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Different ways to explore the UK

19 March 2021

You don't need to go abroad for stunning scenery and fun adventures. Try one of these exciting ways to explore the UK by car, foot or water.

Hadrian's Wall near sunset at Walltown
Hadrian's Wall near sunset at Walltown

Drive the North Coast 500

Scotland’s answer to Route 66, this 500-mile road trip through the Highlands and the northern coast takes you past rugged mountains, secluded beaches and fairy-tale castles. The NC500 is surely one of the most beautiful driving routes in the world, and it makes a stunning drive whatever the season. Expect to spend about a week on the road if you plan to do the whole route, so plan B&B, campsites or motorhome parking spots in advance.

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Scapa Flow in Scotland
Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, Scotland

Go scuba diving

See the country from a completely different perspective - underwater! It might not beat the Great Barrier Reef in terms of colour, but the UK is full of surprisingly beautiful and exciting diving locations, including diveable ship wrecks, wonderful wildlife and even wrecked helicopters and planes. One of the best UK scuba locations is Scapa Flow, Orkney – voted the best wreck diving site in Europe and home to 52 scuttled German vessels, and at just over 14m deep it's easily accessible. Other highlights include Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, the seal colonies at Farne Islands, diving puffins at St Kilda, and the flooded quarry full of oddities at Capernwray Dive Centre, Lancashire. Scuba diving is low-impact exercise, though not suitable for those prone to chest pain, light-headedness or breathlessness during exertion. 

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High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick, Cumbria

Conquer one of the UK National Trails

The UK's 16 National Trails are are classic long-distance walking, cycling and horse-riding routes that run through some of the most spectacular scenery in England and Wales, including The English Coast Path, The Pennine Way and Hadrian’s Wall Path. The National Trail website allows you to filter routes by distance, length of time, difficulty, theme and landscape, making it easy to find the perfect route for you. Or browse the map and find the route that's closes to home to avoid unnecessary journeys. With 2,500 miles to choose from there's something for everyone, whether you want to stroll rolling hills and take in the historical sights, or you'd prefer a flat coastal walk that's easy with a buggy.

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Geocaching will reveal hidden surprises right on your doorstep

Go Geocaching to uncover hidden surprises

Thousands of geocaches – boxes filled with logbooks and little gifts left by previous visitors – are hidden in urban and rural locations around the UK, allowing everyone in the UK to take part in a good old fashioned treasure hunt in the digital age. Find them using co-ordinates listed on websites or geocaching apps. Geocaching is fun to do solo, with a group of friends or even with children, and it's the perfect way to discover hidden nooks and crannies in your local area while being part of a fun nationwide treasure hunt.

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Govilion Wharf on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Govilion Wharf on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal © Billy Stock / 

Cruise the waterways on a canal boat

There are more than 2,000 miles of waterways in Britain. They criss-cross the countryside and allow us to see the country in a whole new light. Some areas, such as the Norfolk Broads, are arguably best explored by boat. The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is 35 miles long and has few locks, so is perfect for beginners. Other canal highlights include the Cheshire Ring, Kennet and Avon Canal and the Llangollen Canal. Boats can be hired for just one day at some locations, or make it a mini-break and consider a canal holiday. Read our guide to the best canal routes in the UK for inspiration.

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Kayaking on the Wye
Kayaking on the River Wye

Explore by kayak, canoe or paddleboat

You don’t need to be young, muscular and willing to brave the rapids to attempt this great way to exercise while out in nature, and gently paddling along our waterways are a great way to spot British wildife such as herons, seals and otters. There are numerous organised kayaking trips around the country on relatively gentle stretches of river, such as parts of the Thames and the Wye, pictured above, and on lakes. Many coastal areas will have sheltered sections of sea and tuition for beginners. Use a site such as Go Paddling to find places to hire kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. Highlights include the River Teifi in Wales, the Great Glen Canoe Trail, Scotland, and the secluded Port Isaac Bay in Cornwall. For more experienced kayakers River Allen in Northumberland and the River Etive between Glen Coe and Loch Etive provide an exciting white water experience.

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Picking blackberries
Picking blackberries

Forage to explore the UK with your taste buds

You can improve your health and your cooking by scouring Britain’s woodlands, fields, hills and hedgerows for anything from blackberries and elderflower to sorrel and other herbs. Always exercise caution when foraging and avoid anything that could be risky (such as mushrooms). There are plenty of easily identifiable edibles, such as wild garlic, nettles, Alexanders and sloe. Use reference books and other guides so that you know exactly what you’re picking, and follow sensible guidelines to prevent damaging the environment. Be aware that while taking leaves and fruit is perfectly acceptable it is illegal to dig up an entire plant. Never strip a plant of all its leaves.

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Man using a metal detector on Bridlington Beach
Metal detecting on Bridlington Beach.  Andrew E Gardner /

Uncover our hidden past with metal detectoring

With good metal detectors costing as little as around £150, it’s relatively easy and affordable to get out and about in your local area, keeping fit by walking and digging, and maybe uncovering some valuable coins or even some Viking gold. Detectoring also makes an engaging solitary hobby, although there are groups across the country where like-minded people gather and share stories. Before getting started make sure you know the codes of conduct and laws surrounding metal detecting, and make sure you get permission from landowners.

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Visit our Days Out section for more ideas, such as the best disused railway cycle routes in the UK and the best beaches for adults 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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