Extreme adventure travel: Via Ferrata in Cumbria, England

By Arran Wallace

What better way to disconnect from your daily routine, embrace the great outdoors, and get some quality time with friends or family than by trying a new and exciting activity together? You have a plethora of options for your next unique experience, but our top suggestion for this summer will take you to the U.K.

For the ideal extreme adventure travel plan for this summer, check out the Via Ferrata in Cumbria, England.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

What is a via ferrata?

Via ferrata means iron path in Italian and is a climbing route that consists of a steel cable and iron steps and ladders, all of which are fixed to rock. Some via ferratas go the extra mile and include suspension bridges and zip-lines for those seeking an extra adrenaline rush.

Climbers attach themselves to the rock by clipping their harness to the steel cable and use the steps and ladders to progress. It's like a mix of traditional rock-climbing and scrambling, and it makes certain altitudes and peaks more accessible to the non-expert climber. All you need is sensible footwear and a good head for heights; most places provide or rent out all of the necessary equipment.

The need-to-know about Cumbria's Via Ferrata

Photo courtesy of Honister Slate Mine.

This particular via ferrata is located in the last working slate mine in England—Honister Slate Mine—where mining was carried out from 1728 until 1989. The mine was closed for a few years, but it was later reopened in 1997, with the addition of a tourist attraction within the Lake District National Park that includes underground tours and a visitors center.

Soon afterwards, the Via Ferrata (England's first!) was installed and proved to be extremely popular—even winning the "Best Tourism Experience in the Lake District" in 2011! It follows the original track that the miners used up the steep incline of Fleetwith Pike, reaching a height of 2,126 feet.

What to expect

Cumbria's Via Ferrata works like every other. Although trained guides accompany you and help to fasten you securely to the steel cable, it's all up to you to navigate the cliff-facing ladders, bridges, and narrow edges. It can be a mentally challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, activity, and whenever the going gets tough, just remember, miners used to do this without safety equipment!

There are two routes available to budding climbers: the Via Ferrata Classic and the Via Ferrata Xtreme. Both take around three hours, but the Xtreme follows a slightly different route—throwing in more edge exposure, vertical climbs, cliff-edge ladders, and a Burma bridge and cargo net to cross.

What to remember

Photo courtesy of Honister Slate Mine.
  • At Honister Slate Mine, all the necessary equipment is provided, including harnesses and helmets, but you are expected to dress appropriately and wear sensible footwear, so no heels or sandals!
  • Wear your helmet at all times, even during the designated breaks. While extremely unlikely, there may be the odd falling rock from above.
  • Your guide is there for a reason! Listen to the safety information before you start off, and if you get stuck, you can ask them the best way to maneuver across the rocks.
  • Check weather conditions before booking! You don't want to be holding onto iron rungs when lightning comes.
  • Take only essential items, such as water, high-energy snacks, gloves, and sunglasses. Mobile phones tend not to survive falls of hundreds of feet!
  • While the cable is there to be used, try not to use it for excessive load-pulling; use the iron rungs and rock face to push and pull yourself up.
  • Have fun, and don't look down!

What to enjoy in Cumbria afterward

Photo courtesy of the Lake District National Park Facebook page.

Once you're back on ground level and have got your sea legs back, you're going to want to check out what else there is on offer in the area. For those who love being in nature, Cumbria is a haven for outdoor activities, and much of the region is covered by the Lake District National Park.

In this national park, you'll find a rolling landscape of hills, valleys, and lakes, from which the park gets its name. Scafell Pike—England's largest peak at 3,209 feet—is just 10 kilometers south of Honister Mine; however, those wishing to conquer its peak will have to drive up, around, and back down south to attempt the summit on its western side.

Photo courtesy of The Crazy Tourist.

The quaint and charming towns of Keswick and Ambleside are both within easy driving distance of the mine, offering visitors the chance to experience typical architecture of the region and a surprising amount of traditional pubs, given their size.

Cumbria is also known for its various breweries and distilleries, and the famous Lakes Distillery is known for its whisky called, "The ONE" whisky, which was the first blended whisky in the British Isles. They now create their own gins and vodkas, too—the only ones brewed in Cumbria—and have been named one of the "Eight Distilleries to Visit Before You Die" by World Whisky Day.

For those who prefer something a little lighter, Hawkshead Brewery is an innovative craft brewery that offers interesting taps, such as marshmallow and chocolate imperial stouts. They host brewery tours and beer festivals throughout the year, too! The brewery is located near the town of Kendal, the birthplace of Kendal Mint Cake, which is a peppermint confection popular among British climbers as a quick source of energy. Check to see if your Via Ferrata guide has any spare ones in his or her pockets!

Gearing up for a holiday? Check out all of our offerings in England for more unique adventures!

Where to go canyoning in Croatia

By Fred Jéquier

Over the last few years, Croatia has been growing in popularity as a destination for travelers looking to enjoy beautiful beaches, swim in the sapphire blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, and lose themselves in the cobbled streets of historic towns and cities.

Photo from Adriatic Explore.

There's no denying that Game of Thrones' own capital city finding its home in Dubrovnik has helped the rise in tourism to the area in the last eight years or so. As we bid farewell to the Red Keep of Kings Landing this May, however, travelers and adventure-seekers can start to look further inland of this beautiful and rugged country.

Photo from CityPal.

Croatia's beaches, cities, and towns are undeniably stunning—and, without a shadow of a doubt, an important part of any holiday-goer's itinerary. This beautiful Balkan nation has so much to offer off the beaten path, away from the sand and surf, though!

If a trip to simply explore the landscapes of Croatia is what you seek, there are numerous wonderful lakes and trails to explore with guided hiking trips, and they won't disappoint. Areas such as Plitvice Lake are beyond stunning, and there are companies that lead hiking holidays that incorporate the best routes and trails that Croatia has to offer. For those looking to push themselves and experience something completely different, though, we have the perfect plan for you.

Photo from Visit Croatia.

Keep reading to find out about where to go, who to ask, and what to bring when you go canyoning in Croatia!

What is canyoning?

When you head out on a canyoning expedition, you can expect a day of navigating a river by hiking, swimming, abseiling, or rappelling, as well as cliff jumping, negotiating river rapids and waterfalls, climbing over boulders and rocks, and even whizzing along natural waterslides. Canyoning can often include an element of orienteering, in addition to other outdoor skills, especially in more remote areas.

Photo from Split Adventure.

Where to go

The Cetina River is without a doubt the hub of canyoning in Croatia. The most water-rich river in the Dalmatia region of Croatia, the river is located in the south of the country. About 100 kilometers long, it winds its way through gorges and lakes until it reaches the town of Omiš on the Adriatic coast.

Photo from Omnivia.

Surrounded by cliffs and forest, River Cetina offers canyoners, both novice and expert, a taste of every aspect of the activity. From rappelling and abseiling cliffs of up to 50 meters to leaping into deep pools, you are guaranteed a full day of adrenaline-pumping fun and excitement.

The starting point for the best routes and the finish line are both just under an hour from the charming town of Split, which is perched on the Dalmatian coast. If you stay near to or in Split, you can enjoy a unique weekend of canyoning, followed by a cultural day exploring the town and Diocletian's Roman palace.

Who to ask

When planning your canyoning adventure, you want to be in the best hands and find a guide who not only knows the area well, but who is also trained in all the safety aspects of the activity.

1. Canyoning Croatia

Canyoning Croatia offers two different tours to their clients from April until October. If you're a beginner to the activity, you can opt for the Basic Tour, priced at 46 euros per person, and anyone who feels they have the experience or ability can go for the Extreme Tour, which will cost 60 euros.

If you are staying in Split or Zadvarje, you can arrange to be picked up and driven to the starting point, and then dropped back at the end of the day. Canyoning Croatia supply wetsuits, helmets, and all other necessary equipment, so all you need is your swimsuit, sturdy trainers, and your sense of adventure!

2. Split Adventure

Split Adventure offer day tours through the canyon, and their expert guides will take you along 2.5 kilometers of river trails of varying difficulty, depending on your level and experience. This is a really affordable and incredible day out, with a price of 60 euros total for the tour, equipment, insurance, and guide. It's also just 15 euros for the return transfer from Split. Adventurers only need to remember to bring trainers, swimsuits, and a change of clothes, but Split Adventure also has the Five Ten Canyoneer 3 shoes to rent, although there are only a limited amount.

3. Adventure Omiš

At the other end of the river is Adventure Omiš Also offering both basic and advanced canyoning for 47 euros and 67 euros respectively, the price includes insurance, professional canyoning guides, wetsuits, lifejackets, helmets, and safety belts. It even includes the transfer from Omiš to the village of Zadvarje, where your canyoning adventure starts, and your transfer back to Omiš. What's more? Adventure Omiš also offers other great activities, including rock climbing, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and biking!

What to bring

A lot of the companies that lead guided canyoning trips offer equipment rental as either a part of the cost or for a small, additional fee. It's always a good idea, however, to check beforehand what actually is included, and you can always bring some of the necessary equipment with you just in case.

1. What to wear

It goes without saying, you're going to get wet, so swimsuits, wetsuits, and a pair of trainers that are quick-dry (or that you don't mind getting soaked) are an absolute must. Safety equipment, such as helmets and lifejackets, are imperative, but it is highly unlikely you'll find yourself signing up to a guided tour without that being provided.

Photo from Splash Canyoning.

2. What to leave behind

You're going to be doing a lot of climbing, jumping, swimming, and all sorts of outdoor activities. Even if you're wearing gloves, removing all rings and jewelery from your wrists and hands is advisable, along with any piercings or necklaces. You don't want to lose anything valuable, or worse, get injured, because of your valuables!

3. Waterproof camera

If you want to document your trip, this is the opportune moment to invest in that GoPro you've been waiting to treat yourself to so you can capture some candid action shots while on your trip.

Photo from DC Rainmaker.

When planning your canyoning trip, keep your mind at ease by keeping your belongings safe and dry with some help from our guide for waterproof gear!