Some of our favourite retreat houses -

and a few pilgrimage ideas

The Taizé Community

Since our visit in 1994, we have tried to go to Taizé in France each year. The year 2000 was the only year we both missed since then - and that because we were in Oberammergau!

In August 2002, we took Kathryn's daughter and a group of young people to Taizé. It remains a source of inspiration for us both. 

This is us!

Prayer in Taize

Photo © S. Leutenegger Ateliers et Presses de Taizé F-71250 Taizé Communauté
Used with permission

Some of our thoughts and photos can be found here. The Taizé Community can be found here

The Garth, Ryde

The Garth is a cosy cottage next door to St Cecilia's Abbey in Ryde, Isle of Wight. Retreatants are welcome to join the enclosed community for Mass and the Divine Office.

The cottage is close to the sea and beach and country walks are within easy reach. We have walked inland and round the beach to Bembridge.

 The Garth Retreat, St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight

During one Easter retreat we ventured to a tourist attraction - a butterfly farm (it seemed appropriate!) with water features (which seemed appropriate!) Seeing fountains and butterflies emerging from chrysalis was a perfect complement to the reflections of the retreat. 

St Cecilia's Abbey 

See also our own: 
Metamorphosis: A Caterpillar's Tale

Little Gidding

As far from the madding crowd now as when T.S. Eliot wrote his poem. 

The house contains memorabilia from its long history as a house of prayer and refuge. The church is still used for services: as it has no electricity, these can be candlelit and with the organ powered by an electric lead from the house!

Little Gidding has no website as yet - we offer a few images and thoughts here


Shell Cottage

Our find for Easter 2002. A large cottage very close to the sea at Penberth Cove - 8 miles west of Penzance, Cornwall. 

The cottage has a deep sense of prayer as it is used for Quiet Days by the local community as well as for retreats.

Shell Cottage, Penberth

The house is homely - most of the bedrooms overlook the sea - and the small  oratory has an exquisite silence.. would that we could bottle it! 

It is not far from Land's End (in a car) - nor from Mousehole whose cat (The Mousehole Cat)had been used as a basis for a liturgy for children. Needless to say we visited both.

The Eden project is just over an hour away. Very busy - but in the light of the reading of Genesis 1 at the Easter Vigil, a very powerful experience.

Shell Cottage

The Pilgrims Trail

This was a Millenium project of Hampshire County Council. The trail follows the old trail from Winchester Cathedral to the port in Portsmouth... real stalwarts would rest their feet for the journey over the Channel and continue to Mont St Michel. Maybe one day!

The Trail is well-signposted and Hampshire CC produce a very attractive Guide to accompany it.  

In 2000, we had planned to walk the Trail - which we planned as a pilgrimage from our own church to our cathedral in Portsmouth... our parish priest being gravely ill. Sadly, just before we set off he died and so we did not complete the journey as we returned on the second day for his Requiem.

The Pilgrims Trail

Yorkshire Pilgrimage

Not a retreat as such but a joy for Kathryn (a Yorkshire woman) to take Catherine (from Hampshire) to God's own county*

We visited York - the Minster and Margaret Clitherow's shrine and then into the Dales and Moors to visit the ruined abbeys... humbled by the grit (Yorkshire Grit, of course) of those who built and lived in them.

We ended our pilgrimage at the site of the abbey of Hilda - marvelling that any community could make a living on such an exposed site... still less a thriving one.

There are many websites for Yorkshire - York and Whitby are featured in our Wellspring of Pilgrimage pages and have links to local sites.


The highlight of the Jubilee Year of 2002. There were many reasons for not going - lack of time/ lack of money... but the pull was stronger.

We travelled with friends Marion & Jan and regret not a minute of it - though the weather was cold and the rain in Unterammergau (where we stayed) and Oberammergau was torrential as it can only be in mountains.

The Play was an experience never to be forgotten. Though it was entirely in German (a language none of us speaks), we were enthralled and drawn into the story as if it was in our native English.

We are saving for the 2010 performance!

Monet's Garden

Now wouldn't you think with a theme like ours that Monet's Garden would have been a priority visit? Somehow it just didn't happen until 2001.

It was a delight - though the water lilies were rather shy that day. We came back fired up with great plans for our gardens and shared allotment!

The house was a real surprise - we hadn't realised that Monet had lavished the same care on the house as in the gardens. The colours in the flower beds next to the house were captivating - but, as can be imagined, it was the pond that held the strongest appeal. Astonishingly beautiful...

* The tradition has it that God created the whole world and had some particularly lovely bits left that he'd been loathe to put anywhere else. And so he decided to create Yorkshire as his showcase - some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world set within one county. This is a tradition held by Yorkshire folk - not that we're biased, of course!
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