Fancy returning from holiday feeling relaxed, recharged and re-skilled? Hannah Stephenson selects her top picks for 2015
It’s unsurprising that cookery courses are widely available in this Italian region, famed for its rich harvests of seasonal produce, such as olive oil, tomatoes, pork, beans, truffles and porcini mushrooms. Beginners or experts can hone their culinary skills in all sorts of residences, from plush hotels such as L’Ultimo Mulino in Gaiole, Chianti, to beautiful hilltop farmhouses and private guesthouses close to Florence and Siena. Short courses are available in private village homes, where chefs and pupils use mouth-watering seasonal ingredients to create dishes such as pasta, panzanella, pici, risotto, roast pork loin, duck, cantuccini and tiramisù. Some courses also include visits to local markets with the chef to source ingredients.
This vibrant Argentinian city with its buzzing nightlife and thriving café culture is also the home of tango, the dance that mirrors the passion and drama of this restless capital. Don’t be fooled by the European-style architecture, galleries and museums, because the cobbled streets of historic San Telmo come alive with Latin American music and dance, day and night. Join a milonga, a traditional group class, or take private lessons arranged through companies such as Tango Escuela Carlos Copella, run by a tanguero. Check out milongas such as La Catedral and if you want a dance escort, you can book one through Argentina Tango. Stay in a tango-themed boutique hotel such as the Mansion Dandi Royal and immerse yourself in culture.
Whether you have a compact camera or a top-of-the-range SLR, Morocco’s Marrakech provides a stunning backdrop to hone your photographic skills. Try YM Photography Courses for a structured hobby holiday, or simply snap the sights by staying at the Hotel Sofitel near the old town and the souks, where you’ll find colourful stalls selling leather goods and finely crafted silver jewellery. It’s also close to the Djemaa El-Fna square, with its storytellers, snake charmers and street food stalls – all perfect scenes to tell a tale in any photographic journal. Alternatively, take a photographic tour with professional photographer and writer Steve Davey. See the sand dunes at Erg Chebbi and ride camels, or stay in a desert camp and photograph the sunset and the atmospheric gorges of Dades and Todra. The trip includes nine nights’ accommodation and tuition, and you’ll discover how to improve your shots of landscapes, star trails and night photography.
In the last 40 years, the Maldives, an archipelago of 1,192 islands south west of India, has rightfully earned the reputation of having some of the best diving in the world. You can see turtles, manta rays, sharks, parrotfish, snappers and a wealth of other underwater wildlife – many just a short swim out to the house reefs which fringe the islands. Some of the best diving can be found at Filitheyo Island Resort where beginners and experts may encounter eagle rays, tuna and white tip sharks. Full day trips are organised to manta points on the western side of the atoll. New dive sites are being established in atolls ranging from Huvadhoo in the south to Haa Alifu in the north. For more information on diving courses, visit Padi.
Home to some of Britain’s most famous writers, including the Bronte sisters, Ted Hughes and JB Priestley, it’s easy to find literary inspiration in this rich, lush landscape of northern England. A guided walk with an expert from Bronte Walks should inspire avid wordsmiths to take a writing course at the Arvon Foundation’s Lumb Bank. This 18th century mill owner’s house, which once belonged to Ted Hughes, is set in a striking Pennine landscape of woods and rivers, old stone houses and weavers’ cottages. Half a mile away, continue your literary journey with a visit to Heptonstall’s cobbled streets to Sylvia Plath’s grave in the village churchyard. Base yourself in the historic White Hart Hotel in nearby Harrogate and it’s a short journey to Haworth, the picture-postcard village where the Brontes lived. Engulf yourself in their world at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, which also offers VIP tours for the most dedicated enthusiasts.