SHARPHAM HOUSE, DEVON
You can choose secular mindfulness retreats in a gorgeous Palladian-style mansion, nature meditation retreats under canvas in the woodland or Buddhist retreats at The Barn at this inspirational 550-acre estate alongside a three-mile stretch of the river Dart near Totnes in Devon. Chunks of time, including some meals, are spent in silence on most retreats to deepen mindful awareness, and all retreats move into silence after 9pm.
Three nights’ full board from £325 (single room): 01803 732542; sharphamtrust. org the five-day well-being retreats that run between April and October at this bohemian chateau in the foothills of the Pyrenees. You can also stay here privately between group retreats, when you will rise in silence and remain silent until breakfast at 10am. The retreats pivot on delicious raw food meals and “embodied meditation”, a practice which teaches you to focus on the sadhu who used to live here, Faraz tells me, when the palace was a ruin.
Suppers after the sessions are by candlelight at a table for one on the terrace. Like the activities, meals here can be as indulgent or as cleansing as you choose. While I eat mainly off the wellness menu with dishes such as lemon coriander vegetable soup, chargrilled zucchini and broccoli with garlic-infused spiced tomato salsa, I also enjoy one glass of fantastic red wine each night and on the last evening I treat myself to a sensational chocolate fondant pudding. Why not? No one’s telling.
I barely register the presence of other guests and don’t feel lonely or unusual when I dine or sit by the pool alone. This wouldn’t be the case at every hotel, but Raas Devigarh feels discreet enough, with enough solo guests, for it not to be an issue.
There’s a giant, hand-painted swing in one of the courtyards, and most nights after supper I take myself there to swing like a child under the stars with no one about, the heady scent of queen of the night flowers in my nose. I have a rose petal bath in my room one evening, and I often return from supper to find poems (such as “Music power of mindful breath and use yogic movement to rejuvenate body and mind.
All-inclusive four-night retreat from £875pp, based on two sharing a double room: 0033 647 23 49 66; yobabalounge. com
Caroline, left, enjoys the idyllic surroundings