Winter is here! Reports of snow falling in the Cairngorms in Scotland have officially marked the end of Scottish summer time, but could this mean yet another rough winter for us in the rest of the UK? Some outdoor enthusiasts among us may be hoping so in order to make the best out of what a British winter has to offer.
We at UNDO have compiled and sweated over (not quite literally) a list of the top five UK winter activities for 2010 not to be missed. We have selected what we believe are the top five activities for you to sink your crampons in to without bursting your Christmas holiday budget.
1. Snowshoeing in Scotland
Scandinavia has been the birth place of many up and coming winter sports such as cross country skiing and Nordic walking. Snowshoeing is the winter sister of Nordic walking, using snowshoes to traipse about on the piste. Where there is snow, there is plenty of snowshoeing to be done.
Scotland is one of the few places in the UK to enjoy this activity as it is the only area Britain that has significant enough snow fall to warrant snowshoes. If you aren’t lucky enough to own or know where to get a pair of your own snow shoes, they can be hired by most good outdoor training centres such as Nevis Range on Annoch Mor near Fort William or at Aviemore & Glenmore Snowsports hire and school in the heart of the Cairngorms.
2. Winter surfing in the Outer Hebrides
Catching waves in the Outer Hebrides in winter might not as be as tempting as hanging loose on Waikiki beach, but it’s the closest we have to one of the best wave spots in the world. As the Isle of Lewis and Harris tends to experience quite mild winters due to the Gulf Atlantic stream, gnarly waves can be caught all year round, but partularly in the winter months January- March.
The Outer Hebrides is blessed with white sandy beaches and luscious blue seas and incredible surf. If it weren’t for the fact that the wind was blowing at 100 kph and the rain was cutting in to you diagonally like little frozen bullets, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were on an exotic island somewhere in the South Pacific. Despite the chill factor however, provided you rent a thick hooded wetsuit and booties, the cold will soon be forgotten! Equipment along with Hebridean wave savvy surfers to guide you along the way can be found at Hebridean Surf, based in Stornoway who run days out all over the island. Don’t forget a flask of warm coffee to come out to, whiskey optional but definitely recommended!
3. Via Ferrata in Cumbria
Via Ferrata? In Cumbria? Of course, the routes of this stunning Lake District setting will be nothing in comparison to those of Austria and Italy, but it will give you a formal introduction to this exhilarating and adventurous sport.
Via Ferrata literally means ‘Iron road’. During the First World War, Italian troops installed a whole network of iron ladders and wires to easily guide themselves through the Dolomites without having to exert themselves. Since the days of the Great War these rusty routes have thankfully been replaced, and where areas of mountain ranges were largely inaccessible by climbers of varying levels, these routes have opened doors for many. However, Britain’s very own route is only a baby compared to those of mainland Europe…
Britain’s own route is located in the Honister slate mine,only a few miles from the town of Keswick. As this area does not tend to get harsh winters like those of parts of Austria and Italy, this route remains accessible and clean all year round. The slate mine’s classic route only takes 2-3 hours to complete for a low cost of £30 which includes instruction and all the equipment you need.
4. Winter kayaking in the Norfolk Broads
East Anglia; home of the Norfolk Broads, Oliver Cromwell and…Winter kayaking! East Anglia might not be known for its snow capped peaks and raging rapids, but there is a unique beauty that exists within its historic wetlands and winding waterways.
Hickling Broad offers a large area of reed fringed water to paddle and explore. During the winter months this part of the fens are a winter land stage to Bewick swans, Marsh Harriers and Cranes, which have attracted keen bird watchers from all over the globe. What better way to view some of Britain’s greatest winter time wildlife- by paddle power. If you’re not lucky enough to own your own boat, from £35 per day all types of paddle powered crafts including equipment can be hired from Martham boats, right where it’s at in the Norfolk Broads.
5. Winter Walking in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is not just about the Giant’s Causeway, a good knees up and Harland and Wolff. This part of the emerald isle holds a very special strain of beauty and what better way to experience it than a winter hike in County Armagh.
At 850m, Slieve Donard is the highest point of Northern Ireland and a great winter warmer. The trail starts in the small coastal town of Newcastle moving through the woods along the Glen River towards Slieve Commedagh until reaching the summit of Slieve Donard where views of Donegal, Isle of Man and Scotland can be seen.
OS Map: 29 & ‘Gateway to Ulster’