The best places for action adventure sports in Britain

From white-water rafting in Snowdonia to sea kayaking in the Highlands or flying high over the rolling hills of Surrey, Britain is home to an array of exciting action adventure sports. Now the UK is set to add a new, state-of-the-art inland surfing destination to its repertoire, with the opening of The Wave in Bristol this October. For those yearning for adventure, it marks another glorious spot to enjoy some adrenaline-fuelled action…

The Wave, Bristol

As the first destination in the northern hemisphere to [SW1] [PW2] use innovative Wavegarden Cove wave-making technology, the surf lake will feature up to 1,000 waves of different sizes and shapes every hour, making it suitable for all levels and abilities. That equates to a wave every 10 seconds, with heights varying from 50cm up to 1.8 metres! Specific parts of the 200-metre-long surfing lake, located in a rural area on the edge of Bristol and close to the M5 Motorway, will be dedicated to beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers.

The launch of The Wave is part of a wider project by founder Nick Hounsfield to bring surfing to more cities across the world, with the experience combining surfing with adventure and nature. High quality coaching can be provided to all guests, along with wetsuits and surfboards, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of surfing all year round. This should help to boost accessibility, as surfing at the site is not restricted by geographic location, the weather, swell conditions or tides. Adaptive surfing opportunities for those with a wide range of physical disabilities will also be available.

With a distinct focus on health and wellbeing, the site will also house a surf shop, an array of gardens and meadowlands, numerous peaceful hideaways and a family-friendly camping area.

The first wave of tickets goes on general sale on 20 August, covering the period from 25 October 2019 through until 4 March 2020. A one-hour surf session costs £40-£45 for adults and £30-£35 for children, depending on the time of year and day of the week. A two-hour surf session with coaching is priced at £55-£60 for adults and £45-£50 for children, with all equipment included.

Lee Valley White Water Centre, Hertfordshire

Developed for the London 2012 Olympic Games to host canoe slalom events and set in the picturesque beauty of the River Lee Country Park in Hertfordshire, the Lee Valley White Water Centre offers an abundance of different water sports. Easily accessible from London, visitors can try their hand at white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking, as well as a number of other activities including hydrospeeding, tubing, hot dogs (inflatable two-man kayaks) and paddleboarding.

Many of the activities need to be booked in advance and prices vary by activity, date and time. A White Water Raft Adventure costs from £50, although it can be purchased at a Super Save rate on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday during March, April, October and November. Peak pricing applies on Saturdays from May to September.

Zip World Velocity 2, North-West Wales

Take in breath-taking views of Snowdonia while soaring over the Penrhyn Quarry at speeds that could top 100mph on Velocity 2. The fastest zip line on the planet, and the longest in Europe at 1,555 metres, can be found at Zip World, near Bethesda in North Wales. The thrilling experience offers spectacular views of some of Wales’ most dramatic scenery.

Pre-booking is highly recommended. Velocity 2 is priced from £65 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; from £75 on Monday and Friday; and from £99 on weekends and Bank Holidays.

Kitesurfing/Kite Buggying, East Sussex

Learn the art of kitesurfing along the expanse of Camber Sands with expert help from The Kitesurf Centre. With its shallow shelving sands, small waves and consistent wind, the beach has ideal conditions and the school offers a range of courses for all abilities between March and September. Based at the eastern end of the beach, the centre offers one to five day courses, as well as coaching sessions and one-to-one private tuition with instructors that have a wealth of local knowledge. As one of three national training centres, guests can also try their hand at the exhilarating extreme sport of Kite Buggying. Involving a kite and a three-wheeled cart, it’s possible to achieve speeds of more than 50mph while racing along the beach.

A two-hour introduction to kite sports session is priced at £49. A one-day kite surfing course costs £99 on weekdays, rising to £119 at weekend. A five-day course costs £469. Kite Buggy sessions cost £59 for two-and-a-half-hours or £89 for four hours.

Sea Kayaking, Scottish Highlands

What better way to explore the striking landscapes of the Scottish coast than from aboard a sea kayak? From its base in a European Special Area of Conservation, Sea Kayak Scotland offers tailored lessons throughout the year for those wanting to give sea kayaking a go. Based on the Isle of Seil, around 30 minutes from Oban, the centre provides all of the equipment needed to take in the scenic beauty of the region. Guided trips and instructional courses are available for beginners, while hire is available for those with more experience. For those wanting a challenge, the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail offers a 500km route around the most scenic parts of the Highlands and Isles.

Tailor-made courses are priced from £60 per person for groups of five or more people, rising to £125 for one person on their own. Kayak hire costs from £50 per day, with one-piece paddle suits available for a daily charge of £10.

Paragliding, Surrey

Take to the skies and enjoy staggering views of the Surrey and London landscape on a tandem paragliding experience with Green Dragons. Jumps are made in harnesses attached to highly experienced qualified instructors and reach heights of 500ft, providing a new perspective on the stunning countryside below. Although jumps are dictated by weather conditions, the instructors alter the location and launch method to ensure an exhilarating experience.

A tandem flight costs £89 per person.

National White Water Rafting Centre, North Wales

Speed down the frantic natural rapids on the River Tryweryn in the heart of Snowdonia National Park at Wales’ National White Water Rafting Centre. Since the river is controlled by a dam at the Llyn Celyn reservoir, high flows provide an abundance of conditions that are ideal for white water activities. Water releases on the River Tryweryn happen on around 200 days every year and the centre is open whenever this takes place. Alongside full rafting sessions, there are also Rafting Safari sessions on the calmer lower parts of the river specifically designed for families with 10 and 11-year-old children (minimum age of 10 to be on the water). Alternatively, embark on a canyoning experience to climb, scramble, slide and swim down the cascading river while taking in the stunning surroundings of Wales’ largest national park.

White water rafting taster sessions cost from £37 per person. Wetsuits are available to hire for all activities for £5. The Rafting Safari costs from £49 per person, with a full rafting session priced from £67 per person, or from £320 per raft for groups (minimum of four people). Canyoning costs £56 per person.

Hangloose Adventure, Cornwall

Next to the famous Eden Project site, just 10 minutes from St Austell in Cornwall, Hangloose Adventure offers an array of adrenaline-fuelled activities. The Skywire is England’s longest and fastest zip wire experience, enabling guests to fly down a 660 metre course at speeds of around 60mph, while seeing the Eden Project’s massive biomes from a new perspective. Tower over the site while tackling Skytrek, a new aerial trekking course featuring zip lines and a host of other elements, or get involved with Big Air, a test of nerves where individuals jump from towering platforms onto a giant bean bag below. Alternatively, guests can opt to be strapped in on Gravity, a 20-metre high giant cliff swing that overlooks the Eden Project site.

Skywire and Skytrek both cost £30, Gravity is priced at £20 and Big Air at £15. All prices are per person.

Adventure Parc Snowdonia (Surf Snowdonia), North-West Wales

Presenting an opportunity to surf inland in the heart of Snowdonia, Adventure Parc Snowdonia puts adrenaline-fuelled adventure sports top of the agenda. At the world’s first surf lagoon, visitors can get to grips with a range of waves, from gentle undulations for beginners up to advanced waves for the pros. Surrounded by the stunning natural landscapes of Snowdonia, Adrenaline Indoors hosts an array of new adventure features too, including one of the longest artificial caving courses in the world, Britain’s only kicker flight slide, a ninja parkour floor trail and climbing and racer walls.

A range of surfing options are available, from beginner classes and specialist classes for children up to advanced waves, three-day beginner courses and development days. Prices start from £40 for children and £50 for adults. Surfboard and wetsuit hire are available for £6. Indoor activities cost from £12. Stand up paddleboarding, coasteering, climbing and gorge walking are also available, starting from £35-£40.

The Canyoning Company, Scotland

Discover unforgettable canyoning experiences hidden within Scotland’s rugged landscape with the Canyoning Company. With several routes to choose from, the canyons include jumps ranging from two to 10 metres, numerous flumes, vertical rock slides and spectacular waterfall abseils. The Tummel Canyon route, found along the shores of Loch Tummel in Perthshire, is the newest to open – from summer 2018 – and includes an incredible 14 abseils to get pulses racing!

Canyoning experiences cost from £65 for children aged 12-15 and £70 for adults, and vary depending on the canyon route used. All equipment is included.

Windsurfing, Norfolk

Dive into the world of windsurfing with a half-day taster session near Hunstanton on the Norfolk Coast. With fantastic wind conditions and a suitable expanse of beach, it’s the ideal location to learn how to windsurf. Hunstanton Water Sports also runs progression sessions for those with more experience while kitesurfing and power kiting sessions are also available.

A three-hour windsurfing taster session costs £40. Kitesurfing is priced from £120 for a one-day course, rising to £289 for a three-day course. One-to-one tuition is available from £45 per hour.

Cardiff International White Water, Wales

Nestled in Cardiff Bay, Cardiff International White Water offers an abundance of exciting water sports from white water rafting through to stand up paddleboarding. Thrill seekers may want to ditch the raft in favour of a river board (similar to a body board) or practice their surfing on the indoor wave machine. There’s a number of exhilarating ways to complete the water course, while those wishing to stay dry can tackle the Air Trail, a set of high wire ropes that tower over the centre.

White water rafting costs from £40 per person and river boarding costs £55 per person. Visitors can ride the indoor wave from £22.50. The Air Trail costs £10.

Dive into Scotland's Coasts and Waters

Scotland’s varied coastline and inland waters in both urban and rural settings provide a wealth of exciting leisure and adventure opportunities all year round. In 2020, the country’s coasts and waters will be celebrated with a year-long programme of events that showcase the amazing array of aquatic things to see and do across Scotland.

Special events for 2020

A set of exciting events will put Scotland’s Coasts and Waters in the spotlight throughout 2020, including regular gems such as Crail Food Festival and the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, as well as an expanded Clydebuilt Festival and The Fife Regatta. The Edinburgh International Film Festival will also run a special set of screenings called Scotland’s Shores, showcasing the nation’s spectacular coastal charms in addition to a special outdoor coastal experience.

Aberdeen’s position as a place to spot dolphins will be celebrated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at DolphinFest 2020, while National Theatre of Scotland is developing a production called Ferry Tales to celebrate Scotland’s waters and the journeys made across them. Scotland’s Boat Show and Kip Marina will also showcase ‘River of Light’, a special event featuring numerous illuminated boats in October 2020.

The country’s lochs, rivers and canals have helped to shape the nation’s history and the provide visitors with a wealth of experiences from boat trips and adventure sports to wildlife watching and diving with large marine creatures. In addition to the many events planned to celebrate the year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters, visitors can navigate around Scotland’s many isles and waterways, dive in to the country’s maritime heritage and embrace its waterways as part of a range of seasonal activities to be enjoyed at different points throughout the year.

The Loch Ness 360 Trail

Connecting the Great Glen Way with the South Loch Ness Trail, the Loch Ness 360° Trail is a new long-distance walking and cycling route around the striking Loch Ness landscape. Covering a distance of circa 80 miles, it will take walkers around six days to complete the trail, although the route can be split up into sections for more manageable experiences. Taking in the city of Inverness, as well as Drumnadrochit, Invermoriston, Fort Augustus, Foyers and Dores, there are numerous spectacular sights and stopping points along the way. For those wanting to discover more about the history of the loch and the surrounding highlands, guided tours and bike hire are available. Look out for the splendour of Urquhart Castle and the Telford Bridge on-route, alongside the Falls of Foyers, where the water cascades 165ft down over the clifftop.

Water sports

With its unique mix of calm lochs, crashing waves and fast moving rapids in addition to more than 6,000 miles of coastline, Scotland’s waters are well-suited to an array of different water sports. Outdoor activity centres across the country offer everything from gentle introductory lessons to the toughest challenges, meaning there is something to suit all ages and abilities.

Diving and snorkelling

Scotland’s Coasts and Waters are home to wonderfully diverse marine life and numerous ship wrecks that are incredibly popular with divers. Nestled in the heart of the Orkney Islands, Scapa Flow is one of the largest sheltered anchorages in the world and is a graveyard of sunken ships. Explore the Sound of Mull with Lochaline or dive into the history of the Firth of Clyde on a Wreckspedition Dive Charter. Whether visitors are looking for day trips or even on-board accommodation on specialist dive boats, Scotland has a range of options to suit. The Puffin Dive Centre in Oban provides opportunities for beginners to discover the delights of scuba diving, while selected parts of the coasts of Berwickshire and the North West Highlands are designated snorkel trails, where visitors can catch a glimpse of everything from sea squirts and anemones to dolphins and whales.

Kayaking and canoeing

As a paradise for paddlers, both the inland and sea waters of Scotland are packed full of opportunities to try out kayaking and canoeing. The River Tay has conditions to suit both beginners and advanced kayakers, with both tandem and single craft available from Outdoors Explore. Alternatively, visitors can get to grips with a paddle on Britain’s largest body of fresh water at Loch Lomond, ably supported by Wild By Nature. Scotland’s eclectic coastline boasts an abundance of caves, cliffs, tunnels and secluded beaches to explore as part of a sea kayak adventure too. A range of day trips and multi-day expeditions allow visitors to uncover new sights, paddle alongside local wildlife and take in the region’s spectacular geography. The Orkney Sea Kayaking Association can help visitors to discover Orkney’s famous Old Man of Hoy while the Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail is a challenging 500km voyage around the most scenic parts of the Highlands and Isles.

White water rafting

The rivers of Scotland offer some of Britain’s most thrilling natural white water rafting experiences which can be enjoyed all year round by both first time rafters and adrenaline junkies. Calmer waters in the summer months are ideal for beginners, while challenging Grade 4 or 5 rafting follows the snow melts in early spring or periods of heavy rainfall. The River Findhorn in the Cairngorms National Park offers exceptional thrills and beautiful scenery, as the river drops 500ft over 18 miles. As one of Scotland’s last wild rivers, weather conditions often regulate which sections of the river can be used! The fast-flowing rapids of the River Tay are popular with thrill-seekers, while scheduled dam releases on the River Garry near Fort William provide highly graded waters from April to October.

Canyoning and coasteering

Whether leaping from rock ledges into natural pools or exploring shorelines without a boat, Scotland’s Coast and Waters offer plenty of exhilarating canyoning, gorge-walking and coasteering experiences. The country’s glens, forests and rivers provide a natural playground for an adventure trip that can be enjoyed by all the family. With support from qualified instructors and high-quality kit, it’s an opportunity to see the coastline from a new perspective.

St Ninian’s Isle on Shetland

Venture across a spectacular natural sand pathway to discover St Ninian’s Isle. The vast tombolo – a bar of sand and shingle – is the largest active feature of this type in Britain, and it provides a walking route to discover the historic remains of St Ninian’s Chapel, once the home of a Pictish treasure hoard that is now housed in museums across Scotland. Glance out over the rocky islets of Coar Holm and Inns Holm and see nature in all its glory.

Dolphin spotting - Banffshire Coast and Moray Firth

Known as the ‘Dolphin Coast’, the Banffshire Coast and Moray coast are renowned as being waters where visitors can see bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment. The colony of dolphins in the Moray Forth is the most northerly on earth and are among the biggest too, averaging nearly 4 metres in length. Chanonry Point near Fortrose and the imposing military fortification at Fort George are popular spots to spy on the dolphins from land, while chartered boat trips and wildlife cruises can take visitors on a memorable ride closer to the action.

Swim with basking sharks

Visitors can swim with the second largest fish on the planet during the summer months, as basking sharks are regularly spotted in waters off the west coast of Scotland. The huge species, growing up to 10 metres long, are placid, toothless creatures, meaning it’s possible to swim with them and a wide variety of other wildlife including dolphins and seals. Tours run from April to October, coinciding with the migration of the sharks to Scottish waters, and swimming, kayaking and snorkelling around the creatures is incredibly popular. Hotspots include around the coast of Oban, the Firth of Clyde and near the Isles of Coll, Canna and Tiree.

Isle of Jura

Explore the wild Isle of Jura, home to an award-winning distillery, incredible mountains, a swirling whirlpool and a thriving population of around 6000 wild deer. Tours of the Jura Distillery reveal how the island’s natural elements have influenced the production process while the Corryvreckan Whirlpool is among the largest permanent whirlpools on earth. Boat trips to the surrounding waters run regularly, allowing visitors to hear the incredible roar of the water.

Dip in the Firth of Forth

An annual custom since 1986, hundreds of people dive into the waters of the Firth of Forth in South Queensferry as part of Loony Dook. Often wearing fancy dress and all in the name of charity, the tradition to mark Hogmanay is viewed as a fresh way to start the new year. The name is an amalgamation of ‘Loony’ – short for lunatic – and ‘Dook’, a Scottish term for ‘dip’ or ‘bathe’. Visitors are welcome to take part in the custom or to cheer on the Dookers as they make their way down to the beach.

Surf the Atlantic

Scotland’s west coast features stunning scenery, rich cultural heritage and incredible surfing conditions as a result of strong prevailing south westerly winds. Thurso, on the northerly tip of the Scottish mainland, is renowned for its waves, while the Isle of Tiree provides abundant surfing conditions and is home to the Tiree Wave Classic in October, one of Britain’s premier windsurfing competitions.

Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa

Created some 60 million years ago by the same lava flows that were responsible for the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Fingal’s Cave is home to an incredible set of volcanic basalt columns. Found on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides, the 69-metre-high cave has astonishing acoustics and can be viewed from cruise vessels in the summer months. The island is dominated by seabirds including guillemots, razorbills, gannets and great skuas, while puffins use it as a breeding site between May and August.

Up Helly Aa

Celebrated on the last Tuesday of January every year, Up Helly Aa involves a set of marches that culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. Held in the bustling seaport of Lerwick on the picturesque Shetland Isles, the celebration of the region’s Viking heritage is a superb spectacle as the fire festival lights up the night sky.

Six Lake District locations to visit this autumn

Since being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the popularity of the Lake District National Park in north-west England has continued to soar. While the summer is, undoubtedly, a lovely time to visit, savvy travellers will find the Lakes and their towns and villages an equally beautiful destination in the autumn. The scenery is ablaze with colour, the summer crowds have thinned out and there’s plenty to see and do, no matter the weather.

Windermere and Bowness

Right at the heart of the Lake District, the towns of Windermere and Bowness boast picturesque scenery wherever you turn. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself and climb aboard Windermere Lake Cruises steamers. This cruise can also take you to the neo-gothic Wray Castle; looming over the shores of Windermere, it’s not your typical castle displaying family heirlooms and portraits… There’s something here for everyone, including the little ones – they’ll love the dressing up, castle building and adventure play area available. For a different class of architecture, head to Blackwell House, a brilliant example of the Arts & Crafts movement from the early 20th century, which retains many of its original features and holds fantastic permanent and visiting exhibitions. 

Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction – you’ll feel as if you’re stepping into one of her books.

 

Kendal

A smart, handsome market town, Kendal is the Lakes’ arts and culture centre and is packed with independent cafés and pubs. Catch a play, exhibition, comedy or music event at the town’s thriving cultural hub, the Brewery Arts Centre or get your fix of art at the hidden gem that is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, set in the Grade I-listed 18th-century building of Abbot Hall. Alternatively, you can experience a dose of history at Kendal Castle, once the family home ofKatherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Book onto a walking tour to hear more of its dynamic history and admire the excellent views from its hilltop vantage point.

Kendal is also a festival hotspot; in November it welcomes the Kendal Mountain Festival, an award-winning adventure film and speaker festival and a must-visit gathering for outdoor enthusiasts. This September will also see the return of Lakes Alive, which will bring contemporary art, activities and performances to Kendal and the wider Lake District National Park. Also in September is the Kendal Torchlight Carnival, followed by the only comic art festival in the UK, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which takes over the whole of the town in October. Another way to experience the rich heritage and culture in the Lakes are the Lakes Culture Signature Experiences; four different routes that celebrate the region's art, music and literature in a variety of ways.

 

Keswick and Ullswater

Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, as well as the mountains of Grizedale Pike, Skiddaw and Catbells, yet it’s not just a walkers’ paradise. Head out onto Ullswater Lake on board Ullswater Steamers for a relaxed view of the beautiful scenery or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (and also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic), an exposed adventure climbing course created from cargo nets and wire bridges strung 366 metres above the valley floor. If you’re feeling particularly brave, take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Keswick is also one of the Lakes’ cultural highlights. Professional producing theatre, Theatre on the Lake, close to Derwentwater on the edge of Keswick, is in one of the prettiest theatre settings imaginable and you can catch a play here throughout the year. Travel a little further out to The Lakes Distillery and join an interactive tour to see how its whisky, gin, and vodka are made, which also make an excellent gift to take home. And we mustn’t forget the most niche of museums; the Pencil Museum! It’s more than just pencils (although the collection does include gems such as secret Second World War pencils complete with hidden maps); it also runs art workshops.

 

Coniston

Coniston, nestled between Coniston Water and the Coniston Fells, has a copper mining and slate quarrying history and the village’s proximity to dramatic landscapes – lakes, mountains, waterfalls, tarns and woods – means walking, sightseeing, water sports, mountaineering and horse riding are all prevalent here.

The most notable feature of Coniston Village is The Old Man of Coniston, an 803-metre-high fell. For a slightly easier walk with incredible views, head to Tarn Hows, set more than 183 metres up in the hills above Coniston. A lovely, easy, 1.5-mile pathway shows off the best of the gorgeous Langdale Pikes.

Another lovely way to see Coniston Water and the Fells is by the steam yacht gondola; the trip takes you past Coniston Hall and then on to Brantwood, the home of celebrated Victorian art critic and artist John Ruskin. You can alight here to explore the house, which is filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures. 

 

Ambleside

Ambleside is surrounded by magnificent Lakeland fells and is a town with an energetic vibe. Yet it’s also home to one of the oldest standing buildings in the Lakes, the quirky, picturesque Bridge House, which dates back to the 17th century.

A visit to Ambleside also means you’re very close to Hill Top House, the 17th-century farmhouse where Beatrix Potter lived, wrote and based many of her much-loved stories. When she left the house to the National Trust she left instructions about how it should be shown, so it stands exactly as she knew it and lived in it.

Some of Potter’s works can also be viewed at the Armitt Museum, Gallery and Library – she was one of its earliest supporters – which features the history of life, photography and the fine art of the Lake District. Or for a slice of contemporary art, head to the Old Courthouse Gallery, showcasing glassworks, jewellery, wall art and ceramics, which you can also buy. A great way to spend an evening in Ambleside is at the Jazz Bar of Zeffirellis, which hosts modern jazz and world music performances throughout the week. Want to sample local ale? Try the wares created by Ambleside’s Barngates Brewery, served in the Drunken Duck Inn and Restaurant – although the brewery isn’t open for tours, visitors to the Drunken Duck can request to see inside the adjacent brewery buildings.

 

Ravenglass

Ravenglass is the Lake District’s only coastal village and history emanates from every corner, from its Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts and Anglian crosses to its Viking remains, Norman churches and medieval mills. You can even go back to the Victorian era of steam and experience the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway, which takes you on a stunning seven-mile journey through the National Park.

A must-visit in the area is Muncaster Castle. Still lived in by the same family after nine centuries, Muncaster is said to be haunted and, this November, will hold a Scientific Ghost Vigil. If that doesn’t sound quite your thing, the castle itself is fascinating to explore and you can enjoy bird of prey displays at its Hawk and Owl Centre throughout the year.