Yoga, wild riverside bathing and hearty vegetarian feasts in the Scottish Highlands
Best for: Outdoorsy types of all age and those who enjoy life’s rustic and wholesome pleasures.
Not for: Those after a more modern vibe who want towelling robes and pampering treatments with their yoga.
Takes up to 18 guests
Perched on a hill amongst forests, streams and waterfalls, ecoYoga retreat in Scotland overlooks the breathtakingly beautiful Loch Awe and offers excellent yoga retreats. Powered by a hydro generated electricity and hot water heated by solar thermals, this is a true eco experience and genuinely natural escape where you can run a woodland bath beside a waterfall, take a hot tub under the stars or walk in the hills. If you want to combine the great outdoors with a deeply rewarding yoga practice, then ecoYoga will charm, enthral and free the spirit.
The peace of mind that comes with being surrounded on all sides by wild unspoiled beauty for as far as the eye can see – feeling entirely liberated from the intensity of modern living. No bleeping phones, no television, no chemicals, no shops, no decisions. We almost got the sense that if it wasn’t for the bracing Scottish weather we should complete the process by stripping off entirely.
Walls between the rooms are thin, so if you are a light sleeper or inclined not to get up when everyone else does at 6am, take good earplugs.
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Hannah MacInnes reviews this fabulous retreat in Scotland on a yoga weekend with ashtanga teacher Scott Johnson and discovers hands-on teaching, wild riverside bathing and hearty vegetarian feasts
Come here for yoga and meditation, massage, back-to-nature walks and a wondrous array of outdoor bathing experiences.
Retreats are hosted by a variety of teachers, each with their own unique style, most of whom are selected personally by owner Nick Loening and manager Laura Grace, a yoga teacher herself who also leads and assists on some of the retreats here. ecoYoga attracts some of the UK’s most renowned instructors, and all offer a high level of wisdom and knowledge so you can feel in the very safest of hands.
A regular here is Ashtanga and mindfulness teacher Scott Johnson, founder of Still Point at London Bridge in London, a fun, playful, always approachable teacher with a clear passion for teaching. He is hugely attentive during practice, and offers gentle hands on assistance to mould you into shapes you never thought possible.
Retreat schedules vary, but an ashtanga retreat might begin with half an hour of meditation in the Yoga studio. Those familiar with ashtanga then practice from 7-9, and the others from 9-10.30, with the whole group coming together on the last morning – the aim being to help you adopt or build on your own sequential practice. The afternoon session (4.30- 6pm) is a more theoretical discussion exploring how to take yoga off the mat and into daily life. Each day ends with another half hour of meditation at 8.30pm.
Spa facilities, open to the elements, are inspired by the Japanese tradition of public bathing houses. Choose between a soak in one of two hot running baths perched on the side of the waterfall, lounging in the large wooden hot tub or underground sauna. When you have worked up a sweat there are two barrels filled with icy spring water for an invigorating plunge.
Delightful Swiss masseuse Bettina Vettori comes each day and gives hour long firm hot stone deep tissue massages.
There is a purpose-built massage room overlooking the tree line of the gorge, where the gentle sound of running water eases your troubles away. MyoFascial release treatments are also available on request.
There are endless walking options around the centre, from the Munro mountains to hill hikes to pottering along the Crinan canal tow path. You can walk for miles around the centre without having to get on the bus or in a car. There is also the option, well worth taking, of a trip to the local castle at Kilmartin and a stroll in the beautiful countryside, where the only life you are likely to come across are the local Highland cows.
If you want a massage, make sure you sign up early, the slots fill up fast. Children under one and above 7 are welcome here. Faith in Nature shower gels are provided and you can buy Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner and bamboo toothbrushes too.
Most mobile phone networks don’t have reception here and wifi is only accessible in the workshop, so rather than rushing back and forth to get online, perhaps tell your nearest and dearest you’ll be out of touch for a bit and embrace the digital detox. There is a landline that loved ones can call, and you can borrow manager Laura’s phone if you need to make an urgent call.
When to Go
ecoYoga has two main retreat seasons April – June and August – November. July is self catered holiday time. Spring time is the busiest season. The weather can be changeable and can be wet, but Scottish heatwaves have also been known.
Midges arrive by late May early June – do bring insect repellent if you’re bothered by these.
From August to November weather is changeable, though there are often dry afternoons for walks and outside adventures. Midges have gone by August and September is normally a glorious month. In October and November the nights are drawing in, and you’ll see a million stars filling often clear skies.
ecoYoga closes during the winter months but re-opens for its New Year celebration, which is always very special but when extra caution must be taken in the wild Winter wilderness – bathing outside during this time is exhilarating but only for the brave.
Brunch and dinner and eaten round a large table in the main house. You can expect an array of platters spilling over with colourful and imaginative vegetarian fare, with guests trooping back and forth for numerous helpings.
All is conjured up by head chef Sarah Mccaffer from Yogabeet in Edinburgh, who oversees all the menus and recipes alongside Nicola Orr, her second in command.
Brunch has a middle eastern vibe, with shakshuka or frittata and a selection of hummus, salads and homemade breads, including a scrumptious gluten free loaf, warm from the oven.
Dinner is a delicious banquet of dishes such as roasted cauliflower in an almond and cauliflower puree, crispy baked kale, herby quinoa, curries, pulses and salads followed by moreish vegan puddings such as chocolate tart or tahini fudge.
Lunch is a light meal, as yoga follows afterwards, and usually features a large vat of soup and rolls laid out in the workshop. There’s also a selection of organic teas and a very pro coffee machine.
All food is vegetarian and vegans and other diets are also catered for. Occasionally guests bring their own wine – ecoYoga recommends moderation but doesn’t enforce teetotalism.
Owners Nick and Rachel have transformed this children’s outdoor activity centre into a space that reflects their passion for sustainable living. It’s off grid and heated by hydro electricity which is made onsite, and the water is heated by solar thermal systems.
All food waste is composted (or fed to the chickens), and as much other waste as possible is recycled, so very little waste is thrown away. All products are eco-friendly. Shower gels are made by Faith in Nature, and they also sell Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner and bamboo toothbrushes.
Oban or Glasgow
Transfer Time: 2.5 hours from the airport. 1 hour (Oban), 3 hours (Glasgow) from train stations