How much time do you have this year to go on a proper adventure?
When challenged with this question, most folk would talk about vacation days, or summer holidays. And since we run the kind of Mediterranean-based adventure holidays that involve that kind of planning ahead, yeah, we get it.
But…what about those 52 weekends away from work every year? What could you get done between 5pm on a Friday and 8am on a Monday (if you drank enough coffee to keep yourself upright)?
One person who has devoted years to answering this question is former National Geoographic Adventurer of the Year Alastair Humphreys, whose bestselling book, Microadventures, is all about squeezing small, meaningful outdoorsy escapades into a busy working life. (Grab a copy here.)
But with that in mind, and running with a few of Alastair’s ideas – here are a few weekend adventures to get stuck into.
1. CHASE A RIVER
This could take the form of a scramble into the hills to find its source, the very spot where a spring gushes out of a rock face – and then following it downstream until it becomes a river and either meets another waterway or hits the sea.
For a UK-based example, see this map of Southeast England’s waterways, via the Southeast River Trust…
It also applies to big cities. If you’re in London, have you ever followed the 4-mile route of the Fleet?
Wherever you are, there’s a river nearby – and it’d be a fantastic bit of weekend walking, if you wrapped up against the cold and chased it end to end.
2. SPEND A NIGHT IN A BOTHY
Bothy” is a Scots-English word that means “small hut” – but in the adventure travel world, it’s come to mean “camping without a tent”.
Here’s the definition from the UK’s Mountain Bothies Association.
Bothies are left unlocked and open for anyone to use, totally free of charge, when they’re passing through.
They’re also usually a fairly well-kept secret – and it’s often frowned upon to share the location of a bothy over social media, which is why we’re not doing it in this email…
However, Wikipedia has a few of them listed here. (Naughty, naughty Wikipedia).
They’re usually a bit of a trek to get to, but if you’re up for a decent hike (or bike), you should have no problems having weekend adventures there.
So – the challenge is:
(a) find a bothy
(b) do your research (is it still open? what’s there? how would you get there?)
(c) go spend a night there.
And if you want a more detailed introduction, grab this book from Wanderlust magazine’s editor-at-large, Phoebe Smith.
Your bothy awaits you. Go find it!
3.EXPLORE YOUR NEAREST UNINHABITED ISLAND
You could just set foot on it – or, if you’re allowed (and if it’s safe to do so) you could spend the night there, in a tent or a bivvy bag, staring up at the stars.
It won’t be far from home. There are at least a couple of million uninhabited (aka “desert”) islands scattered across our planet. The UK has over 4,000 of them larger than half an acre (and many more that are smaller), and not all can be found at the coast – grab a map and check out the lakes and lochs and biggest rivers for likely-looking flecks of dry land.
If you grew up reading children’s adventure stories – Famous Five, Huckleberry Finn, Swallows & Amazons and the like – then this will feel like a trip back to simpler times. (Just remember to take sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer.)
Go with a friend. Hire a boat. Grab a canoe.
Build a raft!
– Fancy version: https://getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/…/how-to-build-a-w…/
– Basic version: https://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Raft/
That said, don’t try building rafts to get to coastal islands, as offshore currents are dangerous at the best of times!)
That’s the challenge. To terra inhabitabilis, there and back, in one weekend.
So where’s your nearest deserted island?
4. WALK OR RUN EVERY STREET IN YOUR HOME TOWN/CITY
In other words, this is “doing a Rickey Gates”, after the endurance runner who ran every single street in San Francisco in 46 days during 2018. If that doesn’t sound adventurous to you – it was a total distance of 1,303 miles: https://gearjunkie.com/rickey-gates-every-single-street-san…
(click through to watch the amazing video)
So how big is where YOU live? Why not start finding out, like, right away?
5. (UK-SPECIFIC) VISIT THE LEAST-POPULAR O.S.-MAPPED LANDSCAPE IN BRITAIN
“Isolated in the fiercely flowing river Cassley, the tree towers above a long stretch of rocks swept by torrents of water. Salmon leap upriver in summer while golden eagles swoop overhead. It is an image of Scotland at its glorious, scenic best and would be expected to attract tourists in their droves. But in Glen Cassley, 50 miles north of Inverness, visitors are conspicuous by their absence.”
Indeed, according to the Ordnance Survey, its map of Glen Cassley is the least purchased item in the entire OS Explorer map series.
“Getting up there is only for the more hardy of us, perhaps, but it is still not clear why the map should be so unpopular,” said Nick Giles, the managing director of Ordnance Survey Consumer.”
6. (UK-SPECIFIC) CHASE THE SUN ON YOUR BIKE
The summer solstice is shortly upon us – so why not start making plans to celebrate it with a Ride To The Sun?
“Cycle 100 miles through the night on lovely quiet roads from England across the border to Scotland on the weekend nearest the summer solstice – 22nd June in 2019.”
Follow in the footsteps of the Roman legions who trudged the long road from Luguvalium (Carlisle) to the old garrison camp of Caer Amon (Cramond). Sol Invictus was the Roman God of the unconquered sun and was the Roman legionnaires guide through war and battle and it is with that spirit that we ride through the night to arrive for sunrise on Cramond beach, tired but unconquered!”
7. WALK IN A CIRCLE
It was Pi (π) Day on Thursday (14th March), celebrating the world’s most famous mathematical constant, the ratio of a perfect circle’s circumference to its diameter.
With this in mind, your timing is absolutely perfect to go on a long walk that (more or less) circles a fixed point in the landscape – a repeatable formula for weekend adventures.
Al Humphreys did this on a grand scale when he walked an entire lap of the M25 circling London, a distance of around 120 miles – and he did it in the depths of winter: https://www.alastairhumphreys.com/m25/
You could pick a nice day and do something less ambitious (but just as fun).
If you’re UK based, use this link to plot a circle on the British landscape:
…then use the map tpofind the route that takes you closest to the edge of that circle. That’s your challenge for the day.
Tag a friend. Pick a spot. Get walking!
8) COMPLETE THE DAYTIME CHALLENGE
Let’s say you’re in the UK right now, and it’s June. On Saturday, the sun will rise at around 5am, and will set again at around 9pm.
Therefore, Saturday will give you around 16 hours of daylight to enjoy.
How about spending *every single minute of them outdoors*?
That’s the challenge. You’re not allowed indoors for any reason whatsoever. (Transport is ok as long as you’re not camping out in your car or anything – but anything else with walls and a roof is a no-no.).
The deal is, you’re unbrokenly outside from sunrise to sunset – and if you have to get creative to do that, well, so be it.
The easiest way to complete it to go somewhere, start super-early (nothing like the thrill of setting off for an adventure in the dark!), and finish when you have to use a torch to see where you’re going.
Where could you go this weekend that would make it easy to do that?
Alternately, if that sounds a bit too tame for you – try the 24 Hour Challenge. Same thing,, but it’s *sunrise to sunrise*. How would you do that? Where would you go? What would you see and do?
Pull up a map. Phone a friend. Get planning.
9. VISIT THE NEAREST NATIONAL PARK YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO
Either Saturday or Sunday, we challenge you to drag your walking boots on, leap in the car (or grab a cheap bus or train ticket), and go explore a corner of a national park you’ve never visited.
Here in the UK, it’s 70 years since a 1949 Act of Parliament established our current family of national parks – 10 in England, 3 in Wales, 2 in Scotland. Specifically:
North York Moors
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Cairngorms National Park
The Guardian has some amazing photos of some of these below:
Or maybe you’re elewhere in the world. Where’s your nearest? Here’s a good place to start searching: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_parks
***BONUS LONGER-TERM EPIC ADVENTURE***
UNLEASH YOUR INNER LEGIONARY AND WALK TO ROME
If you’ve never seen a map of the Roman roads of Europe before, it’s an eye-opener. Not only does it look absolutely gorgeous, like the veins of a leaf pasted across Europe – it’s also an endless supply of fantastically challenging walking routes, reaching to the extremities of just about every neighbouring country…
(Turns out the old phrase “all roads lead to Rome” has a lot of truth to it.)
So, why not pick one and go do it?
Bike it. Or walk it. Or…something-we-haven’t-thought-of it?
(Spacehopper it? Don’t be so quick to laugh – this guy spacehoppered over the Alps a few years back: https://www.bbc.co.uk/…/chichester-man-crosses-alps-on-a-sp…)
If that’s a bit daunting, how about finding a map of the Roman roads in a particular country, and test your feet on a few of its routes, in training for the big one that will land you on the steps of the Colosseum in Rome?
Strength and honour. You’re maximus crazius and we love you for it.
Images: Unsplash; Pixabay; Rug & Rock Adventures