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English retreats to suit everyone

29 January 2021

From the familiar to the unusual, Alison MacTier gives a taste of places to stay in England

Turvey Abbey 

Turvey Abbey guesthouse

Turvey Abbey guesthouse

Join a religious community

Turvey Abbey, Priory of Our Lady of Peace, Bedfordshire

TURVEY ABBEY is a community of Benedictine nuns offering hospitality in the monastic tradition. People of every faith and spiritual tradition are welcome to visit and to join in the community prayer. Through their prayer and work the nuns seek to “radiate God’s life and peace”, following gospel values with a particular respect for ecumenism, ecology, and issues of the contemporary world. Private guests are welcome as day or residential guests. Short individually guided retreats, icon-painting courses, and silent Advent and Lent retreats are offered. Some online resources for retreat are also available.

Facilities: Three single, one single en-suite, one twin en-suite in guesthouse with its own garden.

Cost: Suggested donation £45 pp per 24-hrs full board.

Contact: Sister Judith, retreat secretary, on 01234 881432; info@turveyabbey.org.uk; turveyabbey.org.uk


Small and personal

Borderlands Retreats, Leominster, Herefordshire

BORDERLANDS RETREATS is so named because it sits on the English and Welsh border, as well as on a threshold between heaven and earth. Canon Andrew Mayes and his wife, Ann, offer Franciscan hospitality in their 17th-century cottage. Canon Mayes is a writer and former diocesan spirituality adviser, using insights from his experiences, including living for a number of years in Jerusalem. Guests have the use of a library/oratory, and a garden with six meditation areas. There is also opportunity for spiritual direction.

Facilities: One single and one double room, each with an adjoining bathroom; gardens and summerhouse.

Cost: Monday-Thursday led retreat (full board) £350.

Contact: andrew.mayes@gmail.com; spiritualityadviser.com


Everyone can muck in

Othona Community, Burton Bradstock, Dorset

THE Othona Community, west Dorset, is based in a coastal setting overlooking wood, meadow, and sea. Rooted in Christian heritage, it welcomes guests to become part of the community for the length of their stay. There is an invitation to join in the rhythm of life in the kitchen, extensive gardens, or chapel, following its founding ethos of “work, worship, study, and play”. Meals are locally sourced or home grown. Individuals, groups, and families are welcome. Newly opening in 2021 is a multi-purpose art studio in the grounds, lending itself to various all-age activities, from art and dance to environmental study.

The main house at Othona

Facilities: Three single (one with ground-floor access), six twin (three with ground-floor access), one double, four family. New showers and lavatories for 2021.

Cost: From £55 pp per 24 hours full board; prices for two adults with two children under 11 start from £158 a day. Rates can be tailored to individual needs.

Contact: The Warden on 01308 897130; bookings@othona-bb.org.uk; othonawestdorset.org.uk


Familes welcome

Glenthorne Quaker Centre and Guest House, Grasmere, Cumbria

GLENTHORNE is a guest house and retreat centre in the heart of the Lake District. It welcomes individuals and families for holidays and short breaks. A peaceful centre with Quaker values and ethos, it provides comfortable accommodation and home-cooked meals. The varied programme on offer in 2021 includes creative writing, painting, singing, dancing, walking, and yoga.

Facilities: Double, twin, single, and family rooms available (many en-suite), plus newly built ground-floor accommodation with disabled access.

Cost: B&B en suite £63.50 pp pn, £58 pp pn for two nights or more; dinner, B&B en suite £85.50 pp pn, £80 pp pn for two nights or more.

Contact: Terry Winterton, Friend in Residence, 015394 35389; info@glenthorne.org; glenthorne.org


Christian meditation

Sanctum Retreats, Orcop, Herefordshire

SANCTUM RETREATS offers a rural retreat space on a small, rustic farmstead on the Welsh/English border, overlooking the Golden Valley and Black Mountains. Accommodation is in The Fold (a new wooden lodge), and The Hut (a large rustic shepherd’s hut), both built and handcrafted by family members. Guests can explore ten acres of garden, a new orchard, and fields, besides the surrounding ancient rural landscape, which includes the Herefordshire Trail. With a focus on simplicity and stillness, Sanctum retreats offer workshops and group retreats on Christian meditation, contemplation, and silence in nature. Personal meditation sessions by appointment. Some online events available in 2021.

N. JefferiesThe Fold at Sanctum Retreats

Facilities: Self-contained lodge and shepherd’s hut both accommodate up to two people.

Cost: £80 pn (min. two-night stay) at The Hut (available from April 2021); £100 pn (min. two-night stay) at The Fold.

Contact: Tina and Nick Jefferies on 01981 241190; sanctumretreats@gmail.com; sanctumretreats.org


Helping life’s challenges

Pilsdon Manor, Bridport, Dorset

THE Pilsdon Community is centred around the disciplines of hospitality, work, and prayer. Anglican in basis but ecumenical in expression and open to all, the community offers hospitality for the short- or longer-term visitor, with a particular focus on those with issues of addiction, poor mental health, or at a point of life-crisis. A community of about 25-30 people live and work at Pilsdon Manor and its converted stables and barns. There is a daily rhythm: services are held four times a day, and there is a range of tasks — in the kitchen, garden, and working with the farm animals. Healing is found through regular prayer, fellowship, and a radically inclusive attitude of acceptance and equality, with a particular focus on people, social justice, and the environment.

Facilities: Annex with double room and dedicated bathroom, plus two twin en-suite rooms.

Cost: £50 pp per day full board.

Contact: The warden, the Revd Sue Langdon, on 01308 868308; pilsdon@pilsdon.org.uk; pilsdon.org.uk


A touch of luxury

High Dalby House, Pickering, North Yorkshire

HIGH DALBY HOUSE is a luxury “boutique” retreat house offering a safe and welcoming space in which to reflect and be refreshed. The vision is one of blessing, and an environment that contributes to personal, professional, and spiritual growth, as well as wholeness, peace, and tranquillity. There are more than six acres of private grounds, a regular programme of quiet days and tailored retreats for individuals or small groups, and/or a daily rhythm of prayer and worship, and spiritual direction. High Dalby has been accredited by North York Moors National Park as being nature-, cycling-, walking- and Dark Sky-friendly accommodation. Well behaved dogs are welcome.

Facilities: One double and four king-size bedrooms in the house (three of which can accommodate an extra single bed), plus two one-bed self-catering cottages (also with single sofa bed in the lounge). Large sitting room and sun room, honesty bar, and access to grounds. In 2021, a labyrinth and observatory will open, and a chapel/meeting space, a log-fired hot tub, steam room/sauna, barbecue, and pizza oven will be added.

Cost: £65 pp full board for 24-hour stay (min. two-night stay during the Covid pandemic); day retreats from £20. Cottage accommodation £75 pp per night (full-board) or £80 per night self-catering. Weekly prices from £245 to £550.

Contact: the Revd Ian or the Revd Dr Linda Robinson on 01751 460001; info@highdalbyhouse.com; highdalbyhouse.com


Alison MacTier is the executive director of the Retreat Association, which publishes the annual Retreats handbook in December, listing 170 retreats in and beyond the UK.

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