Cliff camping means sleeping over the edge of a drop
Cliff camping means sleeping over the edge of a drop

Why the UK should be your next adventure travel destination

From cliff camping in Dorset to sea kayaking around remote Scottish islands, Lizzie Pook argues you’ll find everything you need for a thrill-seeking escape right here

Lizzie Pook
Monday 05 August 2019 15:54
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For all the charm of a far-away island or a sultry jungle wilderness, when it comes to travel, long-haul isn’t necessarily the most appealing option any more. Whether it’s the debate surrounding the flight-shaming movement or the uncertainty of Brexit that has us pinned to home turf, there are more reasons than ever before to staycation.

But staying put doesn’t have to mean staying sedentary. Here’s how you can embark on a great adventure without even leaving the country.

Skiing in the Cairngorms

Air time: skiing on Cairngorm (Ruari Macdonald/Cairngorm Mountain)

Sure, it might not have the glitzy allure of St Moritz or the fur-clad revellers of Lech, but Scotland is actually a pretty decent place to ski if conditions are right. In the wild, wind-beaten Cairngorms National Park you’ll find 90km of slopes and a fairly comprehensive ski lift system, offering a vertical range of about 500m. Terrain, in parts, is world-class, with chutes, cornices and cliff drops fit for even the most seasoned shredders. As always, you’ll be at the whim of the weather (storms can roll in at a moment’s notice) but you’ll find plenty of fresh snow, empty slopes and, when skies clear, some of the best lift-accessed backcountry terrain around.
visitcairngorms.com

Coasteering in Wales

Think of coasteering as doing everything your parents told you not to do when you were a child: hurling yourself off cliffs, plunging into wild water and generally gadding about on rocky precipices. Defined as the physical act of moving along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline without the use of boats, rafts or other equipment, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Pembrokeshire’s white waters are the ideal coasteering spot; you’ll belly flop, high dive or pencil jump into water features such as the “washing machine”, the “tumble dryer” or the “toilet flush”, then float your way to the nearest rocks for a scramble up to dry land.
Costs £44 per person; celticquestcoasteering.com

Sea kayaking in the Outer Hebrides

Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is one of the wildest places left in Europe: salt-smattered, battered by the Atlantic and home to a plethora of wildlife including magnificent white-tailed eagles, rutting red deer and otters that flop their way through glassy sea lochs. Slide into a kayak and set off for a swoosh around this soul-stirring archipelago. Keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins, kayak up to the Standing Stones of Callanish and visit the uninhabited islands of Scarp and Taransay before setting up camp on deserted white sand beaches.
From £1,095pp, including six nights’ accommodation (three nights’ wild camping), most meals, transfers and guiding with Wilderness Scotland; wildernessscotland.com

Wild swimming in the Forest of Dean

Wild swimming comes with a breakfast hamper 

The UK is replete with hidden waterfalls, glittering lakes and enigmatic caves, making it the ideal wild swimming spot. Book in for a break at Tudor House in the Forest of Dean and you can make the most of its two-night Wild Swimming package, where expert guide Edward will take you for a leisurely paddle on a riverside beach in Hay-on-Wye or – if you’re feeling brave – a full-on 2km swim (from the A4103 to the A438) through a cluster of pretty Lugg Meadow fields in Hereford.
The two-night Wild Swimming break is priced from £700, full-board, including a half-day guided wild swim and a breakfast hamper for two; tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk

SUP in Newquay

Surf Sanctuary, the Headland Hotel’s dedicated surf, SUP and coasteering school overlooks Newquay’s sprawling Fistral Beach. Its intense Atlantic Expeditions SUP boot camp (that’s stand up paddleboarding for the uninitiated) teaches participants how to paddle in various wind and sea conditions, and get their heads around essential safety skills before putting it all into practice with a punt around the local Gannel Estuary and then out onto open water. Expect to be wowed by tiny inlets and coves and, if you’re lucky, the murky shape of a basking shark passing beneath your board.
A two-day Atlantic Expeditions course costs from £195pp person; headlandhotel.co.uk

Cliff camping on the Jurassic Coast

The experience is a ‘like a B&B for the adrenaline-addicted’

Camping might normally bring to mind soggy grass, barbecue smoke and battered roll mats, but not so with cliff camping. That’s largely because there is no grass when there’s nothing beneath your bed but thin air and the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the rocks below. With cliff camping, tents are replaced with “portaledges” – essentially a sheet of lightweight but strong material that is strapped to a vertiginous rock face – from which you watch the sunset and tuck into dinner from your “floating” bed, before being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. From £225pp; youngsadventuresolutions.co.uk

Survival training in the Scottish Isles

From the craggy mountains of Arran to the wild beaches of Skye, Scotland’s remote west coast is prime adventure territory. Its volatile seas, dramatic coastlines and cloud-cloaked mountains are enough to test even the most experienced outdoorsmen and women, and it’s here you’ll find one of the UK’s toughest survival training camps, where mental strength, gut instincts and physical capabilities are truly put to the test. Exposed to the wild seas and desolation of this rugged coastline, you’ll learn to survive with only bare-bones supplies, get your head around seamanship and rope skills, learn camp craft and fire building, and forage, catch and hunt for your food (with a spot of stargazing thrown in for good measure). Castaway experiences don’t get more authentic than this.
From £700 for a five-day trip; secretcompass.com

Snorkelling with seals in Scilly

The Scilly Isles feel a world away from the mainland (Getty/iStock)

The clear blue waters off St Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly are home to hordes of playful Atlantic grey seals. Get up close and personal with the curious creatures who’ll nibble your fins, blow bubbles and swim rings around you as you snorkel. If you prefer life at the surface, explore hidden coves and islets by kayak, stand up paddleboard, or test your sea legs on windsurfing or sailing excursions to spot the creatures while keeping dry.
From £49pp; scillysealsnorkelling.com

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