1. Caving in Somerset
The caves surrounding Cheddar Gorge are game for potholing | Photo Visit Britain/ Stephen Spraggon
If you’re new to caving, Cheddar Gorge in Somerset is not a bad place to start. The level 2 multipitch caving course offers a safe way to get started, as well as a taste of the potholing and caving routes the Mendip Hills have to offer. The route takes you deep into Cheddar Gorge’s underworld through to chambers only reachable through crawls, scrambles and slides. Muddy, but worth it.
2. Via Ferrata in Cumbria
Until a few years ago, we had to cross the channel to try via ferrata – routes made up of steel cables, steps, ladders and bridges that open up an otherwise untouchable world of sweeping rock faces and high-mountain ridges.
But in 2007 Honister Slate Mine opened the UK’s first course, following the original miners’ route to the top of Fleetwith Pike, some 2,126 feet above sea level.
Though that might sound daunting to non-climbers, the series of belays and ladders makes it accessible to anyone with reasonable fitness. And for the more hardcore, their Extreme course is packed with longer climbs, more edge exposure and extra features like a Burma bridge.
3. Mountain biking in Cumbria
Whinlatters trails are good in rain or shine | Photo Daniel Wildey
When the sun shines on Cumbria it’s like a slice of hilly, green heaven. But for climbers and hillwalkers alike, it’s essential to have a bad weather back-up plan. Chances are your day off or your weekend away is likely to end up a bit soggy in the Lake District, and there’s no better way to embrace the mud and rain than by tearing down the hill on two wheels.
Local writer Daniel Wildey recommends the trails of Whinlatter Pass: “Only five minutes’ drive from Keswick, the Whinlatter Pass provides jaw-dropping views across to the enormous hulk of Skiddaw, with Bassenthwaite to the north east, and any number of peaks dotting the horizon – if uphill pedalling doesn’t take your breath away, the views will.
“Whinlatter absolutely nails it with trail-building, and every route just flows. Each trail has the superb quality of being as hard as you make it; most of the technical sections can be rolled over or hit at speed, and however you ride there is this beautiful rhythm which really helps get the best out of your abilities.
“There are plenty of opportunities to get airborne too. As with all the tricky sections, you can trundle over the rollers and drop offs or you can pedal like crazy for maximum altitude.”
4. Wild Camping in the Scottish Highlands
Pitch up in the wild for an overnight thrill|Photo VisitBritain/ Joe Cornish
Scotland, along with Dartmoor, are the only places in Britain where wild camping is – broadly speaking – legal. Which is very good news as the Scottish Highlands could not be a better place to pitch up. Spots like the Assynt Hills and the mountains of Wester Ross abound with secluded spots calling to be camped.
One of our favourite spots is at the head of Loch na Sealga, sheltered by Beinn Dearg Mor. It makes an excellent stopover point following a day’s hike through the Highlands.
But really, with wild camping, it’s more about lucking out and finding that remote but sheltered spot as you hike or bike through the wilderness, than planning it down to the last detail. Either way, be sure to stick to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and leave your site of choice exactly as you found it.
5. Bouldering in South London
Climbing has always been popular in the UK, but climbing centres like White Spider in South London are attracting a new generation of cool climbers who prefer to ‘boulder’. It’s all about short, technical, unfettered climbing, testing strength and flexibility, rather than a knowledge of knots.
As the name suggests, bouldering means you don’t climb high enough to need ropes, a harness or a climbing partner; four metres is about the limit. Outdoors you place a thick foam pad beneath the route, while indoor bouldering centres pad out the whole floor area, so falling off is no problem – in fact, it’s the norm.
White Spider has just opened up one of the country’s biggest dedicated competition bouldering walls. It’s 30 metres long with steep inclines, angles, panels and ‘volumes’ – large bolt-on features.
White Spider and Scarpa pro Evie Cotrulia thinks the simplicity of bouldering’s pure technical and physical nature is what’s made it grow so fast in the past few years.
Evie is seeing more women coming into bouldering, and British role models, such as Shauna Coxsey, are raising the sport’s profile. “Women are getting stronger,” says Evie. “We’re often better than the guys when it comes to thinking through the moves and smaller hands mean we can ‘crimp’ the tiny holds.”
6. Snowboarding in Leeds
Snowboarding. Leeds. Summer. Not a classic outdoor activity, but then, let’s be honest, it does rain in this country. A lot.
Which is why sometimes it’s best to bring the outdoors, indoors, and any of the UK’s indoor snow centres do the job nicely (we’ve just picked Leeds because that part of the map looked a bit empty…).
And actually, if you’re going to learn to snowboard, or ski for that matter, it’s best to spend £30 on a trip to Leeds to find your snow legs before you part ways with £500 for a holiday in Tignes.
7. Climbing in Cornwall
Cornwall’s cliffs offer excellent climbing |Photo Visit Britain / Ben Selway
With more than its fair share of fine granite cliffs, the Cornish coastline offers up endless spots for bouldering and climbing. Think steep, narrow headlands, rugged outcrops and more than a sprinkling of tors perched above the blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
For experienced climbers, the coastline is one big, erosion-carved oyster, with spots like Porthcornu and Bosigran offering up some juicy thrills.
For beginners or intermediates, Shoreline Activities offer tuition on the more gentle cliffs at Bude.
Words: Daniel Wildey, Mary Creighton, Will Robson