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Top six Celtic retreats

17 May 2019

Alison MacTier gives a round-up of retreats exploring Celtic spirituality

Ash Mills

Sarum College

Sarum College

1. Celtic Christian Retreats, organised by Roaming Scotland

What: Fire in the North is a retreat that seeks to revise our spirituality. Participants explore central themes that characterise the early Celtic Christian movement through the narrative of its trail-blazers while walking and visiting some of the Celtic sites on the west coast of Scotland. The programme includes Christian meditation, biblical texts, and Celtic prayers and poems.

When: Fire in the North retreats are run for individuals and small groups, and are flexible according to the activity level of the group. Martin Haworth is an experienced retreat leader and guide.

Where: The retreats are based in Argyll, close to Loch Awe.

Costs: These vary according to group size and length of retreat: a two-night retreat for six people self-catering costs £140pp.

Contact: Phone 01259 752728; email info@roamingscotland.com; or visit www.roamingscotland.com.


2. Minsteracres Retreat Centre, Co. Durham

What: Minsteracres is situated in Northumberland countryside, in the land of the Northern Saints, within easy reach of Hexham, Durham, and Hadrian’s Wall. It has a resident community of religious and lay staff, and a large group of volunteers.

When: 10-14 June: “Following in the footsteps of the Northern Saints”, led by the Minsteracres team. This retreat will focus on Aidan, Cuthbert, Oswald, Hild, and Bede: their spirituality and early Celtic spirituality. It includes visits to the places where they lived out their faith, including Holy Island, Bamburgh, Durham, and Hadrian’s Wall.

Facilities: Sleeps 80 people in single, twin, and double rooms. Limited en-suite disabled facilities. Extensive grounds include lawns, gardens, parkland, and woodland.

Costs: £380 suggested donation.

Contact: Phone 01434 673248; email info@minsteracres.org; or visit www.minsteracres.org.

Minsteracres Retreat Centre


3. Noddfa Spirituality Centre, Conwy, Wales

What: Noddfa welcomes people to a safe place to connect with God, themselves, and others on their spiritual journey.

When: 10-13 June: “Holy Hermits and their Creature Companions” Celtic retreat explores issues connected with Celtic creation theology, ecology, and conservation, using the traditions of the lives of the Celtic saints, and Irish hermit poetry and litanies. Includes visits to sacred sites.

Facilities: 15 single, six twin, four double, eight rooms self-catering.

Costs: £190 recommended offering.

Contact: Phone Mary Jo McElroy on 01492 623473; email noddfapen@aol.com; or visit www.noddfa.org.uk.


4. Northumbria Community, Northumberland

What: The Northumbria Community is a new monastic community following a Rule of Life: a rhythm of Celtic daily prayer rooted in the heritage of Celtic Northumbria.

Northumbria Community

When: The Community is running several retreats this year based on the lives of Celtic saints, including St Ninian (16-18 October) looking at how Ninian made an impact in Scotland and beyond, and themes of healing and reconciliation; St Aidan (30 August-1 September), which includes story, liturgy, and pilgrimage; St Hild (15-17 November), includes storytelling, prayer and creativity. Also of interest is “The Wisdom of the Desert” retreat (14-17 October), which will explore the history and wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, their relevance for today, and the spirituality of desert places.

Facilities: Eight en-suite rooms for singles and couples, one en-suite family room. These are converted stone farm-buildings around a courtyard, reference library, “garden rooms”, and the Poustinia in the walled garden.

Costs: Suggested donation St Aidan, St Hild and St Ninian £120; Wisdom of Desert £180.

Contact: Phone 01670 787645; email office@northumbriacommunity.org; or visit www.northumbriacommunity.org.


5. The Open Gate, Northumberland

What: The Open Gate is an ecumenical house of hospitality offering group and individual retreats on Lindisfarne. The island is the historic northern cradle of Christianity for the English-speaking peoples, home of the saints Aidan and Cuthbert; considered a “thin place” where God speaks.

When: 29 July-2 August “Fresh Water from an Ancient Well” retreat looking at ways in which the Christian faith of the Early Middle Ages can inform our walk with God; 12-16 August “Loved Creation” retreat exploring the Celtic Christian understanding of our unity with creation; 26-30 August “Aidan and Hilda week” exploring the lives of Aidan, Hilda, and other inspired Celtic Christians; 11-15 November: “Celtic Advent”, led by David Cole. After the release of his book Celtic Advent: 40 days of devotions to Christmas last year, the retreat includes Celtic Christmas music, songs, and stories.

Facilities: three twin, two double (all en suite), two single (shared bathroom).

Costs: Each retreat costs £225 full board.

Contact: Phone 01289 389222;email opengate@aidanandhilda.org.uk; or visit www.aidanandhilda.org.uk.


6. Sarum College, Wiltshire

What: Sarum College is a Christian education, training, and conference centre located in the Cathedral Close. It provides an ideal space for reading, reflection, prayer, and study for individual guests or groups.

When: 25 June: “Strategies for mission from a Celtic Saint”, with tutor Paul Burden. Investigating some underlying themes of St Beuno’s ministry through later retellings that are composite, funny, and fantastical but also real. Also exploring some underlying themes and strategic insights for mission in the Church today.

Facilities: 40 en-suite bedrooms (single, double, twin), some with cathedral views and disabled access. Other facilities include chapel, theological library, specialist theological bookshop, common room, bar, and dining room.

Costs: £60, includes lunch and refreshments

Contact: Phone Alison Ogden on 01722 424800; email courses@sarum.ac.uk; or visit www.sarum.ac.uk


Alison MacTier is executive director of the Retreat Association, which gives information and advice about finding a retreat and spiritual director. www.retreats.org.uk

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