Great Britain’s diverse and stunning landscape is enough to keep travelers awestruck for the duration of their vacation. From the rough peaks in England’s Midlands to Devon’s open moorlands and Cornwall’s golden beaches, as well as Wales’ unspoiled countryside and Scotland’s breathtaking mountains, exploring beyond Britain’s dynamic urban centers takes travelers off the beaten path and into supremely magical settings. Imagine kayaking in Scotland, surfing in Wales, cycling through England’s Surrey Hills, birdwatching in Scotland and even following in the footsteps of literary giants along country trails—it can all be done in Britain.
Clients with a penchant for two wheels can head to Wales, which features more than 300 miles of purpose-built single track, all-weather trail centers, downhill tracks, wild natural trails and more for the mountain biking aficionado. All-weather single track trail centers include Coed Y Brenin, Afan Forest Park, and Antur Stiniog, among others.
In Yorkshire, England, meanwhile, more sedate cycling paths await such as the Dales Delight cycle ride, along quiet country lanes with rolling green hills, dry stone walls and pretty villages. For those who love horseback riding, one of Britain’s most stunning settings for this is the Scottish Highlands with the Cairngorm mountain range as a backdrop.
Kent, which can be easily reached from London by train, offers travelers the “Garden of England” with over 180 English gardens, including well-known gardens such as Sissinghurst and more intimate family-run gardens like Goodnestone Park Gardens. The Oxfordshire Cotswolds, located in the heart of England and also easily accessed from London, is well-classified as “rural England at its finest.” Here, visitors will find not only Bampton, which doubles as the fictional village of Downton, but also the bustling market towns of Burford (a medieval gem), Chipping Norton, Witney and Woodstock, as well as one of the River Thames’ most beautiful stretches of waterway.
UK-based tour operators can help you package a walking, countryside or soft adventure vacation. HF Holidays (hfholidays.co.uk), for example, offers walking, birdwatching and cycling tours, as well as country house breaks in England, Scotland and Wales.
An English Collection (anenglishcollection.com) is, as proprietor Sue Lovel says, “a facilitator” that can help travel agents create itineraries for cycling in Yorkshire, walking along Hadrian’s Wall, or touring England’s Lake District.
OUT FOR A WALK
Here’s a snapshot of some of Great Britain’s top walks, where clients will be able to truly take in this land’s dramatic and ever-surprising landscape.
This UNESCO World Heritage site was built by the Romans some 2,000 years ago and today, travelers can explore the area via the 73-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail that runs along the wall from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to Wallsend on Tyneside, admiring rugged moorland, castles, Roman towns and urban spots along the way.
Wales Coast Path:
Opened in 2012, this 870-mile path has been tagged “the world’s first uninterrupted route along a national coast.” There are beaches, estuaries, cliffs, woodlands and hills to discover, as well as city waterfronts, writers’ retreats, parks and castles.
Fife Coastal Path:
This path in Scotland stretches 117 miles from the Forth Estuary in the south to the Tay Estuary in the north, cutting through small fishing villages, old coal mining towns, beaches and wildlife reserves. A plus: Around five miles off the coast of Fife, accessible by boat from Anstruther, April to September, is the Isle of May.
John Muir Way:
Opening in April 2014, this trail stretches from Dunbar, the birthplace of 19th century Scottish-American naturalist John Muir, to the waters of the Clyde at Helensburgh in Scotland. It’s an idyllic way for travelers to explore the nature and landscapes of Central Scotland and visit Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.