninsula has one of the highest percentages of centenarians in the world.

Visitors should live this ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle whilst in Costa Rica, taking home new healthy habits, starting with its healthy food based mainly on grains including rice and beans (called “gallo pinto” when mixed). No trip is complete without drinking the calcium-rich water, indulging in the fresh fruits and sampling the local coffee. Other Pura Vida wellness experiences can include ‘forest baths’ (breathing in the fresh air of the forest) and ‘earthing’ (barefoot walks on the earth/sand). Reaching 100 is not guaranteed, but relaxation is!

Visitors hoping for a slice of Zen should head to the lesser known corner of Costa Rica – the Osa Peninsula. Located on the South Pacific coast, this region is a haven for those looking to experience complete unspoilt beauty and escape Wi-Fi. The opportunities for exploration are endless; iconic activities include watching the magnificent humpback whale migration, exploring the mangroves by kayak and the beaches and mountains on a recreational cycling tour, bird-watching, yoga, forest bathing and having a healthy organic meal on the beach. Visitors can expect sunrise yoga, beach Pilates and al fresco group meditation.

No wellness holiday to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to the hot springs, which are said to have healing and restorative properties due to the high mineral content. Visitors can harness the water for personal renewal by letting positive energy flow throughout the body. Arenal, Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles Volcano, Orosi area, Perez Zeledon and the Caribbean are the country’s best destinations for thermal soaks, some of them boasting highly-rated hot springs, mud baths and spa facilities.

Connect with the cosmic energy of ancient Peru


From healing spa treatments using indigenous Andean plants and herbs, to cleansing ceremonies bathed in nature and mystical culture, the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is offering its guests the opportunity to awaken and nourish mind, body and soul.

The hotel’s Aqlla spa uses treatments using local ingredients and curative Peruvian traditions. These include the Sabai Massage for Body & Face; a 60-minute pinda-style massage that uses warmed compresses loaded with 32 natural medicinal herbs. The Incas have used pink salt from Maras, a town near Cusco, for centuries for its energy boosting, high-mineral content and is used in the Maras Body Massage as a therapeutic natural scrub. The 90-minute treatment begins with an exfoliating salt scrub, followed by a body mask of papaya, lemon and lettuce that leaves a prolonged refreshing sensation. The treatment concludes with a relaxing massage with Andean herbal oils with medicinal attributes, including chamomile, eucalyptus and lemon grass.

Other treatments using indigenous ingredients include the Body Massage with Coca and Muña Essential Oils, which uses two time-honoured healing plants of Peru’s ancient Inca culture; Muña, renowned for being a digestive aid, as well as its soothing and calming effects on aches, pains and arthritis; and Coca leaves, loaded with vitamins, protein, calcium, iron and fibre that help to counter the effects of high altitude in the Andes. The Deep-Hydration Cleansing Facial with Quinoa taps the nutritional benefits of the quinoa to prevent premature aging of sensitive and dehydrated skin.

Beyond the spa, the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel offers spiritual and wellness experiences that connect with the cosmic energy of ancient Peruvian civilisations, while touring nearby natural and cultural sites. During the full day Machu Picchu Mystical Tour, guests can visit the historic sanctuary with a local shaman who uses his natural gifts to help them discover the spiritual and natural energy side of Machu Picchu, as well as its magical connections to Pachamama or Mother Earth. During the visit, the shaman will lead a cleansing session, while back at the hotel in the evening; travellers will participate in a private coca leaf reading.

Guests can participate in a one-hour Payment to the Earth Ritual on the hotel’s private terrace. This traditional practice of making offerings to Pachamama, or Mother Earth, has been passed down from the time of the Incas, as Ancient Peruvians held Pachamama sacred. This ritual remains a part of daily life for many locals in surrounding regions of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. With a shaman and private interpreter as guides, guests can discover a realm beyond the physical world and become more open to emotional and spiritual healing. Coca, which is a traditional Peruvian symbol of community and respect, plays a significant role in the ceremony.

Rooms at the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel start from USD 602.80 per room per night (from GBP 427) based on double occupancy and including buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner, luggage assistance between the hotel and Aguas Calientes train station

Art of Aufguss Workshop at Rudding Park


Rudding Park Spa is introducing the UK’s first Art of Aufguss Workshops under the  tuition of Sauna Meister, Lay Pang Ong.

Recognised as a leading wellness practice across Europe, it involves a Master of Aufguss using essential oils to create a stimulating environment and circulating the aromatic air using a towel-waving technique within a sauna. The ritual leaves the participants both mentally and physically revived. Benefits of the practice range from a meditative state of mind to improving cardiovascular strength, boosting the immune system, as well as alleviating stress and pain.

Three workshops are scheduled for Thursday 1 February, Friday 2 February and Saturday 3 February, hosted by Art of Aufguss Champion Lay Pang Ong, well-regarded as a pioneer of sauna reinvention. Guests will experience a classic Aufguss performance by Pang, a theory session on the principals and benefits of the ritual and a practical session with coaching to develop their skills, before performing a ceremony, bringing a sense of theatre to the sauna.

Each workshop includes dinner, lunch or afternoon tea hosted by Pang providing an opportunity to gain further insight into this fascinating ritual.

The Art of Aufguss is performed in the Panoramic Sauna in the Roof Top Spa, the UK’s first Roof Top Spa which reflects the underlying ethos of the spa, bringing the best of the outside indoors.

Art of Aufguss Workshop Prices:

One person – £75

Two people – £140

Subject to availability and pre-booking is recommended.

Chewing Over A Modern Mayr Cure at Park Igls, Austria


My happiest New Year fantasy is to wake up back at the Park Igls Hotel in the Austrian Tyrol, all set to be cosily eased into a Modern Mayr Cure – making me healthier, fitter & thinner for 2018!

The traditional FX Mayr Cure was the stuff of legend. Devised in the 1920’s by Austrian doctor Franz Xaver Mayr, it was based on his then, highly innovative theory that good gut health is critical to our all-round wellbeing.

Zoom forward almost a century and current major research into chronic modern diseases show that Mayr’s thinking was well ahead of his time. Experts now predict that the science of gut health will be a medical game changer – creating a radical new approach to many major conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The traditional FX Mayr Cure is based on a Spartan regime of stale rolls, milk, water,  massage and exercise – and has become famously effective as a super swift and safe way to de-tox and lose weight. As such, it’s also become the well-beloved secret weapon of many of the world’s most famous faces.

Happily, however, for those of us not big on hard-core deprivation, Park Igls has devised a gentler version: The Modern Mayr Cure is a bespoke programme of diet, exercise, abdominal massage, treatments, coaching and state-of-the-art medical tests and diagnostics –  served up in luxurious, but super friendly and relaxed surroundings.

When I arrived for my 6-night stay, top doc Peter Gartner gave me a private introduction to Park Igls – set in leafy parkland just 10 minutes outside Innsbruck. I explained how a series of unexpected losses had led me to neglect my normal (admittedly pretty feeble) diet and exercise disciplines – leaving me overweight and suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The empathetic Dr Gartner explained how his highly qualified medical team create a personalised recovery plan for every guest, matching their individual needs with gut-health-focused, Modern Mayr Medicine and cuisine.

Like so many great ideas, the basic thinking is fairly simple. We are what we eat! But how we eat – and when we eat – are also vitally important….

So recovery starts with the eating process. The more we chew the better we do! Chewing breaks down each mouthful of food, exposing an ever increasing surface area to saliva – with all its essential pre-digestive qualities.

Core Modern Mayr Cure tips for healthier eating include…

  • Essentially, breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper – giving your digestive system time to rest overnight
  • Eat fresh, well prepared food
  • Eat nothing raw after 4pm
  • Take small mouthfuls
  • Concentrate on chewing, chewing – then chewing some more – ideally 30 times for every mouthful. This will allow your saliva to do its vital pre-digestive work before you swallow.
  • Eating mindfully will also help you enjoy all the true flavour of your food – so you’ll feel satisfied with less
  • Use small sized forks and spoons – and put them down down between mouthfuls
  • Don’t drink just before, during or after a meal. But, between meals, drink at least two litres of water a day
  • Eat slowly – each meal should take at least 20 minutes
  • Stop the moment you start to feel full
  • ENJOY!

Days at Park Igls start and end early – partly because there’s no alcohol to keep you up partying through the night in the cosy lounge with its roaring log fire!

Most guests stay for a recommended two to three weeks.  Each day begins the same – with beastly ‘Bitter Wasser’! You collect a mug of concentrated Epsom Salts, mix with warm water and drink slowly. Then avoid swimming in the indoor pool while you wait for the – often dramatic – call of nature!

Once the Bitter Wasser has done its worst, there are always plenty of diversions. Mornings are pampering – filled with massages, warmly indulgent body wraps on wobbly waterbeds and strangely addictively, toe tingling Kneipp treatments, designed to improve circulation.

Surprisingly, I grew to enjoy working out in the panoramic gym with its amazing views and chandeliers. Other get-up-and-go options include Nordic walking, yoga, Pilates, strength training, cookery course, lectures, kybun® running and whacking balls at the exclusive TheMedGolf® Institute, plus beauty therapies, shopping and and theatre trips.

Mealtimes at Park Igls are quiet affairs. Mobile phones are banned. And the eight different levels of meal plan – depending on guests’ health and weight loss aims – are based on food combining. The alkaline focused menu includes spelt rolls, crispbreads, yoghurt, lightly cooked vegetables and small portions of protein – plus a Hoorah! pudding at the final lunch.

The need to chew, and chew some more is not conducive to social chit chat. So diners sit quietly chomping, like a field of contented ruminants!

The food is daintily portioned. But it’s also packed with flavour. And I was surprised to find that the secret ingredient of their yummy soups is often a good glug of Cointreau or Pernod – burnt off, of course, before serving…

But then, Park Igls was full of surprises. My “talking therapy” with lovely Thomas Blasbichler was unexpectedly helpful, offering truly practical life tips based on “possible” changes. The genuine care shown by Thomas and my personal doctor Peter Barth was typical of the whole Park Igls team. They know that life throws up googlies and that we, their guests, are fallible human beings, with normal lives, weaknesses and temptations.

They see it as their mission to listen and understand, offering a range of effective, coping techniques to alter our mindset and helping us move on to a much healthier, happier place. And so, while I’d expected to feel a bit deprived at Park Igls, instead, I felt pampered, thinner – and more positive. And by the final morning, I’d lost 8 pounds – yippee!

I followed the general ethos of the programme when I got home, mixing basic Modern Mayr principles with normal life. And by the end of a fortnight, I’d amazingly lost more than a stone – with no recurrence of my long term IBS.

So here’s to Mayr-vellous New Year! Having lapsed a little, I now feel motivated to get to grips again with the Modern Mayr programme in 2018. And I’m looking forward to rolling away much more than a stone by Easter Monday…

How to book

Felicity Hawkins was a guest of Health Retreat Park Igls ( / +43 512 377305).  The award winning, 5* pioneer of Modern Mayr Medicine offers a wide variety of health enhancing programmes – helping with burnout syndrome, giving up smoking, weight loss detox and stress reduction.


The Basic Programme costs: €977 (includes examinations, 20-minute abdominal treatment, group exercise/anti-stress sessions, lifestyle management and coaching plus Kneipp treatments and personalised Mayr cuisine eating plan.)

The Mayr Classic Programme costs: €1254pp – including the Basic Programme plus 5 massages and one metabolic detox bath.

Accommodation costs: €153 single, €148 sharing a double per night

Fly to Innsbruck with EasyJet or British Airways.

Park Igls is a member of the exclusive Niche Destinations portfolio (, promoting responsible and sustainable travel for independent travellers in elegant surroundings.



The ‘Ayurbodha’ treatment in Kerala

 Introducing ‘Ayurbodha’, a new offering from Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) aimed at blending tourism and the knowledge of Ayurveda.

Under this new initiative, the traveller can stay at any of the KTDC resorts located in Kerala and learn about the ancient medicinal stream of Ayurveda. The focus will be on basic home remedies and diet regimes, Ayurvedic practices for the rejuvenation of the body and soul, secrets of pressure points, basics of ‘Panchakarma’ treatment and the history and use of medicinal plants.

“Ayurveda, as a wellness system and a mainstream tourism product, has been largely confined to treatments and massages. While Kerala is known as a destination for enjoying serene and peaceful holidays, our time-tested tradition of Ayurveda can enrich every visitor’s experience,” the Minister stated during the 2017 World Travel Market in London.

“It is a unique experiential tourism initiative that has enormous potential to increase footfalls in God’s Own Country. It unfolds new vistas of Ayurveda as an enticing tourism offering and will surely appeal to the visitors from both India and abroad,” said Dr. Venu V, Principal Secretary, Kerala Tourism.





The Caribbean to reinvigorate wellness tourism

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The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has declared 2018 the Year of Wellness and Rejuvenation in the Caribbean.

“For those who focus on renewing body and spirit, the options are virtually endless; from beachfront workouts and yoga retreats, to wellness resorts and spa treatments, the notion of being rejuvenated in the Caribbean is one more reason to let us pamper you in 2018,” the secretary general Hugh Riley
said. “The region’s diverse tropical landscape with mountain ranges, valleys and volcanoes, provide excellent opportunities for a variety of ages and physical abilities.

The global wellness sector is a $3.72 trillion industry, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

Cliveden is honoured to back on the spa scene

Spa - Indoor Pool_preview
Cliveden Spa, was awarded the accolade of ‘Best New or Back on the Scene Luxury Spa’ in the annual Condé Nast Johansens 2018 Awards for Excellence.

The opening of The Cliveden Spa in July 2017 marked the completion of a multi-million pound restoration of Cliveden House in Berkshire, which has seen the total transformation of the iconic luxury country house hotel.  Honouring the illustrious 350-year history of the house, The Cliveden Spa has been revamped and has re-opened alongside a brand new state-of-the-art building which links the house to the spa within the walled garden. Hidden in the beautiful garden setting, guests can experience a tranquil oasis offering a sense of wellbeing and relaxation. The centrepiece of the spa is the ‘listed’ outdoor swimming pool, beside which the infamous Christine Keeler first met John Profumo. 

Combining quintessentially British treatments and products in partnerships with Sarah Chapman, renowned for her award-winning facials, and OSKIA whose treatments are designed to complement and accentuate their multi-award-winning nutritional skincare range, the new Cliveden Spa creates a rejuvenating environment.