4:40 AM 16th October 2021
Relax And Write40+ blogger Claire Marie tries out a writers retreat in stunning Middleham, North Yorkshire.
With family commitments and a busy fulltime job, it can sometimes feel like a struggle to fit my blog and other writing commitments into daily life. I think when the plates start spinning a little too frantically, even your hobbies and passions can start to feel transactional, which is a real shame when something brings you so much enjoyment.
Realising that a little time to myself was well overdue and uncomfortable with the hassle a lengthier journey would no doubt entail, I decided to treat myself to a five-day break with a twist. While Writers Retreat UK certainly does what it says on the tin, the format is unfussy and flexible, leaving you with time to relax and write.
Arrival at Middleham House was a treat in itself – this charming 18th century Georgian manor is crammed with original features and quirks and is set in beautiful grounds while still being just steps away from the main square and wonderful castle (let’s face it, no one can write 24x7).
From arrival to departure we were wonderfully well looked after, with a home-cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a traditional afternoon tea with scones director (and excellent host) Jan also made herself.
The formal dining room was a particular treat and was beautifully set for dinner each night, giving the writers somewhere to come together to discuss our progress over a homecooked meal and a glass of wine (a generous amount of wine is included in the price). As a group, there was a rich cross section of genres, approaches and backgrounds which meant there was always a fresh perspective and something new to learn. Elitism was notably absent too – there was a real sense of camaraderie and mutual respect.
I liked the fact that the itinerary was light touch. It was up to us if we wanted to share our work or seek advice, and it was up to us where and how we worked. Nothing was forced, which meant the conversations and opportunities to compare notes happened organically. Some writers preferred to stay in the peace and quiet of their rooms (which incidentally included a desk and even a spare laptop if requested) and others chose the squashy sofas or desks in the various communal areas.
The retreat also included an optional yoga and relaxation session and two mentoring sessions with screen writer Steven Nesbit. Down to earth and well-versed in the rollercoaster journey many creatives go on to bring their work to the world, our conversations were reassuring, realistic and practical.
The real USPs here are space, attention to detail and a genuine care for the comfort and sustenance of the writers. The absence of all the responsibilities that so often eat into our time at home to do what we love was pure bliss.
And the outcome? My time with Writers Retreat was incredibly productive, enabling me to finally make significant inroads with a book I’m working on, yet still manage to rest and reenergise in lovely surroundings. Whether you have a specific project to tackle like I did or you’re a new writer who wants the time and space to see what you’re capable of when you have nothing else to worry about, these retreats can be pretty transformative.
That said, you may need to book a fasting retreat immediately afterwards.
A massive thank you to Jan and her lovely team for looking after us so wonderfully.
You can visit Writers Retreat UK’s website https://writersretreatuk.co.uk/