Sometimes, we travel far in search of unspoilt lands and they are right there, on our doorstep. It’s hard not be blown away by the natural beauty of North Devon, a region just 2 hours north of London Paddington station, perfect for a hiking / detox trip. I got to spend some me myself and I time last year at Yeotown, but never got to write about it. Yeotown is a haven of well-being focused on hiking, yoga and healthy eating. Call it detox if you will, but it felt more than that.
Good food + Hiking + Detox
I had wanted to hike in Devon for a long time but never knew where to start. Simon, the founder of Yeotown has been based in the region for 20+ years, surfing the cold waves while selling antiques and doing interior design. He knows the area like his pocket, bought a piece of land with pretty forests and a magical river running through it. Together with his wife Mercedes, they have created quite a loyal following for urbanites wanting to reconnect with themselves, with nature and with healthy food. It’s all done in a soft way. Nothing feels too dictated and it’s certainly not a detox as strict as the one I experienced at The Ashram. Some actually complain that the food is too good (I hear you giggling!) and that it’s hard to resist a second serving because the dishes are left on the table for everyone to help themselves. I actually enjoyed this gentle and responsible approach. My favourite moment of the day was waking up slowly from my room with a balcony facing the meadow, walking down to the river while everyone was still asleep, and meditate by the river.
The hikes are 3 to 5 hours long, going at a moderate pace. They are very pretty and vary day to day, from cliff walking to exploring forests and following streams. Once, we found a little fairy house on our path, the sweetest thing I had ever seen. Another time, it was a viper snake running past us, a bit less charming.
My hiking boots gave up on me only 15′ after starting the first hike. I had bought them in Chile when we hiked Torres del Paine in Patagonia a few years back. What a great way to drag attention onto myself the first day. Simon fixed them up with whatever bandages he had in his backpack, and on I went, as unstylish as I could possibly be.
The days go by fast at Yeotown as there is yoga both in the morning and in the evening, with a massage in between, and a lesson of something different every day (pilates, archery..). It is convenient that the retreat starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Sunday i.e. not too long away from the desk + the family, but still a solid 5-days to reap the benefits of the detox.
Yoga mornings and evenings
Yoga-wise, the classes are often split between two groups so that they suit everybody’s preferences. The teachers are not always the same but are all experienced and inspiring. Mercedes leads the practice when she is not commuting to London to teach. Oh, and I didn’t mention the daily massage. Pure bliss, especially when it takes place in the sweet barn converted into a candle-lit massage room. I still see Amanda, the shiatsu practitioner, when she comes to London. A detox is not a detox if there is not a good massage included daily.
Rural chic design
Design wise, the place feels rural chic with lots of antiques filing the farmhouse, a fireplace lit in the evening and a soft colour palette throughout. I stayed in the room Patience, the largest in the farmhouse with a nice bathtub and a peaceful balcony covered with fragrant flowers. The new cottages added over the years are much more modern, private and very comfortable, but if I’m going to stay in the countryside, I prefer the full package.
Devon’s neighbour Cornwall gets more publicity with its picturesque fishermen villages and celebrity chefs, which I wrote about in 2011, but I found Devon perhaps more gentle, and a little more wild.
Ps: There is now Yeotown Kitchen cafe in the heart of London, on the hottest street in town aka Chiltern Street, Marylebone. It popped up on my deliveroo app today…Namasteheheh..