Dancing, Paros, Greece
Tao’s, a meditation centre on a hill overlooking the sea on the island of Paros, hosts a dance retreat each September. The style of dance is “open floor movement”, which is said to boost creativity and help people “refresh, recuperate, recharge and rejoice”. It is suitable for anyone who wants to move, regardless of age or experience. The schedule includes three hours of dancing before lunch and two hours after, optional morning meditation and time to explore the island – car hire (shared between three people) is included in the price. Guests stay at the Christiana, a simple hotel by the sea with a pool and a restaurant specialising in seafoodfish soup and lobster spaghetti.
• From €725 for five nights, 11-15 September, including vegetarian breakfast, lunch and car hire, taos-greece.com
Making and mending, Hampshire
A Nest of Gentle Makers is a new twice-yearly weekend retreat in Minstead in the New Forest, with a focus on gentle creativity in a relaxing environment. There are sessions with an artist and illustrator, producing drawings, collages, rubbings and prints inspired by nature; a stitching workshop, based on a Japanese patchwork technique; a guided walk in the forest; and three yoga sessions. Guests stay in heated tipis or shepherd’s huts; food is largely vegetarian and includes a barbecue and a dinner around the campfire.
• £370 full-board, 10-12 May and 11-13 October, anestofgentlemakers.co.uk
Photography, Sierra Nevada, Spain
Cortijo Romero has been running creative and wellness holidays in Andalucía since 1986. Courses include mindful photography, improv theatre, singing and writing; each includes 18-20 hours of teaching and learning plus morning tai chi or yoga, Spanish lessons, evening dance sessions and a full day’s excursion to the mountains for a picnic and wild swimming. Optional extras include massages, counselling and life coaching (£36 an hour). The retreat centre is in an olive grove not far from Granada.
• From £685 for a week’s mindful photography, 27 April to 4 May and 26 October to 2 November, including vegetarian meals, cortijo-romero.co.uk
Writing, Donegal, Ireland
The twice-yearly Ireland Writing Retreat in Gweedore, two miles inland from the stunning west Donegal coastline, offers practical, hands-on writing and editing workshops, plus talks by authors about publishing and marketing. The week includes a boat trip to the island of Gola (pictured), walks and a tour of Glenveagh national park and castle, Irish language and dance classes, and traditional music concerts. It also offers a retreat focusing on travel writing (16-22 March), and two further afield: one on the Black Sea near Mangalia, Romania (27 May-2 June), and a new retreat in Paris (14-20 October).
• Week from €990 B&B, 24-30 June and 23-29 September, irelandwritingretreat.com
Boatbuilding, and other crafts, Scotland
Archipelago Folkschool runs short residential craft courses in beautiful areas of Scotland. They range from a weekend spoon-carving course (£200, 10-12 May) to a week learning blacksmithing (£950, 6-13 April), both on a farm in Lochgoilhead, Argyll & Bute. Boatbuilding is the main focus, though: this year there is a “build your own sea kayak” course and a women’s boatbuilding week, both on a croft on the Isle of Mull. Accommodation ranges from tents and hostels to homestays. As well as teaching practical skills, these retreats promote participation in communities and connection with the environment.
• Boatbuilding from £750, women’s course 8-15 June, sea kayaks 3-11 August, archipelagofolkschool.org
Sculpture & kung fu, the Netherlands
The Athanor Centre in Lochem, close to the German border, holds regular retreats, covering interests such as handicrafts (26-29 January) and yoga and voice (25 February to 1 March). One of the most intriguing is a “sculpting in wood and kung fu flow” retreat, designed to improve connection and imagination. The days start with kung fu flow, a kind of moving meditation, and are then spent outdoors, working with wood under sculptor Anna Hakvoort. No experience of either discipline is necessary and all tools are provided. The centre is a converted 1930s farmhouse in large grounds with features such as a modern stone circle, a labyrinth and fire pits.
• From £740 for five days, 20 April to 3 May, centrumathanor.nl
Arts and crafts, West Sussex
West Dean College of Arts and Conservation near Chichester holds week-long creative retreats over the summer. There are almost 30 subjects on offer, from drawing, painting and sculpting to jewellery making and photography. Each includes intensive teaching, visits to local arts venues, an optional trip to the Chichester Festival Theatre and an end-of-week party. Accommodation is in the Grade II-listed manor house, the old vicarage or an annexe in the college’s parkland. Year-round, there are also one-day workshops (such as silversmithing, £125) and three-day courses (garden design, say, £372).
• Summer schools from £771 (50% off for teachers), half-board accommodation from £378pp, 26 July-18 August, westdean.org.uk
Painting, Haute Pyrénées, France
Built in the 19th-century, L’Ancienne Poste, a luxury lodge in the lush Louron valley, is a great base for mountain biking in summer and skiing in winter. It is also the perfect setting for art retreats – the wooded valleys and soaring peaks will bring out anyone’s inner Cézanne. Tutored by Jacqueline Williams, a member of the New English Art Club, guests go walking in the mountains and painting en plein air. There are also trips to the local Balnéa Spa, drinks in front of the fire and four-course dinners with wine.
• From €999pp half-board for a week including art materials, courses start 31 August and 7 September, ancienneposteavajan.com
Songwriting, Cascais, Portugal
Budding songwriters can find their voice on a retreat in Charneca do Guincho, a small village near the coast west of Lisbon. Three tutors – two singer-songwriters and a producer – give workshops on writing, arranging and performing, and the retreat concludes with an evening performance for an invited audience. Morning yoga sessions are included; free time can be spent walking, surfing or horse-riding; and guests can join an optional visit to Cascais town or Sintra. The retreat is based at Guincho Wayra House, an arty hostel sleeping 14 in two private rooms and two shared rooms, a 15-minute walk from the beach.
• From €385 for four nights in a shared room, 6-10 February, with breakfast, lunch and two dinners, livesoundtravels.com
The Cherry Wood Project is an off-grid woodland management venture six miles north of Bath that runs a green woodwork school. Visitors can learn to make stools and chairs or build a Viking bowl lathe using only hand tools. The wood is managed sustainably and there is no mains power or wifi, with cooking over an open fire. Arrival by public transport is encouraged, and camping is free with the course (other accommodation such as huts, yurts, bell tents and a cob house are available for £25 a night).
• Make a chair from a log (11-19 May and 22-30 June) £495; build a lathe and learn to turn (24-27 May) £425 plus materials, cherrywoodproject.co.uk
10 of the best creative retreats in the UK and Europe – The Guardian