Nestled in the woods in northern Hastings County is a destination that provides healing of the body and rejuvenation of the spirit.
Located just south of Bancroft, Grail Springs Retreat is quietly hidden among the trees, known as a place where guests experience holistic wellness getaways in the serenity and calm of nature.
“It was never in my wildest dreams to ever create something like this,” said Grail Springs founder Madeleine Marentette, adding she originally attended college with an eye for design – a passion that is quite obvious in the unique architecture of the buildings at Grail Springs.
Over time, however, Marentette’s interest in wellness and holistic healing grew. She began a journey learning about yoga, meditation and self-awareness. It was from those experiences that her retreat was cultivated.
Since that time 27 years ago, Marentette has continued to develop Grail Springs into what has now become a world renown wellness destination. It’s a place where guests come for self-care, often arriving at the retreat feeling stressed and mentally drained, and leaving feeling rested and self-aware.
“We always see improvement 100 per cent of the time,” she said. “We create that experience to help them hit that place of mindfulness, quiet and calm, to help them think clearer.”
Recent events have only strengthened the need for a retreat like Grail Springs, Marentette said. The onset of COVID-19 meant people around the world spent time in self-isolation. For many, it meant heightened anxiety and fear, but it also motivated many people to reflect upon themselves and start listening to their bodies.
“The big message that people are getting from themselves right now is there seems to be a great desire to get back to nature,” she said. “People have become more aware of their self-commitment and their need for self-care. Everybody is so grateful to spend time in the great outdoors, it’s very grounding.”
Like many tourism operations, Grail Springs closed its doors for several months during the height of the pandemic. It was a time of uncertainty for Marentette. But since re-opening in July, guests have been flocking to the retreat.
“It’s well known that the first industry to get hurt by a situation like this is tourism, and it’s the last to recover,” she said. “But I think we might have changed that. There was this boomerang when we re-opened. The phones have been ringing off the hook.”
Although they have decreased guest capacity by 20 per cent and are unable to welcome guests from the U.S. due to the border closure, reservations for Grail Springs are sold out for August, and September is already 65 per cent full, she said.
Marentette feels some of the heightened traffic may be due to travellers looking for vacation destinations that are close to home.
“Yes, we have lost some clients, but what we have gained is people who are coming to us for the first time this year,” she said.
Guests are still able to enjoy experiences like outdoor yoga, meditation, spa services, water activities and dining, even with precautions in place, she added. It’s an ode to the staff at Grail Springs who are passionate about creating the best experience possible for guests.
“I’m in a much calmer place today,” Marentette said about re-opening. “I can see a future here and we’re getting lots of thanks from guests who are feeling rested, hopeful and very happy with the way we have handled things.”
For guests, Marentette continues to evaluate each one individually and create a wellness experience that meets their needs – whether it is to reduce overall stress levels, finding ways to facilitate better sleep patterns, or tackling depression or anxiety. Depending on the package they choose, guests are provided with nutritious meals, delicious tea, numerous classes and wellness experiences, and freedom to use the facilities at their leisure.
“More than anything we’re an education centre,” she said. “We deliver antidotes and tools they can take home with them and implement. It’s a learning experience.”
Grail Springs continues to evolve, which makes the job one that’s both interesting and fulfilling.
“I love it. I’ve met people from all over the world. Every day is different and it’s an honour to be part of someone’s journey,” Marentette said.
For more information about Grail Springs, visit www.grailsprings.com.
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Megan Abraham is a freelance journalist residing in Marmora and Lake with her husband and three daughters. Since she graduated from Loyalist College’s Print Journalism Program, her passion for journalism has had her writing for various online and print publications, followed by several years working in the municipal sector with a focus on tourism, business and economic development. Now Megan is living her dream as the community coordinator for The Belleville Local, and she continues to fuel her creativity as a freelance writer full-time.