‘Islands and Otherworlds’ retreats currently take place on the wild Atlantic shoreline of Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland, next to a tidal pathway across the sands to Omey Island. Omey Island is a place to which pilgrims have come for many centuries; these retreats, then, are centered around the Heroine’s Journey as a pilgrimage back to a deep sense of place and belonging to the land. We talk about what it means to be a pilgrim; what an authentic Heroine’s Journey might involve; what it means to fully belong to this earth.

The myths and folktales we work with on these retreats include the story of the selkie who lost her skin, the mythology of mermaids, and other shape-shifting, transformative sea-stories of the Celtic lands. We’ll also explore the old Irish echtrae: heroic journeys to an Otherworld which is dominated by strong women, and the immrama: ancient sea-pilgrimages to Otherworldly islands, including Tír na mBan: the Isle of Women. (To see the general themes and structure of all ‘Sisters of the Wells’ retreats, please visit this page.)

Bring a pilgrim’s open and searching heart, bare feet to paddle in the wild ocean, and a basketful of sea-longings.

‘Some of us may hear the Call sooner, others later. But whenever it happens, whenever it transpires that we find ourselves on an edge, out of our element, out of our skin, there is something in us still which hears, no matter how deeply buried. Like the first August swallow fidgeting on the telephone wires, we know there is something we should be doing. We know there is a Journey we should be undertaking. We cannot rest; we cannot sleep. Something in us knows that there is somewhere we should be going. And in the end, whether or not we think we can, we go because we must. We go, on a wing and a prayer, because to stay is to die.’ (From If Women Rose Rooted, by Sharon Blackie)

Dates

Sunday 15 to Saturday 21 October, 2017

This retreat is currently full; please contact me if you’d like to be placed on a waiting list in case of cancellations.

Location

omey island beach

The spacious, beautifully equipped modern house in which we’ll be based is situated in Claddaghduff, on the Aughrus Peninsula of western 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, and about an hour and a half’s drive from Galway City. (Buses are available from Galway to Clifden, and pick-ups can be arranged from there.) We will also be renting a lovely neighbouring house, just a five-minute walk away, to provide extra accommodation. The main house has access to its own private sandy beach and looks out over a wide bay to the grassy headlands of Omey Island; Crow Island lies beyond it and then there is only the Atlantic, stretching out westward to the Americas. 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 solitude 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.

Places are limited to 10 people (there are seven bedrooms in the main house; and three bedrooms in the neighbouring house). Six of the rooms in the main house are en suite; one has its own separate but private bathroom. 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 possible (with some locally caught fish options for those who are comfortable eating it) and all participants are expected to work together on a rota basis to help create evening meals and clear up. We cannot cater for more restricted diets, but if you have specific requirements then you are welcome to cook separately – the kitchen is large and well-equipped. Vegan and wheat-free diets are usually easily accommodated. At lunch and breakfast, you help yourself from the pantry.

Costs

The cost per person, including tuition as well as food and accommodation for six nights, is 895 euros. If you would like to share a room, the cost will be reduced to 795 euros per person. 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 fairly 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. And so, if you have to cancel up to three months before the retreat, then if another booking can be found, your payment will be refunded less a cancellation fee of 100 euros. If you cancel between three months and a month before the retreat and another booking can be found, your payment will be refunded less a cancellation fee of 150 euros. If you cancel within a month, or if we can’t find anyone to replace you within the timeframes quoted above, no refund will be given. 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, 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 Ireland focused on deepening our relationship with place might not be for you!

Peregrina

O mother of the sea
lend me a wave that is strong and true
to carry me from this Age which unbinds me.

I do not need a ship, mother,
but make it a buoyant swell
to bear me up and float me on the sea’s dreaming
then beach me on some lighter shore.

When I land there, mother, give me warp and weft again,
and an urchin quill to remind me
how the prettiest barb can lodge under your skin
and leave you undone.

Only lend me a loom and I will
take up the threads of this unravelled life.
I will weave a braid from three strands of seaweed
I will wind it three times around my finger
I will dig my salt-encrusted hands into the soil
and wed myself to the thirsty
brown roots of a new beginning.

Sharon Blackie