The Isle of Wight is the perfect place to get away from it all and give yourself some much needed TLC as we move towards 2023. The naturally calming countryside, rugged coastal paths and local wellness practitioners have made the Island one of the UK’s leading wellness destinations.
We all know the saying ‘new year, new you’ but it doesn’t always have to be that radical. How about just relaxing, getting some fresh air and recharging the old you. You’re fine just as you are.
Just 40 minutes away from the mainland with Wightlink, the Island’s eco-friendly ferry service, the Isle of Wight feels a world away from daily life. For a wellness-boosting island escape, however you choose to do it, the Isle of Wight is the perfect option.
You don’t have to join a club or commit to a package to have a wellness retreat. You can create your own well-being experience. Going for a walk has been proven to help relieve stress and just a short wander can improve your mental (and physical) health. The bracing wind, giving your cheeks that healthy rosy glow, certainly wakes you up. There’s nothing quite like breathing in the cool, crisp air on a chilly winter’s morning entering your lungs and pushing out the staleness. Pull on your wellies, grab your coat and pop on a bobble hat and get exploring.
Whether you’re visiting a town, the countryside or the coast, the Island has a reported 520 miles of rights of way. This includes 326 miles of footpaths, 165 miles of bridleways and 29 miles of byways, so you’re sure to find somewhere to step it out and feel refreshed. With acres of rolling countryside, ancient woodland and miles of networks of paths there’s a walk and terrain suitable for all abilities.
Try these for starters: From our port in Yarmouth it is only a short stroll to the Yarmouth to Freshwater cycle path. Perfectly flat and only around 1.5 miles long it’s an ideal walk for those with mobility issues or if you’re pushing a buggy. Reward yourself with a bite to eat at the other end with a stop-off at The Red Lion pub.
Or if you’re after a longer, hillier walk, head south. From Niton village you can walk to St Catherine’s Oratory (known locally as The Pepperpot). Take in the breathtaking sea views across Blackgang and along the Military Road then keep following the pathway and you’ll join up with the coastal path. If you stay on this course, you’ll see St Catherine’s lighthouse then find yourself back in Niton where you can rest weary feet at one of the village’s three pubs such as The Buddle Inn and The White Lion.
There is nothing quite as invigorating as a dip in the sea. Do be mindful of tides and – quite frankly – the shockingly cold temperature at this time of year, but there have been studies that show a quick dip in cold water can have various health benefits. Said to increase circulation, burn more calories (as your body has to work harder to keep warm) and even reduce stress, there are worse ways to enliven your mood. Beaches such as Sandown, Shanklin, Ryde and Ventnor are always popular. You’ll want to warm up pretty fast after, luckily there are plenty of seaside eateries open serving tasty home-cooked food, warming drinks and some even have a comforting crackling fire.
If a dip in the sea is a step too far (we can understand why) a bracing beach stroll will do the trick. Bundle up in scarves and hats and take in the cool grey waters as you stroll along the esplanade or cliff top pathways. It’s also the perfect excuse to give your four-legged pal a different walk. With pretty much all of the Island’s beaches allowing dogs during the winter months your furry friend will love the freedom of running along the sand and dipping in and out of the surf – it’s probably just as good for their well being as it is ours.
As you make your way around the Island don’t miss a chance to stop at some of the cute and quintessential chocolate-box villages. Godshill is a must-visit for many, with quirky independent shops, The Old Smithy and its tea rooms have possibly the most decadent cream cakes you will find. As you head more central the Island’s largest arts and crafts village, Arreton Barns, is filled with talented artists and artisans. It’s the perfect place to pick up a unique gift or treat for yourself. A little retail therapy is definitely good for the soul.
As day draws into night the Isle of Wight doesn’t lose any of its charm. In fact it unleashes a whole new look that is equally as wonderful. With areas of the Island having some of the darkest skies in the UK, there’s nothing like gazing up on a cool crisp wintery evening. The constellation Orion is particularly visible at this time of year and you’re likely to see the three notches of his belt first. Some of the best places on the Island to get those stary views are the villages of Brighstone and Newchurch as well as Compton Bay and St Catherine’s Down.
Forest Bathing has swept through the wellness world in recent years, helping folk to digitally detox, gain perspective and forge a connection with nature. It’s really simple to do this by yourself, but if you’re looking for a bit of guidance Forest Bathing Isle of Wight is run by a local specialist utilising the Island’s abundant forests as a natural setting for sound-healing sessions, guided meditations, creativity exercises and simple silence.
These are paired with mindful walking routes to create an immersive experience in the Island’s forests. The company offers bespoke small group and one-to-one sessions with its founder, Anthea Payne, an energy healer working to restore balance in both humans and animals. Sessions are tailored to personal goals or issues, exploring the Island’s rich countryside but ultimately guiding bathers to connect with it on a deeper, restorative level.
A growing number of people are turning to yoga as a way to relax and recharge those batteries. Whether you use yoga just for the exercise or commit to the breath work and ethos of the practice, the benefit you receive is completely personal. The Isle of Wight is brimming with yoga classes and retreats.
If you want to be part of a community where you feel uplifted and need a little extra charging on a more regular basis, take a peek at Balance + Glo. This membership-based wellness community supports your journey to creating a more balanced lifestyle, so you’ll feel refreshed on a regular basis. Founded by Jenny and Evelyn they understand lives are not made to be totally balanced and they want you to feel supported to live a healthy and fulfilling life. It’s about making sustainable long-term changes with plenty of encouragement – and you can continue the online studio membership from home.
And if you can invest a whole weekend of time to your practice, Balance + Glo are holding a couple of residential retreats. The Weekend Wellness Retreat at Tapnell Farm in February aims to give guests a unique slice of Island life, whilst nourishing the body through movement and food, and connecting with nature. The two night break includes daily energising and relaxing yoga sessions, strength building fitness, guided walks or runs and a fun archery session .
In April the Find Your Flow retreat, located just a mile from Wightlink’s Yarmouth port, offers the bonus of getting out on the water. The long weekend takes in the beautiful surroundings of the Island and springs you into the new season with paddle board and beach yoga, daily movement sessions alongside a nourishing and delicious menu.
If you’ve never tried sound bathing, you’re in for a treat on the Isle of Wight with Echo Me Sound Therapy. A sound bath an immersive, full-body listening experience that intentionally uses sound waves to invite gentle yet powerful therapeutic and restorative processes to rebalance your body and mind.
You’ll be invited to lie down in a comfortable position, with blankets and supporting props. After a few minutes of guided relaxation, you’ll enjoy different sounds and frequencies introduced in succession. The sounds are created by a variety of overtone-emitting instruments including singing bowls, crystal bowls, drum, gongs, chimes, rainstick and voice.
Regular public sound bath sessions take place at venues across the Isle of Wight. Or for the ultimate experience, you can book a private sound bath at your self-catering property.
Relaxing and recharging can sometimes be a family affair. Our lives tend to be busy and sometimes it feels like family members are simply ships (or ferries, if you like) passing in the night. A family break away is sometimes enough to make you take stock and spend some quality time together – especially if the festive period has been a revolving door of visitors with piles of washing up and teenagers glued to new devices.
Enjoy a family bike ride, leaving phones and devices behind. There are 200 miles of cycle routes. You’ll be amazed how refreshed, relaxed and more connected you’ll feel as you take in the scenery together. Visit one of our wonderful pubs for a family lunch or warm up over a hot chocolate in a cosy café. Take a card game or enjoy some good old fashioned conversation while you’re there. Tuck into some expertly prepared seasonal dishes and enjoy a proper taste of the Wight before heading onto the next part of your ride.
With that, you should start feeling a little more relaxed and recharged. Selfcare and taking time out for yourself is so important and getting a work-life balance is vital. So why not book your next break with Wightlink now?
ℹ️ Versions of this article first appeared in Wightlife magazine in 2022 and 2023.