Solus Or is a writing retreat established by Helen and Mike Walters in the Scottish Highlands. Helen is a well-known short-story writer, columnist and tutor, who has contributed regular columns to Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum. Mike is better known as the crime-writer Alex Walters and is the author of ten published novels.
The retreat is based in our home in the Black Isle in the Highlands, set in a spectacular location with views over the Cromarty Firth and Ben Wyvis. It's a tranquil spot but also very accessible - close to Inverness Airport (with flights to many UK airports), Inverness and Dingwall railway stations (with the Caledonian Sleeper running from London to Inverness), and the A9 and North Coast 500 . We can arrange transport from the airport or stations.
We currently have five well-appointed retreat rooms, all of which have either en-suite facilities or an immediately adjacent bathroom. All our retreat rooms have private balconies which offer the same views out over Cromarty Firth and the mountains. From Spring 2019 we'll also have a self-contained flat available (with bedroom, sitting/writing room, kitchenette and shower room) for those seeking a more independent retreat - more details soon.
We have extensive and private gardens for those seeking inspiration outdoors and, if you’re looking to relax after a long day’s writing, we even have a sauna and steam shower.
We run a mix of scheduled taught/structured retreats (led by ourselves and guest tutors), private group retreats, and individual retreats. If you wish to visit with a group of friends or colleagues or simply come by yourself, we’ll be happy to accommodate your needs. All retreats will be fully catered to enable you to give maximum focus to your writing.
Our retreat rooms are all themed around famous authors - some Scottish, some less so. We can offer you the choice of the Brontë room, the Conan Doyle room, the Robert Louis Stevenson room, the John Buchan room or the Agatha Christie room. Three of the rooms have en-suite facilities, while the other two have an immediate adjacent bathroom.
We have a schedule of taught retreats over the year, led by Helen, Mike and a range of invited guest tutors. These are typically structured to offer a mix of taught input, one to one critiques and feedback, and free writing time.
If you'd like to come and use our facilities with a group of fellow writers, we'll be delighted to accommodate you. We can provide all catering, leaving you free to write, share ideas or simply socialise. Retreats can be as long or short as you wish, and we're happy to be flexible to meet your needs. We can also design customised taught retreats if the group has a particular interest or focus.
If you wish to come by yourself just to get away and write, we can accommodate you for as long (or short) as you wish. We can provide the catering you require to focus on your writing, privacy when you want it, and some sociability when you don't! If you'd like feedback or input on your work or to discuss writing issues, we'll be happy to help.
For private individual or group retreats, we charge £100 pppn for the en-suite rooms and £90pppn for rooms without en-suite facilities. This is based on single occupancy (although three of our rooms are doubles).
Taught retreats are priced as a package, depending on the nature and length of the retreat.
We can offer discounts for longer stays, double occupancy or for larger group retreats.
We normally ask for a 10% deposit to secure the booking, with the balance payable two weeks before arrival.
For all individual, group and taught retreats, we provide full-board catering including:
Breakfast - with the Full Scottish available along with a good selection of cereals, porridge, fruits and pastries
Lunch - typically home-made soup and a selection of savouries, cheese and cold meats
Dinner - a three course meal to suit participants' dietary requirements and preferences.
We aim to provide high quality home cooking, using local produce where possible to take full advantage of our Highland location.
We can accommodate most dietary requirements if you advise us in advance.
Our retreat rooms all have tea and coffee making facilities, with tea, fresh and instant coffee, fresh milk, biscuits and a few surprises.
Our bathrooms and shower rooms are stocked with a good selection of toiletries, fluffy towels, and some rogue rubber ducks.
We offer free wifi throughout the house (though happy to withhold the password if you want to avoid distractions!).
The retreat rooms each contain a well-stocked bookshelf including books by and about the themed author as well as a selection of general fiction, and there are innumerable books scattered around the rest of the house. You're welcome to borrow and read any of our books, and we're happy to sell many of them for a nominal amount if you'd like to take them away - please just ask us!
Guests are free to make use of our extensive gardens to work, relax or just take a walk. At the front, we have a furnished decking area and lawn offering views over Cromarty Firth and Ben Wyvis. At the rear, there is a a large, secluded wooded area. In the summer, we can take advantage of the outdoor areas as teaching or writing spaces.
At the end (or the beginning) of a long day's writing, you can also make use of our sauna and steam shower for additional relaxation. Oh, and our three cats are also available for therapeutic cuddling!
TAUGHT RETREATS 2019
READING AND WRITING GHOST STORIES
25-27 October 2019
In the run up to Halloween we're getting spooky at Solus Or. Join us for a weekend of reading and writing ghost stories in the comfort of our cosy fully-catered retreat as we read a selection of scary tales, both classic and contemporary. We'll discuss why they work and why ghost stories are so popular. Then we'll have a go at writing our own. We'll look at: different sorts of ghost; how do we know what sort of ghost story we're writing and how do we make our reader feel the fear. Come and join us if you're in the mood for thrills and spills, things that go bump in the night and some Halloween themed food.
The retreat will be led by Helen and Mike Walters. Helen has had hundreds of short stories published by a range of women's magazines and has also contributed articles and columns to both Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum. She currently writes the monthly short story master class for Writing Magazine. Helen is an experienced teacher, having taught for Northamptonshire County Council Adult Education, West Dean College and Denman College amongst others. As Alex Walters, Mike is the author of ten novels with three series published by Quercus, Harper-Collins and Bloodhound Books, as well as the paranormal crime fiction series featuring DCI Kenny Murrain.
The price of the retreat is £250 for an en-suite room or £220 for a room without en-suite facilities. Participants can arrive any time in the afternoon of 25 October and the retreat will run until the afternoon of 27 October. The price includes, as well as all tutoring and feedback, two nights' accommodation, full board catering (as described in What's Included) from dinner on the Friday evening to lunch on the Sunday, and all our usual retreat facilities. If you'd prefer also to stay over on the Sunday evening, we can offer this for an additional £45 including dinner and breakfast. If you're interested in attending, please contact us by e-mail, phone or the form below to make a booking or obtain further details (please note that, unfortunately, we are unable to take on-line bookings for taught retreats).
TAUGHT RETREATS 2020
OUR GUESTS SAY...
“A fantastic atmospheric and beautiful setting totally conducive to firing the imagination to produce the best written/creative work”