Everyone gets nervous about choosing gifts at Christmastime, and then there’s the added fear that someone else might have picked the same thing for that loved one. Cue the feigned enthusiasm at not one, but TWO sets of hair straighteners, identical novels, playstation games or albums. We’ve all been there! That’s why we’ve compiled a handy Christmas Gift Guide of experiences we know are so interesting and unique, no one else will have thought of them!
The ideal gift for: animal lovers
If your friend or family member is as obsessed with the BBC’s Tigers About The House as we are – and with Planet Earth 2 – and all their other fantastic programmes on our animal, vegetable and mineral neighbours, they’re bound to recognise big cat expert Giles Clark, pictured above. Well, here’s an incredible chance to meet him in person and find out more about a range of amazing big cats at the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary, with this Big Cats Afternoon Tea and Tour for Two. After a welcome session and 90-minute tour of the sanctuary (not open to the public), getting a glimpse of rare leopards, lions, tigers and more, Giles himself gives a presentation on the important work the sanctuary does keeping these endangered species alive. Guests enjoy a delicious afternoon tea and get the chance to ask questions, before receiving some trademarked gifts as part of the experience. How likely is it there’ll be a copycat gift under the tree?
The ideal gift for: nature lovers
Described by Kevin McCloud as “One of the most thought-provoking designs we’ve had yet”, The Rockhouse Retreat may be familiar to many as the subject of one of the most interesting Grand Designs episodes ever. This picturesque 21st century rock house is half Ferngully, half Spanish cave house, and we love it. Surrounded by acres of lush green forest, it’s private without being remote, and would make a great romantic break for a couple looking for a change of scene. Inside, it’s even more stunning, with a rainfall shower, underfloor heating and surprisingly modern facilities – check out our Two Night Weekend Break, exclusive to Red Letter Days, to see more photos. And for those interested in anthropology and archaeology, fun fact: this cave was actually occupied for 700 years before it became an official residence!
The ideal gift for: the sightseers
It began as The Millenium Dome, a vast white dome supported by 12 towers, signifying the 12 hours of Greenwich Mean Time. It’s since evolved into The Dome, an integral part of world-famous venue The O2 and the setting for many a prestigious show and concert, considered one of the key places for sightseer visits. But did you know you can climb it? That’s right, with our Up at The O2 experience, which includes a tasty three-course meal at Frankie and Benny’s, two can climb to the top of this iconic landmark as part of a group, in special safety gear, and observe the London skyline from a truly unique point of view. While we’ve all seen it from a distance and consider it part of the capital, how many of us can say we’ve climbed it?
The ideal gift for: petrolheads
They may think they’ve done it all, driven it all… but this experience will prove them wrong. A Radical and Lotus Thrill (exclusive to Red Letter Days) is different to any other driving experience available and takes place at one of the world’s most famous racetracks, Silverstone. And not just on any track at Silverstone, either – on the Grand Prix circuit, usually reserved for professionals! But what other track could be worthy of the Radical SR3 RS, pictured above, with its capability of going 0 – 60 mph in under 3 seconds? This car’s not even road legal, that’s how fast and furious it is. As Road and Track said, ‘Cornering speeds that seem death-defying in a traditional sportscar can be accomplished with zero effort in the Radical‘. And let’s not dismiss the stunning Lotus 111S, either, also part of this experience. Included are 10 full track miles driving each car, as well as a blisteringly fast passenger ride in the Radical at racing speeds. As a finale, drivers receive a HD video of all driving done on the day. Beat that!
The ideal gift for: action film fans
The picture’s a little sinister, but the experience certainly isn’t! Clay shooting is often perceived as an old man’s sport, with flat caps, mud, wellies and occasional shouts of “Jolly good shot old chap!” all part of the mental image it conjures up. It’s actually nothing like that, and gives those who’ve seen a lot of action films the chance to learn to hold, aim and fire a real shotgun accurately. Is there a kickback? Are the clay pigeons actually shaped like pigeons? Isn’t it harder to aim at a moving target? Well, go and find out! (For the record, no, clay pigeons are just hockey puck-like objects and this experience is vegetarian and vegan-friendly. See more on our Archery and Clay Pigeon Shooting blog). Surprisingly fun and guaranteed to bring out anyone’s competitive streak.
The ideal gift for: kids
Indoor skydiving is not very well-known, but is absolutely brilliant. It may take some explaining to younger kids, but basically, it’s flying! An amazing sensation of total weightlessness in a purpose-built wind tunnel is something kids will never forget, and there’s a chance for the instructor to take flyers in hand (as above) and spin them all the way to the top of the tunnel! If you’re picturing a powerful fan and potentially unpleasant accidents, there’s no chance of that – the tunnel is built to cover all possible sharp edges and flyers are accompanied at all times. Plus, the instructor even ends with a truly breathtaking demonstration of how amazingly aerobatic humans can get – when given the chance to practise. Be warned, this one is addictive so they may want to go back for more!
The ideal gift for: romantics
Be it morning or evening, a Hot Air Balloon Ride for Two is the ideal gift for a romantic. Or two romantics! Available at over 100 locations around the UK, there are plenty of beautiful panoramic views to be admired, and perhaps the opportunity to apologise, propose or suggest something whilst the moment is right? Certain balloon operators offer longer flights, and some offer a glass of champagne upon landing (just when that adrenaline is fresh). From Scotland to Wiltshire to Bristol, there’s a location to suit anyone, and balloons won’t fly when the weather’s rubbish, so there’s no need to worry about tumbling around in a hailstorm. Forget Kodak moments, every second of this experience is photogenic, too!