When summer finally arrives after a long, hard winter, it’s essential to make the most of it. And even within the confines of our own little island, there’s so much on offer: glorious mountains to hike, waterways to paddle or sail, bridleways to cycle and wildlife to observe.
HuffPost UK Lifestyle has come up with 10 bright ideas for active breaks this summer, as well as suggestions – courtesy of Jack Wolfskin – on how to kit yourself out. When you’ve got the right tent or sleeping bag, you’ll wake to the dawn chorus refreshed and well rested. When you’ve got the right hiking shoes, you can forget muddy socks and sore feet. And when you’ve got a lightweight backpack, you won’t worry about packing some waterproofs just in case the British weather turns out to be not so summery after all…
1. Mountain trekking - Snowdonia
<a href="www.welsh3000s.co.uk" target="_blank">The Welsh 3000s</a> is a 30-mile hike over all 15 of Snowdonia’s 3,000ft-plus summits. Technically, in order to meet the challenge, you’re supposed to complete the distance in under 24 hours. But if you’re not the competitive type (or a masochist), you’d be well advised to take three or four days and actually enjoy the experience. Getting some decent kip high on Snowdon will mean you’ll need the right tent to withstand the wind. Likewise, <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/sleeping-bags.aspx" target="_blank">a sleeping bag</a>, <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/apparel/men/fleece.aspx" target="_blank">fleeces</a> and a <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/apparel/men/all-jackets/texapore-jackets.aspx" target="_blank">Texapore jacket</a>. The risk of dehydration is another concern – so check out Jack Wolfskin’s bottles and <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/travel-accessories/bottles-and-cups/8001091-hydration-system.aspx" target="_blank">hydration kit</a>.
2. Coast to Coast Walk – Lake District to North Yorkshire
The Coast to Coast Walk is a 192-mile route that spans the country between St Bees on the Irish Sea and Robin Hood’s Bay facing the North Sea, taking in three national parks along the way. Walkers can comfortably complete it in two weeks, but If two wheels are your preferred method of transportation, then you can speed along the <a href="http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk" target="_blank">Sustrans cycle route</a>, which runs roughly parallel a little to the north. And to spare your back pains, there are several companies (such as Coast to Coast Packhorse) that will collect your baggage from one guesthouse in the morning and deliver it to your next one for the evening. There are also plenty of good pubs en route, including Tan Hill Inn, which, situated at the top of the Yorkshire Dales, claims to be the highest pub in England. Make sure you don't get caught about by the elements, we suggest packing a decent <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/apparel/men/all-jackets/softshells/active-trail-softshells/1301761-flyweight-jacket-men.aspx" target="_blank">Flyweight jacket</a> to see you through.
3. Canoeing - River Severn
What could be more therapeutic than paddling downriver in midsummer accompanied by the sound of humming dragonflies and quacking wildfowl? The Severn, Britain’s longest river, offers free public access on the 85-mile stretch from Pool Quay near Welshpool to Stourport, and you can reckon on covering some 15 miles per day. At night, there are numerous canoe-friendly pubs along the river’s banks that will let you pitch your tent for a small fee. The tourist information office at Welshpool provides names of companies hiring out canoes, and many of them will give you a choice of designated pick-up points for your journey’s end.
4. Horse riding - New Forest
Adjust to the rhythm of the New Forest and explore its miles of bridleways on horseback. There are numerous stables and riding schools, offering everything from beginners’ lessons to week-long courses and from early morning beach gallops to late-evening hacks (stopping off at the pub). Some stables offer simple accommodation or campsites, and a few even have facilities for you to bring your own horse. Keep an eye out too for the 3,000-odd New Forest ponies that roam the national park at will, keeping the pasture in check with their grazing and sometimes straying into the picturesque villages that dot the landscape.
5. North Sea Cycle Route, Yorkshire
Of all the 10,000 miles of <a href="http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/information/national-cycle-network" target="_blank">Sustrans' national cycle network</a>, perhaps the most spectacular section is the 20-mile track from Scarborough to Whitby. Following the old railway line, which was closed by Dr Beeching in the ’60s, it crosses 60 bridges, two viaducts and passes numerous disused stations as it follows the weather-beaten coastline on one side and edge of the North York Moors on the other. The route is almost entirely off-road, so you’ll need a mountain bike or trail bike, and if you want to make a bigger adventure of it, you could pack your Jack Wolfskin <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/bags-and-travel-bags/bags/2001372-courier.aspx" target="_blank">courier bags</a> and complete this section as part of the 80-mile Moor to Sea cycle route, which runs from Pickering to Great Ayton.
6. Otter spotting – Isle of Skye, Scotland
Otters are one of the best-loved yet difficult to see of all Britain’s native creatures. Fortunately, though, the Isle of Skye’s International <a href="http://www.otter.org" target="_blank">Otter Survival Fund</a> offers remarkably good-value trips to give you the best possible chance of catching a glimpse of this elusive species. And if you’re going to be skulking in the undergrowth in pursuit of these streamlined beasts, you’ll need a pair of Jack Wolfskin’s <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/shoes/men/trekking-and-hiking-shoes.aspx" target="_blank">hiking shoes</a>, some decent waterproofs and maybe a pair of high-magnification binoculars.
7. Sailing – Norfolk Broads
Navigating among the islands, creeks and reedbeds of the Norlolk Broads takes you back to more innocent times. Arthur Ransome, of 'Swallows and Amazons' fame, set several of his books here (including 'Coot Club' and 'The Big Six') and you can still live the fantasy by hiring a traditional cabin yacht or wooden half decker from companies such as <a href="http://www.huntersyard.co.uk" target="_blank">Hunter’s Yard</a>, which offers a wide range of sailing trips, courses and holidays. For overnight accommodation, you can stay close to nature by renting a cabin or houseboat, or by pitching your<a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/tents.aspx" target="_blank"> tent</a> at a campsite. With luck, you’ll wake up early in the morning to the call of the inappropriately named common crane, which is actually Britain’s rarest regular breeding bird.
8. Dry Stone Walling
A conservation holiday is a fun and inexpensive way to learn a new skill, do something useful and meet other people. The art of dry stone walling is inextricably linked with the British landscape, and charities such as the <a href="http://www.tcv.org.uk/" target="_blank">Conservation Volunteers</a> run a range of holidays in various parts of the country to undertake small projects repairing walls in picturesque locations, with camping or hostel accommodation and homely food laid on. The Conservation Volunteers also run weekends and longer breaks teaching hedge-laying, coppicing and other crafts of the countryside.
9. Birdwatching – Rona, Hebrides
Rona (often referred to as North Rona) is reputedly Britain’s most remote nature reserve and one of the least visited. Its location is so isolated – far, far to the north of the rest of the Hebrides – that it’s often missed off maps of the British Isles. Managed by Scottish Natural Heritage for its globally significant seal and seabird colonies, your only accommodation option is to pitch a <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/tents.aspx" target="_blank">tent</a> (permission required). Bear in mind that the weather can be pretty severe, so you’ll need to know what you’re doing, plan the trip carefully and take the right clobber (wind stable tent, <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/equipment/mats.aspx" target="_blank">insulation mat</a>, <a href="http://www.texapore.com/en" target="_blank">waterproofs</a>, <a href="http://www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk/apparel/men/fleece.aspx" target="_blank">fleeces</a>…).
10. Wild camping – Scotland, Lake District and Dartmoor
Also known as free camping, guerilla camping or boondocking, wild camping is a world away from the usual campsite bugbears of rampaging children and queues for the campsite loo. In Scotland, the right to pitch your tent on unenclosed land is enshrined in law. The John Muir Trust Estate in Sutherland on your way to Cape Wrath (the most north-westerly point on the British mainland) might be an appropriately wild setting. Elsewhere in the UK, wild camping is generally not permitted – though many national parks nevertheless take a positive view of ethical wild camping. Dartmoor National Park, for example, actively encourages it (their website says it’s “tremendous under clear skies”). In the Lake District, it’s generally accepted that you can camp above the intake wall – that’s to say, the last wall before open fell. Below that and you’re impeding on farmers’ fields.