You don’t have to journey too far to find yourself a proper adventure. We’ve picked a selection of amazing things for you to try in the UK, and we even asked a proper bona fide soldier – LCpl Sam Hopkinson – to help us too. So whether you choose to try any of these adventures, or just do your own thing, that weekend away will live long in the memory.
1. Climb Striding Edge England
(2hrs from Leeds/Newcastle)
Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in England, has a well-protected summit. The path to it from Patterdale, south of Ullswater in the Lake District, includes Striding Edge, which is renowned among serious walkers as one of Britain’s most fiercesome ridges.
In friendly conditions it is a dramatic scramble that serves as the perfect introduction to the enchanting danger of Cumbria’s high peaks. Make an ascent in the wind or rain and you’ll quickly discover the perils that give Striding Edge its reputation. With a maximum elevation of more than 850m, the ridge falls away on both sides in a tumble of crags and scree cliffs. One false footstep can be fatal. From the Hole in the Wall, at the start of the ridge, it is a 2km, hands-on-deck scramble to the summit.
2. Stay in a Shielin of Mark Bothy
Cairngorms (3hrs from Edinburgh)
Head out in the wild anywhere in the UK and it won’t be long before you come across a bothy: a remote cottage or lonely hut, some clinging to a barren hillside, others tucked up in a hidden valley. They are not luxury villas but, maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, they are good for a night’s kip to break up multi-day yomps.
Some of the most stunning are in Scotland, such as the Shielin of Mark bothy, in the Cairngorms, around 35 miles east of Aberdeen. Stone-walled, slate-roofed and flag-floored, a campfire is about the only home comfort – and even then you still have to bring your own firewood.
But no one will be writing to TripAdvisor over these Spartan furnishings: the sole cost for your board is that you respect the bothy for the next traveller, and the feeling of isolation is unparalleled. Furthermore, at over 600m altitude, staying gives you early-morning access to some of Britain’s highest climbs before the day-trippers arrive.
3. Bike the Gwydir Mawr Trail
Wales (2hrs from Liverpool)
To get the most out of cycling you need a mountain bike; and to get the most out of a mountain bike you need to head to the mountains. Some of the best trails in the world are found around Betws-Y-Coed, in the Snowdonia National Park, which is renowned as a Welsh Mecca for outdoor activities, and is served by a train station and has tons of cheap hostels (and pubs).
A couple of miles north of the town is the Gwydir Mawr Trail: 30km of forest-lined dirt cycle paths that includes lung-busting climbs and hairy descents.
Completing that trail will take you a day, but if you want more there are hundreds of other routes to explore.
4. Canoe The Narrow Sea
Northern Ireland (1hr from Belfast)
Covering an expanse of more than 150km2, Strangford Lough dominates the east of Northern Ireland. It is the largest inlet of water in the British Isles and has the dramatic scenery to match: small wonder it is one of the main filming locations for Game Of Thrones.
The best way to explore Strangford Lough is from the water. Just an hour’s drive south from Belfast is Castle Ward, where you can rent canoes, kayaks and all the equipment you need for a day on the waves. You won’t need to travel far from the launch point before you find some #nofilter views and start encountering the local wildlife, which includes seals, basking sharks and maybe even the odd direwolf.
Clearsky Adventure Centre, on the Lough’s south western shore, will provide you with all the safety information and local advice you need to explore the area and your inner-Jon Snow. They even have changing rooms and showers so you can spruce up before packing up to watch the real thing back at home.
5. Run up a mountain
Scafell Pike, Lake District (3hrs from Manchester)
When LCpl Sam Hopkinson and his mates took on the Original Mountain Marathon, they found something that requires proper teamwork and huge amounts of grit and determination.
While we’re not suggesting that you just take on a very serious and immensely tough challenge like OMM straight away, there’s plenty of fun to be had by changing up your regular long run, for a trip to the mountains.
The OMM changes venue every year, with recent race sites including Great Langdale in the Lake District and Glentrool in Scotland. Next year, the race heads to the south west of the country but, in the meantime, you might want to consider a trip to some of the country’s most beautiful peaks to experience the rush and freedom of being in the mountains. Our recommendation, Scafell Pike, is perfect for beginners and you can also claim to have walked/run the highest peak in England.
Like adventure? Why not check out what the British Army has to offer?
Photos: Helen Hotson/Alamy Stock Photo; Ashley Cooper, Realimage; Michael Olivers/Alamy Stock Photo; Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images