In these days of mass communication and global digitalisation, Brits often chuckle at the lives other nations seem to imagine us leading. Hollywood in particular has us all enjoying intrigue-loaded conversations over croquet, followed by afternoon tea and a tramp through woodland with guns and dogs. While this may not represent daily life for most of us, there’s still certainly something to be said for those old-fashioned hobbies we’re best known for. This summer, why not try some of them out?
Whether or not your hosts have their own stables, it’s worth asking about local opportunities for horse riding. There may be beginners’ rides on offer, or a chance for more experienced riders to join a local hunt or even a polo match. Lots of country house holidays also provide the opportunity to handle falcons, hawks, kestrels or owls under supervision by an expert falconer.
Aiming to please
Many stately homes take pride in their pheasant, duck or partridge shoots. Seasons start in the autumn and last until January or February, with regular winter parties visiting specifically to hunt, with the help of some trusty retriever dogs. In summer, clay pigeon shooting provides the chance to keep your eye in and develop your aim and weapon-handling.
If you’d rather aim at targets than birds, another ancient sport enjoying a revival is archery, a historic pastime that dates back to the Dark Ages that provides a great holiday challenge for adults and kids alike. Some ranges also offer rifles or pistols for somewhat louder target practise.
In an English country garden
If you’re searching for a more sedate family-friendly diversion, find out if your stately home is suitable for a croquet lawn. The game, which involves tapping balls through small hoops with a mallet, was hugely popular in the UK during the Victorian era. Croquet was immortalized as an English hobby thanks to Alice in Wonderland, in which the heroine is memorably invited to play using a flamingo and a hedgehog.
Of course one of the best ways to relive Alice’s adventures is to stay in one of our luxury cottages, so you can use the power of your imagination to follow Alice’s adventures in a fantastical setting.
Fans of the Alice books may also want to experience giant chess, a life-size version of the classic strategy game inspired by the political relationships within the ancient feudal system. The lawn models provide an excuse for the cerebral to do their pondering outdoors, while also enjoying a beautiful stately garden.