Vineyard tours, pottery courses, and deer safaris: Holiday cottages with courses and activities for groups

Carmen McCormack Profile Image

Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

Special occasions and big celebrations call for something out of the ordinary, and whether you’re booking your own ‘do’, your other half’s or a close friend’s, sometimes it helps to have a little assistance. So, to spark your imagination, we’ve chosen six fabulous places that sleep eight or more in comfort and style, where you can also sign up for a fun group activity. In this selection, you’ll find vineyards offering tours and tastings in the Cotswolds, Italy and Portugal, a foodie festival at a chic hotel in the wilderness of Scotland, a gin distillery (and much more) on a fabulous estate in Cornwall, and pottery courses at an elegant, grown-up B&B in the stunning Loire Valley. Start sending out those invitations!

Woodchester Valley House, Cotswolds

This smart, spacious house for 12 has super views over the family-run vineyard. Founder and keen viticulturist, Fiona Shiner, grew a few vines back in 2007, and little did she know that today the vineyard would produce over 100,000 bottles every year. Tours and tastings can be arranged, and you can choose a house Pinot rosé or a sparkling wine to have with dinner. The handsome house is a flexible, comfortable space for groups to share, expect beautiful fabrics and locally made furniture, big windows bringing in masses of light, a high-spec kitchen, two sitting rooms, three wood-burners, books and games. Walk to Nailsworth with its shops and eateries, shop at Stroud’s weekly market. Bath and Cheltenham are under an hour’s drive.

Sawday’s inspector, Ella: I can imagine bringing a group of friends here, cooking up a storm for dinner every night and eating together at the huge table. A bonus is being on the vineyard – it’s great that you can do a tasting and find out exactly how the wine is produced. 

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Woodchester Valley House

Monachyle Mhor, Scotland 

Monachyle is unique – a designer hotel on a remote hill farm that’s genuinely one of the hippest places to stay in Scotland. Family-run for generations, it sits in 2,000 acres of blissful silence at the end of the track with the Trossachs circling around you and Loch Voil shimming below. Sheep graze, buzzards swoop, the odd fisherman tries his luck. Inside, there’s a cool little bar, a fire in the sitting room, then a slim restaurant that drinks in the view. Bedrooms ooze 21st-century chic. The loft-house suites are enormous, but the smaller rooms are lovely, too. Dinner is a five-course feast and if you visit in May you can join in the fun at their annual festival – a celebration of fabulous food and cool Scottish tunes. Hogmany is pretty entertaining too!

Guest Chris: Just a beautiful place to spend a weekend. The food is incredible, and almost entirely grown/reared/baked (even brewed) by the folk at Mhor or their immediate neighbours.

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Monachyle Mhor

Maison Hulotte, France

Pitch up at Agnès’s enchanting 18th-century townhouse, on the banks of the Loire beneath the gracious and soaring Château d’Amboise, and you won’t want to leave the warm, stylish haven she’s created. Your host is a talented ceramicist, much of her work fills her impeccably furnished home and we highly recommend joining her for a pottery course and throwing a bowl – she’ll fire it in her kiln and post it to your home. Curl up with a book or sip an apéritif in the huge, light-filled drawing room with riverside views then stroll into elegant Amboise for a crêpe or a fancy Michelin-star dinner. Return to sleep in gorgeous big bedrooms, wake to a treat-laden continental breakfast, then set off to discover numerous châteaux, villages and vineyards dotted around the Loire countryside. 

Inspector Nicky: I really didn’t want to leave this B&B. Agnès has created a very peaceful, artistic haven in this beautiful house, in one of the Loire’s most favoured tourist towns. Truly inspiring!

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Maison Hulotte

Castello di Potentino, Italy

An old castle perched high in the Monte Amiata Natural Park yet strolling distance from the village of Seggiano. Bring family and friends to celebrate in house-party style as home-grown food is brought to the table and sublime wine flows. Charlotte and Alexander put you instantly at ease and their love of this place is infectious. As well as being wonderful hosts, they make award-winning wine, and your group can sign up for a tour and wine tasting where you’ll learn about the winemaking process from vine to bottle, and get to sample the results. Don your apron – they also run baking retreats. Stroll the airy, bird-filled grounds, the rose-strewn courtyards and the 20,000 hand-planted vines, take lunch on the loggia, float in the pool, retreat to big beautiful bedrooms. 

Owner Charlotte: You’re in a beautiful unspoilt valley which has hardly changed since the Renaissance and in spring you can forage for wild asparagus, surrounded by blooming cherry trees and wild orchids in the fields. 

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The Dairy House at Boconnoc, Cornwall

Gather your tribe at this pretty house on an historic estate and dive in to all the super on-site activities. Hire paddle boards and bikes, head to the stables for games and craft rooms, book a tennis session, borrow matts for yoga, join a deer safari. Expect live music nights, creative workshops and history tours of the house and grounds. Best of all, you can check out the estates distillery, and sample their Lantic Gin too. Inside, all is quaint country charm and dashes of colour, with the back terrace the perfect place for al fresco breakfasts or sociable nights with the laughter rolling down the hills. It’s ten minutes to pretty Lostwithiel and 30-minutes to the hidden coves of Lantic Bay, but you may decide to dig in and never leave.

Inspector Melissa: The interior is quirky, colourful and eclectic. The grounds outside are vast and beautiful. Picnic by the lake, watch the deer in the deer park as as they watch you, or explore the gardens and monuments. A week would pass so quickly here.

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Dairy House Boconocc

Quinta de Luou, Portugal

This 18th-century manor has three bright, lovely escapes set on a 28-hectare rural vineyard with rippling views over the valley and hills in northern Portugal – bring family or friends and take them together. A highlight is booking a vineyard tour, traditional meal and wine tasting, and if you come in season you can help with the harvest. Explore, on foot or by bike, a patchwork of fragrant pine forests and gorges, streams and seasonal bursts of colour from abundant trees along the Lima River valley. It’s home to an impressive array of wildlife including deer, wolves, otters and Garrano ponies. Inside, the casas are rustic and homely with oodles of space for everyone. Carefully revived, the buildings nod to the past but include everything you need for a super holiday. Cook and eat together, inside or out, splash in the pool, take a stroll around pretty Ponte de Lima.

Owner Filipe: Take the footpath (ecovia) from the house and walk for miles along the river Lima, enjoying the natural landscapes and discovering the water mills of Gemeeira.

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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