Which active holiday is right for you? Nadia explores all the options.
Active trips are rising in popularity, and many of us are looking to return home from a trip feeling better than when we left rather than in need of another break. One person’s idea of a healthy holiday will vary wildly to the next though, so I took two very different trips at opposite ends of the spectrum to check them out.
This isn’t about which is better, just trying to find something to suit your own needs. I wanted a break at home and one away; one that was gentle and relaxing, the other that pushed me to my limits. I was looking to come away from both with a renewed energy, maybe take a little digital detox (and one from booze!), eat well, sleep well and generally feel better about myself.
First up was the Cliffs of Moher Retreat in Co Clare. A staycation at one of the most scenic spots on our island, promising nourishing vegetarian food and both energetic and restorative yoga classes and scenic hikes. A two night stay in cosy lodges right by the coast, the central point being a yoga studio with floor to ceiling glass windows showing off the view of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Packing for an activity break is liberating in itself. No heels, no makeup, no fancy outfits. A one piece for the outdoor wood-burning hot tub, some slippers to wear around the lodge, a pair of hiking boots, loads of yoga pants and not much else.
After a long journey on public transport from Dublin (if you can, just drive), I was greeted with sweet treats and warming tea before getting ready for the first session, perfectly timed with sunset. The room is pure bliss from the second you walk in, warm and inviting. You could listen to the soothing voice of our yoga instructor, Dearbhla, all day, so calming and gentle. This isn’t to be overlooked, if you’ve ever practiced yoga, you’ll know the tone of the teacher’s voice can make or break a class. After an hour and a half of hip opening and twisting and most definitely falling asleep during Shavasana (final resting pose) with the aid of a cosy blanket and weighted eye mask, it was time to head into the communal dining room for dinner.
I’ll admit, I was apprehensive, being a meat eater and to be honest I’ve never quite understood the connection between yoga and vegetarianism. I was never once left unsatisfied over the duration of the weekend though, the meals were hearty, comforting and most importantly tasty. Good coffee too, but no alcohol. There’s a local pub nearby if you really fancy a pint, but for once I wanted to use my time getting a good kip instead.
Having lived in Ireland for 18 years, it was about time I finally set eyes on the Cliffs of Moher. The retreat is within walking distance, but a bus brought us to a different starting point in Doolin that allowed us to creep up from behind, avoiding the bus loads of tourists and catching our first glimpses from arguably the best photo spot. Well worth the wait!
Overall thoughts: I left feeling like I’d challenged my body, but was kind to myself at the same time. The food, location, yoga practice and accommodation would be pretty difficult to fault.
Best for: This would be such a gorgeous trip to bring your Mam on. Lots of the people on my retreat had received it as a gift and were so glad to be able to take a couple of days to themselves.
How much: The two night yoga and hiking retreat costs from €390 in a sharing room and includes four yoga classes, two hikes and all meals. Visit cliffsofmoherretreat.com for more info.
My second activity break brought me to Portugal for some sun and an intense week
of fitness. Prestige Health & Fitness retreat, situated on the Algarve’s stunning coast at Porto De Mós runs week long itineraries packed full of challenging workouts. Accommodation consists of a couple of villas next door to each other, all with private
swimming pools and one central villa where all meals are served. We eased into the first evening with a 45 minute walk around the local area, which is quite hilly and would
provide the basis for most of our warm ups throughout the week. We set individual goals privately with the coaches, such as feel fitter or get stronger, and discussed how we’d achieve them (spoiler – through a lot of hard work).
Each day started with a walk before breakfast, which ranged from scrambled egg and smoked salmon to smoothie bowls and then a break to digest before the first proper workout of the day. This could be boxing, HIIT or circuits, for example, followed by a snack (fruit, crudités and hummus or an energy ball) and another workout. Then lunch (usually a protein like fish or chicken with salad) and another break. You guessed it, more workouts next, another snack and the day finished with dinner (chilli served in a roasted pepper was my favourite). Evenings are free, but you’re so tired that staying up past 9pm is tricky, it was usually lights out not long after 8pm most nights for me! Prestige take advantage of the stunning coastal location with cliffside hikes and outdoor yoga style stretching too, trying to get as much done outdoors as possible.
By day three everyone is grouchy, sore and craving coffee, but it starts to get easier after hump day and a mid week sea kayaking trip really broke up the time for me. By the end, I felt I needed less rest between sessions to recover and my goals were very visibly in sight.
Overall thoughts: I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and finding out what my body is capable of, without the support of the coaches I’d never have know just how strong I can be. I didn’t like the emphasis on weight loss though, I’d prefer if scales weren’t used and would have liked some nutritional education to put into practice at home.
Best for: If you like being told what to do and therefore being able to switch your brain off, this is the one for you. It’s strangely therapeutic!
How much: A week in at Prestige Bootcamp in Portugal starts from €940 in a shared en suite room. This includes airport transfers from Faro, all meals and fitness classes. See prestigebootcamp.com for more info.