The Wellness Retreats To Book Into This Year

We speak to the WELLNESS WARRIORS running yoga, meditation and mindfulness retreats around Ireland this year … 

Project Revive

Annie Kirwan’s wellness journey has taken her from lab bench to yoga mat. “I am a science graduate with a masters degree in molecular immunology. I originally discovered Pilates as a way to get toned but soon realised it was so much more than that. It is an extremely powerful movement to build strength, flexibility and, most importantly, to nurture a healthy relationship with your body. I was captivated.” Together with her friend and fellow Pilates teacher Hayley Killen, who is a sports management graduate from UCD, she founded Project Revive a year ago. Kirwan describes her Functional Flow classes as “the best of Pilates, yoga and mindfulness with a lot of fun thrown in for good measure.”

The Revive Retreat, from July 27-29, in Avon Rí Resort, Co Wicklow is an immersive weekend of Pilates, yoga, meditation, hikes, healthy food, access to a pool and lots of relaxation. KO’B.

Vicky Shilling and Lauren Healy

The Reset

Dublin-based Vicky Shilling and Lauren Healy got together in January to create The Reset, having met through health-blogging community meet-ups. They held their first retreat at the end of June in the idyllic setting of Loughcrew estate in Co Meath. The gardens of the 17th-century house were the backdrop to activities designed around six key pillars (space, grow, food, move, meditation and community) all with the aim of looking at life holistically. “It’s more about overall wellbeing, not just wellness and focusing on one aspect, such as food or exercise,” says Healy whose background as a nutritional therapist listening to clients’ concerns about a lack of “me-time” was the impetus to create this joint endeavour. “We’ve taken elements from retreats we’ve been on ourselves, as well as using feedback from social media to create the content, and we believe we’ve filled a niche in the market.” Participants, who ranged from a school leaver to experienced professionals, as well as overseas attendees, left with tips, tools, affirmations and recipes they could use at home. “Our idea is to create a supportive community, not an austere ashram environment,” says Shilling whose background in event management prior to award-winning health blogging (at The Flourishing Pantry) came in handy with the logistics. “Accessibility and practicality were prioritised. Feedback suggests many of the women who attended have kick-started changes to their daily routine or careers.” Healy can empathise, having trained as an accountant before qualifying as a nutritional therapist. Her blog The Nutritionist Foodie runs in tandem with one-to-one consultations with clients.

The next Reset retreats will be October 12 – 14 and January 25-27 2019. PMcC.

Photograph by Siobhan Russell

Elemental Yoga

“They just evolved organically,” says Susan Montgomery of the finely tuned drawing and yoga retreats, celebrating Irish heritage, she runs with her friend Deirdre Desmond. “We met in San Fransisco, where we were working in the late 1990s. We spent many a late night camping under the stars with big groups of friends, swimming in the Pacific. We both moved home, had families, followed our individual yogic paths and continued camping with our tribes in the wilds of West Cork.”

Originally designed as a teaching platform to host international yogis such as Taylor Harkness and Orla Punch, at the core of Elemental Yoga is a labour of love which combines Desmond and Montgomery’s specialisms. The latter trained in India and is a hatha yoga expert as well as professional visual artist. Desmond is also hatha-trained and recently completed an advanced study on Body-Mind Centering. Desmond guides students towards finding their inner alignment and she teaches Hanna Somatics to release long-held tension.

Their May retreat celebrated the season of Bealtaine. “We worked on the importance of staying grounded and safe throughout this summer season of fun. The menu represented this in fragrant meals, seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers.” In fact, food is a vital element to their retreats and the pair work on carefully crafted menus created with chefs such as Bridget Healy, Ger Swift and Mark Jennings. Other must-have components include mobile saunas and unique locations, prioritising a closeness to water. In May they used the summer home of the Walker family, Bóthar Buí. Steeped in history with a monastic appeal, it has been used by artists and poets such as Louis le Brocquy, Seamus Heaney, Sean McSweeney and Mick Mulcahy. If this all sounds rather cerebral, fear not. Montgomery says no prior experience is necessary, especially in drawing. “Past participants, who for most of their lives believed that they ‘cannot draw a straight line’ , become confident with line drawing overnight. The less you know the better, there is so much to learn from scratch, an “unschooling” of sorts.”

As for the yoga, it is accessible to anyone, is mixed level and because there are always two teachers present, special modification and support is always on hand. The October retreat will be a preparation for the upcoming Samhain. “Through exploring the parallels of yoga and drawing as meditative practices we leave our guests well-equipped to take themselves through winter and beyond, creatively and mindfully.”

The next Elemental Yoga retreat is September 28-30; PMcC.


Nourish and Restore Retreat led by Tara O’Rourke of Saol Beo takes place in an 18th-century house close to Inistioge, Co Kilkenny. Vegan food, Dr Hauschka treatments, guided yoga and meditation and a beauty workshop are on the menu; September 14-15,

Creacon Wellness Retreat in New Ross, Wexford offers one- or three-day Juice cleanse packages to help kick-start a healthier lifestyle, favoured by brides-to-be.

Monart Destination Spa‘s two-day “Summer Yoga Daze” includes hatha yoga, a Detox Algae body scrub and Salt Glow treatment, plus a luxurious Margaret Dabbs mani or pedi.

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