“I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” 

James Joyce

International Writing Retreat
North Wales, United Kingdom
June 4-10, 2023


“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”

James Michener

Introduction | Top

Chestnut Review invites you to a special retreat in Criccieth, Wales! Start your summer writing amongst the numerous castles and beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia!

We believe there is a time and place for solitary retreats off the beaten path. But we also believe that there are times when you want to experience life and make memories and impressions that enrich your writing. This retreat is a hybrid experience with cultural immersion as well as time set aside for reflection and writing.

Criccieth, Wales is a tiny town of about 1800 people on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, the largest park in Wales, home to over 800 square miles of stunning scenery and Mt. Snowdon, the highest point in England and Wales. Just outside Criccieth proper is our base: the Tŷ Newydd Writers Centre. In this renovated 15th century home that once belonged to UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863-1945), we will write and relax from our explorations.

Wales (Cymru) is, of course, not England, and northern Wales is the center of Welsh culture and language. As part of our week we will not only take in the physical beauty of the country, but will also learn about the mythology, songs, and language of this Celtic land. 

This retreat is limited to 14 participants. We will subdivide into two working groups but there will be combined activities and our meals will be taken together. This small size will allow for intensive discussions and plenty of time for everyone’s voice (and writing!) to be heard.

Retreat Leaders | Top

Julie Hartley (she/her)
Born in England and now living in Canada, Julie is a novelist, poet, creative writing teacher, editor, retreat leader, storyteller, and parrot owner. She is the author of several books: a middle grade novel called The Finding Place, a collection of poetry bizarrely entitled Deboning a Dragon, and a guide for teachers who want to instil in their students a lifelong love of Shakespeare. juliehartley.ca

James Rawlings (he/him)
Founder of Chestnut Review, his poetry and essays have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Gargoyle, Penn Review, Into the Void, and many others. He earned his B.A in English with a Creative Writing Concentration in Poetry from University of Maryland, College Park.

Accommodation| Top

Our home in Wales will be the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, located in a large house that was once the home of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Located on a hill overlooking the town of Criccieth, Tŷ Newydd will be the site of both our accommodation and our writing sessions. It is also an easy walk into town and to the beach and castle. Our aim is to fill the house with writers so that we will all form a community where nearly everyone you meet will be a writer just like you! 

The house and nearby buildings have rooms in a variety of configurations, some ensuite and some with shared bathrooms. All are modernized and convenient to where we will meet, dine, and work.

What’s Included? | Top

  • Pre-trip orientation: once the group is formed, we will arrange a Zoom meeting to explain the schedule and answer any questions you may have.
  • 6 nights accommodation in private rooms in Tŷ Newydd. We will assign rooms based on preferences and on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Full board! Tŷ Newydd has its own resident chef and so all your meals, from dinner on the day you arrive to breakfast the last day, are included: 6 breakfasts, 6 dinners, and 5 lunches.
  • A day trip on small-gauge rail to Caernarvon Castle. This scenic trip, on which we may be lucky enough to have a steam engine, winds through Snowdonia, culminating in two hours to explore the Castle before return.
  • Day trips to Harlech Castle and Criccieth Castle.
  • Welsh language introductory lesson.
  • Welsh cooking demonstration.
  • 5 sessions of craft discussion and workshop (15 hours total, Monday-Saturday). Generally held in the mornings, this will be a combination of writing exercises, craft discussion, and workshopping your writing.
  • 1 private 30 minute consultation with your group leader about your work.
  • Private coach pickup from Manchester airport (MAN) to the Centre and transport back to Manchester for departure.

Excluded: snacks/beverages outside those listed above, flights to/from Manchester, individual excursions, souvenirs, alcohol purchases

Cost | Top

All prices are in US dollars and are based on the type of room. Please note that quantities of each room are limited: if you are determined to be in one type, you should book as early as possible. Quantities of each room are in parentheses following each type below. The prices listed are early bird rates; regular registration (after Dec 31) is +$200 for all prices. All rooms are private except for the final category (2 single beds in room).

  • $2399   King bed, ensuite bathroom (3)
  • $2299   Double bed, ensuite bathroom (1)
  • $2199   Single bed, ensuite bathroom (1)
  • $2099   King bed, shared bathroom (3)
  • $1999   Double bed, shared bathroom (3)
  • $1899   Single bed, shared bathroom (1)
  • $1299   Single bed in shared room (2 single beds) with ensuite bathroom for two writers (2)
  • Initial deposit is $500 to hold a place.
  • Non-writer partner rate is $799. Partners are included in all non-writing activities listed above: meals, excursions, transport.
  • We don’t believe in big hefty bills, so once you pay your deposit the remainder of the cost may be paid over three months (January 25/February 25/March 25).
  • For cancellation policy, see below in the FAQ.

FAQ | Top

How do I get there?

The nearest major airport is Manchester (MAN), which is a destination for many US flights. The trip cost includes pickup from the airport on the arrival day and dropoff on departure day as long as your flight is arriving at a reasonable time (most international flights arrive in the morning). 

Can rooms be shared?

The only rooms suitable for sharing for writers who are not partners are the single-bedrooms (2), which have 2 single beds but an ensuite bath. If you would like to share these, each writer needs to communicate that to us and then we will be happy to book you into those rooms.

I have dietary restrictions. Can I participate?

Most definitely. We will take into account any restrictions you have. The Centre chef is vegan and can prepare a variety of meals for those with restrictions, but of course to best plan we need to know ahead of time.

Can I arrive earlier/stay later?

Of course. Do realize, however, that you will need to arrange your own transport to the airport if you are not traveling on a schedule that matches our booked pickup/dropoff bus. 

What is the cancellation/refund policy?

Per New York law, your deposit may be cancelled with a 100% refund (less credit card processing fees) up until three days after you have paid it. After that point, deposits and payments are all nonrefundable. You may wish to purchase trip insurance.

Can I plan my own activities?

Absolutely! You’ll receive the weekly schedule at orientation and can make arrangements of your own for unscheduled times. The Centre staff are happy to provide recommendations as well. There are far more things to do in Snowdonia than anyone can fit in a week!

Can I stay at the Centre after the retreat?

Theoretically, but you will need to contact them directly to inquire. We cannot make arrangements for you. Be aware that the Centre is not a hotel but runs many of its own programs throughout the year and thus may not have the availability you might need. There are other accommodation options in Criccieth as well as Airbnbs available throughout Snowdonia. 

What if I have mobility issues?

We are happy to discuss what accommodation you may need–please consult with us as soon as possible. Some activities are easily adaptable; others may be harder to do so, so we need to be in communication. We are happy to make alternative arrangements; however, those that incur extra costs must be covered by the participant (e.g. hiring taxi).

Can I bring a partner/family?

Partner–absolutely! Family–unfortunately, no. The Centre does not have extra beds and so there is no easy way to accommodate extra family members. Also please note that not all rooms have double or larger beds and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Do I need to know Welsh?

No 😊. While we strongly support learning languages, Wales is bilingual and accessible to English speakers! You may find, though, that even a dozen words in Welsh will open up interesting interactions with people and of course using them indicates a level of respect for the region and its history. We will have an introduction to Welsh offered to our group by the Centre staff as part of the program. 

What about Covid?

The UK is not currently (as of this writing in October 2022) on a warning list for Covid. That of course may change, and we support whatever masking level you are most comfortable with. Of course, we know that Covid is here to stay and so we do require that all participants be vaccinated and boosted. Masking will also be subject to any local guidelines and Centre policy.

What will the weather be like?

Temperatures typically peak in the low 60’s and drop into the upper 40’s at night. At higher elevations, of course, there can be dramatic differences, and the coast can be quite windy. North Wales is known for its rain, though in summer there is less than at other times of the year. However, there is plenty of daylight: the sun rises before 5:00am and sets nearly at 10:00pm.

Register | Top

In order to secure your place, please pay your deposit here. We’ll then be in touch so you can choose your accommodation and arrange other details.