Winter is just around the corner, which means snowball fights, snow angels and catching snowflakes. Whether we get snow or not here in Newcastle this year, there are places just a few hours away known for being some of the snowiest regions in the UK. It’s no surprise, then, that they also offer some snowy activities for every level of experience- so everyone can join in the winter fun.
Snow hole sleeping
Why not head to the Cairngorms for a good night’s sleep in a snow shelter? Scout Mountain Holidays offer a two-day expedition into the mountains of Scotland, surrounded by nothing but winter wildlife. Led by an experienced guide, the trip is physically challenging with hours of walking through the snow carrying a 10 kg rucksack. Following this, you will dig to a snow hole for you and the rest of your expedition team. In the end, you will have a cosy shelter to curl up in with your sleeping bag, as well as the chance to warm up with a 3-course meal cooked by your guide. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to tour through Antarctica, this might just give you an idea.
Fat bike riding
Hop on a fat bike and set out to North Berwick. Actually, better hop on the train first as it is a couple of hours away! When you reach the coastal town, the thick large tyres on a fat bike will keep you from sinking into the snow, allowing you to reach places otherwise too dangerous when accessed with a mountain bike. With a fat bike you can reach ancient cliff-top castles, deserted bays and shipwrecks in the seaside town without spending tedious hours driving. Have your own adventure riding along the coast. You might even spot a dolphin or two.
Skiing or snowboarding
When you think of winter, you think of skiers and snowboarders descending down a steep slope somewhere in the Alps. But you don’t need to pay vast amounts for a plane ticket to the mountains to get a little rush of adrenaline. Situated in Hertfordshire, the Snow Centre has something for everyone, whether you’re an expert or a complete beginner. Try skiing or snowboarding. I can only speak for the latter, but having done so there is one thing I can say for sure. After trying snowboarding, you’ll begin to see Olympic snowboarders for what they really are—a rare kind of immortals. It’s not as easy as it looks! The snowboard is heavy, the slope seems very slippery and you gain speed faster than you think you would. But overall, my first experience was great. Nothing builds your confidence like watching your parents with their skis move on to the big slope after the first fifteen minutes, while one hour in you’re still struggling on the training slope.
Snow shoes have wide hardwood frames that distribute your weight over a larger area of ground so that you don’t sink into the snow as you walk. So snowshoeing is effectively winter-style hiking. The North Pennines is a good place head to give it a go. It has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is Britain's first UNESCO European and Global Geopark. Most importantly, it’s one of the snowiest parts of the UK with snow lying on the ground for around 2 months of the year. And it’s only an hour away from Newcastle. Yay!
Reindeer sleigh riding
For the ultimate Christmas experience, without the challenging heights and bitter cold, Blithbury Reindeer Lodge offers rides on a traditional Scandinavian sleigh and the chance to feed moss to over one hundred reindeer. But there is much more on offer. Daytime hours are for children to meet Santa and his elves, but at night the Lodge is for over-eighteens only. Warm mince pie, mulled wine and carol singers in a cosy barn will help you get into the Christmas Spirit. ‘The Reindeer Man’, Steve Swinnerton, will also be there by the fire to tell his adventurous stories and experiences with reindeer throughout his life as a breeder and trainer. But if I could give you just one reason to visit the Lodge, it’s this: there’s nothing on this planet more adorable than a baby reindeer!