From building a boat to ballroom dancing – enjoy acquiring new life skills on a learning break by the sea. Words: Alex Reece


Basic Raku Pottery Course, Home Farm, Welcombe, North Devon

Adopting a relaxed approach, Raku Pottery Courses held on the Hartland Peninsula are suitable for all levels, and showcase simple hand-building techniques for an array of decorative items. Based only half a mile from the coast in a Georgian farmhouse (formerly frequented by the Bloomsbury Set artist Dora Carrington), Michael and Alison Stubbs provide two days’ tuition on building and sculpting clay, plus glazing and firing. In the late afternoon there is time to walk the nearby coastal path or swim in the sea. At lunch budding potters can enjoy a home-cooked meal prepared from local produce.

Fee: From £113 a day, including lunch and B&B (01288 331416,

Four Days at River Cottage, River Cottage Cookery School, near Axminster, Devon

For a sure-fire way to acquire some next-level skills in the kitchen, why not spend four days at River Cottage and immerse yourself in its seasonal ethos. During the course, you will learn a variety of fast and slow cooking methods, focusing on meat, fish and veg, plus baking and bread-making (including sourdough). The classes are held at the modern, light-filled Cookery School in the Axe Valley, 10 minutes from the Jurassic Coast, while lodgings are within the 17th-century farmhouse at the heart of River Cottage HQ. Once the day is over, students get to feast on the delicious fruits of their labours in the company of chef tutors and coursemates.

Fee: From £780 (01297 630300,

Whitehouse Studio Painting Holidays, Tarbert, Argyll

The five-day courses hosted by artist and designer Karen Beauchamp at her Arts and Crafts house on the Kintyre Peninsula are centred on the coastal countryside. As Karen says: ‘The landscape is at its most beautiful in spring and autumn.’ Courses this spring will focus on the colours, textures, light and forms that can be seen on the rocky Atlantic coast and glens as they emerge from their winter austerity. Tutors encourage working en plein air with sketchbooks, and guidance in painting and printmaking at the studio. All levels of ability are welcome, and bespoke days or group teaching can be booked by arrangement.

Fee: From £1,150 for 5 days, incl. accommodation, meals and tuition (01880 730287,

Looking for the perfect holiday right at the water’s edge? Discover our collection of exclusive cruise trips around the British Isles here.

Donahey’s Dancing With The Stars Weekend, Celtic Manor Resort Hotel, Newport, Gwent

If you can’t get enough of Strictly Come Dancing, why not learn to dance with the show’s professionals over a long weekend at five-star Celtic Manor in Wales. The three-day event offers five hours of ballroom and Latin classes with Strictly stars such as Anton du Beke, Amy Dowden and Gorka Marquez, along with Q&A sessions and performances by the dancers. A black-tie ball on the Saturday night will feature a 15-piece big band and the chance to have your photo taken with the pros.

Fee: From 24-26 April, prices, including dinner, B&B, from £569pp if booked before 31 Dec; £579pp thereafter (0800 1601770,

Make Your Own Gin, Adnams Distillery, Southwold, Suffolk

Spend an afternoon with Adnams, learning how to make your own spirit alongside one of its expert gin-makers. Using mini copper stills, you will create your chosen blend of botanicals, before beginning the distillation process, then naming and labelling a bottle to take home – accompanied by a complimentary gin glass and bottle of tonic. What’s more, when you run out of gin, you can order another bottle to be mixed to your recipe. During the course, there will also be the opportunity to sample other artisanal drinks at the Gin Lab.

Fee: £95. Make a weekend of it with an overnight stay at Adnams flagship hotel, The Swan, from £200 for double B&B (01502 727222,

Introduction to Boat Building, Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis, Dorset

If you’ve ever wondered how boats are shaped and why, this introductory two-day course at the Boat Building Academy gives an insight into the skills and materials used for crafting modern and traditional wooden vessels, along with the intricacies of sails and rigging. Students will also get the chance to walk around the harbour, with its famous Cobb, and the nearby Cornish Pilot Gig shed for inspiration. Limited accommodation is available on site, or at recommended B&Bs in Lyme Regis. Longer boat building courses are on offer, as are workshops on woodwork, marquetry, sail-making and ropework.

Fee: £280, see online for dates (01297 445545,

Isle of Skye Adventure Photography Workshop, Much Better Adventures

Under the tutelage of award-winning photographer Marcus McAdam, this three-day course takes in the wild coast of Skye, allowing you to expand your technical knowledge while learning how to shoot wildlife, sunsets and seascapes. After meeting at Inverness Airport, you’ll capture Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle en route west. Once on Skye, you’ll explore the gorges and pinnacles of the Quiraing, plus the Old Man of Storr, which is backdropped by the islands of Rona and Raasay and the Cuillin Mountains. Accommodation at the Cowshed Bunkhouse in Uig and all meals are included.

Fee: From £560. See the website for dates (020 39667597,

Residential Creative Writing Courses, Ty Newydd, near Criccieth, Gwynedd

The writing retreats at Ty Newydd – the National Writing Centre of Wales on the Llyn Peninsula – give aspiring authors the opportunity to explore their passion in a wide variety of genres. With courses specialising in everything from scriptwriting to crime and thrillers; and poetry to nature writing, past tutors here have included poet Carol Ann Duffy and naturalist and author Mark Cocker. The serene venue – dating back to the 15th century – lends itself well to creative thought, and was the last home of PM David Lloyd George, redesigned for him by Portmeirion architect Clough Williams-Ellis. The beach at Criccieth is just a half-hour walk away.

Fee: Five-day courses from £425-£550pp. For dates, check the website (01766 522811,

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