4 Ways to Explore the UK’s Great Outdoors
Words and pics Franki Black
The UK has a reputation for having bad weather, but when spring and summer come around, there are few places as glorious as Great Britain. Long winters mean that Brits appreciate and embrace their sunny seasons wholeheartedly. Parks, trails, cycling tracks and gardens turn into vibrant playgrounds for locals and visitors alike. As winter approaches South Africa, hop on a plane and experience England at its best. We’ve rounded up a few outdoor holidays ideal for solo travellers, couples, friends and families.
Stay on a Houseboat
From the River Thames to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, England boasts a large network of waterways that wind past great cities, historic villages, greenery and a hefty number of riverside pubs. Be the captain of your own ship as you navigate a course of your choosing. Steer past banks of swans, hipster cafés and cool crowds on the River Lee in east London or head down the Thames towards beautiful Windsor and Oxford. Along the way you’ll find sleepy meadows, royal parks, medieval castles and grand gardens to explore. Private houseboats can be booked through www.airbnb.co.uk or through www.leboat.co.uk.
Explore the National Cycle Network
The UK boasts a remarkable network of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes that span 22, 530kms. The network connects every major town and city in the UK and offers green routes sprinkled with works of outdoor art. The network is not just for cyclists, but is also popular among walkers, joggers, wheelchair users and horse riders. Rent a bike, go out and explore for free. Visit www.sustrans.org.uk to find out more.
Dotted with ancient burial sites, historic towns and breathtaking scenery which have inspired many an artist and author, England’s countryside offers some of the best walking routes on the planet. On Foot Holidays, one of Europe’s leading walking tour operators, offers an 8-day walk that takes you from the Cathedral city of Exeter in southwest England down towards the picture-perfect coastal town of Dartmouth with its brightly-painted cottages. The trail leads past castles, windswept downs, meandering rivers and historic villages. Walking an average of 11 to 16kms per day, you’ll stay in fascinating country inns and enjoy homegrown food and ales along the way.
Another spectacular itinerary offered by On Foot Holidays is the 8-day route from Salisbury to Lyme Regis on the Dorset coastline. Arguably the most quintessential of English counties, Dorset is home to the beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury, fishing villages and the legendary Jurassic Coast (a World Heritage Site) - all of which you’ll pass along the way. www.onfootholidays.co.uk
Swing from the trees
Bring out your inner Tarzan at one of the Go Ape treetop adventure courses around England. These adrenaline-inducing courses are built in forests and are ideal for families with kids. Tarzan swings, tight ropes, hanging loops, zip-lines and netted bridges are some of the crossings found along the way. Visit www.goape.co.uk to find out more.