If you’re asked to picture a holiday in the UK, you may be struck with images of seaside carnivals or all-inclusive holiday parks.
But look beyond the coach buses and queues for ice cream and you’ll find a paradise for adventurers and lovers of the great outdoors. So while Everest Base Camp is a little harder to reach and kayaking in Costa Rica is on pause, those of you in the UK don’t need to look far for adventures to get your heart rate up (and that’s just from the views!).
We spoke to Radek Nowak, Intrepid Active Product Manager and expert on all things energetic, about our new range of active adventures in the United Kingdom.
What inspired you to create a range of active adventures in the United Kingdom?
Active adventures in the UK were on my radar for a while for two reasons. Firstly, I love all things active, and I know there are a lot of people out there who, like me, enjoy a little bit of activity added to their holiday. Perhaps it’s that feeling of fulfilment after a long walk or cycle, or the feeling of well-earned rest after an active day. Then, given we were all stuck at home for much longer than we wanted, the drive to go out there and enjoy the freedom of outdoors grew more and more.
Secondly, we often underappreciate just how fantastic our own neighbourhood is. Every time I get out to explore parts of UK (and trust me, I still have so much to discover!), I’m amazed by how many opportunities there are for being active. Walking in the Peak District or cycling in the Lake District, crossing the costal paths of Dorset or Pembrokeshire, following fantastic rivers on foot, in the saddle or even better, in the seat of a kayak – it’s a never-ending playground. So my inspiration was the UK itself: the rolling hills, winding rivers, and one-of-a-kind landscapes!
Are these trips just for the super-fit marathon running types?
No, not at all. I’m not a marathon runner myself so I couldn’t aim to design such trips. These trips are for everyone who is mobile and willing to be active and join in – willingness is the most important thing! On some of these trips we cover a fair amount of ground – over 12 miles of walking, or around 30 miles of cycling. That sounds like a lot, but if you’re willing to prepare just a little bit by cycling around your favourite routes at home, perhaps a tad more than usual, or going for few extra walks leading to the trip, you’d be surprised to find that these distances aren’t actually that hard to complete!
What makes the UK stand out from other far-flung active destinations?
In my opinion, it’s the number of national parks and protected areas which are so well looked after and managed. And the relative ease of access to those places, the good infrastructure, and the welcoming British culture. You can board a train in the morning and in just a few hours be in a totally different destination, enjoying an unforgettable active adventure in a well-protected and naturally beautiful area, then have a delicious meal in a local pub with a bunch of friendly folk. It’s the perfect recipe for an incredible experience close to home.
What’s your favourite experience on the new range of UK active adventures?
Having recently discovered the beauty of South Wales, the thought of spending a few days kayaking down the River Wye is very tempting, and I’d have to say that’s my favourite addition to our range of active adventures. Paddling down from Glasbury to Whitney Bridge and stopping for a lunch break in the Hay-on-Wye, then enjoying a BBQ evening in our accommodation next to the river is something I could do right now!
And what’s the best spot for scenery to take your breath away?
It’s so hard to choose just one! The Peak District and Stanage Edge stole my heart when I first visited a few years ago. Then, the coastal paths of Pembrokeshire are also rather amazing! And where shall we place Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park? But if I must choose one, the Jurassic Coast, from Devon to Dorset is my favourite. The ease of access from London, tiny local pubs in beautiful villages placed along the coast and never-ending walking paths along white, rocky cliffs would always make me smile with appreciation.
How about your favourite accommodation?
Again, so many to choose from! I love the accommodation on our River Wye: Hike, Bike & Kayak adventure. We stay in a locally owned lodge in the Elan Valley – it’s pretty far from civilisation which means you get the best stargazing opportunities (if you’re lucky enough for clear skies!). Also glamping at the Whitney Bridge next to the river after a day of kayaking is a truly memorable experience. But I can’t forget the accommodation on our Devon: Hike, Bike & Kayak trip – staying in a quirky hotel on the grounds of Buckfast Abbey has to be up there with the best of them!
What benefits come with travelling with a local leader, rather than going at it alone?
I’ll use an example from our Walk Hadrian’s Wall Highlights adventure. It’s relatively easy to go and organise it yourself (if you can spare enough time to contact all hotels, organise all meals, transfers etc.), but it’s definitely not so easy to learn all the important, fun, and interesting facts about this crucial landmark in British history. Yes, one can do some reading, but it just doesn’t come close to the insider knowledge a local can share with you. As well as having all the historical and cultural info, your leader also knows all the best places to grab a bite to eat or pick up a local brew, helping you avoid falling into tourist traps. Not because they have done more research online than you, but because it’s the places they go themselves.
Do you have a piece of advice for anyone setting off on a UK active adventure?
It’s always best to think about local exploration with an open mind. Maybe I’ve been to that region before, or heard a lot about it, or I know someone who is from there, but I still go with a willingness to learn and discover. Putting myself in that state of mind always helps me find something new, intriguing, and simply fantastic, even in familiar territory.