A Blissful Yoga Retreat in Scotland
Written by Amy Blyth
“I’ve designed this retreat to get people outdoors, back into nature and just having fun. I want to teach people how to eat healthily, move their bodies and train their minds with lots of meditation,” says 20-year-old Robin. She became the UK’s youngest yoga teacher at just 16 and also runs classes in schools and prisons near her home in Gloucestershire.
Our base for the next five days is the ACE Adventures Hideaways near Forres in Moray, which is where Robin first developed a taste for meditation and yoga. “This area has got a mixture of rivers, sea, trees, mountains and the air is so fresh, so you feel really revitalised,” she says.
Eight of us, aged from 16 to over 60, have come for the retreat from all over the UK. Aliyah, who’s returned for a second year running says: “I had such a good time last year I wanted to come back, because Robin just radiates light and happiness wherever she goes.”
Each morning begins with a yoga session in the forest or studio, accompanied by the sounds of the nearby river and whistling ospreys. Vegetarian meals are prepared in an outdoor kitchen where we eat amongst the trees, with views of golden fields. In the evenings, we gather around a campfire to meditate before retiring to our simple Bell tents, which come with cosy wood stoves and outdoor firepits.
White water rafting and meditation retreat Scotland
What makes this yoga retreat unique is that it has an adventure element: a full-day of white water rafting on the River Findhorn. “When you’re on the river,” explains Robin, “You can only ever be present and that enables people to find calm and practise what we’ve been learning on the yoga mat.”
Clad in wetsuits and lifejackets, ACE Adventures guides Andrew and Tom gave us a safety briefing before we took to the water. “The instructors were absolutely brilliant,” says Angela, who came on the retreat with her friend Sionaidh. “I felt confident with Tom, he really knew what he was doing.”
Working as a team, we mastered a forward and back paddle on a gentle stretch of the river, floating through lush birch forest, before reaching our first white water rapids. “Over left!” called Andrew, and we all threw ourselves to the side, the boat gliding over the rocks into a frothy pool, “now back to position and forward paddle.”
Gradually gaining confidence and working as a team, we navigated our way down grade three rapids with ominous names like pinball, ski-jump and sidewinder. When our raft got wedged on rocks, we bounced up and down to get it moving again. “The rafting was my favourite part, I really pushed myself to face my fears and I enjoyed the adrenaline rush,” says Aliyah.
The pinnacle of the rafting trip was an optional cliff jumping session. Standing on the edge of the rocks and peering into the dark water below gave us the perfect opportunity to practise our yoga breathing, meditation, and work up the nerve to leap into the unknown. “I found it challenging,” says Ishani, “but it felt really good getting out of my comfort zone and doing the cliff jump.”
Touring the Findhorn Foundation
We spent a more peaceful day at the nearby Findhorn Foundation, a world-famous eco-village that’s home to over 500 people. The community was founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy in 1962, who transformed the barren landscape from a caravan park into a thriving community, renowned for growing huge plants, including 40-pound cabbages.
After a relaxing yoga session in the Findhorn dance studio, we took a two-hour tour of the village. Our guide Kairo, a Findhorn resident since the 70s, showed us around the village’s 90 uniquely-designed ecological buildings. There was a tiny stone hobbit house which cost just £1,000 to build, striking wooden barrel homes and caravans that had been sustainably modified.
We toured the village’s gardens, art studios, meditation centres and saw the Universal Hall, which hosts regular music and theatre productions. To make the village even more eco-friendly and self-sufficient, it’s partially powered by wind generators and has its own biological sewage treatment plant.
Findhorn Bay lies just a few metres from the Foundation, so we headed there to end the day. “One of my favourite parts of the week was doing some yoga at sunset on the beach,” says retreat guest Andrew. “We lit a fire and toasted marshmallows, everyone just really enjoyed themselves.”
Forest walk along the Findhorn and Logie Steading
On the last full day of the retreat we took a walk from the ACE Adventures base along the River Findhorn, one of the longest rivers in Scotland. The Findhorn is also named by numerous artists as the most beautiful in the country, surrounded by unspoilt forest and bordered by granite rocks and red sandstone.
Fishermen cast their rods over the gargling river in search of salmon as we wandered along, eventually reaching historic Randolph’s Leap. Despite the name, it was actually Alexander Cummings and his men who made the leap across the river while fleeing from the 14th century Earl of Moray, Thomas Randolph. Although the men hid in a cave nearby, they were caught and killed, their daring jump renamed ‘Randolph’s Leap’.
Continuing along the river, we reached Logie Steading, originally a 1920s model farm, which boasts a collection of sandstone buildings including a café, shops and interpretation centre where you can learn about the history of the Findhorn area.
Final thoughts on the wellness retreat Scotland
After a final morning yoga session, we walked to a nearby waterfall. “This is where I first got into meditation and yoga when I was 12 years old,” says Robin, “when I was a stressed teen and my Dad suggested I go to the river every morning and meditate. That experience has unfolded this enjoyable life and that’s why I have so much joy in sharing yoga – it’s the best job!”
As we watched the water tumble over the falls, we reflected on our yoga Scotland experience. Ruby, who came on the retreat to relax before returning to school, says: “My favourite part of the retreat has been meeting different people and I’ve learned things I wasn’t expecting to. I liked the yoga nidra, which is like a meditation but deeper and guided by Robin.”
Angela says: “Come on the yoga retreat if you’re looking for adventure, I found it really liberating and loved having completely new experiences, like rafting.” Andrew agrees: “In three words, I’d say the retreat was exciting, memorable and rejuvenating. Robin brings a lot of maturity to her teaching as well as youthful energy. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves the outdoors and adventure.”
Fancy joining a yoga retreat at ACE Adventures? Find out more about yoga breaks in Scotland, including dates for upcoming retreats, prices and programme details here.