Reasons To Stay Home – The Best Things To Do Outdoors In The UK This Summer (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of The Office Above

It’s Friday afternoon, and the week has ticked over as usual – you’re ready for the weekend!

But what have you got planned?

If the demographics and news reports are to be believed, most of us will be settling down in front of the TV, perhaps shopping or going out for food or a drink with friends.

Of course, these figures are for the average person, and as we proved SportPursuit members are a little bit more extraordinary. Last year 1-in-6 of you took part in a triathlon, so we know you love the outdoors!

Our recent photo competition showed us just how varied and adventurous you are as a group, and in recognition of that; we’ve decided to help you mix it up a little by hunting out some of the amazing sports and activities you can get up, right here in the UK!

Over the next four weeks we’ll be looking high and low at the sports that you could be getting into the very next weekend, so kick back, relax and get inspired!


Trail Running

Photo Credit: Jonny Muir

Many of us are familiar with trail running – It masqueraded as the notorious school cross-country run! But somehow the passage of time eases those tricky memories, and for many trail-running is the new big thing. Breaking away from the roads and parks more familiar with runners, you’ll be covering ground over hills, mountains, green lanes, towpaths and even off-track completely.

Much like riding a bike off-road rather than on, trail running with tire you over a shorter distance, with soft ground and some steep terrain to navigate keeping the intensity high. Often runners will go out with reservoirs and nutrition in a backpack, ready to keep them going in the middle of nowhere

Distances range from anywhere in the region of 3km to 100 miles, so there’s a challenge for everyone; and if you prefer running with others, a number of clubs and events run around the UK – and often trips abroad too.

Accessibility? 8/10
Challenge? Fitness
What Do I Need? A good pair of trail running shoes, some effective baselayers and clothing. Some trail runners use a backpack too.
Costs? From £40 for kit, event entries vary from £0-100+
Where? Anywhere!
How Do I Get Started? Lakeland Trails
Original Mountain Marathon
Trail Running Magazine


Adventure Racing (and Urban Adventure Racing)


Triathlons with a twist. The thought of combining two fun sports might seems like a great way to double the fun, but make no mistake; adventure races can be a serious challenge. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The sports within adventure races are as varied as the events themselves – some of the more usual staples include trail running, mountain biking and kayaking, but often open water swimming, climbing, whitewater and even skiing can play a part. You’ll most often operate as a team, but being a race tensions can get high, so make sure you’ve entered with friends who are on the same page – are you there to place as high as possible, or just to enjoy  the experience of taking part?

Running from anywhere between a few hours to several days, having the right kit is perhaps the biggest hurdle for getting into adventure racing – so often it’s best to scan event listings for those which you’ve got the best chance of having the right equipment for (whether this involves borrowing it off friends and colleagues is a different matter).

Urban adventure racing is a spin-off that’s evolved as the interest in fitness has developed in the past couple of generations, and it allows city-dwellers to get in on the act closer to home, as well as adding a fun spin on the adventure race concept. Here the urban environment is used to create obstacles, so you may find yourselves scaling bus shelters or abseiling from office blocks. Either way you’ll end the day with a (weary) smile across your face.

The best advice for starting in adventure racing is to find the soonest event with late entries available – you’ll know after one event if the sport is for you, and it gives you a starting point to build upon!

Accessibility? 6/10
Challenge? Fitness
What Do I Need? Anything from mountain bikes to kayaks – Depends entirely upon the race you’ve entered!
Costs? As much as you’re willing to budget for kit; race entry starts at £40 and can go all the way up to £1,000+ for a multi-day team event
Where? Adventure races are normally held in hilly or mountainous regions across the UK; the main urban events are found in London, Cardiff, Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester & Edinburgh
How Do I Get Started? UK Adventure Racing
Might Contain Nuts
Green Belter
Urban Adventure Challenge


Whitewater Rafting

The roar of the rapids ahead rises, the speed has picked up, ahead you can see nothing but the water on which you’re sat fall away; and all that’s keeping you safe is a rubber dingy and a paddle…

Whitewater rafting is arguably the most fun you can have in the wet stuff, made all the more amusing that you’re in it together with a group of friends – the boats will seat up to 12 of you. Sat at the back you’ll have an expert guide, who knows the river back-to-front, and who’ll know just how to push your limits!

Requiring a fast and uneven channel of water, traditionally you find the best rafting in mountainous regions, but in the past few years several man-made centres have popped up around the world – the key two in the UK being in Nottingham and London (the Olympic Whitewater centre, no less). These are obviously different to the natural rivers, but can offer at least the same number of thrills, and often even more amusement!

If you’re not a fan of water, then rafting probably isn’t for you; but get a group of willing mates  or family members together, book in for a trip, and we’ll guarantee you’ll rarely laugh as hard in your life. A really great day out, and definitely something to try.

Accessibility? 8/10
Challenge? Nerves, Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Normally just a sense of humour, some trainers and a swimming costume. An ability to swim will come in handy too!
Costs? £40-60, depending on location
Where? Traditional centres are in the hills of Wales and Scotland, but there are man-made locations in Nottingham, Teeside and London
How Do I Get Started? London Olympic Whitewater Centre
National Whitewater Centre
UK Rafting


River Tubing

Photo credit: jared422_80

A similar experience to whitewater rafting (above), the exception being your dingy is now a a one-man doughnut.

River tubing (often called River Bugging) is a popular activity the world-round; with many people trying their hand at it in the rivers and rapids of Turkey, Thailand, Laos and New Zealand. It’s normally quite a bit more relaxed than rafting; and can be done in waters ranging from a gentle river to mild-rapids, depending on whether you’re looking for exhilaration, or a new way to get between pubs on a Sunday afternoon – in the States groups will often take a second tube each to hold their beers (banned in Texas after ‘beers’ became ‘iceboxes of beers’), Coke, towels and suntan lotion, so you really can take it easy and watch the world float by!

If you’d rather have everything planned for you, there are centres all across the country, and it’s open to people of all ages and abilities (although being able to swim is advisable).

Accessibility? 9/10
Challenge? Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Swimwear and confidence in water, anything else is provided by the operators…unless of course you’re going it alone…in which case whatever you like!
Costs? £50 for an organised afternoon, Anywhere from £50 to £600 if you buy your own
Where? River Spey, River Ure, River Welland, River Wye & River Arun are popular
How Do I Get Started? British Float Tube Association
Nae Limits
Wildwater Designs



Photo credit: rednivaram

The eponymous ‘action sport’, skydiving has long been held as the ultimate extreme; an exotic and dangerous experience welcoming only to adrenaline junkies. Yet jumping from a perfectly good aeroplane is surprisingly far less terrifying than the many descriptions would have you believe – after all plenty of octogenarians manage to do it successfully for charity, and they all come down with big grins across their faces, so why not get up there and find out what’s got them so amused!

If you’re only looking to do one jump your options are either a tandem (where you’ll be strapped to an expert who’ll take you down with them), or First Jump Course – involving a day’s training before you jump from the plane solo (with a self-opening parachute)!

Parachuting will leave you tired, but it isn’t exceptionally physically demanding; coming into land can occasionally result in a tumble but otherwise you’re free to enjoy the sights as you float around in the sunshine!

And if the fear of injury is holding you back, remember safety is a HUGE priority in the skydiving community – in 2011, it was ten times safer to jump out of a plane than drive a car in Great Britain.

Accessibility? 6/10
Challenge? Nerves, Unfamiliarity
What Do I Need? Comfortable clothing and trainers; the rest is provided by the schools
Costs? £250 for a tandem, £200+ for a first jump course, £30-£40 per jump thereafter
Where? Nationwide
How Do I Get Started? British Parachute Association
Army Parachute Centre, Salisbury
British Parachute School, Langar
Scottish Parachute Club



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


Part 1 Trail Running
Adventure Racing & Urban Adventure Racing
Whitewater Kayaking
Part 2 Obstacle Endurance Racing
Beach Riding
Wakeboarding & Wakeskiing
Climbing & Abseiling
Part 3 Quad Biking & ATVs
Mountain Biking
Part 4 Jetskiing
Duck Herding


Doug Stidolph 2013