This Christmas, forget sticking more ‘stuff’ under the tree – branch out and give the ones you love a unique experience to treasure instead.
Better still, choose a unique experience from a small business and your ingenuity will not only make your family and friends happy, it’ll put a smile on the face of a business owner.
Here are 9 unique experiences worthy of being slipped into anyone’s Xmas stocking, all from 9 brilliant independently-owned businesses (who we absolutely love).
For Game of Thrones Fans:
Make your own fantasy mead with Wye Valley Meadery
If you’ve heard of Game of Thrones, chances are you’ve heard of mead, too. It is, after all, the world’s oldest form of alcohol (or honey wine) and features in Norse mythology, Old English literature as well as fantasy epics like the aforementioned HBO smash hit.
Produced throughout Europe, Asia and Africa in ancient times, mead is traditionally created by fermenting honey with water and sometimes with various spices, fruits, grains or hops.
In the hands of Kit and Matt, two brothers who run the Wye Valley Meadery in Chepstow (and the loveliest people you could wish to meet), the mead of old – the sort drunk by monks and druids – has been given a distinctly modern makeover.
‘Mead Made New’ is their strapline and, by nipperkin, it couldn’t be more apt. With honey from their own bees, the two brothers brew delicious, sparkling mead concoctions that bring a sweet new dimension to your days and evenings. Mango Mosaic, Honey and Rhubarb (our favourite), Honey and Ginger and Mulled Spiced Mead are just a few of the buzzing flavours on offer.
Best of all, as well as drinking the mead, you can make your own with Kit and Matt on a unique Mead Making Experience at their brewing HQ on the Welsh Border. Expect 4 hours of honey-fermenting and mead-drinking fun, learning mead-making basics, discovering what a Braggot is, and getting insights into the different types of mead brewed around the world.
You’ll wobble away wiser and with 4.5 litres of your own mead maturing gently, ready to collect a couple of weeks’ later.
Price: The Mead-Making Experience costs £60pp (includes a full afternoon, refreshments, mead tasting and 4.5 litres of your own mead).
Details: Your gift voucher is open-ended, so you can choose a date to suit you when dates are released in Jan 2021.
Pic credit: Wye Valley Meadery
For Busy Bees:
A beekeeping experience in the beautiful Wye Valley
Hey sweet cheeks, want to discover more about the honey that goes into mead? Then why not also give the gift of a beekeeping experience with Matt from Wye Valley Meadery? Matt’s a beekeeping expert and runs bespoke one-to-one sessions to take your love of bees to the next fascinating level.
As part of this intensive half-day experience, you’ll discover the ins and outs of a beehive (including how to keep your hive healthy), how to handle bees, how to read the bees and, crucially, how to stay safe! You’ll also learn how to get honey from a hive and the extraction methods used, as well as how to jar your honey properly. All beekeeping equipment is provided, along with refreshments, and it all takes place in the gorgeous Wye Valley in Wales.
Price: £150pp (includes all equipment, expert tuition, and refreshments).
Details: Your gift voucher is open-ended, so you can choose a date to suit you when dates are released in early Spring 2021.
Pic credit: Wye Valley Meadery
Ad: These ideas have been kindly sponsored by Wye Valley Meadery.
For Adventure Seekers:
Truly unique Cornish adventures
Awaken your loved one’s adventurous spirit this Christmas with a delightfully different activity break in beautiful Cornwall. Scarangar offers utterly unique experiences including surfing trips, hiking breaks and wellness holidays that serve as “an invitation for you to escape to the wilderness to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.”
The trips vary in length depending on your chosen activity and your home for the duration of the holiday will be a sustainably refurbished double decker bus, which serves as both your transport and accommodation. With a pared-back scandi aesthetic, the interiors of the buses are chic yet practical so that you can enjoy a good night’s sleep before immersing yourself in the stunning scenery and throwing yourself into the day’s activities. The lower-level of the bus sleeps eight in a dorm-style space and also houses the kitchen where your meals will be prepared for you, while upstairs there is plenty of room for relaxing, dining and unwinding.
Scarangar’s trips run from April to September and have been carefully curated by local experts to offer guests the chance to enjoy the very best that Cornwall has to offer. The Wellness holiday includes sea swims, meditation sessions, yoga, walks and plenty of relaxation – perfect for those in need of a little change of pace this Christmas.
Price: Pricing for 2024 to be released soon.
Pic credit: Scarangar
Party in the kitchen with saucy Italian Londoner and cook,
The Tiny Italian
Sexy food, naughty cocktails and your hostess for the evening, Paola Maggiulli, who’s full of bubbles and ready to teach you how to cook up an Italian storm. Paola is an Anglo Italian food blogger and chef living in London who loves bringing people together through food, drink and music.
Her 2hr online classes are a blast and perfect for a night of homemade sauciness with your nearest and dearest or far-flung friends and family. Paola offers heaps of unique experiences including Sexy Sausage Ragu, Lasagne Up Your Life, Become a Risotto King or Queen.
We amore the sound of her Spritz Like an Italian online masterclass, where you’ll learn to create Italian cocktails and three Italian antipasti dishes – all via the power of Zoom and all with banging tunes on the go. Just decide which experience you would like and how many people will join in. Paola sends you the ingredients list, the equipment you need and your Zoom link. Perfecto.
Price: £35pp for a 2hr experience
Details: Your gift voucher is fantastically flexible valid for 12 months. Simply choose a date to suit you when dates are released.
Pic credit: The Tiny Italian
For Music Lovers:
A legendary rock ‘n’ roll road trip through London in your own private black taxi
Die-hard Beatles fan? Hendrix obsessed? Then this 4hr black taxi rock and roll tour through London’s music hot spots is going to rock your world.
Many of the world’s most famous (and notorious) artists found their feet in London or spent time in the city. You’ll visit the spots where ground-breaking moments took place, including art galleries, night clubs, venues and drinking dens that saw rock ‘n’ roll royalty come and go and legendary events take place.
See the place where the Rolling Stones played their first ever live performance and where many secret gigs were hosted by the likes of Genesis, Iron Maiden and Prince. You can even go for a drink in a prison cell, located inside the old Soho courthouse which tried John Lennon, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
Your guide is a true London cabby and a rock ‘n’ roll aficionado, so they’ll regale you with the stories the public don’t know as well as their personal tales of the capital’s music scene (including the stars who’ve been in the back of their cab). And if you’ve a special interest in a group or artist, they can tailor your tour to specifically. It’s only a rock ‘n’ roll tour – but we like it.
Price: £300 for 6 people, 4hrs and your own black taxi and guide
Pic credit: Black Taxi Tours London
For Star Gazers:
Astronomy meets gastronomy at this gorgeous boutique retreat
If your partner, bestie or beloved family member could do with some me-time, a break at The BOX BNB could be just the thing to slip into their stocking this Christmas. This retreat boasts three cabins which have been carefully and creatively designed using shipping containers. With bright and beautiful interiors, all the mod cons and wrap-around floor-to-ceiling windows, these quirky cabins offer the perfect bolthole for those who want to kick-back, relax and enjoy the stunning Yorkshire views.
The cabins, named the Rabbit Box, the Duck Box and the Pig Box, sit at the edge of the North York Moors so there is plenty of exploring to be done if you fancy taking on the great outdoors. The area is an International Dark Sky Reserve which makes The BOX BNB the perfect location to enjoy some spectacular stargazing. Each of the cabins comes with its own outdoor deck and seating area so grab a blanket and a bottle and cosy up under those breathtaking skyscapes – v romantic indeed!
This trip is also the perfect festive gift for the foodie in your life as The BOX BNB cabins are just a hop, skip and a jump from some fabulous eateries. Considered one of York’s best gastronomic destinations, the market town of Malton is stuffed to the gunnels with delis, restaurants, cafes, pubs and producers. Book yourself onto one of Malton’s Food Tours and nibble your way around some of the town’s tastiest spots including macarons, oysters, beer and Scotch eggs!
Price: From £175 per night
For Party Animals
A silent disco dance tour through Londons hot spots
Ladies and gentleman, hold on to your disco balls because you are in for one hell of a party on the streets of London! Boogie Shoes Silent Disco Dancing Tours do exactly what they say on the tin: dance you around the Capital’s hotspots to the sounds of disco tunes that only you can hear thanks to a set of silent disco headphones.
You and your bubble are led by a fabulous funky crew of sequinned tour guides who show you the moves and get you flashing mobbing at various icon London sights. The commentary along the way by tour leader, Ruth, is fab and the way the public responds is magical: expect spontaneous dancing and clapping as you shimmy your way around, singing out loud and having the time of your life!
Price: Tickets from £18, various times and dates
Pic Credit: Weekend Candy
For Nature Lovers:
Yoga, wild swimming and paddle boarding retreats in beautiful surroundings
The Wild Times specialises in adventurous experiences that nurture, restore and encourage guests to reconnect with nature. With retreats in a variety of locations around the UK and further afield, the team carefully design weekends and short breaks that bring a touch of wildness back into your life and challenge you to push your boundaries in a supportive, relaxed community.
The Wild Times runs events throughout the year in truly breathtaking locations and offers a wide range of different activities including yoga, wild swimming, paddle boarding, hiking and meditation. The weekends are tailored to help guests shake off the anxieties of every day and step into the unknown with the goal of feeling grounded, restored and balanced.
There are several retreats scheduled for 2024 including breaks in Morocco, the Lake District and Sweden. From the 22nd to 24th March 2024, the team are collaborating with the gorgeous Pylewell Park to offer a wellbeing retreat in a stunning stately home in the heart of the New Forest. As well as beautiful surroundings and a private beach, guests will enjoy yoga, sound healing, meditation sessions and delicious meals – the perfect nourishing break to get 2024 off to a fabulous start.
Price: 2024 retreats from £465 per person
For Gin Enthusiasts:
Head back to school for the chance to distill your very own gin
Piston Distillery has been making waves in the gin world since it opened in 2017 with a hoard of awards and a whole range of delicious drinks including a robust London dry gin and a Signature vodka. Now you and a friend can tap into the brand’s distilling secrets at the Cheltenham Gin School – a return to academia never sounded so appealing!
As well as learning about the origins of gin drinking and the production process, you will also be able to try your hand at blending a bottle of your very own gin. After being set up at mini copper still, the Piston Distillery team will help you to build a completely unique flavour profile using a range of different botanicals. Whether you love herbaceous flavours or lean towards spicy notes, you can create a bespoke spirit that is perfect for your palate!
You will then be able to bottle, name and label your gin before graduating from school and enjoying another tipple or two – cheers!
Price: £150 for a workstation for two