Picture yourself in a bath by a river. With bubbles. In the bath and in the river. Look up and there is a kaleidoscopic canopy of greenery, shifting in the gentle breeze and filtering the sunlight. Look ahead and your gaze will track the river back up the deep rocky gorge.
The soundtrack to this idyll is the gentle buzzing of bees and the crashing and splashing of the waterfall. It’s so easy to drift away and the tub is so huge you could probably float in it.
There are plenty of bathing opportunities here at Inverliever Lodge, in Argyll. There’s a second enormous bath nearby, both sited so that each is secluded, yet with magnificent views. There is also a Japanese-style hot tub within its own geodesic dome, an artisan sauna which is artfully tucked into the rolling landscape. There are showers and plunge pools, and streams or river bathing should the notion take you.
Once you’ve had your fill of aquatic activities, you can feast your eyes and taste buds on haute vegetarian cuisine. Our chef for the weekend was Claudia Escobar, known to many through her justlovefood blog and work as a designer, a combination which explains why the food looks as good as it tastes.
Am I selling this bucolic idyll to you? If I am, I am torn. Of course, the place should be shared, but part of me wants it to be my own private hideaway. Fortunately a generosity of spirit, fostered by owners Nick and Rachel Loening, abounds. So the better side wins out.
Nick brought ashtanga yoga to Scotland and was behind the much-missed Yoga Centre in Edinburgh’s Meadows. Though that, he says, was a different life. It’s been eight years since the couple started creating the eco idyll – solar panel and hydro power keep it off grid – on the site of an old Outward Bound centre. It’s all in keeping with their commitment to the environment, which forms a core part of their philosophy. Yoga is the main event here – world-class teachers from around the globe come here to teach all types of yoga.
Most of our group – places are limited to 15 – had come because our Edinburgh Iyengar teacher, Katie Rutherford, was teaching. A couple had come from the south of England after having met Katie on her annual yoga study in India. There were some absolute beginners, some senior teachers and most of us somewhere in between. Katie managed the delicate balance of helping old hands deepen their poses while encouraging newbies to get into them in the first place with good grace, humour and the wisdom acquired through decades of study. Those who were new to the Iyengar method particularly appreciated the attention to detail and to alignment in the poses.
Regardless of our different stages of yoga, it was luxury to have around five hours of yoga a day, all performed on eco yoga mats, of course. The underfloor heating added a blissful luxury to savasana, the relaxation at the end of each session.
The surroundings and the yoga mean that everyone relaxes fairly quickly. And, while it was great to meet new people with a shared interest, there was also a chance to deepen relationships with yoga friends you only ever see on the mat.
There is plenty of time and space for solitude too – wandering the grounds, taking tea in the sun lounge, or watching in silent awe as the hydroponic system allows herbs to sprout before your eyes in the workshop area. But it was hard to beat lounging in our rooms on beds built by local craftsman. The deep mattresses further enhanced by memory foam toppers, and aided by the quiet gurgle of the river, helped lull you into a meditative siesta.
On reflection, the place looks good from every angle – even upside down, as those of us who couldn’t resist a session on the rope swings can attest. And the only slight anxiety that remains is to do with being quick enough on the button to book a place on Katie’s weekend next year.
Prices, including classes, food and accommodation, start at around £300, depending on the length of yoga retreat, which last from a weekend to a week. There is a discount for sharing a room. It is also possible to stay on a self-catering basis outwith yoga retreats. For information, contact Eco Yoga Centre, Inverliever Lodge, Ford, Argyll PA31 8RH, tel: 01546 810259, www.ecoyoga.org; for details of Katie Rutherford’s classes, go to www.yoga-edinburgh.com