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As some of you know Fraoch is the Irish word for Heather. A flower which is known as a symbol of good luck and for it’s healing properties. So it is no surprise the that artist Fiona Hallinhan and yoga teacher/philosophy lecturer Luna Dolezal named their seasonal getaways Fraoch Retreats as they offer welcoming weekends which are healing to body, mind and soul. I have wanted to go on a Fraoch Retreat for a number of years now and was delighted to get the opportunity to do so this year as we transitioned from 2016 to 2017. One of the most wonderful things about Fraoch is how unique it is, there is nothing out there quite like it.  It Is a combination of yoga, creativity, delicious food, togetherness, warmth and a little bit of magic.  I created a little photo story of the experience to explain what words could not…

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The Inn to the West

This New Year’s retreat was held in the beautiful The Inn to The West in Clifden, Connemara, a lovely combination of contemporary and traditional Irish hospitality housed in a charming stone building with modern facilities and fun decor. Your every comfort is catered for at The Inn, there’s the welcoming owner Lucy Jackson, big bedrooms that have the softest cotton sheets, amazing power showers and even a bath in every room – perfect for warming up after a trip out into the often wild Connemara weather. The heart of The Inn has a lovely living room with a bookshelf full of amazing books and cosy armchairs beside a roaring stove. There’s also a flower-filled conservatory which is a sun trap on warmer days –  all making it a perfect place to wind down and relax.

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A Cup of Ideas

The retreat has some really personal touches which make you feel very welcome from something as simple as having a an unlimited selection of herbal teas and coffees to hand for  everyone to enjoy, as well as having your own personal cup (and handmade label) to ensure you keep your special cup over the weekend! This made the tea and coffee zone a fun hang out spot. I liked how everyone personalised their label differently, see picture above.

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Feast of Plenty

Dinners at Fraoch are a feast for the mind, body and spirit. Fiona and her team create delicious and nutritious vegetarian food prepared and served in artful ways. From rainbow vegetarian Pad Thai to South Indian curry for supper to warming porridge, avocado toasts and poached eggs and kale for breakfast, to delicious (yet nutritious) desserts from grapefruit and hot orange with lemon and tumeric cake to chocolate and cashew brownies.

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Artful Arrangements

And that brings me to the flowers, for every meal, every table was strewn with the prettiest in season arrangements and with trailing ivy and little bud vases filled with seasonal leaves and pretty things nature provides at this time of year.

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Restorative Yoga

Yoga was led daily by Luna in a calming, fun environment. The Inn to the West’s living room and stove sent rays of warmth over us all during our practice. There was a 2 hour session in the morning and the evening. I tried partner yoga for the first time which was a really fun thing to do and a definite ice-breaker, what’s left to be awkward about when have lain across someones back earlier on that day?

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Diamond Hill was a girl’s best friend

This picture quite literally shows the road to 2017! On the first day of the retreat we all took a hike up Diamond Hill. It was a misty and crazy windy day, the ascent was steep but the way down was exhilarating, especially with those mystic views over the bay.

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Brightness in the dark

Who says January has no colour? Gorse in bloom is always a welcome, cheering sight, as seen on Diamond Hill, Connemara.

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Extra Terrestrial Bikes

The Inn to the West was a 5 minute walk from Clifden town which is full of the cutest craft shops and pubs. There is even a sweet vintage store called Love Vintage. I spotted this bike on a wall in Clifden on the way back home and it reminded me of the flying bike scene from the film ET.  I saw it as a symbol of the new year, a magical bike ride, ready to take off!?!

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Fire Whispering

New Year’s Eve celebrations took place in different parts of The Inn to the West, starting of with poppadoms and prosecco then drinks by these glorious outdoor stoves (see above). There was singing and a whispering ritual where we  danced around the fire and all sent our New Years wishes into the flames and later back inside we had a cosy-round-the fire sing song which went on into the wee hours.

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Music is everywhere

On my visit to the retreat there were lots of musical folk ready to sing, perform and entertain. It made for a lovely New Years listening and singing along too. I now have another resolution to add to my list, more singing!

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I took this group photo just before we were leaving so there are quite a lot of people missing! But you get the picture of the vibe. Thanks for making it such a fun weekend everyone!

Clockwise from left: Back Row: Jeremiah, Sam, Rob, Triona, Ronan, Aoife, Eva, Rosie, Lizzie, Daithí, Me, Michael. Bottom Row. Áine, Ronan, Sarah, Zoe.

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The Fraochers Take 2

Clockwise from left: Back Row: Jeremiah, Sam, Rob, Triona, Aoife, Eva, Rosie, Daithí, Danielle, Michael, Lucy, Ciaran. Bottom Row. Áine, Ronan, Sarah, Zoe, Fintan.

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Feeling Cosmic

On the last day of the retreat we did our final yoga practice, had a delicious brunch, packed our bags and bade farewell to each other, the drive home on a very crisp 1st of January had a sickle moon and star to navigate us back to Dublin, the retreat leaving us all feeling totally cosmic.

With thanks to Fraoch Retreats AKA Fiona Hallinhan and Luna Dolezal for a wonderful weekend. You can find out more about their upcoming Fraoch Retreats here.

And, a big thanks also to Ronan & Áine Mahon who drove me to and from the retreat, a delight to spend time getting to know you.

Namaste!

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