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GetOutside Champions Jen & Sim Benson are endurance athletes, guidebook authors and passionate explorers of the great British outdoors. Their new book 'The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain' is packed with incredible experiences on land and water across the length and breadth of the country.
If you love great adventures in wild places Britain is a fantastic place to be. The incredible diversity of the British landscape along with its lengthy and spectacular coastline means that, whatever your choice of adventure, there’s somewhere amazing to do it.
We’ve spent many years exploring Britain – running, walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking and climbing our way across the mountains, moorland, rivers, lakes and sea – and The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain is a collection of some of our favourite experiences. We’ve also teamed up with local experts and guides throughout the book to find the best places in each area.
You’ll find recommendations for adventure-friendly places to eat and stay, guides who can show you how to explore safely and plenty of fascinating facts about each adventure destination. But if you’re keen to get out exploring right away, here are 10 brilliant adventures around Britain to get you started.
The Scandinavian-born sport of swimrun involves running in your swimming kit and swimming in your trainers. Races are tough and often lengthy, with multiple swim/run transitions in wild and rugged places.
But away from competition it’s a perfect way to explore islands such as Bryher in the Scilly archipelago, swimming the wide bays and running between them. Keep an eye out for seals and puffins amongst the local wildlife. If you’re swimming in boating areas make sure you’re visible by wearing a bright swim cap.
The experienced and friendly Adventure Scilly team can take you on an excellent guided swimrun tour of the area. Take some time to explore the rest of the Isles of Scilly too, from the white sand beaches of St Martins to the world-famous Abbey Gardens on Tresco.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the creeks and coves of south-west England. The Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary lies in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at high tide the ria – a river valley flooded by the sea – has a number of creeks that run into the surrounding villages, perfect for discovering by boat.
Paddle up pretty, wooded Southpool Creek, stopping for lunch at the Millbrook Inn, making sure you return before the tide goes out.
The full trip from Kingsbridge to Salcombe is about 5 miles and makes for an excellent adventure – look out for seals, dolphins and even basking sharks towards the mouth of the estuary. Kingsbridge-based Singing Paddles provides guided tours of the area.
The Ridgeway National Trail runs for 87 miles (140km) between the World Heritage Site of Avebury in Wiltshire and Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chiltern Hills. As Britain’s oldest road it often traverses stretches of remote high ground, used over thousands of years by travellers, soldiers and herdsmen.
The western half of the trail is an outstanding mountain bike trek along 43 miles of mostly traffic-free riding through rolling chalk downland. It’s a ride through history too, beginning at Avebury stone circle and passing many fascinating archaeological sites, including Stone Age and Bronze Age earthworks, Iron Age hillforts and giant white horses carved into the grassy hillsides.
With only an extra hour’s cycling it’s all doable by train too, starting at Pewsey train station and following National Cycle Network Route 45 to the start at Avebury. Goring and Streatley station is just over the Thames bridge from the finish.
Formed from some of the most ancient rocks in England – around 680 million years old – the Malvern Hills run north-south for about 8 miles (13km) between Great Malvern, spa town and birthplace of Edward Elgar, and the pretty village of Colwall.
Fine views from the main ridgeline stretch on one side across the Severn Valley to the Cotswolds and on the other over the rolling hills of Herefordshire to the Brecon Beacons. The highest point of the hills is the Worcestershire Beacon at 425 metres and the Iron Age hillfort at Herefordshire Beacon, also known as the British Camp, is also a fascinating place to visit.
The full traverse of the Malverns from End Hill in the north to Chase Hill in the south is about 9 miles and ticks off all 15 primary summits along the way. Whether you choose to walk or run it’s a perfect way to experience the area.
Scrambling lies somewhere between hillwalking and rock climbing and it’s a great way to make a day out in the hills even more of an adventure. Official scrambles are graded according to their difficulty, with Grade I being the easiest.
The Peak District’s Crowden Clough is a classic Grade I scramble that follows the line of Crowden Brook from the heart of the Hope Valley up the steep, craggy hillside to Crowden Tower, not far from the highest point in the National Park: Kinder Scout at 636 metres. A winding path runs alongside the scramble so there’s always an alternative route should you wish to avoid any part.
The final section is the steepest, stepping up towards the summit plateau and particularly tricky when wet, but reaching the top and its awe-inspiring views is well worth the climb. Descend either by the classic Jacob’s Ladder route or the slightly trickier but quieter and more enjoyable Grindsbrook Cough.
Peaceful Grasmere is a perfect lake for swimming, set in a beautiful valley and edged by pretty Grasmere village where you’ll find plenty of cafes to warm up afterwards. The beach at the foot of Loughrigg Terrace is a good place to start – it can get busy on sunny weekends but head out into the water and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in the glorious surrounds.
Neighbouring Rydal Water is connected to Grasmere via a stream – a 2-mile stretch of often-swimmable water that makes for a great day-long adventure.
The trails that wind along either side of the stream make an enjoyable walk or run too, with plenty of waterside picnic spots, and there are inviting waterfalls and pools to discover at Rydal Bower. We’d recommend wearing footwear for the swim as the stones can be sharp underfoot.
Bikepacking is a great way to explore off-road, replacing traditional sturdy cycle touring kit with lightweight bikepacking bags that distribute the weight of your luggage around your bike for a much more pleasant ride. With the right kit and a bit of ingenuity you can carry everything you need for a weekend or more, including a tent and sleeping bag.
The Brecon Beacons are home to some excellent mountain biking and some good, bike-friendly long-distance trails, a perfect combination for a bikepacking weekend.
The Taff Trail is a great place to start: a 55-mile (89km) mainly traffic-free route from Cardiff to Brecon. With an overnight stop around Brecon you can either reverse your outward journey home or take in an outstanding and adventurous loop from Merthyr Tydfil all the way around Pen-y-Fan, the summit of which is the highest point in south Wales at 886 metres. Local guides Mountain Bike Wales offer expert guiding across Wales and beyond.
Lake Bala, also known as Llyn Tegid, lies in a glacial Snowdonian valley surrounded by mountain peaks. This is an area steeped in myth and legend, including the story of the drowning of the old town of Bala by the evil prince Tegid Foel; the lake was named after the prince and it is said that, on dark nights, the lights of the town still shine from the water.
Lake Bala is 3.75 miles long and 0.5 miles wide, and the out-and-back paddle is the Welsh stage of British Canoeing’s Three Lakes Challenge (the other two are Windermere in England and Loch Awe in Scotland).
It’s also home to the National White Water Centre where you can kayak or raft on natural rapids. To paddle at Bala you’ll need to purchase a permit from the Lake Warden’s office. Kayak and SUP hire is available from Bala Watersports on the foreshore and lakeside camping is available at Bwch-yn-Uchaf campsite.
Taking its name from ‘Caledonia’, the Roman name for Scotland meaning ‘wooded heights’, the Caledonian Forest was once extensive, covering an estimated 1.5 million hectares. Today just a few patches remain: havens for the trees and rich abundance of wildlife to be found there – one species, the Scottish crossbill, exists nowhere else in the world.
Trees For Life, based near Loch Ness, works to restore the Caledonian Forest, removing non-native species and replanting native trees across a vast area of Scotland. Visiting these forests is an experience in its own right, and if you’re lucky you might spot red squirrels, pine martens and capercaillie.
Or take in the 11-mile trail around stunning Loch Affric at Glen Affric, one of the largest remaining areas of the Caledonian Forest, a great adventure on foot or mountain bike.
The Argyll Sea Kaya Trail runs for 90 miles (145km) between Ganavan in the north and Helensburgh in the south, taking in some of the best sea kayaking in Europe.
Along this naturally diverse stretch of coastline you’ll discover sheltered waters, rocky islands, sandy beaches, intriguing caves and incredible wildlife – perfect for exploration by boat. The trail has been designed to make paddling this stretch of the coast as accessible and logistically straightforward as possible, while benefiting the local communities and there are nine access points along the route with parking and trailer storage nearby.
Each of the sections can be paddled individually, or you can join several together for a longer trip. Completing the full distance over a few days, wild camping on the pristine beaches as you go, is a truly amazing experience. Find out more at paddleargyll.org.uk.
Jen & Sim's new book 'The Adventurer's Guide to Britain' is out now.
It's an exciting, inspiring and informative guide to Britain with 150
featured adventures, arranged by geographical region, chosen for being
exhilarating, achievable and safe.