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9 ways to get your adrenalin pumping in Northern England

Gaping Gill

With epic potholing, historic hikes in national parks, and brilliantly restored Turkish baths, nowhere ignites an adventurous spirit like Northern England.

And now’s the time to visit as, following two triumphant years, the Tour De Yorkshire returns with another three days of heart-pumping racing action in May 2016. Cheer on the world-class riders then take to the saddle for a coast-to-coast ride, conquer your fears climbing rock faces or spend the night stargazing in Europe’s largest Dark Sky Park.

1. Pedal like mad from coast to coast

Kisdon Gorge

The C2C, or ‘Sea to Sea’, is an exhilarating 147-mile (237km) bike ride stretching from the west coast of Northern England to the east coast. It travels via the lush valleys and high peaks of the Lake District National Park, and through sandstone villages, mining towns and gritty industrial landscapes to the North Sea. Coast through woods, farmland and interesting cityscapes to the banks of the River Wear, where the final mile follows the captivating Riverside Sculpture Trail to sandy Roker Beach. Every cyclist worth their salt starts and ends the journey by dripping their front wheel into the sea – don’t be the odd one out!

Find out more about the C2C

2. Explore a vast network of underground caves

Gaping Gill

A huge limestone cave system lies beneath much of the Yorkshire Dales, including Ease Gill, Britain’s longest cave system, at over 40 miles (65km) long. What’s more, one of the largest chambers, Gaping Gill, is large enough to contain St Paul’s Cathedral! On May and August bank holiday weekends, visitors are lowered in by winch so come along then if you’ve a head for heights. Or, if you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, visit any time to marvel at the weird and wonderful world of stalagmites and stalactites inside three show caves.

Find out more about caves in Yorkshire Dales

3. Star gaze in Europe’s largest Dark Sky Park

Cawfields at night

At 572 sq miles (1,483 sq km), Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Clear views make for a romantic, exciting and educational night’s exploration of the stars and galaxies above. Cawfields Quarry picnic spot, located in the centre of Hadrian’s Wall near Haltwhistle, has some of the darkest skies in England. Bring a flask of hot tea and your own telescope or join a stargazing event with Newcastle Astronomical Society. Sleep in a tent, tipi or wigwam at nearby Herding Hill Farm, and continue to gaze in awe at the night-time splendour.

Find out more about Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

4. Make a national park your adventure playground

Mam Tor and Lose Hill

The Peak District’s sweeping moors and dramatic rock formations were made for outdoor activities. Walkers can ramble along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way’s 55 miles (88km) of leafy trails and take bracing hikes in the more undulating landscape from Edale to the Kinder Scout plateau. Family-friendly cycle routes lace around the Derwent Reservoir, while an exhilarating network of mountain biking trails lure two-wheel enthusiasts from far and wide. For a real adrenalin kick sign up to a specially-tailored climbing course with Dolomite Training, or delve into the fascinating depths of Castleton’s caverns and caves.

Find out more about the Peak District

5. Walk the edge of an empire

Hadrian's Wall

Built almost 2,000 years ago by 15,000 Roman soldiers, it’s never been easier to marvel at Emperor Hadrian’s famed wall, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore its stunning landscape on foot, by bike, or on the special ‘AD122’ bus, which travels along the wall’s Northumbrian section. Walk west along the fortification from Housesteads Crag to Sycamore Gap to see the highest remains of the wall, as well as the solitary tree immortalised in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Find out more about Hadrian's wall

6. Swing through the trees like Tarzan

Staindale Lake in autumn

Known as ‘The Great Yorkshire Forest’, Dalby packs lots of surprises into its wooded hills, valleys and moorlands. Discover England's largest mountain-bike trail centre with 55 miles (86 km) of cycling trails, including both gentle rides and challenging terrain. Holler and swing through the trees at Go Ape’s aerial ropes course and hilltop-to-hilltop zip wiring, or explore this southern section of the North York Moors National Park with forest-track Segway tours.

Find out more about Dalby Forest

7. Let the chain take the strain in the Durham Dales

cycling in the Durham Dales

Cycling is one of the best ways to enjoy the English countryside, and the Durham Dales and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have fantastic routes. Hire an electric bike so you can focus on enjoying the unspoilt scenery, with the wind in your hair and a picnic in your rucksack. Explore natural wonders like High Force and Low Force waterfalls, seek out rambling rivers and woodlands, and stop off at welcoming country pubs to refuel. 

Find out more about electric bikes in the Durham Dales

8. Take on Britain’s first official multi-use route – the Trans Pennine Trail

Trans Pennine Trail

The Trans Pennine Trail is the perfect day out, taking you on scenic routes through spectacular countryside. It’s over 215 miles (346 km) long and is Britain’s first designated multi-use route so you can use it however you like. Take to the trail on foot, bike or horseback to explore beautiful countryside, villages, castles, abbeys, historic bridges, canals, wooded valleys and rugged hills across the North of England. From canal towpaths to old railway lines, rural cafes and communities, each part of the trail offers something new to spark your interest.

Find out more about the Trans Pennine Trail

9. Unwind in style in Turkish Baths

The Frigdarium Turkish Baths

Stylish visitors have flocked to the spa town of Harrogate for centuries. With 88 springs, ‘the English spa’ became popular with European aristocracy and magnificent hotels sprang up alongside state-of-the art spa and leisure facilities. The flamboyant Royal Baths first opened in 1896; following a £10m refurbishment, today’s visitors can enjoy the same Moorish designs, Islamic arches and arabesque painted ceilings as they relax in the heated chambers, steam room, invigorating plunge pool and elegant Frigidarium. While here, keep your eyes peeled for Tour de Yorkshire, which returns with a new route in spring 2016. With the biggest teams and riders in world cycling, and miniature events held along the way, you won’t want to miss out.

Find out more about Harrogate

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