Carole Walker at the Suryalila Retreat Centre in Andalucia

  • Carole Walker, a former BBC news presenter, stayed at the Om Dome in Spain
  • It’s set in an olive oil farm at the Suryalila Retreat Centre in the hills of Andalucia
  • There she spent a week hiking, doing yoga and feasting on its vegetarian food

It is just before 8am on a Monday, and instead of rushing to the patch of grass opposite Parliament for another live broadcast, I am strolling to a morning yoga session. 

I am hoping this retreat will give me a fresh perspective on life as I prepare to leave the BBC.

Inside the ‘Om Dome’, perched like a vast golf ball in the hills of Andalucia, the sun is already streaming through the windows.

Eye-catching: Carole was put through her paces at the golf-ball-shaped building in Andalucia

Eye-catching: Carole was put through her paces at the golf-ball-shaped building in Andalucia

Lidiya, our teacher and guide for the week, eases us in gently, encouraging us to relax as we lie draped over bolsters.

We are not lying around for long though, as we are led through a series of increasingly challenging moves and postures, leaving us struggling and sweating.

We are a mixed bunch: two mums and daughters, a lithe Swiss couple, a tattooed budding yoga instructor from Dublin, and a doctor and teacher from Canada.

After almost two hours in the dome, breakfast is a priority. The vegan amaranth porridge may not be everyone’s first choice, so there are fresh eggs, bread, fruit, home-made marmalade and delicious olive oil from the estate too.

I’m staying at Suryalila Retreat Centre, an hour’s drive from Seville. It’s a working olive farm with courtyards filled with lemon and orange trees.

There are chickens, goats, horses and alpacas, and a vast vegetable garden. The centre not only hosts yoga retreats but its ‘permaculture’ course attracts people from all over the world to learn how to farm sustainably and organically.

Over dinner I chat to an investment banker from Paris planning to plough his money into a permaculture project, and a Danish woman setting up a charity to teach Tanzanian farmers the advantages of sustainable agriculture.

She stayed at the Suryalila Retreat Centre,  a working olive farm which serves up fresh vegetarian meals 

She stayed at the Suryalila Retreat Centre, a working olive farm which serves up fresh vegetarian meals 

A team of cooks provides an array of vegetarian dishes. If a rare-grilled steak and cocktails are essential ingredients for your holiday, you might be disappointed. But local wine is available and the vegan cheesecake made with cashew nuts is surprisingly good.

You could spend the time between yoga classes by the saltwater pool, but we hiked through the hills and plunged into the river to cool off. I went horse-riding and joined a day trip to historic Ronda, with the chance to climb its famously perilous gorge.

A clearer mind is definitely what I need as I plan a future without that morning rush to Parliament 

Only three of our group completed the ascent but we all had to help celebrate their achievements with jugs of sangria.

The week was hardly a strict detox but it was an antidote to the pressures and strains of daily life.

On the last evening, we tried acro-yoga, a combination of acrobatics and yoga. We wobbled and collapsed, but there was a great sense of achievement when someone did balance for a few seconds.

My week of yoga, hikes, vegetarian food and sunshine was as relaxing as I’d hoped.

A clearer mind is definitely what I need as I plan a future without that morning rush to Parliament.

Carole left her job as a political correspondent in March after more than 30 years at the BBC.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Suryalila (suryalila.com) hosts The Summer Yoga Festival between May 27 and June 3 this year. 

It costs from €372pp (about £314) for three days on a full-board basis.

Jerez is the nearest airport – Ryanair (ryanair.com) offers one-way flights from Stansted from £37.


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons