Rough-hewn pleasures await up in the mountains, down by the lakes and in the middle of a busy capital
1. WELSH WILD CAMPING
Wild camping is much more heavily restricted in England and Wales than it is in Scotland or in Scandinavia, but is often unofficially tolerated if you camp in a sensibly secluded spot and leave no traces. In Snowdonia, the practice is common enough for Peak Walking Adventures to offer wild camping expeditions in Wales’s most beautiful corner.
Setting off into the mountains in the company of an expert guide, participants carry tents, food and sleeping mats up into the quietest parts of the range, above the dry-stone walls, slate-roofed cottages and roaming sheep, making camp as the sun sets into the distant Irish Sea.
Arrive: The closest mainline station to Snowdonia is Bangor – direct trains run from London.
2. LAKE DISTRICT SWIMS
Water temperatures in the Lake District hover a few degrees away from sending a brass monkey to Penrith A&E, but swimmers are blessed with views to surpass any white-sand beach: purple heather, misty fells and tumbledown farms high above.
For a wild swimming crash course in Cumbria, enrol on Swimtrek’s Lakes Weekender trip. Participants cast off from the north end of Windermere, stopping for a rest on the tiny island of Bee Holme, before swimming to shore by the turrets of Wray Castle. Also on the agenda is a swim across Coniston Water, under the stately summit of the Old Man of Coniston. Days end with hot showers in the guest rooms of Brathay Hall, a Georgian mansion beside Windermere, and hot meals in nearby pubs.
Arrive: Brathay Hall is near Ambleside, a two-hour drive from Manchester or 2 1/2 hours from Leeds.
3. TRUSTY HANDS
The idea of a National Trust holiday might suggest walking the creaking boards of stately homes, pausing to dose up on scones and herbal teas in the tearoom. National Trust working holidays are a more active proposition, involving thrashing at invasive rhododendrons, wild camping in ancient woodlands or coasteering in foaming seas.
The trust offers a number of breaks across the country, with participants making a contribution to the wellbeing of the Great British landscape. Short breaks last between two and four nights. The programmes change with the seasons: volunteers in spring might find themselves restoring the clifftop paths in preparation for summer walkers on the rugged coastline around Mortehoe in Devon, while visitors to Somerset’s Holnicote Estate in autumn might learn to make natural charcoal for chilly nights to come, and survey the local dormouse population ahead of their annual hibernation.