On a glorious day under an azure blue sky, international participants at this year’s ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ from Australia, England and the United States breathed in pure Atlantic air on the open deck of a traditional fishing boat headed for one of Donegal’s most enchanting islands.
Gola (also known as Gabhla) is a picturesque pastiche of bare, rugged rock carved by wind and rain into a thousand shapes and sizes and verdant green pastures embroidered with winding, pebble-strewn pathways along which sheep and deer meander leisurely.
A mere 20-minute boat ride off the northwest coast, it encapsulates what life was like in a rural Ireland of long ago. While Gola was abandoned in the 1950s, many of the people born there have recently returned to rebuild their family homes and rekindle warm memories lost in the rubble. On a particular day each year, an historical tour takes place led by these very people who paint with words what it was like to live and grow up there.
Participants on the writing retreat, the only one in Ireland located right on the beautifulWild Atlantic Way, were bound for the island not just to learn about its intriguing history – including how galleons of the Spanish Armada, loaded with treasures, sank there and thus how Robert Louis Stevenson may have been inspired to write his class novel, ‘Treasure Island’ – but to pen their first creative story of the week-long retreat: to write about whatever they wished as long as it was stimulated by what they saw and experienced on that particular day, on that particular trip.
So inspiring was ‘the Gola Island Experience’ that – seated together in warm sunshine upon a clutch of seashore rocks gazing out at the broad Atlantic – one participant spontaneously produced her ornate deck of Tarot cards and gave everyone an expert reading.
That evening, gathered around an open fireplace in the cozy comfort of the retreat’s location, the boutique countryside hotel, Teac Jack in the heart of the gorgeous Irish-speaking Gaeltacht of west Donegal, participants – nurses, IT specialists and teachers – reminisced about their experiences, then dispersed to the quiet of their rooms and their heightened imaginations to write their stories before next day’s deadline, keen to have their work appraised by accomplished published authors invited to the retreat specifically for this purpose.
If you’d like to explore your creative writing talents and enjoy experiences like the one described above, this is how you can join us. Register here.