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Economic conditions and increased awareness of responsible travel mean more and more people are choosing the UK as their destination of choice. And it’s about time! Get out and explore our great country with the help of the Active Traveller guide to what to do in your area…

Solent Sailing

There were four in our group with an instructor on the keelboat, which is a small day-sailing yacht. I had been given the task of being up front and changing the pole attached to the bottom of the spinnaker from side to side of the mast as we gybed (turned) downwind. You need to be nimble with your feet and fingers in this position, and there was banter about me being catapulted overboard.We were careening off downwind at a rate of knots, when suddenly the heavy grey smudge of a cargo ship that had been on the horizon was suddenly a bit too close.
I had visions of our boat splintering and turning into so many matchsticks on the water but our instructor quickly issued commands ensuring the spinnaker came down and our collision course was averted. This was just one near miss that leads me to believe that if you can sail, without mishap, in the waters surrounding the Isle of Wight, you can sail anywhere. You also have to factor in the complicated tides, the chain ferry at Cowes and the Red Jet ferry from Southampton to Cowes, various yachties, a very busy shipping channel – suddenly the Solent seems much narrower.
All of this is a great experience if you are learning to sail. I felt I could put my trust in the highly qualified instructors that I met at the UK Sailing Academy ( The instructors choose the best location for your sailing lesson, depending on the tidal conditions and other factors. If you are dinghy sailing you might be towed upstream by a RIB in a line like ducklings. You can spend five days learning how to sail a dinghy and (hopefully) attain your RYA Levels 1 and 2, which costs from £370, or do a weekend’s introduction to keelboating from £195, among many other courses.


5 walks
1 South Downs Way, Hampshire to East Sussex,160km
Going at a leisurely pace it would take nine days to complete this hike from Winchester to Eastbourne. There are plenty of pubs and pretty villages to stay overnight.
2 Winnie the Pooh Walk, East Sussex, 6.4km
An easy three-and-a-half hour circular walk around Ashdown Forest, for lovers of archaeology as well as Pooh Bear fans.
3 North Downs, Kent, 12.8km
Start at Deal Castle for a seaside, cliff-top walk to Dover Castle.
4 Arlesey, Bedfordshire, 1.6k
Circular route suitable for wheelchair users. For more routes see
5 The Ridgeway National Trail, Bucks to Wilts, 139km
‘Britain’s Oldest Road’ passes through the North Wessex Downs and The Chilterns, famous for its bluebell woods.

paraglidingsoutheastBest of the rest

Paragliding, South Downs, East Sussex
Unspoilt countryside, close to London, is just one reason why the South Downs have become a hub for paragliders, particularly beginners, as Steve Purdie from Airworks Paragliding Centre explains: ‘We have rounded, grassy hills without stone walls and rocks that present hazards for gliders. We also have the best weather in the country with more sun and less wind and rain. As the hill isn’t very high, you’ll never have to worry about getting lost in the clouds if there’s a low cloud base, and it’s easily accessible by car.’ A one-day introduction costs £150 and disabled students are welcome. See
Kite sailing, Southend-on-Sea, Essex
What will they think of next? The kite cat (a kite-powered catamaran) made its way from New Zealand to the UK only this year and can reach speeds of 50kph – faster than almost any other sailing craft. Gain your BKSA Level 1 and 2 over two days at Essex Kitesurf School.
Free-diving, Gosport, Portsmouth
Swimming any distance underwater on a single breath may sound impossible, even scary, but it can a relaxing and fantastic experience. Why not try a two-day weekend certification course in a Navy submarine escape training tank. Experienced instructors will combine classroom theory with practical exercises in the tank.
Wakeboarding, Thorpe Park, SURREY
Europe’s most renowned wakeboarding and water ski park has played host to two world championships, so if the pros rate it the best, there can be no better place to learn. Novices can book a first session with JBSki for £65, overseen by John Battleday – multiple European champion and world silver medallist. There is no membership required, so if you are already trained you can simply turn up, pay and ride.

Snowdome, Milton Keynes, Bucks

For a rainy day, and let’s face it, we get a fair few, this venue offers real snow on its indoor slope, as well as Europe’s first purpose-built body-flying tunnel, rock climbing walls, gym and fitness centre. Unwind in one of its numerous bars and restaurants to soothe aching muscles. See

Cycling, Essex

Honeysuckle hedgerows, ancient buildings and vineyards might not spring to mind when you think of this heavily-stereotyped county, but it’s time to explore Essex’s wealth of beauty from the seat of your bike, following the launch of nine new cycle routes this year. See

Horse Riding, New Forest

With 37,000 hectares to roam free, the New Forest National Park is the place to go horse riding. Burley Villa School of Riding caters for seasoned riders and also offers beginners a 30-minute riding lesson followed by a 90-minute ride into the forest for £45. There is also a cowboy adventure for kids, where they can ride ponies, try western-saddle on a beginner’s lesson, lasso bulls’ horns, throw horseshoes, and end the day with a barbecue, all for £40. See

Burnbake Ropes Course, Corfe Castle, Dorset

Ever pictured yourself in the final round on the Krypton Factor? Put your self to the test at Brenscombe Outdoor Centre’s ropes course, one of the largest in Europe. You’ll be whizzing along the 18-metre-high and 90-metre-long zip wire, testing your arm power on the gladiator rings and competing in the beer crate challenge. A three-hour session costs £34.45 for adults, and £27.15 for children. Throughout the summer hols there are family sessions on Fridays for £25pp and multi-acitvity days on Mondays where archery, abseiling, climbing, an assault course and team games an be enjoyed.

Hill-rolling, Ware, Herts

Roll 200m upside down as you are pushed down a hill in a three-metre-high inflatable PVC ball at SphereMania. There are two types to choose from – you can either be strapped into a harness, or slip and slide around in the centre of the ball in a small pool of water. With Red Letter Days, hill-rolling for two costs £65. 

Surfing, IOW

Learn to surf on the Isle of Wight’s Compton beach with BSA accredited surf school, iSurf, from April to November. Surf expert Chris Manion knows the coastline better than the back of his hand. Minimum age is eight. Advanced tuition runs throughout the winter and female-only and one-to-one sessions are available. See

MTB, Surrey Hills, Dorking

Summit Leith Hill – the Southeast’s highest point – by mountain bike, enjoying some of the best single track the country has to offer with exciting drop-offs and downhills. Explore alone or opt for a guided tour with Surrey Hills All Terrain, who will offer you technical tips to improve your skills. Women-only groups are available, too.


Windsurfing, Hove Lagoon, Sussex
The enclosed shallow lagoon makes this the perfect place for beginners to pick up their RYA Level 1 in windsurfing which is a two-day course. During the Paddle Round the Pier Festival each July, you can pick up some great special offers where children can take a 90-minute taster session for a tenner. See

Survival course, East Grinstead, Sussex

Fancy yourself as the next Bear Grylls? Sign up for a two-day wilderness survival skills course where you’ll pick up the basics of bushcraft, including finding shelter, water and food and finding your way back to safety. You’ll spend a night in your newly built shelter, make fires to cook and learn about fungi, plant and trees, as well as basic navigation by day and night.

Sailing, Queen Mother Reservoir, Berkshire

With views of Winsdor Castle, the sheltered 500-acre reservoir at Datchet Watersports is a great location to learn to sail with reliable wind conditions and hire equipment in excellent condition. Drop-in days run during the school holidays and non-members can sail for £15 per day at weekends.

Mountainboarding, Upminster, Essex

Created in America around a decade ago by snowboarders, surfers and skateboarders who saw a grassy bank and decided to board down it, mountainboarding is now sweeping across the UK. Using what looks like a skateboard with big wheels, you can enrol in a 90-minute beginner’s course at Stubbers Adventure Centre. Multi-activity days are also available including sailing, abseiling and climbing.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Go hot air ballooning, tackle the Go Ape ropes course, stroll around the Culpepper Garden. There’s also the majestic 12th century castle.



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