Outdoor experience days you can get to by train

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Fi Darby

2 Apr 202410 min read

From zip wires to white water, outdoor experience days are fantastic fun and can often lead to new hobbies. But is it possible to enjoy an outdoor experience day without a car? We think so, in fact we think arriving by train adds to the sense of adventure.

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Adventure travel isn’t just something you do when you travel overseas. Here in the UK, we have the ingredients for amazing outdoor experiences without the need for a passport. Did you know, for example, that you can go gorge scrambling in Devon, bungee jumping in Glasgow or white water rafting in under an hour from London? That’s right! All that fun, without even leaving the UK.

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And the news gets better and better.

If you don’t have a car or want to take a sustainable transport option, all the activities above and more, are within walking distance of a train station. And let’s face it, your day’s going to be exciting enough, without the extra challenge of traffic queues or parking hassles. The UK’s train lines can take you to some amazing countryside locations but you’ll also find a surprising number of outdoor experience opportunities in or just outside our towns and cities.

Whether you’re planning a family day out, fancy an unusual hen or stag party or just want to learn a new outdoor skill, we have all you need to know about outdoor adventurous activities in the UK and how to reach them by train.

It’s time to turn your trip into a car-free adventure. 


Outdoor adventure FAQs

When you know something, you know it. But when you don’t, some of the language can be confusing. To help you understand more about the UK’s outdoor adventure possibilities, we’ve answered below some of the most frequently asked outdoor activity questions. Even better than that, to help you adventure car free, we’ve given you some tips on how you can get to each activity by train.

Are you ready?

 1.    What is coasteering?

 You’ve guessed right, coasteering involves the coastline but its unique combination of land and water makes it an adventure that has something for everybody, even if you’re not a super confident swimmer. Your centre will provide you with a wetsuit and PDF (personal flotation device) to go coasteering because you’re going to spend some of the time in the water, but you’ll also need a helmet, trainers and shorts to protect the wetsuit, because you’re going to be rock scrambling as well. 

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Lots of coasteering pictures show people jumping off rocks into the water but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s also a lovely way to appreciate the coastal environment, and your instructor won’t put pressure on you to do anything you don't feel confident about. 

The best thing about coasteering? With tides, waves and weather, it’s always a new experience.

Try a coasteering experience by train 

Newquay Activity Centre in Cornwall offer coasteering adventures that take you through smugglers’ caves and give you a taste of natural whirlpools. They’ll even take you coasteering at night and have a dog sitter available if you’re on holiday with your four-legged friend.

Coasteering Centre: Newquay Activity Centre

Nearest train station: Newquay station (NQY)

Walking time from station: 16 minutes

Also on offer: Surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, bodyboarding, super SUP 

2.    What is gorge scrambling?

Gorge scrambling is also known as gorge walking or, in the north of England, ghyll scrambling. It’s like coasteering but takes place in a river. Imagine making your way up a rocky river, climbing waterfalls, swimming in pools and playing games on the way. You’re going to get wet, and you will need to climb but you won’t have to do big jumps if you don’t want to.

The best thing about gorge scrambling? You’re going to see rivers in a whole new light. 

Try gorge scrambling by train

Adventure Okehampton couldn’t be closer to the train station if they tried. Take an exciting ascent of a Dartmoor river, enjoying plunge pools and waterfall scrambles as you go. You’ll love your train ride on the Dartmoor Line from Exeter, and if you don’t want to go home straight away, why not stay the night at YHA Okehampton, which is also right next to the train station.

Adventure centre: Adventure Okehampton

Nearest train station: Okehampton station (OKE)

Walking time from station: 1 minute

Also on offer: Archery, paddle sports, climbing, bushcraft, mountain biking, pony trekking 

3.    What is the difference between canoeing and kayaking?

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When you think of a canoe, what does it look like? Something you might see on a Canadian lake? With no cover over the top? And seats? That’s a good description of a canoe but the difference between a canoe and a kayak isn’t quite that simple because is not all about the boat and how closed in it is. When you’re canoeing, you use a paddle with a blade at one end, and when you’re kayaking, your paddle has blades at both ends.

The best thing about canoeing and kayaking? Getting away from the crowds.

Try sea kayaking by train

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The West Highland Line is a train journey on many people’s bucket list. Travel from Glasgow past mountains, glens and lochs then arrive in bustling Oban to find your west coast sea kayaking adventure. Sea Kayak Oban run kayaking trips for beginners and those with a bit more experience, as well as multi day camping expeditions.

Adventure centre: Sea Kayak Oban

Nearest train station: Oban station (OBN)

Walking time from station: 4 minutes

Also on offer: Sea kayak courses, British Canoeing qualifications, sea kayak expeditions 

4.    What is white water rafting? 

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White water is an exciting place to be. Bouncy and seemingly unpredictable because of the rocks and bends of the river, it can take you unawares if you don’t understand how it flows. Luckily, on an instructor led white water session, your guide will take control of the steering. But this won’t be a gentle cruise, you and your companions will have your own paddles and will need to be ready to follow instructions, and occasionally fall in. 

The best thing about white water rafting? Getting absolutely soaked. 

Try white water rafting by train

You usually find white water on fast-flowing river sections, but the Lee Valley White Water Centre is home to a man-made course that was built for the London 2012 Olympics. The centre provides all the thrills and spills of a natural watercourse and is easy to get to, just under an hour from the centre of London.

Adventure centre: Lee Valley White Water Centre

Nearest train station: Waltham Cross station (WLC)

Walking time from station: 25 minutes

Also on offer: Paddleboarding, kayaking, hydrospeeding, outdoor swimming

5.    What is mountain biking?

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 If you love cycling and you love the countryside, mountain biking might be for you. It’s a relatively technical sport that requires balance and speed as well as the nerve to tackle sometimes tricky terrain. There are different types of mountain biking, but most mountain bike parks have trails to suit all abilities. If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to get some input from an instructor. Travelling on the train with your bike is possible but it is easier in some parts of the country than others. Luckily, many mountain bike trail centres also have bike hire. 

The best thing about mountain biking? That first class cardio workout.

Try mountain biking by train

In Your Element offer mountain bike hire from Rothiemurchus (bus from Aviemore) as well as group mountain bike sessions tailored to suit the ability and requirements of your group. Whether you choose a slower pace to take in the amazing Cairngorms scenery or go for one of the exhilarating technical routes available, is up to you. Under expert instruction, you’re likely to come away with a renewed confidence in your mtb abilities.

Adventure centre: In Your Element, Aviemore

Nearest train station: Aviemore station (AVM)

Walking time from station: 22 minutes

Also on offer: Archery, gorge walking, canoeing, SUP, TreeZone

6.    What does SUP stand for?

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SUP stands for stand up paddleboard. Standing on a specially shaped board, you guide yourself through the water using a long single-bladed paddle, but you might need a bit of practice before you lose the wobbles and experience that gliding motion everyone else seems to find so easy. One of the great things about SUP is that it can be done on almost any flat body of water. This has made it as popular inland as it is on the coast, and easy to access by train. 

The best thing about SUP? I’m not sure, I always fall off!

Try stand up paddleboarding by train 

Discover a new side of Derbyshire as you glide down the beautiful Cromford Canal. Managed for wildlife as well as recreation, this canal is the perfect place to learn new skills in a tranquil and safe setting. You’ll be led by expert guides and see the world from a different perspective as you travel.

 Adventure centre: Rapid Horizons Outdoor Adventure

Nearest train station: Matlock station (MAT) or Matlock Bath station (MTB)

Walking time from station: Pick up available from either station

Also on offer: Canoeing, kayaking, river tubing, white water rafting, climbing 

7.    Can I go bungee jumping in the UK?

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Although bungee jumping is most famously associated with Queenstown in New Zealand, it’s surprisingly popular here in the UK. These sorts of heights aren’t for everyone but if you do fancy being strapped to the ankles by an elastic cord before jumping from an impossibly elevated platform, what better way to get there than by train.

The best thing about bungee jumping? Looking down is kind of compulsory.

Try bungee jumping by train

If you find yourself at the top of this 160 ft crane, take the time to enjoy the 360° views of Glasgow before you take the plunge. You won’t be the highest person in Scotland, but you might be the most nervous. This one’s so close to the station, you could well hear the screams as you get off the train.

Adventure centre: Jump This

Nearest train station: Partick station (PTK)

Walking time from station: 10 minutes

Also on offer: Tandem bungee jumps

8.    Which is the easiest rock-climbing grade?

Rock Climbing
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In the UK we use two different grading systems for climbs, the French Grading system for indoor walls or sport climbing, where a route will already be bolted, and the Trad Grades for traditional outdoor rock climbing where you place your own protective gear as you climb.

 A traditional climbing grade is given in two parts. The adjectival grade gives the overall difficulty of the climbing route; the easiest of these would be M for Moderate but they go all the way up to E for Extreme Severe. The second part of the Trad Grade is the technical grade, which rates the hardest move on that route; climbs requiring ropes usually start at a technical grade of 4a. When you start out climbing, your instructor will be able to tell you which grade will be best suited to your ability. 

Try rock climbing by train

There are plenty of indoor climbing walls in our towns and cities, and most of them are easy to get to by train but climbing outside on real rock is a different experience to indoor climbing. For a start there’s the weather to consider and rocks are harder on your hands than plastic. Even if you have climbed indoors, it’s safest to have your first outdoor climbing experiences with an instructor. And the Peak District is a great place to start, especially as it has some rather convenient train stations.

Adventure centre: Pure Outdoor

Nearest train station: Hope station (HOP)

Walking time from station: 39 minutes

Also on offer: Indoor climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, caving 

Adventure with the experts 

Outdoor adventure experiences are exciting because they all carry some element of risk. Which means it makes far more sense to get your first experiences with the guidance of a qualified outdoor instructor.

When you book your outdoor experience day, don’t be afraid to ask the centre about their instructor qualifications and experience. A good centre will be more than happy to answer your questions, and an experienced instructor won’t just keep you safe, they’ll make all the difference to how much you enjoy your adventure.

Have fun!


Tips for Your Train Adventure:

  • Consider purchasing a Railcard for discounted fares, especially if you plan on making multiple train journeys. 
  • Book your tickets in advance, especially for popular routes and peak travel times.
  • Pack light and wear comfortable clothing for your train journey.
  • Download train timetables and ticketing apps for a smoother travel experience.

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