In one of our previous issues, we’ve put together a selection of adrenaline-soaked extravaganzas that are best enjoyed with pals. The summer is yours!
Words by Annabelle Woollcott
Surfing in Portugal
The Lagos coastline has the best year-round surf in Europe and it’s usually on the warm side. If you still need convincing how about miles of sandy, surf-able beaches, hidden coves, and rocky caves? All this spreads out before the Marina town of Lagos, a funky little place that’s full of world travellers and surf seekers. Plus Nelson parked his boats here during the Napoleonic Wars so if it’s good enough for Horatio then it’s good enough for us.
Oh, and the food is phenomenal. If you want a good feed after a hard day’s riding then you’re in the right place. The many fabulous and affordable restaurants serve up the freshest fare. Or maybe you’d just prefer to relax with a cocktail? In case you hadn’t noticed Lagos does a pretty good impression of heaven.
Whether you’re starting out or already ripping, this is definitely the place to hone your skills, as there’s plenty that’ll test you around the Lagos coastline.
“When the surf used to be not so good we’d go dam jumping,” says Toby who runs The Surf Experience. “Now it’s a total request and part of the week.” The Surf Experience also offer horse riding, biking, wakeboarding and kitesurfing if you can tear yourself away from the sets.
Lagos is a rock n roll town. There’s usually live music and wicked DJs are often imported from our fair Isle. If you’re looking for a quiet one, there are numerous coffee shops or if you fancy yourself as a bit of a vinho (that’s Portuguese for wine) buff, visit one of the many wineries.
A week-long surf trip with The Surf Experience, which includes accommodation, breakfast, lunch, transport to the best breaks, tuition and, er, love (their words not ours!) starts from £269. Competent riders should visit September to April, while the summer months are better for beginners. Easyjet fly to Faro from Luton, Gatwick and Stansted from as little as £40 rtn, Bmibaby.com fly from Cardiff and Birmingham and flybe.com go from Southampton and Exeter. All three carriers will transport your stick for a supplement (usually £20).
Mountain biking in Tuscany
Some people may warn you that the views in Tuscany can wind you with their beauty, but that still won’t prepare you for the fact that the views in Tuscany will wind you with their beauty. You don’t arrive at the top of a Dolomite after a first gear slog and still have breath left, unless you have the lungs of a whale. But if you do, the sheer gorgeousness of the Italian countryside will rob you of the rest.
Or you’ll lose it whooping for joy as you career down the awesome downhills. Away from the asphalt, there are ample trails to keep even the mostadventurous cyclist occupied, and whether you’re into road or you’re all about the mountain, Tuscany will provide. “Tuscany is top of the list for a mountain biking trip with the girls,” says Specialized brand developer Rachael Lambert. “It combines the best of travel, culture and adventure.”
A mishmash of international mountain and road riders at every level. Expect well-heeled Americans, stylish Europeans and the odd crazy Brit crew.
Plan your trip between Florence, Sienna or Piza for historic cities and sites. In the summer try climbing, BASE jumping or a spot of paragliding should the mood take you. Or chill out in the port town, Livorno, where little rockycoves provide perfect sun traps.
Florence has a kicking aprèssunset scene. Take your heels and head to the bohemian Oltrarno quarter, south of the river. Saddle sore? Make the most of Tuscany’s naturally occurring thermal waters. Splash out at the five star Adler Thermae Spa in Bagno Vignoni.
A two night, self-guided cycle tour starts at £80pp with activitybreaks.com. Aim to go in spring or autumn for the best climate for cycling. Meridiana fly from Gatwick to Florence from around £181 rtn. They’ll transport bikes (boxed) for a £24 supplement each way. Easyjet fly from Luton to Pisa from £100 rtn. They also transport boxed bikes (excess weight charges may apply). Check out Specialized’s Designs For Women range, bikes start at £299.
Kitesurfing in Sardinia
Sardinia has the most consistent winds in Europe, particularly around the Porto Pollo area. It’s a perfect starting point for the inexperienced and won’t disappoint the pros either. It’s thought to be Italy’s breeziest spot, where winds can reach Beaufort 8 plus, which for those of us whose minds went AWOL during school geography is pretty impressive, as the scale stops at 12. Fortunately the bay offers enough shelter to ensure safe as well as awesome conditions. “When you get it, you feel like you’re flying,” says 31 yearold Londoner Lisa Day. “It’s extremely exhilarating, but at the same time gentle and smooth. At the end of the day it puts the biggest smile on your face.” If it doesn’t, then tipping off the beach straight into one of the beach bars for a well-earned cocktail (or eight) certainly will.
Seasoned and wannabe kite surfers flock to Sardinia year round. The place is literally teaming with thrill seekers and beach lovers from all over Europe.
Wakeboarding, sailing, windsurfing, diving, swimming, the list goes on and on… Sardinia is stunning and even the most hard-hearted urbanite will get a buzz from the scenery. Most tour companies offer alternative adrenaline hits if the wind conditions are less than perfect.
The closest town, Palau, is laid back, delivering bliss after a hard day in the harness. The sports centre at the beach has a cool little beach bar that serves free tapas every night as the sun goes down. There are also regular beach parties with a thoroughly chilled out vibe.
A seven night, fully-catered kitesurfing package starts from £275, inclusive of transport, breakfast, dinner, equipment and tuition with freshtraxxx.com. Beginners are best visiting over the summer months. Easyjet fly from Gatwick and Bristol to Olbia, Sardinia (40 minutes from Porto Pollo) from as little £58 rtn. Meridiana also fly from Gatwick but can be slightly pricier at £176 rtn. While Easyjet carry your equipment free of charge providing the weight does not exceed 32kg, Meridiana apply a £51 surcharge each way. If you’re looking to get your own gear check out powerkiteshop.com and airjamexpress.co.uk who offer free UK delivery.
Canyoning in Perthshire
Go canyoning in Perthshire and you’ll be plunging, scrambling, sliding and swimming through an achingly beautiful 350ft gorge (so called because of its sheer ‘gorgeousness’, one presumes). There’s little else that feels more gut-wrenchingly thrilling than throwing yourself into swirling white water from the top of a 20ft cliff, apart from maybe slipping over the precipice of a naturally smooth stone slide and being pounded under a waterfall. That and more await on a canyoning trip with Scottish outdoor adventure centre Nae Limits.
“It’s the most exhilarating natural high,” says 21 year-old Claire Pinder. “In two layers of neoprene you don’t think much about the cold, it’s all such a mental rush. Nothing beats it.” Best of all, as Kirstin Reeve, from Nae Limits, puts it, “Scotland is available to adrenaline junkies all year round, it just depends how you like it served.”
Outdoor-loving thrill seekers. Scotland’s a surprising Mecca for easy-on-the-eye adrenaline junkies and laid back adventure sports types from all over the world.
If casting yourself into the deep seems too extreme, try mountainbiking through woodland, check out a Highlands safari or go kayaking on Loch Tay. Grabbing a picnic in the village of Kenmore before paddling over to Priory Island for lunch among monastery ruins is one of the coolest ways to spend an afternoon.
Basing yourself in either Glasgow or Edinburgh means you have great access to all the outdoor fun and are right on the doorstep for awesome nightlife. Check out Nice ’N’ Sleazy’s in Glasgow, and in Edinburgh visit The Egg on Saturdays at The Wee Red Bar.
Adrenaline activity prices start at £50 with Nae Limits. Equipment is provided but if you want your own check outdoorgb.com and needle sports.com. Hostels start at £20 a night, see visitscotland.com. Flights to Scotland’s major cities go from most London Airports. Ryanair fly from Stansted to Glasgow and can offer fares for stupid prices like £3.49 if you book early. If your carbon footprint is looking a little hefty get the train. Check out Scot Rail for the London to Edinburgh sleeper service from £116 rtn.