If someone were to ask what five words come to mind when you hear “Scotland,” it would probably be Scotch, golf, kilts, rain, and 007.
Runners-up might include sheep or goats. Alternatively, if someone asked what the top yoga destinations would be, Scotland wouldn’t make the cut—what with the beachy charms of Hawaii, Mexico, and Bali—and that’s part of what makes Scotland an ideal destination for a five-day yoga retreat.
It’s true. I recently went on a program through YOGASCAPES that was set in what might be the most idyllic countryside on the planet. That plus Scotland’s charming mix of spirituality and folklore made for a contemplative and enriching yoga trip. Here’s the short list of what makes a yoga retreat in Scotland so compelling.
Truly Being Off the Grid
Our group met in Glasgow and rode through curvy roads surrounded by lush vegetation and waterfalls bursting out of the hillsides (and yes, it rained plenty). The EcoYoga Centre is fully hydro-driven retreat center nestled into a village called Ford near Loch Awe in Argyll. Husband-and-wife owners Rachel and Nick Loening bought the former Outward Bound center, fixed it up, and started running the retreat five years ago. As a result of all of the precipitation in Scotland (what we call rain in California, but they call “Scottish Mist”), this retreat center operates 100% off the grid. However, the retreat uses less than 20 percent of the energy harnessed, so they also supply energy to their village and get paid by the government for it. If that weren’t enough, they installed solar panels atop the hydro plant station—just in case.
Bathing al Fresco
Then there are the baths. There are two outdoor tubs, a sauna, and a Japanese hot tub. The Japanese hot tub is communal and is housed in this outer space-looking glass dome. The sauna is built into the land and easy to miss but there are two ways to get there: via a marked path and steps along the river or by climbing down a ladder. Just outside the sauna door is a cold plunge pool for the brave in search of enhanced circulation. Then there are two waterfall-adjacent tubs. They’re (literally) your run-of-the-mill bathtub set amidst stunning scenery. The higher one is embedded into stones and is tucked next to a waterfall-like stream. The lower one sits across from a booming waterfall, with optional waterfall pool plunge and a more adventurous walk down involving ropes, which reminded me of climbing Half Dome.