4. TRACK BISON IN POLAND
The European bison, like its American cousin, appears as a shaggy holdover from a distant age, a prehistoric cave painting that’s somehow head-butted its way off the rock face. Both species came close to extinction, with only 54 European bison left in the 1920s.
One of its last redoubts was the Bialowieza Forest on Poland’s eastern border – a former royal hunting preserve where Polish kings had once applied the death penalty to poachers. Although conservation measures are less extreme these days, there are now more than 500 bison in Bialowieza, and visitors have an excellent chance of seeing the largest wild land animals in Europe. Wild Poland organises three-night trips to Bialowieza, staying in a local wooden guesthouse, with a stop for lunch in Warsaw’s old town on the last day.
Nature guides take visitors on walks through the dense, primeval forest in search of bison and some of the other creatures that share their home, including wild boar, pine martens, beavers and rarely seen lynx and wolves.
Arrive: Participants are picked up at Warsaw Chopin Airport. BA, LOT, Norwegian and Wizz Air fly here from the UK.
5. NOT-SO-WILD CAMPING IN BERLIN
If you like the abstract idea of camping, but aren’t a fan of tripping over guy ropes and midnight expeditions to the toilet block, then a weekend in the Hüttenpalast might provide the antidote. The sort of idea that could only be attempted in a post-industrial space in Berlin, this ‘hotel’ has caravans and Alpine-style huts spread across the ground floor of a former vacuum cleaner factory (in other words, beneath a very much functioning ceiling).
Arranged around the factory floor you’ll find camping furniture, stylised trees and washing lines, with a dozen different types of unusual accommodation to choose from, the most striking being a 50-year-old stainless-steel caravan produced in the former East Germany. Venture outside (as in really outside) and you’ll find yourself in one of Berlin’s most dynamic neighbourhoods: Neukölln, full of farmers’ markets, vintage shops and indie cafes.
Arrive: BA, easyjet, Flybe, Jet2, Norwegian and Ryanair fly to Berlin’s Tegel and Schönefeld airports from most major UK cities.
6. LEICESTERSHIRE FARM DAYS
The small town of Market Bosworth is best known for the Battle of Bosworth, where the Houses of York and Lancaster met in 1485 to change the course of English history. Had Richard III really been keen to swap his kingdom for a horse, he should have staggered a few fields away to the Dandelion Hideaway, a bucolic retreat that shows, a more serene side to Leicestershire (though he’d have to make do with a Shetland pony).
Here, canvas-roofed cottages replete with rustic dining tables, wood-burning stoves and Chesterfield sofas offer a respite from the battlefield of modern life. There’s plenty to keep budding farmhands busy: caring for chickens, milking goats and spotting badgers at night.
Arrive: The farm is near the village of Barton-in the-Beans outside Market Bosworth, under an hour’s drive from Nottingham, Birmingham and Derby.
Stay: The Dandelion Hideaway has cottages each sleeping up to six people.