Adrenaline adventures in South West Britain

For an adventure filled autumn, all roads point southwest. The region holds countless opportunities for air, sea, shore and cliff activities to challenge even the most active tourist...

 

Swinging from a height 

Where better to experience an adrenaline hit than at Adrenalin Quarry? This adventure centre near Liskeard in Cornwall is guaranteed to raise the heartbeat - while turning the great outdoors upside down. Visitors can test their mettle on The Zip (billed as ‘the UK’s maddest zip wire’) and go from G-force to freefall on the Giant Swing. They can also throw an axe at a tree stump to relieve stress.

 

Coasteering sessions here offer wild swimming, climbing, tombstoning and The Blob — a huge bouncy cushion in the water. Speaking of inflatable cushions, new for 2018, is a huge aqua park with runways, trampolines, monkey bars and balance bars plus all the hoops and loops fun seekers can squeeze through.

 

As the day draws to a close, the barbecues fire up — a burger tastes so much better when gravity has been defied to earn it.
 

Rushing and whirling

For dedicated coasteering fans, Xtreme Coasteering (or, as they define it, “everything you weren’t supposed to do when you were a kid”) offers swimming and scrambling in some of the ‘best waves the Atlantic throws’. People can enjoy adventures in Cornwall, North Devon and Exmoor under huge cliffs and skies, with the possibility of encountering smuggler’s coves, rapids and whirlpools.

 

Surfing and bodyboarding

If that’s not enough of a dunking, the surf capital of Cornwall welcomes buzz seekers with open arms — and a surfboard. At Newquay’s glorious beaches, novices are transformed into dudes with a few lessons and a bit of practice. Fistral is one of Newquay’s most famous beaches, with thrilling western swells, and there are plenty of nearby campsites for quick access to the dunes — when visitors are tired of gazing at the surf, they can turn their attention to the stars.

 

Fossil hunting and rock pool rambling

This part of the world delivers what it says on the tin. The UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast covers over 95 miles of shoreline between Devon and Dorset, and with over 180 million years of history, it’s a bona fide hub for fossil hunting. New remains are regularly dislodged from the cliffs and you can seek them out with the help of wardens from the Charmouth Heritage Centre. Rock pool rambles are also on offer from the centre, and there’s a chance to see the ichthyosaur fossil (of an extinct marine reptile), discovered by local collector Chris Moore and featured in the documentary Attenborough and the Sea Dragon.

 

Rock hopping and shore exploring

Those in search of a further adrenaline rush can absorb millions of years of geology into their own bones by coasteering, rock-hopping and scrambling with Dorset adventure company Lulworth Outdoors. The sessions, which pass spectacular landscapes like Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, also provide the chance to learn about the history and wildlife of the area. 

 

Hiking, sliding and swanning around

Chesil Beach is one of the most famous shingle beaches in the UK, and this 18-mile stretch and the Fleet Tidal Lagoon are part of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike up the sliding pebble ridge near the Chesil Beach Centre for fabulous views (and 180 billion chances to pick out the perfect pebble) or go crabbing along the ever-shifting shore. Approximately a ten-mile drive from the centre, the network of trails at Abbotsbury Swannery offer the chance to see territorial displays of nesting swans in May.

 

Southwest zest and pies

After all that adventure, it’s obligatory to squeeze in one of the region’s most traditional snacks, the classic Cornish Pasty, before heading home, buzzing with renewed energy and southwest zest.

Look out for a Warren’s Bakery — originating in 1860, they’re approved by the Cornish Pasty Association and are reportedly the oldest pasty makers in the world.

Great British cycle routes

Great Britain excels in cycling, hosting celebrated challenge rides like the Peak District’s Eroica Britannia in Derbyshire, Scotland’s TweedLove Bike Festival and the UK National Track Championships in Manchester. But one of the best things about UK cycling is simply taking off spontaneously on a trail. Here are some ideas for exploring the UK on two wheels…   

 

Long-distance

Hebridean Way

This new long-distance ride spans the length of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides island chain. The 185-mile route crosses 10 islands in the archipelago – and it’s packed with paradise beaches visitors might not expect in the UK.

Surprise trailside treats: Calanais Standing Stones which pre-date Stonehenge, the historic Butt of Lewis Lighthouse.

 

Bay Cycle Way  

Starting at the nature reserves of Walney Island, this flattish route follows a spectacular yet often underrated coastline. Pedalling 81 miles through the Cumbrian and Lancashire countryside, cyclists can enjoy bird-watching in RSPB reserves and eating in the many gourmet restaurants in the village of Cartmel.

Surprise trailside treats: Coniston Priory Buddhist Centre, the art deco Midland Hotel.

 

Celtic Trail West

The Celtic Trail runs across Wales at its widest point with the west section connecting Swansea and Fishguard via the spectacular Swansea and Pembrokeshire coastlines. The seaside resorts of Tenby and Saundersfoot are also worth a visit.

Surprise trailside treats: The sand dune forests of Millennium Coastal Park, the Brunel Trail.

 

See also:

South Coast Way

This 360-mile coastal route from Dover, Kent to Dawlish in Devon stops at the seaside towns of Brighton and Hastings.

 

Fun and family

Two Palaces Ride, London

This two-mile loop takes in more than just the two palaces of the title. The relaxed start from Buckingham Palace leads to a laidback ride through the Duke of Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens on its way to Kensington Palace – best ridden on a Sunday.

Surprise trailside treats: Hyde Park’s Serpentine Gallery and Apsley House.

 

Monsal Trail, Peak District

In Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, the traffic-free Monsal trail offers flat, easy cycling along the old Midland railway line with great views of the limestone dales. The eight-and-a-half mile trail, from Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale to Coombs Road at Bakewell, blasts through six moodily lit tunnels, up to 400 metres long.

Surprise trailside treats: The Secret Tea Garden at Miller’s Dale. 

 

Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, Northern Ireland

The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way is a 21-mile, mostly traffic-free route from Lisburn to Jordanstown via Belfast. Cyclists can enjoy biking along the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough, with spectacular views inland to Belfast’s hills.

Surprise trailside treats: Kingfisher-spotting in the Lagan Valley Regional Park and Belfast’s most famous pub, The Crown Bar.

 

Cuckoo Trail, Sussex

The Cuckoo Trail gets its name from an old Sussex tradition of releasing a cuckoo at the Heathfield Agricultural Show. Running from Polegate near Eastbourne to Heathfield itself, it covers 11 family-friendly miles of traffic-free tarmac and gravel along a railway line.

Surprise trailside treats: See if you can spot Artist Steve Geliot’s wooden benches carved from storm damaged oaks, Hailsham village and nearby Michelham Priory, a medieval monastery-turned-country house and museum.

 

See also:

Fallowfield Loopline, Manchester

Head south from the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre and you’ll find the 16-mile traffic-free route to South Manchester.

 

Derby Canal Path and Cloud Trail

Flat, well-surfaced riverside riding starting in Derby and ending at the engagingly named Cloud Quarry where cyclists are rewarded by wonderful views. 

 

Camel Trail

A popular 18-mile, predominantly traffic-free railway trail taking in Padstow, Bodmin, Wadebridge, and Wenford Bridge; a delightful mix of Cornish woodland, birdlife and wild estuary.