Silent retreat: Where to take a mindful, month-long vow of silence

People will go a long way in pursuit of mindfulness. They’ll go even further for a bit of peace and quiet.

Dedicated oases of silent contemplation are quietly springing up around the world to attract a new breed of mindful traveller.

From a Balinese boot camp to silence in the valleys of Wales, the silent treatment is a global phenomenon.

These not-talking retreats are designed to help detox from our noisey lives and give the mind room to wander.

For some silence is golden, but could you hack a whole month in one of these mute communes?

Silent in Scotland

The 13th-century Pluscarden Abbey is six miles from Elgin, Scotland, and you’ll be welcome, whether you’re Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, undecided or nothing at all.

What’s more, it won’t cost a thing (but donations are welcome) and you can stay a night or up to a year.

The 17 Catholic Benedictine monks make up the largest religious community in Scotland. Sit and listen to soothing Gregorian chants or join prayers that begin at 4am.

Guest houses are at each end of the grounds – St Benedict’s has 14 rooms for men; St Scholastica has ten for women, all with a bed, basin, desk and communal shower area.

“We are not competing with the Ritz here,” says Father Giles.

No, but you’ll feel enriched.


Details: See pluscardenabbey.org (no telephone, obviously). Stays are free.

French Buddhist calm

Deep in the Dordogne, millennials and Silicon Valley types mingle over vegan meals and question the meaning of life.





No one says a word for a week – except in November when you’re expected to keep silent for the whole month.

Housework? Clock on for an hour after breakfast and lunch to wash up, sweep floors, polish tables and prepare vegetables for the next meat-free meal. Gaia doesn’t ban phones, but you wouldn’t dare use one.

Details: Shared accommodation from $94 a night, including all vegetarian meals, gaiahouse.co.uk.

Thai silence

The philosophy at Wat Suan Mokkh in southern Thailand, near to Surat Thani airport, is simple – sleep on a concrete bed like a proper monk and don’t even think about swatting a mosquito. Everything is sacred.

There are chores – arrive early and you might avoid the loo cleaning task.

Abandon everything that connects to modern life: books, Kindles, phones… Improving your memory, slowing your heart rate and instilling calm is the goal here.

Details: $92 covers ten days, including two vegetarian meals daily, suanmokkh-idh.org.

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