Best Breaks and English Escapes

Best Breaks and English Escapes

Take pity on relatives who have continued to muster enthusiasm for hastily bought and wrapped autobiographies and luxury bathing gift sets year after year. Show them you care and go the extra mile in 2012 with presents guaranteed not to sit and gather dust. 

For the Creative SoulWhat better way to kick start 2013 than with a few days in the English countryside, just you, a paintbrush and beautiful scenery? Bedruthan Steps Hotel in Cornwall offers weekend art breaks, suitable for both beginners and budding Hockneys, to teach the art of painting landscapes in acrylic.

Participants will learn to play with light, colour, movement and mood with Cornwall-based artist Tracey Hunter as a guide, and will return with their own artistic masterpiece. Tracey will share secrets, tips and tricks for creating beautifully balanced compositions, as well as rendering more detailed aspects of a painting – clouds, rocks and texture. Easels, brushes, paint, paper and canvas are supplied.  Two night breaks from £320 per person. Vouchers available.

Or Active SoleIf you thought you couldn’t giftwrap peace and quiet, think again! Walking holiday specialist Foot Trails offers a range of vouchers for relaxing rural escapes, offering the lucky recipients time out to themselves whilst exploring idyllic countryside and sampling the best of hospitality throughout rural South West England.

The vouchers come in two different designs, beautifully packaged in a stylish hand crafted presentation box, complete with gift card, Montezuma chocolate and a guide to the rural walking breaks recipients can choose from. Foot Trails gift experience vouchers are available in denominations of £25 and £100. For further details, call 01747 820626.

Why not supplement your walking holiday vouchers with a bulging stocking full of goodies from Cotswold Outdoor – the company’s new Presents with Personality app matches your interests to the perfect outdoors gift.

For the Budding DesignerIf your daughter refuses to wear anything you give her, encourage her to make her own jewellery instead. Higham Hall in Cumbria runs a 5-day residential course with established jewellery designer Sally Rotarides. Guests can choose to learn several techniques including texturing, etching, soldering and cold enamelling, or spend the time specialising in one technique.

You’ll come away with some unique pieces of jewellery that money can’t buy. The residential course runs from 29 March – 2 April and costs £355.

For the GourmandFoodies will love the Gourmet Weekends at luxury country estate Swinton Park in Yorkshire. Here, fine cuisine and wine are brought together in the award-winning on site restaurant kitchen and cookery school. Over the course of the weekend, there’ll be wine tastings, meetings with local food producers, cookery demonstrations and even a gourmet treasure hunt.

Highlights include a five course gourmet dinner and a Land Rover tour of the grounds to see the deer park. Guests are sent on their way with a foodie gift to continue the gourmet living at home.  From £380 per room. Gift vouchers available.  

For Bright Stars of Tomorrow – Both in Front of the Camera…The Rose Theatre in Kingston runs a series of regular drop-in classes on diverse subjects from Shakespeare to stage-combat, perfect for any wannabe stars in your midst; this is an opportunity for visitors to dip their toes into theatre work. Classes are energetic, interactive, great fun and offer excellent value – from just £20 per person.

There is also the chance to become part of a choir for the day. Join up to 100 people on the Rose stage to rehearse and perform a full public concert in one day. It’s a challenging, exhausting day, working with an experienced musical director and professional singers but the concert at the end of is something participants will never forget! No previous choir experience necessary. It costs £20 and the next courses run on 17 February and 26 May 2013. For full details of the theatre’s courses and events and to purchase a class as a gift, call 08444 821 556.

… and Behind itFilm buffs will love The Old Rectory Cottages in Devon, where budding directors can pick up essential skills from the experts with a new course in basic film-making. Produce your own mini-documentary under the guidance of tutors Martin Pailthorpe and Ian Damms who between them have 50 years’ film-making experience. Students will be taken through every stage of the film-making process to produce their own five-minute documentary.

The Old Rectory Cottages sit between the thatched village pub and the Saxon church in the village of Kings Nympton in rural North Devon. The course costs £400 per person including four nights’ accommodation and a Devon cream tea and is available on selected dates from January till the end of May. Vouchers available – please call 01769 580 456.   

For Those That Really Do Have it AllSome people are impossible to please – but something quirky could be just the ticket. A Walk with Wolves, via the Wolf Conservation Trust, is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Annual membership to the Trust costs £100, but includes a wolf walk for two around the Trust’s site in Berkshire. You’ll see wolves up close as they interact with the environment, investigating scent trails and taking a dip in the stream.

There are volunteers on hand to answer questions throughout, as well as an official talk halfway through the experience. Additional wolf walks are available to members during the year for £30 per person.

A dining experience with a difference

Ideal for dads and lovers of classic slapstick humour, Faulty Towers is a two-hour interactive production set in a restaurant, where the audience are the diners who enjoy a three-course lunch or dinner while being entertained by, and interacting with, actors impersonating the series’ much-loved characters including Basil Fawlty and Manuel. The award-winning show is set to run in London until June 2013. Demand is high, so don’t delay! 

For more Christmas ideas visit

FemaleFirst @FemaleFirst_UK

Shabana Adam @Shabs_A

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