Learn to sail a wooden yacht, Southampton
For a romantic introduction to sailing the old-fashioned way, First Class Sailing offers a range of holidays where you can learn the ropes on a wooden gaff cutter, sleeping onboard in dormitory-style berths. Based on the Solent, the century-old Golden Vanity was built for marine artist Arthur Briscoe, and has no winches, relying instead on traditional methods to hoist its red sails. A weekend sailing course with a stopover in Beaulieu, Cowes, Yarmouth or Newtown Creek, depending how you get on, costs £497pp, including most meals.
Cool canal boats, Manchester and Devon
The trend for cool canal-boating has borne three fabulous fruits this year. Chic black Vätten Hüs (from £250 a night, sleeps four, on Airbnb), moored at Manchester’s Castlefield locks, is a glam option in the thick of the city’s best bars and restaurants, with art deco-inspired interior, cocktail bar-style kitchen, oak floor and sculptural floral displays on the ceilings. Another Mancunian dreamboat, Narrowboat Wandrin’ Star, is newly available from Floating Homestays MCR (from £105 a night, sleeps two, book through Facebook) is styled like a 1950s Cuban bar, with tropical prints and plants, lots of rattan and a pink bathroom. The owner has another, Moonshadow, done in “kitsch African” style. Equally cool but in a more tranquil location is Tregulland & Co’s Blackbird (from £100 a night, sleeps two), on a private lake near Holsworthy in north Devon, with whitewashed timber-clad interiors and a “bathhouse boudoir”, with rolltop bath, on shore.
Borrow a boat, nationwide
Buying a dinghy, never mind a super yacht, is a bit of a stretch for many, but a growing number of borrow-a-boat companies – Airbnbs of the water – put exciting vessels within reach. Boatafloat.com lists over 1,000 privately owned yachts and motorboats, from Caprice, a light, airy motorboat (sleeps six, from £1,125 a week) on Laggan Locks on the Caledonian canal, to the fun Pirate Ship (from £100 an hour) which can take 55 people for party cruises along the North Yorkshire coast from Bridlington. Other sites include clickandboat.com.
Boats and bunks, Cornwall
One of the most enchanting and historic harbours on Cornwall’s south coast, Unesco-listed Charlestown, has new water-borne accommodation and sailing trips on vintage vessels, plus kayak and paddleboard hire. Pen Glas, a restored 1960s fishing trawler, has been turned into a bunkhouse (singles from £25 a night, doubles from £40), while three classic wooden ships moored here are available for sailing days and holidays (from around £350pp for three days, see charlestown-harbour.myshopwired.co.uk). Choose from 1930s schooner Anny, 1904 cutter Mascotte and Irene, a 1907 trading ketch.
Action stations, north Wales
Jam-packed with splashing, diving, dunking and swimming, an eight-day itinerary from Adventure Tours UK is an adrenaline-fuelled immersion in sea and rivers. Days are spent kayaking on Snowdonia’s Lake Padarn, canyoning in the Trawsfynydd gorge, coasteering in Anglesey, riding a super-fast RIB and river bugging – tackling white water on an inflatable craft – on the River Dee. The week costs from £1,195pp, including activities, B&B in a boutique hotel (and one night in a remote bunkhouse), guide, transport and two dinners. The sustainability-focused operator also plants one tree for every customer.
New on the Norfolk Broads
The era of soggy school trips puttering around the Norfolk Broads on grubby fibreglass motorboats has been replaced by a more modish variety of voyages and experiences. This summer, Whitlingham Broad Campsite, just east of Norwich, has added two innovative, triangular treehouses on stilts, offering views of Whitlingham Great Broad (sleeping four from £150 a night, yurts, bell tents and pitches also available). For exploring, the owners recommend hiring a handmade wood-strip canoe from nearby Thorpe Island Boats (from £15 an hour, or £20 for evening 6pm-8pm paddles).
Lake adventures, Cheshire
Two sites near Delamere, north-east of Chester, are hotbeds of newness this summer. Forest Holidays has a new cabin site (sleeps four, from £795 for three nights) in Delamere Forest, whose scenic sandstone ridge has been shortlisted to be designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Nearby, the new Delamere Lake Sailing & Holiday Park has wooden lodges with hot tubs (from £675 a week for two) and watersports on Delamere Lake. On the same lake, new activity hub Wild Shore Delamere offers paddleboarding (£110 for a group of up to six), open-water swimming and Aqua Chimp, a unique ropes course over water, without safety harnesses (£20pp).
Swim the Inner Hebrides and Cornwall
Think you’re an open-water swimmer because you’ve dunked yourself in a lake or done a few lengths of the local lido? For a real open-water adventure, how about a Scottish island-hopping expedition? Swimtrek’s new tour of the Inner Hebrides includes a swimming across the legendary Gulf of Corryvreckan (from £890pp for four days, sold out for 2021, sign up for next year). Other adventurous new trips include four days on Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula. Doggy-paddlers need not apply.
Salcombe food and drink trail, Devon
A new food and drink trail around the south Devon waterfront town of Salcombe collates the best spots for seafood and sipping, all marked on a map available from the tourist information centre. The Crab Shed serves hand-picked local brown crab on a waterfront terrace; Lobster Pod Bistro has heated outdoor pods overlooking Hope Cove; and there’s Salcombe Distilling Company’s Gin School, where after learning to pair botanicals to create your own gin, you can sip cocktails in the distillery’s waterfront bar. New accommodation includes two new additions at Salcombe Shepherd Huts on Ilton Farm (from £200 a night for two).
Moonlight kayaking, Derry
Visitors to Derry can see another side of the city and its surrounds on a moonlight kayaking tour of the Foyle estuary with Far and Wild. Taking place on or around full moon, the seven-mile trip along the river is led by experienced guides who share tales, from its role in the linen industry to its status as a barrier during the Troubles, as well as pointing out nocturnal wildlife and star formations. The trip takes in Derry’s spectacular Peace Bridge, Magilligan Fort and the Roe River under Binevenagh Mountain.