With the arrival of spring and all the energy that it brings, we discover some of the very best places across the country to learn a brand-new skill. From distilling your own flavoured vodka to cooking fresh seafood in Cornwall, are you ready for an exciting new challenge this year?

Learn to catch a wave

Surf Sanctuary, Cornwall

 Surf Sanctuary SUP Surf. Image credit – Gordon Scammell

Directly overlooking the world-famous Fistral Beach, Surf Sanctuary is the on-site surf school at the five star Headland Hotel in Newquay. Set up by a small collective of lifelong surfers and friends that enjoy sharing everything that the beautiful Cornish coast has to offer, the school caters for families, individuals and small groups, and offers bespoke and group sessions in surfing, coasteering, stand-up-paddleboarding, snorkel tours, ocean confidence training and more.

The Headland Hotel’s Surf & Stay package includes three nights’ accommodation, spa access and a session of your choice at Surf Sanctuary.


Also try…

Outer Reef, Wales

Established in 1999, this friendly surf, stand-up-paddleboarding and kayaking centre in Pembrokeshire offers classes for all ages and abilities. It also offers adventures such as coasteering and activity holiday packages, which include accommodation.


Saltburn Surf, North Yorkshire

Saltburn Surf School has been teaching for nearly 40 years; its ‘beginner’s experience’ offers dry land instruction on the beach and a thorough safety briefing, followed by at least one full hour in the sea with a qualified and experienced instructor. Longer surf courses and kit hire are also available.


Learn to hook a fish

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Fisherman. Image © Barry Murphy

One of Ireland’s finest castle hotels, Ballynahinch sits within a sprawling 700-acre estate in the heart of Connemara. Thanks to its diverse system of interconnected loughs and rivers, it offers some of the very best of fly-fishing in the country. Guests can enjoy a half or a full day’s fly-fishing tutorial, where they’ll learn how to set up their tackle correctly, select a fly, cast competently and more, before being taken to the river to put their skills into practice, and perhaps even catch a salmon or sea trout.


Also try…

Lime Wood, Hampshire

Set in the heart of the stunning New Forest National Park, this five-star hotel is just a short cast away from the famous rivers Test, Itchen and Avon. The hotel can organise an introduction to fly-fishing and private tuition, as well as exclusive access to some of the most sought after private-estate fly fishing in the world.


Glebe House, South Devon

At this boutique guesthouse, restaurant and 15-acre smallholding in the heart of East Devon, guests can head out on the open sea on a private guided mackerel-fishing trip with seasoned skipper Paul. Upon return, a three-course seafood supper is served on the beach.


Learn to let your creative juices flow

Newlyn School of Art, Cornwall

Newlyn School of Art. Image credit Harry Wade

Artists have flocked to the Cornish town of Newlyn since the early 1880s, drawn by the beautiful coastal landscapes and famous light. Today, Newlyn School of Art offers over 25 different courses taught by some of the most exciting artists working in the county. Founded by local artist Henry Garfit in 2011, this dynamic art school welcomes pupils of all levels. Short courses range in length from a weekend through to one week, and focus on the likes of Cornish landscapes and seascapes, portraiture, colour, the human form, and more. Stay nearby at stylish townhouse hotel Chapel House, or at the aptly named Artist Residence.


Also try…

The Fife Arms, Scotland

This boutique hotel in the Highlands is home to over 16,000 antiques and artworks by world-renowned artists, from Pablo Picasso to Lucian Freud. Here, guests can explore their own artistic abilities too, thanks to a choice of ‘creative pursuits’, which include wild sketching, landscape photography, creative writing, tartan design and more.


Learn to be at one with nature

The Newt, Somerset

Beekeeping at The Newt

With acres of stunning gardens, woodland, farmland and cyder orchards to explore, this glorious country estate and elegant hotel is a nature lover’s paradise. Inspired by the land, history and culture of Somerset, The Newt runs a seasonal programme of workshops and events; learn the basics of garden design, beekeeping, dried flower and grass arranging, mushroom foraging, and more. Set within its world-famous gardens, it runs several popular, hands-on horticultural courses too, where guests can learn how to plant and prune correctly.


Also try…

Llys Meddyg, Wales

At this beautiful hotel and restaurant in Pembrokeshire, nature enthusiasts can explore the stunning local estuary, beaches and hedgerows in a fun and informative guided-foraging trip, learning how to safely identify and gather edible finds, before preparing and cooking a foraged feast.


The Royal Horticultural Society, various locations

The UK’s leading gardening charity, the RHS, has five stunning gardens across the country, all of which offer a huge variety of courses that cater for first-time gardeners through to the exceptionally green fingered. Learn how to create a wildlife pond, grow veg, plant beautiful containers and much more.


Learn to cook up a storm

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons Cookery School

The on-site cookery school at Raymond Blanc’s luxury country hotel is considered one of the very best in the world. Courses are suitable for all levels, from half-day introductions to residential programmes, dinner party masterclasses, patisserie, ‘kitchen secrets’ and more. Many courses focus on recipes important to the famous French gastronome himself, showcasing dishes that inspired him to become the Michelinstarred chef he is today. The ‘Maman Blanc’ course is hugely popular, featuring a selection of Raymond’s mother’s much-loved recipes.


Also try…

Rick Stein’s Cookery School, Cornwall

Rick Stein’s Cookery School

If you’d like to pick up some seafood cooking skills, then where better to do it than overlooking the beautiful Camel Estuary in Padstow? At Rick Stein’s Cookery School, visitors can learn the secrets of some of the celebrity seafood chef’s famous recipes in a series of fun, hands-on cookery courses and one-dish workshops using incredibly fresh produce.


The Grand, York

The state-of-the-art cookery school at this beautiful five-star hotel, with its bifolding doors and sleek glass panelling, is undeniably impressive. It’s aimed at home cooks of all abilities; choose from a varied schedule of express, half-day, full-day and three-day classes, covering everything from modern British dishes to authentic Asian cuisine.


Learn to take the reins

Lucknam Park, Wiltshire

Lucknam Park

The equestrian centre at this sumptuous countryhouse hotel is home to 35 lovely horses of mixed size and capability and caters for complete beginners, as well as more proficient riders wishing to increase their skill. Enjoy escorted hacks around the stunning 500-acre estate or longer rides through the beautiful Cotswold countryside. There are also several particularly friendly ponies that are perfect for younger guests.


Also try…

Stag Lodge Stables, London

Situated right on the edge of London’s Richmond Park, Stag Lodge Stables is a unique and truly beautiful place to learn to ride. It offers lessons and courses for children and adults of all ages from three upwards, as well as group hacks across the historic Royal Park.


Gleneagles, Scotland

The 50-acre equestrian centre at this magnificent hotel offers various horse-riding lessons and experiences for guests at all levels, from ages four and up. Children can enjoy ‘Own a Pony’ sessions, while the surrounding heather-clad mountains provide an unforgettable backdrop for exploring the Scottish countryside on horseback.


The best of the rest…

Birch Watercolour Botanicals. Photo by Steve Wood

At trendy concept hotel Birch in Hertfordshire, guests can take part in a variety of workshops, from pottery and painting to baking, foraging, candle making and more, all within a strikingly reimagined Georgian house.


Lavish Lake District hotel The Samling has recently rebuilt their picture-perfect private jetty on Lake Windermere; here, guests can take part in guided wild swims.


Beautiful Cotswolds retreat Thyme has a diverse calendar of classes and workshops, ranging from cooking lessons and flower arranging, to soap making, painting and more.


At Colwith Farm, Cornwall’s first ploughto-bottle distillery, guests can learn how to distil their very own bespoke spirit at its dedicated Gin and Vodka School.


With two unique locations in London, Petersham Nurseries provides a picturesque setting to enjoy a carefully curated selection of gardening, floristry, and cookery classes.


Words | Sophie Farrah