Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

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

May 8-14, 2022 | 6 days / 6 nights | FULL (contact us to be added to the waiting list)

limited to 18 participants maximum

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.
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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.

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What’s Included

  • 6 nights lodging at Kilmurvey House B&B on Inismor with a delicious hearty breakfast included each morning.
  • A lovely two-course dinner each night provided by Treasa at Kilmurvey House.
  • Private van transport for our group from Galway City (Eyre Square) to and from the ferry and on the island when needed.
  • Round-trip ferry to Inismor.
  • Our amazing guides Dara Molloy and Deirdre Ni Chinneide.
  • Immersion in some of our favorite holy places on this sacred island, rich in story and inspiration, with time for silence, writing, ritual, poems, song, and reflection. These wild landscapes are known for their elemental and transformative effect on the human imagination.
  • Daily gatherings at the start of each day for writing, poetry, song, reflection, sharing of the pilgrim and writer’s way, and mutual discovery.
  • A fabulous community of fellow monks, pilgrims, and writers.
  • Option to join a secret Facebook group just for Abbey pilgrims.
  • A list of suggested books.

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”


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Book of Days

subject to modifications and inspirations as needed due to weather, etc.

Day 1: May 8, 2022 | Thin Places and Time

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. 

Day 2: May 9, 2022 | Writing as Peregrinatio

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.

Day 3: May 10, 2022 | Inner and Outer Landscape

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

Day 4: May 11, 2022 | Drawing from the Inner Well

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.

Day 5: May 12, 2022 | Embracing the Gifts of Silence

We follow our “island rhythm.” We will have some extended time for silence this morning and afternoon.

Day 6: May 13, 2022 | Sacred Rhythms and Seasons

We follow our “island rhythm” and have a closing ritual in the late afternoon.

Day 7: May 14, 2022 | Returning Home Again

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.

Departure: 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.

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Praise for the Journey

Christine & John, no words can get close enough to the gratitude I want to express for all your gifts. The gift of your bravery of your journey to Ireland, of following your path that you knew not where it was taking you, and the gift of creating the beautiful spaces where you gather us, in the beauty of landscape, poetry, and the spirit of life truly lived. Wow! You are amazing!! We are so very lucky to have you!

Thank you all for your beautiful company and conversations, for your laughter and kindness, and for sharing with me your beautiful thoughts, that made music of your voice as it spilled out into words on pages. It is funny being back in what we call ‘normal’ life. What do we do with the wondrous experience we have had, and now knowing that there is inside each of us a voice that is the one that we would all like to hear more of, most particularly ourselves?! —Christine Adams

A friend asked me if the experience had met my expectations. My response—everything exceeded them! From experiencing Illuminating the Way, I knew Christine was going to be an inspirational leader, but I could not anticipate how powerful her writing prompts would be and how effectively she would integrate music, movement, and writing into our experiences. Her encouraging smile and joyful laugh encouraged participation. John, you and Christine make such a fantastic team. It was beyond my imagination to conceive of the group that would assemble to share this experience. I was inspired by all of you; your writing and reflection touched a depth in me that’s difficult to express. The groups acceptance of each member was beautiful. —Lucy Wilson

I loved the retreat, loved everything about it. Thank you so much for your vision and the community you created. I met many kindred spirits and I feel I have many new friends. —Mia Rosenfeld

I wouldn’t change a thing on this pilgrimage.  You and John have put together a wonderful, challenging, spiritually fulfilling package.  I will recommend it to others and hopefully be joining y’all on future pilgrimages! —Randy Pierce

The content, your topics, questions and readings all facilitated the container necessary for the transformative work of the Spirit. The rhythm of writing, movement and venturing into the sacred landscape met me in the tender points ready for growth. Both the writing sessions and movement stretched my intuitive self, as I knew it would. We answer the call to journey, leaving the known into a season where we lose sure footing, the door swings wide open for transformation. We loved all three pilgrim guides. Thanks for your investment of time and soul in both the preparation and leading of this pilgrimage. I pray you and John will be blessed a hundredfold in return. —Rev. Don and Charlotte Ferris, Directors, Eagle’s Wings Ministries

Thanks for your generosity and your spirit, the retreat was just what I needed to move into retirement.  I completed a number of drafts of new poems, so I feel the writing portion was very well-done.  I especially enjoyed the questions you put forward as prompts and using poems to respond to with more writing. I loved the trip! —Nita Penfold

Thank you for a well-organized program. You led us in very thoughtful exercises.  I loved all the poems you chose, and the forms you had us write in.  And what wonderful guides you brought us–Dara, Pius, Deirdre and Michael.  They were all remarkable for their knowledge of their subjects, and their gift for engaging us in their stories and music.  All the places we stayed were delightful.  I loved the Galley, monastic benches notwithstanding.  Caroline’s warmth and great cooking more than compensated. Irish food everywhere was so much better than I remembered from so long ago. —Eileen Harakal

Our time on the islands continues to spiral out in me.  The spaciousness of pilgrimage infused the week’s walking and writing.  My hiking heart was happy.  My writing soul was engaged.  This pilgrimage time is by no means over for me.  I am very grateful for these island days. —Martha Brunell

Our pilgrimage was organized so well that we could surrender any worries about details and simply live the journey!  And what a journey it was!  I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it.  I appreciated the balance of more sedentary writing sessions with the active hikes.  I loved the prowess with which you wove the story of St. Brendan throughout our writing sessions.  It was wonderful to experience creative writing as a place of self-discovery,  with parallels with some of the visual arts that I’ve loved.  The exposure to several Celtic poets was inspiring and contributed to whole cultural/spiritual experience.  Music is a powerful medium for me as well.  I fully enjoyed all of the chants that you taught us and found myself still singing them long after the sessions were done. —Janet Scott

The rhythm of the morning writing session, afternoon personal time and late afternoon writing/hiking/music was a gift. The collaboration with locals such as Pius, Dara, Michael and Deirdre was a particular blessing of the retreat.  The combination of you and John as leaders, augmented by the knowledge and experience of local people, was extremely enriching. Thank you again so much for a wonderful week.  It was such a blessing for me, and hopefully for those with whom I live and minister to. —Anne Wicks

Writing takes two kinds of effort:  there is the creative flow of ideas and there is the careful editing for clarity, spelling, grammar, etc.  The type of exercises that Christine led us in during the Writing at the Wild Edges Retreat, encouraged the creative flow.  We had a couple of rules about this sharing.  One was – “No disclaimers.”  This meant that you couldn’t start by saying something like “I really don’t like this, but ….”  Despite this rule, one person started his sharing with the statement “I’m not really a writer, but …”  Of course, he went on to read something absolutely wonderful that he had written.  Christine then asked him, “Did you write that?”  When he responded in the affirmative she simply said, “Then you are a writer.”   It’s because of this type of affirmation that I really enjoyed the writing exercises.  They not only helped me get my creative energies flowing, but they also helped me claim my identity as a writer. —Carol Everson

I had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat. You have given me a desire and passion for Ireland in all that you showed and presented. —Nina Dykstra

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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 Monks, read 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. We know sometimes life intervenes and cancellations happen. Please be clear on our cancellation policy. But also please be clear on your commitment to this experience.

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Pilgrimage Fee

Single Room


priced per person

Double Room


priced per person

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.
Pay your nonrefundable €600 deposit and register

Balance of Payment Due Dates:
  • November 8, 2022 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.

  • 6 nights single room (unless double option is chosen with partner/friend)
  • daily breakfast
  • 6 dinners
  • all transportation during the pilgrimage including ferries and private van transport from Galway City Centre
  • guide fees
  • travel to get to and from Galway City
  • trip insurance (required)
  • beverages
  • gratuities for meals on your own
  • all lunches

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.

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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.

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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.

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Policies and FAQs

Which B&Bs are we staying in?

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

What is the weather like?

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.

What is included with the meals?

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.

What payment forms do you accept?

You can pay by credit card, cheque, 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.

What happens if I have to cancel my participation?

The €600 deposit/admin fee secures your space in this small pilgrimage/writing retreat and is nonrefundable. The balance of the program fee is due by the dates mentioned above and is non refundable after that time. There are no exceptions to the refund policy.

We require that you obtain travel insurance to cover financial losses from any personal emergencies or other events which require your cancellation.

What happens if the organizers have to cancel the pilgrimage?

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. 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.

What is the schedule of the day like?

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.

Will you match me with a roommate?

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.

How much walking is there?

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.

How do I best prepare for this time?

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.

Can you suggest some additional places to visit in Ireland?

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.

What is the best way to get to Galway City?

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.

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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.

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Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE 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.

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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.

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