No matter what time of the year it is, your kids will always want to get outdoors and explore! And no matter what the weather, there is always something fun to do! Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! So get kitted out appropriately and embrace those outdoor activities for kids. Trust me, you’ll enjoy them just as much as they will.
And the best thing is, unlike many other attractions, outdoor activities for kids don’t need to cost a lot of money (if any at all) and they don’t need to be a mammoth trip that involves a lot of organising….all it needs is a bit of enthusiasm and some imagination!
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing so you can plan your own family activities.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Simply draw on your own memories and recreate those fantastic traditional games such as rounders, hop scotch and stick in the mud. Or perhaps bring some craft skills in to the fun and make your own version of modern games, such as using an old bed sheet as a parachute (the kids can even decorate it!). Or better still, why not work as a family and come up with your own games, unique to only your family?
No matter where you live, you will no doubt have a natural area nearby that can host a number of outdoor activities. For example, if you live near a beach you can go rock pooling for a day, or have family races on the sand, or sand castle building competitions! If there is a forest nearby why not go on a bug hunt, or play hide and seek (safely of course!). Even if you live in a built up area you can create your own fun with an orienteering challenge through the local streets with a prize at the end!
As parents, we understand that it can’t be all play and no work. Sometimes chores just simply have to be done. But isn’t it better if the kids are on board and have fun while helping you out? Gardening can be great exercise as well as being able to spend valuable time together outdoors. Why not allocate gardening tasks in to family teams and have a race to see who can complete their chores first. Or perhaps who can pull out the most weeds in a certain amount of time? Even painting the shed together can be great fun! And of course growing your own veg together ensure that outdoor family time will continue on through the seasons.
If you are more of an adventurous family then there are specific outdoor activities that may tickle your fancy. You could try camping, hill walking, canoeing, climbing/abseiling etc. There are many outdoor activity providers that offer a range of exciting and challenging adventures – it just depends how brave your kids (you!) want to be!
Although outdoor activities are generally excellent for improving physical health, it’s important to remember about the benefits that the great outdoors has on mental health too. Emotional well-being is becoming increasingly more important for kids, as well as adults, and therefore incorporating activities that support this can be extremely valuable for individuals and families as a whole. One great outdoor activity is to enjoy an evening campfire together. It allows people to have ‘chill out’ time together away from the relentless speed of life and technology that engulfs us nowadays. It allows us to set aside a few hours to really engage with each other without distraction. It enables us to get to know each other better and encourages us to talk more which helps strengthen those important bonds and builds on trust and a sense of security within the family, which is crucial for children. Kids love a campfire (if only for the melting of marshmallows ritual that will inevitably happen) and adults love it too (if only for collapsing at the end of a long day and gazing up at the starry night sky).
So, what are you waiting for? Go and embark on your own family activities in the great outdoors and create some amazing memories!
Are you addicted to your smart phone? Earlier this month, Ofcom published a report which showed that one in three adults know they spend too long on their phones, admitting that they find it difficult to disconnect. Thanks to the epidemic of internet addiction, there's been a big rise in digital detox retreats lately. These tend to be holidays abroad, or even at home in the UK, that confiscate your gadgets to force you to spend a few days internet-free.
Like fifteen million or so British adults, I myself am a self-confessed smartphone addict. So in May, I took a digital detox with the intention of cutting down my internet usage. Here's what I learned from the experience...
A Digital Detox - Disconnecting to Reconnect
I headed to Italy with a company called Time to Log Off. At a beautifully restored masseria in the Puglian countryside, I handed in my mobile and began a week long digital detox retreat. I thought it was going to drive me crazy. I was so wrong!
Over the course of the week, I felt more connected with my surroundings – and with myself – than I ever normally do. Without the constant distraction of a phone, I felt fully immersed in everything I was doing. It was the perfect way to travel to Italy, because I really felt like I actually saw Italy. I didn't just experience it from behind a phone screen.
This one is hardly surprising. According to the Ofcom report, 47% of internet users say they've missed out on sleep because of aimless phone scrolling. The brain-catching mire that is the internet can swallow up whole hours if you're not careful. On top of that, the blue light given off by phone screens is proven to suppress the production of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is the chemical that triggers sleep, making it much harder to drift off after phone-gazing.
Time to Log Off published the results of our retreat surveys, and people rated their sleep quality 8.5 out of ten on average after the digital detox, compared to an average of 4.5 before. In terms of rest and relaxation, this was without doubt one of the best summer holidays I've ever had.
I Didn't Miss My Phone
The most surprising aspect of the digital detox was that I didn't miss my phone. Not one bit. In fact, I didn't want to switch it back on at the end of the week. There was simply too much to do every day! For me, the internet is a distraction when I'm bored or nervous. Without my phone, I had to find other distractions. I read four books in a week, took cooking lessons, explored the nearby towns, and took lovely countryside walks. It was a week of complete restoration, and I came home feeling more like myself than I have in months!
Could you go without your phone for a week on a digital detox?
Last month, I spent a week exploring four regions in the North of Spain: Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria, and Galicia. When planning summer holidays in Spain people tend to look at the south of the country or coastal stretches like the Costa Brava. But the northern coastline has some big draws, so if you want to discover something new next time you travel to Spain, here are some reasons to give the north a try...
Amazing Beaches, All to Yourself
Because northern Spain is less popular with folks from the rest of Europe taking holidays abroad, it's a fair bit less crowded. Along the north coast are a string of absolutely incredible beaches, many of them completely deserted. I loved the white sandy coves just outside of Llanes in Asturias, tucked beneath green cliffs with steep staircases down. Surfers love the north eastern regions like the Basque Country, where the rugged coastline is perfect for watersports.
Northern Spain is home to the lesser known northern-route of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage of Catholic origin to the resting place of St James in Santiago de Compostela. This epic walking route stretches 825km through four regions. Hiking just a small section of this well maintained trail is an absolute joy, but if you fancy getting off the beaten path there are plenty of other routes to try too. Search the local tourist board websites for the best routes and other travel tips.
Some of the Best Spanish Food
Spanish cuisine isn't just restricted to paella and tapas - although these alone are good enough reasons to travel to Spain. The north of the country is home to some of it's best food, including many dishes you've probably never heard of (but should definitely try). Thanks to the rich Bay of Biscay, there's some incredible seafood. Hake is the local speciality, as well as Galician oysters, huge lobsters, and amazing octopus. Don't miss cod “al pilpil” in the Basque Country, a dish in a thick white sauce made from olive oil and garlic. In Santiago, be sure to try the famous Tarta de Santiago, an iconic almond cake long associated with the Camino pilgrimage.
Many people long to escape the Rat Race and immerse themselves in wilderness but doing so can be quite overwhelming for the novice hiker.
Perhaps you’re one of them. Do you look at photos on the internet and get a twinge of jealousy that you haven’t witnessed that sunrise over the beautiful horizon in a remote location? Or maybe you have overheard an exciting conversation between two ‘outdoorsy’ types, kitted out in the finest of clothing and dripping with accessories, and just feel like this lifestyle is out of reach?
Well, I’m here to tell you that everyone can enjoy hiking in nature; you just need to know where to begin, so here are a few hiking tips and handy hints to help you get acquainted with nature.
1. Keep it Simple
Don’t aim for Everest. Even better - keep it simple and keep it local. Look around your immediate environment. Take a drive or research places of interest nearby, and make a short bucket list. It’s amazing how many mini adventures and fantastic walks are right on your doorstep.
2. Keep it Safe
Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, or take yourself too far out of your comfort zone. You want this to be enjoyable. Bring someone with you if you can. Of course an experienced hiker is a bonus, but even having a friend join you on your adventure is not only great company but it is safety in numbers.
If however you do choose to go alone, make sure you always tell someone where you’re going and an estimated time that you are due back.
The beginner hiker can often overlook the importance of the weather, so check the forecast and decide accordingly. Don’t be afraid to change times and locations, or cancel if needed because nature isn’t going anywhere so you’re always better to be safe than sorry.
3. Be Correctly Kitted
Although you don’t need to have the best of gear and be dripping with fancy accessories, you will need some basics.
Invest in some good walking boots, breathable layers of clothing, lightweight waterproofs, and a backpack with adjustable straps and back support. Hiking boots that have ankle support are best as these will provide extra support on uneven ground and also provide extra protection from wet feet (and let’s be fair, it’s quite possible that you’ll encounter some rain in Northern Ireland!).
That said, walking shoes are often good enough for beginner hikers, so choose what is best for you, but either way, you don’t need to break the bank to get kitted out!
4. Be Prepared
Ensure you are prepared for all weather and eventualities. Depending on how long you’ll be out exploring and where you are going, consider the following in your bag – waterproofs, hat, gloves, warm thin layers, suncream, spare socks, basic first aid kit, money, food and water, fully charged mobile phone. And remember to tell someone where you’re going and when you’re due back. Don’t be caught out!
5. Be Respectful
Remember to respect the nature around you, and ‘leave no trace’. Bring home all your rubbish to dispose of properly, be careful not to damage the surrounding natural area and wildlife, and always leave the environment as you found it. Leave nothing but footprints and take home nothing but memories.
Bonus Tip: Embrace it!
Probably the most important of all. Although it certainly is fantastic to take loads of photos and videos to document your adventure (and indeed your achievement), it’s important to remember what you’re doing it for! It’s for YOU.
So remember to stop for a while, put your camera and mobile phone away, and appreciate the time you have in nature and take in all the sights, sounds and smells around you.
Be mindful if you feel your tension and stress melt away and remember to store these feelings and images of amazing scenery in to your memory bank. Taking away these memories and life lessons, will surely enrich your experiences each and every time you embark on a new adventure.
So start local and start simple. The first step is to grab a map of your local area or make a list of nearby locations that appeal to you such as coastal paths, beaches or clearly marked pathways through rolling fields.
So go and grab your pen and paper and start planning! Adventures await you…..
In the wake of Glastonbury it is safe to say that we are currently full steam ahead this festival season. Whether you have an upcoming festival to attend or just feel like getting into the festival spirit, it is an undisputed fact at this point that a waterproof jacket is the ultimate festival essential. It’s up there with wellies and floral headpieces…
Choosing the jacket that’s perfect for you can be no easy task with so many options out there. So, to help you choose the best option for you we’ve put together a few reasons why a Mac in a Sac is the perfect jacket for festival season!
1. It's Waterproof
This one is an absolute no-brainer. If there’s one thing you can be sure of at a UK festival it’s that there will be rain. This is no reason to run back to your tent for cover. Simply embrace it. It’s such a quintessential aspect of British festivals now that it would almost feel strange without a little rain!
Mac in a Sac jackets are highly waterproof with a foldaway hood and taped seams meaning that when the heavens open during your favourite band’s set you’ll be ready.
2. It's Breathable
While waterproofness is all about keeping water out of your jacket, breathability is all about keeping you cool and letting perspiration vapours out of your jacket. This is particularly important when you’re in the middle of a large crowd where it tends to get sweaty! Luckily Mac in a Sac jackets are extremely breathable ensuring optimum comfort and rain protection simultaneously.
3. It's Packable
Just because it might rain doesn’t mean you need to wear your waterproof jacket all day. Mac in a Sac jackets are easily packable not their own handy sac meaning that you can enjoy the rare sunny spells but have extra rain protection to hand when you need it most.
4. It's Attachable
So our jackets might be packable but where do you put it when your handbag is too small or you don’t have a bag at all? With handy elastic cords on the jacket’s sac you can easily tie your Mac in a Sac to your belt, belt loops or on to a handbag strap leaving your hands free for pulling the best dance moves on the campsite!
5. It's Colourful
Often when rainy weather strikes we sacrifice style in order to keep dry, committing colour clashing offences of our worst nightmares. However the new Mac in a Sac Origin and Neon collections have an impressive array of bright, vibrant colours that are sure to make you stand out from the crowd.
If you're thinking of taking a cycling holiday this summer, there are some amazing routes to choose from around Europe. From gentle asphalt bike paths to challenging mountain ascents, there are routes to suit just about any level of cyclist, many of them offering the chance to enjoy some incredible scenery. These are a few of the best European cycling routes for you to consider...
Green Ways, Catalunya
Abandoned railway lines that have been converted into beautiful, smooth cycle paths, the Vias Verdes (Green Ways) of Catalunya are a joy to cycle. The full route starts in the Pyranees and ends 125km later on the coast. Or, you can take the shortened version stating in Girona; from there it's downhill all the way to the beach!
Land's End to John O'Groats, UK
When talking about cycling Europe, it's easy to forget the UK, but we have a ton of amazing trails right here at home that are perfect for all bike enthusiasts. The most iconic is the 1000km route from the bottom to the top of the country (or vice versa) – the ultimate cycling challenge in Great Britain.
Alpe d'Huez, France
The French Alps are home to some of the most popular European cycle routes, thanks largely to the famous Tour de France. One of the most challenging pilgrimages for cycling enthusiasts is the 13.8km climb to Alpe d'Huez; with it's 21 corkscrew road bends it's a painful ascent.
Peloponnese Peninsula Circuit, Greece
For a cylcing holiday with a difference, head to Greece to tackle the challenging ascents and descents of the mountain roads around the Peloponnese. A circuit of the peninsula will take you through some seriously stunning scenery, and past some incredible ancient sites, from Neolithic cave dwellings to Byzantine towers. You'll even pass within a stone's throw of the ancient Olympia Stadium.
Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
This 22km mountain climb in The Dolomites is considered one of the toughest European cycle routes. At it's highest point, the Passo dello Stelvio is 2758m above sea level, but the altitude and the challenging hairpin bends are worth it for some stunning scenery.