Go wild in the country: eight new adventure tours in the UK for 2021

Exploration once meant going to the other side of the world, but a host of travel companies are now championing local adventures right on our doorstep.

By Amelia Duggan
Published 14 Dec 2020, 08:00 GMT
Northern Wales.

On the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, it’s possible to take in some of the finest ridges, woodlands and waterways in northern Wales.

Photograph by 4corners

1. For daredevil glamping

Launching in spring 2021, new travel company Wildnis combines out-there adventures like packrafting, abseiling, sea kayaking and scrambling with the luxury of a pop-up tented basecamp and transfers across remote regions of the Highlands in classic Land Rover Defenders. Expect dinners around the campfire with a gourmet chef and stories from former soldiers about their time on the British Army’s wildlife protection programme in Africa. From £3,000 per person for a four-night expedition, including all activities and expert instructors.

2. For rural retreats

Following the route of the restored 25-mile, narrow-gauge Welsh Highland Heritage Railway on foot (occasionally hopping aboard when legs get tired), it’s possible to take in some of the finest ridges, woodlands and waterways in northern Wales. Along the way, there’s also the chance to summit the 3,560ft peak of Snowdon, too. Headwater offers group tours staying in cosy guesthouses each night, from £999 per person for six nights. 

3. For a hardy expedition

Starting on the shores of Loch Etive near Glencoe, summit Ben Lui and locate the source of the River Tay before unfurling lightweight packrafts and the following the channel through untracked moorlands to Perth on the east coast. Departing from spring 2021, this is the second UK itinerary from adventurer outfit Secret Compass, and travellers will learn to negotiate up to grade two to three rapids. From £1,499 per person for a 10-day expedition including meals, equipment and a tour leader.

4. For hitting the waves

Best tackled during the more clement summer season, a break in the surf hotspot of Croyde combines the energetic rigours of boarding with the chilled-out, back-to-nature vibes of the Devon coastline. Youth travel experts Contiki recently launched a surfing course here with a whole lot added in — campfire cooking classes, guided hikes and full-board in glamorous bell tents are all part of the deal. From £495 per person for four days, including surf lessons and wetsuit hire.

In 2021, Wildnis will combine out-there adventures like abseiling and sea kayaking with the luxury of a pop-up tented basecamp and transfers in classic Land Rover Defenders. 

Photograph by Mitchinov Photography, Wildnis

5. For wellness in the wild

Mindfulness, meditation and breathwork are all on the menu at Adventure Tours UK’s hideaway in hilly Corwen. As well as daily yoga, there are opportunities for standup paddleboarding on Llangollen, foraging, sauna sessions and stargazing — all gearing guests up for good night’s sleep in a boutique bell tent. Billed as the ultimate escape from the rat race, the retreat aims to help weary folk reconnect with nature. From £525 per person for three nights.

6. For coasts and castles

New for Audley Travel is a self-drive itinerary that plots some of the most scenic stops in Northern Ireland and Ireland’s northernmost county, Donegal. Starting in Belfast, the first stops are Winterfell Castle (for archery and axe-throwing classes) and an expedition along nearby coastline, including the iconic Giant’s Causeway. The final days are spent exploring from rugged Rathmullan on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, where visits to the Cliffs of Moher and the famous Sliabh Liag Distillers are on the cards. From £1,610 per person for five nights, including flights, car hire and excursions.

7. For two-wheel treks

From the Irish Sea to the North Sea, ride the 170 miles of Hadrian’s Cycleway through the undulating North Pennines and its pretty market towns. The Roman wall isn’t the only attraction along the way: stop off and rest tired muscles at places like Carlisle Castle, Birdoswald Roman Fort and Corbridge Roman Town. New for Explore, a five-day group tour is available from £545 including bike hire, accommodation and a tour leader.

8. For stories by the sea

Strap on your walking boots and head to the UK’s far north east, to a clutch of islands that look outwards from sandstone cliffs and deserted beaches towards the deep blue of the Northern Atlantic. Kuoni, in partnership with McKinlay Kidd, now offers a week of island-hopping and coastal hikes in Orkney and Shetland, taking in Neolithic standing stones wrapped in local mythology — plus spotting native wildlife, including ponies, puffins and seals. From £1,135 per person for six nights, including round-trip flights to Orkney and Shetland from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Published in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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