© 2019 by Pelumbra Ltd

Lambay Island

 19th - 23rd March 2020

Imagine taking a boat across the Irish Sea to a small private Island to a luxuriously appointed house, with time, space and structure to write your book, article, dissertation, poems or journal. It’s a rare opportunity, and just as spring is emerging, this is the right time for thoughtful and determined endeavour.  

Sure, the passage across the sea might be wintery, but the welcome will be warm and joyful, and the house itself is a treasure - designed and furnished by Edwin Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph in London. Each room has its own writing desk and there are many other fine places to write alone or with collaborators. Our chef for the retreat will be Lottie Brook, cooking delicious meals to sustain and excite the imagination. Those wanting  more spiritual inspiration can sip excellent Lambay Irish Whiskey, from the island’s own distillery.*


Writing is what we are here for, though, and as the schedule shows, we will get on with it in a practical and uncomplicated way. There are opportunities for feedback but no pressure to read out work-in-progress. Most people find the workshops surprisingly helpful, and a means to both focus and accelerate their work.

Jonathan will provide advice and feedback on each person's writing, and will run workshops each day. 


SAMPLE Schedule


2pm Writers' Meet & Greet in Gibney's of Malahide (Traditional Irish Pub)

3pm Boat Transfer to Lambay from Malahide Marina

Island Welcome on the Pier

Time to settle in, tea/cake/fruit 

Welcome drinks and dinner


Breakfast in the White House

Writing Session 1

Light luncheon

Writing Session 2

Afternoon Tea

Optional Feedback Session with the group and Jonathan Gosling

Optional Tour of Lutyens Castle with the resident family (€30pp)

Drinks & Dinner



Writing Session 3


Nature Walk to Summit & Nose of the island - chance to spot wallabies and variety of birdlife and to Walk & Talk

Time for a hot soak

Drinks & Dinner


Optional early morning coastal walk for seal spotting

Late Breakfast

Writing Session 4

Sunday Lunch

Writing Session 5

Optional Feedback Session with the group and Jonathan Gosling

Light Dinner



10am Boat transfer to mainland

Farewell lunch in Malahide (optional and extra cost)

Final feedback and Q&A

Return to Dublin Airport (for those with flights, we strongly recommend flights departing no earlier than 16:00)

Ruth McKee

Co Facilitator

Ruth McKee was nominated for The Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year in 2016 and 2018; her first novel The Jealous Wall was joint winner of the Irish Novel Fair 2015; her second book The Day I Die, is nearing submission stage. Her work has been placed or listed in The Benedict Kiely Award, The Martin Crawford Award, The Francis MacManus Prize The Doolin Short Story Competition, The RTE/Penguin short story prize and elsewhere. She has been published in The Irish Times, The Lonely Crowd, The Incubator, The Honest Ulsterman, Splonk, Headstuff and various anthologies. She is a professional editor, copyediting, proofreading and structural editing for a variety of clients. She has recently come out as a photographer, with an exhibition running as part of Photo Ireland 2019, and images featured in Pidgeon Holes Journal and The Bangor Literary Journal. She is a singer-songwriter and is working on an EP with producer Graham Tully. She writes short reviews for The Irish Times and works for independent publisher Doire Press. PhD Trinity College Dublin. You can follow her on TwitterInstagram or get in touch with her at editor@spontaneity.org.

Lambay is the largest island off the east coast of Ireland and lies just 12 miles from the centre of Dublin and 3 miles off the coast.


The remnants of a vast volcano, Lambay emerged after two continents joined to create Ireland 450 million years ago. Consequently, it is formed from a beautiful flecked green stone – porphyry – from which our Neolithic ancestors made beautifully crafted stone axes 7000 years ago. Its early history is obscure but, like many other small islands, it attracted a romantic variety of saints, hermits and pirates. It is thought to be one of the first places that Viking raiders landed and proofs of its ancient history and early modern settlement were found around the harbour, dating from the 1st century AD.


Some of the artefacts, including a bracelet, can be seen today in the Dublin museum. The island has steep cliffs on its northern, eastern and southern sides with a more lowlying western shore. It is a paradise of fine architecture, birds, flowers, cattle, seals, fallow deer and even a mob of wallabies!


A truly unique corner of the earth. The island is internationally important for its variety of seabirds and is also home to the largest breeding colony of Atlantic Grey Seals on the east coast of Ireland. It is a Natural 2000 site designated for its birdlife and seal colonies, as well as holding a remarkable place in European natural history as the site of a pioneering biological investigation undertaken by the naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger in 1906.



“A square mile of rock and turf washed by waves from the Irish sea, honeycombed with caverns which are the home of great grey seals, a castle unique in plan, a little chapel, an abandoned coastguard station, an enchanting animal life, a fascinating history– these are Lambay.”

L. Weaver, Country Life, 1912


Luxury cosy accommodation

Each bedroom has a Super King bed capable of conversion to two single beds,  with mattress protectors, duvets and two pillows per bed. Extra blankets are available should they be desired. Given the current capacity of the electricity supply, electric blankets are not permitted, however hot bottles are provided in case of cold weather.


The central and upstairs bathrooms have showers; the corner room en suites have bath-shower combinations and the end room luxury en suites have freestanding baths and separate showers.

Please let us know if you would like to request a particular bedroom.

The White House is an original Lutyens design, completed in 1933 the year before Cecil Baring’s death. It was the last building to be commissioned and executed by Cecil and Lutyens and was built for the enjoyment of their two daughters, Daphne Pollen and Calypso Liddell who by then both had large families. It is still used as a holiday home during the summer by their descendants. With its large Dutch-tiled fireplace, south facing sitting room, original furniture, family murals and collections, it is a unique and welcoming house comprised of a shared central section and two wings. There are glorious views over the sea to the mainland from the West Wing and from the south facing gardens in particular. There have been no major alterations to the building, so it remains an authentic example of this period of Lutyens’ work. However, bathrooms have been carefully modernized with conservation in mind and curtains, carpets and new beds were installed in 2016. The heating and hot water systems have also been revamped, providing a level of luxury that does Lutyens’ designs great justice.


Delicious Food

Private chef Lottie Brook will provide us with luxurious vegetarian meals for the week.


Outdoors on the Island

Apart from the farming activity, Lambay is host to a wide variety of wildlife, including fallow deer, wallabies, rabbits, and notably, Atlantic and common seals.


The island is also one of the most important sea bird nesting colonies off the  coast of Europe and has been designated a Special Protection Area. Cormorants, shags, guillemots, razorbills, puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars can be observed at close quarters with ease.


The glories of the island are the 16th-century castle, modified and extended by Edwin Lutyens between 1908 and 1910, and the gardens, originally designed by Gertrude Jekyll. Massive rampart walls encircle the castle, together with its terraced gardens.


In addition to the castle, Lutyens modified the farm buildings, bothy, chapel and Coastguard Cottages, which were built from local stone. In the 1920’s Lutyens was commissioned to build the Real Tennis Court on the sea front and finally, the White House in the 1930’s. Together these buildings form a harmonious architectural complex that complements the natural landscape. 


The island offers good walking with impressive views and in the harbour, low tide reveals a large sandy beach, rock pools and a swimming area.

Further information on Lambay, its history and building can be found at www.malahideheritage.com and www.countrylifeimages.co.uk


BOOTS-They have a large number of Wellington boots in a range of sizes, which you are welcome to borrow during your stay.

  1. 16th Century Castle and grounds

  2. Real Tennis Courts

  3. Horbour with sandy beach

  4. Site of Bronze Age finds and Hiberno-Roman finds

  5. Chapel

  6. Fosse of Norman Fort

  7. Cottage and residential complex

  8. Seals

  9. Shags, cormorants

  10. Seals

  11. Promontory fort

  12. Promontory fort

  13. Guillemots, fulmars, puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills

  14. Neolithic tumulus

  15. Axe-head sites

  16. Seals

  17. Shags

  18. Seals

  19. Kittiwakes, fulmars, shags

  20. Seals

  21. Taylor Bay, scene of the wreck of RMS Tayleaur

  22. Razorbills, guillemots

  23. Kittiwakes


Getting There

Please make your way to Malahide  when you arrive in Dublin. 

Dublin Airport to Malahide

Malahide is approximately 20 minutes by road from Dublin Airport; a regular size taxi costs approximately €15-18.

Dublin Ferry Port to Malahide

Malahide is approximately 35 minutes by road from Dublin Ferry Port; a regular size taxi costs approximately €30-35.



 Days are often bright, cold and sunny, but can rain. Bring layers and waterproofs to enjoy Lambay outdoors and warm up by the cosy fire in the White House.


Registration and Cost

To register and for another questions about the Retreat, write to miriam@pelumbra.com

Questions about Lambay, the region or local travel? Write to Millie Baring at bookings@lambayisland.ie

The fees include:

·    Writing workshops and advice sessions

·    Accommodation for 4 nights/5 days

·    All your meals: 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners  

·    Morning and afternoon refreshments

·    Use of wi-fi, sitting rooms, library, gardens, and local know-how


Ensuite (Single Occupancy) €1,600

Ensuite (Double Occupancy) €2,100

Shared bathroom (Single Occupancy) €1,400

Shared bathroom (Double Occupancy) €1,900

Fees do not include airfare, travel insurance, additional accommodations or personal expenses.

Lambay distill the whiskey on the mainland using the island spring water and then they mature it on the island in their barrel room by the sea…