By Anya Cooklin-Lofting
As the ashes of New Year’s fireworks settle and the Christmas ornaments are wrapped in their ancient papers and stored, from the glittery haze of Betwixtmas emerges a singular sensation, a paradoxical cocktail of both gloominess and determination. Yes, it’s still cold, and no, crisps and wine probably aren’t an acceptable mid-afternoon snack, and yet, the sense of a new beginning is enough to lift us from our spiced, mulled slumber with startling enthusiasm. It’s time, once again, to focus on what our bodies and minds truly need over and above the obligatory festive indulgences.
It is well known that gyms experience peak sign-up rates in January and that these first few weeks of the year see us reaching for rice cakes instead of the leftover Christmas cake, but our New Year’s resolutions can often leave us feeling less resolved and more reluctant. Wellbeing isn’t just for January, so why not follow my lead and plot some wellness highlights into 2022 with staycations to help you reset, refresh and recharge? Whether you’re after a fitness kick, a soothing spa weekend or the peace and quiet that distance and space can bring, read on…
Lake District – Walking & Fitness
The Lake District is one of the walking capitals of the world, perfect for getting away from the bustle of the city and reconnecting with the natural world. With a bottle of water and an apple in tow, I have found myself feeling refreshed, active and satisfied, hillside, lakeside and fireside on trips to the storied land of poets, writers and artists. Its bucolic cosiness is unrivalled in the UK, and the rush of following a map and reaching a peak, pit or pitstop on a track unfailingly brings a sense of achievement to my annual leave.
The Lake District’s towns and villages are tucked into crevices between the still bodies of water that lap at their shores and are dotted with tearooms and pubs that crop up exactly when you will them to after a bracing walk through rolling countryside. The choice of walks is almost overwhelming in these parts, but the walk from the Honister Pass to Haystacks, one of A. Wainright’s favourite fells, is one I’ll certainly be revisiting.
Bath – Wellness & Water
Bath is a hugely popular spa town with hot springs that were known to inhabitants as early as 60 AD when the Romans built temples and baths along the River Avon. Since this time, the town has become something of a site of pilgrimage for those seeking the curative properties of water and was cemented as a wellness destination by the Georgians. For a restorative break steeped in heritage and rich in culture, Bath offers a peek behind the veil of history as well as a modern homage to the Romans’ innovation.
The Roman Baths themselves are no longer fit for their original purpose, but visitors are welcome to explore the pools, the hallowed springs from which over a million litres of naturally heated water gushes every day and the remains of saunas and changing rooms. With a sense of the history of the therapeutic, healing waters, visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site can make the one minute commute to Thermae Bath Spa on Hot Bath Street to take the waters themselves. The modern complex has views across the hodge-podge of the city’s golden, Bath Stone skyline, the perfect reminder that these waters are as rich in history as they are in health-giving minerals.
Isle of Skye – Distance & Solitude
For an enchanting, memorable and restful break, why not look to find peace and quiet on The Isle of Skye, a remote island connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by the Skye Bridge? The rugged landscape is encrusted with Medieval ruins and laden with stories of fairies, giants and Selkies, ‘seal folk’ that shed their skins and turn into humans. The island’s scenic hiking opportunities abound with routes via the Fairy Pools of glass-like water and the Old Man of Storr, an imposing rock formation that serves as a landmark for miles and resembles the face of an old man.
Soothing for the eyes and the mind alike, lucky visitors to the Isle of Skye over the winter months can see the Aurora Borealis Northern Lights. The lights generally appear white to the eye at this latitude but are no less magnificent than imagination might prophesy. The dancing sheets of spectral light are most visible in wide, open areas making evening hikes all the more magical.