For all its frustrations and difficulties, lockdown had some silver linings.
Simply being able to avoid crammed commutes was the biggest for many, while for others it was the opportunity to try new hobbies: watercolour painting, gardening or learning a language, perhaps.
Now restrictions have eased, we can take these skills on holiday — or even acquire new ones while we’re away. Here’s our pick of some of the most tempting breaks…
Something new: Learn to paint on Greece’s beautiful Pelion peninsula, known for its fragrant wildflowers and rambling olive groves
Newly inspired artists might consider a seven-night course offered by the Greek artist Maggie Niagassas, who specialises in botanical subjects. You’ll be based on Greece’s beautiful Pelion peninsula, known for its fragrant wildflowers and rambling olive groves — which you’ll explore on guided walks designed to feed your imagination.
Daily classes at your accommodation — the Lagou Raxi Country Hotel in Lafkos — provide ample opportunity to improve your painting and drawing techniques.
Details: Nature Trek (naturetrek.co.uk, 01962 733051) offers a seven-night half-board break from £1,395 pp including flights, daily guided walks and tuition.
GREEN FINGERS IN DEVON
Find inspiration at RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon with its vibrant blooms and stumpery full of gnarled tree roots
Royal Horticultural Society gardening courses cover everything from plant photography to composting — perfect for picking up fresh skills.
October’s gardening workshop teaches you how to protect perennials from the elements, nourish your lawn in winter and plant hardy trees and shrubs.
The setting for your masterclass is RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon. Find inspiration in the Hot Garden, with its prairie-style landscaping and vibrant blooms, or the stumpery, full of gnarled tree roots planted with ferns.
Details: The RHS (rhs.org.uk, 020 3176 5810) offers 90-minute gardening lessons from £28 pp.
SPEAK LIKE A LOCAL
You’ll have chance to perfect your French accent, grammar and vocabulary on a fortnight-long course in Toulouse
Were you one of the millions who vowed to learn a language during lockdown? If so and you chose French, you could hone your skills on this fortnight-long course in Toulouse, where you’ll improve your culinary skills, too.
Daily language classes will help you perfect your accent, grammar and vocabulary, while the cookery sessions will show you how to prepare regional delicacies.
Details: Not In The Guide Books (notintheguidebooks.com, 0203 0483044) offers a two-week French language and cookery course from £787 pp.
HONEY, I’M ON HOLIDAY!
Learn about various aspects of beekeeping, including how to handle the insects and set up your own hive in Carmarthenshire
Bees and bubbles may sound like an unusual combination, but that’s exactly what’s in store if you sign up for this beekeeping course in Carmarthenshire, which is based at a vineyard famous for its sparkling wine.
You’ll learn about various aspects of beekeeping, from how to handle the insects and set up your own hive to various blunders to avoid.
For example, you should go easy on the Chanel No 5 — bees are easily distracted by certain perfumes.
Details: Discover Delicious (discoverdelicious.wales) offers a one-day beekeeping course. Price includes tuition and overnight accommodation. From £211 pp.
Kuhmo in Finland is known as the ‘town of one hundred rapids’ because of the fish-filled river that thunders through it
Fly fishing requires fortitude and patience — and, let’s face it, we’ve had plenty of time to work on both. Those who have taken up the sport during lockdown can learn more on a fly fishing course in Finland with Wild Taiga, in the thickly forested borderlands near Russia.
There are several courses, but our favourite is in Kuhmo, known as the ‘town of one hundred rapids’ because of the fish-filled river that thunders through it. An experienced guide is on hand for tuition, and local saunas beckon after a long day on the river.
Details: Wild Taiga (wildtaiga.fi) offers a four-night fly fishing package from £525 pp, including half-board accommodation and daily tuition.
The Caribbean is home to some of the world’s rarest birds, including the purple-throated carib (pictured) and sisserou parrot
Sales of bird boxes have gone through the roof — which is hardly surprising, given that even our most common feathered friends have gained a whole new appeal when the only view we have is that of the garden.
If self-isolation made you a birder, how about a Caribbean birdwatching adventure, taking in Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica and St Lucia?
The islands are home to some of the world’s rarest birds, including the Lesser Antillean flycatcher, purple-throated carib and sisserou parrot. The last of these can be found only in Dominica, and even appears on the country’s flag.
Details: Mot Mot Travel (motmottravel.com, 01327 359622) offers an 11-night birdwatching holiday from £3,295 pp, including flights, half-board accommodation and five expert-led tours.
KNITTING IN IRELAND
Glencolmcille Folk Village on the County Donegal coast offers insights into knitting’s importance in the region
Did you spend lockdown knitting a multicoloured monstrosity that nobody in their right mind would wear?
If so, this break in North-West Ireland, led by knitting guru Edel MacBride, is a great way to improve your skills.
Expert-led workshops provide instruction on different techniques, while a visit to the Glencolmcille Folk Village on the County Donegal coast offers insights into knitting’s importance in the region.
Local fishermen’s demand for Aran sweaters made the village the go-to destination for woolly jumpers.
Details: Knitting Tours (knittingtours.com, 0800 088 5516) offers a six-night knitting retreat from £2,704 pp, including airport transfers, sightseeing tours, half-board accommodation and tuition.
WILD IN TRESCO
Olympian Keri-anne Payne will teach you how to improve the efficiency of your stroke, boost your stamina and cope with cold conditions on an open-water swimming retreat on Tresco
Maybe you’ve been dreaming of swimming while you were self-isolating? If you want to take to the water and try a few new strokes, we recommend an open-water swimming retreat on Tresco.
Your coach for this Isles of Scilly break will be Keri-anne Payne, a double world champion in open-water events who has also bagged an Olympic silver medal.
Keri-anne will teach you how to improve the efficiency of your stroke, boost your stamina and cope with cold conditions.
Details: Tresco Island (tresco.co.uk, 01720 422849) has a five-night open-water swimming break from £1,120 pp, including self-catering accommodation and daily tuition.