Here’s what I know: I’m a city-locked millennial Londoner with a full-time job. This means my entire existence is temperature-controlled, sanitized, and carpeted. I have little to no knowledge of flora, fauna, or bird species, other than bedraggled city pigeons. House plants regularly commit hari kari under my watch. RIP.
Here’s what else I know: Being in nature calms your central nervous system, boosts your mood, and reduces anxiety. Feeling connected to the changing seasons would have manifold benefits for my psychological well-being and feelings of contentment. “Sitting is the new smoking!” the headlines say. Despite being armed with this knowledge, the barriers to fresh air and outdoor activity seemed insurmountable. Unless I quit my job or took a sabbatical, I thought, nature would have to remain somewhere out there and me? Well, I’d be in here.
Still, the hemmed-in feeling of city life gnawed at me. I set out to research the problem and discovered that I’m not alone. There’s an entire movement seeking accessible adventure and we’re voting with our travel choices. We don’t want to summit Everest, walk the Pacific Crest Trail or live in a caravan in Alaska. We’re just looking to re-access an integral part of the human experience that modern life has carelessly excised and that no yoga class or sweaty HIIT session can fill: the need to go outside.
The travel industry is taking note and there are so many new and exciting offerings for active escapes—particularly in the UK—that range from just 2-5 nights and don’t require any special training or superhuman levels of fitness. So if you find yourself craving an outdoorsy adventure in England where all you’d need to bring is enthusiasm (and perhaps a pair of wellies), these are some of the best offerings out there.
The Zest Life offer a year-round calendar of 2 or 3-day retreats that combine yoga with wild fitness, wild swimming, paddle boarding, detox or meditation. They even offer “healthy hen” weekend for adventure-loving brides-to-be. The retreats all take place in a secluded country house in the North Coast of Wales, a 3-hour train journey from London Euston. The most popular retreat includes a hike to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in Wales. Imagine the bragging rights when you’re back at work on Tuesday.
This luxurious, award-winning wellness retreat is located in the rustic and unspoiled wilds of North Devon. The famous five-day “Yeotox” program runs every week from Wednesday to Sunday and a typical day will include a 2-3 hour coastal hike, biking, yoga, boxing and meditation. Husband and wife founders Mercedes and Simon Sieff are the shining, wholesome embodiment of the positive “just do it” atmosphere of Yeotown. You’re most likely to find them whipping up smoothies in the kitchen or encouraging you to take a refreshing morning dip in the Devon Sea.
Philly Lewis, a yoga teacher, writer, and photographer and Alan Stokes, British Surf Champion, run these fantastic retreats in Cornwall. Accommodations are luxury yurts just a few steps from the beach. If you’re more comfortable in a trouser-suit than a wetsuit, don’t panic, the retreat is exceptionally welcoming to surf novices. Always a sell-out, these salty, sun-kissed UK retreats promise a radical departure from the Netflix and Deliveroo routine.
If you love the idea of getting outside but not so much the sunrise wake-up calls and group bonding, then check out Another Place, an “active relaxation” hotel in the Lake District that encourages you to connect with the landscape through walking, kayaking, swimming, sailing, and paddle boarding. They make it easy for you to add a menu of outdoor activities to your stay and offer something for everyone in every season. So, if your idea of being out in nature is pottering around in the garden, you’ll have an equally lovely time as your triathlon-training mate who goes for mountain fitness with a personal trainer. Promise.