Some people hear “upscale” and think it could not apply to family trips because, you know, kids.  And anything outdoor couldn’t be plush, right?  Not so.  There are plenty of family getaways wherein you can thoroughly enjoy the outdoors without having to give up comfort and luxury.  Something like glamping, but better.  

But what makes an outdoor family trip upscale?  Think value, indulgence, location, and the thing that matters most, quality time together. Whether it’s riding enormous waves, hiking the countryside, or going on a road trip, here is a list of outdoor escapades in the UK that you and your family will always cherish.

View of Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount island in Cornwall at sunset

Cornwall

What makes Cornwall an upscale outdoor destination? It is the undeniable natural beauty of its landscape, windswept moorlands, cobalt blue seas, honey-hued dunes, limestone cliffs.  Although the county has been in the limelight (Ladies in Lavender, Poldark, Doc Martin, remember?), it remains shrouded in tradition and a sense of detachment.  After all, old farmhouses in Cornwall hide posh apartments, and cottages of fisherfolks conceal distinguished restaurants that whip up excellent food. 

Hike the unspoiled trails of the Lizard Peninsula, visit the real-life secret garden at Lost Gardens of Heligan, explore a rainforest at the Eden Project, watch a show at the open-air Minack Theatre.  Cornwall has some of the most sumptuous food in the UK, and we are not talking exclusively about seafood.  When you are in the country, get your fill of the award-winning Padstow’s fish and chips, Cornish pasties, and clotted ice cream.

And because Cornwall is the surfing capital of the UK, don’t leave without experiencing the sport.  Lessons are available on almost every beach for amateurs and beginners.  If you merely want to see the action, head to Fistral beach, where every big surfing event happens.

Loch Lomond, Scotland - March 17, 2018: Tour boat on Loch Lomond near Tarbet, Scotland, in spring. The lake is a part of The Trossachs National Park and is the largest inland body of water in UK.

The Highlands

If Cornwall is the surfing hub of the UK, the Scottish Highlands is its outdoor capital.  Uncompromisingly wild and beautiful beyond words, the Highlands are made for exploration and heart-pumping, rip-roaring adventures.  The diverse and shifting landscape of Scotland is perfect for a road trip. Whether you spend a week touring the country or camp over the weekend in the wildland, staying in a luxury motorhome guarantees comfort and ease of travel. 

The breathtaking Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is an excellent place to set up base.  You can go on scenic hikes along the 153-km shoreline or get on a cruise to explore the numerous small islands scattered on the loch.  Head north to Duncansby Head to marvel at its iconic sea stacks.  Discover the stone bridges and waterfalls in Cairngorms National Park or climb Morrone for a sweeping view of the surrounding mountains, forests, and glens.

For something more challenging, scale Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.  Immerse yourself in the myth, mystery, and beauty of Glencoe, Scotland’s most scenic and renowned glen.  Wander around Eilean Donan Castle, look for Nessie in Loch Ness, then cross to the Isle of Skye for an incredibly stunning panorama.

A glorious winter view of The Needles on the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight

What does Alice in Wonderland have in common with Jimi Hendrix and doughnuts with dinosaurs? They are all part of the culture, quirk, and history that make the Isle of Wight a fascinating vacation hotspot in the UK. The isle was a favorite holiday and wellness resort in the Victorian era, welcoming prominent visitors such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Charles Dickens. Writer Lewis Carroll based the protagonist of his masterpiece, Alice, on Alice Liddell, whom he met on the aisle.

From bathing machines in Ventnor and dinosaur footprints in Compton Bay to rockpools in Bembridge and colorful yachts in Cowes – the Isle of Wight’s beaches are stunning. However, there is so much you can do aside from beachcombing, sunbathing, and swimming.  

At the Needles Landmark, ride the famous chairlift to see the chalk cliffs half-submerged in the sea. Meet the animals at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary, travel to the Jurassic period at Dinosaur Isle, enjoy the free-fall slides at the Aqua Park, bounce across the sky nets in Sandham Gardens, and meander through the ancient oak woodland trail at Borthwood Copse.  For history buffs, go to Carisbrooke Castle, Quarr Abbey, Osborne Bay, and Dimbola Museum and Galleries, where you will find a life-size bronze statue of rock legend Jimi Hendrix. Don’t leave without sampling the decadent Isle of Wight doughnuts. 

Stepping Stones across the River Hodder in the Forest of Bowland near Clitheroe Lancashire.

Lancashire

The charming county of Lancashire is home to two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the mystical Pendle Hill and the enchanting Forest of Bowland. Both locations are breathtakingly stunning and perfect for walking, cycling, and other outdoor activities.

Isolated and untamed, Pendle Hill is best known for its connection to the infamous witch trials of 1612.  You can delve into the region’s past by joining a Lancashire Witches Walk, wherein you will discover sleepy towns, rustic farms, and old ruins amidst a backdrop of forests, valleys, and gushing rivers.  Have a picnic at Crook O’Lune, cross the stone steps over River Hodder in Whitewall, look for wildlife at the Beacon Fell Country Park, spend a serene afternoon at Williamson Park.

If it’s beaches you want, go to Morecambe Bay for its splendid sunsets and wildlife, or head to Blackpool for its old-school amusement park, where you find Britain’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster.  After a long day of adventure outdoors, you would want to rest in comfort.  Good thing there is a plethora of luxury and country Lancashire hotels that you can go home to during your vacation.  Be sure to stay in one.

Castle of the Winds, Castell y Gwynt, the famous summit on the Glyders ridge, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales, UK.

Snowdonia

From rugged mountains to vast coastline, with lush forests, deep valleys, lovely lakes, and rolling meadows in between, Snowdonia has among the most impressive landscapes in Britain. You will never run out of exciting outdoor activities to do in Snowdonia. There is cycling, mountain climbing, nature hiking, horse riding, caving, bird watching, and watersports. There are also family parks, thrilling zip lines, ancient castles, and natural wonders to explore.

Start your excursion at the Snowdonia National Park, with its spectacular mountain scenery, enthralling beaches, ancient Roman ruins, prehistoric circles, and picturesque villages. Traverse through the mountainous region onboard a train on the century-old Snowdon Mountain Railway. Descend into the network of tunnels in Llechwedd Deep Mine, or admire the stalactite and stalagmite formations at Sygun Copper Mine. Spot rare birds at the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife or fish for wild trout and char at Llyn Cwellyn. 

If you like water adventures, go kayaking on the white rapids of Tryweryn River, canoeing on Bala Lake, or wakeboarding in Abersoch. For avid beach explorers, visit Porthdinllaen for its long stretch of white sand, Porth O’er for its cliffs and lush surroundings, and Harlech Beach for its grassy dunes and sweeping views of the Snowdonia peaks.