From cold water bathing to yoga and cliff-hiking, there are many ways to set your pulse racing on a short break by the sea this autumn.
Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR… COASTEERING
Preseli Venture, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
‘Autumn is a great time to visit Pembrokeshire as our National Park coastline is brim-full of Atlantic grey seals and amazing sea birds,’ says Alec Denny of Preseli Venture. And on a thrilling two-night coasteering weekend, you will be nose-to-nose with the marine wildlife, as you scramble through rock arches and swim into sea caves along the shore. During the two coasteering sessions, participants are kept cosy in winter wetsuits, hats and gloves. You’ll stay at the activity centre’s Eco Lodge complete with resident chef, licensed bar and views down to the sea at Abermawr. There is also time for an uplifting hike along the coastal path before you head home. A Wicked Liquid Coasteering Weekend costs £235 (01348 837709, preseliventure.co.uk).
2. FOR… SAND YACHTING
Wild Diamond Watersports, Tiree, Inner Hebrides
According to Willy MacLean of Wild Diamond, sand yachting is a wind sport you can pick up quickly – and is instantly addictive, as being so close to the ground gives a fantastic feeling of speed. ‘People love racing their family and throwing sand-spraying turns on the beaches of Tiree,’ he says. Wild Diamond also runs a campsite on the island, complete with glamping pods, and pitches for tents or camper vans. To get to Tiree, take the ferry from Oban. Sand yachting and other watersports from £30 per hour, Pod £33 per night (01879 220399, wilddiamond.co.uk).
3. FOR… COASTAL WALKING
Away A Wee Walk, Causeway Coast Way, Co. Antrim
Book a two- or three-night hiking trip with Away A Wee Walk, and discover Northern Ireland’s spellbinding Causeway Coast, which includes not only the famous Giant’s Causeway but also beautiful beaches and castle ruins. Just an hour’s drive from Belfast, the cliffs east of the Causeway, especially at Hamilton’s Seat are, says Away A Wee Walk founder Eimear Flanagan, ‘comfortably among the best cliff views available in Europe’. Priced £295 per person sharing for 3 nights; bespoke trips available (07837 703643, awayaweewalk.com).
4. FOR… SURFING
Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
This family-friendly hotel overlooks the beach, and King Surf School is based within its grounds. Weekend lessons can be booked through the hotel year-round, catering for both beginners and improvers. Enjoy a fun afternoon in the surf with your travel companions (from age six upwards), or choose a more intensive one-to-one session. After drying off, reward yourself with a trip to the hotel spa, then relax over dinner. Surf lessons cost from around £35pp. From £170 for a sea view double B&B (01637 861200, bedruthan.com).
5. FOR… SEA KAYAKING
Jersey Kayak Adventures, Jersey, Channel Islands
While sitting atop a user-friendly single or tandem kayak, with local guides from Jersey Kayak Adventures leading the way, you'll gain a new perspective on the island’s beautiful bays, such as St Brelade’s, Bouley and Bonne Nuit. Caves, sea arches and remote beaches all feature, and there’s always a chance you might see dolphins. For a weekend stay, Jersey Heritage has a range of quirky self-catering options, from £35pp pn (01534 633300, jerseyheritage.org). Sea kayak tours: adults: £42.50; children £30 (07797 853033, jerseykayakadventures.co.uk).
6. FOR… YOGA & CLIFF HIKING
Cliffs of Moher Retreat, Kinielty, Liscannor, Co. Clare
Immerse yourself in the wild scenery of Ireland’s west coast on a yoga and hiking weekend in Clare. The morning and evening yoga and meditation classes take place in a modern, glass-fronted studio overlooking the Atlantic. Stay in a newly restored farmhouse, enjoy healthy and delicious food (some of which is grown on site) and spend your free time relaxing in the sauna or hot tub, and strolling along Lahinch Beach. Prices from around €370pp all inclusive (+353 86 851 7710, cliffsofmoherretreat.com).
7. FOR… SEA SWIMMING
SwimQuest Christmas Weekend, Arisaig, Highlands
‘The colder the water, the warmer the friendship!’ says John Coningham-Rolls, co-owner of SwimQuest, which runs two exhilarating weekend swimming breaks on the west coast of Scotland in December. The guided swims take place in the sea off Arisaig and in Loch Morar. All abilities are welcome, including non-swimmers, who can explore the coast on foot instead. For warming up after, the accommodation at Traigh House provides hot baths, open fires and hearty home-cooked food. There’s also a Christmas-themed dinner with carols and a Secret Santa. 3-6 Dec or 8-11 Dec; £690pp all inclusive except travel) (020 86756608, swimquest.uk.com/scotland/).
8. FOR… STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING
The Kitesurf Centre, Camber Sands, East Sussex
Based on the three-mile expanse of beach here, The Kitesurf Centre offers easy access to the English Channel for watersports, including stand-up paddleboarding. This easy-to-learn sport lends itself well to both adrenaline-fuelled wave surfing and gentle cruising – the latter can also be done on rivers around Rye. For mixed age groups (children from age seven can join), instructors might even throw in a game of Frisbee while afloat. For chic accommodation, The Gallivant is close at hand. From £120 for a double (01797 225057, thegallivant.co.uk). SUP lessons from £49 (07563 763046, thekitesurfcentre.com).
9. FOR… CYCLING
Alnmouth to Berwick-upon-Tweed, Bikecation, Northumberland
Starting from the pretty fishing village of Alnmouth, this three-day, 50-mile ride promises mainly flat cycling along scenic Northumberland coastline, and kicks off with a briefing by one of the Bikecation team at your B&B (including maps, tips and a bike, if you’re hiring one). Highlights en route include the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, lunch at The Ship Inn at Low Newton-by-the-Sea and an unforgettable ride across the tidal causeway to Lindisfarne, where you can explore the isle’s holy sites and Tudor castle. The tour concludes in Berwick, with a walk around the ramparts. From £425 (01435 884368, bikecation.co.uk).
10. FOR… SURVIVAL SKILLS
Coastal Survivor Course, Coastal Survival School, Dorset
Master essential castaway survival skills during this two-day course on the Jurassic Coast near Bridport. Under the expert guidance of Fraser Christian, you’ll learn how to make a fire, find water and sustenance, plus ways to navigate along the seashore and signal for rescue. These are all vital skills for an emergency situation during a coastal walk or trek in the event of a stranding or injury. Spending a night in an improvised shelter, foraging for wild foods and cooking over a driftwood campfire will also help you to get more from the outdoors, says Fraser: ‘Or simply to prepare for the unexpected!’ Priced at £207pp (07702 104644, coastalsurvival.com).