Make Do and Mend: The UK’s Best Creative Retreats

We’ve toured the UK’s most stylish creative retreats – from low-energy campsites where carpentry is the order of the day to renovated country piles replete with pottery studios and candle-making workshops – to bring you a tight edit of our favourite places to get creative.

An instant sense of gratification, a sense of calm, a clutch of new friendships and a souvenir that won't instantly be cast asunder like the novelty fridge magnets and polyester slogan tees of yesteryear; there's nothing better than picking up a new skill on your travels, and after a turbulent year, it's safe to say we could all do with taking some time out to make (do) and mend. We've toured the UK's most stylish creative retreats - from low-energy campsites where carpentry is the order of the day to renovated country piles replete with pottery studios, art workshops and candle-making classes - to bring you a tight edit of our favourite places to get creative.

Seven of the UK's best creative retreats

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Campwell

Bath, England

Here's a place that does what it says on the tin. At the intersection of wellness and camping sits Campwell, an earthy retreat just outside Bath. Once you've booked your cabin, make sure to nab a spot on one of its supplementary courses. There's Forage to Fork, in which campers are taken on a two-hour walk into private woodland, picking all manner of flowers fruits and mushrooms which are eventually rustled up for lunch, or try its Woodcarving Workshop a two-hour introduction to the craft which culminates in guests designing their own coaster. Elsewhere on the menu, you'll find yoga classes, outdoor fitness sessions and massages. Tick, tick and tick.

Address

Cherry Wood SN14 8FE

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Fforest

Cardigan, Wales

You want wholesome? Look no further. This ultra-rustic farm in Wales is paving the way for a new genre of design-led, glamping retreats. Pitch up in a dome, a "Garden Shac", a whopping great farmhouse or cosy cabin; each is decorated with a mixture of rickety old furniture and of-the-moment designer fixtures. For those who prefer seeing rather than doing, the National Wool Museum and Llanerchaeron (a 1790s villa designed by John Nash) are close by. Otherwise, you can learn bushcraft, float out to remote bays by kayak or forage for dinner. Every year it hosts Fforest Gather, a two-week festival for crafty types. Expect sewing, ceramics, flower-crown classes and more.

Address

Cwm Plysgog SA43 2TB

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Archipelago Folkschool

Hebrides, Scotland

What did you do on your holiday? I built a canoe and rowed it around Scotland's Hebridean islands, naturally. Whether you've booked a full week off work or you simply fancy getting your hands dirty for a couple of days, Archipelago Folkschool has you covered. Its weekend courses include paddle-making, blacksmithing and signwriting, while those who commit to a week in the workshop can expect to walk (or row) away with a kayak or canoe made from marine plywood and fibreglass.

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The Newt

Somerset, England

For something altogether more traditional, why not try The Newt in Somerset? This working farm is the place for foodies with flair. Turn your hand to cider-making by having a go on its apple press, glean some expert insight into honey-making from its beekeeper or simply book yourself in for breakfast, lunch and dinner at each of the restaurants and feast exclusively on a diet of farm-to-table fare. Pockets of interiors inspiration are found in every corner of this 17th-century house which opened to paying guests in the summer of 2019 with a fresh lick of paint and a sharp new outfit of modish fittings.

Address

Hadspen BA7 7NG

thingstodo

Welsh Academy of Art

Cwmdu, Wales

If you're a frustrated portraitist or a tired landscape painter looking for a fresh jolt of inspiration, book onto a class at the Welsh Academy of Art, a retreat based in the hamlet of Cwmdu where classes in oil painting, anatomy, portraiture and more are taught by professional artists both in the studio and out in the surrounding countryside. This one can get a little technical, so might be a tad tiring to complete amateurs. While you can choose to stay off-site, there are plenty of rooms available in the farmhouse behind the workshops - each finished with homely, but luxurious flourishes.

Address

Cwmdu NP8 1RU

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Glen Dye

Aberdeenshire, Scotland

We've been fans of Glen Dye for a while now. Why do we keep coming back? Yes, for the aesthetics (this luxurious cluster of cabins up in the forests of eastern Scotland is infinitely 'grammable) but also for its packed schedule of outdoorsy, food-focused activities. Keep your eyes peeled for outdoor feasts and pop-up culinary events. Its Wild Food camp, a mini-festival kicking off on 30 October, is filled with tutorials on fermenting, curing, herbal medicine and more, interspersed with spots of wild swimming and group hikes.

Address

Strachan AB31 6LT

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Birch Community

Hertfordshire, England

This converted country manor, set among 55 acres of nature just north of London is fast becoming the go-to spot for frazzled urbanites looking to catch a break. It has all the amenities you'd want from a five-star hotel and then some. Aside from the obvious - a sprawling gym, restaurants to suit all palates and bars to match - you'll find a pottery studio, an interactive bakery, a music room and art studios, along with a packed schedule of classes. We're making aromatic bath salts with Earl of East. Bauhaus plate painting? Don't mind if we do.

Address

Lieutenant Ellis Way EN7 5HW

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