Britain: The Ultimate Adventure Playground
Great Britain is the ultimate adventure playground. These islands are jam-packed with glorious adventures waiting to be had. Here you'll find ample evidence to support that wild claim, and - we hope - plenty of inspiration for your own Great British adventures. Read on for Britain's top 50 adventure locations, based on our own fastidious field research combined with an eclectic range of the very best content out there... stunning imagery, great short films, insightful articles, engaging podcasts and the very best top tips. Glory will be yours!
Why Britain is The Perfect Place For adventures
Not only is Britain a beautiful place, but at only 600 miles long and 300 miles at its widest, you can explore it properly without having to blag an enormous career break. As best-selling author Bill Bryson put it in The Road To Little Dribbling, "Britain is just about the perfect size for a country".
Our mountains may only be knee-high to the most modest Himalaya, but you can at least get to the top of them without needing supplemental oxgen. We may not have a Grand Canyon or Gobi Desert of our own, but on the plus side, there's no trudging for weeks through the same monotonous terrain and you're unlikely to perish from heat exhaustion in these parts. Let's not overlook the incredible variety of landscape here, either. Wherever you are in Britain, you’re only a pebble’s lob from somewhere entirely different, and the furthest you can be from the sea is only about 74 miles. We've got more incredible islands than we know what do with, stunning views that made Wordsworth wander lonely in the Lake District and Robert Burns leave his heart forever in the Highlands remote and wild landscapes that are, ironically, very easy to get to, and to cap it all Britain even possesses some of the most unbelievably white, sandy beaches on the planet. If that's not enough, there's usually some enjoyably eccentric event taking place near you right at this very moment - it could be a shin kicking competition, a naked bike ride, a football match involving hundreds of people, an ancient Viking celebration where ships get set on fire, or the world’s greatest liar contest. Putting a cherry on top of the whole damn lot, in Britain we're also proud to have the world's funniest place names.
Whatever your idea of adventure - ambitious or laid back, serious endurance challenge or wildly eccentric undertaking, roughing it or grand touring - Britain is truly world-class for adventures. Brought to you by the fastidious cartographers behind the Joyously Busy Great British Adventure Map.
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Britain's top 50 adventure locations
The Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Small, low-lying and utterly alluring islands joined by causeways and ferries, the Outer Hebrides are home to some of the world's finest beaches, including one which doubles as a runway for what's possibly the world's best airport... read more.
Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
Not only is Pembrokeshire an absolute corker of a coastline, it's also a natural playground – in the water, and out. Great for hikers and sea-faring folk, there's enough here to exhaust the most energetic traveller.
South Downs, England
Britain’s newest national park, and the only one in the south-east. Stretching for 87 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne, it covers the chalk hills of the South Downs and parts of the western Weald’s wooded hills and valleys. Highlights: the South Downs Way, Cuckmere Meanders, the Meon Valley, the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters... read more.
River Thames, England
From London to the tiny, picturesque villages that dot the banks of Britain's most famous river, there are urban and rural adventures to be had on the Thames. On the water, in the water, or just next to the water, we love this river for its variety.
Suffolk Coast, England
The county named for the 'south folk' has a fantastic coastline. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is 155 square miles of unspoiled, wildlife-rich estuaries, ancient heaths, and fine, mostly shingle beaches like Walberswick, Aldeburgh and a few sandy ones like Southwold.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Stretching 45 miles from Llandeilo in the west to the English border, the mighty Brecon Beacons are made for adventure.
From high moors with glacial lakes, spectacular waterfalls, a few heady hills and even a mountain range, you'll find it impossible to get bored here.
Cape Wrath & Northwest Highlands, Scotland
Remote, wild and accessible only via boat across the Kyle of Durness and a long off-road bike or hike, Cape Wrath is a destination you have to work hard to reach. It's worth it when you do... read more.
Anglesey & Lleyn Peninsula, Wales
Anglesey is the outpost, joined to the mainland in 1826 by Telford's Menai Suspension Bridge. With glorious beaches sprinkled along a coastline that's almost entirely an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wales' largest island is a wondrous watersports location... read more.
Mountainous Arran is Scotland in miniature, with its own highland and lowland areas (divided by the highland boundary fault, no less). So... great for adventures and also geology, if that's what gets your volcano smouldering.
Highlights include the waterfalls of Glenashdale Falls and Eas Mor, the Machrie Moor standing stones, hilly walks taking in Glens Rosa and Sannox, and the 56-mile circular coastal road... read more.
Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis, Scotland
Everyone should get to the top of Ben Nevis once in their lives. It's a proper mountain, with heavy snow and winds frequently experienced in summer. Aside from the tourist path (no leisurely stroll), there's a ridge walk or a more vertical option (climbers only) up the north face. Someone drove a car up there in 1911 (the mountain, not the north face)... read more.
The Broads, England
Mellow pootling! A series of mostly navigable rivers and broads (lakes) and Britain's largest protected wetland, home to over a quarter of Britain’s rarest wildlife. Highest point: How Hill (12m). Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Shishapangma... read more.
A dramatic mountain landscape, Britain’s largest national park contains 4 of its 5 highest peaks and its biggest native forests. Skiing, snowboarding and ski touring country in winter / spring, and hiking, biking and wildlife-liking the rest of the time... read more.
The Chilterns, England
322 square miles of lovely chalk downland only a chaffinch's guff from London, the Chilterns span bits of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Which is tough to say even without a mouthful of crackers... read more.
Kernow: a proud peninsular paradise and masterclass in how to do coastlines. More great beaches - big and small - per mile, than almost anywhere. The north coast, in particular, has some sublime stretches of sandy sumptuousness, but the south coast and inland are top class too... read more.
The setting for Hound of the Baskervilles and War Horse has oodles of atmosphere, bronze age relics galore, plenty of wild camping options and all manner of cycling, hiking and watery fun... read more.
Dorset Coast, England
Yes, yes, Broadchurch and The Jurassic Coast.. but so much more. The view of 18-mile Chesil Beach and Portland from Abbotsbury could be as satisfying as victory in the annual Dorset Knob Throwing contest. Spectacular coastal features... read more.
Straddling northern bits of Devon and Somerset, Exmoor is a mix of rocky river valleys, big dark cliffs dropping dramatically into the sea (well that's what cliffs do, generally), and the centrepiece of higher moorland that's enjoyably empty. Highlights include Dunkery Beacon, the Atlantic Highway... read more.
The Fens, England
Flat and often unsung, the Fens of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are historically and geographically significant (once an enormous bog, now dry). A vast land of parallel lines and lanes perfect for cycling... read more.
Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
The "Highlands of the Lowlands" are spread over 300 square miles of wild beauty in this quiet corner of southwest Scotland, with forest, moorland and lochs mixing it with mountains like Merrick (843m) and the other 'fingers' of the Awful Hand range... read more.
Glen Coe, Scotland
This is Britain's most dramatic and iconic set of valleys, the sheer rise from ground level of famous peaks like Buachaille Etive Mor (1022m), the "great herdsman", producing an epic sense of scale. Glen Etive, the Lost Valley, Aonach Eagach ("notched ridge"), The Three Sisters, wild and empty Rannoch Moor... read more.
Glen Lyon, Scotland
A remote but much-lauded glen: Sir Walter Scott called it the "longest, loneliest and loveliest glen in Scotland". 32 miles of old stone bridges, Caledonian pine forest and the river Lyon winding and tumbling its way through more travel writing cliches than you could shake a rolling hill or rugged cliff at... read more.
The Gower, Wales
Britain’s first AONB, the 19 mile-long peninsula starts at Mumbles and extends westwards. Famous for its beautiful coastline and beaches from vast Rhossili Bay to tiny, secluded Pwll Du, it's an impressive place. Worm's Head, Three Cliffs Bay, Devil's Bridge... read more.
The Great Glen, Scotland
Walk, cycle or canoe coast-to-coast via four connected lochs running from Inverness to Banavie along the 62-mile Great Glen Fault. One of the great canoe trips and the only water-based Great Trail... read more.
Hadrian’s Wall, England
Get some history with your adventure. Begun in 122 AD, Vallum Hadriani is the largest Roman artefact anywhere in the world. It stretches 74 miles from the Solway Firth in the west to the banks of the Tyne in the east. Can be walked, cycled or just marvelled at... read more.
Isle of Wight, England
A miniature England 13 miles by 23 lounging about in the Channel off the Hampshire coast. Home to Tennyson, Queen Victoria (Osborne House), Charles I (imprisoned at Carisbrooke after rocking up hoping for refuge), the Needles, a great road trip and cycling route around its perimeter... read more.
Isles of Scilly, England
A low-lying archipelago of 140 islands casually relaxing in the Atlantic, 28 miles from Land's End. A totally tropical ambience with its white sand beaches, palm trees, clear blue waters and a fun-sounding name... read more.
A wild peninsula sandwiched between Lochs Nevis and Hourn, Knoydart is the northern part of an area known as the Rough Bounds. Only accessible by boat (there's a ferry from Mallaig), or by a hilly 16-mile hike... read more.
Lake District, England
A perfectly-proportioned arrangement of high hills and deep glacial lakes, and one of Britain’s best-loved locations... read more.
Llangollen Canal & Dee Valley, Wales
88 miles of bargeable waterway crossing the England-Wales border, the Llangollen Canal is rightly famed for Teflord's ‘stream in the sky’, the vertiginous and barely-pronounceable Pontcysyllte Aqueduct... read more.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scotland
The Highlands in miniature: 22 large lochs, 21 Munros, about 50 rivers and streams and two forest parks only an hour from Glasgow. Highest point: Ben Lomond (974m)... read more.
Lochs Tummel & Rannoch, Scotland
A great road trip by car or bike. The Queen's View of Loch Tummel, with conical Schiehallion in the background, is one of Britain's finest. At the western end of Loch Rannoch, a completely different landscape emerges, with Rannoch Station signalling the end of the road and the beginning of wild Rannoch Moor... read more.
Morar, Moidart and Ardnamurchan, Scotland
Multiple white sand beaches - well silver, actually, as they like to be known in Morar. Superb views to the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna) and beyond. Morar is home to Britain's shortest river, deepest loch and second most famous monster, Morag. Ardnamurchan is the most westerly part of mainland Britain, and its staggeringly good beaches include Sanna and Kentra Bay's Singing Sands. Getting there (Morar at least) is also a joy - via the Road to the Isles or one of the finest train journeys in the world, the West Highland line.
Mull, Staffa, Iona and Ulva, Scotland
A disgracefully impressive collection of highlights: Great beaches on the Ross of Mull, including Calgary Bay's white sands and views of Coll and Tiree. Tobermory's brightly painted waterfront houses. Some enormous cliffs (Gribun Rocks). Famous Fingal's Cave on Staffa (‘pillar island’) and its hexagonal basalt columns. Magical Iona, St. Columba's landing point in 563 and destination for pilgrims ever since. Highest point: Ben More (966m) on Mull.
New Forest, England
The New Forest may be Europe's biggest area of heathland (infertile, acidic soils with low-growing woody vegetation, if you're wondering), but it’s not new and it’s not a forest: it just means ‘new hunting ground’ as named by William the Conqueror in 1079. Great walks and cycling, a coastline with great views to the Isle of Wight, and wild horses strolling around nonchalantly wherever they like, even on the roads, as if they own the place. Perhaps they do. Highest point: Pipers Wait (129m).
North Downs, England
The South East's other major hill range encompasses two lovely AONBs. The Surrey Hills, to the west, cover a quarter of the county, and include the highest point in south-east England: Leith Hill (294m). Other highlights include Box Hill (the Olympic cycling climb at London 2012), the River Wey and Chiddingfold Forest. The Kent Downs, stretching from the Surrey border to the white cliffs of Dover, epitomise the Garden of England - orchards, hop gardens, oasts, cobnut platts and other things with funny names you have to look up. Highest point: Betsom's Hill (251m). Joining the dots, the North Downs Way national trail takes you rather scenically from Farnham to the channel at Dover.
North Norfolk Coast, England
Inspiration for pub quiz team names up and down the country, Norfolk also offers a north coast that is equally inspiring: 45 miles of enormous sandy beaches and even more enormous skies. Highlights: Blakeney Point, Stiffkey Marshes, Peddar's Way, sunbathing seals, the Norfolk Coast Path, views that go on and on, and friendly Norfolk dumplings. Bootiful!
North York Moors, England
The North York Moors National Park has the largest continuous expanse of heather moorland in Britain, as well as extensive woodlands, lots of dales (which aren't confined to the Yorkshire Dales national park) and the dramatic 26-mile Jurassic-age ‘Dinosaur Coast’, with some tremendous beaches along the way. One of England’s steepest roads is here (Rosedale Chimney), as is Britain’s tallest lime tree (Duncombe Park) and the oldest surviving Gooseberry Show in the country (held at Egton Bridge since 1800). Poor thing.. all on its lonesome? We'll get our coats. Highest point: Urra Moor (454m).
Labelled by some as ‘England’s last great wilderness’, Northumberland is mostly wide open moorland - a ‘black moor’ of heather and a ‘white moor’ of grassland, bounded by Hadrian's Wall to the south and stretching to the Scottish borders. Very tranquil, it's the least populated area of the country, and the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. Highest point: The Cheviot (815m). Other highlights: Hangingstone Hill, Steel Rigg, Whin Sill, the waterfall at Linhope Spout, the views of Coquetdale from Lordenshaws hill fort, College Valley's views, and two national trails - St. Cuthbert's Way cutting through the northern reaches and the Pennine Way running its entire length.
Northumberland coast, England
Northumberland allegedly has more castles than any other county in England, and many of the finest - such as Dunstanburgh, Warkworth and Bamburgh - stand guard over the stunning coastline. Highlights include many great beaches, Holy Island / Lindisfarne (with yet another castle) and top coastal nature reserves like the Farne Islands, Coquet Island and Druridge Bay. Enjoy the whole lot by cycling along Sustrans' Coast and Castles route.
70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited (by Orcadians). Loads of lovely sandy beaches, pre-history galore and legendarily good names for things like Skara Brae, the Dwarfie Stane, the Old Man of Hoy and the Ship of Death. Mostly low-lying islands, except Hoy and its ginormous cliffs. There is also the world's shortest scheduled flight - which has been done in less than a minute - from Westray to Papa Westray. Fine diving at Scapa Flow, thanks in part to all the vessels scuttled there in the last century, but also we'd venture, a little to do with cockney rhyming slang. The advice is clear: just go!
Peak District, England
Yet another example of Britain trying to confuse people (see also New Forest, Brecon Beacons, et al): the Peak District has no peaks. Somebody call Trading Standards. Split between the Dark Peak's moorland in the north, and the White Peak’s limestone dales to the south, Britain's first national park (established in 1951) remains the spiritual home of the national parks movement since the Kinder trespass in 1932. Great hills, wild and spectacular scenery, caves in abundance. Highest point: Kinder Scout (636m). Other highlights: Mam Tor, Stanage Edge, White Brow Hill, Bleaklow and Black Hill.
Scottish Borders, Scotland
Slow down! Don't zoom past the Borders in your rush to the Highlands. Some of Britain’s very best viewpoints are here, including Scott’s View (Sir Walter's favourite), or the 360-degree panorama from Ruberslaw (from where the sun rises over England and the Cheviot). Wonderful walking country, with no less than 4 great trails, such as the 212-mile coast-to-coast Southern Upland Way and the Borders Abbey Way (taking in the famous abbeys of Jedburgh, Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso). Highest point: Broad Law (840m). Other highlights include St. Abb’s Head, St. Mary’s Loch, the Eildon Hills, Fatlips Castle and the river Tweed.
Around 100 islands, of which 16 are populated, half way to Scandinavia both geographically and culturally. Britain's northernmost point (Out Stack), Foula’s ginormous cliffs, Fair Isle (the remotest inhabited part of Britain), Papa Stour's sea-cave tunnels stretching under the island, the northern lights in winter, 1,700 miles of coastline and many golden sandy beaches: highlights all. Britain's best bus shelter is pretty tidy too. Highest point: Ronas Hill (450m).
Shropshire Hills, England
Situated in the Welsh Marches, Shropshire boasts the Ironbridge Gorge (a World Heritage site) and the Shropshire Hills AONB, whose fabled protuberances include Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, the Wrekin and Titterstone Clee Hill. Offa's Dyke Path passes through the western edge of the AONB, and Britain's longest river, the Severn, cuts through the northern tip. Watch out for the coracles! Highest point: Brown Clee Hill, at 540m.
Possessing some of Britain's most extreme terrain, Skye is an island of delightfully-named peninsulas, jagged peaks such as the Inaccessible Pinnacle along the Black Cuillin ridgeline, almost alien landscapes like the Quiraing, and all sorts of other eye-popping scenery. Camasunary Bay (good remote beach / hill / hike / bothy combo), the view from Elgol across Loch Coruisk, Fairy Glen, the cliffs of Kilt Rock... if you've ever badmouthed Britain for a lack of exciting scenery, go wash your mouth out (then get to Skye). Highest point: Sgurr Alasdair (992m).
The Small Isles, Scotland
Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck - worth visiting for their names alone, but also for their wonderfully varied scenery and wildlife. Rum is the largest, a National Nature Reserve with a cluster of volcanic peaks, Eigg has the most vibrant vibe and some imposingly impressive cliffs, Canna might be the prettiest, run by NTS. Muck is the small one. High point: Askival (on Rum) 812m.
Snowdonia, all 823 square miles of it, has it all: not only the highest peak in Britain outside the Scottish Highlands, but also a train to get you to the top, making Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa (Great Tomb) at 1085m Britain's most accessible peak. Elsewhere, there are more iconic mountains (Cader Idris, Tryfan, the Rhinogs, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr), amazing roads, hiking and mountain biking routes, forests, waterfalls... and even some white water action at Bala and 23 miles of coastline, much of it sandy and visible from the peaks. Tidy darts.
Wester Ross, Scotland
Amongst Britain's finest scenery, Wester Ross includes a large, wild chunk known as "the last great wilderness of Scotland", home to the remotest Munros such as the impressive peaks of Slioch and An Teallach. Elsewhere, Britain's biggest road climb at Bealach na Ba... read more.
Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, England / Wales
For a laid back float down a river, you may struggle to do better than canoeing through the beautiful Wye Valley. Highlights include stunning views of the watery meanders from Symonds Yat Rock, the big old trees of the Forest of Dean and ruined Tintern Abbey... read more.
Yorkshire Dales, England
The Yorkshire Dales national park is the centrepiece in northern England’s embarrassment of natural riches, recently expanded to adjoin the Lake District to the west, with the North York Moors to the east. Highlights include Whernside (736m), Malham Cove's natural rock amphitheatre, big waterfalls like Hardraw Force and Cautley Spout... read more.