Need inspiration for a short break? We bring you the most interesting experiences that promise to make exploration more memorable this spring.
1. Sea Safari from a Scottish Castle
Combining the luxury of living in a castle with coastal exploration and wildlife spotting, this carefully curated break in the Hebrides has both style and substance. Two nights are spent relaxing at Glenapp Castle, a Relais & Chateaux hotel with a 110-acre estate in Ayrshire. The next two will see guests striking out on a coastal adventure to the remote island of Jura and a glamping site, where tents are equipped with hot showers, duvets and tartan rugs. A colony of seals can be seen on Jura year-round and guests will take a rib boat to other islands too, stopping off at Ailsa Craig, a sanctuary teeming with birdlife. Longer, bespoke trips to more remote islands can be arranged too, with a private chef on board.
Four nights from £3,250 per person.
2. Hiking and a Spa in the Peaks
What could be better than lungfuls of fresh air and Peak District views, followed by well deserved pampering time? Buxton’s beautiful new luxury hotel, the Buxton Crescent, opened in 2020, putting the spa town back on the map. The hotel is offering a new, invigorating wellness break that makes the most of its natural mineral water and setting.
Spa treatments utilise the therapeutic properties of water and guests can enjoy them after two guided hikes in the area. The Achieve Peak Health programme includes hikes that are tailored to guests’ needs and discussed with them prior to their stay. They could include popular walks, such as up to Mam Tor or Kinder Scout, or quieter routes. Three tailored spa treatments will follow, including a mud pack, underwater jet massage and a CO2 infusion mineral bath.
Three nights’ dinner, b&b, with two hikes and three treatments, from £650 per person.
3. Classic Cars in the New Forest
Wind past ancient woodland in the New Forest on this break that is a treat for anyone who admires British motors. Country house hotel The Montagu Arms is offering a fabulous fleet of classic sports cars to guests who might enjoy driving in serious style through this national park. Cars available include a red 1966 Jaguar E-Type, a 1967 Austin Healey 3000 MK III, and a Gardner Douglas 427 Cobra.
The package includes a stay in one of the hotel’s courtyard rooms, which, in the 1920’s, contained the house’s garages. In the evening, guests can enjoy a seven-course tasting menu with paired wine in the hotel’s three AA Rosette Terrace Restaurant. Two tickets to the Beaulieu Motor Museum, just down the road, are included too. You could even drive there.
One night’s dinner, b&b with car hire, from £997 for two people.
4. Snowdonia Steam and Cycle
From coast to mountaintop, this varied trip across Snowdonia involves both cycling and genteel train travel. Devised by Carter & Co, the journey includes a stay in the colourful village of Portmeirion, where The Prisoner was filmed, and where train trips to the slate village of Blaenau Ffestiniog and down to the Llechwedd Deep Mine on a steep cable railway are possible. It then travels through the Welsh countryside to Mount Snowdon – which can be ascended by steam train. A cycle along the Menai Straits ends the trip on the island of Anglesey in a luxurious Welsh chateau.
The other nights are spent in boutique hotels. The tour is self-guided and involves five days of cycling, though E-bikes are available to make hills easier to tackle and train travel is occasionally an alternative.
Seven nights from £2,520 per person.
5. Lake Swimming and Waterfalls
Spring may not be the most obvious season for wild swimming but this is when a dip can be most beneficial for our bodies. Experts say cold water swimming can increase our white blood cell count, boost immunity and release antioxidants. It is also when you are most likely to witness those photogenic scenes of mist hanging on the water.
17th-century Armathwaite Hall is a hotel located on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. This quiet lake, backed by views of Skiddaw Mountain, is recommended as an excellent spot for swimming. The hotel provides a wild swimming coach to ensure guests can take a dip safely here, as well as at a natural infinity pool nearby and in waterfalls at Buttermere over the course of half a day. If you are looking for a ‘nature reset’ you might also enjoy their two hour Forest Bathing experience followed by a 55-minute full body massage.
One night’s dinner, b&b and guided wild swimming from £320 for two people. Two hour Forest bathing experience costs £110 per person (based on a minimum of two people).
6. Epic Road Trip Adventure
Embrace the wilder side of the UK with a tour of some of its most magnificent driving routes in an expedition Land Rover. Celtic Routes has devised a new trip that combines driving Scotland’s North Coast 500 with the Causeway Coastal 120 in Ireland. The company says it has enhanced the north coast route, which encounters dramatic stretches of coast, castles and enigmatic lochs. Motorists will then take a catamaran across to Belfast for the Causeway Coastal. Optional activities are possible along both routes, from sea kayaking to horse riding and 4×4 experiences. It is also possible to celebrate the end of the journey with a two Michelin-star dinner at Moore Hall, Aughton. There is an option to have a fully guided trip or a self-guided journey in a Land Rover loaded up with a bespoke guide and navigation app. Accommodation includes converted castles, lodges and country inns.
Twelve days from £2,100 self guided, or £2950 fully guided.
7. Horse Whispering at Lucknam Park
The stables are one of two features that set this fine country house hotel apart – the other is its high-quality spa. Guests who know nothing about horses will gain an incredible insight into the handsome animals – and perhaps even themselves – if they try the hotel’s Equine Connect experience.
After watching a horse trainer guide a bucking young stallion round a training ring, guests are invited into the ring themselves with one of the calmer horses. The animal is unbridled and, by using nothing but their own body language, guests are taught to encourage the horse to canter. After some circling around, if the guest is relaxed enough for the horse to approach, it will submit by dropping its head and walking to the centre of the ring to nuzzle the guest’s hand.
In what is often an emotional experience, the horse might then follow the guest around, with no commands necessary.
One night with one Equine Connect experience, from £500 for two people.
8. Rural Skills in the Cotswolds
Learning holidays are a trend for 2022 and there are lots of opportunities to pick up a skill in the pretty Cotswolds. Guests staying in one of Cotswolds Hideaways’ premium cottages can turn their hand to a range of rural skills, from dry-stone walling, to fossil-hunting or campfire-cooking. The Cotswold Stone Experience, for example, incorporates looking for fossils with time spent at a quarry learning a history of the area’s sought-after, honey-coloured stone. Alternatively, in woodland once belonging to Henry VIII, firewood will be gathered, logs split and a meal cooked outdoors. The dry stone-walling course, meanwhile, will see participants help build a wall that will hopefully still be standing in the Cotswolds in two hundred years’ time. The dates of each course vary, see online.
Three nights in Dyers Cottage (sleeps three) near Cheltenham with dry-stone walling from £701 for two people.
9. Trout Fishing in Devon
Bordering moorland in the Dartmoor National Park, Bovey Castle is a granite country house hotel set in a wooded valley, with a golf course and an ESPA spa. One of the most peaceful ways of enjoying the hotel’s lush grounds is by trying a spot of fly-fishing in the hotel lake, which is filled with brown trout. No prior knowledge of fishing is necessary as a “ghillie” – an expert fishing guide – will be provided to show guests everything they need to do to cast off. With any luck, they will be shown how to reel in their own catch too. After an hour’s fishing (for beginners, experienced fishermen can have longer), guests can tuck into a picnic hamper – made with local Devon produce – in an idyllic spot on the lake shore. Guests can stay either in the main hotel or in one of 22 self-catered country lodges.
One night with a fishing licence and beginner’s lesson, from £400.
10. Skippered Cruise on Windermere
Who needs the Italian lakes when you can tour Lake Windermere in a vintage-style, British-built boat? Abigail Leah is a sleek, teak-and mahogany slipper launch designed by the renowned boatbuilders Peter Freebody & Co. She arrives on April 1 at Storrs Hall, a country house hotel with an enviable position on Windermere’s shore. Guests can embark on a two-hour cruise from the hotel’s own jetty, on a voyage that celebrates the arrival of spring on the slopes of the fells surrounding the lake. The boat comfortably seats up to five people for chilled prosecco and luxury picnics can also be arranged. The grounds at Storrs Hall include lawns that overlook a quiet side of the lake. Luxury cabins come with cedar-wood hot tubs, while more traditional bedrooms with lake views are found in the main building.
Two-night stay and two-hour cruise from £700 for two people.
Words | Natalie Paris