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Travel: Loch retreat in Arrochar is a breath of fresh air

© Shutterstock / John Paul MurrayAutumn walk up Ben Arthur, views to Ben Narnain, Ben Ime and Ben Lomond
Autumn walk up Ben Arthur, views to Ben Narnain, Ben Ime and Ben Lomond

After running down the shingly beach in my aqua shoes and bathing suit, I submerge, neck-deep, in the chilly waters of Loch Long.

This 12-degree temperature would have previously taken my breath away – not today. For this adventurous, loch dip concluded my retreat in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park with breathing coach, Andrew Ritchie.

Andrew’s Performance Breathworks retreat at Ardmay House, just south of Arrochar on the lochside, has brought me to this picturesque pocket of Scotland’s west coast.

And, after his coaching sessions on reducing stress and anxiety, instead of gasping for breath, my breathing was controlled, nasal and deep.

And as I stand chittering in the crystal-clear water, looking across to The Cobbler and in the shadows of the Arrochar Alps, it is a pinch-yourself moment.

All concerns about what the working week ahead will bring wash away as I completely immerse myself in “living in the moment” and “breathing functionally”.

In fact, mindfulness has been at the heart of this Breathworks retreat from the moment we drove down the driveway of this stunning white house on the water’s edge.

Ardmay House, which has been in Andrew’s family for 20 years, is a former care home for the elderly that has been sympathetically restored.

Operating as an outdoor centre for school pupils until the pandemic hit, today, the 26-bed Ardmay House is where Andrew hosts his wellness retreats – and where mum Margaret, an accountant-turned-nutritionist, caters for the guests and serves up tasty, health-conscious lunches.

Andrew, a keen mountain and marathon runner, explains: “I always knew the benefits of breathing, as I used techniques with young people abseiling to curb stress and anxiety when we ran the outdoor centre.

© SYSTEM
Andrew Ritchie of Performance Breathworks and Laura.

The Breathworks retreat is about making you aware of your breathing and heart rate – things we take for granted – so that every breath you take will be more functional. I give you the simple tools to engage with nasal breathing, which has been proven to reduce anxiety or stress.”

Available to rent out for the weekend, or the week, Ardmay is also a popular location for corporate away days, and this is something Andrew, a qualified breathwork and movement coach, is keen to capitalise on midweek.

As it is so new, attending a Breathworks retreat for the first time can be a little daunting because, as you enter the foyer of this grand house, you are unsure what to expect.

However, you are in very safe hands as Andrew has been using his breathing techniques to assist the performance of the Glasgow Warriors rugby players, including a crop of Scotland internationals.

The location of Ardmay House is perfectly placed just off the A82, and it takes just over an hour from Glasgow to reach it.

For those who are keen wild swimmers, it’s the ideal spot as you have Loch Long on your doorstep (literally – as Armday House has its own private beach about 10 paces from the front door) and a short drive away, heading towards Tarbet, there’s the freshwater option of Loch Lomond.

Walkers and climbers will also love this beauty spot, as it looks across to the Arrochar Alps, meaning you have our Munros (Ben Vorlich, Ben Vane, Ben Ime and Beinn Narnain – and the most famous Corbett, The Cobbler – within your reach.

It’s here one of the most challenging running races takes place – a 25km route up and over the Munros, climbing up to 2,400m in height – which one athlete completed in just over three hours.

For the less extreme outdoor adventurer, there is Tarbet Isle – to name one of many less strenuous walking routes in the area.

This 2km route snakes through the woods, which is sprinkled with some individual camping spots – permits available from lochlomond-trossachs.org for £3 for tent/campervan per night.

If you want to get away from it all, but still stay reasonably local, you have it all here in the heart of the Trossachs.

And if you feel that the last year or so has taken its toll on your stress and anxiety levels, take advantage of Andrew’s Breathworks retreat while you are here and (literally) catch your breath.

Loch Long in Gaelic means “Ship Lake”. In 1263 Arrochar was a key target for Viking raiders who dragged their boats two miles over land to Tarbet to attack the inland settlements.

Factfile

For more info visit performancebreathworks.com. Andrew has a day retreat on September 26.

To sign up, visit eventbrite.co.uk and search Performance Breathworks. The cost is £150, including breathing sessions and nutritious lunch.