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Scotland's Spiritual Retreats

by Lynda Hamilton(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 179 - February 2011

Scotland is one of the most spine tingling spiritual destinations in the world. It's not only home to a magical landscape of heather-carpeted hills and ancient Celtic tradition, but to one of the most diverse portfolios of retreat centres in Europe.


Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Centre

Take Kagyu Samye Ling, for example. The monastery was built in 1967 and made history as the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the west. Its serenity is thanks, in part, to its peaceful location on the banks of the River Esk in Dumfries & Galloway.


The Eskadalemuir retreat has an open door policy and prides itself on welcoming people of all faiths and none. The temple, gardens, Tibetan tea rooms and meditation sessions, courses and classes are available for all visitors to use, whether they're staying for the day, the night, or for one of the centre's eight-day programmes.

Classes are incredibly wide and varied - covering everything from yoga and meditation to drawing and different lifestyle-led courses such as Acceptance, Compassion and Letting Go; Mindfulness; Simply Kindness, and Waking Up the Body. Prices per course start at £25 and they cater for teachers as well as disciples - many of them lasting over an entire weekend.

Samye Ling (as it's affectionately known) also offers courses in the Tibetan Buddhist states of Mahamudra and Shinay, but if you're really just there for some respite from modern life, then that's fine too. There really is no pressure. What you choose to do there is entirely up to you. You can lose yourself in a book by the river, spend time learning from the Tibetan monks, work on your Sun Salutations or just use the time to rediscover your creativity with poetry, painting or even Qigong.


The accommodation is, of course, simple but there's still a wide choice to be had. Guests who like to reflect on their stay in private might opt for a single or twin room, but there are also family rooms, dorms and plenty of outdoor space to pitch up a tent.

Sleeping quarters comprise the ultra modern Potola House; Tashi Deleg House which can cater for up to 15 in very basic, traditional retreat-style rooms; Zamsem or Johnston House with its dormitory beds; Anis House, which is for women only, and Purelands House for single occupants. Samye Ling's family accommodation is situated nearby in the local town.

The estate is open all year round and would-be guests are just required to give 24 hours' notice before their visit. Bookings can be made online where you can catch a glimpse of Samye Ling's main features by embarking on a visual tour.

But, for the more intrepid, there's a four-year retreat for experienced Buddhists that serves as an introduction to the intense spiritual practises of the Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Find out more, including what's on in 2011 on Tel: 01387 373232;  

Traigh Bhan Retreat House, Iona

For a unique and extremely tranquil Scottish retreat, escapists tend to head to the south westerly isle of Iona. Once known as the Sacred Isle of the Druids, the island is a historic place of pilgrimage which is now associated with rest, rejuvenation and reconnecting with nature.


Iona's retreat house, Traigh Bhan, is run by the well-known Findhorn Foundation - a large spiritual community, which focuses on environment and education. The group has been going from strength to strength for nearly 50 years and although its whitewashed island cottage might not look like much, the surroundings are refreshingly calm and idyllic for tuning into the sights, sounds and smells of the sea. There are plenty of coastal walks and fresh air to be had and, since the house can only accommodate six guests per week-long retreat, visitors are guaranteed an intimate and reflective stay. Workshop leaders, which include trained practitioners in massage, healing and personal development, are always on hand to make sure visitors get the most out of their experience.

The Findhorn Foundation itself was founded in 1962 by husband and wife team Peter and Eileen Caddy and their friend Dorothy Maclean. They had settled in Findhorn after being made redundant from Cluny Hill Hotel in Forres - which they had managed successfully for several years. Money was tight so they moved into a caravan and began growing vegetables where, with the help of Eileen's spiritual approach to growing plants, they soon transformed the sandy land into a thriving allotment which was to become famous among horticultural experts.

An entire community was born when other people came to join the trio in its work and take their lead in following a spiritual path and nurturing the land in accordance with nature. It became a registered charity in 1972 and by the late 80s, its eco-village project was well underway. It's now a vital part of the Global Eco-village Network, which is rapidly expanding - and, since 1997, has taken part in a variety of UN events. The community has more than 320 members who, according to the Findhorn Foundation's website, are part of an ongoing experiment in conscious living.

Find out more on Tel: 01309 691653; .

Lendrick Lodge Holistic Retreat & Spiritual Centre, near Callander


Lendrick Lodge near Callander practises and teaches a wealth of alternative healing techniques, including Reiki and, perhaps more unusually, shamanism. It stands alongside some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery at the foot of Ben Ledi by Brig O' Turk. The Victorian building rests on ancient Celtic land which is thought to benefit from a magical energy - thanks, in part, to the site's history as the meeting point of Druids. There's a real sense of community at the centre which, as well as reiki healing, offers craniosacral therapy and massage, plus courses in yoga, detox, transformational breathing and self development.


The site's River Retreat, a glorious purpose-built timber outhouse, has its own re-birthing pool and holistic clinic, while guests have the opportunity to train to an exceptionally high level of Shamanism - whether it's of the Native American, Toltec or Celtic tradition. Visits can't help but lead to love and empowerment in a setting which is, quite honestly, a photographer's dream.

The centre is run by committed couple Stephen and Victoria Mulhearn. Stephen's years of Shamanic study and experiential learning have given him a profound ability to support and inspire others. He spent 12 years training with his Master, Peggy Dylan of Sundoor USA, who teaches regularly at Lendrick. He creates and teaches totally unique seminars which are the joyful container for healing and transformation for thousands. Stephen supports a wide spectrum of people in his work - whether they're looking for healing and deeper happiness or to advance their own teaching.

Stephen was chosen - and trained by - Sandra Ingerman, the former Educational Director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and author of Medicine for the Earth and Soul Retrieval, to continue the training of her Shamanic courses. He creates transformational workshops and adventures in the UK and South America. He also creates tailor-made team building seminars for organisation seeking that all-important operational excellence.


Stephen's teaching manner has a rhythm of humour, profound wisdom and rituals to propel unimaginable personal growth. He's passionately committed to the support of his students - doing 'whatever it takes' to inspire the manifestation of their dreams. He loves to share the teachings of his Celtic ancestors and, at the same time, guide people to open up the reservoir of untapped power from their own ancestors.

His wife, Victoria, is a highly experienced healer and teacher who attracts people from all over the world to train with her. She initially studied intensive reiki to Master level and is a dedicated student of Mahayana Buddhism.

For more than a decade she, too, has been guided by awakened spiritual Master Peggy Dylan and her passion for mastering the movement of energy within the body has taken her into studying with two Chinese Medicine doctors in the States who specialize in Medical Qi Gong.

She passionately believes that everyone has the potential to assist in their own and other people's healing and to manifest the life that their heart desires with the practice of Reiki.

Victoria's 1st and 2nd Degree Reiki courses deliver outstanding results - attracting both total beginners and existing Reiki teachers who want to add more teachings to their previous Reiki training with other Masters.

Perhaps best of all, though, is the unmistakable energy that you feel when you enter the land of Lendrick Lodge.

Find out more by calling Tel: 01877 376263;  

Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre, Lochearnhead


The Dhanakosa centre sits peacefully within 16 acres of unspoilt Scottish landscape, surrounded by waterfalls and ancient woodland on the shores of Loch Voil. It's tucked away among the greenery of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and is about half-an-hour's drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. What's special about this tranquil house is its programme of wide and varied retreats. There really is something for everyone - whatever their meditative persuasion. Yoga occupies many of the teachings at Dhanakosa but there are plenty of opportunities to combine the discipline with something else that's just as satisfying for the soul. Guests can get as creative as they like, in fact, with course subjects ranging from painting and photography to poetry and effective communication. There's even a gay men's retreat, which offers a great introduction to yoga and meditation in one of the most relaxed environments around.


Dhanakosa is also part of a worldwide movement otherwise known as the Triratna Buddhist Community, which was set up to make Buddhist teachings and practises available in a way that's more appropriate to the modern world.

For more on this, or to read the Dhanakosa newsletter call Tel: 01877 384213;  

Penninghame Foundation, Newton Stewart


Around four miles from Newton Stewart, in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, lies the majestic Penninghame Estate, which could easily be mistaken for a luxurious spa. It has the feel of a health farm and really does give its guests room to breathe, as well as the chance to learn how to cook and live a healthier lifestyle. All the centre's culinary teachings are based on a modern whole-food macrobiotic diet and the centre even runs a series of Health Weeks. It's perfect for recharging depleted batteries, recovering from illness, an operation or bereavement - or just everyday life.

But courses extend to much more than cooking. The estate, which is also a Oneness centre, offers everything it possibly can to ensure deep, personal healing by addressing many different things, such as relationships, low self esteem, negativity and anger. Its accommodation is also second to none, with guests sharing a series of stylish lodges which are insightfully plotted around the grounds. For more information call Tel: 01671 401414;


  1. Meditation Retreat said..

    Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way and can help in clearing the mind and ease many health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression. I really like you thoughts.
    Meditation Retreat

  2. Elizabeth McLean said..

    I am a total beginner...I am looking for something to calm,heal,enhance and make some sense of my screwed up life!.I only work part time so money is a problem,so that said, I would love to find help and comfort that is not going to cost too much there such a thing?? Online courses cost well over £100 pounds and way out of my budget....Church is not what I am looking for as nice as it may be,its not what I am seeking?? any advice would be great xx
    many thanks
    Liz x

  3. Frances Ryan said..

    If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay, really peaceful and lovely, and not expensive, try Beshara at Chisholme House in the Scottish Borders. It runs courses, but you can also simply visit and stay for a short or longer time, or come as a volunteer.
    Currently the daily cost for visitors, which includes full board (the food is wonderful), is only £35. They have a Midsummer one week retreat week advertised, or if you don't mind working, you can stay as a volunteer for up to two weeks for very little money.
    web address is:

  4. Ann said..

    I am writing this in the hope that it resonates with someone who can direct me to where I need to be. I am recovering from a lifetime of prescription drugs that kept me "sleeping" for much of my adult life. Although now, I can think clearer, I am fairly physically incapacitated for a portion of the day and am in recovery. I 'm looking to be somewhere peaceful and beautiful where I can connect with people and nature, gently learn some life skills maybe, and just generally get better?...I have a beautiful old dog who would have to come with me also. I know this can be a problem for many places.

  5. Eddie H said..

    Hi, I'm looking for something quite intense that is on over the course of a weekend. It has to involve a meditation. I am already a a meditaction practitioner daily for over two years.

  6. Manish Yogi said..

    Its a wonderful post and very helpful, thanks for all this information.

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About Lynda Hamilton

Lynda Hamilton is a freelance journalist, travel writer and PR consultant - based in Scotland. Her travels have taken her all over the world and she is now a specialist on many far flung destinations, including Japan. She's a regular contributor to many UK publications and her work can often be seen in the likes of My Weekly. With extensive PR experience, she also helps out with publicity and press releases and offers a copywriting service to both corporate and public sector clients. Her main areas of expertise lie in real life, health and wellbeing, and, of course, travel. Drop her a line at


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