THAWING out in a woodland sauna, after a wild water swim, I can feel the wellness washing over me.

Broughton Sanctuary is a retreat like no other. The 3,000 acre site is home to 16th century Broughton Hall and 19 holiday homes - from beautifully restored cottages and lodges to an off-grid ‘Hermit Hut’ - and a range of facilities where you can connect with nature, from the stars above to the ancient land.

Outdoor activities include wild swimming, forest bathing, sweat lodges, foraging, meditation labyrinths, cycling tracks and woodland dining, while the Avalon Wellbeing Centre comprises an indoor pool, steam room, flotation tank, yoga studio and holistic therapies.

The Broughton estate has belonged to the Tempest family, one of England’s oldest Catholic landed gentry families, since 1097. Today, thanks to the remarkable vision of current custodian Roger Tempest - who grew up in the hall when it was, he recalls, a draughty family home - it’s a leading 21st century retreat blending therapy with nature; a tranquil space for healing and wellbeing, drawing on the estate’s natural beauty and rich history.

My Broughton experience begins with a delicious lunch at Utopia, a delightful walled garden bistro, where Roger tells me how an ambitious rewilding plan is taking the estate forward. National Geographic, which names Broughton Sanctuary one of the ‘30 most exciting places to visit in the world’ in 2024, describes it as one of the UK’s leading rewilding projects.

Says Roger: "We are dedicated to helping people reconnect with their inner and outer nature, both through the retreats and wellbeing programmes at Avalon, and our rewilding work. The retreat centre gives people a space for inner healing and contemplation of the issues facing humanity today. Now it hosts over 50 retreats a year.

“Our initiatives such as the Lens on Nature programme, allow guests to get hands-on with the nature recovery work. Our aim is to help them focus on heightening their inner senses to hear, see, feel, touch and smell nature; to observe their immediate surroundings.

“With our holiday houses it also means people can participate in all that we are doing here.”

More than 350,000 trees have been planted at Broughton in the last three years, leading to a significant increase in wildlife, including curlews, kestrels and the Wall Butterfly. It is, says Roger, a model that “lets nature take the lead”, with the re-establishment of natural habitats boosting biodiversity and rejuvenating the earth. Walking through the walled garden, there’s a rich scent of goodness from the soil.

The biodiversity ethos extends to mind and body too. Inspired by retreats and ashrams around the world, Roger and his partner, Paris Ackrill, a renowned holistic wellbeing guide, have introduced wellness programmes for a range of areas, including menopause and mindfulness. Ruby Wax, who declared the Avalon centre as “the coolest place I’ve ever been” recently led a retreat there.

On a tour of the estate, which has a business park and tenant farms as well as bespoke holiday cottages, we pass moon baths, a Cosmic Garden, fire temple and ‘seeing thrones’ overlooking spectacular views stretching to Whernside. The site comprises moorland, ancient and new woodland and rolling meadows. On a rugged hillside is an arrangement of stones representing all 32 generations of the Tempest family; a striking symbol of Broughton history alongside tree saplings of its future. The estate sprawls either side of the A59, yet the peace, seclusion and tranquility feels deeply rural.

After an invigorating wild swim - I took the plunge in the estate’s old reservoir - and ice bath, I head for Bells Flat, a gorgeous apartment in a private wing of the hall. Beautifully furnished, with two double bedrooms, an elegant bathroom with claw-foot bath tub, spacious sitting-room, dining area and fitted kitchen, it’s blissful. Staying there feels like being in a period drama - I half expect Mr Darcy himself to pull up on the majestic driveway outside.

Further down the wing is a lovely chapel, where weekly services take place.

I'm booked in for a stargazing session - ‘Broughton by Night’ runs from October to March, if it’s clear enough you can see the Northern Lights from here - but tonight it’s too misty to see the cosmos up close. Instead, after dining on a tasty veggie chilli, Chris Higgins, expert astronomer from the Lime Tree Observatory, gives a fascinating illustrated talk on the wonders of the night sky. The scale of it all blows my mind.

Next morning, after avocado, thyme roasted mushrooms and poached eggs for breakfast in Utopia (the food here is divine - zinging with flavour from fresh produce grown on site) I'm treated to a guided tour of Broughton Hall.

The land was given to the Tempest family after William the Conqueror’s 1066 invasion. Broughton Hall was built on the site by Henry Tempest in the 1590s, replacing an earlier building. It was later remodelled in the 1700s and 1800s.

It's an extraordinary house; each charming room has its own story. There’s a sense of ‘home’ here - no stately house stuffiness - and with 17 individually designed bedrooms, it can be hired for parties, weddings, corporate events and retreats. It’s popular with film-makers; productions shot here include Gentleman Jack and All Creatures Great and Small.

The house is full of delights; highlights include a bookcase door from the library to a sumptuous 1800s drawing-room (where All Creatures fans will find Tricki Woo’s chaise longue), an ancient well in the wine cellar and a wonderful series of books tracing the family history, in the tiny handwriting of Roger’s grandmother.

Afterwards I enjoyed the tranquillity of the pool suite in Avalon. It’s a wellness haven, with state-of-the art studio spaces, crystal light bed and Somadome meditation pod. Classes include yoga, meditation, acupuncture and Shamanic healing.

It was a wrench to leave Broughton Sanctuary, but I did so feeling rested, refreshed and re-set, having stepped out of the frantic pace of real life for 24 hours.

* Holidays at Broughton Sanctuary start from £520 for three nights in a one-bed cottage, on a self-catering basis. Visit Call (01756) 799608. Email

* Spring and summer events at Broughton Sanctuary include: A Nature Encounter with naturalist Mark Cocker, exploring intricate interconnections sustaining life, from the symbiotic relationships between fungi and trees to the ecosystems of plants, insects and birds; A Walk on the Wild Side, exploring the rewilding landscape with Broughton Sanctuary’s nature recovery consultant, Professor Alastair Driver; and Listening to Birdsong - a slow ‘soundwalk’ around the grounds, listening to birds and learning how to identify them by song.