A residential writing course


Participants around the big oak table in the Coach House

This post is a bit of a plug for a residential writing course in south west Scotland on which I am tutoring along with novelist Margaret Elphinstone.

The three-day course is held in a renovated coach house in the village of Kirkpatrick Durham in Dumfries and Galloway. During the spring and summer it is a holiday let but twice a year, for the last three years owner Juliet Caird has hosted two writing courses, one in March and the second in November.

There is a lovely paragraph on the Durhamhill website which reads: “When the weather is good, the courses can be conducted outside the house, in the inspirational surrounding countryside, perhaps at the giant stone circle seating area with views to the hills, or in the sunny, but more sheltered, orchard.” Not in Scotland in March or November, I’m afraid – though the countryside around is truly inspiring.


Alan prepares to meet the guests on the first writing course at Durhamhill

I remember the first course vividly. I wasn’t sure I’d even make through the snow to the village. And when I reached the foot of the track leading to Durhamhill Juliet’s partner Alan was there to meet me and transport me on the back of his quad bike to the Coach House.



Having cleared the snow, Alan transports the first participant from end to the Coach House

Margaret and I met recently to plan the workshop sessions for the upcoming course which runs from Tuesday, 15 November to Thursday, 17.  These sessions include starting a story (the point of no return), attention to detail – which involves props which can be eaten afterwards – life writing and research. One to one sessions to discuss participants’ work are held at various times over the three days. We also keep a session blank until we meet the participants and find out if there is a particular aspect of writing about which they most want to learn – poetry or journalism or self-publishing.


We must be doing something right because we often have returnees and whilst this is lovely and flattering, it does mean we constantly have to revise our workshops to avoid repeating sessions. What is also lovely is the feedback both immediately after the course and later when past participants let us know of their successes whether it be finally completing the novel or having a play produced or articles published.

Everyone works hard during the sessions but there is always a lot of fun and laughter, too. Participants eat together at the big oak table which ensures the discussions and fun continues – often aided by wine. Another converted building houses a studio which can be used as a games room or even a mini cinema.


“I think you should cut the first paragraph and jump right in – but I’m only a llama, what do I know?”

There is something special about the Durhamhill writing courses (not only being taught by me and Margaret – or the M&Ms as we have been dubbed). Where else are you likely to learn about dialogue in the morning then have the chance to chat to some llamas? Or, go for an adventure in a motorbike sidecar with Juliet’s partner Alan?

After this course 15-17 November, the next will be Tuesday, 7 March to Thursday, 9, 2017.
The website for more information is www.durhamhillcourses.co.uk.

21 thoughts on “A residential writing course

  1. I love courses like this. But I’ve never had a llama helping out. That’s now on my list of requirements for future courses. And snow too of course, but only if there is also a roaring fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha. I take in tropical fruit. The idea is for the participants to learn to use detail – and all the senses – in their writing. It’s amazing how many ways writers can find to describe a piece of fruit.


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