Microadventure breaks in the UK: travel thrills without the holiday hassle - Halong Junk Cruises

Microadventure breaks in the UK: travel thrills without the holiday hassle

Just because summer’s over, don’t think that’s the end of your adventures for another year. If there is one thing that stops people living as adventurously as they dream of doing, it is the perception that making adventures happen is difficult. But you don’t need a lot of time, money, equipment or expertise to have an adventure. You don’t need to cycle round the world to feel the buzz of a trip. Why? Because you can have a microadventure – a way of fitting an adventure into busy lives: they are cheap, simple, short experiences that fit into a weekend. Adventures, in other words, that you might actually get round to doing. Here are five ideas for late summer/early autumn around the UK.

England

Reflections on the Welland
A cycle round Rutland, will take you past the pretty Welland river.
Photograph: Stephen Candler Photography/Getty Images/Flickr Open

The hardest part of a microadventure is getting out of the front door. After that, the rest is easy. It doesn’t particularly matter where you go. The idea of “arbitrary journeys” is ideal for this, and cycling the perimeter of Rutland, England’s smallest county (by population), is a classic microadventure.

Catch a train to Stamford early one Saturday morning (there are fewer bicycle restrictions on trains on Saturdays). You’ll start and finish in this pretty market town. Use OS Getamap to print maps in advance. You don’t have to follow the border precisely. You are using it as an excuse to explore places you’ve never been. Head north towards Little Bytham to get out of town. After that, it’s up to you.

Rutland has a Michelin-starred restaurant (Hambleton Hall in Oakham) and, perhaps even more impressively, just one McDonald’s. If you prefer a little planning, the Rutland Food Trail will get you drooling. The Blue Ball pubin Braunston has been a popular stop-off for travellers for four centuries, so why not you?

Pack a bivvy bag rather than a tent – a key ingredient to every microadventure. Stop for the night when you’re about half way around the county (it’s about 70 miles in total). Sleeping wild is technically illegal (though with politeness, a smile and leaving no trace behind, it’s unlikely anyone will mind you kipping unobtrusively in a leafy wood or on grassy hilltop), but you can bed down on a farm like Meadowsweet just outside Braunston (01572 720675, ukcampsite.co.uk) rather than in a boring, formal campsite. If you are riding anti-clockwise, you’ll find yourself, on day two, near the river Welland, which forms the county border in the south-east. Keep your eyes peeled for a spot to enjoy a dip.

Wales

Wild swimming in Snowdonia
Early autumn is the warmest time of year to go wild swimming in Snowdonia.
Photograph: Gone Swimming

Early autumn is the warmest time of year for wild swimming in the UK. It’s also less crowded at some of Britain’s outdoor honeypots and a great time to swim up Snowdon. Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, is a superb area for wild swimming. Combining climbing the peak with swimming across (or at least in) the small lakes and tarns along the way adds an enjoyable extra element. Park at the Pen-y-Pass car park and the path will take you past three tarns. Tow your gear behind you in a Chillswim dry bag. Pack a towel to dry off between each dip. If you’d like someone to organise or accompany you on this microadventure, contact Gabs Dickinson of goneswimming.co.uk.

Northern Ireland

Lough Neagh, County Down, Northern Ireland
Canoe the peaceful waters of Lough Neagh in County Down.
Photograph: Alamy

Lough Neagh is the biggest lake in the UK and remarkably unexplored. Begin a peaceful canoe trip near Toome on the north shore and you’ll see more wildlife than people as you paddle towards the sea along the Lower Bann Canoe Trail. You can do this trip in two days, but three would be more relaxed.

It’s important to work around any obstacles that might prevent your microadventure from happening. Canoes, even if you happen to own one, are a hassle to transport and organise. So use canoe hire companies to keep things simple. Outdoor Concepts, in Ballynahinch, hires canoes for £35 a day and also has tents and camping stoves. Paddle along lough and river before making a quiet camp for the night. You’ll get a majestic sense of calm, big skies and open water.

Scotland

Bivvy camping at the top of Campsie Fells
Bivvy camping at the top of Campsie Fells with views over Glasgow.
Photograph: Alastair Humphreys

Scotland is microadventure heaven. You enjoy the right to roam and are allowed to wild camp more or less wherever you like (in essence anywhere away from people, where you are not causing any bother). Instead of picking a wilderness wonder, such as Knoydart or Suilven, I’m going to suggest the Pentland Hills or the Campsie Fells ; these are accessible from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Take a bus out of town (pentlandhills.org has a downloadable leaflet entitled “How to get to the Pentland Hills by Bus”; the number X85 to Lennoxtown goes by the Campsies). It’s about an hour’s stiff hike to the tops of the fells. Take a breather at the summit and look back down at the city, marvelling at how wild it feels where you are, how beautiful the city lights look as you snuggle into your bivvy bag.

Near London

A couple walking along the pebble foreshore at Birling Gap, East Sussex
Walking along the pebble shore at Birling Gap, East Sussex.
Photograph: VisitBritain/Rod Edwards/Getty Images

Life in Britain can often seem disproportionately skewed in favour of those living in south-east England, but wilderness areas is one thing Londoners are short of. People who live around the capital may lament the lack of wild places and the need to trek for hours to reach anywhere adventurous. That need not be the case with a microadventure. If you are looking for a quick burst of peace, beauty and wilderness, you can easily find it within an hour or so. Catch the train to Eastbourne, then walk along the accessible coast path towards the Seven Sisters. Follow signs for the South Downs Way to get out of town and up on to the cliffs. It’s all beautiful, but if you walk for about five miles you’ll reach Birling Gap. Take a disposable barbecue and a pack of sausages to sizzle on the pebbly beach for the perfect late-summer experience. The downland around Beachy Head is a fabulous antidote to rush hour in London, and just itching for you to unfurl your bivvy bag to watch the sun set after a dip in the sea beneath those beautiful cliffs. Magic.

Microadventures by Alastair Humphreys is published by HarperCollins (£16.99). To buy a copy for £13.59 including UK p&p, call 0330 333 6846 or visit guardianbookshop.co.uk

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Scottish readers: Undecided about the referendum? Please read How the media shafted the people of Scotland and Scottish Independence, Power And Propaganda.

Travel | The Guardian
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