Reclaiming the Wise Woman: Dreaming Ourselves Awake

Connemara, October 2019


Dreaming ourselves awake

The Wise Woman, in the tradition of these lands, is profoundly connected to place and the natural world around her. She has fallen into the land’s story; she has become part of the land’s dreaming. She is a land-whisperer, a place-conjuror, a story-weaver; she knows how to listen for the wisdom of the Earth. She is the inheritor of the traditions of the Cailleach, the wild old woman of Gaelic mythology who made and shaped the land. In Ireland, the wise woman we know as the bean feasa is also a walker-between-worlds, a conduit for the wisdom of the Otherworld which is so inextricably entangled in this one. Over the course of six days, we’ll explore the native Wise Woman stories and traditions of Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe, bringing them alive and making them relevant to the world we live in today.

Above all, this retreat is experiential. At the heart of it is a deep exploration of skills and practices which will help us develop a rich relationship with the land and the non-human others who inhabit it with us. We’ll talk about ways to build meaningful and authentic traditions based on the native wisdom of these lands, and about what it might mean to reclaim our indigeneity. We’ll talk about enchantment, about rekindling the mythic imagination. We’ll talk about dreaming, about waking up – and about dreaming ourselves awake.

This retreat will take place in a stunning location on the far western coast of Connemara, in County Galway, Ireland. We will have access to a private sandy beach which looks out over a wide bay to the grassy headlands of Omey Island, an ancient site of pilgrimage; Crow Island lies beyond it and then there is only the Atlantic, stretching out westward to the Americas. The sea, then, is to the front of us; behind us are the Twelve Ben mountains – one of which is named after the Cailleach.



Sunday 13 October (arrivals from 3pm for a 5pm start) to Saturday 19 October (departing by 9am) 2019




The spacious, modern house in which we’ll be based is situated in Claddaghduff, a small townland in the far west of Connemara. Getting there is easier than it might seem by looking at a map; it is just 15 minutes drive north-west from the small market town of Clifden, less than an hour and a half’s drive from Galway. (Buses are available from Galway to Clifden, and taxis can be arranged from there.) The nearest airports to Galway are Knock (Ireland West) and Shannon, with bus transfers from both into Galway City; Galway is also easily accessible by bus and rail from Dublin.

As well as the main house, we also rent a lovely neighbouring house, just a five-minute walk away, to provide extra accommodation. Omey Island (a designated Special Area of Conservation for its ecological importance) can be reached on foot or by car across Omey Strand from half tide to half tide; it is famous for its beauty and for its rich monastic heritage. For more information about the Aughrus Peninsula, Omey Island and its stunning coastal scenery, please visit this local website.

11 single rooms are available (there are eight bedrooms in the main house; and three bedrooms in the neighbouring house). Seven of the rooms in the main house are en suite; one has its own separate but private bathroom next door. In the neighbouring house, one bedroom is en suite and the other two share a full bathroom.

FOOD: Plentiful vegetarian food is provided, organic wherever available. At lunch and breakfast, you help yourself from the pantry. Evening meals are provided but please note that we cannot cater for very restrictive diets. Straightforward vegan (dairy- and egg-free) and wheat-free diets are usually okay. But if your diet means that you do not eat legumes, for example, or grains – or if you have any serious food allergies at all – 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 people 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 nutrition.

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. 



The cost per person, including tuition, a single bedroom and food for six nights, is 1295 euros. (Please note that this retreat is more expensive than in previous years, as evening meals are contracted out.) A deposit of 250 euros will be required on booking; the remainder will be due three months before each retreat begins.

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, and cannot be held over to future retreats. 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. However, please note that it becomes increasingly difficult as a retreat approaches to find substitutes who can both pay and travel at short notice. No refunds are possible if you cancel within two weeks of the retreat. (Obviously, if for any reason we have to cancel, all payments will be returned in full.) 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 me an email, or use the contact form on the ‘contact’ page of this site) to enquire about booking a place, or to be placed on the waiting list, please let me know a little bit about yourself, and what you hope to gain from the week. Please write a paragraph including where you live, how you spend your days, what you long for … This process ensures 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. I am also, when considering applications for these retreats, aiming at bringing together as diverse a group of women as possible. This information is necessary to be considered for a place on the retreat or waiting list.

Please be prepared to go outdoors in all weathers; if you have an aversion to rain and wind, then a retreat on the west coast of Ireland focused on deepening our relationship with place might not be for you!

Image by Andrea Kowch


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