*** DEBUG END ***

Travel and retreats: Get away from it all on your own — or join an ensemble

26 January 2024

Alison MacTier finds spots and centres offering something out of the ordinary

The Byre at Treargel Retreats, Portlooe, Cornwall

The Byre at Treargel Retreats, Portlooe, Cornwall

Retreat spots

1. Treargel Retreats, Portlooe, Cornwall

THE spiritual director, Naomi Casserly, invites you to “Breathe deeply, rest quietly, think clearly,” at her tranquil retreat spot overlooking the Cornish coast. There are four self-contained places to stay, including an off-grid shepherd’s hut for an eco-friendly and budget-friendly stay.

Naomi’s father crafted the hut by hand, using materials from the local area. It features twin beds and a kitchenette with camping stove, with a compost lavatory and a shower in a nearby stable. Although the hut is not heated, you will find plenty of blankets to snuggle into, while gazing across the bay and watching the buzzards soaring overhead.

Most people visit Treargel to take time out, walk the South West Coastal Path, swim, sleep, and contemplate. Ms Casserly also provides an optional “Listening Ear” session for all her guests (an hour of listening to your story as a one-off spiritual accompaniment session).

Rooms: The Byre (converted barn with a view over the bay) — super king-size bed that can be split into twin beds, plus two small cabin bunk beds. The Piggery (annexe to the barn) — queen-size bed. The Hermitage (cabin) — one double bed. The Shepherd’s Hut — twin beds.

Cost: From £30pp per night.

Contact: info@treargel.com; 07931 356 656; treargel.com

The guest room at the “A Dip Into Serenity” retreat, in north-east Fife, Scotland

2. A Dip Into Serenity, Kirkton of Balmerino, Fife

THIS tiny retreat spot is built into a slope overlooking the River Tay, and is ideal for individuals or couples in need of spiritual refreshment. The simple, self-contained accommodation features a woodburning stove, shower room, and small kitchen, and is the perfect place to “be still” and listen to the Holy Spirit. Spectacular sunsets and abundant wildlife characterise this part of Scotland, and the remote village of Kirkton is a haven from the busy-ness of everyday life.

Rooms: One double.

Cost: Retreatants are welcomed as guests free of charge. Simply provide your own food.

Contact: dipser@sky.com; 07770 797778; dipintoserenity.com

3. Peace Place, Ninian’s Circle, Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex

EXPERIENCE a return to nature at this rural sanctuary, where wildflowers bloom, goats and chickens roam, and a prayer path circles in harmony with the land. Guests can opt to stay in a guest room, or bring their own tents and camp in the field, where a firepit provides a focal point for food and fellowship.

The hosts, Ted and Elizabeth Sawyer-Bayliss, established the three-acre site in 2015, and seek to provide a space where people can deepen their relationship with the land, and nurture their physical and spiritual well-being. They follow the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer, and welcome you to daily shared meditation if you choose.

You can also get stuck into farm life by helping to feed the animals, and even learning to scythe. Peace Place is not far from the sands of Bradwell Beach and St Peter’s Chapel, a uniquely spiritual place consecrated in 654.

Rooms: One guest room is available (one single and one double bed, with adjacent toilet facilities), or guests are welcome to camp.

Cost: By donation.

Contact: ninian@myphone.coop; 01621 776161; tedandelizabeth.wordpress.com

The Oblate Retreat Centre chapel at Wistaston Hall, Crewe

Organised retreats

1. Unpacking dreams at Wistaston Hall

THE Bible describes God speaking to people through their dreams — but how often do we really discern what our own dreams are telling us? On 15-17 November, the Oblate Retreat Centre at Wistaston Hall, Crewe, offers a weekend retreat, “Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language”, for those interested in how God speaks to humanity in this way. The centre is comfortable and welcoming, surrounded by five acres of garden where guests can walk or sit by the gentle stream.

Rooms: 25 rooms, either double or twin. Three ground-floor rooms are adapted for people with limited mobility.

Cost: Suggested donation £175.

Contact: rachel.challoner@oblateretreatcentre.org.uk; 01270 568653; orc-crewe.org

2. Birding retreat, Lindisfarne

THOSE with a love of the natural world will enjoy the unusual mix of guided birdwatching, Celtic-style worship, and reflection on the birds of the Bible on the “Even Sparrows” retreat. A keen birdwatcher, Mark Winter organises these retreats at several venues, including two retreats at Marygate House, Holy Island, running 23-27 September, and again 14-18 October. Marygate is a Georgian home offering comfortable rooms and home-cooked meals.

Mark is enthusiastic about encouraging people to appreciate birds and other wildlife as God-given, and to reflect on the Christian responsibility to care for the environment.

Rooms: Six rooms (five twin and one single) sharing four lavatory-and-shower rooms, and one separate lavatory. One cottage with single-bed, disabled-friendly room with en-suite facilities, plus twin rooms with a shared bathroom.

Cost: £585 for four nights full board.

Contact: evensparrows@gmail.com; 07594 592684; evensparrows.co.uk

Morning rehearsal at last year’s flute retreat at the Monastery of Our Lady of Hyning, Warton, Lancs

3. Sacred music explored, Lancashire

FLUTE players combine music and spirituality at the Monastery of Our Lady of Hyning, Warton, Lancashire, in August. This small Bernadine Cistercian community is home to nine Sisters, and hospitality is a key part of their ministry. The Prioress, Sister Mary Helen, is a keen amateur flautist, and organises an annual flute retreat for those who want to explore how music can be a path to God.

This year’s retreat runs 27-31 August, and provides the opportunity for playing in a group and solo. You are also invited to take part in the community’s daily liturgy, and there will be time for personal prayer in the silent chapel. The retreat is ecumenical and open to all, although it is advisable if participants can play to Grade IV standard.

Sister Mary Helen will be joined each day by Liz Gilbert, a local flute teacher with experience of working with diverse music groups. There are places for 12 flautists; and non-playing family or friends are welcome to share participants’ rooms. Guests will experience the rhythm of life in this early-19th-century country house surrounded by acres of farmland and a beautiful garden with plenty of spaces for contemplation.

Rooms: Four single and eight twin in the main house (all en suite), three single and two twin in adjacent cottage (shared bathroom).

Cost: A suggested donation of £370 pp full board.

Contact: sistermaryhelen@hotmail.com; 01524 732684; bernardine.org/flute-retreat

The Loreto Centre, Llandudno

4. A dramatic approach to scripture, Llandudno

FOR a lively and immersive way of interpreting scripture, consider the “Bibliodrama: Bringing the Scripture Stories to Life” weekend retreat at the Loreto Centre, Llandudno, 4-6 October. Sister Anne Brittain NDS, the author of Bibliodrama: A transformative word, leads this creative retreat, which includes group workshops as well as space and time for personal reflection.

Bibliodrama is a form of improvisational theatre that explores and challenges biblical meaning while always honouring the written text, and helps participants to look at their own lives in new and surprising ways. Against the timeless backdrop of the North Wales coast, the Loreto Centre offers comfortable accommodation and a peaceful environment for connecting with God.

Rooms: Five double, two twin, and 17 single rooms, all en suite.

Cost: Suggested offering £165 full board.

Contact: loretocentre@yahoo.co.uk; 01492 878031; loretocentre.org.uk

Alison MacTier is Executive Director of the Retreat Association, which offers resources and guidance on finding a retreat, including
Retreats — a handbook, which lists more than 150 retreat centres. For more information, visit: retreats.org.uk

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)