Go on the wildest and most fun adventures you can over the summer holidays. Elsa Hammond, author of the Wild Guide, shares 10 of her wildest adventures, from sea kayaking and foraging, to wild swimming and discovering lost ruins
1) Gower caves and pools
Gower is an adventurer’s paradise. If it’s hot, head straight for the Blue Pool near Llangennith – a huge rock pool beneath the cliffs on a wonderfully wild beach (51.6141, -4.2986). The pool is so deep that you can jump in from the rock ledges above. In the nearby caves you might still find gold coins from an 18th century Portuguese shipwreck.
Spend the night in Paviland Cave (51.5501, -4.2552), right down on the water edge (only approachable at low tide), where the body of a 24,000-year-old Stone Age hunter was found in 1823, together with the bones of a mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger.
2) Esk Valley waterfalls and remains
The Esk Valley in the western Lake District can easily fill a weekend of wild swimming and exploring. There is a magical series of clear deep pools leading up to Scafell Pike, arriving at Tongue Pot, with high jumps and an invigorating natural jacuzzi (54.4236, -3.1907).
You can explore the waterfalls further up at Lingcove Beck; and on the way back find the ruins of Hardknott Roman Fort on the slopes (54.4028, -3.2053). There’s camping in the valley bottom by the Woolpack Inn.
3) Mull secret coves and islands
Mystical Mull has perfect white sand and coves galore, yet few people ever find them. From Fidden follow an old track through birch and willow scrub, past one of Mull’s oldest oak trees, to Tireragan (56.2729, -6.2985), an abandoned settlement with a secret beach, perfect for wild camping. Or wade out to the uninhabited island of Erraid (56.2902, -6.3744).
The granite is pink, the sand looks like white icing-sugar and the water is duck-egg blue. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson visited many times, and it was his inspiration for Treasure Island.
4) Hell Gill Canyong, Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales are filled with geological curiosities, and none more extraordinary than Hell Gill (54.3669, -2.3300), a narrow slot canyon that slices its way down the mountainside underneath a patch of dense woodland. The walls are ribbed and carved, with the strange patterns etched by swirling flood- water. As you descend, the pools become deeper and darker and the sky fades to a narrow crack above you until you are completely underground.
Deep in the bowels of the earth you must scramble down a small waterfall and cross a very deep pool (a rope has been left to aid you) until you finally emerge into blinding daylight again.
5) Dartmoor Night Walking and Ancient Forest
No visit to Dartmoor is complete without a visit to the gnarled, twisted shapes of Wistman’s Woods (50.5779, -3.9611), the most ancient fragment of Dartmoor’s once verdant forests. From here head west across the moor on the Lich Way, once used to carry bodies for burial 10 miles to the church at Lydford. You will see the cart tracks of the coffin bearers worn into the old stone road.
When you reach Coffin Wood (50.6111, -4.0637) in the early hours, you will be lulled into a deep, haunted sleep by the sound of a babbling brook.
6) New Forest riding and tree climbing
The New Forest is an ideal setting for an adventure on horseback. Surrounded by the 3,000 wild New Forest ponies, set out for a hack across the heathland and through woodland, as people have done for centuries.
Go for a tasty lunch at The Oak Inn*, a horse-friendly pub where your horse will be as well looked after as you are. Later on, trek out to the magnificent pollarded oaks of the Sloden Inclosure and climb up among the massive branches for views across the heathland (50.9117, -1.7018).
* The Oak Inn, Pinkney Lane, Bank, SO43 7FD, 023 8028 2350.
7) Secrets of a Roman road, West Sussex.
In the heart of West Sussex there’s a magical tunnel of trees that runs along a section of the ancient Roman Road, Stane Street (50.8788, -0.6935). Explore the tunnel and then climb up to the spectacular Halnaker Windmill, high on a wildflower ridge. Listen for skylarks as you gaze out towards the Isle of Wight. Just a couple of miles north east, Stane Street runs through the 3,500-acre Slindon Estate, dotted with ancient Bronze Age burial sites, and home to Gumber Farm*, a fantastically remote National Trust campsite.
A two-mile hike from the nearest car park, and signposted off the South Downs Way; this wild pitch by a bothy surrounded by sheep is perfect for stargazing.
* Gumber Farm, Slindon, BN18 0RG, 01243 814484, nationaltrust.org.uk.
8) North Chilterns Wild High
The chalky North Chilterns is a land of hillforts and exposed lookouts poking up above ancient woodland valleys. Ivinghoe Beacon is the end-point of The Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest trackway and now a National Trail (51.8416, -0.6068). Arrive at Ivinghoe Beacon as herdsmen and travellers have done for hundreds of years, on foot and exhausted after the long trek.
Take a picnic and spend the day on the summit, flying kites and playing frisbee, or climb up in the evening to bivvy out beneath the stars.
9) Ancient woodland and abandoned sea forts.
Arrive at the north Kent coast by bicycle from Canterbury along the Crab and Winkle way, which runs through England’s largest ancient broadleaved woodland. Get that first glimpse of the sea from the highest point of the path, and then whizz down to the Whitstable coast.
Head out to sea on a 120-year-old sailing barge to explore the huge steel Second World War Maunsell Forts*, which tower above the waves eight miles from land. Afterwards, see in the evening at the traditional Old Neptune pub** on the beach.
* Maunsell Forts boat trips: 07711 657919
** The Old Neptune, Island Wall, Marine Terrace, Whitstable, CT5 1EJ, 01227 272262, neppy.co.uk
10) Sea kataking at the edge of Essex
The wild, muddy, intertidal Essex coast has changed little in the eighty years since Arthur Ransome sent the Swallows and Amazons there on a summer adventure in Secret Water. This strange world is continually growing and shrinking again as the tides rise and fall, and is best explored by kayak or canoe. It’s also possible to walk across from Walton-on-the-Naze at low tide, but plan carefully as the waters rush in fast here. There’s also an eight-storey folly tower with views for up to 30 miles.
Stone Point, the “savages’ camp” from the book, is just the place to bivvy out on the beach after all your exploring (51.8829, 1.2635).
Make sure you’re prepared: Check our Gear section and suit up.