Bored of getting your friends and family the same old pair of socks or perfume for Christmas? Every year, it’s gets harder to find unique and fun presents for your loved ones – so this year, why not try a gift experience? From a chance to dance with the stars or the opportunity for a chocolate-making class with a master chocolatier, take a look at our list of the best experiences you can give for a truly special present this year…
Become a star gazer
A wonderful chance to take a tour of the spectacular night sky with a professional astronomer. The three-hour stargazing and astro photography experience requires no previous knowledge and you don’t need to bring any equipment. The evening includes learning how to set up a telescope correctly, how to recognise constellations and take photos of the stars. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy one of Britain’s ‘dark sky’ sites, an area free from light pollution. For every experience booked, a donation goes to local causes.
Where – Brecon Beacons
Cost £55 per person
Contact 01874 749092 or gooddayout.co.uk
Cook with a celebrity chef
TV chef Rosemary Shrager competed in I’m a Celebrity… but jungle creatures are not on the menu at one of her cookery lessons. Instead, the day or weekend courses she teaches are aimed at helping home cooks improve their skills when making dishes such as British classics, or even a complete French dinner menu – including the bread. Rosemary’s energetic personality makes it an unforgettable experience.
Where: Rosemary Shrager’s cookery school in Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Cost: From £245
Contact: 01892 528700 or rosemaryshrager.com
Learn from a royal candle maker
Where better to learn the art of candle making than with the prince of Wales’ own candle maker? Candle makers supplies was founded in 1969 by master candle maker David Constable and runs day-long courses. The courses teach how to prepare and shape wax, plus add perfume and dyes.
Where: West London and South Wales
Cost: From £120
Contact: 02076021812 or candlemakers.co.uk
Master an ancient art
Beautiful lettering can transform a simple thank you letter or invitation into a work of art. Calligraphy is also a pastime that many find perfect for reducing stress and relaxing. City Lit in London’s Covent Garden offers introductory day courses in calligraphy that are suitable for both left and right handers. the course teaches the basics of elegant letter formation, how to improve handwriting generally and write a short piece with pen and ink.
Where: Central London
Create something shiny and beautiful
The ultimate piece of personal jewellery has to be something homemade. Manchester School of Jewellery offers day courses for beginners, including making a ring in a day. This teaches the basics of hammering, texturing and soldering, as well as filing and ring sizing. And participants get to make their very own sterling silver ring! Other courses include making a silver bangle, and an intro to resin jewellery.
Cake making with a Bake Off winner
The ideal present for anyone who has ever wanted to discover a Great British Bake Off champion’s secrets. After winning the show in 2012, John Thwaite set up a cookery school. He now offers day courses including an afternoon tea masterclass, baking techniques and contemporary cake decorating.
Where: Wrightington in Lancashire
Cost: From £170
Dance with the stars
If you’ve always wanted to learn to dance with the stars of Strictly, Donahey’s Dance school has a programme of weekend breaks in 2017, where dancers of all levels can enjoy tuition and demonstrations from Strictly favourites including Erin Boag, Anton du Beke, Kevin and Karen Clifton, Aljaz Skorjanec and Giovanni Pernice. The breaks take place across the country.
Where: Locations across the uk
Cost: From £195
Indulge a sweet tooth
The perfect gift for chocolate lovers – learning how to work with
chocolate like a professional. Former UK Master Chocolatier Mark Tilling guides students through all the techniques aspiring chocolatiers
need – from the basics of tempering chocolate to colouring and piping
truffles and making their own mini chocolate bars. there are one-day courses for beginners or
five-day courses for those who really want to master their skills and
make some impressive choccies.
Where: Squires Kitchen International School, Farnham, Surrey
Cost: From £60
Contact: squires-school.co.uk or 0845 6171812
Ideas for a foodie friend?
✢ A Very Cheesy Present One for those unable to resist a cheeseboard, this gift ensures they’ll rarely be without an interesting cheese to nibble. The Cheese Shed subscription gives the recipient, at regular intervals through the year, a box of five different cheeses. The selection varies and you can choose from a delivery every four months to one every month.
Price: From £99
✢ Taste of Italy A treat for those who want to relive glorious Italian holidays at home. The monthly food box contains a selection of Italian foodie treats. The selection varies depending on the season and will include the likes of cured meats, olive oil, breads, condiments and other Italian delicacies.
Price: From £100 for three months of food boxes
How about a special membership?
✢ One for art lovers Discover a world of art and history with a 12-month national Art Pass, which gives you free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK. These include Kensington Palace, Kedleston Hall and Cardiff Castle. The pass also gives you 50 per cent off major exhibitions at galleries such as the National Portrait Gallery, the British Library, the Ashmolean Museum, Tate Britain and the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
Price: From £62
✢ Secret VIP theatre access Do you have a theatre buff on your Christmas list? Then this one’s for them! Members of Theatre Club get exclusive access to free, or heavily discounted, tickets for theatre and stage performances – from comedies and musicals to plays and operas. Past shows include west end hits such as Wicked, Miss Saigon and War Horse. The available shows are updated every day and members can go to as many as they like.
Price: From £30 for annual membership
✢ Access all attractions Families will enjoy a multitude of attractions with a 12-month Merlin Pass. They will enjoy free access to 32 of Britain’s top attractions including Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, Legoland, Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and Warwick Castle. Depending on which pass they have, other perks can include discounts on food and hotels, free parking, discounted entry for friends and family and priority access to various parks.
Price: From £129 per person