If 2020 was the year of the Homeliday, then 2021 must be the year of the Staycation.
Remove the stress from holidays and stay a little closer to home, taking time to explore some of the great National Parks or hidden corners that the UK has to offer. Get back to nature in the way that suits you, whether that is by pitching up in style with a luxurious basecamp and all the mod cons for the true glamping experience or getting down and dirty with a multi-day hike, bike or kayak adventure. Or why not pick up the pace, strip back your kit and give fastpacking a go.
Check out our pick of ways to get out and into nature for 2021
We’ve picked our Top 10 destinations, challenges and ideas with some essential kit for you to try this year.
This week we’re looking at some methods of transport other than two feet
Thryheim / Gandalf 5.0/ Tension Brick 400
Travelling by car, even a smaller vehicle, allows you to carry a few more luxuries than on a bike or on your back. Go for a roomier tent or the luxury of cotton paired with a more sumptuous and cosy bed. We love the classic styling and space of the Ydun 5.5 or the stand-up height of the Thryheim along with the Tension sleeping bag and the cushy Gandalf 5.0 sleep mat.
North Coast 500, Scotland
515mi of pristine coastal roads around the North Coast of Scotland. It officially starts and finishes in Inverness but choose your start and end point to tailor your experience.
Since its inception in 2015, the North Coast 500 has rapidly gained popularity among motorists, cyclists and campervan adventurers.
Thanks to the Scottish Access Code, it is possible to (responsibly) pick a spot to camp for the night when you find that perfect view or simply want to stop and take it all in.
The gain in popularity of the North Coast 500 has increased pressure on the roads and amenities through which it passes, and it is essential you follow the guidance on responsible access and camping to ensure the wild beauty of the region is preserved.
Causeway Coastal Way, N Ireland
154mi exploring the spectacular coastline of Northern Ireland. From the home city of the Titanic, Belfast via must see stop offs such as The Gobbins sea cliff walk, filming locations of the hit series Game of Thrones and, of course, the stunning Giant’s Causeway.
A shorter, quieter alternative to the North Coast 500 over in Scotland, the Causeway Coastal Way is no less spectacular. With heaps of history and natural beauty, not to mention cosy pubs and cafes to watch the world go by.
With its mix of wild splendour and historical interest, not to mention a special place in the hearts of Game of Thrones fans, the Causeway Coastal Way holds a surprise around every sweeping bend and hairpin turn.
Atlantic Highway, South West
70mi of stunning beaches, picture postcard fishing villages and wild heathland. This drive from Barnstaple to Fraddon delivers views around every corner.
For those who want to spend more time exploring and less time driving, the Atlantic Highway has long been a classic excursion that serves up dramatic scenery and idyllic village life by the bucket (and spade) full.
Don’t let the short length fool you, the Atlantic Highway packs in a lot to see and do, not to mention some fantastic campsites. It is also possible to extend the route and carry on following the coast as far as you like, with more pristine beaches promised over every rise in the road.
Voss Tech Tarp / Fever Ultra / Vanna 2.5 / Mos Down Shoe
Broaden your horizon and take to two wheels. Bikepacking or Cycle Touring is a fantastic way of covering ground at a pace that allows you take it all in. You can opt to go superlight and minimal with just the essentials or else load up your panniers with the kitchen sink and take your time.
For a slimmed down bikepacking adventure, we love the versatility of the Voss Tech Tarp. Either as a standalone shelter or as an extension to your tent. Better yet, head into the forest and sleep off the ground using the Voss Tech as a hammock. The Fever Ultra is an amazingly light sleeping bag and has a tiny packsize, perfect for fitting into the most minimalist bike packs. The Vanna 2.5 will make rough ground a bed without tipping the scales and since you’ve saved all that weight, why not add a little luxury and pack the Mos Down Shoe, perfect for keeping toes toasty in your bivvy.
Get off road for some classic UK trails, a shorter undertaking, perfect for a weekend bikepacking mini-adventure. Dartmoor is the only place outside of Scotland where wild camping is actually legal in the UK. Find the perfect spot to pitch up and relive the day’s riding.
Starting and finishing in Postbridge, this challenging circuit heads up and over Headland Warren from Chagford Common before picking up the River Bovey and on to Dunsford for a refuel. A short section along the River Teign follows before another steep churn back onto the moor and over to Kennick, Tottiford and Trenchford Reservoirs. More steep climbs follow up towards Black Hill, Hound Tor and Hameldown Tor to finish.
With a mix of technical riding, open space and steep valleys, this is a challenging ride that suits being broken into a couple of days to really take the time to enjoy it.
Hope Valley, Peak District
Another short but sweet off-road offering around the stunning valleys and moors of the Peak District. Sedate riding along the shores of Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs give way to technical ascents and challenging descents with lots of opportunities for a really wild camp along the way.
Though a popular area at any time of year, by bikepacking this route, there is plenty of opportunity to escape the crowds and a night spent out under the stars ensures you are there after the last of the day trippers have left and on the trails before the first arrive.
Hebridean Way, Scotland
185mi from the very southern tip of the Outer Hebrides on Vatersay and onto Barra, all the way up through South and North Uist, on to Harris and to the very northern tip of Lewis. With ferry crossings and empty roads, this is a real adventure on two wheels. Add idyllic beaches and mountains and it’s a recipe for an unforgettable bikepacking experience.
The Outer Hebrides can feel like the edge of the world but with beaches like this, who cares! Though a popular destination for the adventurous, the wide-open spaces of the Hebrides mean it rarely feels busy and apart from the odd seal or porpoise, you’re likely to have the beach to yourself. Island life follows a different tempo and, on a bike, you will soon slip into it. Winding from headland to cove to beach to mountain pass; the geology, history and wildlife on offer are hard to beat.
Look out for basking sharks, whales, dolphins and porpoise in the clear waters below and keep an eye on the skies for the mighty sea eagles that fish those same crystalline shores.
Oppland 3 LW / Puk +4 Egg / Vanna 3.8
With a boat to take the weight of your kit, you can afford a little more luxury and space. We love the Oppland 3 for its room to stretch out and dry wet kit. The Puk Egg is a super-roomy sleeping bag, perfect for a comfortable night where tired limbs need space to stretch. The Vanna 3.8 is a full-length slice of comfort, perfect for riverbank sunbathing.
The UK has a great network of canoe trails to create your perfect paddle trip both inland and at sea. Just be sure to use all the resources available to plan a trip within your abilities and seek guidance or training where necessary.
River Wye – Chepstow to Hereford
Let the River Wye take the strain and go with the flow. There is nothing finer than a few days spent messing around on the river. The pace of the river is perfect for taking in the changing landscape as you pass marvels such as Symonds Yat and take time to visit the beautiful towns and villages along the way.
This idyllic and popular river journey is perfect paddle trip for families, with lots of opportunities to stop and swim or simply sit with a picnic and watch the water go by. The route is well served by campsites and amenities, meaning you don’t have to carry lots of supplies along the way.
Great Glen Way, Central Highlands
This classic traverse of Scotland takes you from coast to coast via a series of locks and lochs. Surrounded by towering peaks and glens, this is a spectacular trip for all abilities.
Running for 60mi from Inverness in the east to Banavie in the west, the Great Glen Way follows the route of the Caledonian Canal, linking the mighty Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy, the Caledonian Canal opened up trade across Scotland and has left a trail of history to be discovered along the way. With deep forests, steep slopes and quiet glens, the Great Glen Way Canoe Trail delivers a true Highland experience for all abilities.
Well served by local amenities, there is always a warm welcome in the many stop offs along the way, you’ll want to take your time over this coast-to-coast traverse to ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Argyll Sea Kayak Trail
Take to the high seas with this spectacular island-hopping adventure. Covering 96mi of hidden beaches and complex coves plus the Crinan Canal, with lots of opportunities for whale spotting and bird watching, this is a once in a life-time paddle packing trip. Starting in Ganavan and finishing in Helensburgh, this is a great opportunity to see the west coast of Scotland from a different angle.
This is a challenging undertaking with strong currents and tides plus the uncertainty of Atlantic weather and, as such, it is only to be undertaken by experienced paddlers or under the guidance of a qualified leader. But for those that tackle it, the rewards will be well worth it.
Packrafting through Snowdonia
A relatively new concept for the UK, packrafting is exactly what it sounds like; you pack away your raft when not needed and deploy as soon as you reach the water’s edge. This gives a unique approach to traversing the wild spaces the UK has to offer and there are few wilder than North Wales.
Strap the pack raft to your panniers or frame bags and start your adventure.
Planning a trip like this requires some planning, you don’t want to hit any unexpected currents or white water but with some careful research and the right equipment, packrafting will revolutionise your next adventure.
If you are unsure where to begin, there are a number of tour guides and training operators out there who will be happy to show you the ropes. And as with any new skill, be sure you are confident in your abilities before taking on more than you can handle!
From the Menai Straits at Y Felinheli, head toward the mountains on beautiful cycle paths and country roads before reaching the outdoor hub of Llanberis. A gentle travers of Llyns Padarn and Peris brings you to the heart of the Snowdon range and the mighty Pen y Pass. From here it is a stiff pull on two wheels over the summit of the climb and a choice; left towards Capel Curig and the challenging waters of the Nant Gwryd (note: this is a challenging section of water and not recommended to inexperienced paddlers, especially Swallow Falls!) and on to the Afon Conwy. Or turn right towards the beautiful Llyns Gwynant and Dinas. From here the Afon Glaslyn runs through Beddgelert towards the sea at Porthmadog. This section includes some sections of rapids and weirs, check ahead before embarking, checking put in and exit points. If this sounds like too much time out of the saddle, get back on tow wheels, head south toward Dolgellau and the Afon Wnion. A generally easy-going river with a couple of weirs and drops to be aware of!