What do swing dancing and Retreat to Ireland have to do with each other?

What do swing dancing and dinner have in common? They usually go together to create a night of enjoyment and fun. In this case, they go a little deeper. I’m going to show you how swing dancing and dinner are connected on a whole other level. The plate of beautiful food below is intrinsically linked to two nights (two years apart) of swing dancing in Cork City. It’s a strange little story:)



In the Autumn of 2009, on my second trip to Ireland, I found myself in Cork City visiting a newly made friend. As you’ve most likely heard me say, when traveling I like to seek out the things I love to do at home, it’s a great way to meet local people. So I found a swing dancing event right in the heart of the city and made my way out into the cool night, wondering what I would encounter?


Ireland always surprises me.



There I met Elaine, the organizer. She and I had a great dance together and as we twirled we talked. She found out I was headed to the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in SW County Cork and told me I must meet a woman named Shelia Ellis, a resident out there and her best friend. “Here’s her number,” Elaine said, “give her a call!” God, the Irish are friendly. Shelia, it turns out, was a carpenter and a swing dancer. Perfect, I thought!

However life happened and for some reason I didn’t call. I’m not even sure why! But here’s what is funny about the winding nature of Ireland. Fast forward two years. I find myself in the same venue in Cork City having the same chat with Elaine, only this time she tells me, “Ah yes, there’s a big party happening on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula this weekend. I’m going down to meet up with Shelia. Come out, meet her!” I was excited. Donned with two phone numbers and an Irish faith in everything working out eventually, I promptly forgot to get any details on the festivities.

Turns out that “big party” Elaine mentioned was a full-on Irish wedding at the local pub. So I did what any self-respecting tourist in Ireland would do … I crashed it. Under a white tent after sunset I finally met Miss Ellis. A great swing tune came on when we first met and Shelia offered me her hand and we danced vigorously for 10 minutes while the crowd cheered us on. By this time we’d only spoken a brief hello. I’m not kidding here. The synchronicity was ridiculous. Shelia and I had insta-connection.

I’m getting to that beautiful plate of food, I promise…

The next day Shelia invited me over for a cup of tea and to take a look at her home on a hill overlooking Dunmanus Bay. It was stunning, still under construction, but stunning. Then and there an idea began to form in my mind and heart. I was planning a yoga, nature, and cultural retreat to Ireland for Americans (my first ever) and I had a feeling that this place was going to be the venue.

I was right. That meal up there, that is the very last one that Shelia prepared for the guests of Retreat to Ireland. Delicious poached salmon, caught locally. Asparagus wrapped in Irish bacon. Two kinds of potatoes (of course)! And stuffed crimini mushrooms that made your mouth water. All paired with a gorgeous Pinot Gris. We sat around the table overlooking the ocean and ate a meal prepared by hands that shape wood and make bodies dance. That made me dance the first time we met.

I love the winding nature of Ireland. You go out for a night on the town and end up meeting a long-term friend. Sheila and I are still connected, still dancing, and she’s hosting one of our retreats this summer in West Cork at her home on the Sheep’s Head. It’s a family style feel of accommodation that overlooks the sea and is surrounded by patchwork green fields, sheep, and abundant hedgerows. It truly is a place to let go and enjoy yourself for a long Irish week of unrepeatable magic. Click HERE for more info.

Sheep’s Head Peninsula, County Cork


Have you ever had an encounter like the one above? Leave a comment below and tell us your story!


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