Running, music and adventure festival
Love Trails is a weekend festival of guided trail runs around the Gower peninsula’s woodlands and coastal paths, followed by live music – with Futureheads and Shy FX among the confirmed 2020 acts so far. Other activities include a beer-mile relay, coasteering, rock climbing, surfing, wood-fired hot tubs, workshops on race fuelling and endurance and talks from athletes and therapists
• 2-5 July 2020, tickets from £135
Swing from a harness and hoist yourself high up into a leafy canopy … The Great Big Tree Climbing Company takes the activity to the next level. A one-hour climb includes all the safety gear and is suitable for ages 6+, with events taking place at Hardcastle Crags in West Yorkshire, Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens in Kent and other UK sites.
• £20 vouchers cover a one-hour tree-climbing experience
Trek with llamas … in the Surrey Hills
Instead of more socks (even posh, alpaca woolen ones), an afternoon of llama trekking makes a more memorable gift. A two-hour walk with a herd of 12 fluffy new friends – including Lucky and Toffee’s two new babies – starts in the village of Hambledon, and heads around the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It also includes picnic hampers or a post-trek lunch in the Merry Harriers pub.
• Adults from £84, 8-15s from £48, vouchers available online, merryharriers.com
Vegan cookery class
Pomegranate, orange and pistachio pilaf; chestnut and orange wellington; butternut squash and lemon tagine; sticky gingerbread cake… Cook up a vegan feast with chef Katy Beskow, author of The 15 Minute Vegan, with a class for beginners at the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School.
• 5 April, 2020, £150, gift vouchers available online
Catch a wave
Generating a thousand waves an hour, The Wave in Bristol is a new artificial inland surfing lagoon, open year-round and suitable for all abilities. A one-hour surf session, with equipment and coaching starts at £45 for children and £55 for adults (with gift vouchers available in various denominations online).
For a little me-time, a mindfulness day retreat with Synergie Experiences includes gentle yoga, sound healing, mindfulness walks, meditation and a healthy lunch. There’s a choice of seven locations around the UK, including Notting Hill, the Berkshire village of Waltham St Lawrence and Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
• £85, gift vouchers available online
Stay somewhere different
Be it a cabin on a working farm, a treehouse, converted airliner or a bell tent with a hot tub, there are thousands of alternative accommodation options around the UK. Gift vouchers for travel websites offering unusual places to stay include, Canopy & Stars (currently offering £50 free when buying £150 worth of vouchers), Cool Camping, and Farm Stays.
Learn to sail
Budding sailors can learn to hoist the sales and take the wheel of Anny, a 1930s wooden topsail schooner, while exploring St Austell Bay on the south coast of Cornwall. Chartered sailing experiences set sail from the Unesco heritage site Charlestown village, home to the last 18th-century Georgian harbour in the UK, and include lunch with wine.
• Half-day trips (3 hours) start at £50 adults, £30 child (10-16); full-day (6 hours) is £95/£45, gift vouchers available online
From natural dying to medicinal herbs, plus other heritage crafts and technology, Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire delves into the past with a series of immersive workshops. The archaeological site is also a working farm and open-air research laboratory, helping to educate visitors on human history from the stone age to the Saxon period.
• From £60, vouchers available online, butserancientfarm.co.uk
Make eco-friendly deodorant and shampoo
No more unwanted smellies for Christmas – why not ditch the plastic-packaged products and go for a green cosmetics workshop instead. Taking place at Yorkshire Ales bottle shop and pub in Snaith village, East Yorkshire, attendees create personalised eco-friendly deodorant sticks and solid shampoo. The session also includes gin tasting from York-based sustainable spirits company Cooper King Distillery.
• £26pp, minimum two people, gift vouchers available online
A yoga and surf weekend
In Cornish woodland, close to the coast, an Adventure Tapas weekender combines yoga sessions and surf lessons on beaches near Newquay in Cornwall. Instructors and equipment are included in the trip, plus one night camping in bell tents in the private woods (including breakfast). No experience necessary, suitable for ages 8+.
• £159pp, muchbetteradventures.com
Learn to draw – at the V&A
Sketchout run a series of one-day drawing workshops at some of London’s best galleries. The first one, on the fundamentals of drawing, takes place among the sculpture collections of the V&A, covering various techniques and principles of line, tone, proportion, shading, subject and materials.
• £110, gift vouchers available online
Huddersfield’s Titanic Spa is not only good for body and soul but also the planet, with eco-credentials worth boasting about: powered by solar, with swimming pools filled with water from a natural spring and eco-friendly beauty products. It’s a former textile mill on the edge of the Pennines with a sauna, herbal infusion room, Turkish bath and outdoor hot tub.
• Spa evenings with fizz and canapes start at £49, overnight stays including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a 55-minute treatment from £129pp, titanicspa.com
Goats for Beginners, Lambing, Learn How to Shear Sheep – bring dreams of smallholdings to life with a farming workshop in the Wye Valley. The hands-on day courses take place at Upper Meend, a working farm in Monmouth, and include practical tips around care, rearing, breeding, handling and behaviours.
• From £115, vouchers available in any denomination, humblebynature.com
Find your silver streak
Christmas is often about sparkly things but how about gifting someone the skills to make their own? At West Dean College, a renowned arts school in a beautiful 19th-century house and gardens in West Sussex, there is a one-day silversmith course for beginners. It teaches skills in raising, planishing (flattening), soldering and forging that are required to make small silver items, such as boxes and dishes. There’s also a one-day silver jewellery making workshop.
• Courses from £128, gift vouchers in any denomination available online, westdean.org.uk
Champagne is so last decade … it’s all about English fizz now, as the industry goes from strength to strength, particularly in the south-east. The Mount Vineyard in Shoreham, Kent, offers tours and tastings of several of its English sparkling wines – including a limited-edition sparkling red. There’s plenty of in-depth discussion of varieties and viticulture, plus a cheese and charcuterie board to soak it up.
• £60 or £70 for two people, vouchers available online, themountvineyard.co.uk
Learn wilderness skills and green tech
In the foothills of Snowdonia, the Centre for Alternative Technology, runs courses on renewable energy, eco-friendly building, wilderness skills and other green technology subjects. Design an ecologically beneficial and resilient garden as part of Introduction to Permaculture (£120 for three days, with optional extra full-board accommodation for £130) or tap into off-grid dreams with the Build a Small Wind Turbine course (£200 for two days, full board).
• Call 01654 705950 to buy vouchers
Give a dance workshop a spin
Alongside aerial performance and bungee-assisted dance shows, Wired Aerial Theatre runs vertical wall and aerial dance workshops at its studio, close to Liverpool’s waterfront. High-energy drop-in workshops and one-to-one sessions teach the company’s signature techniques, aerial circus and other harness skills, while developing strength and flexibility
• Single sessions from £18.50, ages 14+, wiredaerialtheatre.com, call 0151 207 7568 for dates and to book vouchers
Ride the rapids
The Welsh National White Water Centre makes year-round use of the River Tryweryn in Snowdonia, fed by Llyn Celyn reservoir, for exhilarating adventures on the rapids. It runs one-hour taster sessions (from £37pp, wetsuit hire £5, no experience necessary, ages 12+) and two-hour full sessions (from £67pp), and other water activities. Vouchers available online.
Foraging experiences with the Wild Kitchen in Deal, Kent, take participants out with a guide to gather produce such as wild garlic, spring flowers and seaweed, in the Woodland and Seashore Foraging day, followed by dinner. Foraging lasts around five hours, followed by a “rolling banquet” of courses created from the foraged food.
• £85, voucher available online, thewildkitchen.net
Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips