Wouldn't it be nice if you came back from holiday with something more than dodgy tanlines, a pickled liver and newfound intolerance for your holiday companions? If that sentiment resonates with you, then maybe it's time to book a creative holiday and return with a new love for a hobby, a skill for life or perhaps a piece of art you'll cherish forever.
The recent explosion of creative retreats available is seismic. From hour-long classes to entire holidays focussed on a particular craft in both the UK and further afield, there's ample opportunity to find your new hobby whether you're a beginner or maestro. Alongside a fantastic chance to try something new, you'll get to learn around a like-minded group of people, be taught by fascinating masters of their craft, visit some incredible locations and experience the profoundly therapeutic benefits of creative ventures. Who knows, it might even change your life.
We've scouted out the best, including culinary getaways, painting retreats, pottery holidays and writing vacays. From salami making in a 15-acre smallholding in Devon, a Tuscan painting school and wallet making in the Cotswolds to a week-long Andalucian cookery course and script writing by a remote Canadian lake – we've covered all the bases.
So grab your paint brushes, throw on an apron and whip out your camera because these are the best eight creative retreats to hone your skills while holidaying.
8 of the best craft holidays in the UK and abroad
Take a trip to Southleigh, Devon, and you'll wind up at Glebe house – a 15-acre smallholding and seven-bedroom guesthouse laced in Japanese wisteria, complete with a dog-friendly cabin, tennis courts, swimming pool, kitchen garden and bakery. Based on the spirit of an Italian agriturismo, Glebe is a guest house with some serious culinary clout. What's more, you can get involved in the culinary action with a series of cookery classes hosted throughout the week, including salami, pasta and bread making. Under the masterful guidance of co-owner and chef Hugo Guest, who spent time learning in the kitchens of Sorella and The Marksman in London as well as from the norcini pork butchers of Italy, you'll swing your hand at everything from breaking down the shoulder of a pig in a salami class to rolling and stuffing ravioli in a pasta workshop and mastering the art of baking Glebe's iconic porridge bread.
Rooms from £139, cookery classes £80 per person
Arniano Painting School
View on Instagram
The thought of a painting holiday can feel intimidating for those who don't identify as Claude Monet; however, a trip to the Arniano painting school will seduce even the most novice artist to the craft. Set in a beautifully restored Tuscan farmhouse, among 360-degree views of cypress trees and castle topped hills, you'll spend your mornings painting the surrounding landscapes under the guidance of Willian Roper Curzon, a masterful painter who learnt at City & Guilds and, later, the Royal Drawing School. Between hours of painting, you'll be fed by William's friend and co-founder of Arniano, Amber Guinness, who cooks up earthy Italian home cooking spliced with her River Cafe training. The Arniano stays true to its promise as a holiday, not a boot camp, and the daily schedule is relaxed, giving you plenty of time to paint at your own pace and socialise at the kitchen counter while Amber cooks. William is a talented teacher who instils confidence and inspiration with each brushstroke, so you're sure to leave Arniano with a newfound lust for painting, Italian food and the Tuscan hills.
Prices start from £2,200 (ex.VAT) per room. Prices are full-board, including accommodation, meals, drinks, tuition and basic art materials
Southrop, The Cotswolds
Thyme is a conurbation of 17th-century honey-stoned barns, cottages and outbuildings set in the idyllic town of Southrop, The Cotswolds, which has been transformed into an eco-chic hotel by obstetrician and designer Caryn Hibbert. Alongside a restaurant, bar, cookery school, spa, boutique, kitchen gardens and resident sheep, there's a calendar of constantly changing creative craft classes (known as happenings) from guest teachers hosted throughout the week at Thyme. From leather wallet and clutch bag making to botanical watercolour painting and distilling hydrosols for herbal medicine, there are plenty of crafting classes to get involved in, with the added satisfaction of having something to show for it at the end.
Rooms from £400 per night (2 nights minimum stay), price of craft classes varies
Majestic Disorder Travels
Majestic Disorder Travels have successfully bridged the gap between artisan communities in Morocco and curious travellers, organising highly curated group trips with plenty of craft activities packed in. The Skoura experience, which sits in the once-in-a-lifetime category, starts in Marrakesh, where you'll meet textile designers, herbalists, weavers, local entrepreneurs and more, explore the craft of Tamagroute pottery makers, artist studios and dine at restaurants known for innovative food and incredible interior design. Then, you'll spend a few nights glamping in a 4-star luxury camp in the Agafay Desert, complete with a swimming pool, campfires, candlelit dinners and sunset camel rides. The last part of the journey is split between Skoura and further south in Tamnougalt, where in both locations, you'll have the opportunity to try your hand at basket weaving, making your own tagine in an outdoor cooking class and throwing ceramics with the help of an artisan ceramicist.
Skoura trip (7-16 September), £2,750pp, including nine nights accommodation, meals and transits
Moonbeam Creative Retreats
Shadow Lake, Ontario
With most creative retreats swaying towards cooking, crafts and painting, the scriptwriting and documentary writing creative holidays held at Moonbeam Retreats bring something a little different. The courses are hosted by Linda Sills, an award-winning BBC documentary filmmaker, in a magical 200-year-old log settler's house on a Canadian lake near Toronto, Ontario. The documentary-making retreat will see your non-fiction film ideas come alive as you'll cover the basics of getting your idea solidified so it's ready to pitch and shoot before firing questions to industry experts on all things camera, sound and lighting. The screenwriting retreat is a haven for writers wanting to immerse themselves in their craft and focuses on the crucial beat sheet and deal-breaking first ten pages so you learn how to make a story leap off the page. Both courses are taught through workshops with contributions from industry experts, so you'll get valuable insights and feedback on your writing. When you're not putting pen to paper, the surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful, and there's the option to canoe, kayak or swim in the nearby lake. Linda will run three retreats in September and a writer's residency in October.
Rooms from £60, screenwriting course £718 and documentary writing course £598
Frui Photography Holidays
Juan Manuel Abellán
We've all taken snaps on holiday, but what about returning, having learnt the skill of photography? That's what Frui is offering with its nine-day photography trip to Bolivia, complete with accommodation, internal flights and road transfers, experienced photography tutors and local guides. Bolivia has a landscape that will truly recalibrate your sense of scale as you photograph its vast salt flats dotted with flamingos, snowcapped volcanoes and the expansive waters of Lake Titicaca. When you're not capturing the country's natural beauty, you'll be snapping the cities of La Paz and Sucre, with their bustling markets, colonial architecture and Andean culture. Throughout the trip, you'll stay in some unique spots, including colourful stately homes, eco hotels and remote jungle lodges. So, if you want to learn how to take exceptional photos with a like-minded group of snappers under the teaching of expert photography tutors, book onto the next trip scheduled from 17-26 August.
Trip is £3,499pp, includes nine nights single occupancy accommodation, some meals, photography tuition and internal flights and road transfers in Bolivia
Lieutenant Ellis Way, Cheshunt
Much like the rich and famous escape NYC for the Hamptons, you too can hop on the M25 from London to Cheshunt for a creative retreat at Birch. Housed in an almighty Georgian mansion set in an imposing 55 acres of land, Birch is a 140-room hotel and members club. Having recently undergone a radical makeover, it's complete with a bakery, co-working space, craft classes and wellness centre. The timetable of creative classes at Birch is wildly comprehensive and covers everything from focaccia baking, pizza making and doughnut decorating to hand-building ceramics, abstract painting, and even learning how to DJ. When you're not becoming the next Peggy Gou, you'll be ambling through the expanse of gardens and woodlands around the mansion or chowing down at Birch's top-notch restaurant – The Zebra Riding Club, which is headed up by Irish-born chef Robin Gill, who trained at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and made his name with The Dairy in Clapham.
Rooms start from £145 per night, pottery classes start at £39 and cooking classes at £25
Annie B's Spanish Kitchen
View on Instagram
This one is for the tapas fanatics who want to get their Spanish cookery skills up to speed. At Annie B's, you'll embark on a week-long culinary getaway taught under the guidance of cook and sherry educator Annie. You'll be guided through enchanting regions of Southern Spain, through its food markets, bodegas of the sherry triangle and the tapas of Vejer, while learning how to cook much loved Spanish classics, including gambas al ajillo, tortilla, melon gazpacho and olive and almond cake (all accompanied by plenty of sherry of course). The course includes a day Cadiz, a full gourmet tour of the city, and plenty of balmy beach walks and siestas when you're not cooking up a storm. You'll stay at the gorgeous El Califa hotel throughout the course, just a short walk from Annie's kitchen at Casa Alegre.
From £2,290pp based on two sharing including seven nights at Hotel La Casa Del Califa, some meals included and wine during classes