Travel

The ten best UK activity breaks, from a bootcamp in Norfolk to canoeing in Scotland 

After more than three months at home, it’s no wonder we’ve piled on the pounds. And nothing much will change, even if we’re allowed to soak up the joys of a spa, with all kinds of treatments, lotions and potions.

What’s needed to lose the flab is some proper exercise to suit all levels of fitness — and these ten UK activity breaks offer ways to shed some weight while enjoying beautiful countryside.

A week away should have you back to your pre-lockdown peak condition before you know it.

BOOTCAMP IN NORFOLK

No.1 Bootcamp provides training and nutritional education, promising ‘full-body transformations’

No.1 Bootcamp provides training and nutritional education, promising ‘full-body transformations’

At its upscale residential camp in the Norfolk countryside, No.1 provides training and nutritional education, promising ‘full-body transformations’.

Each arrival has a weigh-in consultation to agree fat-loss fitness goals before settling into a personalised daily programme. It’s not all kettlebell work-outs or spin classes though; countryside hikes and team games are arranged. Stay for 24 hours, three days or, most effectively, a week.

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous.

DON’T MISS: Going for a stroll and a blast of fresh air at a nearby beach.

DETAILS: Boutique-style bedrooms are offered, along with healthy food. A week from £1,070 pp full board including training (no1bootcamp.com). 

SCALE THE PEAKS 

Countless cliffs and crags make the Peak District a rock-climbing paradise. Aimed at those who have some wall experience, four-day ‘Indoor to Outdoor’ group courses include a 1:4 instructor-student ratio and see each participant set targets.

Taking on challenging single-pitch routes from a Hope Valley base, you’ll learn both how to lead and climb independently.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DON’T MISS: Stanage Edge, a three-mile gritstone escarpment with great views.

DETAILS: The Yorkshire Bridge Inn is cosy and traditional with B&B doubles from £85 (yorkshire-bridge.co.uk). Climbing courses have restarted and run until November, from £399pp including equipment (pureoutdoor.co.uk).

HIKING IN CORNWALL

The 125-mile Cornish Celtic Way ends at St Michael’s Mount, pictured

The 125-mile Cornish Celtic Way ends at St Michael’s Mount, pictured

The 125-mile Cornish Celtic Way follows sections of the county’s north and south coasts before finishing, pilgrimage-style, at St Michael’s Mount. It usually takes 12 days. Along the way are remote beaches, flower-filled lanes and mysterious standing stones.

A guidebook presents thought-provoking spiritual questions for your perambulating consideration. See cornishcelticway.co.uk.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate-challenging.

DON’T MISS: From Looe to Fowey is gruelling, yet wonderful including rangy seaside scenery and the former smuggling hotspot of Polperro.

DETAILS: Stages finish in towns with ample accommodation choices.

DIVE INTO THE LAKES

A guided weekend adventure for groups of up to 16 combines a series of easy swims - including in Rydal Water, pictured - with spectacular fell walks

A guided weekend adventure for groups of up to 16 combines a series of easy swims – including in Rydal Water, pictured – with spectacular fell walks

Rather than walking or cycling, why not swim around the Lake District? Perfect for novices, a guided weekend adventure for groups of up to 16 combines a series of easy swims with spectacular fell walks.

During the swims, you’ll enter warm Rydal Water to reach Heron Island, and cross Loughrigg Tarn under the looming Langdale Pikes.

DIFFICULTY: Easy-moderate.

DON’T MISS: Bathing in Easedale Tarn, a mountain pool described by English essayist Thomas de Quincey as ‘a chapel within a cathedral’.

DETAILS: Stay at cosy Glenthorne Guest House, outside Grasmere. A two-night trip departing September 4 from £450 pp including most meals (swimtrek.com). 

BORDED BY BIKE

Take in some of Northumberland’s best scenery on a 120-mile mountain-bike route, the Sandstone Way — journeys normally cover four overnight stays.

From the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, you follow dramatic coastline southwards before turning inland to remote towns and the Cheviot Hills. Tracks and empty backroads then connect scenic valleys, moorland, forest, time-trapped staging inns and a segment of Hadrian’s Wall.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate.

DON’T MISS: The switchback-ridden single-track descent into Rothbury.

DETAILS: Saddle Skedaddle arranges self-guided trips (which will resume in August), including transport to and from Newcastle, luggage transfers and B&B in guesthouses and hotels, from £545 pp (skedaddle.com). 

SOUTH DOWNS TRAIL RUN

Trail-running offers a more intensive way to tackle scenic long-distance footpaths. The South Downs Way works well for this, thanks to its consistent terrain and none-too-steep hills.

Book a self-guided trip, with accommodation included, and you can also stop at photogenic views littering the 100-mile route. Heading from Winchester to Eastbourne, four to seven-night versions are offered. Longer trips have reduced daily distances.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate-challenging.

DON’T MISS: The final stage includes an option of detouring to the beautiful — but gruelling — Seven Sisters.

DETAILS: Guesthouses, hotels and inns are used. Seven nights from £730 pp B&B including luggage transfers, trips restart in August (contoursrun.co.uk).

CAUSEWAY SURFING 

Ride the wave: Beachside Portrush Surf School offers surf lessons for all levels

Ride the wave: Beachside Portrush Surf School offers surf lessons for all levels

Northern Ireland has excellent surfing waves. That’s particularly true in Portrush — near the Giant’s Causeway — where the beachside Portrush Surf School offers lessons for all levels.

It’s run by 11-time national champion Martin ‘TK’ Kelly. Wetsuits enable boarding in winter, when the biggest breakers arise.

DIFFICULTY: Easy.

DON’T MISS: A day trip to the magnificent Giant’s Causeway.

DETAILS: Stay at Antique House, a chic guesthouse with doubles from £62 B&B (antiquehousebnb.co.uk). The school has re-opened and a two-hour surfing lessons is £35 pp (portrushsurfschool.com).

DALES ON FOOT 

A new, self-guided walking holiday through the Yorkshire Dales begins at the town-size cathedral ‘city’ of Ripon. From there, you climb through countryside to pass pretty villages and limestone valleys en route to plateau-topped Ingleborough, one of Yorkshire’s ‘Three Peaks’.

Four to seven-day versions are available, with each day flexible. You can average between six to 12 miles a day.

DIFFICULTY: Easy-moderate.

DON’T MISS: Malham Cove, a huge limestone formation shaped by Ice Age meltwater.

DETAILS: Comfy guesthouses and a country inn are used, with seven nights from £795pp B&B including walking notes and luggage transfers, trips restart in September (onfootholidays.co.uk). 

CANOEING IN SCOTLAND 

Enjoy the serenity of canoeing along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland

Enjoy the serenity of canoeing along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland

Slow-paced yet pleasingly strenuous, long-distance canoeing offers a peaceful, eco-friendly way to experience Britain’s waters.

Try a self-guided, 62-mile adventure along most of Scotland’s Caledonian Canal, which crosses Loch Ness and passes wooded bays and farmland. Some experience is recommended, but lessons can be arranged at the start.

DIFFICULTY: Easy-moderate.

DON’T MISS: Pause at Urquhart Castle, a ruined castle by Loch Ness that was blown up during the Jacobite Risings.

DETAILS: You go wild-camping in two-person tents at remote lochside spots. Four nights from £560 pp full board, including equipment and transfers from Inverness. Trips from July 27 (muchbetteradventures.com).

PACKRAFTING IN WALES

Packrafting involves hiking with your own inflatable boat (plus lightweight oars), to enable remote land and water- based explorations.

Try a privately guided weekend in some of Snowdonia’s quietest reaches, paddling below Mount Snowdon before following the River Glaslyn to Beddgelert, a village with a beautiful stone bridge. No previous rafting experience is needed.

DIFFICULTY: Easy-moderate.

DON’T MISS: Paddling across the shallow, salmon-filled Llyn Dinas lake, north of Beddgelert.

DETAILS: You’ll spend nights wild-camping. From £260 pp for a minimum of two people including all equipment except tents — trips likely to restart later in the year (tirio.co.uk).

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