Cairngorms Creative Retreat
Join SwimWild for its first-ever retreat with a big juicy creative twist!
We will spend our days exploring our creativity, wandering in the woodland, swimming in stunning local lochs and relaxing at our base for the week, the beautiful Dell of Abernethy.
Each day there will be a creative group workshop and time set aside to work on personal creative projects. It is a perfect opportunity to prioritise your creative passion and work on a project or idea that you haven’t had time to pursue in normal life. Or, if you are not sure what to work on, there will be lots of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing!
We’ll also explore at least one swim location each day, with the possibility of extra morning and/or evening dips for those who are keen for more! There is absolutely no pressure to join in with all (or any) of the activities but this retreat is the ideal opportunity to try your hand at new things in a laidback, supportive vibe. Of course, there is always the option to chill in the stunning surroundings (or in your cosy bed!).
Alice & Suzy – Your Retreat Leaders!
The retreat will be led by SwimWild’s own Alice Goodridge, who you will see a new side to on this retreat!
Yes, of course, she will still be guiding you on your swims and ensuring your safety, but she will also be sharing her unique swim-related creative secrets that have helped her become a successful illustrator and writer.
Co-leading this retreat is Suzy Bashford, a writer, workshop facilitator and host of the Big Juicy Creative podcast; a podcast idea conceived and planned while ‘swimstorming’ with Alice during lockdown. Suzy is also a qualified swim guide, champion winter swimmer and real-life mermaid!
Both Alice and Suzy will also be using the week to get their creative juices flowing, prioritising this time with you to create for creativity’s sake, and working on their own creative projects alongside you.
About The Dell
Our base for the week is the dreamy Dell of Abernethy: an inspiring setting, complete with a Scandinavian tipi, nestled in the woods and close to many idyllic swim spots. A live music venue and creativity hub, the Dell is where the BBC made its base for the filming of SpringWatch and WinterWatch. This gorgeous setting is the perfect place to relax and unwind!
The Dell’s talented team, Polly, Dawn and Lindsey, will look after us throughout our stay and cook up a storm with their own unique home-cooked creations. You’ll be served an abundant and delicious menu using produce grown at the lodge or nearby. Meals will be mainly plant-based but may include some locally sauced meat and game. We’ll while away the evenings by the roaring fire under the stars. And yes – marshmallows (and more!) will be involved.
Our accommodation is spread across the main four-bedroom Dell Lodge and the adjoining three-bedroom West Dell cottage. We have twin share and private double rooms available. Each cottage has a lounge area and shared bathrooms.
Despite its’ world away’ feel, The Dell is easily accessible. The closest train station is in Aviemore, around a 20-minute drive away. There is a direct day and night train service from London to Aviemore, and we can arrange pick-ups from the station (see arrival/departure information for timings).
Your Title Goes Here
Is this retreat for me?
Alice and Suzy believe everyone is creative and that wild swimming is a wonderful way to ignite the inner creative in you – especially if you do it splashing and squealing like a child in a group of like-minded folk!
This trip is aimed at everyone, from the seasoned artist to the person that doesn’t consider themselves creative but wants to explore this side of themselves a bit more.** There will be a no-pressure or perfectionism, just a ‘give-it-a-go’ attitude and plenty of giggles.
Swims will be suitable for beginners and more experienced swimmers. The focus will be on exploring beautiful places and enjoying the experience rather than swimming particularly long distances. Water temperatures are likely to be between 6-12 degrees. If you just want to dip, that is perfectly fine.
There will be some walking involved in this trip, mostly on good tracks. There may be some opportunity to visit some of the more off the beaten track locations, which will require sturdy walking boots and walks of up to 45 minutes (each way) on narrow tracks with some steep sections.
Expect lots of fun, chill time if you want it and changeable Scottish Highland weather!
** For more information on the creative side of the retreat see the ‘Creative Retreat FAQs’ below.
Please note that this is a very rough guide and that we will adapt the weekend carefully to suit the group and the Scottish weather conditions!
The creative sessions will cover a range of activities you can try, such as writing, drawing, self-reflection, music-related and mindfulness-based.
Oh, and of course, we will spill the secret beans on Alice and Suzy’s special cold water creativity techniques!
However, we don’t want to give everything away at this stage… You’ll have to book if you want the full scoop 😉
Meeting in the Highland town of Aviemore, we arrive at the Dell at midday for a big juicy creative welcome and lunch in the Tipi. We’ll soon dive into our first creative activity, exploring the stunning surroundings of the Dell. Later on, we’ll set off on our first swim adventure to a local loch. The perfect start to our week of creative exploration in the Cairngorms National Park.
Tuesday – Thursday –
We’ll start each day with time for personal journaling/doodling and the option of a morning dip to wake us up for the day ahead! After a delicious breakfast, we’ll head to the Tipi for a creative workshop followed by the chance to work on personal creative projects (or spend more time with Alice and Suzy chatting/brainstorming/creating). In the afternoon we’ll head out in the SwimWild van for a walk and swim in a magical local swim spot. There are so many wonderful options close by -we might swim around a castle, find a secret waterfall in the wood, or a river swoosh to play in! Later in the day, we’ll head back to the Dell where you’ll have some free time to work on personal creative projects, read a book or have a nap, before tucking in to a hearty dinner.
On our final night, there will be a special ‘show and tell’ creative session in the tipi during which you can share your creativity/reflections on the week (but no pressure!).
We’ll start the day with a morning dip in our local swim spot, followed by a relaxed breakfast and time to pack up. You’ll depart the Cairngorms recharged, connected, with new friends and awesome memories, as well as something(s) to stick on your fridge and show off to your friends and family (why should kids get the monopoly on doing this?!)
Arrival info –
We will meet you at the entrance of Aviemore Railway Station at 11:30 am on Monday
If arriving by vehicle please arrive at The Dell at 12 pm
Departure info –
Check out from rooms is by 9:45 am on the final day
We will return you to Aviemore Railway Station
By 10:30 am on Friday
- Four nights accommodation at the Dell of Abernethy. These are mainly on a twin share basis, but a limited number of private double rooms are also available if you select that option at the time of booking.
- Creative workshops sessions with Alice & Suzy.
- Swimming, safety cover, guiding. Swims are always escorted by qualified and knowledgeable swim guides.
- Home-cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
- Home-cooked snacks and cakes.
- SwimWild swim cap
- Pick-up/drop-off in Aviemore
- All swim transfers
- Plenty of fun and good memories!
What's not included?
- Travel to and from the Dell of Abernethy (guests are advised to travel to Aviemore station where we can arrange pick-ups)
- Swim equipment, wetsuits and personal outdoor gear
- Any alcohol – although this is available at the on-site bar.
- Private rooms, if not selected at the time of booking.
Creative Retreat FAQs
What do you mean by creativity, are you talking about painting and poetry and all that artsy stuff?
Good question. We love being asked this question because creativity is about so much more than just the arts, as is commonly thought. If you approach life with a creative mindset, any activity you do can be creative.
We aim to inspire people to leave feeling energised to live more big, juicy, wild and creative.
Will I write War & Peace while on your retreat?
Er, not questioning your talent but, probably not.
But you may return with the seed of an idea for a bigger project, or you may already have one that you build on while here.
You’ll definitely head home with many magical memories, some of which you’ll be able to hold in your hand, or even hang on your wall as a constant reminder.
Do I have to be an artist to come?
Everyone has the ability to give any type of creativity a playful bash.
Will I be under pressure to share my creative work, or take part in creative sessions I don’t want to do?
Of course not. There is no pressure or need to perform or need to create masterpieces on this trip! The idea is to enjoy exploring your own creativity in however you enjoy most.
Alice and Suzy would, however, encourage you to take the plunge with as many different creative outlets as possible!
Will I make anything to bring home?
One thing you’ll definitely make is memories. And should you want to encapsulate these memories in some creative form, there will be this opportunity.
Should we bring any creative tools or equipment?
We will provide everything required for the creative sessions but feel free, if easily portable, to bring any creative aides of your own.
What kind of personal creative project can I work on?
Literally anything! Knitting, painting, sound recording, a new business idea, photography, blog writing, choreographing a dance, crocheting, writing a one-woman/man show, sewing a new swimsuit or wood carving are a few examples. You can also use this time to continue working on anything you have learned in the creative workshops.