Most convents in the UK are not open to the public, but many follow the monastic tradition of hospitality by offering retreat and accommodation to those who seek quiet and a period of “slowness” in their lives. Here, we have chosen those who permit visitors - of any faiths or none - to have access to their chapels, services and grounds, so that they can at least feel some closeness to the lives of the sisters in each of these institutions. Many of the guest houses are located in old and charming buildings and as such are particularly appreciated by the Slow Traveller.
Milleret House, Convent of the Assumption, 20 Kensington Square, London W8 5HH
The Religious of the Assumption were founded in Paris in 1839 by Anne Eugenie Milleret and Father Theodore Combalot, inspired by the mystery of the Assumption of Our Lady, with its mission to regenerate society though the education of women and girls in France and around the world.
Today there are 1,200 sisters of the Congregation spread in 34 different countries.
Retreat and study days are provided and, in addition, their London house offers modern and comfortable guest rooms. Guests have access to the Maria Assumpta Chapel and the peaceful and private gardens. Slow travellers can find time for quiet and reflection here even within the centre of this vibrant city.
Find out more on the Religious of the Assumption website >>
St Winifride’s Guest House, Holywell, Flintshire, CH8 7LS
St Bridget, known for her revelations and her devout life of prayer, was born in Sweden in 1303. She founded the Order of Bridgettines and today the Bridgettine sisters are established in three continents in 65 religious houses. The sisters welcome to their house all who seek stillness and quiet. Guests are welcome to attend the daily Divine Office, Mass and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Many who stay here come to visit the Welsh medieval place of pilgrimage, St Winifride’s Well – the most famous healing well in Britain, sometimes known as the Lourdes of Wales.
Carmelite Monastery, Quidenham, Norfolk, NR16 2PH
Photograph © Carmelite Monastery Quidenham
This community of Catholic women follow the Teresian Carmelite vocation. The origins of the Order began with a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land at the beginning of the 12th century. During the Reformation years, the Carmelite Reform was initiated in Spain by St Teresa of Avila, whose followers are now a worldwide presence. The nuns have dedicated themselves to a life of silent prayer although they sing aloud during services.
Set in an old walled community in the tiny village of Quidenham, the surroundings are pretty, tranquil and very quiet. The sisters offer accommodation in two guest cottages, appropriately named Peace Cottage and Hermitage. Guests are very welcome to attend daily Mass or the Divine Office either in the main body of the church or from the small visitors chapel which faces the nuns choir.
Find out more about staying at the Carmelite Monastery >>
Iver Heath Convent, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, SL0 0NR
Photographs © The Bridgettine Guest House
In 1931 a group of Bridgettine sisters arrived from Rome to open a prayer of house and hospitality to all. They found a small timbered house of Tudor style, set in countryside near woodlands and established a tradition of warm hospitality for all guest of all faiths or none. The chapel and gardens are open to all: everyone is welcome to attend Daily Mass. The sisters offer a tranquil space for day and residential guests.
Find out more about staying at the Bridgettine Guest House >>
All Saints Sisters of the Poor, 15A Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RW
The Society was established in 1851 in the parish of All Saints, Margaret Street where the sisters were employed in parish work, particularly among the poor and underprivileged.
An Anglican religious community, today the sisters have a modern guesthouse in Oxford, situated in peaceful gardens and also a Retreat House converted from a disused schoolroom in the village of Winson in Gloucestershire. Visitors are welcome to serve in the community and join in the Daily Office and Eucharist.
Find out more about a stay with the Sisters of the Poor >>
The Society of the Sisters of Bethany, 7 Nelson Road, Southsea, PO5 2AR
Photography © Sisters of Bethany
The sisters belong to a religious Order for women within the Anglican communion, following the Rule of St Augustine. They were founded in 1866 and offer Quiet Days and Quiet Afternoons to visitors as well as longer retreats with accommodation. Twenty minutes walk from the sea, and both the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, their home can be a relaxing and comforting break from the stresses of everyday life.
Find out more about staying with the Sisters of Bethany >>
Read about visiting and staying in Working Monasteries and Abbeys in the UK >>