Reasons To Stay Home – The Best Things To Do Outdoors In The UK This Summer (Part 3)

Image credit: Barney Moss

With the weather finally starting to turn, and the promise of at least a few months without snow in 2013; part 3 of our ‘UK Adventures‘ blog series has its sights set firmly on experiencing the elements and outdoors. Whether in the coastal surf of Cornwall, soaring above the rolling hills of Salisbury Plain, or tearing down the mountainous trails of the Scottish Highlands; this week will see you heading along the paths less travelled, and hopefully making the most of the sun – whilst we’ve still got it!

 

Quad Biking/ATV Buggies

Image Credit: Mark Tighe

Quad biking is one of the most accessible forms of  motorised transport; with many kids first driving 50cc machines before their teens. However, these machines are hugely versatile, and – with the right guidance – can be made to do some impressive things. They give access to huge areas of land, and there are many locations around the UK that will take you out on 1, 2 or even 3 hour treks into the forests, hills and marshland of the UK; well away from roads and civilisation. Fun at any time of year, everyone should give quads a go at least once; just be prepared to end up a little dirtier than when you started!

ATV Buggies offer a slightly different challenge – the key difference from quads being a steering wheel and seat rather than handlebars and saddle. This more automotive-bent means a slightly larger vehicle; more-often suited to fast driving. ATV buggies are usually run on large, off-road courses, and a number of UK companies will provide you with just that. If  you enjoy go-karting, and fancy giving it an off-road twist; this is what you’re looking for.

Accessibility? 9/10
Challenge? Nerves, Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Clothes and boots you don’t mind getting a little muddy. You could take your own full-face helmet but centres will provide all protective equipment…and the bike/buggy
Costs? Experiences usually start at around the £40 mark, and rise with duration and complexity of the course
Where? Nationwide – but they need a lot of space, so expect to be travelling outside of the city
How Do I Get Started? Quad Bike Tours
Southern Pursuits

Dirt Buggy Racing
Nottingham Off-Road Events

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Surfing

image credit: David Merrett

Surfing may seem the preserve of Californian and Australian beach bods; riding through perfect barrels off the coast of a Hawaiian beach, but the UK actually has a thriving surf-scene – all credit to some of the great waves and beaches no more than a few hours from your door. Obviously the weather isn’t quite as tropical, so expect to use a wetsuit whatever month of the year (unless you’re feeling particularly hardy); however the waters hold their temperature for a few months, so you can still surf comfortably into October before the colder weather starts to limit the waves to the hardcore and committed riders.

Surfing is a funny sport, as it combines short bursts of intense exhilaration (getting out and riding back in on the waves), with long periods of rest, out behind the surf. As such, it’s a fantastic sport for a sunny day; and it lends itself well to going with friends – there’s lots of time to discuss who caught the best wave before going and doing it again!

The best surfing is generally found along the West-coastline of the country; with the Atlantic providing some fantastic waves on occasion (many surfers avidly watch the daily surf-reports on Magic Seaweed). Most head to Cornwall, and in particular Fistral Beach in Newquay – one of the most popular UK surf spots, and one where instructors are readily available – however other great locations can be found across the South-West Wales and Western Scottish coastlines.

Accessibility? 7/10
Challenge? Fitness, Unfamiliarity, Nerves
What Do I Need? Confidence in the water. A wetsuit is advisable, but they can usually be hired
Costs? Surf lessons (with board) start at about £25, buying your own board costs from £100. Wetsuits can be found from upwards of about £70
Where? The coastline is a good start. The best surfing in the UK can be found on the West-facing coasts in Cornwall, South-Wales and the Inner Hebrides
How Do I Get Started? Magic Seaweed
Quiksilver Surf School
Coast2Coast Surf School
Surf Wales 

 

Mountain Biking

Image credit: Natesh Ramasamy

Mountain biking has evolved somewhat since it’s founding by the Roughstuff Fellowship back in 1955; today, it encompasses a variety of disciplines and an industry worth an estimated £900m; making it one of the most prolific sporting pastimes in the UK. That said, getting the most from your mountain biking can mean going beyond the local common or park, and out a little deeper into the countryside.

Depending on your strengths and interests, mountain biking can be many things; for some, it’s about travelling great distances off-road, factoring in lung-bursting climbs and technical descents over dozens of miles; others don a full-face helmet and focus on ever-faster descents of pre-set tracks, while many will get a lift up the mountain, looking for their own path back down (no matter how hair-raising)!

Luckily, all these routes start with a more recreational level of riding; the best starting points being the Forestry Commission website (as well as those of the various UK bike parks), and just getting out there with a bike and an acceptance you will quite possibly fall-over before the day is out! If you’re looking to take it more seriously, search for local mountain bike clubs – there are hundreds across the country.

Accessibility? 9/10
Challenge? Fitness, Nerves
What Do I Need? Active clothing and shoes, gloves and a helmet. Depending on your pain threshold various body armour can be worn too. Backpacks are also useful for carrying any extra supplies!
Costs? Depending on the level, bike hire can cost between £15 and £70 per day. An acceptable entry-level mountain bike can be had from about £300. Hiring a guide is around £20.
Where? Forests and hills nationwide. There are a number of specific mountain bike parks for those keen to push their skills.
How Do I Get Started? The Forestry Commission
Ride Fort William
Mountain Biking Wales
UK Bike Park
Ride Aston Hill

 

Highropes

Image credit: Go Ape

Highropes take the concept of children’s adventure playgrounds, and pump them full of steroids and a good dose of altitude. The result is a great deal of fun for the big kids amongst us; whilst still being accessible to older children – making them great for friends and family days out alike.

There’s a fairly good chance you’ll be taking a slip at some point in the day, but with a full harness rigged up, you won’t be going anywhere; so it’s a great way to exhilarate yourself if you find heights a bit unnerving, whilst never being in any real danger.

Accessibility? 10/10
Challenge? Nerves, Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Any good outdoor clothing and footwear
Costs? Upwards of £25. Discounts commonly provided for under-18s
Where? Centres around the country
How Do I Get Started? GoApe
Black Mountain Activities
Head4Heights
TreeSurfers

 

Gliding

Image Credit: Ian Wilson

Flying without a working engine might seem like the stuff of many a bad dream, but for gliding enthusiasts it’s the best place you can be; carving and sailing on the winds and thermals, lazily taking in the world around you. Offering the peacefulness of paragliding or hang-gliding, but with the comfort and shelter of a cockpit, gliding is a very safely run operation in the UK, and a great experience for those who usually take to the skies looking out of a small oval window in-between movies.

Many gliding clubs will offer taster flights, in 2-seater gliders, for around the £100-mark; from here you can choose to take the sport up more seriously, and learn to fly solo over the course of about 30-80 flights. Clubs have a great social side, so it’s a fun way to make some new friends.

Accessibility? 7/10
Challenge? Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Just yourself – the club will provide the essentials (a glider and a parachute)
Costs? Tasters can be had from £100. Club membership starts at £200 and gliders can be hired at a cost per hour basis (This can be as low as £6/hr)
Where? Nationwide
How Do I Get Started? British Gliding Association
Into The Blue
London Gliding Club
Scottish Gliding Centre 

 

Check back next week for the last in our four-part series; looking at more easily accessible outdoor escapes here in the UK, including slacklining and canyoning!

 

The Best Things To Do Outdoors In The UK This Summer:

 

Part 1 Trail Running
Adventure Racing & Urban Adventure Racing
Whitewater Kayaking
Tubing
Skydiving
Part 2 Obstacle Endurance Racing
Beach Riding
Paintball
Wakeboarding & Wakeskiing
Climbing & Abseiling
Part 3 Quad Biking & ATVs
Surfing
Mountain Biking
Highropes
Gliding
Part 4 Jetskiing
Coasteering
Zorbing
Slacklining
Duck Herding

 

Doug Stidolph 2013