10 challenging UK outdoor adventures for children and teenagers

10 challenging UK outdoor adventures for children and teenagers

hallenging yourself on an outdoor adventure and overcoming fears, be they of heights, injury or humiliation, is an important rite of passage for older children and teenagers, and a great way to boost self-confidence and resilience. And with many school activity trips cancelled for the second year running, here are some ideas for parents looking to plug that gap off their own back. The kind of transformative experiences kids can only have when they get out into the elements and leave their bedrooms and comfort zones behind.

Hiking up Helvellyn in the Lake District

At 950m, Helvellyn is one of the highest mountains in the Lake District, and one of the most exhilarating to hike up. It has a mythic status among the hillwalking community thanks to its dramatic scenery, rocky terrain and narrow glaciated edges including Striding Edge, a thrilling ridge walk, which is sure to focus and excite young minds. You don’t need specialist equipment beyond hiking boots to climb Helvellyn, but unless you’re an experienced local, you shouldn’t take children up here without a guide, as the weather can change quickly, and some sections of the route are exposed. Everyone in the group needs to be comfortable walking for six hours, but if you want to build up to this level or avoid the ridge walk, Ambleside Adventure suggest Skiddaw, the fourth-highest mountain in the Lakes as an excellent alternative challenge.

Bikepacking the Elan Valley

This remote bikepacking trip around the picturesque Elan Valley and Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales is the ultimate way to nurture a sense of adventure in teenage cyclists, while also encouraging self-sufficiency, as you’ll set out carrying everything you need for the two-day trip. Roam will provide you with lightweight camping kit and gravel bikes, which are essentially road bikes with chunkier tyres and lower gears, allowing you to ride on all range of non-tarmac surfaces, and into truly wild areas that would have been previously inaccessible to cyclists. This trip is self-guided using pre-loaded GPS devices, but Roam are on hand for assistance if you need. And while the distances aren’t huge for regular cyclists, averaging 28 miles per day, they include some gradual climbs, and riders should be happy spending 3-5 hours in the saddle each day.

Paddleboarding on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire

Once your teenagers have mastered the basics of paddleboarding and are looking for a more exciting experience than simply pootling around a gentle lake, this tour of the majestic, fast-flowing River Dee is a great option. Depending on the standard of the group and the seasonal conditions, Stonehaven Paddle Boarding can tailor the tour to include negotiating hardcore sections of the river, involving rapids of varying difficulties. Kids will learn advanced paddling techniques, how to read different river and weather conditions and safety skills in the water. They can also organise more relaxed paddles along the river, though first-timers must still complete a beginner lesson first or have prior experience of standup paddling.

Via ferrata in North Yorkshire

The How Stean gorge in the Yorkshire Dales boasts one of the only via ferrata routes in the UK, that is climbing while clipped in to a permanent safety wire. The challenge for kids is to silence any rumblings of vertigo and scale the cliffs of the gorge using the aerial network of metal beams, ladders and cables set into the rocks, while the river churns below. A buddy system encourages them to work together with a fellow adventurer. At the mid-point, they’ll need to brave an abseil off the bridge, which takes them back down to the high-wire course, which they’ll then do in reverse. For speedy climbers, there is also the option of an extra top rope climbing session at the end.

Sea kayaking and wild camping in south Devon

Teenagers don’t need any previous experience of kayaking to come on this overnight wild camping trip with Reach Outdoors, but they do need a decent level of fitness and upbeat approach to adventure, which includes being prepared for a lack of home comforts and unpredictable British weather. The rewards more than make up for it, as you’ll get the chance to see south Devon’s stunning coastline from an entirely fresh perspective, exploring sea caves and spotting wildlife, including seals and potentially porpoise and dolphin. At night, you’ll pitch up at a secluded camp and enjoy a nourishing meal cooked on an open fire, before a gentle paddle back to base the next day.

Caving adventure in Dartmoor


Andy Halliday

Andy is a camping expert with over 20 years of outdoor experience. He shares his expertise through his blog that features on his very own e-commerce camping gear store. He aspires to use his knowledge and experience to help disabled families get the most out of every trip they take.

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