From standup paddleboarding to abseiling: seven of the best outdoor adventures to enjoy this summer

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Test your cycling legs on Box Hill
Dust off your walking boots and cycling shorts and spend a day riding up Box Hill. The nearest station to Box Hill (Box Hill & Westhumble) is less than an hour away from London Victoria and is easily accessible by Southern railway. Box Hill is one of Britain’s most iconic climbs and a firm favourite among seasoned roadies. If you want to test your cycling legs, follow part of the 2012 Olympic road race route and climb to the summit. The breathtaking views of Dorking and the surrounding countryside are absolutely worth the effort. Not only will you find stunning vistas at the top, much needed and delicious refreshments await you too. Grab a bite to eat and drink at legendary Box Hill Café before rolling back down the hill and taking in yet more picturesque scenes.

Cyclist taking a break and admiring beautiful Surrey Hills

An alfresco pint in a historic quarter
Nestled on the banks of the River Thames, Greenwich is less than 10 minutes away from London Bridge – on Thameslink – so it’s super-easy to discover its rich history, culture and activities on a day out. Escape the madness of summer in the city and enjoy the wide-open space Greenwich Park has to offer. At 74 hectares (183 acres), this royal park is one of the biggest in south-east London, with a stunning mix of 17th-century landscape and amazing views of London’s skyline. Take a wander through the horticultural delights of the Flower Garden, and then head to the top of the hill for lunch at the family-friendly Pavilion Café. Explore historical stories from the seas and the sky at Greenwich’s Royal museums, the National Maritime, Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark, one of Greenwich’s most famous attractions (and the only remaining tea clipper in the world). After taking in all the amazing information from sightseeing, Greenwich has some wonderful restaurants, bars and pubs where you can sit outside and soak in the atmosphere. Be sure to check out Trafalgar Tavern – a Victorian riverside pub on the Thames with a cobbled outdoor drinking area.

The National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House and Royal Observatory, with daffodils.
Picnics at Greenwich Park with scenic views of Canary Wharf
Cutty Sark from below

Row your boat with man’s best friend
The opportunity for you to escape the hustle of London and explore the historic town of Arundel is less than a 90-minute train ride away. Be the captain of your ship (well, almost) for the day with boat hire from Riverside South Downs. Choose from six- to 10-person boats (small dogs are welcome on board, too!) and explore the tranquillity of the River Arun at your leisure. If going it alone isn’t for you, take a guided tour around Arundel’s wetland meadows on a river safari trip, where you can learn about the wildlife and why the meadows are such an important habitat. Arundel Wetland Centre features an abundance of nature, including the stunning Pelican Cove – see if you can spot the rare Dalmatian pelicans who inhabit it. Fancy being more adventurous in the water? Have a go at standup paddleboarding with TJ Board Hire. You can book beginner, group and family sessions, and it’s a great way to get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and explore the waterways.

Young woman paddleboarding on the river.
A group of mallard ducklings together at WWT Arundel.
A group of visitors on the Boat Safari at WWT Arundel.

Abseil to a perfect Pompey vista
When you think of Portsmouth, what springs to mind might well be naval dockyards, maritime heritage and HMS Victory. But the UK’s only island city, known as “Pompey” to the locals, is also a destination for thrill seeking. If you have a head for heights, experience the adrenaline rush of abseiling 100 metres down the side of Portsmouth’s iconic landmark, the Spinnaker Tower, just a 20-minute walk from Portsmouth and Southsea station. While up there (and coming down) you’ll be treated to the incredible 360-degree view of Portsmouth harbour, the Solent and the Isle of Wight. If you prefer to enjoy a more relaxed viewing experience at the tower, you can. Treat yourself to High Tea in the Clouds – a traditional afternoon tea at the Clouds cafe, 105 metres above the ground. And raise a cup to the fabulous vista.

Man abseiling on the Spinnaker Tower
Portsmouth skyline with the Spinnaker Tower.

A Brighton day-tour on two wheels
Best known for its Palace Pier, independent boutiques in The Lanes, and beautiful beach, Brighton is one of the UK’s top seaside destinations. But did you know it’s also a fantastic place for a leisurely bicycle-themed day trip? Thanks to its excellent transport links, getting to Brighton is easy. Once you’re there, the city is your cycling oyster. A pedal-powered adventure is a great way to see this coastal metropolis, and with its city-wide BTN BikeShare scheme, it’s easy and cheap to hire a bike for the day. Brighton has a variety of cycle paths available for bike lovers of all abilities, including the Undercliff Walk. This gentle route, nestled under the stunning white chalk cliffs, starts at Brighton Marina, passing through Roedean and Rottingdean, before finishing at the village of Saltdean.

Brighton Pier with seagull flying over.
People walking and cycling along the undercliff path that runs from Brighton to Saltdean.
Two fish and chips on the beach on a pebbled beach in Brighton, with the West Pier in the distance.

Take a punt on Cambridge
When you think of Cambridge, its university and annual Boat Race are most likely the first things that spring to mind. Although famous for these, this picturesque city has many hidden gems to discover too. A quintessential part of Cambridge life since the 1900s, punting is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. You can’t visit and not take a punt at gently propelling yourself down the River Cam, which is only a 20-minute walk from Cambridge station. If you’re not confident at steering one yourself, Cambridge River Tours has experienced punt chauffeurs who do all the hard work for you while you sit back and relax. If outdoor swimming is your thing, you’re in for a treat. Farther down the River Cam is Grantchester Meadows, which was named one of the top wild swimming locations in the UK. You can bathe alfresco in this idyllic setting, and with a range of swimming spots along the stretch of river between Cambridge and the village of Grantchester, there are plenty to choose from. Back on dry land, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is an oasis in the heart of Cambridge. You’ll find a plethora of plant species (more than 8,000) from all over the world displayed across 40 exquisite acres of landscaped greenery where you can lose yourself blissfully.

Cambridge summer punting.
Man wild swimming in river.
Botanical garden in Cambridge.

Find peace in Peterborough
Did you know that Peterborough has some stunning park life? Direct trains from St Pancras will whisk you to Peterborough, where you can roam the idyllic Nene Park. This large area of parkland is located to the west of Peterborough and is the region’s favourite place to experience the outdoors. It comprises six different meadowlands and stretches for six miles along the beautiful valley of the river Nene, with its rich diversity of wildlife species. The area is steeped in history with archaeological finds that stretch back to Roman times. Allow yourself to disconnect from the hustle and reconnect with nature in this peaceful, green space.

Nene Park
A lake and playground facilities at Ferry Meadows Country Park, in Nene Park.
Milton Ferry Bridge at Ferry Meadows, Nene Park.

Book direct at southernrailway.com, thameslinkrailway.com or greatnorthernrail.com and avoid any booking fees. Look for super off-peak and off-peak fares, which offer great value for money when you travel outside of peak times