DANCING WITH THE CAILLEACH

Creative retreats for women

For general information about Sharon’s creative retreats, please visit this page.

‘Dancing with the Cailleach’ retreats take place on the beautiful wild coast of Argyll, on the south-west coast of Scotland. Argyll was once the centre of the ancient Gaelic sea-kingdom of Dál Riata, or Dalriada, which encompassed this part of western Scotland and the north-east of Ireland. A few miles away is the remarkable Kilmartin glen, which has one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland, including more than 350 ancient monuments within a six-mile radius of the village.

 

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In this retreat we’ll be working with the rich mythology of the Cailleach, the fierce old woman of Gaelic mythology who created and shaped the land; the spirit of the wilderness and protector of its creatures. She is prominent in Argyll folklore and in its landscape, from Ben Cruachan to Loch Awe, and the fierce whirlpool of Corryvreckan.

 

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Dates

2017: Saturday 23 September (beginning at 5pm) to Friday 29 September (leaving after breakfast). Fully booked.

2018: Saturday 14 April (beginning at 5pm) to Friday 20 April (leaving after breakfast). This retreat is fully booked, but you may join the waiting list. Often, as dates approach, those already on the waiting list find themselves unavailable, so there’s often a good chance of a place coming up if you can be flexible.

Location

This retreat will be held on the Ardmaddy Estate, half an hour’s drive south of Oban, in a beautiful lochside location overlooking the Isle of Seil and beyond that, the Isle of Mull. The estate is dominated by Ardmaddy Castle, which was originally constructed as a medieval tower-house in the fifteenth century. We’ll be occupying two of the estate houses: Caddleton farmhouse, and the converted Stables. Ardmaddy is a tranquil wildlife haven, with eagles, deer and otters regularly visiting. The estate’s website is here: www.ardmaddycottages.co.uk. It looks like the far ends of the earth, but it’s easy enough to get to. If you’re coming by public transport, it’s a beautiful three-hour train ride through the spectacular western Highland landscape from Glasgow to the lovely small fishing town of Oban, and transport can be arranged from there.

 

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Places are limited to 9 people, all in single rooms.

FOOD: Plentiful vegetarian food is provided, organic wherever available. At lunch and breakfast, you help yourself from the pantry. In order to keep the costs of these retreats as low as possible by omitting the need to pay a cook, I prepare our evening meals myself – I’m a pretty competent and enthusiastic cook! But because I only have one pair of hands, I cannot cater for very restrictive diets. Straightforward vegan (dairy- and egg-free) and wheat-free diets are usually okay if you are prepared to be flexible and do a little extra work on the small number of days when separate dishes might be needed. But if your diet means that you do not eat legumes, for example, or carbohydrates such as potatoes or rice, then I’m afraid you cannot be accommodated as alternatives can’t be provided. If in doubt, please enquire BEFORE booking; it is not feasible on these retreats for participants to bring and cook their own food. If you are usually a meat/fish-eater, please don’t worry that our vegetarian meals will be low in protein! – I am very conscious of the need for balanced nurtirion. Please note that all participants are expected to work together on a rota basis to clear dishes and maintain the dishwasher, as well as to keep the houses clean and tidy during the retreat.

 

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Costs

The cost per person, including tuition as well as food and accommodation for six nights, ranges from £925 to £975, depending on the room booked (see below). A non-refundable deposit of £200 will be required on booking; the remainder will be due three months before each retreat begins.

Five of the bedrooms are in Caddleton farmhouse, where our retreat sessions will be held and where lunch and dinner will be taken. The house is beautifully situated, just 100 metres away from the shore of the loch. Two of these rooms are double en-suites, and the total cost for each of them is £975; the remaining three rooms contain twin beds (again, for single occupancy) with shared bathrooms and are charged at £949. One of these latter rooms is a large, bright attic room which happens to contain four beds but which is single-occupancy on this retreat. Four further bedrooms are in the Stables, a beautifully restored self-contained property complete with its own kitchen and living space, close to the farmhouse. There are two bathrooms in this house. There is one double room and two twins, each of which is charged at £949. A fourth room contains (full-size) bunk beds and is charged at £925.

REFUND POLICY: Although we recognise that life can change rapidly and that unexpected things might occur, we have a strict refund policy. This is because of the accommodation and other costs that we are committed to once bookings are taken for a retreat, and also the costs and time required to re-advertise places which are booked and subsequently cancelled. All deposits are non-refundable. If you cancel within three months of the retreat, the remainder of your payment (i.e. minus the deposit) will be refunded only if a replacement can be found to take your place. (This is often possible – though having a waiting list is no guarantee that those on the waiting list will be available to actually take up a place, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find substitutes within the six weeks or so prior to a retreat.) We recommend that you take out travel insurance where possible to minimise your risk if the unexpected happens.

HOW TO BOOK: These retreats usually fill up well in advance, and participants travel from all over the world — America, Canada, Australia, Europe — so please book early if you are able. Because by design my retreats are intimate, and intensive, when you contact me (please send an email to info[at]thehedgeschool[dot]org, or use the contact form on the ‘contact’ page of this site) to enquire about booking a place, please let me know a little bit about yourself, and what you hope to gain from the week. This isn’t a formal ‘application’ process — just a way of ensuring that all of those who sign up have a compatible set of expectations, and are committed to the work we’ll be doing together and to creating a gentle, nurturing and supportive sisterhood for the duration. Please be prepared to go outdoors (even if only for short periods) in all weathers; if you have an aversion to rain and wind, then a retreat on the west coast of Scotland focused on deepening our relationship with place might not be for you! And I hope you’ll understand that, due to the interest in these retreats, I’m unable to hold places without deposits.

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