A durable backpack, sturdy pair of boots and an insatiable curiosity. That’s all you need to take off on a trip and explore some of the wildest corners of the planet. Places you can explore without a plan, escape to and unwind. Step off the beaten track, away from the tourist traps and into the unknown, on your pursuit for a new adventure. Of course, finding a patch of wilderness that genuinely stirs something within us is a little more daunting, than throwing a dart at a spinning globe.
From the wilds of the Scottish Highlands to the secret coves of Cornwall, the backcountry of the Black Hills, to the cascading lakes of Croatia. We’ve pulled together a brief guide to the best wild spaces in the UK, Europe and America, to help you escape typical getaways and go remote with these epic wilderness adventures.
Kielder Water, Northumberland, UK
Boasting some of the most spectacular dark sky spots anywhere in Britain, Kielder Water is a must see destination for any explorer. A place surrounded by a much-needed man-made forest, once you put the entrance in your rearview mirror, you’ll uncover Northumberland’s wildest secret; a patch of wilderness abounding with hiking trails and nature walks, a handful of bothies and pockets of paradise, reserved for wild camping. Because Kielder Water is a void of almost all light pollution, you’ll also get to embrace the elements, whilst gazing at a sky full of stars. With the galaxy on full display and the sound of water lapping against the shores of Europe’s largest manmade lake, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself in a profound sense of peace.
Where to stay: the best way to experience this one of a kind place is with a tent and a campfire.
Blakeney Point, Norfolk, UK
Some places are rare. Truly rare. And the pebbled wave breaker that is Blakeney Point is no exception. Wander amongst the samphire-packed saltmarshes and gaze across the glimmering waters; where three-hundred sailing boats bob on their moorings. Explore the Nature Reserve, that’s home to migrating birds and a colony of seals, that grace this soft stone island, as you experience a place only a few non-locals know about. A well-kept secret that’s kept it perfectly unspoiled, with enough natural beauty to last a lifetime. Then, when you’re done on land, join the Coastal Exploration Co to explore the wilderness of the north Norfolk coast, on a professionally skippered, traditional wooden fishing boat under sail, enjoying delicious locally sourced food as you recharge your soul.
Where to stay: The Blakeney Watch House, a beachside bothy in the middle of this Nature Reserve once used as a lookout for sailors and smugglers.
Mill Bay, Cornwall, UK
It’s hard to imagine any stretch of Cornish coast as secluded, but Mill Bay (also known as Nanjizal Beach) is exactly that. An hour’s walk from the nearest road, this isolated paradise is full of natural stone sculptures, remote caves and freshwater cascades. Mill Bay is an off-the-track trek, worth every second. Taking in furrowed heathlands, abandoned copper mines and the distant sound of rolling waves, you’ll find yourself uncovering a world of weathered archways, thundering waterfalls and an area packed with wildlife. Nesting seals, to wild horses, swooping seabirds to yellow gorse. Once you’re done exploring the sands and caves, there are two incredible cliffs to turn your attention to: Cam les Boel and Carn Boel.
What to do: The Minack Theatre is a spectacular open air theatre, perched on the Cornish cliffs.
Achmelvich Bay, Scotland, UK
Wild and remote. That’s what Scotland does better than anywhere, especially when you step into the highlands, where a world of dramatic scenery awaits. Within that lies the white sand beach and emerald waters of Achmelvich Bay; not too dissimilar from the caribbean when the sun is shining. Situated in a rural cove, opposite the remote village of Lochinver, you’ll find yourself in a pocket of paradise. Coastal walks give you the option of finding similar sandy coves or venturing higher through rocky landscapes, uncovering ruined grain mills and a modest castle, built by an architect in the 1960s. Follow the path to its final ascension to reveal vantage points overlooking the whole of Achmelvich.
Where to stay: A Highland beach house with views spanning the whole of Lochinver.
Black Mountains, Wales, UK
For anyone feeling overburdened and in the need of some solitude, a visit to the Welsh Valleys and epic Black Mountains could be the ideal retreat. Spread across parts of Powys and Monmouthshire in southeast Wales, this winding wilderness extends all the way across the national border, giving you a vast playground to lose yourself amongst the breathtaking nature. Explore the high mountain plateaus, run your fingers through the meadows of grass and heather and hike along the northern rims of the Brecon Beacons - as you take in a world of ripping woodlands, waterfall-carved valleys and undulating landscapes.
Where to stay: Akash, a fully-equipped, secluded cabin with 300-degree views across Wales.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Few places on Earth even come close to the breathtaking beauty of the Lofoten archipelago, where towers of granite and craggy mountains loom over tiny fisherman’s huts that cling to the edges of indented bays. And yet, there’s so much more to these prehistoric islands, than just a soul-shaking arrival. Step beyond the quaint fishing villages and you’ll discover untrammeled nature, everywhere you head. From winding hiking trails to steep cycling routes, fjords flanked by remarkable scenery and, should you time it right, the midnight sun which opens up epic full day adventures.
Where to stay: in a traditional rorbu, a small fishing cabin sat on stilts and perched over the water.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Far from city life, the Plitvice Lakes are set in Croatia’s oldest and most beautiful national parks. Sixteen terraced lakes cascade into one another, until they reach the impressive Sastavci waterfalls, where they blend into the pristine blue waters of the Korana River at its base. It’s a place that feels completely otherworldly, as you wander along the maze of wooden boardwalks, that wind their way alongside bubbling streams. The water gently spraying your skin, as you soak up the blissful surroundings, beyond the quaint hillside towns.
For those short on time: focus on the upper lakes where the waterfalls are incredible.
Côa Valley, Portugal
About three hours east of the cobbled streets of Porto, where tourists hop from one riverside bar to the next, you’ll discover the unfathomably tranquil Côa Valley. Nestled on the north-eastern border, where Portugal and Spain collide, you’ll find a wild place, perfect for exploring. Hike or bike the Grande Rota do Vale do Côa, a long distance trail winding its way through the Duoro wine region. Explore the Côa Valley world heritage site, then for anyone looking to get lost amongst nature’s soothing sights, take the trails that run alongside its river gorges, through oak forests and over scubby heaths that are almost deserted.
Where to stay: Bonelli House, an architectural marvel suspended above the Tua valley.
Black Hills National Park, South Dakota, USA
An evergreen island in a sea of high-prairie grassland, Black Hills National Park hides on the border of South Dakota and Wyoming; a 1.2 million-acre swath of wilderness that is packed with endless places to explore. Winding tunnel-like canyons, mountain lakes that reach the horizon, wildly eroded peaks and a colossal amount of caves to explore. This is a place that rewards wanderlust and it’s just a short drive from so much more. Ride the zig-zagging road through Custer State Park, past pointed spires and crystalline waters. Or head across to the otherworldly Badlands with its craggy canyons, dramatic buttes and pillars of rock. Whichever you choose, this is a patch of America worth exploring.
Where to stay: Golden Nugget Retreat in Terry Peak sits on the doorstep of adventure.
Adirondack Park, New York, USA
Almost three times the size of Yellowstone, this patch of the great outdoors has 46 High Peaks, 30,000 miles of snaking rivers and 3,000 lakes, hiding within it’s wilderness. Hike the treasure that is Mount Marcy, for panoramic views across it all. Careen down the winding rapids and embrace the elements each evening, as you stare at the stars from your backcountry camping spot. There really is no two ways about it: the Adirondacks is home to the most wild-at-heart terrain in the east.
Where to stay: pack your Adventure Bag and pitch a tent to make the most of this place.
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