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 who’s trying to keep their head above water during Covid.
Here are 10 unique experiences worthy of being slipped into anyone’s Xmas stocking, all from 10 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.
The Coolest Staycation in the UK: Rooftop Wild Camping in Beautiful North Yorkshire
Get set for a camping adventure unlike any other. On this unique experience, your stead is a head-turning Landrover Defender 110 XS (either Milly or Bruce) and your home for the weekend is a mighty 2-person RoofBunk rooftop tent.
Simply pick a spot on the map and go – with the wind at your heels and the open road in your sights. Everything you need to experience the great outdoors safe and securely is provided by the thoughtful owner of Yorkshire Vehicle Hire, Tom, including a gas stove, bbq grill, cutlery, tea & coffee, kitchen table – there’s even the collapsible kitchen sink and fully-charged power banks to keep your devices topped up.
When it’s time to set up camp for the night, your rooftop tent opens in seconds thanks to a clever gas strut system; you then use the telescopic ladder to climb into your bed in the stars.
And don’t worry about comfort; there’s a memory-foam mattress to sleep on and the fabric of the tent and roof keep the wind and rain out, and the warmth inside thanks to an insulation lining. All you need to pack is a duvet or sleeping bags – and, of course, your wild side.
Price: £145 pn Frid – Sun, 3 nights minimum rental applies (March – October). Unlimited miles. Minimum age of 25 (with 2 years driving experience).
Pic credit: Yorkshire Vehicle Hire
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 Gym Bunnies
A Secret Woodland Sparkling Sauna Experience on the Suffolk/Norfolk border
On the banks of the River Waveney, near Bungay on the Suffolk – Norfolk border, you’ll find a wooden cabin hidden between the tree where time slows down and nature takes over. This is the Secret Sauna, a wood-fried sauna that you can hire privately when you want to unwind and recharge and put all stresses behind you.
Turn up, slip out of the modern world and into the sauna that’s hot and ready for you. As part of this unique 2hr experience, there’ll be a chilled bottle of Adnams Fizz waiting as well as drinking water and additional logs should you want to turn up the heat.
You’ll also enjoy exclusive use of the ‘Sauna Island’ – a private, peaceful rustic spot where you won’t be interrupted; seating outside the sauna to enjoy the peaceful riverside setting; and your own access to the river for wild swimming.
Price: £70 for a 2hr experience for 2 – 4 people
Details: Your voucher is valid for one year.
Pic credit: The Secret Sauna
For City Dwellers
The 3-day Digital Detox That’ll Restore You Back to Factory Settings
When you’re frayed at the edges, one of the most restorative things you can do is switch off from the digital world. Easier said than done, right? With your phone in your pocket, it’s all too convenient to have a quick glance at it to see what’s happening.
Thank goodness for Unplugged – an escape cabin just over an hour from London that’ll keep you rooted in the real world. On arrival, your mobile phone is locked away in a box; you’ve then 3 blissful days to spend at the site’s beautiful self-catering cabin, Rockwell, to connect with your surroundings and enjoy a unique digital detox experience.
The cabin is purposeful off-grid, with a Digital Free welcome box to remind you of how good life pre-digital used to be: a polaroid camera, a custom map for you to explore your surroundings and postcards to write. There’s an analogue cassette player and tapes so you can listen to music, although you won’t find Spotify on the dial.
Price: From £300 for 3 nights, sleeps 2
Pic credit: Unplugged
For Ladies Who Lunch
An Afternoon Tea Chauffeured Trike Tour in the Beautiful Chilterns
Pinkies out, ladies, for a thoroughly sophisticated unique afternoon experience with the brilliant Chiltern Trike Tours. Your carriage: a daffodil yellow Boom Trike called Bumblebee who turns heads as she slides down country lanes and through pretty Buckinghamshire villages.
Your personal chauffer: Ash, who has lived in the Chiltern Hills for over 25 years. He’ll pick you up from your Buckinghamshire base for a tour of the Chiltern Hills and its beautiful villages, sharing stories, facts, insights and anecdotes during your journey to keep you entertained.
During this unique experience, you’ll stop at a top Buckinghamshire hotel or a traditional English tea room for a delicious afternoon tea before being chauffeured back to a drop-off point of your choice.
If you want, you can personalise the tour even further: why not also visit the historic windmills and watermills that dot the Chiltern ridges? Or ask to see the real-life locations from Midsomer Murders and the Vicar of Dibley? Whatever you decide, Ash can create a trike tour to suited every taste.
Price: Afternoon Tea 4hr Trike Tour from £260 for 2 people
Pic credit: Chiltern Trike Tours
For Party Animals
A Silent Disco Dance Tour of London’s 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 Soul Seekers
A Winter Yoga and Surf Getaway To Start the New Year Healthy
The North Devon coast is calling you; why resist? Give the gift of sea, sand, surf and soul-soothing yoga and your loved one will be over the moon.
This Winter Weekend package is brought to you by Swell Yoga, run by the power comb of Nikita and Elly. Nikita is a chef, specialising in gluten free, plant-based, gut healing foods. Whilst Elly is a yoga and meditation teacher trained in Tantric Hatha Yoga.
On this 2 or 3-night weekend, you’ll stay at the gorgeous Holwell Farm Retreat Centre which is set in five acres of North Devon farmland, 15 minutes’ from the beach. The peaceful accommodation includes a beautiful farmhouse, private yoga centre in a converted eco-barn, holistic therapy rooms, arts space, and wild and wonderful grounds.
Your schedule for the weekend includes delicious healthy vegan food cooked by a private chef (breakfast and dinner included), two daily yoga classes, guided costal walks and additional activities like surf lessons and fireside cacao ceremonies.
Price: 2-night stay in a private room £400pp
Pic Credit: Swell Yoga
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