How to hunt with a hawk or join a husky race

Daniel Butler suggests a range of decidedly different gifts: country courses for fresh-air enthusiasts

Finding a present for an outdoorsy friend or family member tends to be either ludicrously easy or impossibly difficult. Sometimes, a hip flask, pair of binoculars or hand-warmer hits the spot perfectly, but more often than not, the rambler, rider or bird-watcher already has every conceivable piece of state-of-the-art equipment he or she could possibly need.

For those still racking their brains as the final days to Christmas tick by, an activity break could be the answer. There are thousands on offer, with the best providing not only exercise and fresh air, but entertainment and education.

Fly fishing on one of Britain's premier rivers offers a therapeutic break. The Arundell Arms Hotel (01566 784666) in Devon runs two- and four-day salmon and trout fishing courses for beginners on its 20 miles of water. Prices start at pounds 270 for the four-day session, while weekends cost pounds 150 (accommodation is extra, at pounds 79 for a single room and pounds 144 for a double).

For those wanting to relive the romance of a medieval hunting scene, Leonard and Diana Durman-Walter (01450 860666) run falconry holidays on the Scottish borders. During late summer there's grouse hawking with peregrines (pounds 360 for four or five days), while on a more modest level, a day's rabbit or pheasant hunting costs pounds 65. If you fancy learning about the finer points of the 4,000-year-old sport, a six-day course on how to train, fly and hunt a hawk starts at pounds 330. All prices include board and lodging.

Less interventionist raptor enthusiasts may prefer the wild article, with a kite-watching holiday in the Cambrian mountains. A guided weekend in mid-Wales with Richard Knight (01597 811169) starts at pounds 122 (including board and lodging in a local hotel), while a week's introduction to moorland ecology costs up to pounds 422. Special breaks geared around children are also available to coincide with school holidays.

For those wanting to have something to show at the end of their break, Will and Lottie O'Leary (01547 528792) run stone-carving weekends from their home on Offa's Dyke. Starting with an introduction to the tools and techniques of stone-carving, guests design and sculpt their own objects, usually as ornaments for the garden. Past successes have included a full- sized head of a Greek god, a life-size sheep, and ornamental house names. The long weekend (Friday to Sunday) costs pounds 140 and includes all tools, materials, lunch, tea and coffee, but accommodation is extra (B&B is pounds 17.50 a night in the neighbouring pub).

Thrill-seekers may prefer an introduction to husky racing in Northamptonshire with John and Penny Evans (01604 686281). Up to six people at a time (clients are advised to recruit their own groups) begin the day with breakfast and an introduction to the dogs and equipment. After lunch, guests are allowed to take the reins themselves, driving a team of dogs on trails through a local forest. Weather permitting, a sledge is used but British winters being what they are, a wheeled rig is more usual - the price: a bargain, is pounds 35 a head.

Cheaper holidays are available from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (01491 839766). Participants are expected to donate their labour to construct paths, clear undergrowth, dredge ditches, rework dry-stone walls and lay hedges.

Prices, which cover accommodation (this can be very basic) and food, begin at about pounds 20 for a weekend and pounds 32 for a week - a bargain when you consider the self-satisfied glow of altruism you take home at the end.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PR Account Manager - Online

£21000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers' in retail...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified NVQ Assessors

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - £80k - Javascript / MEAN

£45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...

Recruitment Genius: Fitter - Plant / Tool

£20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food