With planning consent now secured, we can move forward with our ambitious plans for The Skelligs Retreat. We want this to be a place for true sanctuary – a wellness retreat that brings together the best of Ireland’s natural beauty and unique culture with state-of-the-art facilities in which to unwind and relax. A place where you can feel alive and switch off at the same time, promoting good health and wellbeing – all whilst protecting the culture and environment that makes this part of the world so special.
The Skelligs Retreat is the brainchild of Mark Coleman, the CEO of a large demolition company based in Birmingham, whose family has lived and worked on the farm for generations. He is channelling the unique energy and history of the site, which is so important to his family, and combining that with his own knowledge and experience in business, demolition and construction.
The result will be a carefully considered facility like no other in the world – a retreat based around Irish history, culture and family values, that provides the environment to consume pure fresh air and pure spring water which result in the healthiest of foods to eat, and other resources that support and promote positive health.
This is your opportunity to see the story behind The Skelligs Retreat and what Mark wants to achieve in this idyllic corner of Ireland.
What is The Skelligs Retreat?
“It’s easy to give you the marketing blurb but this is so much more than anything we can get across in a website or brochure. The Retreat is a place to switch off but also a place for adventure. It’s an energy of its own, bringing together culture, adventure alongside peace and sanctuary. We want people to come here and literally feel the weight lift off their shoulders.
“But this isn’t just another health retreat though. We’re taking the farm back to its roots – a place that delivers benefits for people, the environment and the wider community. We’re reusing local materials where possible, implementing a circular economy, giving people the opportunity to live off the land while they are here – just as my ancestors did all those years ago.
“It starts with using local materials to build the structures and it follows through to the food we provide, the water from local springs, the activities from local businesses and much more. I want the Retreat to become a beacon of excellence for sustainability and for health – providing good for people and for the environment.”
What’s your own background?
“I’m CEO of a demolition company called Colemans – and the third generation of my family to run the business after my father and grandfather. We’re based in Birmingham, where I grew up, and still operate as a family business. We’re set to celebrate our 60th anniversary this year, which is a huge achievement – very few family businesses reach that milestone.
“My paternal grandfather set up the business back in 1962 but my links to Allagheemore come from my mother’s side of the family. When I took over the land, I was the fifth generation of Shea/O’Shea since Michael and Ellen O’Shea, who were the first recorded tenants of the original farmhouse that still occupies the site today.”
What’s the history of the site?
“The original farmhouse building that will form the centrepoint of The Skelligs Retreat dates back to 1842, when records show that Allagheemore was home to Michael and Ellen O’Shea, together with their young daughters Mary and Honora. We know that the family lived ad works on the farm for many years before that point, but in 1842 they took down many of the small dwellings and used the materials to build the farmhouse using more modern techniques. This ethos of breaking up and reusing materials is definitely something we’ll be continuing.
Michael’s daughter Mary and her husband Patrick (Paddy) Shea had five children of their own and by 1901 the three properties in the main yard were owned by three O’Shea families; Mary and Patrick with their daughter Johanna occupied one, their grandsons Michael and Timothy each occupied one of the remaining two.
“Timothy eventually passed his property to son Michael James, before he in turn passed it onto his son Michael Junior and I took over the land with a vision for The Skelligs Retreat. Today, the descendants of the O’Shea family have roots all over the world but all still consider Allagheemore as their spiritual home.”
Why did you have this vision for Allagheemore?
“I’ve spent nearly 30 years working for and now running a successful business in the UK. It’s been incredibly rewarding but also incredibly hard at times. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside my father for most of my adult life, which has also reinforced the importance of strong family values. But a tragic incident in 2016 brought new focus in my life.
“In February 2016, Didcot Power Station partially collapsed while our company was completing the complex demolition of the site. Four colleagues lost their lives on that tragic day – Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings and Christopher Huxtable. Of course the impact on me and my colleagues was insignificant compared to the loss suffered by the families of those who lost their lives, but this incident hit us all hard.
“After the incident, I re-evaluated what’s most important in life. A small team of us visited Ireland, for a chance to reflect on things and almost instantaneously that trip, which included a visit to Allagheemore and The Skelligs, opened our eyes to the power and spirituality of this ancient site.
“Despite the ongoing difficulties and adversity we were all facing in our personal and corporate lives, we felt relaxed and peaceful. For some of us it was the first time we had felt that in years. Life takes over sometimes and you don’t realise how much you are pushing yourself to the limit until you truly stop to reflect.
“The scope has evolved since, but from that moment an idea was born. I thought ‘if I can package the energy, spirituality and culture of this unique place, then I can help others to experience the same positive impact.’ The Skelligs Retreat will deliver health benefits for those dealing with stressful situations, in all aspects of their life.”
What is most important for you at The Skelligs Retreat?
“I’m bringing together so many of my passions here on the site and I’m extremely proud to be able to do that. A passion for supporting wellbeing, a passion for sustainable development, a passion for protecting and prolonging the ancient family site. Also for supporting the cultures and historic trades within the local community.
“For me, it’s important that I deliver all of this. I want to build a world-class facility that will help people from all over the world to come to Allagheemore and feel that same life-changing energy that I did. But I want to do it in a way that is sensitive to the area, its history and its culture. I’m fully committed to doing that.
“In a way, we’re coming full circle because this is what my family did generations ago. They built the farm buildings from what was available locally, they lived off the land and people were happier living that life. I want to bring that back for those who visit The Skelligs Retreat.”