Creative UK Breaks
Sometimes a short break needs to be something more than a few days away from home. Sometimes we need to try something totally different, absolutely new, to keep our brains active and our bodies fit and healthy. By combining a mini holiday with an activity such as cooking or painting, we can fall in love with a new hobby whilst recharging our batteries. Here are some creative breaks around the UK to help you relax your body and revive your mind.
The Creative Retreat // Banff, Aberdeenshire
The Creative Retreat offers creative art breaks for both beginners and experts alike. Try out a new medium, or hone your skills in something you’ve tried before; the expert tutors will guide you through the course with practical tips and sound theory. The art holidays last for one week, and you will be able to stay in your own self-catered room (your evening welcome meal is included). Courses include lino printing, abstract art, drawing in the area, the essentials of painting, creative colour, and painting and drawing. Residential courses start at £465, although non-residential options are available.
www.creative-retreat.co.uk // 01261 812276
The Shoemaking School // London
If you really want to experience something you’ve never tried before, why not have a go at making shoes? The tradition of making shoes by hand (cobbling) is an ancient one, but one that is becoming more and more rare – so not only are you experiencing something completely different at London’s Shoemaking School, you are also ensuring that old ways are kept alive. Here you can join an intensive five-day course in London (or in Berkeley, California, if you want to travel further afield) for £992. The Shoemaking School also offers courses in tutu making and boned bodice creation. And since you’re in London (or Berkeley) why not make the most of your time and explore the city too?
www.theshoemakingschool.co.uk // 0207 923 9450
Eckington Manor // Eckington, Worcestershire
Set on the border of the Cotswolds, stunning Eckington Manor is luxurious and unique; it’s the perfect place to stay and unwind for a while, surrounded by wooden beams and gorgeous scenery. But there is more to Eckington Manor than simply a lovely hotel with perfectly appointed rooms – there is a cookery school here too. And not just any old cookery school; this particular one offers the largest number of Agas in a UK cookery school, and there are even specialist Aga cookery courses to make the most of that fact. But if Agas aren’t your thing there are plenty of other things to cook, and all of them are made from fully traceable, locally produced ingredients. Courses include knife skills, restaurant dishes at home, making the most of your Aga, easy entertainment, introduction to bread making and more. Courses from £40 (accommodation must be booked separately).
www.eckingtonmanor.co.uk // 01386 751600
West Dean College // Chichester, Sussex
There are dozens of different courses to try at Chichester’s beautiful West Dean College. From pottery to painting, from metalworking to music, from glass and mosaics to gardening – plus plenty more. Some of the courses last for a day, but others are two-, three-, or even four-day courses, giving you the full experience of whichever craft it is you are keen to have a go at. Accommodation is available in this stunning building for those who want to enjoy the longer courses and stay away from home to do so. West Dean College – former home of poet and surrealist painter Edward James – offers both traditional and more modern rooms, but both types are fully equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, an iron and ironing board, towels, toiletries, and many are en suite. Prices start at £175.
www.westdean.org.uk // 01243 818300
Learn Writing // The Isle of Wight
Enjoy a long weekend or midweek break on the intriguing and wonderful Isle of Wight and learn how to write poetry, fiction, fact, scripts, or biographies. The writing courses can be tailored to suit your requirements, and can be in a group setting or one to one – depending entirely on what your focus and needs are. The in-depth workshops and discussions include where to get story ideas, the critical elements of a story, finding markets, who you are writing for, adding emotion and creating characters. The courses take place in a comfortable, cosy home environment and the price (from £185) includes breakfast – evenings meals can be added as an extra. The house itself is just minutes from the sea.
www.learnwriting.co.uk // 01983 407772
Benslow Music // Hitchin, Hertfordshire
No matter what instrument you favour, you are sure to find an exceptional course for you at Benslow Music. Courses include strings, keyboards, vocals, jazz, music appreciation, composing and arranging and conducting. The courses are well thought out and fascinating, and the accommodation meets a very high standard too. You can stay in either a traditional Victorian bedroom or a more modern room – there are single, double, en suite and standard rooms to choose from. There is a shop in reception for essentials, and all food is included in the cost of your residential course (from £275).
www.benslowmusic.org // 01462 459446
Brambles Art Retreat // Lifton, Devon
Although based in Devon, this fantastic art retreat actually hosts courses across the UK, and even in exotic foreign climes such as Paris, Corfu and Tuscany. Each of the courses focuses on different media or different locations – and the tutors are on hand to ensure you are able to capture the beautiful places you are visiting in just the right way. Named as one of the top 10 art retreats in the UK by The Guardian, this is definitely one not to miss! Prices start at around £1,100 per person, and non-painters are more than welcome to join their painting friends at a reduced rate. The relaxed atmosphere and excellent hosts mean that this is a retreat to return to again and again.
www.bramblesartretreat.co.uk // 01566 784359
Cwym Tawel // Bridgend, South Wales
Cwyn Tawel is a relaxing and peaceful getaway – it’s a campsite with a difference, utilising yurts rather than tents. Each of the yurts has been furnished with authentic ethnic and rustic furniture including fluffy sheepskins, and each one has a central log burner for the chillier evenings. They are warm and inviting, but with so many courses to join in with, you might not be in your yurt that much after all! Courses include wild food foraging, willow basket making, felt making, woodland crafts, camp fire cooking, coracle (a traditional calico boat) making, how to make a rustic Welsh stick chair, how to make a Welsh love spoon and willow sculpting. It’s all good fun and will give you a sense of achievement when you have learned your new outdoor skill. Breathe in the fresh air, get active, and at the end of the day relax in front of a log burner or in the new spa pool. What could be better? Prices start from £310.
www.cwmtawel.org.uk // 01656 737326
Coombe Farm Studios // Dartmouth, Devon
Coombe Farm Studios opened in 1983 and was the first of its kind, offering week-long residential courses that were artist led. Now it is more popular than ever, and the range of courses on offer has expanded to include subjects such as printmaking, ceramics, watercolours, oils, mixed media and acrylic work. There is even a weekly yoga class you can attend to relax and unwind should you wish to. This retreat is located in the most beautiful of settings which helps to kindle great creativity. The price of each course includes home-from-home style accommodation with shared bathroom facilities (all towels and dressing gowns are included). If you prefer to have an en suite, there are some lovely B&Bs located nearby and you can attend the courses as a day guest. Prices start at £290 for a weekend course.
www.coombefarmstudios.com // 01803 722352
Creative Sewing Weekends // Emsworth, Hampshire
These varied weekends of sewing fun will give you new skills, introduce you to new people, and offer you the chance to have a wonderful break away from home too. Choose from a range of different workshops including dress to impress, thread painting, hexagon happenings, machine embroidery and art deco wall hangings. These workshops are run by expert tutors who will ensure you have a wonderful weekend and come away with something you have made yourself. These great weekends take place in Dunford House, a beautiful 18th-century building set in 60 acres of tranquil parkland. The sewing group takes over the entire hotel for the weekend, so everyone there is involved in the course – it’s a great way to make new friends and new clothes! Prices start at £345.
www.jennierayment.com // 01243 374860