From scrambling rocky waterfalls to paddling winding rivers, there’s an outdoor activity in the UK to rebalance the soul, re-energise the spirit and reboot the mind. Here’s how to embrace your adventurous side in the UK.

Britain is a mild and pleasant land.

Rolling hills carved by winding country lanes, fields dotted with sheep, charming villages from another time. But lurking beneath the cream teas, the UK has a wild side waiting to be uncovered.

From the heights of craggy mountains to the depths of sinuous cave networks; from the coves of dramatic coastlines to the wilds of remote highlands, this surprisingly diverse landscape summons us to connect with nature, exercise the body and re-energise the mind.

It entices us to throw on shorts and t-shirt as soon as the sun comes out; lures us into firing up the BBQ with a gale approaching; seduces us into braving freezing seas, blustery winds and driving rain, all to share a challenge and embrace an adventure.

In the diverse destinations in the UK, there’s an outdoor adventure near you.

So, buckle up for adventures mild to wild and embrace the rugged realm with our favourite outdoor activities in the UK.

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MAP / OUTDOOR ADVENTURES UK

There are a host of adventure activities near every corner of the UK. Our list covers the far reaches of the Scottish isles down to coastal excursions in southern England.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


1 – HIKE THE SNOWDON HORSESHOE

The view from the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, was once voted the best in Britain. A maze of paths disappear over craggy summits with steep-sided ridges that tower over shimmering lakes. Fortunately, it’s not only the view from the top that beguiles – the journey to get there is an interesting outdoor adventure in itself.

There are various hiking routes to the summit, each with their own personality. The Pyg Track is the shortest with the least height to climb, and the South Ridge is an off-the-beaten-track ascent without the crowds.

But for the adventurous, there’s the Snowdon Horseshoe.

One of the most exciting hikes in the country, it combines physical challenge with mental toughness. The journey to the summit heads over the ‘knife-edged’ arête of Crib Goch. The path is very exposed and drops precipitously on either side. The way down over Y Lliwedd, another narrow ridge, is similar.

If you have a head for heights, pick a clear sunny day (not in winter) and have some scrambling experience, then it’s one of the best outdoor adventures near the stunning scenery of Snowdonia National Park.

2 – SEA KAYAK AROUND OLD HARRY ROCKS

Standing guard off the coast, Old Harry Rocks has been keeping a watchful eye on England for around 65 million years. The dazzling outcrop of limestone marks the start of the Jurassic Coast – a 95 mile stretch of windswept coastline with dramatic viewpoints.

There are many ways to view these towering cliffs. Walk along the beautiful flower-strewn cliff edge, cycle along bumpy bridleways or join a cruise from Poole Harbour. But the most energetic, adventurous and sustainable way to see them is from a kayak. Paddling around the base of these giant white stacks and immersing in their grandeur is one of the most satisfying outdoor adventure activities in England.  

Fore Adventures offer half-day kayak tours around Old Harry Rocks from Studland Bay.

3 – ROCK CLIMB UP MALHAM COVE

Malham Cove has been described as one of the geological wonders of England. Formed at the end of the last ice age, the curved limestone pavement stretches 300 metres across and drops 80 metres to the valley below.

The resulting vertical cliff face has some of the biggest and most-challenging rock climbs in the country. For climbers who know their stuff, it’s the perfect location set amongst the stunning Yorkshire scenery.  

There are also plenty of opportunities for beginners looking for an activity to test their sense of adventure. Elemental Mountaineering offer courses in sport climbing where pre-placed bolted anchors are used to allow people with all levels of ability the opportunity to try climbing in a safe and fun way. With expert guidance, you’ll be achieving goals you never thought possible.  

4 – WALK UP BEN NEVIS

Rising above the Scottish Highlands to a height of 1,345 metres, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. A desire to get to the pinnacle of the country attracts 100,000 like-minded hikers a year.

The easiest way up is using the Mountain Track (sometimes called the Tourist Track or Pony Track). Zigzagging up a massive shoulder, it’s a long slog and to be quite honest, not the most interesting walk.

Fortunately, for those with a sense of adventure, there is a much better route. The CMD Arête is a grade 1 scramble (no climbing equipment required) along a narrow ridge on the eastern side of the summit. You’ll need a head for heights but it’s a wonderful hike and the views to the massive north face of Ben Nevis are right in front of you.

Return via the Mountain Track and the entire circuit will take about 8 hours.

5 – SNORKEL WITH SEALS AT THE FARNE ISLANDS

The Farne Islands, just off the Northumberland Coast, are home to around 5,000 grey seals. You can visit them on a sightseeing boat trip from the town of Seahouses, but a more adventurous way to encounter them is on a snorkelling tour.

Fifth Point Diving run seal snorkelling safaris where you can learn about the life and habitat of these playful creatures in a responsible and engaging way. With a focus on conservation, Fifth Point have a strict interaction policy and a careful approach to minimise their impact on the ocean. It’s one of the best wildlife adventures in the UK and a great way to connect with nature.  

With plenty of other great outdoor activities in Northumberland, including walks along the under-visited coastal path and paddle-boarding opportunities around Embleton Bay, the county makes for a great adventure break in England.

grey seals farne islands

6 – YORKSHIRE THREE PEAKS CHALLENGE

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 24-mile hill walk ascending a total of 5,200 feet (1585 metres) over the three mountains of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

There’s no driving between the mountains, so it’s just one long day of walking. The goal is to complete them all in under 12 hours either as part of an organised event or on your own. This outdoor adventure is a test of endurance so it’s a great activity to do in a group where you can help motivate each other.   

There are a host of other interesting outdoor adventures to try in the Yorkshire Dales making it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway in England.

7 – SURF AT WATERGATE BAY

Facing southwest towards the Atlantic rollers, the gently sloping sandy beach and consistent swell of Watergate Bay in Cornwall provides the perfect playground for surfing enthusiasts.

But the sweeping beach has a variety of sections that are suitable for people with different levels of surfing abilities. Complete beginners (like us) can take exciting half-day lessons from Extreme Academy to master new skills. While we didn’t enter the blue room, they got us standing for a few seconds and riding into shore.

Lessons are given in small groups making it the perfect adventure activity for families or groups of friends to try something new together. The large beach has room for everyone and you could also try kitesurfing, wave skiing, traction kiting, kitebuggying or coasteering. Plenty of reasons to head here for an action-charged weekend break in England.  

8 – VIA FERRATA AT HONISTER SLATE MINE

At the top of the Honister Pass, amongst the debris of the last remaining slate mine in Britain, one of the most exhilarating outdoor adventures in England takes place, Honister’s Via Ferrata Extreme.

Over three hours, scale the edge of Fleetwith Pike using vertical ladders clinging to overhanging rock, cross a nerve-testing Burma bridge and clamber up a cargo net. It ends with a scramble to the peak providing remarkable views over Buttermere and a strong sense of satisfaction.

Clipped on to iron rails throughout the ascent, you need to be comfortable with heights, but no climbing experience is necessary. Providing you have a reasonable level of fitness, a good head for heights and a strong sense of adventure, the via ferrata is an outdoor activity delivering a moderate dose of adrenaline.

9 – PUNT ON THE CAM

Punting is an acquired art. Standing on the back of a flatboat and propelling it forward using a long pole pushing against a riverbed sounds like it should be easy. Yet every time we do it, we’re just as shaky as the last and happy if we make it back dry.

The best place to try punting is on the River Cam in Cambridge. Drift past the backs of beautiful colleges and architectural masterpieces set on the grassy banks of this world-renowned university city. Expect to have close encounters with brick walls, the underside of bridges and other understanding punters on this feel-good adventure on a day trip to Cambridge.

If you’d prefer to relax and admire the stunning setting, join a guided punt from current university students who will regale you with knowledgeable anecdotes while expertly commandeering their vessel.

10 – SCRAMBLE UP TRYFAN

On the southern edge of Llyn Ogwen in Snowdonia National Park, Tryfan (917 metres) is one of the most recognisable peaks in the UK. From the north, there appears to be no easy way up its craggy summit, and indeed there isn’t. But the brave and adventurous attempt it anyway.

The North Ridge ascent of Tryfan is a 600-metre grade 1 scramble. One of the longest continuous scrambles in the country, it is a heart-pounding adventure clambering sharply up the face of rock. It takes 3 to 4 hours to complete and with barely any place to rest, the challenge is both mental and physical.  

Finding a good route to the summit is not easy, so if you don’t know the area it’s worth joining a guided group.  Not only will a guide pick the best way, but they’ll also help with foot placements and reassure you during the climb.

It’s not for the faint-hearted or for anyone who doesn’t like heights. But it’s an adventure activity in the UK you won’t forget.

11 – COASTEER AT THE BLUE LAGOON

Coasteering involves playing about in the area between low and high tide. It began life in Pembrokeshire and includes leaping from ledges, scrambling across rocks and swimming in the swell. There’s nowhere better to try it than at the Blue Lagoon in Abereiddy.

Created as a safe harbour (when local fishermen blasted a hole between an old slate quarry and the sea) the Blue Lagoon is a 25-metre-deep pool in a mesmerising shade of blue-green surrounded by high cliffs, set in one of the most beautiful parts of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

Old mining buildings perched on the quarry edge offer ever-increasing heights from which to leap on a coasteering excursion. The first jump starts from around 2 metres above the water, before a second attempt at around 6 metres. The highest leap is from around 10 metres, but none are compulsory, and you can do whichever you feel comfortable with.

While you can go yourself it’s safer to join a tour. Celtic Quest provides wetsuits, helmets and buoyancy aids, and ensure everything you do is safe given the conditions. One of the finest secret beaches in Wales is nearby, so you can end your day with a relaxing afternoon on the beach.  

12 – HIKE THE SEVEN SISTERS

There are few more iconic sights of Britain than the Seven Sisters Cliffs. Stretched between Seaford and Eastbourne on England’s south coast, these pristine white cliffs form some of the country’s finest scenery. With a blanket of green grass on top, the glow of the sea below, and a luminance of white rock, the Seven Sisters are spellbinding.

The best way to see them is to hike from Seaford to the charming village of East Dean. Along the way you’ll pass the coastguard cottages at Cuckmere Haven, Beachy Head, Belle Tout Lighthouse and miles of glorious scenery. Although the undulating coastal hills make this a strenuous activity, Seven Sisters is nourishment for the soul and a great way to connect with the outdoors.

If the weather is good, go for a dip at Birling Gap beach or take a break from the walk to kayak down the Cuckmere River.

13 – DRIVE THE NC500

The NC 500 (North Coast 500) is a 516-mile (830-kilometre) road trip that makes a loop of the northern Scottish Highlands. It takes about 7 days to complete the circuit that begins in Inverness, heads up the east Scottish coast to John o’ Groats, then across the far north coast and south through Torridon before cutting back east to Inverness.

On its journey, it passes dramatic coastline, deep lochs, prominent castles, and eerie landscapes. But what makes it an adventure are the roads, and nowhere is more interesting than in the Assynt.

Known as the Drumbeg Road this single-lane track twists and turns over a bobbly landscape of ferns and heather, lily-filled small lakes (lochans) and cute bays. The views are staggering with the sheer-sided mountains of Assynt on one side and the waves of the ocean on the other.

The drive itself is a thrill. Blind summits, 180-degree hairpins and steep gradients add to the adventure. There are plenty of passing places, but progress can be slow. Just make sure you have plenty of time and soak it all in.

The NC500 in Scotland

14 – WILD SWIM IN WASTWATER

As the deepest lake in the Lake District, and surrounded by dramatic craggy mountains, swimming in Wastwater is one of the more refreshing adventure activities in England. The cold waters are the perfect way to invigorate mind and body while embracing the beauty of the great outdoors.

The spine of rocky scree on one side and the imposing face of Great Gable in the background provides a perfect setting for an adventure outing in England.

Several stone beaches are dotted around the shore where you can either launch for a long swim or lay in the shallows soaking up the views from the bank. With few facilities at Wastwater, it’s a great opportunity to connect with family and friends in a rugged but idyllic environment.

For more options in the area, read our guide to wild swimming in the Lake District.

15 – CYCLE THROUGH SWALEDALE

With its long windy valleys and high passes, the Yorkshire Dales offers some of the best cycling in the UK. For experienced cyclists, the trail between Hawes and Oughtershaw climbs 303 metres to Fleet Moss, the highest pass in the Dales.

For beginners, one of the best areas for cycling in Yorkshire is Swaledale where the roads are quieter, and you can choose a course to match your level of ability. Cruise the road on the valley floor, join the specifically designed 20-kilometre Swale Trail, or head out of the valley and up onto the passes. There’s a mix of gravel tracks, mountain trails and paved roads for a varied adventure break in England.

Dales Bike Centre provides road bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes to make those hills a little easier. They also have maps of the area with suggested itineraries.

16 – CANOE THE RIVER WYE

The River Wye stretches 215 kilometres from the Welsh Cambrian Mountains to the Severn Estuary just north of Bristol. In places, it defines the border between England and Wales. There are few better days out with family and friends than hiring a canoe and slowly drifting down this picturesque river.

One of the best sections for canoeing is from Kerne Bridge to Symonds Yat. The water is relatively fast-flowing, so you barely need to paddle as you make your way downstream. A couple of mini-rapids provide a hint of adrenaline. The scenery is incredible with riverside castles, stony beaches and steep-sided cliffs.

Canoe the Wye have a range of half-day and full-day options and provide all the equipment you need plus a safety briefing. It’s a fun and achievable outdoor adventure for almost everyone.

17 – WILD CAMP IN SCOTLAND

Camping outside an official camping ground or caravan park is a great way to spend the night in some of the UK’s more remote countryside.  

It’s not legal to wild camp in England and Wales without the permission of the landowner, but in Scotland, vast areas of remote wilderness are available for an adventure under the stars. With a few small exceptions, you can grab your tent and legally spend the night perched high up in the highlands or stretched across the lowlands.

There are some basic rules to follow like leave no trace, bury human waste, and use a stove rather than a campfire. But spending the night all alone, miles away from light pollution, in a wild and dramatic place, is something everyone should try at least once.

One of the best places to wild camp in Scotland is Quiraing on the Isle of Skye – one of our favourite places to visit in the UK.

18 – RIVER SWIM IN THE THAMES

Stretching for 215 miles, the River Thames is the longest river entirely within England. It winds its way from the edge of the Cotswolds, through Oxford, Reading, Henley, and Windsor before entering the North Sea just east of London. During its journey, it changes from an idyllic reed-fringed brook to a wide fast flowing tidal river.

It is not recommended to swim in the tidal section of the Thames (east of Putney Bridge to the North Sea), but as you head west the river gets cleaner, safer (less boat traffic) and much more beautiful.

At some of the more secluded locations along the river it feels like a remote jungle-framed hideaway. Shillingford is a lovely, shaded section of the river, perfect for relaxing family downtime. Enjoy a picnic at one of the many sections hidden in a natural reed-lined alcove by the gently flowing river and jump in for some refreshing Thames swimming. It’s an easy to achieve and completely free mini-adventure in England.

19 – WALK THE BEST OF HADRIAN’S WALL

Hadrian’s Wall stretches from coast to coast along undulating countryside of glacial lakes and rocky crags. Built by the Romans to defend the furthest north-western edges of their empire, the defensive fortification consisted of a 10-foot wall with forts and turrets backed by a massive ditch.

Walking the entire length of the defensive wall takes 5 to 7 days, but the best-preserved sections of the wall with the most dramatic viewpoints and best scenery are all in a relatively compact central section between Steel Rigg and the Vindolanda Museum. It’s easily visited on a short, outdoor-based break in England.

Follow our Hadrian’s Wall walk to discover the finest Roman ruins in the country and enjoy a day out surrounded by the most scenic and wild sections of the Northumberland National Park.

20 – WHITE WATER RAFT AT BALA

There’s not a lot of white water in the UK, but one place that has it year-round is the River Tryweryn in Bala. Set downstream from the dam at the end of Lake Bala, the regulated water keeps the white-water bubbling throughout the seasons, making it a reliable outdoor adventure in the UK.

Home to the National White Water Centre, they offer easier 1 to 2-hour guided rafting trips for younger kids (minimum age 10) progressing up to the more thrilling 4.5 hour Orca Adventure in a two-person inflatable. You can also paddle down the upper river in a kayak on your own, but this is not for beginners, as it takes a heft of experience to negotiate the grade 3 and 4 rapids safely.

The centre also offers activity weekends which combines white water rafting with either zip-lining, canyoning, clay pigeon shooting or 4×4 off road adventures.

The best of Snowdonia is nearby.

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21 – GHYLL SCRAMBLE IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

While the Lake District is known for some of the best hiking in England, there’s another aspect to this superb outdoor destination that provides one of the most exhilarating adventure activities in the country.

Ghyll scrambling is the art of climbing up the waterfall of a deep ravine (ghyll) using ropes and pullies connected to a harness. With protective gear including a specially designed wetsuit and helmet, it’s a thrilling outdoor adventure available to people with all levels of ability.

Crags Adventures offers organised trips lasting from 2 hours to full-day excursions. On the tour you’ll be hoisted up waterfalls via a rope, slide down canyons, leap into deep pools of water and scramble over boulders in the river. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable adventure under the guidance of an expert who can tailor the course to your level of comfort.

The best Ghyll Scrambling locations are Church Beck (Coniston), Stickle Ghyll (Langdales) and the most challenging of all, Esk Ghyll (Esk Valley).

22 – CAVING IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES

With over 2,500 known caves forming the longest system in Britain, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the perfect spot to try caving. Surrounded by pitch black with the course lit by a head torch, it’s an eerie but exciting adventure experience in England.

Lost Earth Adventures provides a range of caving tours based on your experience and comfort level. Wearing a protective helmet, knee pads and boiler suits, you’ll be guided through narrow gaps, descend underground waterfalls with the assistance of ropes, and wade through underground rivers. It’s a wonderful experience to test your nerves in a safe and surreal environment.

Another option for visiting a cave is to descend by winch to Gaping Gill – a massive subterranean chamber, large enough to fit St Paul’s Cathedral. Winching is organised by Bradford and Craven Pothole Clubs, but it is only possible one week in May and one week in August.

23 – SCRAMBLE THE BLACK CUILLIN RIDGE

Nowhere in the UK are the mountains rougher and the hiking harder than in the Black Cuillins. Perched on the southern end of the Isle of Skye, this mountain range is composed of basalt and gabbro rock. It is jet black, extremely hard and as abrasive as sandpaper.

The summits are all bare rock. Connected by narrow ridges creating a jagged saw tooth outline, they drop precipitously down steep cliffs into deep-cut corries. Hiking here is a challenge and an adventure.

Only a couple of summits (like Munro Bruach na Frithe) can be reached by walking. Most require difficult scrambling in inhospitable domain.

Possibly the most challenging adventure in the UK is traversing the entire Black Cuillin ridge – a 4,000-metre ascent across 22 peaks using a mix of scrambling and technically easy climbing. It’s a massive test of endurance. You’ll need to be fit, have no fear of heights, and have some climbing experience.

The Black Cuillin Ridge can just about be done in one day, but it’s more sensible to allow two.

24 – SAIL THE INNER HEBRIDES

There are plenty of sailing adventures to be had in the UK, but few are as dramatic as the Inner Hebrides. Here lochs and seas combine to form a maze of waterways surrounded by towering highland mountains. Castles perch on clifftop edges and colourfully painted towns overlook little harbours.

Strange geology, like the basalt columns at Fingal’s cave and the black crags of the Cuillin mountains, sit above the rolling seas.

There’s also a wealth of wildlife. Dolphins, seals, and harbour porpoises play in the waves, while Golden Eagles and White-tailed Sea Eagles rise on thermals along the coast. Head closer inland in a kayak and you may be lucky enough to spot otters.  

Alternative Boat Hire offers boat tours starting from 3 hours while Adventure Sail offers trips ranging from 4 days to 9.

WHERE NEXT?

As London-based travel bloggers, we’re often exploring exotic destinations far from home, but there’s a wealth of great experiences to be had within the UK. Here are some of our favourite guides to our home country.


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