I have been seeing posts about Michaels new venture and asked him to do a piece for my blog explaining the reasoning behind his Retreat....
SOLUS OR WRITING RETREAT
Crime writer Alex Walters discusses his latest venture…
If anyone wants to know why we decided to move to the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands – well, you really only have to look at the view we now have from the living room…
There was a little more to it than that, of course. I was looking to scale back my other work to focus primarily on my writing, and my wife Helen and I both felt it was time to do something new. Our youngest son was about to head off to university, so we finally had the freedom to go wherever we wanted. And we both knew that that meant the north of Scotland.
I'd been coming to the Highlands since I was a child, and in recent years we'd been spending increasing amount of time as a family in the Black Isle, north of Inverness. For those who don't know the Black Isle, it's neither an isle (it's a peninsular, surrounded on three sides by the Cromarty, Moray and Beauly Firths) nor noticeably black. But it is a glorious place, with stunning views of the mountains and the sea. It's also, not by coincidence, the setting for my Bloodhound Books series of crime novels featuring DI Alec McKay.
We'd also been toying for a few years with the idea of establishing a retreat for writers and other creative types. Helen and I are both writers, and we'd each benefited from attendance at other permanent or short-term retreats. Helen writes short stories, contributes a regular column to Writing Magazine, and has tutored on numerous writing programmes.
We had in mind a place that would offer writers tranquillity, good facilities, an inspiring location, and the accommodation, hospitality and support needed to ensure they could simply focus on their writing. Unsurprisingly, it took us a while to find the right place, and there were a few false starts along the way, but eventually we found Solus Or.
Solus Or, which means 'golden light' in Gaelic, is situated in Culbokie in the Black Isle. We have breathtaking views out over Cromarty Firth, with the mountain Ben Wyvis beyond, and extensive gardens and grounds around us. It's the perfect place simply to get away and write – peaceful, inspiring and with enough space to lose yourself in the stories you're telling.
We have five retreat rooms, three with en-suite facilities (the others with an immediately adjacent bathroom), each themed after a well-known author with an appropriate selection of books and other items. Each room has a private balcony giving views of Cromarty Firth and Ben Wyvis, and all have free wifi and hospitality trays with real coffee, teas, fresh milk and a few other goodies. We provide full-board catering offering high quality home-cooking using largely local ingredients (and a glass or three of complimentary wine in the evenings). All in all, we try to ensure that our visitors have to worry about nothing but their writing.
The retreat can be booked for individual or group private retreats at any time, for as long or short as you wish. If you want to come by yourself or with a group of friends and fellow writers, we'll aim to make you feel at home. We're also scheduling in a number of taught or structured programmes across the year, normally running either over a weekend or Monday-Friday.
The house feels remote once you're here, but is easily accessible. There are budget flights from many UK airports and good trains (including the Caledonian Sleeper direct from London Euston) to Inverness, and we’re happy to arrange transport to and from the airport or station. If you come by road, we're only a couple of miles off the A9, just north of Inverness, at the start of the North Coast 500 tourist route.
So far it seems to be going well. Our visitors have found the house perfect for encouraging creativity and productivity – we've already seen our guests achieve extraordinary word-counts, complete long-standing writing projects, and even overcome problems with writers' block. The credit is all theirs – but we hope we've provided the right setting and support to make it happen.
If you'd like to find out more about Solus Or, our website is at https://www.solusorwritingretreat.co.uk/ and we also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/solusorwritingretreat/ We're always delighted to chat with potential visitors about what we can offer, and we're happy to tailor retreats to suit the particular needs of individuals or group.