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10 Awesome UK Adventure Holidays: Active Coastal Hikes To Scuba in Scotland

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Updated: 19th December 2023

All four corners of the United Kingdom are big on outdoor activities. From coastal hikes to mountain summits, there are plenty of adventure holidays in the UK, no matter the weather. We just sometimes forget what is on our “own doorstep”.

From kayaking along some of Europe’s best beach destinations, such as the dazzling sands of the Hebrides or the history-defining Jurrasic Coast, to coasteering among giants and cycling between emerald peaks, an activity holiday in the UK doesn’t need to break the bank either.

Here are some of the best outdoor adventures the UK offers, whether you’re looking for a special UK staycation or a multi-day hiking trip

Trails in The Lake District 

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful regions in the entire country, providing ample opportunity for adventure holidays in the UK.

Set in the lush northwest, it’s a picturesque playground of historic market towns, rugged and dramatic mountains, and, of course, those mesmerising lakes. 

While there are plenty of easy-going walking routes to admire the landscapes, the Via Ferrata (Iron Road) offers a little more adrenaline. Best tackled with an experienced guide and safety gear, this dramatic mix of vertical ladders, dramatic bridges, mountain edge climbs and lofty lake vistas will take you into the wilds of The Lake District with some exceptional panoramas of the park.

Scottish mountains and lake
Wild camping amongst the nature of Scotland

Wild camping and wildlife in Scotland

There are thousands of great reasons to explore Scotland. From the misty peaks around Glen Coe – made famous by James Bond – to the countless castles alongside mighty lochs (lakes in Scottish), there are as many activities as there are epic viewpoints. 

But what makes Scotland one of the best destinations for adventure holidays in the UK is the ability to wild camp within reason, unlike the other four countries in the UK, which are far more restrictive. Be aware of the guidelines to follow, leave no trace, and enjoy that dreamy feeling of waking up surrounded by nature, or consider these unique places to stay in Scotland instead.

You’ll usually find getting to some of the more remote and magnificent spots more accessible with a car. Still, plenty of companies offer you the chance to tour the UK by coach while retaining control over your accommodation options. And once your tent is pitched, you’re free to embrace unadulterated nature far from the crowds.

Surf the swell in Newquay 

Cornwall has long been one of the most famous surf destinations in the UK. Suitable for experienced wave rides and beginners looking to learn the basics, a surf trip to Cornwall’s gorgeous coast with its stone-clad villages is ideal for all abilities.

Lively and community-centric Newquay is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for a surfing getaway. Powerful swells from the Atlantic rock up on equally impressive beaches such as Fistral, and you’ll find all the rental shops and equipment you need with ease. 

It’s also great to experience Cornwall outside of the summer season when it’s less overrun with visitors. Not only will a low-season adventure holiday in the UK’s far south be more wallet-friendly, allowing you to snag a great place to stay in Cornwall without breaking the bank, but you’ll also be helping support the local community year-round.

Sheep and moorland on a winters day
Moorlands on a misty morning

Scale Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon)

Where better to plan an adventure holiday in the UK than Wales’ largest national park? The Eryri National Park (also known as Snowdonia) is a realm of rugged peaks, spellbinding lakes, and untouched shrubland.

But perhaps most importantly, it’s home to the country’s highest peak, Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon). Sure, you could ride the heritage Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top, but where’s the adventure in that?

Better still, hike up to the summit on a clear day, and you’ll relish far-reaching views across the park and all the way to Ireland as you climb to 3,560 feet. While it is certainly somewhat of a challenge, there are a handful of trails to choose from. Pick the one best suited to you and enjoy this epic day hike as part of a weekend break in Wales.

Castleton is a pretty village in the High Peaks
Castleton is a pretty village in the High Peaks

Rock Climbing in The Peak District 

Britain brags 15 national parks, but The Peak District was the nation’s first and is undoubtedly one of the most treasured. At one end of the Pennines, this decorated park promises a whole host of drool-worthy views – and that’s before you’ve even parked up the car.

Pretty villages and easy ambles write large. I especially love the landscapes (and pubs!) around Castleton, one of my favourite places in England. Setting off across these magnificent moorlands and valleys is both dreamy and tranquil.

But if you want to make the Peaks into a UK adventure holiday, add a little rock climbing to your itinerary. It might be hard to believe, but this is a popular destination for experienced rock climbers from around the world. So, sign up with an experienced guide and explore the crags and corners of The Peak District in an alternative and more intimate way. 

Diving in the Hebrides 

As far as UK adventure holidays come, this one is pretty far-flung. But it’s a journey worth making. Out in the Outer Hebrides, you’ll be accosted by pristine white sand beaches devoid of footprints as you fly across the archipelago.

It’s not just pretty above ground, either; the scuba diving here is also excellent. Plus, you’ll see far fewer crowds than on more famous islands such as the Isle of Skye.

Home to some of the UK’s best islands to visit, the Outer Hebrides has over a dozen inhabited islands and plenty more remote isles and skerries. And while these windswept islands might not seem the first pick for a scuba diving trip, if you don’t mind colder water dives, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to spot one of the largest animals in the sea – the grand and impressive basking shark – alongside wrecks and wall diving opportunities.

Beautiful Durdle Door, surrounded by 150 million years of history

Amble along the Jurassic Coast Paths

One of the best places to visit in South West England – I might be biased, this is my home region – the Jurassic Coast is magical in a million ways. The area’s name comes from the mass of Jurassic-period fossils found here. Even now, there’s a chance you might spot some small, pre-historic fossils on the beach as you ramble. 

And boy, are these beaches some of the UK’s best. Popular sandy and pebbly bays and famous swimming spots like Durdle Door will have you putting your camera in over time, and it’s tempting to just pitch up with a towel and enjoy a beach day. 

But to truly grasp this region’s beauty, stroll along one of the Jurassic Coast Paths, either on a day trip or the multi-day hiking route. Mainly hugging the coast and connecting to old-fashioned villages of community pubs and shops fish and chips shops, there are plenty of chances to take a break on this slow adventure holiday. Plus, on a decent day, you’ve got the waters for a dip.

Cycle Scotland’s Coast and Highlands

The Scottish Highlands will steal your heart in a second. There are no ifs or buts when it comes to this magnificent mountainous region’s flora and fauna peppered with lakes and castles. 

Getting out to explore the highlands and the coast on a road trip is one of the UK’s greatest joys, stringing together a selection of the best places to visit in Scotland en route. Yet, if you don’t mind some up-and-downhill peddling, then crossing the cinematic valleys and cruising along the scenic coastal roads by bike will allow you to experience the elemental nature of Scotland more intensely. 

The 117-mile-long, seven-day Assynt Achiltibuie Circular, tracking legendary peaks and offbeat beaches, is one of those challenges. Whether you are being charmed by the cerulean hues of the shorelines along the North Coast 500 or cycling a stone’s throw from a glistening lake, your efforts will be rewarded. Wild camp for captivating starlit skies, or treat yourself to one of the more unusual places to stay in Scotland for a cracking rest day.

Glencoe, good enough for 007!

Coasteering the Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of thousands of basalt columns along the coast.

It’s a spectacular and intriguing landscape and a testament to the ancient volcanic activity in the region. Cliff-top trails promise walkers a real treat, but to get up close and personal with the rugged landscape, sign up for a coasteering experience, strap on a hard hat, and discover both land and sea as you dip into wave pools, take on the rugged coastline, and scramble, swim and search out sea caves on a proper UK adventure holiday.

Top: Giant's Causeway / Bottom: Wye Valley
Top: Giant’s Causeway / Bottom: Wye Valley (Credit: Canva)

Kayak the Wye Valley 

If you’re seeking a tranquil outdoor activity break in the UK, head to the waters of the Wye Valley. This designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty straddles the English-Welsh border, with the River Wye meandering along the forests and rocky outposts of the region.

River kayaking is usually a more peaceful way to get out on the waters than in the ocean, and there are plenty of options for hiring kayaks or canoes along the waterway, either as full or half-day trips. With campsites en route, it’s easy to turn this picturesque setting into a multi-day adventure, with complete control over how far you fancy paddling each day as you explore one of Europe’s hidden gems.

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