Meditation Retreat Centres in the UK (Resource Page)

A few people have asked me about places to go on retreat so I thought I would compile a resource page of retreat centres in the UK that I’ve been to myself or have heard good things about from friends. I’ve also included a few links for going on solitary retreats.

Group Retreats:

Dhamma Dipa, Herefordshire

This is the very popular 10-day Vipassana silent retreat centre taught by S. N. Goenka. There are centres pretty much every where in the world and these courses are often fully booked 3 months in advanced. You have to book them like you do concert tickets. Booking opens at 8pm on a specific day and it can be fully booked in minutes. Although if you are early on the wait list it is likely you will still get a spot.

Cost: Donation (there is no pressure to donate, someone sits at a table at the end of the course and you can go up and donate if you want to)

Dhamma Dipa is in the same location as Dhamma Padhana, which is the main centre for long retreats (20-day, 30-day, 45-day and 60-day courses). Although to apply for these longer retreats you need to have sat several 10-day courses.

Samye Ling, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

The first Tibetan monastery built in the West. I went here for a shamatha retreat with Lama Alan and decided to camp because it was midsummer. Big mistake. The midges really got me despite all my compassionate wishes towards them. If you do camp, I recommend this (seriously).

The temple is very Tibetan – lots of colours, statues and thangkas. A few dozen monks and nuns live here, some might be on silent retreat while you are there but they wear something that lets you know.

Cost: Retreat teachings are by donation. Accommodation varies from £19/night (camping) to £59/night (single room).

Adhisthana, Herefordshire

This is the main retreat centre for the Triratna Buddhist movement. There are a variety of retreats offered here for people of different experience. They also do a 5/10-day winter retreat every year over the Christmas/New Year period that many friends of mine have been on. It is a stark change to spend Christmas and New Years in silence.

Under 25 and under 35 retreats are also held here and at Vajrasana. There are many centres dotted around the UK (and the world).

Cost: £25/night (concessions) to £35/night. Bursaries are available.

Amaravati Monastery, Hertfordshire

Weekend, 5-day and 10-day silent retreats are offered at this Thai Forest monastery. Again booking early is recommended and even if you are on the waiting list it is likely you will still be offered a space from people dropping out. Retreats are led by the monastic community.

You can also stay at the monastery as a guest for up to 10 days. About 3-4 hours per day of work in the morning is asked from guests. Dorm beds and two meals per day are offered. There is a great library, Amaravati woods to explore and the monastery grounds are beautiful.

Cost: Donation (a donation bowl is left at the end)

Aruna Ratanagiri, Northumberland

This monastery is in the same tradition as Amaravati. They don’t have many formal retreat courses but have the same opportunity to stay as a guest for several nights.

Holy Isle, Scotland

I have heard incredible experiences from friends who have been here. The history of how the island became a retreat island is also pretty cool.

In the early 1980s, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche was practising dream yoga during a retreat in the United States, and in his dream he visited an island… It was not until 1990 that Lama Yeshe was approached by Mrs Kay Morris, who owned Holy Isle together with her husband. Mrs Morris, a devout Catholic, had been instructed by Mother Mary in a dream to pass Holy Isle to him, to be used for peace and meditation.

There are 10 week winter retreats held here and a variety of other shorter retreats led by various teachers. The island is also known for it’s wildlife.

Cost: Varies from £22 to £55/night depending on dormitory or single rooms.

Gaia House, Devon

Gaia House was the first retreat centre I heard about. I was volunteering at a farm in the UK and this woman had just come back from a long silent retreat at Gaia House. She had a wonderful presence and I asked her what her experience was like on retreat. She shared one story where she was doing some gardening and there was another retreatant across from her who caught her eye. They ended up just eye gazing for several moments with a shared communication. The retreat was held in silence.

The centre mainly teaches Insight meditation, which Vipassana is sometimes translated as. They also offer a yearly under 25 retreat here.

Cost: £47/night (concessions) to £56/night. Young people (aged 16-25) can apply for a 75% discount

Freely Given Retreats, Devon

This one is quite close to Gaia House. Retreats are at least one week or longer and led by a variety of different teachers.

Cost: Donation (they ask for a £90 cheque to reserve your spot. This is then returned to you at the end of the retreat)

Solitary Retreats:

There is a great list of solitary retreat cabins owned by members of the Triratna community. Most are in the UK but a few in Spain and France too. Rates vary from £100-£250/week. Usually a minimum of 7 days is asked and discounts are given for longer retreats.

Marpa House in Essex also offer solitary retreats from £210-£150/week depending on how long you stay. There is the option for a full retreat where you can remain in complete solitude and meals are brought to your room or a semi-retreat where meals are taken with the community and you are invited to take part in morning/evening pujas.

Gaia House offers personal retreats from £35/night (if longer than 30 days, otherwise £44/night).

A few friends have also shared that the Krishnamurti Centre in Hampshire is a great place to go for short periods of solitude. To sit in their silent room and admire the architecture is an experience itself. Somewhat pricey with rooms from £79-£89/night.

For a cheap option, house sitting is very possible, and choices are abundant thanks to the internet. Most of my own solitary retreats were done in friend’s houses when they were away.

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