Thursday, 03 January 2013

Britain's best cultural minibreaks

Write poetry, paint, sip wine, sing, or even solve a murder on a stimulating short trip away in the UK

Written by Wendy Gomersall


The 16th-century boutique hotel Langshott Manor, near Gatwick, is not far from award-winning Denbies Wine Estate in the Surrey Hills and offers a two-night wine-tasting break, from £265 per person. Denbies produces around 400,000 bottles of fine wine a year and the break includes a day at the company’s vineyard with breakfast, tour, harvesting, lunch, tasting and memento vine, a sevencourse dinner with Denbies wine at the hotel, plus full English breakfast on your last day. 0800-089 3929,


The Greenway Hotel and Spa in Cheltenham offers a two-night ‘poetic retreat’. The break begins with a consultation with the poet before pre-dinner champagne with other guests. The second day starts with a yoga class, before getting down to some writing. Retreats run from the first Sunday of the month beginning 3 February and include dinner and breakfast both days and lunch on the second day. From £330 per person. 01242-862352,


New Pride of Britain hotel Lewtrenchard Manor, a Jacobean manor house set deep in the Devonshire countryside near Okehampton, has painting workshops with a well-respected local artist. Running 12 to 13 May and 8 to 9 September, the two-day package costs from £400 per person, including two nights’ full board and painting tuition. 0800-089 3929,



Enjoy a Shakespeare play in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Arden Hotel’s one-night break with tickets and programme for a performance, a pre-theatre starter and main course in its chic Waterside Brasserie before the show and a dessert afterwards, plus breakfast the following morning, costs £140 per person. RSC productions coming up in 2013 include A Winter’s Tale (24 January to 23 February), Hamlet (14 March to 28 September) and As You Like It (12 April to 28 September). 01789-298682,


Both the British Pullman and Northern Belle will head for a Royal day out to Sandringham House in Norfolk later this year. After brunch, guests will arrive at the estate and spend the day exploring the residence of Her Majesty, including a walk through the famous gardens, before getting back on board for dinner served with champagne and wine. The British Pullman will depart from London Victoria on 17 July (from £395 per person) and the Northern Belle will travel from Bath Spa, Bristol and Swindon on 19 October (from £340 per person).  0845-077 2222,


The Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes in London’s Baker Street has teamed up with West End Events to offer Murder Mystery evenings. Over drinks and a three-course dinner, professional actors unfold a whodunnit before your eyes – including a gruesome murder. It’s up to you and your tablemates to solve the crime. Evenings run regularly throughout January and February, from £75.60 per person, including a glass of Prosecco and three-course dinner; rooms from around £160 per night. 020-7486 6161,


Learn basic film-making skills and help produce a mini-documentary under the guidance of expert tutors Martin Pailthorpe and Ian Damms. The course, from £400 per person, including four nights’ accommodation at the Old Rectory Cottages in the village of Kings Nympton in North Devon, is available on selected dates from January, until the end of May, excluding bank holidays.  01769-580456,


At Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, hosted dinners in 2013 feature impressionist Jon Culshaw and Michael Parkinson CBE. Treat yourselves to an overnight stay, too: rooms from £550 per night. 0184-427 8881,


Aspiring writers can join novelist Raffaella Barker for a four-night workshop at Barsham Barns, Greenway, North Barsham, Norfolk, from £695 per person. Over three days, students will receive individual tuition from Raffaella, writing exercises and a visit from a guest writer on one evening. The cost includes all meals. Courses take place on 25 February, 22 April, 17 June, 16 September, 14 October and 11 November. 01328-821744,



Celebrate 100 Years of Benjamin Britten with a visit to The Red House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, home to the Britten-Pears Foundation, which will reopen to the public in June. The Red House offers an inspiring ambience and insights into Britten’s music, in the place where most of it was written and composed. Call the 4-star Brudenell Hotel for the best room prices: 01728-452071, 


A 10-day celebration of DH Lawrence will take place in his home town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, this September, with talks, exhibitions, readings, special events and workshops. This year the festival will focus on the centenary of the publication of Sons And Lovers, considered one of the best novels of the 20th century. Stay at Eastwood Hall, set in 26 acres of secure landscaped grounds, from £36 per person per night booked through Superbreak. 0871-221 3344,


Every five years, Chester puts on a mystery play – an iconic Bible story turned into a theatrical experience – and this year, it will be performed in the nave of Chester Cathedral for the first time, on 26 June to 13 July. Stay at The Chester Grosvenor, which is located two minutes’ walk from the cathedral. A two-night stay costs from £299 per person, including breakfast, ticket, pre-theatre dinner, with dessert canapés and wine served during the interval at the cathedral’s Chapter House and Vestibule. 0800-089 3929,


HF Holidays offers cultural minibreaks at its country houses in the UK, including four-night singing breaks, from £419 per person (plus £5 associate fee per non-member of the co-operative society). These holidays focus on group singing for fun, with informal sessions with an expert tutor, taking place in the morning, late afternoon and evening, plus there’s an informal concert on the final evening. Locations include the Longmynd Hotel, Church Stretton, Shropshire, from 18 February. 0845-470 8558,


Brush up on your geography and geology and help raise £250,000 for the South West Coast Path, a 630- mile path that follows the coastline of England’s South West Peninsula. The Great South West Walk comprises 56 sponsored walks in April, each guided by a local expert, ranging from three to 18 miles. Sponsorship money will be used to fund more than 50 improvement projects spread along the path. See to book accommodation suited to whichever walk you choose, and have your bags transferred while you’re out and about. 01752-896237,


This year marks the centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which is one of the most celebrated annual events in the world and the showcase for horticultural excellence. The show, from 21 to 25 May in 2013, attracts 157,000 visitors and this year, it is expected to be bigger and better than ever. Superbreak offers packages that include tickets and accommodation, with prices according to the standard of hotel chosen. 0871-221 3344,

Prices are lead-in, per person, based on two sharing and subject to availability, unless stated.

Contact Wendy on

Wine picture courtesy of Denbies Wine Estate

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