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Escape on a budget

29 January 2016

Alison MacTier suggests some low-cost retreats

Simple but effective: Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church, Ambleside, offers accommodation for a minimum donation of £15 a night

Simple but effective: Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church, Ambleside, offers accommodation for a minimum donation of £15 a night

A SIGNIFICANT part of the retreat experience is the “getting away from it all” factor. In a different space you are free from the clutter of life, and more able to discover the restorative presence of a place that is rooted in prayer and hospitality, giving you the opportunity to explore something deep and unique within.

Retreat centres usually offer great value for money: they are often in glorious locations, offer delicious home cooking, and have facilities such as libraries, art rooms, and labyrinths.

If you are looking for a retreat in 2016, but are limited by funds, it is worth approaching retreat centres to see whether they offer a reduction for those who are unwaged, or on a low income. Many will offer reduced rates to those who would not otherwise be able to afford time away.

There are also retreat centres that consistently offer lower, or “donation”-style rates. These may not include en suite facilities, or may offer the option for self-catering rather than full board. Some centres have a bursary fund to subsidise those who cannot afford the regular rates, and this may be awarded on a case-by-case basis.

Common to all centres is a strong belief in the value of making retreat open to everyone — whatever their background or income level — and this will be evident in the care and hospitality that is so integral to retreat centres, where the needs of the guest are put first.


THE following places offer bed and breakfast for £40 a night or under:

Abbotswick, in Brentwood, Essex, is a Roman Catholic diocesan house of prayer. It is set in 16 acres of grounds in a semi-rural location, and provides hospitality to people of all denominations who are seeking day or residential retreats.

B&B £35 per night.


Tabor Carmelite Retreat House, in Preston, Lancashire, is a small Carmelite community that offers counselling and healing.

B&B £30 per night.


Whitchester Christian Guest House, in Hawick, near the Scottish borders, is a comfortable Victorian country house where peace and quiet can be found on individual or group retreats, quiet days, and holidays.

B&B £40 per night.


For those with less than £30 a night to spend, the Bamford Quaker Community, in Derbyshire, has ten acres of reclaimed woodland and organic gardens. The focus is on the spirit-led life and ecological sustainability. It offers B&B from between £15-£30 per person per night: you pay what you discern to be the right amount.



A NUMBER of retreat centres operate on a suggested-donation basis:

All Hallows’ House, Norwich, offers space for a time of study, quiet, or private retreat, and also for those visiting the nearby shrine of Julian of Norwich. It has a suggested donation of £40-£45 per 24-hour full-board. Self-catering accommodation is also available for £20 per night.


Buckfast Abbey, in Buckfastleigh, Devon, is a Benedictine monastery with guest quarters. The community opens its doors to individuals who are seeking a retreat; the cost is based on whatever each person can afford.


Edenham Regional House, in Bourne, Lincolnshire, offers hospitality in the context of an Anglican vicarage and family home with retreat accommodation that is separate, quiet, and private. A suggested donation of £22 is invited for B&B, or £32 including lunch.


Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church, in Ambleside, Cumbria, has one double guest-room, accessed via a staircase, with kitchen, shower room, and lavatory. Guests are free to make use of the chapel and grounds. A minimum donation of £15 per person per night is requested for this self-catering accommodation.


Katherine House, in Salford, is a small Christian conference centre owned and run by an international congregation of RC Sisters, who welcome people of all faiths and none. There is a suggested donation of £25 for B&B, and £30 for full board. Those on a reduced income are invited to contact the bursar for a further 20-per-cent reduction on rates.



SOME retreat centres can dip into bursary funds on request. It is always worth asking a retreat house if it can offer this.

Hilfield Friary, near Dorchester, Dorset, is a Franciscan community where life revolves around a daily pattern of worship and prayer in which visitors are invited to share. The community recommends a donation of £40 for a 24-hour stay with full board.


St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre, in St Asaph, North Wales, offers a wide range of Ignatian and individually guided retreats. A bursary fund, which usually represents 20 per cent of the retreat cost, is available on individual application.


Shepherd’s Dene, in Riding Mill, Northumberland, is a comfortable Edwardian country house with a labyrinth, library, and places for quiet meditation. Anglican in its spirituality, it is welcoming to all, and has a discretionary bursary fund.


The Society of Mary and Martha, near Sheldon, in Devon, offers a range of accommodation in converted farm buildings, set in 45 acres on the edge of Dartmoor. It has a particular focus on those in ministry, with a 20-per-cent reduction on the cost of their stay.


The Vine, at Mays Farm, in Hullavington, Wiltshire, offers a bursary fund (normally 25 per cent) for clergy and others in full-time Christian ministry. Their hope is that no one will be prevented from staying at the Vine because of cost.



Alison MacTier is the executive director of the Retreat Association. For more information on any of these centres, contact the Retreat Association: phone 01494 569056; email info@retreats.org.uk; or visit www.retreats.org.uk.

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