‘We run the UK’s first heartbreak hotel where guests check in to heal their pain’

‘We run the UK’s first heartbreak hotel where guests check in to heal their pain’

Nestled deep within the Peak District, Bleaklow Farm is the ideal destination for anyone wanting to unwind and discover the national park’s rolling hills and limestone landscape. And with cashmere-filled mattresses, underfloor heating and a hot tub from where you can lie back and enjoy the view, the countryside abode is nothing short of spectacular.

But this is no average weekend spa retreat. The idyllic farmhouse has taken on a whole new identity as a refuge for women seeking a spot of TLC and emotional healing. Called The Heartbreak Hotel, it’s the brainchild of psychologist and lecturer Alice Haddon and writer, criminal barrister and coach Ruth Field, both in their forties, and is the first hotel dedicated to, you guessed it, heartbreak.

After her mum died in April last year, Alice took time away from her work as an academic and psychologist, closing down her clinic in search of a new adventure. During that time, a radio interview provided her with the light-bulb moment she’d been looking for and she connected the experience of romantic heartbreak with her own loss.



Ruth Field and Alice Haddon created The Heartbreak Hotel

“I heard a woman talking about how she’d been the victim of romance fraud. She’d fallen in love with a guy online who took all of her money and then disappeared,” she says. “Her pain was so evident but she had nowhere to go. At that moment I decided I wanted to be the person to provide that support.”

While the concept may seem unconventional, it’s something women have long needed, says Alice.

“Heartbreak is seen as something that you just get on with. People say that everything will work out in time but we need to take it more seriously,” she says. “When we’re in emotional pain, we need to be cared for. So far, that care isn’t there. Heartbreak is everywhere in pop songs, but nowhere in psychology.”

Taking its toll

And she’s right. Recent studies have shown that the toll of a break-up is far greater than a few nights sobbing over a tub of Ben & Jerry’s while binge-watching the latest box set. A review of multiple studies by the University of Miami found similarities between the end of a relationship and grieving the death of a loved one, while another study published by the California- based Public Library of Science in 2011 found that feelings of heartbreak could be similar to clinical depression.



The Heartbreak Hotel offers a sanctuary where women can overcome their betrayal

But with most of us sharing details of our lives across social media daily, including our relationship journeys, experts believe we’re feeling heartbreak more intensely than ever.

“Back in the day, if you had a bad break-up, the worst-case scenario was bumping into your ex. In the age of social media, your heartbreak can linger longer as you receive constant reminders of your ex,” says dating coach Hayley Quinn.

“By following them online it’s easy to construct a version of their lives that’s hurtful to you. The more you engage with social media, the more you keep the past alive.”

With the help of her good friend Ruth, Alice put her plan into action and the pair began looking for the perfect tranquil spot for heartbroken souls to escape reality.

“The choice of location was extremely important and we had specific requirements, like ensuring everybody had their own room because we wanted to cocoon our guests,” says Alice.



The hotel combines therapy, outdoor activity and TLC

Soothing location

“We were previously in Norfolk by the sea and there was something really amazing about the big horizons, the long view, the waves and the sea air,” adds Ruth. “Our new Peak District home has a similarly calming effect as it’s on top of a huge hill and has incredible views of babbling brooks.”

Together, Alice and Ruth spent months developing the programme, eventually launching the concept in September 2021. After a sell-out response, the pair hosted their first three-day Moving Beyond Betrayal retreat two months later.

“I was terrified,” says Ruth. “We had someone coming over from America and another from Ireland. We’d never stayed in the hotel before, we’d only visited. We didn’t know if the group would get along. I had no idea how all of these variables would pan out.”



The Heartbreak Hotel recently moved to the Peak District



The hotel was previously based in a stunning Norfolk venue

Tender loving care

Fortunately, it was a roaring success. Since then, The Heartbreak Hotel has continued turbo-charging women’s recovery, with psychologist Alice leading them through their heartbreak and coach Ruth providing wraparound care.

“Each day consists of eight hours of group therapy and the arc of those days is that they start with a story of heartbreak and end with the same story that’s been rescripted,” says Ruth.

With a price tag of £2,500, one retreat is equivalent to six months of one-to-one therapy, and guests can expect to have their hearts healed through a combination of outdoor activity, nourishing meals and some old-fashioned TLC.

“We have guests fill in a feelings questionnaire before they arrive and before they leave to see how they’ve changed,” explains Ruth. “We consistently see a significant reduction in negative feelings, with similar results six months down the line.”



Having a beautiful location to hold the retreats at was an important factor



The views of the Peak District, where groups spend quality time, are breathtaking

Warmth and laughter

Despite knowing that The Heartbreak Hotel would be helpful, Alice admits she has been taken aback by the transformations that she’s seen.

“An older woman came in using a stick and bowed down. By the time she left she was standing up straight and looking people in the eye,” she says. “Another woman was really pretty and somehow kept getting prettier and prettier throughout the duration of the retreat. We joked that it was the Heartbreak Hotel Botox.”

And stories like this aren’t uncommon. After her husband of 25 years left her out of the blue, one attendee found much-needed solace in her fellow guests, while another drove 170 miles to find warmth and laughter from people going through similar experiences. Following its success, women from all walks of life have booked in to heal their broken hearts.



Each guest is given their own room for the duration of the retreat

“We’ve seen a broad mix of people, from women who’ve been jilted at the altar to those who’ve experienced a financial betrayal,” says Alice. “Whether the betrayal has happened during retirement or in the middle of bringing up children, the core experiences are similar.”

And while a stay at The Heartbreak Hotel may be limited to a Friday to Monday visit, the effects last far longer. “Looking back to our first retreat nearly a year ago, the women are still in touch with each other via a WhatsApp group,” says Ruth. “It’s amazing to see the connections forged from such an emotional time.”

Find out more about The Heartbreak Hotel at theheartbreakhotel.co.uk or on Instagram @theheartbreakhotel.co.uk

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