A retreat on Ynys Enlli/Bardsey Island
Join us for a week’s retreat in the unique and beautiful setting of Bardsey Island. Bardsey (or Ynys Enlli) lies two miles off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, and has been an ancient religious site from the 6th century onwards. In medieval times an Augustinian Abbey there became the end point for thousands making pilgrimages across North Wales. By papal declaration, three pilgrimages to Bardsey were the equivalent of one to Rome. It is said that 20,000 saints are buried on the island. Until a hundred years or so ago the island had a population of up to 200 and several farms. Now there are only a handful of permanent residents, but many people still make the journey there to stay for a week – some just to relax, some to watch the many and rare birds (the island is a Bird Observatory and SSSI), some to read or write or paint or make music, and others more deliberately to make a retreat. These days the island is very carefully managed by Ymddiriedolaeth Ynys Enlli/The Bardsey Island Trust.
The early monastic island dwellers believed that nothing was secular because everything was sacred: nothing is outside God’s love and grace. They believed that the presence of God infuses daily life and thus transforms it, so that any moment, any relationship, any object, any job of work, can become an encounter with God. They focussed on the seeking of God who is ‘the one thing necessary’ – the very foundation of life. Our hope is that a week spent on Bardsey in this way will underscore this foundation in us and help us, once back on the mainland, to refocus our daily lives accordingly.
This structured retreat will be spent mostly in silence to help us engage more deeply with the inherent holiness of the island, but there will be opportunities in the evening for shared conversation for those who wish. There will be a daily input from one of the island’s chaplains on themes from Celtic spirituality, shared morning and evening prayer in the 19th century chapel, and one-to-one spiritual accompaniment will be offered. Living a simplified life for a week on the island will connect us to the spirituality of the island - a spirituality earthed in the ordinary, but amid great beauty and (sometimes) quite harsh weather.
The accommodation, though comfortable and hygienic, is fairly basic. The properties are solidly built with single or shared bedrooms, drinking water comes from the island’s spring and is boiled and filtered, personal washing is from a bowl, and the toilets are located in small sheds in the gardens. Meals will be provided but catering for complex dietary needs may not be possible, although please ask. You will need to bring plenty of warm and waterproof clothing, and foot-ware suitable for rough ground. Access to the island is via a short boat crossing of approximately 20 minutes from Porth Meudwy, near Aberdaron. There is no transport on the island apart from farm vehicles so retreatants will need a moderate level of fitness with the ability both to walk approximately 3/4 mile from the landing place to the accommodation as well as to wander around the island on sometimes sloping and uneven tracks.
If you are excited by all this, please make an initial enquiry about this retreat by completing the St Beuno's retreat application form. We are assuming rooms with single occupancy but please indicate if you would be prepared to share. Please return forms to [email protected]
Once we receive your application we will be in touch with further details to help you decide finally if this is the right retreat for you.
Canon Adrian Botwright, speaker and island chaplain
Alice Keenleyside, spiritual companion, offering one to one accompaniment in the tradition of St Beuno’s