The United Kingdom is known for a lot of things including historic sites, wonderful cities, beautiful natural areas, vibrant culture, great football, and more. But for more adventurous travellers, or those simply looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush or a more active tourist experience, the typical landmarks and vacation checklists may not be what you’re looking for. In other words, seeing Big Ben in London might be wonderful, but it might not mean as much to the adventurous traveller if you can’t climb it!
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any kind of VIP access that allows you to scale Big Ben. But focusing on more reasonable pursuits, I do have a few fun adventures to recommend throughout the UK.
1. Hiking at Scafell Pike
The Lake District in the northwest of England is a popular stop for tourists venturing outside of London, simply because it’s about as beautiful a place as you can find in Europe. Designated as a national park and consisting of a range of picturesque peaks, valleys, and glacial lakes, it’s an inspiring location to say the least. It’s also a wonderful place for adventurers to visit, as it’s full of scenic and challenging hikes, but nothing so difficult or dangerous as to require guided tours or rock climbing equipment. Scafell Pike is the highest peak in the district, and actually in all of England, and the Walking Englishman blog provides a thorough look at the task of scaling it. Ultimately it’s more hike than climb, but as you’ll see there’s plenty of scrambling over rocky areas to keep you challenged.
2. Take In A Horse Race
There are plenty of major sporting events that can occupy your attention throughout any given year in the UK. But none suit an adventurous spirit quite so well as the major horse racing festivals that take place each spring. The first of these events (the Cheltenham Festival) has already wrapped up for 2016, so the country is now gearing up for the Grand National. And for those unfamiliar with the event, Betfair’s section on horse racing has outlined the the event for anyone who assumes it’s just another horse race. At the Grand National, there are multiple days of high profile races, with champagne bars and on-site restaurants, fashion shows, and of course frequent betting activity to keep spectators engaged. It truly is as much a festival as a sporting event, and arguably the most enjoyable of the major spring races in the UK.
3. Sailing in Hampshire
The UK is pretty big on its sailing, and though the weather can be difficult at times and the English Channel can make for some challenging seamanship, it’s also considered to be a good place to learn. For a more relaxing experience you can look into sailing down the River Thames through London. But as noted by First Sail’s write-up of where to sail in the UK, the Solent in Hampshire is tough to beat. Somewhat sheltered from the open expanse of the English Channel by the Isle of Wight, it’s a perfect place to learn as well as a fun place to get out and do some more ambitious sailing for those who are able.
4. Sea Kayaking in Scotland
Sticking with activities on the water, sea kayaking in Scotland may be about as adventurous an activity as you can find in the UK. It was recommended at The Independent’s travel section as one of the best UK adventure breaks, and specifically it was pointed out that for a £650 per-person fee you can even take a five night expedition through the Summer Isles. That particular venture involves touring sandy beaches and deserted islands, in addition to a great deal of kayaking for which you’ll need to be fit. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly a memorable experience.
5. Ballooning in the Cotswolds
Perhaps second only to the Lake District, the Cotswolds region is recognised as one of the most beautiful natural areas in the UK. Filled with the rolling hills and small villages that many think of when they imagine the UK, it’s a place that some visitors enjoy even driving through for sightseeing purposes. But why drive when you could float through the air? As stated at the Ballooning in the Cotswolds site, you can essentially take a tour through the air (with champagne) over this stunning region. It may not be physically exerting, but there aren’t many activities that feel as adventurous as being suspended in mid-air over a vast countryside.