Crafty breaks: 15 of the UK’s best creative retreats

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Chair-making, Leicestershire

Spend a week in National Forest woodlands learning to craft your very own chair to take home with you, with Greenwood Days, experts in all greenwood crafts. All levels of experience are catered for – beginners will make a single bow Windsor or a continuous arm Windsor, while the more advanced can design their own or try a child’s chair or Welsh Windsor. All materials are included, as well as lunch and hot drinks. The site is on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border and accommodation is not included – try The Boot Inn in Repton, a 17th-century coaching inn with microbrewery. Shorter courses include two-day stool making or basketry weaving.
Windsor chair-making courses are £650, next available dates are 21-27 June, 31 July-6 Aug, 25-29 Aug, 4-10 Oct, greenwooddays.co.uk

Drawing, North Yorkshire

Introduction to Pen and Ink drawing in the North York Moors
The four-day course is aimed at beginners

Learn how to create beautiful pen and ink drawings on this four-day art holiday in the North York Moors. Aimed at beginners, it teaches a range of styles and techniques designed to build confidence and enhance various skills, from composition to perspective. Based at Larpool Hall, a Georgian mansion in Whitby with views over the Esk valley, the tuition is mostly inside but taken outside if the weather permits. The joys of the coast and moors are on the doorstep. Various other options are offered, from Acrylics or Sketchbook Rambles in the Shropshire Hills to Animal Art in Northumberland.
Introduction to Pen and Ink drawing in the North York Moors from £405, 25-28 Sept, hfholidays.co.uk

Wildlife photography, Dorset

Red squirrel at Brownsea Island. Image by Emma Healey
Red squirrel pictured on Brownsea Island. Photograph: Emma Healey

Red squirrels, once found throughout the UK, are now very rare in England – but Brownsea Island in Poole harbour is home to a thriving population. On this two-night trip guests will explore the island and learn how to photograph the creatures in the coniferous woodland. Led by Emma Healey and Sean Weekly, the course is an opportunity to explore the island after the day trippers have left and take advantage of the best light of the day to build a portfolio of wildlife shots. In the evening there’s a review of the day’s work.
£475pp including accommodation, transfers, most meals and tuition, wildlifeworldwide.com, next course 14 Sept

Clothes mending, West Sussex

Mending your clothes course - West Dean college of Arts and Conservation
No experience of needlework is necessary for the West Dean course

West Dean College of Arts & Conservation near Chichester runs more than 300 arts and crafts short courses. It has a particularly wide range of textiles courses, from making belts and lampshades to weaving, embroidery, dyeing and printing. Those who have reconsidered their shopping habits over lockdown may enjoy the Mending Your Clothes course, in which textile artist Celia Pym teaches repair techniques – including darning and patching – on knitted and woven garments. No experience of needlework is necessary, and students are encouraged to bring their own items in need of repair: socks, jumpers, jeans, shirts and skirts. Accommodation options include the Grade II-listed main house – the former home of the surrealist patron and poet Edward James – and the vicarage, cottage and annexes in the 36-hectare (90-acre) grounds.
£381 (course only), from £196 for accommodation and meals, next course 20-23 Aug, westdean.org.uk

Modern Cross Stitch retreat, Bristol

The three-day break is based at the four-star Mercure Bristol Grand hotel.
The three-day break is based at the four-star Mercure Bristol Grand hotel

Arena Travel’s Stitchtopia holidays range across knitting, crochet, quilting and embroidery. New additions to the UK programme include Stitch Yourself Happy retreats, which combine yarn and yoga or patchwork and pilates (next retreat 27-29 Aug), and Craft Sanctuary embroidery retreats (3-5 Sept). Another new option is the Modern Cross Stitch retreat in Bristol, led by Jamie Chalmers, AKA Mr X Stitch. It includes a guided walk of the city, taking inspiration from works by Banksy and other street artists, and three workshops for stitchers to create their own urban cross-stitch patterns using PCStitch or MacStitch software. The three-day break is based at the four-star Mercure Bristol Grand hotel, with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.
£525 for two nights (one night full-board and one night half-board), next course 22-24 Oct, arenatravel.com/craft-holidays

Celtic woodturning, County Armagh

Celtic woodturning breaks - County Armagh Pádraig Carragher’s Woodturning breaks
Learning how to use lathes forms a central part of the woodturning course

Pádraig Carragher is a glampsite owner, woodturner and musician, and he combines all three for his Celtic Woodturning breaks. Guests stay at Bluebell Lane Glamping at the foot of Slieve Gullion in the Ring of Gullion area of outstanding natural beauty, near Newry. There is a choice of cottage, shepherd’s hut, three pods, tipi or safari tent. The three-night break includes a full-day beginners’ woodturning workshop, where participants make their own bowl from locally sourced wood, learning how to use a lathe, sharpen tools, sand and finish. There is also a break for a guided walk through the 11-hectare woodland surrounding the site, where Carragher identifies trees and explains how they are used in woodturning, followed by a night of traditional Irish music.
From £238, including lunch on the woodturning day, notintheguidebooks.com

Adventure skills and photography, Peak District

Outdoor photographer and expedition leader, Ian Finch
The course centres on two days’ hiking in the Hope Valley

This new weekend trip is a chance to learn the art of adventure from a master: former Royal Marine commando Ian Finch. Finch has led expeditions all over the world, including a 2,000-mile canoe descent of the Yukon, and is also an outdoor photographer. Over two days of hiking in the Hope Valley, he will share his stories and explain how to plan your own adventure, from navigation to nutrition, footwear to first aid. The trip also includes a sunset photography session. Accommodation is a bunkhouse near Castleton. For those who would prefer more of a focus on photography, Much Better Adventures also runs adventure photography workshops on Dartmoor and the Isle of Skye.
£285 for two nights, including most meals, next available course 22-24 Oct, muchbetteradventures.com

Creative writing, Shropshire, Devon and West Yorkshire

Totleigh Barton, Devon.
Totleigh Barton is about 12 miles north of Okehampton, Devon

Arvon runs creative writing courses and retreats in three Writing Houses: the Hurst in Shropshire, the former home of the playwright John Osborne; Totleigh Barton, a 16th-century manor house in Devon; and Lumb Bank, an 18th-century mill owner’s house in West Yorkshire that once belonged to Ted Hughes. Among retreats with availability are Starting to Write Fiction at Totleigh Barton (12-17 July), Fiction at the Hurst (26-31 July) and Poetry at Lumb Bank (2-7 Aug). Future courses include playwriting, screenwriting and editing fiction. Most retreats involve workshops, one-on-one tutorials, readings or talks, and lots of writing time – guests have their own room with a desk. There are courses for all levels, from beginners to established authors.
From £815 full-board, for the five-day Starting to Write Fiction course, queenofretreats.com

Pottery, Herefordshire

Eastnor Castle and Eastnor Pottery
Pottery is the ‘perfect stress-relieving activity’

Eastnor Pottery is on the Eastnor Castle country estate, close to the Malvern Hills. Its one- and two-day pottery courses are, it says, “the perfect stress-relieving activity”. Day one is spent at the potter’s wheel, throwing small pots at first, then building up to bigger vessels and different shapes. Those staying for day two will learn how to add foot rings, join handles and attach other motifs, and paint their pots using under-glazes and decorating slips. One to four pots each (depending on weight) are chosen to be fired and glazed, and the finished pots will be delivered to you a month later. Potters can stay on the Deer Park Campsite overlooking the castle, whose fishing lakes are free for campers (£12 per tent, campervan or caravan), or book a holiday cottage in the grounds – or even stay in the castle itself.
£150 for one day, £250 for two, eastnorpottery.co.uk

Natural dyeing, Pembrokeshire

Natural dyeing course at Coppicewood College in Pembrokeshire contact dyeing nov 2014 009 (2)
Workshops including woodland skills and natural dyeing feature at Coppicewood

Coppicewood College is a small charity promoting traditional woodland management, based in Cwm Plysgog Wood, Cilgerran, near Cardigan. Its main focus is a six-month woodland skills course, but it also runs about 50 short courses, in areas such as blacksmithing, coppicing, hedge-laying and green woodworking. Another weekend workshop focuses on natural dyeing. Participants explore the seven-hectare wood, gather plants to make botanical dyes, and create coloured samples on cotton yarn, wool yarn and fleece. They can also experiment with eco-printing using leaves and flowers. The price doesn’t include accommodation, but there are plenty of options in Cilgerran, including glamping at Fforest.
£150 for two days, including refreshments, next course 26-27 June, craftcourses.com

Winemaking, Devon

Crush Course
Crushing grapes is a fun part of the weekend.

Learn the art of winemaking on the Crush Course, over a weekend at the Dartington Trust near the River Dart in south Devon. Guests dive into the whole process, visiting a vineyard and touring the winery, getting their hands dirty crushing grapes, sampling different varieties, and come away with their own homemade bottle of sparkling vino. Led by the former head of wine at Waitrose, Justin Howard-Sneyd, and Duncan Schwab, one of the best-known winemakers in the UK, it’s an intensive, fun few days. Accommodation on-site is recommended (participants share meals and talk all things wine) and included. No prior experience is necessary.
£425 residential half-board, 2-4 July, dartington.org

Jewellery making, Isle of Wight

Tiny Homes sea glass jewellery-making workshops.
Tiny Homes sea glass jewellery-making workshops.

Tiny Home Holidays, near Cowes on the Isle of Wight, runs day workshops in a lovely studio with a woodburner. Sessions cover everything from essential oils to pinafore aprons to bookbinding. One inspiring workshop involves making wire-wrapped jewellery from sea glass (naturally weathered glass found on beaches). Using copper- and silver-plated wires, participants will learn various techniques for wrapping sea glass – they can choose from the teacher’s wide collection of glass or bring their own found pieces to wrap. The price of the course includes a silver-plated chain to hang creations on, plus refreshments and a light lunch. Aspiring jewellers can make a weekend of it by staying in one of the four architect-designed, tiny off-grid homes – and perhaps going sea glass foraging on the Isle of Wight’s beaches.
Workshop only is £45, £340 for two nights for two, including the workshop, next course 25 Sept, tinyhomesholidays.com

Outdoor painting, Cornwall

Newlyn School of Art
Dramatic coastal vistas inspire artists at Newlyn. Photograph: James Thirlaway

The Newlyn School of Art runs a huge range of indoor and outdoor art courses. The three-day Sea and Coast course is suitable for beginners, runs throughout the year and is sure to blow away any lockdown cobwebs. Led by the young Cornish artist Kit Johns, participants will explore the coastal paths of west Cornwall, stopping to draw and paint at dramatic sites. Johns will share his knowledge of how to depict the sea, and the tools, brushes, paints, sprays and inks he uses. Budding artists will be encouraged to experiment, using different media and a variety of surfaces, including Johns’ trademark vintage maps. Food and accommodation aren’t included, but the school recommends places to stay on its website, including the boutique hotel Chapel House, a 30-minute walk away in Penzance (doubles from £170 B&B).
£395, next course 27-29 July, newlynartschool.co.uk

Upcycling furniture, Stirlingshire

Upcycling furniture, Stirlingshire Gartmore House, an art, craft and activity holiday centre in rural Stirlingshire
An upcycling furniture workshop at Gartmore House

Gartmore House, an art, craft and activity holiday centre in rural Stirlingshire, is running about 20 craft holidays when it reopens in August, and more than double that in 2022. Breaks range from corsetry and millinery to photography and hill walking. New this year is the five-day upcycling furniture holiday, where participants learn how to give old furniture a new lease of life. Techniques covered include painting, distressing, stencilling, guilding, découpage, waxing and varnishing. Everyone brings their own piece of furniture with them (such as a small table, chair or box) to transform. There is a break from crafting on Wednesday afternoon for a scenic sail across Loch Katrine.
From £849 full-board, next course 31 Oct-5 Nov, gartmorehouse.com

Storytelling, Forest Row, East Sussex

Emerson College
Emerson College

Novice storytellers can test the waters and learn new skills needed to captivate an audience on the Begin it Now! weekend workshop at Emerson College in Forest Row. Run by Stella Kassimati, an expert storyteller and workshop leader with a love of Greek myth and biographical storytelling, it’s designed to give participants the confidence to stand up in front of a group and tell a traditional tale or myth. No experience is necessary. Other courses for the more advanced are offered, too.
£145, 9-11 July, non-residential; on-campus accommodation, including meals, from £136, emerson.org.uk