Lismore FAQs

Where is Lismore island?

Lismore is an island of some 2,351 hectares (10 miles long and 1 mile wide) off the west coast of Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides. It is the most easterly island of the Southern Hebrides. It lies in Loch Linnhe, north east of Mull, the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides after Skye, in the Argyll and Bute council area.

Lismore shown on Google maps.

How do I get to Lismore?

Two ferry services operate to the Isle of Lismore from Oban or Port Appin, both of which are on the mainland in Argyll. 

The Oban ferry to Lismore takes 55 minutes. Vehicle reservations are recommended. Visit the ferry operator CalMac’s website for information, times and prices.

The Port Appin ferry to Lismore takes 10 minutes and is a passenger only ferry. No vehicles. Visit the ferry operator Calmac’s website for more information, times and prices:  .

Getting to Oban

By train

A regular direct train goes to Oban from Glasgow Queen Street Station, and it takes just over 3 hours. Check train operator Scotrail.

By bus

The bus to Oban from Glasgow takes just under 3 hours, traffic permitting. The bus from Inverness to Oban takes 3 hours 30 minutes, with a change at Fort William. Check bus operator  Citylink.

By car

It takes 2 hours 30 minutes to drive to Oban from Glasgow, 4 hours from Aberdeen, and 2 hours 45 minutes from Inverness. From Edinburgh, give 3.5 hours to Oban and 4 hours to Port Appin.

Where are Mairi’s retreats held on Lismore?

Mairi’s music retreats on Lismore are held at Carnie cottage, which is in the centre of the island, 4 miles from the Port Appin ferry landing (Point) and 2 miles from the Oban boat landing (Achnachroish).

Carnie cottage is a traditional Highland cottage and studio. We have our meals in the cottage and stay there.

Classes take place in the Studio, a purpose-built space of 9m by 5.5m, with an oak floor, good light and good insulation, which is situated in the back garden of Carnie.

Carnie cottage on Lismore

Where do I stay on a Lismore retreat?

Due to changes in licensing laws Mairi can no longer accommodate participants in the cottage but there is a range of great places to stay on Lismore to suit everyone’s budget.

Places to stay

The Bunkhouse is closest to the studio (a 10 minute walk) and has very reasonable prices. You can stay in the dorm room or there’s a single room for varying prices. For more information visit

Ballimackillichan Croft – A beautiful, homely house that my sister Sarah and her partner Yorick built with four single rooms for guests. 1.5 miles from class. Own car or bike advised.

The Sailean Bothy is a 30 minute walk in an amazingly remote corner of the island. For more information visit 

The cottages below are self-catering and are also within walking distance of Carnie cottage: The Smiddy  (20 – 30 min walk to/from Carnie) and Stoker’s Cottage (30 min walk to/from Carnie)

To find other options visit

Ask Mairi if you have any queries or questions around accommodation.

How do I get to the retreat venue from the ferry?

Some people like to walk or get a taxi or we can pick you up.

What ‘level’ are Mairi’s retreats and workshops for?

Mairi’s fiddle courses are suitable for people from post beginner to fluent players. For fiddle courses, you must be able to know and play at least 3 folk tunes. 

What happens on a retreat?

Mairi’s music retreats support your playing wherever you are. They offer a chance to expand and explore your own playing, and have fun playing with others in clear and incremental frameworks. Mairi covers the areas that you’d like to address: technical support for violin and voice; extending repertoire; finding harmonies; blending with others and playing solo; nerves and anxiety around performance… and much more.

Mairi will work with the material that you bring, helping you to create soundscapes using tunes, songs, poetry, movement and story. Willingness is the only requirement – no particular level of playing required.

“I went places with word, music and song where I have never gone before and wonder where to next. All of this due to your vision, sensitivity, hospitality and musical integrity, not always an easy path. Thank you.” C Menzies

A retreat might help you find your next step, develop your hearing, discover that your body is telling you a lot more than you realised, discover that your voice has so much colour in it, connect with like-minded people, relax in the beautiful surroundings of Lismore, and much more…

Usually maximum 7 participants per retreat

What types of retreat are there?

Mairi tends to run either fiddle or voice courses, or sometimes both:

Fiddle courses  

Exploring harmonies, technical support for bowing, tone, tuning and style. From post beginner to fluent players. You must be able to know and play at least 3 folk tunes. Great food, beautiful place, new friends and a fabulous kitchen ceilidh!

Voice courses

Mairi’s voice retreats aim to create a supportive environment and opportunity to meet others in music and discover your voice. Mairi introduces songs and leads fun group improvisations, allowing each participant to experience resonance and community through singing.

Usually maximum 9 participants.

What are the timings for the retreat?

You can arrive at Carnie cottage anytime from 3pm on the first day. We’ll eat dinner at 7pm on the first night, followed by a session facilitated by Mairi. 

Each day, we work from 9.30am- 12.30pm and from 4.30pm-6pm. Participants have the afternoon off. There’s free time to relax and visit the island. The studio is available for use at this time too.

In the evening, we gather around 7pm for an evening meal.

Participants find this setup works well and gives a good balance between music and group work, and having time to yourself to relax and explore the island. 

On the Saturday night, we will have a ceilidh, which is an informal get-together with local friends and family who like to play music and meet new faces.

We finish in time to get the 5pm boat on Sunday.

Should I bring recording equipment?

You might want to bring some sort of recording device. Smartphones are good and there are many reasonable recording device options on the market. If you have the sheet music for your song or tune, please bring it. It’s not essential though. There is a photocopier in the cottage.

What food do we eat on retreat?

All meals are vegetarian. Please contact Mairi if you have any dietary requirements or allergies. Mairi brings the food and cooks the Friday evening meal and prepares the food for the course. All help towards cleaning, washing up and making salads is gratefully received. Mairi recommends that you bring snacks to share at breaks and that you make a beeline for the kitchen as soon as you arrive at Carnie cottage.

Mairi and retreat participants at dinner table with lots of food

Is there a shop on Lismore?

The shop is about 5 minutes walk from Carnie cottage. It sells pretty much anything you’d want and also has free internet access. Opening times: Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday 9 -1pm, Sunday closed.

Is there internet access and a phone?

Carnie cottage has Wifi internet access. The cottage also has a landline phone which you are welcome to use. Please put your donation in the box by the phone. The phone number is 01631 760 207.

What is the difference between one of Mairi’s retreats and a workshop?

Mairi’s music retreats tend to take place on the isle of Lismore over the course of at least 2 or 3 days, sometimes longer. There tends to be a maximum of 7 participants per retreat course.

Mairi’s other workshops tend to be in locations around Scotland and further afield. Some last a few days and are in the retreat style, such as those Mairi coleads with people such as Kath Burlinson or Kedar Brown. Other workshops are for just a few hours and do not tend to have a maximum number of participants.

Both retreats and workshops are suitable for people of all musical abilities. Everyone is welcome.

Cost and how to book 

The retreat fee is £480. This includes 20 hours tuition plus lunches and dinners over the five days.

It does not include accommodation and breakfast. 

Meals will take all dietary restrictions into account by a wonderful cook who will be with us all week.

Spaces are limited to a maximum of 9 participants. Retreats and workshops can be booked by emailing Mairi on