Active holidays: How to escape but still get in shape

From detox retreats to walking treats – some brilliant getaways worth working up a sweat for

Retreat to Clare

The Cliffs of Moher Retreat is a purpose-designed, luxury retreat venue that offers weekend and week-long yoga retreats throughout the year, with the added bonus of silent cliff-top walks, organic produce and wild Atlantic scenery. An eight-day retreat costs from €1,100 for a double, or €1,345 for a single if you fancy a total break and going by yourself. As well as yoga and meditation classes to give yourself a workout inside and out, there's a sauna and hot tub, plus great swimming and surfing down the road at Lahinch.

Shed the load in Mayo

If you're looking to de-stress and shed a few pounds at the same time, head to Cloona Health Retreat just outside Westport, Co Mayo. A pioneer of wellness breaks in Ireland, it has been offering them to a loyal and growing audience since the 1960s and is run today by Dhara Kelly, son of its original founders. Check out its week-long detox and weight-loss programmes that include guided walks, rest and relaxation, yoga, sauna and massage, all designed to put you back on a healthier path. You're encouraged to cut out tea, coffee, sugary food, alcohol and red meat before you go, so get a lot of the heavy lifting done just by booking. A standard five-day retreat costs €790 for a single, or €640 per person sharing a double.

Offaly nice

Clara House is well known as a spa, pamper treatment and weight-loss centre but it's also home to the Aspire, three-day mind and body fitness retreat, run on site by professional fitness trainer Joe Quinn. The aim is to boost energy, lose weight and get the kind of high you only get from a blend of adrenaline and virtue. Activities include one-to-one gym and fitness training sessions, a personalised healthy eating plan, cookery demos, yoga, aqua aerobics, walks, and archery – so you know a bull's-eye when you hit your target weight. There's also plenty of opportunity for spa treatments. Three-day day package, including accommodation at Clara House, costs €389 for a single, or €349 based on two sharing.

French for fit

If the mind is willing, the body weak but the bank balance strong, sign up for Camp Biche in France. For the not too petite sum of €5,900 a week, it promises a "life-changing adventure that leads to a healthier, perfected you" – and what price perfection? Guests stay in a hilltop mansion in the medieval village of Lauzerte, half an hour from Cahors, and you know it's posh because the website gives directions for people flying in on private planes. There's a maximum of six high-fliers at any one time and you all get three gourmet vegan meals a day, with champagne and chocolate mousse on the menu too. Yup, it's a French paradox.


Boot camp de luxe

Kathryn Thomas has made a smooth segue from broadcasting to fitness guru, while still giving off the vibe that she'd be a great travel buddy even in a boot camp. Her week-long Pure Results fitness retreat has the added value of coming with a two-week aftercare programme to make sure you don't fall off the fitness wagon when you get back home. There are programmes for people of all fitness levels, and none, and Thomas combines it with life-coaching, nutrition workshops and cookery demos. They're in super locations too, including Mount Juliet in Kilkenny and Parknasilla in Kerry. The latter will see you hiking the Old Kerry Way and night-kayaking from the jetty, with a mix of boxercise, high intensity meta-fit and aqua-fit classes. It's a boot camp with (kettle) bells on. A week at the Parknasilla boot camp in October costs from €1,200 for a shared room – and you can pay in instalments.

Walk this way

One of the best ways to keep fit on a holiday is to just keep moving, which is why a guided walk from Footfalls might be just the ticket. It has a number of weeklong packages designed to show you that stunning scenery doesn't only exist on a screensaver. An eight-day walking tour of Donegal and Antrim takes in the mighty wilderness of Slieve League, Ireland's highest seacliffs; Glenveagh National Park and McSwyne's Gun Loop Trail at Dunfanaghy; the Giant's Causeway and the trail at Glenariff Forest Park aka "Queen of the Glens". Walks average around 10km a day – more than a stroll, less than an endurance event. The eight-day tour costs €940 based on two sharing, or with a single supplement of €175.

Short but sweet

Pushed for time this summer or short of holiday days? Maria Donlon's LifeCleanse has some great short-order options, including a three-day detox retreat in Brittas Bay (next available one is in October) or regular daily urban retreats in South William Street, Dublin. Each includes flowing and restorative yoga sessions, juicemaking demos and guided mindfulness and meditation practice, while the beach ones, beside the east coast's most popular surfing beach Magheramore, also include walks. The three-day, two night retreats in Wicklow, staying at the purpose-built retreat centre in Magheramore, cost €320, or €280 each for two sharing. The one-day "shots" cost €99, and are a nice way to keep up what you've learned on the longer retreat.

FitFarms for FitFams

If the whole FitFam movement has passed your family by, catch up with a family fitness break at FitFarms, the UK weight-loss and fitness company that runs a range of specialised programmes, including women-only courses, for people with disabilities, or this one, designed for parents and children aged nine to 18. A week's FitFarms for Families Classic Course costs from £1,099 (€1,251) per person for a week, and the company promises the entire family will be kept busy from early morning until 7.30pm. Though maybe don't tell the kids till you get there.

Run for your tum

Runners are typically already fit but might welcome the opportunity to run in the sun, which is what Running Costa Brava offers in north western Spain. It organises week-long packages with a personal guide to support you, meeting you at the airport and getting you from your hotel to the start of each day's running trail, and back again, with half-board accommodation all along the way and a gastronomic tour each evening. Relax, you can run it all off the next day. A week's stay, in top hotels, costs €1,592 per person sharing in high season. If your other half is a tad lazy, go solo for an extra €50 a night.