TAKE A break from modern life on a holiday combining beautiful British scenery with a course in some of the UK’s most traditional skills. From milling and wool dyeing to beekeeping and blacksmithing, you could come away with a new passion as well as an enjoyable weekend away.
Track majestic red deer stags on the Isle of Skye with the ghillie of the Kinloch Lodge Hotel.
Traditionally a precursor to shooting, the art of stalking gets a new purpose on this break, capturing the animal in the wild – with a camera.
Take in the south of the island’s beautiful shore and forest scenery as you search for deer to photograph in the company of your expert guide.
Kinloch’s ghillie will help you understand signs, spot tracks, assess terrain and minimise your scent while out in the field in order to get close enough to take a good shot when the deer finally break cover.
On the way, learn to forage for local mushrooms, shellfish and seaweed as you move through the landscape.
And there’s a chance to try your hand at fly fishing for wild brown trout (April to June) or salmon (July to October).
The celebration of local produce continues with a five-course dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant at the end of each day.
Kinloch Lodge Hotel (01471 833333/ kinloch-lodge.co.uk) has a two-night Fishing, Foraging and Stalking Country Escape (April 1 – November 1) from £945pp, half-board.
As Monty Python memorably once said, “blessed are the cheesemakers” and a new foodie generation can master this traditional art at the Honesty Cookery School in Berkshire.
Under the tuition of Louise Talbot, owner of Cutting the Curd mobile cheese making school, you’ll learn to make butter, halloumi, mascarpone and mozzarella (using vegetarian rennet) from even basic supermarket milk in an oak-beamed barn at North Sydmonton House.
Small groups of no more than eight people make for high levels of one-to-one help and you can take your cheese home with you as well.
Alternatively, stay at The Vineyard in nearby Newbury and have the ultimate cheese and wine party – its cellar holds 30,000 Old and NewWorld wines to complement your new creations with.
The Honesty Cookery School (0163568989/cookeryschool.honestygroup.co.uk) offers a Cheese and Butter making course from £90, lunch included.
TheVineyard (01635 528 770/relaischateaux.com) has double rooms from £155 room only.
Talgarth Mill closed in 1946 after 150 years of grinding grain but its 2011 restoration has turned the wheel once again in this Brecon Beacons market town.
The community-run water-powered mill now grinds local wheat into award-winning bread-making flour four days a week.
Regular tours will show you behind the scenes but if you want to get hands-on then book a Miller’s Experience.
The hour-and-a-half class takes you through the process – checking the stones, engaging the wheel and selecting your grain from wheat, spelt or rye.
Use the hand-turned winnower to clean your grain ready for milling before opening the sluice gates and leat, the artificial watercourse that will get the watermill turning.
At the end take your flour to be bagged or book a baking class afterwards, to turn it into bread magic.You can pick up a loaf from the onsite bakery without doing the work of course
but where’s the fun in that?
Talgarth Mill (01874 711352/ talgarthmill.com) Miller’s Experience day from £15pp. Old Radnor Barn (01874 712102/ oldradnorbarn.com) has double rooms from £80 per night, B&B.
Britain’s history can be heard in the roar of the furnace and the clang of hammer on steel; and blacksmithing is an ancient art that takes years to master.
Get a taste for it though on a one-day traditional blacksmithing course at Firebird Forge on the Kent/ East Sussex border, in the heart of one of the south east’s oldest private estates.
Award-winning blacksmith and former archaeologist Mort specialises in historical iron and steel decorative work, toolmaking and blade forging but can help you coax metal into anything you fancy in the six-hour session to take home.
It’s hard graft though – come prepared to sweat at the edge of the fire, working the metal with anvils, hand tools and power hammers.
Take a break and head to the nearby local pub for lunch, or you can always eat your sandwiches in the original Hundred Acre Wood, Ashdown Forest, where AA Milne’s Pooh stories were set, which lies to the back of the forge.
Firebird Forge (07525 242315/ firebirdforge.co.uk) has a one-day blacksmithing course from £175pp. OneWarwick Park (01892 520587/ onewarwickpark.co.uk) in nearby TunbridgeWells has doubles from £85 per night, B&B.
Keeping bees is a real buzz and you can learn the basics on a two-day course in Shropshire from a former government bee inspector.
The emphasis is hands-on, so after a theory lesson you’ll put your knowledge to the test inside one of the 12 onsite hives, inspecting colonies, learning to understand what is going on and how to interpret what you see.
This includes checking the queen is laying eggs and making sure the worker bees haven’t made a new queen, which could lead to a swarm.
Vital beekeeping practice includes handling the frames, using a smoker and a group problem-solving exercise around what to do if you did get a swarm.
You’ll also see honey being spun out of the comb and get a “what you need” session (hives and bees are available to buy) that will allow you to get started on beekeeping at home if you’re hooked – with follow-up support available by telephone.
Tiger Hall Bees (01694 723484/ tigerhallbees.co.uk) has a two-day Learn to Keep Bees course from £325pp, including two lunches. The apiary can arrange accommodation in a B&B from £50pp, per night.
Discover the beauty of natural yarn and fabric by learning to dye and spin your own in the magnificent Highland wilds.
Lying 10 miles west of Loch Ness, Crochail woods is the perfect spot to watch Shetland sheep being hand-sheared and then being hands-on washing the fleece and dyeing it with natural dyes you make yourself from foraged plants over a wood fire, in the traditional Highland way.
Under the guidance of Bridie you can learn the ancient skill of spinning the beautiful coloured fleece.
Visits to nearby GlenAffric, the magnificent ancient Caledonian woodland and the Plodda Falls waterfall will provide inspiration.
Guests stay in Kerrow House, an old Highland lodge next to the River Glass and can spend the evenings enjoying Gaelic singing, lively conversation and a wee dram.
Responsible Travel (01273 823700/responsibletravel.com) has an eight-day Dye to Spin Holiday from £895pp, full board. British Airways (0844 493 0787/ba.com) has Heathrow flights to Inverness from £209 return.
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