A few days’ kayaking around stunning Hebridean islands will do more for your muscles – and your soul – than a couple of weeks on a rowing machine in a gym ever could. Award-winning adventure specialistWilderness Scotland has extended its Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – listed as one of National Geographic’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime in 2011 – to explore the southern section between the sand-fringed isle of Gigha and Oban. Those worried about aching limbs will be pleased to learn that a bed, hot shower and excellent pub meal await at the end of each day on the water. The six-day trip costs £845pp, including breakfast and packed lunches, all equipment and guide, with four departures between 26 May and 1 September.
If that doesn’t sound challenging enough for you, how about kayaking around the Sound of Arisaig, camping on an uninhabited island and living off the fat of the land (think campfire meals of shore-gathered mussels with seaweed) and a nip of whisky to ward off the evening chill. Five nights’ kayaking and bush camping costs £625-£650 pp.
UK-based Field Skills (fieldskills.com) specialises in remote and fairly hard-core expeditions in Borneo, Ladakh and Morocco – but it also runs a number of mini, taster trips on its doorstep, in the Lakes. On the Lakes Adventure Weekend you’ll set up an unsupported camp in the woods, spend the night in a hammock, go for a hefty hike and pick up some new skills along the way (navigation, preparing a fire lighting, camping). The two-day trip, running 12-13 May, costs £170pp and includes meals, instruction and activities.
Careful though – this is the sort of experience where, warmed by the campfire after an exhilarating day out hill walking, you find yourself signing up for a two-week jungle survival challenge.
Field Skills is one of a number of small, local activity and adventure specialists listed on muchbetteradventures.com.
Wild Fitness (wildfitness.com) started out running luxury bootcamps in Kenya with a fairly strict programme of activities – barefoot running, circuits on the beach, sea swims – aimed at getting results, with experts on hand to offer advice and motivation. Last year it extended its reach to the rather less exotic, but more accessible, location of the Isle of Wight where it has distilled its philosophy into a fitness boosting weekend. The Threethree-day “energizer course” involves early morning runs, boxing sessions in the woods, breathing classes and beach games. It is based at Northcourt, a lovely old manor house in an area of outstanding natural beauty, where healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Trips start in April, and cost from £650pp for a shared room (a single superior room is £1,085), including all activities and meals (these early bird prices are valid for bookings made before 31 January).
Now here’s a challenge for 2012 – walk round Wales. Come May, you’ll be able to do just that, thanks to a major project that has linked up several long-distance paths creating a continuous 870-mile route round the coast of Wales. The official launch of the Welsh Coast Path is planned for 5 May but many stretches can already be walked, and details of some of the best walks, both short and long in each of the regions, can be found at ccw.gov.uk (a dedicated website will be launched when the path opens).
They include 13.8-mile Great Orme Circular Trail, which affords fantastic views across the whole north Wales coastline or the six-mile RSPB Rhossili Coastal Trail in Gower, south Wales, a mix of dramatic cliffs, beach and wild seascape.
Or check out Ramblers Cymru for organised guided walks. Another way to stretch your legs and breathe in some salty sea air is to take part in one of several Welsh walking festivals, including those in Gower,Snowdonia and Monmouthshire.
Fancy seeing where this summer’s Olympics will take place? Then join this marathon walk across London. Discover Adventure, has launched aone-day, 26-mile trek setting off from the Olympic Park in Stratford (home to the Olympic stadium and village). Going at your own pace (the walk takes between eight and 12 hours), you’ll pass Lords Cricket Ground (host to the archery events), Hyde Park (triathlon and marathon swimming) and the Horse Guards Parade Ground (beach volleyball) before culminating at Greenwich Park and the North Greenwich Arena/the O2 (equestrian events and the modern pentathlon). Leaders will be on hand to steer you in the right direction and there will be designated snack stops. Trips depart 13 May and 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2013. Registration fee is £49pp.
Triathlons have moved beyond the realm of professional athletes and become increasingly popular among “ordinary” people looking for a sporting challenge. If you’ve got your sights set on completing one this year, but need some guidance, a triathlon camp could be just the ticket.Adventure in the Alps offers a week-long retreat hosted by current world champion Christine Hemphill, with one-on-one assessment and video analysis.
Based at a chalet on the shore of Lake Annecy from 12-18 May, the £1,200pp price includes all training – incorporating a mini triathlon, six nights’ full board, snacks and water, personal assessment and transfers. Flights (to Geneva), one dinner, insurance and spa treatments are extra. The company also offers running camps, walking holidays, yoga, tai chi and pilates retreats as well as a fitness retreat specifically for over-50s.
I’m going for a run. I may be some time … Running Wild has launched aguided trail run across the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island. Covering a daily average of 25km over five to six hours, the eight-day trip starts with a 26km run along the northern end of the Queen Charlotte Track, and ends with 35km along the Abel Tasman coastal track – taking you on breathtaking routes through beech forests, alongside beautiful lakes, over ridge tops and around high alpine tarns. The trip departs 25 February and costs NZ$2,850pp (about £1,430) including full board accommodation, guiding and portage of luggage. Running Wild also organises customised trips.
Riding through pastures and meadows, past lakes and streams with the stunning Dolomites as your constant backdrop, you will barely notice your fitness levels rising on this mountain biking holiday, so distracted will you be by the idyllic scenery. Over eight days you will be guided across the Dolomites, over-nighting in mountain rifugios. Organised by The Healthy Holiday Company (0845 458 0723,thehealthyholidaycompany.co.uk), trips are bespoke, with no set departure date, and start from £1,390pp based on a minimum group of two, including accommodation, meals, bike hire and guiding for the week. Flights (to Innsbruck) and transfers are extra. Details of the trip will be on the new website launching next week.
Feel pretty confident in the water? How about swimming from Britain to the US? That’s the British Virgin Isles to the US Virgin Isles – but, still, thisSwimtrek trip around idyllic Caribbean isles and cays features some of the longest daily swims in the company’s portfolio. Island hopping through pristine waters, swimming over reefs and along coasts, there’s also time out of the water for guided walks and technique analysis. If you like the idea of this Caribbean holiday, you’d better get your flippers on – there are just four places left on the 30 March departure. Based at theLeverick Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda (pictured above), the trip costs £1,200 including all breakfasts and lunches, but not flights or evening meals.
This might stretch the definition of healthy for some, but for anyone after a gentle trip where you can go at your own pace in your own company, this is perfect. New from On Foot Holidays is a self-guided walk along the 65km Rhine Gorge (graded medium-hard), focusing on the waterway’s lesser-known west bank (the RheinBurgenWeg) as well as on the well-trodden east side.
Walking between the gorge’s 20 castles and fortified, Unesco-sanctified villages, there are plenty of beer gardens and Riesling vineyards en route for anyone who likes to keep their spirits up with a glass or two of the local tipple. Available May–October, the trip costs from £670pp including eight nights’ B&B, one dinner and route information. Travel extra.