TRAVEL REVIEW: Fitness and food at a North Yorkshire rural retreat
The sun had its hat on, the birds were singing and a light breeze blew ripples on the private lake '“ there are certainly worse places for a workout.
In the seven acre setting of Hollymoor House, a newly-opened former barn which has been painstakingly given new life as luxury accommodation, and under the guidance of trainer Jodie McGregor, it actually doesn’t feel a chore to tackle the battle ropes, wrapped around a tree, or swing your kettlebell through the crisp North Yorkshire air.
Designers, owners and hosts of this cleverly-executed conversion, husband and wife Andrew and Caroline Whalley, have teamed up with Jodie for luxury fitness retreats, a USP of this rural bolthole near Richmond.
The two-day breaks are designed to help kick-start your fitness, coupled with handy hints on how to get your healthy eating on track.
Made to suit all abilities, it starts with a HIIT session (that’s High Intensity Interval Training for those whose gym membership may have long expired) in the garden.
There’s no need to worry if you hate working out in public: there’s literally not another soul for miles at this holiday hideaway. Even burpees, that most dreaded of exercise moves, doesn’t seem half so bad when you’re flanked by a lake and green fields as far as the eye can see.
Gently guiding you through the stations is Jodie who knows more than a thing or two about fitness. As well as running her own fitness company, Jodie’s Fit Formula, and publishing her own fitness and nutrition books, the keen horserider has represented Great Britain in the junior eventing team in dressage, show jumping and cross country – but she certainly doesn’t horse around when it comes to making sure you’re reaching your fitness potential (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Programmes are tailored to the groups that book the retreat, which sleeps up to eight guests, and can include yoga, riding, walking in the Moors and cycling in the Dales.
After putting your body through its paces it’s time to refuel. And Hollymoor’s homely Shaker-style kitchen is the perfect place in which to do just that.
It’s no surprise that former chef Caroline would make the kitchen the centre-piece of the couple’s home-cum-B&B.
A huge space with everything a chef could want at their fingertips, it’s built around a large central island where we all gathered to learn more about making bread. I say more, but I actually knew nothing about bread-making. This was my first time and it was fascinating to discover just what goes into the daily staple and how it can be adapted easily to meet your own dietary requirements. Bespoke bread, as it were.
Over the course of the afternoon, Caroline gave us a go at granola and we crafted our own coconut and date power balls, which feature in Jodie’s cookery book.
You get to nibble as you go along too, just to make sure you’re doing it right, of course.
It’s a great way to escape from the fast pace of the rat race. And if you don’t feel switched off enough by the afternoon activities, there’s always the accommodation to make sure you completely unwind.
To make the most of the scenic views, my room for the night had ceiling to floor windows spanning two walls offering panoramic views of the lush lawns and water. I felt like lady of the lake. Pure bliss.
In keeping with the countryside setting, the decor has a comfortable country cottage feel with a luxury, contemporary edge. I was one of the first to stay in this room with its plush carpet your feet sink into, clean lines, Toile de Jouy linen and gleaming marble walk-in shower.
Evenings are for unwinding at Hollymoor House and we gathered back under the beams of the lounge area and in the glow of its raised hearth and log-burning fire for dinner, which is prepared by Caroline.
Healthy eating is still on the menu, but Caroline doesn’t compromise on flavour. On our visit we tucked into canapés of watermelon and feta cheese skewers and quail egg, asparagus tip and celery salt.
On to our main meal, which change with the seasons and the local produce available, we had some of the bread we made earlier with roasted pepper and tomato soup; mains of salmon with braised leeks, samphire and spinach and a palate cleanser pudding of milk and honey panna cotta with strawberry soup and mint.
There’s wine flowing too, for those who aren’t slaves to fitness. It’s all about balance here. A word of warning: don’t drink too much though. After some of own home-made granola and yoghurt for breakfast, we were back on the lawn in the morning for another HIIT sessions.
Jodie certainly looked a lot brighter-eyed than we did, but she soon gets those cobwebs blown away with some circuits and core strengthening exercises.
This retreat strikes just the right balance of tough and tranquil so you come away feeling totally refreshed.
For those who prefer to leave their diet at the door, Hollymoor House offers bespoke stays for guests, which can be centred around food, wine or exploring the Yorkshire countryside. But families should note it’s not suitable for children under eight. Rooms start from £110 per room per night B&B
•For more information visit www.hollymoorhouse.co.uk. For more information on Jodie visit: http://jodiemcgregorfitness.co.uk/