olidays are great, aren’t they? Sun drenched days spent completely supine, inert apart from intermittently raising a straw to your parched lips to slurp the dregs of a cocktail, before returning again to a semi-vegetative state. Only, the thing is, after two years of house arrest, where a trip to Lidl provided a week’s hit of adrenaline, do we really want to spend more time doing nothing?

If the thought of hours reclined in a deckchair gently sweating from every pore, occasionally rereading the same sentence from your Costa beach read fills you with dread, then fear not! I give thee: hobby holidays. These are ostensibly when you go away to do stuff, perfect for anyone with itchy feet or secret aspirations to be the next James Joyce, but in desperate need of breakfast in bed. Here are some of the best retreats and holidays for art lovers, fitness enthusiasts, budding photographers and more in the UK and Europe.

Frederik Vercruysse

Art attack

Villa Lena is a 19th century estate perched on top of a cypress tree-studded hill in the undulating Tuscan countryside. The terracotta exterior, ceiling frescoes and abundance of peaches for breakfast will make you feel like you’re in your very own Call Me By Your Name fantasy, just without Timothée Chalamet — sob. The Villa Lena estate is set among 500 hectares of wild woodland, olive groves and vineyards and is teeming with rabbits, wild boar and bohemian folk dressed in linen talking about formalism. The estate was originally built for an aristocratic family, but has since been converted into rooms, apartments and out-houses to accommodate guests and artists who descend each year for the artist residency programme. After a long day of foraging for truffles or exploring nearby Florence, guests and artists mingle for alfresco film nights, artist talks, cooking workshops and candlelit sundowners by the pool. Disclaimer: it’s so romantic you may be tempted to relocate to Italy permanently and subsist on figs.

Villa Lena, Tuscany, prices start at £720 for two nights; villa-lena.it

Adam Lynk

Cook up a storm

Learn how to boil an egg from the Saturday Kitchen master himself, James Martin, at the Chewton Glen Cookery School. Just an hour from London, this five-star chateau is located in the bucolic Hampshire countryside and offers budding chefs a day’s cooking masterclass with famously no-nonsense Martin. Guests forage in the kitchen garden for their own ingredients before heading back to their designated cooking station, whipping together dishes under the watchful eye of “chef”, before gobbling it all up in a banquet at the end of the day. Every cookery class has a different theme, so

whether you’re looking to finally use that hastily purchased lockdown pizza oven and want to know how to knead the hell out of some dough, or fancy blowing your friends’ socks off with homemade vindaloo, pick the class that speaks to you.

Chewton Glen, Hampshire, prices start from £210; chewtonglen.com

Matt Writtle

Happy snapping

Whether you want to be the next Ansel Adams or simply fancy taking a few decent pictures to impress your friends on BeReal, then head to the Chiltern Hills, where award-winning Evening Standard photographer Matt Writtle takes photography novices out into the wild and teaches them the basics of snapping great pics. Writtle, who moved to Chesham from north London in 2016, fell so deeply in love with the verdant landscape and Buckinghamshire countryside, he published a photobook inspired by the River Chess. Only an hour’s drive from London, it’s easy to nip back to the big smoke after a long day zooming in and out of grassy landmarks, but we would recommend making a day of it and exploring the nearby villages of Latimer and Chenies, ending the day with a pint at chocolate box pub the Bedford Arms.

Capture the Chiltern Hills, prices start from £20 for a taster session; capturethechilternhills.com

Channel your inner Van Gogh

It is fitting that L’Age Baston is 15 miles east of Angoulême — the city of art and culture and home of the French comic strip. This rural chateau is the perfect place to pick up your paintbrush, don a beret and channel your inner Manet, while simultaneously sunning yourself and mainlining croissants. Guests can choose whether to book a non-tutored painting package and ramble around the picturesque grounds in a broad-brimmed straw hat and apron, painting whatever pricks their fancy, or book onto the guided course under the experienced tutelage of one of the in-house working artists. After a full week unleashing your inner artiste, hopefully not lopping off any ears in the process, guests will exhibit their work at the weekly “Vernissage” (group show) while sipping champagne and nibbling on canapes. If for some reason, you don’t fancy pouring your heart out onto the canvas one day, there’s plenty of activities from croquet, lengths in the salt water pool or perfecting one’s French to try out instead. Incroyable!

L’Age Baston, Charente, prices start at £1,380 per person; lagebaston.com

Fani Kurti

Perfect your backhand

Anyone who watched Novak Djokovic win his seventh Wimbledon will probably have remarked to no one in particular that they wanted to “get into tennis this year”. Well, at Villa La Massa you can. Perched on the banks of Tuscany’s River Arno, surrounded by olive groves, it’s a damn sight prettier than your local courts. The fairytale 13th -century Florentine villa is a feat of pale yellow stone, peony-lined Italianate gardens, a private golf course and 16 clay tennis courts, where this summer guests can take part in a two-night, bespoke tennis clinic. Every day aspiring grand slam champions or just quite average players will be put through their paces by a dedicated tennis pro, finessing punch volleys, snap volleys, reflex volleys and any other volley you can think of. At the end of each day guests will watch their performance back on video analysis software while sipping on a negroni. Sounds ace.

Villa La Massa, Tuscany, prices for the summer Tennis Clinic start from €1,950 per room; villalamassa.com

Clare Lewington

Catch a wave

Ever imagined yourself catching a morning wave, golden locks flowing behind you as the ocean sprays your impossibly tanned flesh in a perfect crystal arc? Well, bruh, look no further, you don’t have to head to California or Sydney to become a fully fledged surfing dude or dudette. The Soul and Surf, nestled along the rugged coast of Portugal’s Western Algarve, is not your average surf camp, you won’t find any portaloos here. This boutique surfing lodge is located in a traditional Portuguese Quinta (farmhouse) and its nine rooms are a vision of rustic minimalism, eclectic tiling and crisp linen. Surfers are placed in four different categories depending on their ability and have five three-hour lessons over the week followed by vinyasa yoga sessions at sunset. Surfing is hungry work and the food at Soul and Surf is almost worth a trip on its own. The chefs use locally sourced produce to create a mix of healthy and hearty meals from Acai bowls to Portuguese-style BBQ.

Soul and Surf, Western Algarve, prices from €790 for a week; soulandsurf.com

Harry Evagorou

Bend it like Beckham

Take inspiration from the Lionesses and channel your inner Chloe Kelly or Leah Williamson at the Parklane football academy this summer. The five-star hotel on the Cyprian coast of Limassol is inviting young guests to sign up to their Parklane Football Escapes Academy, a five-day course taught by the footballing veterans Glen Johnson, Michael Dawson and several other sporting legends. The Academy is open to all abilities between the ages of five to 15, and includes tailored coaching by a roster of pro-footballers, a full football kit and a certificate at the end. While kids are busy perfecting their keepy uppies, parents can relax on the resort’s private beach or work up a sweat themselves in the state-of-the-art gym.

Parklane Resort & Spa, Cyprus, prices start from £257 per night; marriott.co.uk

Dan Haworth-Salter

Express yourself

The manic bustle of urban life can sometimes feel antithetical to the cerebral pursuit of metaphors and lyrical prose. Where better then to don your writing cap than the Shropshire Hills, where Sir Walter Scott, AE Housman, Mary Webb and EM Forster took inspiration. Oh, and you would be staying in the former home of playwright John Osborne. The grand 19th century manor house is surrounded by 26 acres of woodland, with wild orchids and redwood trees, perfect for twilight rambles to alleviate a bad case of writer’s block. Guests can choose from a selection of writing retreats, from a five-day poetry course to a beginners fiction-writing course. Whatever you choose, all guests have access to a vast library and work together round a 20-seat wooden craft table, before retiring to the drawing room for afternoon tea. It’s very Evelyn Waugh.

The Hurst, Shropshire, retreats start from £880 for a single room; arvon.org

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