A versatile activity holiday in Britain
Activity and adventure holidays with the family can be tricky – unless every one of you loves (and has the energy for) rock climbing, say, or cycling for hours on end, pleasing everyone is a challenge in itself. We like to take our family holidays in the UK simply because of its versatility – being a small country with a varied landscape, it’s usually easy enough to find something that interests each family member for every day of our stay, without having to travel far and wide.
Sailing off the Dorset coast
Whether you’re absolute beginners or seasoned deckhands, England’s south coast is one of our favourite places to sail in the UK, and there’s something for every budget. You can spend anything from a few hours getting to grips with little dinghies, to a full week with an experienced crew on board a yacht, in which case you’ll probably see a lot more of the coast than Dorset – you may even end up sailing to France, so check before you book in case passports and extra visas are necessary. The Royal Yacht Association (RYA) can help you find accredited sailing schools and reliable yacht hire.
Hiking the South Downs National Park
Covering just under 620 square miles (1,600 square km), the South Downs stretch all the way between pretty Winchester, in Hampshire, and traditional seaside Eastbourne, in East Sussex. They’re perfectly suited to family trekking, with well-signposted, excellent paths through beautiful rolling green countryside. It’s easy to get back to nature here for as long as you want to, but you’re never too far from a nice hotel, good pub lunch or a car-parking space, and there are many lovely towns along the way. We like Arundel, with its splendid 950 year-old castle, and Brighton, with its quirky independent shops and appetite-inducing selection of cafes, restaurants, and fresh local food.
Cycling through the New Forest
Set aside by William the Conqueror – nearly 1,000 years ago, now – as a game preserve on which he could hunt without competition from the hoi polloi, the New Forest is one of Britain’s ancient woodlands. Now a National Park, it’s still maintained using traditional methods that have changed little with the passing centuries. It’s a mixture of deciduous woodland, wild pasture and open heathland, all of which is beautiful and full of indigenous animals, including the New Forest Pony, European Polecat, European Otter, muntjac, various deer, cattle and pig species, hundreds of bird species, thirteen types of bat, and the UK’s only Cicada. Cycling is one of the best ways to explore, here, and the tracks are very well maintained.
Surfing in Cornwall
This is where Brits go when they need a surf fix – if you grew up surfing on the US West Coast, you’ll need a warmer wetsuit and you certainly won’t find the spectacular breaks you’re used to, but it’s still lots of fun and there’s definitely some good surfing to be found here. It’s especially good for beginners, with dozens of accredited surf schools (mostly for seven years and older) along the Cornish coastline, which is also excellent for scenic coastal walks and simply playing on the beach.