Grail Springs Wellness Retreat is a Bancroft spiritual spa offering luxury services designed to soothe the body, mind, and spirit.
When I first expressed interest in visiting Grail Springs Wellness Retreat, described as a “retreat centre for well-being” in Bancroft, Ontario, a friend seemed surprised that I would choose to go to such a place. Slightly taken aback, I asked her to clarify.
“Diana, they don’t allow coffee.” No coffee, no Diana. Grail Springs was officially out.
But that was about five years ago. Much has changed at Grail Springs in Bancroft. Morning coffee is now served. And the retreat centre’s original origins — as a destination for detox, juicing programs, and a fitness boot camp — have shifted. This luxury wellness retreat, an hour from the city of Peterborough, is now what owner and founder Madeleine Marentette describes as a place where people can come to address anxiety, panic attacks, and “the world tone” that affects us all.
“People are looking for peace of mind,” she says.
Grail Springs retreat is a much more holistic experience than many wellness resorts. Where some spas, such as Thermea in Whitby and iwa Spa in Blue Mountain, focus on renewing the body as a way to revive the mind, Grail Springs spa approaches wellness from a mental and spiritual front.
The Grail Springs Retreat Experience
Grail Springs is located in the scenic cottage country town of Bancroft, Ontario. The town, for its idyllic lakes and picturesque waterfalls during the summer and epic dog sledding and ice fishing in the winter, seems like the ideal atmosphere for an Ontario wellness escape.
Arriving with a girlfriend on a Tuesday afternoon in June, we entered through an arched wood door at the front entrance. This door is a replica of the famous Rosslyn Chapel, which some believe to house the Holy Grail, outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The grand entrance involved strolling over a small moat — all of these design choices reflect the influence of Bavarian castles and monasteries that Marentette visited as a child.
Once we had entered, we were given a tour of the building. The “Great Hall” is the main social hub: it’s a big comfy living room with a stone hearth where guests can lounge around in fuzzy brown bathrobes enjoying views of the nearby lake. It makes for an idyllic spot to await the resort’s spa treatments.
A selection of fruit-infused waters, herbal teas and ginger-lemon elixir sit on a sideboard. And outside the dining area is a whiteboard listing the day’s activities.
For that day, it was a gentle “yin yoga” class after breakfast, an elixir cleanse and snack after lunch, a workshop on the “Secrets of Manifesting (with instructions to bring a journal), and then a talk after dinner on Building Emotional Freedom.
After getting a tour of the grounds, we were shown our room, which is spacious and laden with contemporary furnishings and a lakeside view. There are just 13 guest rooms at Grail Springs Wellness Retreat, all located in the main building.
Each room is designed with wellness in mind. They include hypoallergenic duvets and pillows. They are adorned with luxury amenities, including Euro-top antimicrobial copper-infused mattresses designed to support joints and relieve muscle pain.
The rooms all include access to a spa robe and slippers as well as a personal comfort throw that we could take with us to the beach, yoga, or evening classes.
The rooms included some luxury features that I wasn’t expecting, such as sound and sleep machine technology, WiFi, a Smart TV and air conditioning. Some of the rooms even include a propane fireplace.
After I had settled into my room, I checked out the gift shop. There was no attendee on site. Clearly, the Grail retreat operates on trust!
My self-tour continued with a visit to the lovely yoga room and the dining room with a connected verandah for warm-weather dining.
Grail Springs Healing Treatments
One of only two Canadian members of Healing Hotels of the World, Grail Springs Wellness Retreat espouses a holistic approach to well-being that incorporates the physical, emotional, mental, and what I saw as a particularly strong emphasis, the spiritual.
“We assist individuals who wish to expand their ‘self-awareness,” This means “getting in tune with the connection between emotions and the body, and giving them tools they can use to process stress factors and calm their reactions to stress,” says Marentette.
The goal is for people to expand their “toolbox” to deal with stress so that they can start instituting changes to make life feel more manageable when they get home. Marentette emphasizes that change doesn’t necessarily mean radical transformation. It can be as simple as adding or eliminating something in your diet or adjusting the time that you go to sleep.
Marentette herself is responsible for creating the range of spa treatments, coaching and classes on offer at the Grail Springs retreat. There are more than 60 wellness spa and energy healing services to choose from at the resort.
Marentette is also one of the early leaders in the Ontario wellness industry. She’s the author of the bestselling book Grail Springs Holistic Detox for Body, Mind & Spirit and the co-founder of the Wellness Tourism Association.
Grail Springs practitioners include those offering wellness services, such as meditation, life coaching, a variety of energy and body services, and even a shaman.
The services I experienced included:
I enjoyed a lovely clothes-on massage where the practitioner, Sandy, moved my body into various yoga stretches and asked me “not to help”; in other words, to let her guide the process as she put pressure along the various meridians in my body.
Liquide Sound Bed
Listed under “sound healing,” this involved my lying on a heated water table that responds to programmed hertz frequencies while I listened on earphones to a “vibroacoustic” soundtrack. It was as though any anxiety that I was feeling at the time was interrupted by a kind of low humming that blocked the stress. The noise brought me into a kind of shallow wake/sleep state, relaxing my muscles and calming me down!
Foot and Crown Treatment
The foot and crown treatment involves a gentle hair and scalp massage using various essential oils. This treatment is paired with reflexology to reduce stress and stimulate the lymphatic system. My hair definitely felt healthier and less dry after.
Grail Springs Atmosphere
As well as being a centre for healing, Grail Springs spa also feels a bit like a big lakeside cottage. There are five canoes and two stand-up paddleboards pulled up on shore for guests to enjoy. And their 100-acre property has a series of well-marked hiking trails. This allows visitors to self-guide their own forest walks or take one of the twice-weekly guided hikes.
When Marentette first opened her Grail Springs retreat as a B & B in 1994, the concept of electromagnetic energy of the land was new to her. Bancroft has been dubbed “the mineral capital of the world,” thanks to the rich with quartz crystal and gems that lie within its lands. In fact, the city is home to the famous Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree which draws visitors from around the world.
To access the healing powers of the landscape, Marentette partnered with a geomancer – what she describes as “an acupuncturist for the earth” – who moves stones, places crystals under the earth, and uses copper tubing as a way to bring a balanced resonance to the land.
Outside the main building is what has been dubbed a sacred labyrinth. Within its circular shape is a healing installation made of volcanic black ash.
Along with the scenic and healing features, colourful prayer flags are attached to elder trees where departing guests have inscribed phrases such as “Peace LOVE Fearlessness.”
On the grounds, there is also an outdoor hydrotherapy circuit, where you can rotate between warm and hot pools and a cold plunge, as well as a sauna and cold bucket shower.
Grail Springs Food
The plant-based, or vegan, cuisine is a key part of the wellness experience at Grail Springs Bancroft. I would argue that it’s the highlight!
Each meal is a set menu, though adjustments can be made for food sensitivities and allergies. Whole foods are locally sourced wherever possible. Dishes are sophisticated, beautifully plated, and constantly changing.
Some highlights were the purple heirloom carrot soup and maple orange Gochujang tofu with cucumber sesame slat and avocado lime mousse that we enjoyed at lunch. The waffles with maple coconut cashew cream for breakfast were filling and delicious!
Looking back a few weeks home from Grail Springs, I ponder the impact the wellness retreat has had on me.
I enjoyed the treatments, but what I remember most is the way that many women lingered in the Great Room after an evening of treatment to talk and share their experiences. Grail Springs seems like a place where women, in particular, come to heal or work through personal struggles, such as dealing with grief and battling depression, or simply to take a break from the busyness of their lives.
I now understand what Madeleine meant about the resort’s focus on a “sustainability lifestyle for normal people.” It’s this focus that gives us the tools to deal with the everyday challenges that life throws our way.
You can connect with Grail Springs Wellness Resort directly on their website here.
Health and travel writer Diana Ballon has a restless spirit and loves all forms of active adventure, whether that’s hiking, cycling, kayaking, or enjoying cool things like an outdoor spa. Her stories have appeared in many major Canadian publications, including The Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Best Health Magazine, Broadview Magazine, Azure Magazine, Canadian Living, Canadian Cycling Magazine, City Parent, Daily Hive, Travel Life Magazine, West Jet Magazine, and hotel-addict.com.