The North of England is home to the longest high wire bridge in Europe, over 1,000ft above the Honister Pass in Keswick, and one of the UK’s largest outdoor inflatable water assault courses near Sheffield. This part of the world, then, has no shortage of incredible adventure activities.
This guide highlights a selection of the very best, each one showcasing a spectacular aspect of the landscape of the North. From white-knuckle Krazy Karting through woodland in the Lake District to learning to surf the swell in Saltburn, our top picks are all about injecting some adrenaline-filled days into your routine; they say that new experiences mean we perceive time as passing more slowly, and there are few better ways to truly feel alive than to pit your body against a physical challenge in stunning surroundings.
Ascend up to 18 metres into the canopy of trees at Manchester’s Heaton Park for a network of aerial challenges and zip wires, try caving or gorge walking with Yorkshire Dales Guides, or experience the unique thrill of having a bird of prey land on your arm at the Turbay Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary. Abseil down to camp on a Portaledge 500ft up on the cliff face at the last working slate mine in Europe, or learn how to waterski at one of the North’s biggest cable water parks. Alternatively, gain an in-depth appreciation of the heritage, hidden features and challenges of the Yorkshire Dales on a walk with the Barefoot Shepherdess, or pass safely across the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay with guides who’ve been required to lead travellers on the crossing from the coast of Lancashire to the hills of Cumbria since the time of Henry VIII.
There are adventures included for little people too: the imaginary world of BeWILDerwood in Cheshire is filled with giant swings, ‘sooopa’ slippery slides, a sky maze and more, while the £31m real snow centre Chill Factore offers an introductory snow school for children. There are orienteering courses to equip young people for their own expeditions, archery lessons for anyone over seven and a family-friendly Treetop Adventure in Delamere Forest. Whatever your age, these exhilarating activities promise an unforgettable experience – and a new appreciation of the great outdoors.
Here are our picks
Treetop Trek Heaton Park, Heaton Park St Margaret's Road, Manchester, M25 2GT - Visit now
Climb into the canopy of Heaton Park‘s trees to undertake this high ropes adventure: tackle the Full Trek at heights of up to 18 metres, with 14 zip lines and 20 aerial challenges including balance bars, swinging logs and Indiana bridges along the way, or attempt the lower level Mini Trek at around eight metres if you want to test your head for heights before committing to the full thing. This award-winning, family-friendly adventure activity also features Treetop Nets for anyone over three years of age, with a 2,000 square metre network of giant bouncy nets, slides, tree houses and pall parks. Whether you’re looking for a serious physical challenge or just some fun high above the beautiful parkland, this is a fantastic option not far outside Manchester city centre.
Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park, Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre, Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH - Visit now
An extraordinary underground world can be found just a ten-minute walk from Buxton: Poole’s Cavern, named after the outlaw who allegedly made the cave his base in the 15th century, has been an area of fascination for even the earliest and most intrepid explorers. Inhabited by prehistoric people, the cavern has had esteemed visitors including Mary Queen of Scots come to admire the incredible stalactites and stalagmites in this two million year-old limestone formation. Today, you can venture bravely into Poole’s Cavern’s dark depths on an expert guided tour, and discover the site’s extraordinary history in the visitor centre above ground. Buxton Country Park, where the cavern is located, is also home to adventure activities, a nature-inspired sculpture trail, the challenging Grin Low summit and Outdoor Genius sessions for children, which are linked to the national curriculum.
Honister Slate Mine, Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5XN - Visit now
How about trying some truly adrenaline pumping activities at the last working slate mine in England? Based at the head of Honister Pass in Keswick, Honister Slate Mine offers visitors a chance to cross the longest high wire bridge in Europe, 1,000 feet above the valley floor, or complete vertical ladder climbs on the Via Ferrata Xtreme challenge. Go canyoning along the course of a waterfall, abseiling down sheer cliff faces, or climb through the mine itself, following the route of the original underground workings and navigating a rope bridge cross, a zip line and a Tarzan swing along your way. Here, you’ll see the narrow passages and cathedral-sized caverns of the mine itself, where the slate dates back 450m years. Alternatively, camp on the actual cliffside: those unafraid of heights can abseil down to one of Honister’s Portaledges with a picnic basket and sleep suspended under the stars.
BeWILDerwood, Bickley Moss, Whitchurch, Cheshire, SY13 4JF - Visit now
Designed to provide a day of adventures for children, BeWILDerwood in Cheshire combines fun, forest activities with the world of BeWILDerwood itself, based on the books by Tom Blofeld. This is the land of Crocklebogs, Marsh Boggles and Tree Twiggles, an award-winning outdoor adventure that includes storytelling, crafts at the Big Hat, giant swings, ‘soopa’ slippery slides, zip wires, a sky maze and a broken bridge to navigate. Children can try their hand at den building or climb the telescope tower, with toddlers also catered for at the Toddlewood on the Hill. A mix of imagination and adventure that can be explored any number of ways, BeWILDerwood is sure to light a fire in the hearts of small explorers.
Bay Cycle Way, Morecambe, Lancashire, LA44BU - Visit now
The Bay Cycle Way is a brilliant introduction to long distance cycling, combining a route that’s challenging in length but relatively flat with phenomenal views and historic sites along the way. Stretching over 128km along the coast between Walney Island near Barrow and Glasson Dock at the other end, the Bay Cycle Way takes in the seaside town of Morecambe, with the iconic Midland Hotel here a perfect place to stop for afternoon tea. You can also spend time in Lancaster, exploring the magnificent castle as well as the Judges’ Lodgings and moreish baked goods at Filbert’s Bakery. Add to this the Grade II* listed Conishead Priory and Cartmel, home of sticky toffee pudding, and this becomes an extremely tempting adventure.
Sheffield Cable Waterski, Rother Valley Country Park, Mansfield Road, Wales Bar, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S26 5PQ - Visit now
If you’ve ever watched Total Wipeout and wanted to have a go at something similar, Sheffield Cable Waterski is the place to head to. One of the biggest inflatable parks in the UK, this outdoor water assault course features brightly coloured slides, huge trampolines, a climbing wall, bouncy runways and a giant blast bag, from which you can be unceremoniously launched skyward. Based in Rother Valley Country Park, around eight miles outside of Sheffield city centre, Sheffield Cablewaterski is also the North of England’s biggest cable water park, with lessons in kneeboarding, wakeboarding and waterskiing available on site, as well as obstacles dotted around the wake park for the more experienced to have a go at. Afterwards, there are refreshments at the bar and café by the water, or you can take a picnic off site into the park itself.
Yorkshire Dales Guides, Hornby Laithe, Stainforth, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 9PB - Visit now
Did you know that one of the longest cave systems in the world runs between Kirkby Londgsdale and Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales? With a team of experts who hold records for endurance events and climbing challenges, Yorkshire Dales Guides is the perfect introduction to this hidden world, navigating the maze-like network of tunnels underground to find vast chambers hung with thousands of exquisite stalactites, or the fossils embedded in the cave walls. If you’ve never tried gorge walking, they’ll lead you through the 500m long Hell Gill canyon, via stunning rock sculptures and plunge pools; this is also a great place for climbing or abseiling limestone crags, or attempting to hike the Three Peaks in one day. Book an unforgettable experience in the extraordinary setting of the Yorkshire Dales.
Hazlewood Castle Activity Centre, Live For Today, Hazlewood Castle, Paradise Lane, Tadcaster, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS24 9NJ - Visit now
Only a 20-25 minute drive from Leeds, York and Harrogate, Hazlewood Castle Activity Centre hosts a range of adventure activities across 70 acres of off-road terrain. There’s quad biking along two different woodland courses, with tight turns, exhilarating straights and challenging obstacles for the longer sessions. Learn a range of throwing techniques in a Tomahawk axe throwing tutorial, attempt to Shoot the Stag or Destroy the Zombies in a crossbow lesson or get some fun facts about archery under your belt before shooting an apple off the head of the office mannequin. The centre’s bushcraft lessons will teach you survival skills including lighting fires and building shelters solely from nature’s resources, while the Cryptic Chase pits your wits against the clock on a puzzle-filled outdoor course. Attempt all of these activities and more within a two minute walk to the bar, restaurant and spa at the four star Hazlewood Castle Hotel.
CBK Adventures, 1A Norma Crescent, Whitley Bay, NE26 2PD - Visit now
Based on the seafront between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay, CBK Adventures deliver award-winning coastal activities including guided tours and lessons in kayaking and paddle boarding. Explore the rocky inlets and coastal wildlife around Cullercoats, led by an expert, or paddle beneath the bridges that span the Tyne River to enjoy an unconventional view of Newcastle and Gateshead – recognised as the Experience of the Year at the North East Tourism Awards 2020. If you want to hone your kayaking or paddle boarding skills, CBK’s expert instructors are on hand to teach everyone from beginners to improvers, including through their family friendly lessons. There’s a series of Intrepid Paddler sessions that runs throughout the year, taking those who have their own equipment to hidden gems in the North East and beyond – even nighttime tours on illuminated kayaks to admire the lights of Newcastle after dark.
Brockhole on Windermere, Brockhole on Windermere, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LJ - Visit now
Attempt to hit a clay flying at 65mph or navigate the obstacles along a wood chip track on a Krazy Kart, all within the grounds of a 19th century Arts and Crafts style house in Cumbria. This is Brockhole on Windermere, a historic house with gardens, three cafés and a whole host of adventure activities on site. A not-for-profit enterprise run by the Lake District National Park Authority, Brockhole offers archery for anyone over seven years-old, laser clay shooting, electric turbo boosted Krazy Karts and an adventure playground, as well as boat hire on Windermere itself and kayak tours with an experienced guide. Alternatively ascend into the trees for 1,500 metres of giant trampolines, walkways and slides, or a Treetop Trek through 250 year-old oaks that ends with a zip wire down to the shoreline. You can even learn how to navigate the wild and create your own adventures on Brockhole’s orienteering courses – it’s worth booking ahead for anything and everything you want to try.
Barefoot Shepherdess Walks, Firbank, Sedbergh, LA10 5EL - Visit now
Get off the beaten track on walks with Alison O’Neill, aka The Barefoot Shepherdess: a qualified walking guide for over 10 years, O’Neill has also lived her life in the Yorkshire Dales and holds an intimate knowledge of the landscape, culture, history and wildlife here. Individuals, groups and organisations can book bespoke day or week-long walks in the Dales, Lakes and beyond, discovering new routes, the secrets of their stunning surroundings and a slower pace of life spent focusing on nature. O’Neill’s own back story, which includes having taken on a 37 acre farm while heavily pregnant, makes her a fascinating companion – and inspiring figure to follow through the hills.
Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary, Turbary Woods, 92 Chain House Lane, Whitestake, Preston, Lancashire, PR4 4LB - Visit now
There are few more thrilling things than having a bird of prey swoop in to land on your arm, and seeing these spectacular, elusive creatures up close. Turbay Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary offers the chance to do just this: there are flying displays at 12.30pm daily, with all proceeds going towards the upkeep of this volunteer-based, not-for-profit rescue and rehabilitation centre. There are over 90 birds of prey resident here, including eagles, hawks, falcons and owls – one of which featured in Spike Jonze’s film Her. If you’re after a more hands-on experience, contact the sanctuary direct to book an Owl and Hawk Experience day; you’ll be invited to fly up to four species in this beginner introduction to falconry.
Delamere Forest, Linmere, Delamere,, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 2HZ - Visit now
There’s an impressive array of adventure activities to be found in Cheshire’s Delamere Forest, all within a stunning woodland landscape. The forest is threaded with walking, horse riding and mountain biking trails, and there are instructors who’ll lead Nordic walking trails for all abilities. Have a go at riding an off-road Segway with a safari guide, try the family friendly Tree Top Adventure, with its wobbly bridges and finale zip wire, or the Tree Top Challenge, high above the forest floor. There’s even a self-led Gruffalo orienteering course: follow the simple map to discover 12 Gruffalo markers hidden in the woods. With picnic facilities on hand, a café and running trails a plenty, there’s more than enough here for a full day out.
Guide over Sands, The Lookout, 2 Morecambe Bank, Grange-over-Sands, LA11 6DX - Visit now
At low tide, the exposed bed of the Irish Sea connects the Lancashire coast with the Cumrian hills across Morecambe Bay, allowing crossings over the sands. Once plied by mail coaches before the advent of the railways, the way is notoriously dangerous, pitted with quicksand and subject to fast-flowing tides: it was here than 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in 2004. Hence the need for the official Queens Guides who work for Guide Over Sands, leading groups of walkers along a plotted route to raise money for charity: established using centuries-old techniques and marked by laurel branches or ‘brobs’, their path is the only safe way to cross the bay. These walks take place in a carefully chosen window at low tide, and include utterly unique views of Morecambe Bay, the Lancashire coast and the Cumbrian hills.
Anderton Centre, New Road, Anderton, Chorley, Lancashire, PR6 9HG - Visit now
Lower Rivington Reservoir, one of the largest bodies of water between the Midlands and the Lake District, is a scenic setting in which to try stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing or sailing. The Anderton Centre, a community-focused activity centre, is perfectly positioned on the reservoir’s edge and offers hire without tuition as well as lessons in archery, tree climbing and abseiling, fire building, problem solving and more on site. This is also a particularly good place for adventure themed birthday parties, with packages including a woodland or treetop adventure, raft challenge, canoeing experience and stand up paddle boarding with races and games built in. First opened in 1999, the centre is also home to a dedicated paddle boarding club, and offers adult courses in mountain leadership, first aid and power boating, among others.
Chill Factore, 7 Trafford Way, Manchester, M41 7JA - Visit now
Manchester’s Trafford Park is home to the UK’s largest indoor ski slope: 180 metres long, it reaches 100 metres in width at the bottom. This main slope is joined by a beginner slope, Snow Park and Mini Moose Land to make up Chill Factore, a £31m real snow centre just outside the city centre. With 10,200 square metres of snow at a steady minus four degrees, Chill Factore’s controlled environment is the perfect place for both beginners and improvers to practice skiing and snowboarding, with lessons on offer as well as lift passes and a Snow School for children. Younger visitors can also let loose in the Snow Park, where there’s an ice slide, downhill donuts, 12 metre climbing wall and more. The winner of Manchester Tourism’s ‘Access for All’ Award, Chill Factore is a welcoming environment in which to get your pulse up speeding down real snow slopes.
Whistle Punks Axe Throwing, Unit 20, Atrium level, Great Northern Warehouse, 235 Deansgate, , Manchester , Lancashire, M3 4EN - Visit now
This one is pretty much as it sounds: Whistle Punks Axe Throwing offers 50 minute axe throwing sessions, designed for first timers but also perfect for anyone more experienced in the sport. Based at the Great Northern Warehouse, your booked session begins with a safety briefing and a lesson in how to throw; there are two targets, one instructor and up to six people to a lane. Come as a couple or a bigger group of friends, get a tournament going and even learn trick shots towards the end. There’s a licenced bar serving beer, ciders and bar snacks on site, although players are strongly advised against drinking beforehand. These sessions are popular, so it’s worth booking in advance to secure your lane.
Saltburn Surf School, Lower Promenade, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 1HQ - Visit now
The North of England benefits from some majestic coastline – and surfing offers a unique view back towards land from the sea. The rush of getting upright on your board and riding the waves is also hard to beat: if you’ve never tried this adrenaline-filled sport, Saltburn Surf School is a great place to start. Surf lessons include a two-hour beginner experience, starting with safety and tuition on land before progressing out into the waves. This fully accredited institution has been providing professional coaching since 1983, and the instructors here are both qualified and experienced. Book the three-day Adult Course for something more intensive, or you can hire out equipment to have a go on your own. Either way, successfully riding the swell will fill you with a huge sense of achievement.
Cycle Heaven, 31 Hosptial Fields Road, Fulford, York, Yorkshire, YO10 4FS - Visit now
Just as hopeful gold miners needed supplies and equipment during the Gold Rush, so too does anyone who’s keen to embark on an outdoor adventure in the UK today. In this case, we’re talking about the regalia required for two-wheel escapades: in other words, where to go for bike hire, repairs and gadgets when planning a cycle in or around York. This is where Cycle Heaven comes in: with three locations across the city and a staff of qualified bike engineers, it’s the ideal starting place for an epic cycle through the surrounding countryside. Venture out on a loop from York Minster to Cliffords Tower, or all the way to North York Moors National Park; how ever long or short your adventure, Cycle Heaven will set you off merrily on your way.
Grizedale Forest, Grizedale, Hawkshead, Cumbria, LA22 0QJ - Visit now
Best known for the regularly changing collection of sculptures first installed amongst the trees in 1977, Grizedale Forest’s 4,000 hectares of woodland are also home to five Go Ape adventure experiences – including a zip wire trek adventure and an hour-long forest Segway trail. The latter includes views of Coniston Lake and the mountains beyond, while the other experiences here will take you high into the trees or swooping through the Douglas firs, even attempting a free-fall Tarzan swing. With different courses for everything from the most daredevil individuals to more conservative souls, it’s a great place to head for an adventure with a difference.