Small businesses can show you a world of adventure in the UK | iwoca

10 small businesses promising the wild side of UK travel

Image: Wilderness Scotland
Image: Wilderness Scotland

Looking for an adventure not too far from home? These UK companies are offering exciting trips in the British Isles this summer.

By Alison Coleman on 05/06/2019

Holidaymakers have more options than ever when it comes to enjoying summer in the UK. Thousands of small businesses offer exciting ways to explore the countryside, from the most northern tip of Scotland to the beaches of the South Coast.

Sea kayaking, Highlands of Scotland

Holiday company Wilderness Scotland (wildernessscotland.com) offers adventurers a chance to learn sea kayaking skills, while seeing Scotland’s rugged coastline from a beautiful vantage point.

Options include an introductory four-day kayaking trip in the Torridon region (above), which is ideal for beginners and those who are looking to sharpen their paddling skills. Other journeys include a four-day expedition by sea kayak to the Outer Hebrides, with a chance to explore some of the more remote islands, and the West Coast Explorer with fabulous sea kayaking on Scotland's west coast, exploring locations such as Plockton, Skye and Knoydart.

Trail running, Devon

There are running holidays for serious athletes who want to get in shape ahead of a busy season of racing, and there are running holidays that people do for fun. Wild Running (www.wildrunning.co.uk) offer both options along with the opportunity to visit beautiful places and explore them by trail running. It is an exhilarating way to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life – if your legs are up to it.

Founded by former international athlete Ceri Rees, Wild Running offers guided trail runs for all levels of runner around Dartmoor and Exmoor, the Lake District and North West Scotland. The company also offers navigation courses for runners who want to improve their self-reliance for mountain running and wild trails.

Vegetarian cookery, Cotswolds

For a chance to learn some new cookery skills and enjoy a relaxing break in the stunning Cotswolds, Abbey Home Farm (www.theorganicfarmshop.co.uk) offers a five-day vegetarian ‘seed to plate’ cookery course.

It’s an experience that will appeal to those who want to embrace a back-to-basics philosophy, as they learn how to prepare delicious seasonal vegetarian meals inspired by the 10-acre vegetable garden. Abbey Home Farm grows over 80 varieties of vegetable, and promises guests insight into techniques such as preservation, fermentation and sourdough bread baking.

Seed to plate cooking at Abbey Home Farm small business | iwocaFrom seed to plate dining with Abbey Home Farm

Make and paddle your own canoe, Lake District

When you think about popular family or group leisure activities, DIY probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. However, Cumbrian-based Orca Adventures (www.orcadventures.co.uk) has developed a practical experience making something that the family could use for further activities, a Canadian-style canoe. In this Davy Crockett-inspired adventure, family and group members build their canoe from scratch before taking it to the water. No woodworking skills are needed, as the stages are simple to follow, and the best bit? The canoe is for keeps.

Trail horse riding, Wales

One of the most exciting ways to explore new areas of the country is on horseback. Free Rein (www.free-rein.co.uk) offers guided, self guided and learn-to-ride horse riding holidays catering for all levels, for those keen to explore the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley on horseback.

The Onto the Trail break gives novices and rusty riders an opportunity to learn the rudiments of trail riding. Guided trails that last between two and six days take in a new destination every day. Accommodation is pre-booked and luggage is transferred each day.

Riding holidays with Free Rein, a UK small business | iwocaSee the best of Wales and Gloucestershire by horseback

Cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats

It has to be the ultimate road cycling holiday in the UK, if not one of the most challenging, but cycling holiday firm Saddle Skedaddle (www.skedaddle.co.uk) reckons that cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats is a journey that every cyclist should make at least once in their lifetime.

The guided trip covers more than 1,000 miles, travelling through three countries in just 14 days of riding. A carefully chosen route avoids heavy traffic and busy towns as much as possible and takes cyclists well off the beaten track and able to see the UK’s green and pleasant land at its best.

Packrafting, Snowdonia

The beauty of packrafting, which involves trekking into the wilderness with a small, stowable boat in your rucksack, is that it can get you to places too remote to reach easily by any other means. In 2017 husband-and-wife team Jason and Marianne Taylor set up Tirio (www.tirio.co.uk), a company that offers a number of packrafting options, from half-day tours that are ideal for families and those looking for a basic introduction to multi-day trips with wild camping in secluded woodland in the Conwy valley. The latter requires a reasonable level of fitness to hike, paddle and carry around 12kg of equipment.

Borrow a boat, Hampshire

Sipping cocktails on the deck of a private yacht as the sun goes down is an experience that most people dream of. Thanks to peer-to-peer venture Borrow a Boat (www.borrowaboat.com), the chance to enjoy life on the water is open to everyone.

Launched in 2017 and described as the Airbnb of the maritime world, Borrow a Boat is the brainchild of entrepreneur and founder Matt Ovenden who has been sailing all his life. Vessels can be hired for several nights, with the option of sleeping aboard whilst moored in the harbour, self sailing, or hiring a fully skippered experience.

Borrow a Boat from a small business | iwocaLive the luxury lifestyle with Borrow a Boat

Wild camping, Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

Everyone dreams of escaping the pressures of modern living at one time or another, and as long as the prospect of no home comforts doesn’t worry you, camping on an island in the middle of Britain’s largest lake could be the perfect getaway.

Rams Island (www.ramsisland.org) is only a mile from the shore of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, but it is uninhabited and creates that feeling of being a million miles from civilisation – particularly after the sun goes down. Facilities are sparse with toilets on a converted sand barge, but that’s shouldn’t phase any solace seeking, die hard adventurer.

Kite-buggying, East Sussex

Zipping across the beach at speeds of up to 50mph in a low three-wheeler is a high adrenalin activity that makes for an exhilarating day out for all the family. Kite-buggying, which combines the skills of kite flying and go-karting, provides the sense of speed and excitement with the freedom that only miles of flat open sand can bring.

Set up in 2007 by two experienced British Kitesurfing Association senior instructors the Kitesurf Centre (www.thekitesurfcentre.com) offers tuition with qualified instructors on Camber Sands in East Sussex. People learn kite-buggying at different rates, but most grasp the basics to be able to continue comfortably practicing within a few days. The coastal venue makes this an ideal place to spend a few days while getting to grips with this extreme sport.