Whether you’re a mountain biking fanatic, whiskey aficionado, lover of the great outdoors, or fancy yourself as the next Lewis Hamilton – we have something for you. Emma Sheppard – on activity holidays for adults…
Emma Sheppard is a journalist living in south London with her brewer boyfriend, and loves nothing more than planning the next trip. After visiting South Africa and Belgium this year, she has Finland at the top of her wishlist.
Sip a wee dram in Islay
If you enjoy the trappings of Scotch, you will have heard of the Isle of Islay (pictured above). Home to 11 distilleries, it holds an annual whisky festival in May that pulls in crowds from all over the world, but it is still an exceptional place to visit at any time of the year.
Some of the biggest names – Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg – are close enough to each other to travel by bike, but you’ll need to nominate a driver to reach the others.
Highly recommended is the Lagavulin warehouse demonstration, which costs £23 per person and includes samples a-plenty, but most of the distilleries will let visitors try the whisky for free. Keep a look out for any special releases left over from the festival.
Where to stay – self-catering cottages start from £80 per night, but often have a minimum stay. Camping starts from £8 per adult, per night and there are a number of Storm Pods on the island from £60 per night for those who like to ‘glamp’.
Getting there – Flybe flies from Glasgow to Islay Glenegedale twice a day from around £105-£150 per person (return). Alternatively, hire a car and drive from Glasgow to get the ferry at Kennacraig. The ferry service costs £13 per person (return) and £65 for the car. It’s a stunning drive that will take around two-and-a-half hours.
If you only have an afternoon…
The Bermondsey Beer Mile in London covers eight breweries that open their doors every Saturday. Head down around 11am and start at Four Pure Brewing Co next to South Bermondsey tube station. From there, Partizan Brewing is the next stop, and swing past Kernel to pick up a bottle to take home (until 2pm).
Other highly recommended stops include Brew by Numbers, Anspach & Hobday and U Brew (a new concept in the area where members can brew their own beer). Things wind down around 6pm.
Hit the trails in Wales
Rediscover the exhilarating feeling of careering down a mountain at breakneck speed at Coed y Brenin Forest Park in Snowdonia. This mountain bike mecca has six single track trails, ranging from green (easy) to black (experts only), across anything from five kilometres to 30.
Known for starting the whole trail riding concept in the UK, many of the routes were originally hand built and the views from the top – with Snowdonia staring back at you – are just spectacular. Bring your own bike or rent one there – Hardtail (front suspension only) bikes are £25 per day, with full suspension models available for £45 per day (pre-booking is advised). Helmets are included in the price.
Where to stay – Cae Gwyn Farm & Nature Reserve has a self-catering camping barn for up to 10 people from £14 per person, per night (including camp beds – just bring pillows and sleeping bags). Alternatively, campers can pitch up for £8 per adult, per night. There are bike wash areas and a secure barn to keep the bikes overnight.
Getting there – it’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from Birmingham or Manchester, and a three-hour drive from Cardiff. The nearest train station is Betws-y-Coed, which is a 45-minute drive away.
If you only have an afternoon
Take a spin around the Velodrome at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Track taster sessions are £35 per person, including the bike, tuition and helmets (take your own gloves). Pre-booking is required and slots get booked up quickly.
If you have longer, the London-Brighton challenge is an oldie but a goodie. There are a multitude of Strava maps available, and this is a good written description of the route from Clapham Common. Expect the ride to take four to six hours including stops at the pub for some much-needed hydration.
Tee off in the Algarve
The Algarve has a lot going for it – sunshine, beaches, world-class seafood and of course, golf. Today’s Golfer rated it Europe’s Best Value Destination for 2015, and with 42 courses across the region, wannabe Rory McIlroy’s have plenty of choice.
Vilamoura Old Course won the Best Course award, with honourable mentions going to the Quinta do Lago resort (which won the Best Hotel award) and San Lorenzo. Green fees vary depending on the season but prices range from 117€-140€ to play the Vilamoura Old Course.
Where to stay – Of course you could stay at one of the golf resorts themselves but unless you’re Donald Trump, you might want a more reasonably priced option. Airbnb has more than 300 properties available for rent in the area. Guests book directly with the owners and most of the prices are affordable.
Getting there – Faro is the nearest airport, served by many low-cost airlines from the UK including EasyJet, Ryanair and Monarch, as well as British Airways.
If you only have an afternoon
Visit a driving range. The South East has a multitude of options, including the 60-bay World of Golf New Malden (£11 for 100 balls), the 1-year-old Silvermere Driving Range in Cobham Surrey (£8 for 100 balls), and Dukes Meadow Golf Club in Kew Gardens, with targets to hit and video analysis (£5.50 for 56 balls). In central London, there are virtual ranges in Piccadilly Circus, Barbican and High Street Kensington (from £40 per hour).
Embrace the outdoors
As Bear Grylls would bemoan given half the chance, the modern world is just too damn easy. Push yourself out of your comfort zone with a survival holiday. Woodsman Ray Mears runs a Fundamental Bushcraft week in the UK for £650 that teaches participants to build a 2-man shelter, start fires with their bare hands and generally fend for themselves in the wilderness.
Pah! I hear you cry, that sounds like Scout camp. Well Intrepid Expeditions run an Arctic Survival Challenge in Northern Sweden, with snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice fishing and husky sledding. It’s pricey at £1,495, but that includes all flights, accommodation, most food and equipment. The next trip is scheduled for 22-29 January, 2016.
If you only have an afternoon
Get out on the water. Blue Box Sailing runs half-day sailing adventures with lunch for £99 per person. Learn to sail one of their 60-foot race yachts on the Solent. Or race another 60-foot yacht in the full-day race experience (£149pp). Boats depart from Port Hamble, near Southampton.
Speed down to the Grand Prix
Silverstone is an iconic track but tickets are expensive (three-day stand tickets sell for up to £375). But, if you’re willing to slum it in General Admission and book early, you can get weekend tickets for next year’s race for £135 per person.
Alternatively, make a holiday of it and visit one of the other European tracks – Catalunya (Spain), Monaco , Spielberg (Austria), Magyar Nagydíj (Hungary), Spa (Belgium) or Monza (Italy). Tickets go on sale at the end of the year and will range from 100€ per person for an early-bird general admission, three-day ticket.
One of the benefits of the three-day tickets is a free pit walk on the Thursday before race weekend. On race day go early, take camping chairs and make sure you have scoped out the best viewing position on the preceding two days.
Where to stay – Camping is highly recommended if you’re trying to keep costs down. Avoid the official Formula 1 camp sites, which are temporary and often poorly set up. Look instead for an established camp site that happens to be near the track. You will thank yourself for the toilet and shower facilities.
Getting there – In most cases, Formula 1 circuits are hard to get to without a car, so driving is recommended. Be warned that you will have to pay more to park your car at the circuit itself and traffic is gridlocked after race day.
If you only have an afternoon…
Many Formula 1 drivers start their careers in a go kart. Try it yourself at Daytona Milton Keynes. Arrive & Drive sessions cost £50 per person for a 40-minute session including all protective gear. If you have a whole day to spare and your own car to boot, book in your own track day at Brands Hatch (a thrilling circuit to drive) or Bedford Autodrome (lesser known but no less fun, and with less ‘road furniture’ to collide with).
Organised by the likes of MSV Trackdays or Javelin Trackdays, you can expect to pay anything from £119 for a full day of racing at the weekend (week days are generally cheaper), plus £20 for an additional driver and £10 for a helmet. Factor in a full tank or fuel or two as well – you will definitely need to fill up at least once while there.
Read more from Emma Sheppard on her blog.
Do you have other ideas for activity holidays for adults? If so, let us know in the comment section below…