Cranwell Resort – Nirvana in the Berkshires

Berkshire country grows lovelier with each season, passing from tranquil snow white to velvety green to raucous reds and golds. The lack of large cities nearby means relatively little light pollution; on a clear night, a canopy of stars brightens the ink-black sky. All this forms an inspiring backdrop for destinations that promise to renew the spirit and reinvigorate the body.

Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club is such a retreat, a luxurious estate with staff who satisfy guests’ every need while insulating them from the tumult of the outside world. A cornucopia of recreational offerings complement the old-fashioned atmosphere: Imagine yourself a Gilded Age tycoon on a well-deserved getaway, wandering the resort’s 380 gorgeous acres. The property centers on a restored 1894 mansion, an architectural showpiece that evokes a Tudor-style English country house, rich with carved woodwork, wood paneling, and antique Oriental carpets. Cranwell is the retreat of choice (or spa aficionados, who gravitate lo the 35,000-square-foot spa, with 16 treatment rooms and an extensive fitness center as well as a relaxation lounge complete with fireplace in each locker room. Golfers are equally pampered here: After a morning on the 18-hole championship course (with GPS-equipped carts), a host of treatments await at the spa, many designed specifically for sore duffers.

The arrival of Canyon Ranch, the eastern outpost of the legendary Arizona spa (see p. 700), has given Cranwell a ran for its money. Headquartered in Bellefontaine (said to be designed after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles), it offers the same magical combination of amenities and atmosphere that has earned the original Canyon Ranch an unrivaled international reputation. Its location sits on 120 acres with extensive outdoor fitness options—hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, tennis, skiing, and much more. Indoors, the 100,000-square-foot spa complex incorporates a gorgeous pool, tennis and squash courts, exercise and weight rooms, a jogging track, and numerous treatment rooms. The cuisine, which famously balances nutrition anil flavor, is so appealing that cooking classes are now available. The emphasis is on activity rather than relaxation: Canyon Ranch schedules more than 30 classes a day from which to pick and choose, and the staff includes medical professionals to help get you on track and on your way to your personal goals, especially once you’re back home.

Dramatically different from all the physical activity and indulgence, the Kripalu Center promises a simple experience befitting this spiritual sanctuary. Overlooking a lake from a hilltop that affords spectacular views of the 350-acre estate, Kripalu is the country’s largest yoga education center. Guests wander the beautiful grounds, relax in a whirlpool or sauna, and experience an environment designed to be a nurturing retreat from the madding crowd. Suitably simple accommodations in the four-story redbrick building range from dorm rooms with bunk beds to private doubles. The friendships forged amid a delightful milieu of a fresh-air camp for adults with a higher mission are an inherent part of its specialness. Guests eat at long communal tables and chat at lunch and dinner but not at breakfast, which is a silent meal. The Retreat & Renewal package is the most popular, with all the basics covered: room and board, yoga, meditation, and other activities. But more extensive programs incorporate options such as workshops that focus on fitness, personal growth, weight loss, Ayurvedic cleansing, and countless other subjects.