Yes it’s that time of year again – when you start finding yourself singing tunes from the Muppets Christmas Carol, wanting to live in a nest of blankets, and eating your own weight in mince pies. It might also be the time where you spend days staring blankly at your friends or family wondering what to get them, but fear not! Here’s my guide to the best Christmas gifts for outdoor lovers – perfect for climbers, hikers, adventurers and anyone just a little bit wild.
Every now and then I think about jacking in the day job and heading off to live the life of an itinerant wanderer on horseback; spending my days criss-crossing the wild parts of country. It’s not the most practical dream at the moment, but luckily I was able try out being a vagabond on a smaller scale with Freerein, who have been offering both guided and self-guided rides through their patch of Wales since 1989.
The Lake District is undoubtedly of the UK’s best places for getting outdoors, with cloud-scraping mountains, lush green valleys and a whole host of rivers, meres, tarns and waters to explore. There are plenty of campsites (wild or otherwise) where you can rest your head, but if you’re looking for something a bit cosier after a long day of adventuring then the beautiful Campbell Cottage could be the perfect choice.
Rock climbing as a sport has been around since the late 1800s, but it’s become increasingly popular in the last 50 years or so since the advent of indoor climbing walls. Not only do these walls help climbers stay fit over winter, but they also provide a great training ground and social area for newbies to learn the ropes (pun intended) – making climbing more accessible than ever.
When a colleague announces that they’re leaving their job, you don’t generally expect the next words to be ‘to walk to Finland’. But that was exactly what happened back in December when my pal Lauren sat our team down to explain her adventure. One week in to the hike, I joined her and her partner Leo to find about more about their epic 1600-mile trip.
When people talk about places for outdoor adventure in the UK, they tend to focus on the big hitters – The Lakes, Snowdonia, Dartmoor etc. However after spending a weekend in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley with some of the lovely #OutdoorBloggers crew, I think it’s time that more people heard about the amazing adventure potential of this beautiful region. Here are just a few of the activities you can try.
Confession: for an outdoorsy person, I can be pretty lazy. I’m particularly bad in winter, when the freezing winds and incessant rain make it all too easy to find excuses not to go outside. Fortunately the lovely team at Kitshack recently gave me the opportunity to test out a Buff, which was the prod I needed to hit the trail again and see if this might finally crack my reluctance to run in anything less than 20 degree sunshine.
If you’re in search of tiny picturesque villages, miles of rambling over open heathland and more local folklore than you can shake a stick at, then Dartmoor is the place to go. I spent a week swimming in rivers, exploring the wild moors, and generally pretending I was in a gothic horror mystery novel. Spoiler alert: at no point was I eaten by a giant hound.
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love a bit of Poldark. When I was little most of my family holidays were spent in Cornwall, so seeing the beautiful coastline, beaches and moorland on screen in the recent BBC series gave me a real craving to go back. (Ok I admit it, Aidan Turner’s torso helped too). So south I went to the land of fudge and pasties, where I spent most of my time wandering round the county in search of locations from the series.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you want me to wake up pre-8am, the best tactic is to bribe me with ponies. If you then add another quirky sport into the mix I might even be enthusiastic about it – which explains why I was up at the ungodly hour of 5am a few weeks ago so that my lovely co-adventurer Siân and I could drive over to Hertfordshire for a day of Horseback Archery. (Yes it is a thing. Yes it is awesome.)