Writing on the Wild Edges of the World: A Creative Pilgrimage & Retreat in Ireland

with Christine Valters Paintner, PhD and John Valters Paintner, MTS

May 8-14, 2022 | 6 days / 6 nights

This retreat is FULL. Please email to be added to our waiting list. 

limited to 18 participants maximum

Program Overview

Please join us for a journey to the far west of Ireland where we find many small islands off the coast of Connemara. The ancient monks were drawn to these island places as they sought out the wild edges of the world to imitate the desert mothers and fathers. St. Columbanus called his monks “inhabitants of the world’s edge.” The wild edges were an outer place reflecting an inner longing to move past all that is safe and confined. The writing life offers us a similar call.

Our time together will be part writing retreat and part pilgrimage. We will be spending our time Inismor, the largest of the Aran Islands, and a place of rich monastic history and wild beauty.

We will explore the sacred ruins of monasteries from the time when monasticism flourished in Ireland. These ruins are holy witnesses and holders of hundreds of years of prayer. In these places we will imagine the monks’ lives and longing, we will sing together, read poems aloud, walk the rounds sunwise in harmony with cosmic forces, simply be present in silence, and write the words that rise up in response. These places will become our muse.

The Celtic monks were also known for their creative outpouring, the countless hours spent illuminating manuscripts so that sacred texts would be preserved, while ornamenting them to reflect their beauty. The spirituality of this tradition also nourishes our own creative hearts, calling us to threshold places within where the written word comes alive. Writing can take us to our own wild edges – where we claim space to dive into our creative hearts and encounter the call to bring forth beauty into the world.

There will be time for writing, wandering, pondering, being and an emphasis on generating new writing.

In the morning writing sessions we draw on various themes from Celtic monastic spirituality to inspire us. We will explore uncensored writing to break open the connection to our intuitive and wild selves, we discover new dreams and longings which have been carefully submerged. We explore the joy of the process of writing itself as a journey of discovery. Through structured poetry exercises, we begin to give shape to these visions and longings, responding to the call of sparseness which poetry demands. When we write poems we have to write the essence of things and so also discover what is essential to us. We will have the opportunity to read aloud our work in partners and small groups.

We will be entering this time as pilgrims who take a journey into strange lands to shake loose our expectations and assumptions, so we might see the world with more freshness, we might peer beneath the dull surface of the ordinary to discover a new aliveness and the sacred in all things. We will approach writing as a spiritual practice.

The rhythm of our day will be shaped by ancient monastic wisdom, a rhythm which has nourished the creative flourishing of monks for generations. Held by the sacred rhythms and the landscape, we will ponder the ways dwelling on the physical edges calls us to soul edges as well.

Our base for the retreat will be the island of Inismor, reached by ferry from the village of Rossaveal in the south of Connemara. We will have time to sink into island rhythms.

Open to writers of any genre. Writing exercises are meant to be generative of new ideas and visions and explore what it means for you to write. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer” but the description above stirs a longing in you, know that you are welcome to join us.

What's Included

Rain and sunlight and the boat between then Shifted whole hillsides through the afternoon - Quiet variations on an urgent theme Reminding me now that we left too soon The island awash in wave and anthem. Miles from the brimming enclave of the bay I hear again the Atlantic's voices, The gulls above us as we pulled away - So munificent their final noises These are the broadcasts from our holiday.

Michael Longley, excerpt from "Leaving Inishmore"

Book of Days

*Subject to modifications and inspirations as needed due to weather, etc.

Arrival in Galway City and travel to the island of Inismor 

Our pilgrim group first gathers in Galway City at 4:00 p.m., near Eyre Square and the docks, to catch our private van out to Rossaveal where we take the evening ferry to the island of Inismor. We will be staying at Kilmurvey House for our retreat which is out near Dun Aenghus, an ancient fort. We arrive around 7:30 for a welcome dinner and evening orientation. 

We begin our “island rhythm.” Each day on this retreat we follow a similar cycle of hours: 8-9 Breakfast | 9-12 Morning Writing Session | 12-4 Afternoon free to eat lunch, write at your own pace, explore the island further, take long naps | 4-7 Guided Walk or Session | 7-8:30 Dinner. Our late afternoon session will be a guided walk with Dara Malloy to a monastic beehive hut.

We follow our “island rhythm.” Our late afternoon session will be with musician and spiritual guide Deirdre Ni Chinneide.

We follow our “island rhythm” and in the afternoon session you will have the opportunity to visit a holy well on the island with time for writing.

We follow our “island rhythm.” We will have some extended time for silence this morning and afternoon.
We follow our “island rhythm” and have a closing ritual in the late afternoon.

We depart on the morning ferry from Inismor back to the village of Rossaveal, and then catch a private van back to Galway city where we arrive by 11:00 a.m. which completes our time together.

Please allow another 2-3 hours of travel time if you are heading to the airport (Shannon airport takes an hour and 45 minutes and Dublin airport takes 3 hours by bus). More details on airport transfers will be provided.

Praise for the Journey

Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE​

Christine is the online abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a global community serving thousands of monks, artists, and mystics who are hungry to integrate contemplative practice and creative expression. Christine is also the author of eleven nonfiction books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet who has been published in several journals. She has lived on the wild west coast of Ireland for the last five years, falling always more in love with the place. Her forthcoming book The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seekers of the Sacred is being published by Ave Maria Press in September 2018.  You can find out more about Christine here or see more of the books she has written here.

John Valters Paintner, MTS

John studied education and earned a teaching certificate in his home state of California.  John later went on to earn a Masters in Theological Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.  After working in parish ministry for several years, John returned to the classroom, teaching high school religion with a focus on the Hebrew Scriptures for twelve years.  After a sabbatical year abroad, John now works as Prior of the Abbey of the Arts along side his wife of twenty years, Abbess Christine, living together in Galway, Ireland. Visit the “About John” page for more information.

Choose with Discernment

We want your pilgrimage experience to be soulfully enriching, stretching and challenging in the best ways, radically hospitable, inspiring, and wildly supportive of where you are. If you’re not sure if this program is right for you or your fit with Abbey of the Arts please be sure to review everything here carefully, read more about the Abbeyabout Christine and John, about the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monkssubscribe to our email newsletterread one of Christine’s books, and if you feel a YES rising up within we eagerly welcome you to join us!

If you still have questions please get in touch by email

When you register you are making a commitment both to yourself as well as to us and the community that forms. We limit participants to a small intimate group, so dropping out affects the group experience and us as small business owners. We know sometimes life intervenes and cancellations happen. Please be clear on our cancellation policy. We are not able to refund the deposit which holds your space, there are no exceptions. But also please be clear on your commitment to this experience.

Pilgrimage Fee

We offer a €100 discount off your final program payment for previous pilgrimage participants. Please let us know if you qualify for this discount on the registration form.


Single Room
Not Included


Double Room
Not Included

Breakfasts and dinners will be at the B&Bs where we are staying. Please note that lunches are not included. There is a cafe just adjacent to the B&B on Inismor for lovely and inexpensive lunches.

Pay your nonrefundable €600 deposit and register
Balance of Payment Due Dates
  • November 8, 2021 for the May 8-14, 2022 dates
  • There are no refunds of the final payment after these due dates. Please purchase travel insurance to protect against emergency situations.

You will receive a reminder by email for the final pilgrimage payment along with an invoice for payment. Payment can also be made by bank transfer or cheque drawn on USD$ or Euros. Please contact us for details.

Registration deadline & final balance is due by November 8, 2021


Steps to Register

1. Please read through this entire page including Policies and FAQs (below) and contact us with any questions or concerns.

2. Go to the Ireland Pilgrimage Registration page, fill out the requested details and submit payment for your deposit.

3. Sign the Terms and Conditions (click the link to preview them, you will be asked to sign them electronically once your deposit and registration form are completed.) Paying your deposit implies consent to these and all the information on this page.

5. Purchase travel insurance to include trip cancellation (“cancel for any reason” highly recommended), repatriation of remainsmedical, and loss of property. We recommend purchasing as soon as you make the deposit. While we can’t make recommendations for specific travel insurance providers, this website can be helpful in comparing different options.

Policies and FAQs

If you are not from Ireland, you will need a passport to travel to Ireland. U.S. citizens can visit for up to 3 months on an automatic travel visa. EU citizens can enter visa-free. Citizens of other countries should check with your local Irish embassy.

This pilgrimage will require some hiking and walking over uneven terrain, rough and muddy ground, and climbing over stone stairs. Pack sturdy shoes/hiking boots and clothing suitable for both cool and warm temperatures, and rainy weather. Rain trousers and a good rain jacket are both essential for comfort.

We will also be traveling by ferry twice (about 45 minutes each way). If you tend to get very seasick, this might not be the best trip for you. In general the ferry rides are pretty smooth, but high winds can bring rougher seas.

On Inismor we are staying in Kilmurvey House. B&B rooms are all en suite.

Bring layers to wear. Ireland is often rainy and cool, even in the summer, but we can also have sunny and warm days. Umbrellas are often useless in the wind, so best to have a good rain jacket, rain trousers, and waterproof boots (we highly recommend all three). It is a temperate climate and rarely gets very hot or very cold (although the damp and wind can make it feel colder). We also recommend a hiking stick to help navigate uneven ground.

Breakfasts and dinners will be at the B&Bs where we are staying from a set group menu. Lunches will be on our own (cafe right next door to the B&B). Your dinner includes an appetizer, main course/entree, and dessert. Beverages are an additional cost. Pitchers of water will be provided to the table.

You can pay by credit cardcheque, or bank transfer (we will send details upon request).  If you would prefer to pay the amount in USD$, please let us know and we will send you the exchange amount and instructions.

The €600 deposit is an administrative fee that secures your space in this small pilgrimage and is nonrefundable. There are no exceptions to the refund policy.The balance of the program fee is due six months prior to the program and is nonrefundable after that time.

As mentioned above, we require that you obtain travel insurance to cover financial losses from any personal emergencies or other events which require your cancellation. For the best coverage, we highly recommended you purchase insurance at the time of making your deposit (often preexisting conditions are only covered if insurance is purchased within a few days of making the first trip payment). You are responsible for reading your policy and understanding what it covers.

If there is an emergency which prevents Christine and/or John from leading the experience, all of your pilgrimage fees paid will be refunded except for the initial deposit, or you can transfer your full payment to a future date. If it is due to the pandemic we will postpone the program until the following year and offer the option of rescheduling or a refund. 100 euros of this refund will be in the form of program credit for any online or live program we offer due to the many nonrefundable expenses we incur. We are also not responsible for any other losses, including your travel expenses which you may incur due to this cancellation. We require that you obtain travel insurance at the time of your booking confirmation to cover this possibility.

See the itinerary above for the “island rhythm” of days. We aim to provide rich content and inspiration, while also allowing time and space for your own rhythm to unfold.

On our group outings we will be visiting different sites on the islands, you should be able to walk 3-4 miles comfortably at a moderate pace over uneven and muddy ground, as well as climb over things if needed like stone steps and short walls.

Everyone who participates will have a single room with their own bathroom, unless you are travelling with a friend or partner, in which case you can share a double room for a reduced program fee. We do not match participants with other roommates.

Once you say yes, the pilgrimage has already begun! Pay attention to the dreams of your waking and sleeping life in the coming months to see what is being stirred. Christine and John will be sending some suggested reading and reflection.

Absolutely, we are happy to recommend several other key monastic sites for you to visit before and/or after your pilgrimage. This will be sent with your orientation materials.

You can arrive either to Shannon airport to the south (bus runs every hour and takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Galway ) or Dublin airport to the east(at peak hours buses run every half hour and take 3 hours to reach Galway). The buses from both locations are direct to the city center. Galway is served by several bus and train lines. The coach and train station is about a 15-minute walk or short taxi ride away from your lodging. More specific travel directions will be sent after registration. Please allow an additional 2-3 hours travel time to get from the airports to Galway city.

Travel to Galway City is not included in your pilgrimage fee. We recommend adding on a few days in Galway on either end of your pilgrimage if time allows.

Carbon Offsets and Travel

Travel has a significant impact on the environment but we also know that travelling with intention as a pilgrim can expand our hearts to ourselves and others in ways that are much needed in our world. The world needs more pilgrims and fewer tourists.

We invite you to be mindful when travelling, and consider taking public transport when you arrive to a country rather than rent a car if possible, and travel by train or public bus if you are going between countries rather than flying.

Abbey of the Arts has made a commitment to contribute a portion of the fees from our pilgrimages and live retreats to carbon offsetting companies that have been certified by third party organizations for their effectiveness. This is in addition to our Earth Monastery work to help nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness, as well as limiting the number of live programs we offer and our own air travel as much as possible. We believe Earth is our original monastery, the source of our contemplative wisdom and creative inspiration. In 2021 and 2022 we have chosen three companies to support. You are invited to consider making an additional contribution yourself if you are able.

Earth is our original monastery. Our original cathedral. And our original scripture, saints, spiritual director, icon, sacrament, and liturgy.

Christine Valters Paintner
Carbon Offset Resources