The best adventure holidays for families in Europe

hiking in Europe

“May your adventures bring you closer together, even as they take you far away from home.” I love this quote, by American author Trenton Lee Stewart. It really sums up the idea of family bonding on an exciting, adventurous trip. The thing is, though, adventures don’t have to be far-flung to bring families closer together. You can get a big dose of excitement, even if you stay relatively close to home. So I’ve scoped out some adventure holidays for families in Europe, where we live. I’ve even included London, our home town. Who says you need to travel far to see the world?

Sailing holidays in Greece for families

sailing in Greece

A Greek sailing holiday makes a great family adventure. Image from Pixabay

Our children have outgrown the stage where I’d be worried about them jumping over the side of the boat. So I love the idea of setting sail into the sunset with our little team. Although D can sail, as I found out when we travelled to Rhodes together, neither of us have an RYA Day Skipper qualification. And most reputable European sailing holiday companies ask for RYA Day Skipper, or a similar level of qualification, before hiring out yachts for holidays. But RYA courses and assessments run across the UK.

With the right qualifications under our belt, there are plenty of sailing holidays to choose from. I like the look of this Ionian yacht charter from Ocean Elements. It features a seven-day voyage in the balmy waters off the Greek islands of Lefkada and Ithaca. I can picture D and me sailing gently in the fresh sunshine, helping the children learn how to steer our craft. Of course, I’m sure there might be a couple of tense moments. But stop-offs at cosy tavernas and frequent dips in the warm sea would help diffuse any onboard tensions. Sounds blissful, eh?

Adventure holidays in London for families

One Tree Hill London

London’s wild green spaces include One Tree Hill

London’s a surprisingly green city, with plenty of outdoor spaces where you wouldn’t know you were in one of Europe’s largest cities. Lee Valley is a 26 mile (42 km)-long park, running through the northeast of London, into Essex and Hertfordshire. Adventurous families can cycle in the VeloPark built for the London 2012 Olympic Games, then head to Lee Valley White Water Centre for some team-building action. On the way, look out for wildlife like the demoiselle damselfly, grey heron and barn owl, all of which live in Lee Valley.

Hampstead Heath, in north London, is good for wild swimming, with three ponds for men’s, women’s and mixed swimming. The Heath itself is an 800-acre wilderness that was said to have inspired CS Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia. Other smaller wild spaces are dotted across the UK capital, for bug hunting, den-building, and foraging. Highgate Wood in north London and One Tree Hill in south London are both good spots for a family mini-adventure.

Adventure holidays in Scotland for families

Loss Ness Highlands Scotland

Does Loch Ness conceal the Loch Ness Monster?

We recently went on a family mini-adventure in the Scottish Highlands, looking for the Loch Ness Monster. We didn’t find her, but we did see wildcats and wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, and stood in the footsteps of brave warriors at the site of the Battle of Culloden.

For families with older children who want real-life, in-the-now adventures, there’s plenty to satisfy thrill-seekers in Scotland. Munro-bagging is the act of ticking off Scotland’s 282 Munros. These are Scottish mountains over 3,000 ft (914.4m). They’re named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who surveyed and catalogued them in 1891. Once you’ve climbed a Munro, you’ve ‘bagged’ it. The ultimate challenge is Ben Nevis, the highest Munro at 4,411 ft (1,345m).

As well as mountaineering there’s wild camping. A great spot to set up camp in the wilderness is Dumfriesshire, where the Galloway Forest extends over 300 miles. If you can stay quiet, you’ll spot wild rabbits, red squirrels and red kites. Families can also stay at the Loch Ken activity centre, which runs family activity days with sailing, windsurfing, archery, SUP, climbing, biking and more.

Adventure holidays in Wales for families

Snowdonia Wales

The wild terrain of Snowdonia harbours much excitement. Image from Pixabay

Welsh adventurers are spoilt for choice, with everything from moutaineering in Snowdonia National Park, where the brave can face Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in England and Wales, to gorge scrambling. This involves following a river through a gorge. Along the way you scramble across slippery rocks, wade through pools and climb up waterfalls. And you get pretty wet. Nicky from Go Live Young has written about Clydach Gorge in Monmouthshire, where she and her sons went scrambling with guides.

Coasteering is another adventure activity which has grown in popularity in Wales since the 1980s. People who coasteer follow the coastline, scramble over rocks, swim into canyons, explore caves, bodysurf the waves, peer into rockpools, learn about geology and maybe even leap off a cliff or two. Different coastlines present varying challenges, but some are suitable for families with children over eight, so long as an experienced guide is with you. Pembrokeshire has a few coasteering companies.

If your family loves adventure but your kids aren’t quite old or strong enough to teeter around on cliffs or scale waterfalls, then Bluestone Wales is a family resort that lets people immerse themselves in nature, without facing too many perils. Bluestone has sound eco-credentials, having reached Level 5 of the Green Dragon Environmental Standard. Youngsters can seek out bugs along nature trails, cycle through woodland and toast marshmallows over a firepit in Camp Smokey, Bluestone’s atmospheric cabin-style bar/restaurant in the forest.

Ski holidays for families

Alps at Passo Tonale Italy

Skiing can be the ultimate family bonding experience

They say that endorphins help people bond, and it wouldn’t be a proper feature about adventure holidays in Europe without including skiing. You can’t beat the rush of whizzing down glistening slopes together, then crunching through fluffy white snow to an awaiting cup of steaming, thick hot chocolate. Ski holidays can be the best way to bring a family closer.

When I went to Serfaus in Austria with my son, he was beside himself with happiness at being unleashed on the beautiful mountains. We bonded on the red slopes, where he proved his worth as a novice, and overnight became a much better skier than me. And our family ski trip to Passo Tonale in Italy was a lovely way to spend a festive Christmas. It pays to do your research, though, and make sure you book into a resort that’s properly geared up for adventure holidays with kids. Writer Emma from Bavarian Sojourn has used her expertise to compile a list of some of the best ski resorts in Europe, and it’s a good place to start when you’re researching where to go skiing.

Have you been on any adventure holidays for families? Can you recommend any adventure holidays in Europe?

This is a collaborative post, and may contain compensated links. All views are my own.

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2 Comments

  1. June 21, 2019 / 11:10 am

    Oh I love this, these are absolutely our sort of holiday. The type of week away where you feel like you need a week off to recover but you’re high on fresh air and adventure.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      June 25, 2019 / 11:36 am

      Absolutely. The best type of exhaustion!

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