Learn to fly
At the age of nine I wanted to be a pilot but my mother told me that was silly. "Pilots don't wear glasses," she said. I did and still do. And mum's kitchen conversation looms large in my mind to this day.
As a result of not learning to fly, I've become aviation obsessed. So it was with glee that I discovered the Loop the Loop package at Ken McCulloch's Aviator Hotel on the edge of Farnborough airfield in Hampshire. Loop the Loop offers a flying lesson for a couple, and a jet-set night at this smart airside address.
Aeroplane anoraks, myself included, will know that the runway at Farnborough is mainly the preserve of private jets, and that it is long enough for landings and take-offs of the new double-decker Airbus A380.
Loop the Loop flying lessons take place at the nearby Cabair Flying School at Blackbushe Airport, a 10-minute drive from Farnborough. My experience began with a 20-minute pre-flight briefing from instructor Martin Reynolds, covering the rudimentary principles of flying.
Kitted out in headphones and mike, I strode excitedly with Reynolds to our aircraft, a two-seat Robin HR20/120B, and strapped myself in. Reynolds took me through a pre-flight check and after talking to the tower, we were clear for take off. And how!
Shortly after we were airborne Reynolds asked if I wanted to take the controls. "Yes," I shouted eagerly, and after a couple of minutes I was flying over the Isle of Wight, then banking to the left and moving along the South Coast as far as West Wittering before heading back to the airfield. I had the controls throughout, apart from the final approach and landing.
Back on the ground, the highlight of my day may have been over, but there was still the very cool bar at the Aviator to hit for a celebratory cocktail. And back in my Sky Suite, I could open the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the jets roar down the runway, only a few hundred yards away. Dinner by chef Allan Pickett (ex-Galvin at Windows) was a treat, and I was up early to watch the aircraft as they lined up to take to the skies.
The Aviator Loop the Loop costs £350 per couple and includes welcome drink, accommodation, "Aviation" cocktail in the Sky Bar, dinner, breakfast, the services of a flying instructor at Blackbushe Airport with pre- and post-flight briefing, and two take offs and landings. Aviator Hotel, Farnborough Road, Farnborough GU14 6EL (01252 555890; aviatorfarnborough.co.uk).
Tee off at Turnberry
After a multi-million pound refurbishment, Turnberry, in Ayrshire, reopened in July to host the 2009 Open Championship. Book in here and enjoy not only the hotel's spectacular setting and world-class golf course, but hole up in style in the new interiors designed by Mary Fox Linton. Sign up for the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf School and gain some top tips from golf-pro icon Colin Montgomerie himself. Non-golfing companions can take their pick from a plethora of other activities from horse riding to off-road driving, quad biking and more.
The Colin Montgomerie Links Golf School at Turnberry (01655 333 991; turnberry.co.uk) runs from 9–11 October and costs £1,420 for two golfers or £1,120 for one golfer and one non-golfer. The prices are based on two sharing a room, and include tuition, meals, and overnight accommodation.
Kitesurfing in Wales
No previous experience of water sports is required on this thrilling break with Activity Wales – although of course you need to be able to swim. Two-day courses are held year-round, and the organisers claim that at the end of the sessions you will know everything you need to kitesurf independently and safely. The course takes place on Newgale beach, a two-mile stretch of sand combining Atlantic rollers (ideal for surfing and kitesurfing) and plenty of safe playing areas for kids. Kitesurfers stay at the nearby Warpool Court Hotel in St David's, on the eponymous peninsula in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Activity Wales (01437 766888; activitywales.com) offers a two-night B&B kitesurfing break at the Warpool Court Hotel, including tuition and equipment, from £380 per person (based on two sharing a room). Wetsuits are available for hire.
F1 driving experience
Take a spin in the world of Grand Prix winners Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton with Red Letter Days – in Leicestershire or Lancashire. Kicking off with a briefing and demo laps in a hot hatch or sports saloon, drivers work up to either a Formula Ford, a Porsche 911 or a Ferrari before taking on an F1 vehicle – such as a Forti Corse. All cars are ex-Formula 1 and the organisers guarantee an unforgettable driving experience. A high-octane adrenalin rush is part of the thrill.
Red Letter Days (0845 640 8000; redletterdays.co.uk) offers an F1 driving experience at Mallory Park, Leicestershire, and Wigan in Lancashire for £1,467. Price includes driving experience for one, tuition, lunch for two, memorabilia, dinner, completion certificate, champagne welcome by the F1 experience team, and B&B for two in a nearby hotel.
Learn to salsa or tango
Release your inner Lilia Kopylova or Brendan Cole on a learn-to-dance tango or salsa weekend with HF Holidays. Upcoming breaks include Next Step Salsa or Tango at Abingworth Hall, near Storrington, on the Sussex South Downs. The courses are led by Paul Bottomer, the top British Salsa Championship coach and undefeated four times World and European Supreme Tango Champion. Paul is also a troubleshooting coach for BBC's Strictly Come Dancing series. The relaxed and fun sessions begin on a Friday afternoon with an introductory talk and tea on arrival. After dinner, guests can enjoy their first lesson in the hotel's ballroom. Further sessions take place throughout Saturday and Sunday, with plenty of free time to explore the extensive grounds, complete with lake and resident ducks.
HF Holidays (0845 470 7558; hfholidays.co.uk) offers a three-night dance break at Abingworth Hall, including tuition and meals, from £259 per person (based on two sharing).Reuse content