10 of Britain’s most peaceful retreats

·5 min read

Bird How, Lake District

No phone or television signals, no neighbours. This cottage in Eskdale is reached along a track that even a 4WD would struggle with. There’s no proper bathroom in the former cow byre, but it is surrounded by enormous beauty, with uninterrupted views down the valley and around Scafell Pike and Hardknott Pass. The cottage has electricity, open fires and two bedrooms.
From £214 for two nights, nationaltrust.org.uk

Calf of Man, Isle of Man

‘The nature reserve can only be reached by boat’: Calf of Man, Isle of Man.
‘The nature reserve can only be reached by boat’: Calf of Man, Isle of Man. Photograph: Jon Sparks/Alamy

Apart from the weekend of the TT race, the Isle of Man is a restful place (and not even part of Great Britain). Beyond the reach of the most adventurous motorcyclist, the Calf of Man, a nature reserve, can only be reached by boat from Port St Mary and Port Erin. It is a prime place in which to see bird life – including the native Manx shearwater, kittiwakes and peregrines – on an unsullied 600-acre outcrop in the middle of the Irish Sea. Up to eight visitors can be accommodated in the island’s stone-built hostel, but you’ll have to bring all equipment with you.
Double rooms from £40 a night, islandescapes.im

Hotel Endsleigh, Devon

‘Its gardens feature grottos, follies and cascades’: Hotel Endsleigh, Devon.
‘Its gardens feature grottos, follies and cascades’: Hotel Endsleigh, Devon. Photograph: Marc Hill/Alamy

The Endsleigh estate is spread over 100 acres of Devon countryside. On the banks of the river Tamar near Tavistock, its gardens, featuring grottos, follies and cascades, were designed by Humphry Repton for the Bedford family as a hunting lodge in the early 19th century. Guests can stay at the Hotel Endsleigh, run by the Polizzi family, or in one of the two cottages run by the Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk).
Doubles from £235, including breakfast, hotelendsleigh.com

Rievaulx Abbey, North York Moors

Until 22 October, English Heritage is trying an experiment to persuade visitors to switch off phones, finish conversations and spend the last hour of each day looking around the destination in silence. Rievaulx Abbey is one of the English Heritage sites to take part in this project and if you want to extend the sense of contemplation, the charity has a rental cottage next to the Abbey.
Three nights from £390 in a cottage sleeping five, english-heritage.org.uk

Wybrnant, Snowdonia

Silence is relative. “Most people on holiday like to hear nature. In my field, this is called ‘tranquillity’, which also includes the concept of not seeing humanmade things as well,” says academic Trevor Cox, author of Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey. A recent trip of his was to the National Trust’s remote valley of Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant in Snowdonia. A gated road allows you to escape traffic, replacing it with the sound of a babbling brook and sheep.
Stay at the Eagle Bunkhouse in Penmachno for £41 per night, eaglespenmachno.co.uk

Achagavel Cottage, Argyll

‘The Scottish Highlands at their most untouristed’: Achagavel Cottage, Argyll.
‘The Scottish Highlands at their most untouristed’: Achagavel Cottage, Argyll. Photograph: Andy Sutton/Alamy

Eight miles from the nearest pub and other forms of so-called civilisation, this sturdy white-washed cottage near Loch Sunart gives you a chance to experience the Scottish Highlands at their most untouristed. Sleeping four, it has plenty of creature comforts, including a wood-burning stove, plus built-in solitude thanks to the surrounding mountains. You can go walking straight from the front door.
From £450 a week, unique-cottages.co.uk

Gladstone’s Library, Flintshire

There is a handful of silent libraries left in Britain, but the Gladstone is the most beautiful and accessible – a vaulted neo-Gothic temple of contemplation with only the creak of wooden staircases to disturb it. The hushed silence of the library itself is only broken during the annual Gladfest. The 26 delightfully stylish rooms attached don’t have TVs (although there are Roberts radios) while the dining rooms and other communal areas contain only the hum of conversation.
Doubles from £114, including breakfast, gladstoneslibrary.org

Silent retreats, London and Suffolk

Many religions emphasise the importance of quiet reflection. The London Buddhist Centre has classes and retreats both in London and Vajrasana, a purpose-built centre near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. There are courses at different levels but all incorporate meditation and silence. The centre at Suffolk also offers two solitary retreat huts which are bookable by the week.
Courses from £210, solitary huts from £238, londonbuddhistcentre.com

Ynys Affallon, Powys

Near the hamlet of Llanafan Fawr, reached via a single track, this treehouse suspended in 80 acres of woodland, allows for the notion of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). You won’t have silence, but the sounds will be natural – dominated by rustling leaves and the sound of the river. The sleeping pod is lined with lamb’s wool, there’s a fire pit and a gas hob, while solar panels bring light in the winter months.
Four nights at £481 with Canopy & Stars, canopyandstars.co.uk

St Agnes, Isles of Scilly

‘The most southwesterly point of the UK’: St Agnes, Isles of Scilly.
‘The most southwesterly point of the UK’: St Agnes, Isles of Scilly. Photograph: David Chapman/Alamy

Islands off the coast of islands – generally known as “off islands” – are reliably tranquil, thanks to their very remoteness. St Agnes, the most southwesterly point of the UK, takes it to a different level. It comprises 148 hectares, has no cars or hotels, and the one pub is open only on selected evenings in winter, but there’s a general store and honesty boxes for local produce, all of which makes the main island in the Scillies look positively bustling by comparison.
A one-bedroom apartment at Troytown Farm starts at £420 per week, troytown.co.uk.

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