Ten cool and unique ways to see Britain’s cities

Searching for an alternative to a walking tour of Britain’s cities? Here’s how you can turn city sightseeing into an immersive experience, whether it’s via watersports, from the sky…or even in a hot tub!

In a hot tub – London

Yes, you read that correctly – you can now step into a freshwater hot tub that sails down London’s River Thames, passing by some of the capital’s most iconic sights. The 90-minute HotTug experience sets sail from two different locations; its original site in Angel, north London, takes you through the cute and calm waterways of Regent’s Canal and, just last month, a new experience launched in the Docklands area around Canary Wharf/West India Quay. Book the VIP Experience and receive sailors’ hats, robe and towel rental and an essential ice bucket to keep drinks cool.

Kayaking by night – London

London’s landmarks are emblazoned with light come nightfall, delivering an atmospheric glow as you view them from double kayaks on the River Thames. On board the Night Kayak Tour you’ll paddle past the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge, a journey that takes you from pretty Battersea and ends in the historic maritime neighbourhood of Greenwich. Waterproof clothing, paddles, buoyancy aids – and instructors – are included.

By group cycle – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Chat face-to-face with your friends at the same time as cycling around Northern Ireland’s capital, on a specially adapted cycle with Wee Toast Tours – and enjoy a drink or two en route! An hour or two allows you to cruise around the city centre at gentle speeds, taking in such sights as City Hall and the Opera House. Wee Toast Tours also offers a Cathedral Quarter tour, through Belfast’s cultural heart, and will soon be launching a tour of the Titanic Quarter, home to the world-famous Titanic Museum, SS Nomadic and HMS Caroline.

Stand-up paddleboarding – Bristol, south-west England

Bristol is renowned for its historic harbours and waterways but why not explore its iconic waterside  via the contemporary watersport of stand-up paddleboarding with SUP Bristol? The professional team there will show you the ropes and take you out to float past Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the historic dockside and the multi-coloured houses of the leafy and elegant neighbourhood of Clifton – as the sun rises is a particularly lovely time to head out.

Singing in the back of a taxi – London

Black cab taxi driver – and professional singer – Aiden Kent had been driving customers around London for 20 years when he decided to combine his love for singing with his love for performing. The ‘Singing Cabbie’ fitted out his cab with a red carpet, Italian red leather seats and a bottle of champagne for guests, and a specially-adapted PA system to experience an extraordinary performance as you zip past London’s sights.

From a bird’s eye perspective – Cardiff, south Wales

Wales’ capital is packed with legendary landmarks – and one thrilling way to experience them is from the air! Hover Helicopters fly you to more than 1,000 ft/300 metres above Cardiff and over the Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle and the majestic Principality Stadium. Flights take place between March and October and the company can also take you over south Wales and its striking coastline. City skyline flights are also available over Manchester and Liverpool in north-west England.

On a ghostly tour – Edinburgh, Scotland

Enjoy the thrill of a fright? Ghost Bus Tours in Scotland’s capital takes you on a spooky theatrical experience around one of the UK’s most haunted cities, on board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus. Both entertaining and educational – it’s billed as a comedy horror show – you’ll learn all about the city’s former grisly sites where historic executions took place and hear eerie tales of supernatural occurrences.

Out on the river – Liverpool, north-west England

The legendary landmarks of Liverpool – the Liver Building, Albert Dock and the two stunning cathedrals that tower above the city skyline – can be seen from a different perspective from the River Mersey, on board the Dazzle Ferry, itself an attractive sight. The ferry was created by Sir Peter Blake, as part of the First World War centenary commemorations, with the design commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, 14–18 NOW the First World War Centenary Art Commissions, and Tate Liverpool in partnership with Merseytravel and National Museums Liverpool. Learn about the city as well as the history behind the ‘dazzle’ ship.

On the run – London

Don’t just walk around London – run through it! City Jogging Tours offers both specially designed tours or customised versions; all you need to do is bring your running shoes and be ready to explore. An experienced guide leads you to the city’s attractions and the tours cater for all running abilities, from newcomers to endurance runners. A great way to keep fit and fit in essential sightseeing.

Meandering through canals – Birmingham, central England

Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice and that they are lined with beautifully restored industrial heritage landmarks and intriguing contemporary buildings? See all of this on board a canal boat tour; there are several to choose from, ranging from tours of the more modern developments of Birmingham to the city’s pretty suburbs and out further into the countryside.

 

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.

Five of the best… places for a digital detox in Hampshire and Dorset

For a relatively small island, Britain has a surprising number of places where you can switch off and zone out. From spa towns and health resorts to evermore remote pockets where, try as you might, it’s just not possible to get online; there’s no shortage of hideaway locales.

Hot on this trend and accessible within as little as a two hour drive from London, the region along the south coast of England which incorporates Hampshire and Dorset are particularly rich in places to disappear thanks to some gorgeous National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty and a desire for a slower pace of life by those who call it home.

 

Best for… a cabin in the woods

Surrounded by stunning Dorset countryside, Loose Reins in Shillingstone is a picture-perfect spot where you can either choose to shut down and forget the world outside or embrace it wholeheartedly. With three uniquely designed cabins overlooking Blackmore Vale, no one would dispute the value of simply kicking back with a pile of good books; however, if you want to use your digital detox as a means to reconnect with nature, you can trail ride, taking in the views and trekking forest pathways at a relaxed pace on horseback.

 

Best for…treetop views

When you arrive at Chewton Glen to experience their digital detox package you’ll be offered the opportunity to relinquish all modern technology for the duration of your stay so that you can enjoy the New Forest in full and true tranquillity. Whether you take up that offer or not, the chances are you’ll come away revitalised as the package includes various treatments, Nordic walking, yoga and meditation sessions and various gifts to take away include a daily journaling diary and adult mindfulness colouring book. Not forgetting two nights full-board in a treehouse studio, 35 feet above ground, with forest views and an outdoor hot tub to bask in nature’s glory.

 

Best for… sea and serenity

From foraging to fishing, kayaking to coasteering, bushcraft to beach school, wild food to wild camping, Fore / Adventure offer all manner of activities from their unique location on Middle beach in Studland, Dorset. New for 2018, Fore Adventure is offering two day kayaking, wild camping and food adventures along the stunning Jurassic Coast and will also hold a three day retreat in October featuring natural dyes, foraged foods workshops, wild medicines, sea foraging, fishing & feasting, bushcraft, outdoor adventures, wild cocktails & bitters, yoga and meditation. The big question is whether you will want to go back to the real world at all?

 

Best for… food and foraging

A 90 minute train from London to Brockenhurst and a five minute taxi will see you arrive at The PIG Brockenhurst, part of the much-loved collection of small lifestyle restaurants with rooms. Relax and indulge in fresh, clean food sourced from the kitchen garden then take a leisurely bike ride to the beautiful village of nearby Beaulieu. Then, to truly experience the natural beauty of the New Forest and everything it has to offer, arrange a foraging tour with The PIG’s foraging expert Garry Eveleigh – a.k.a. The Wild Cook. Over the years, Garry has featured in many TV and radio programmes, as well as foraged for world-renowned chefs including Rick Stein, Mark Hix and Angela Hartnett.

 

Best for…craft and design

With green woodworking courses varying from two hours to five days set in a quiet, private woodland; you could very easily while away the days at Crafty Camping in full contentment. However, there’s a great deal more on offer at this hand-crafted, adult-only luxury glamping site in West Dorset, close to Devon and Somerset, and an ideal base for exploring all three rural counties. With yurts, bell tents, tipis and shepherd huts to escape to – all with their own private deck for privacy and seclusion – the star of the show is the Woodsman’s Treehouse, winner of a RIBA award for Small Project of the Year, which has also appears in several TV shows including George Clarke's Amazing Spaces and Grand Designs.