Right after my divorce (cue violins), I took myself off to a friend’s houseboat in Sausalito, located on the northern shore of San Francisco Bay. I went to lick my wounds and pour my heart out on paper, having not written much for months. Away from the daily grind and inspired by the scenery, I produced a whole short story in only three days: the quickest story I’d ever written.
After that, I became convinced that retreats were the way forward for my writing but didn’t go on another till March 2020, just before lockdown. (2020-2021 should’ve been one long writing retreat, but I barely wrote a word during the height of the restrictions—my brain just didn’t cooperate.) Finally, this July, I was able to get away on another retreat; this time, a five-day tutored course at the Garsdale Retreat in the Yorkshire Dales. Run by married couple Hamish and Rebecca, the location was opened in 2017 by playwright, novelist and songwriter Willy Russell (which pleased me, having lived with his daughter in my early twenties).
I treated myself to the most expensive option of a private room and en suite (costing £860), but cheaper options are available if you’re willing to share a bathroom with other guests or share a bedroom with a writer friend. Whatever your options, attending a retreat is always a significant outlay for anyone, so was it worth it? In my case, the answer is a resounding YES, and there are a number of reasons I found it great value for money:
I would wholeheartedly recommend the Garsdale Retreat, but there many more to choose from. But wherever you go, be it in the UK or further afield, a retreat is a major investment of both your time and money, so here are some pointers if you’re thinking of giving it a go:
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith