The Alternative British Summer [Infographic]

Britain is brimming with hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered. Get off the beaten track to fly over the landscapes, witness amazing wildlife, travel into outer space and swing through the trees on an epic zipline! The UK is set to stage world-class events including the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 but we believe it’s important to enjoy fantastic outings in secret corners of the country as well.

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Our experts have teamed up with travel writer Ben Hatch to reveal the best of alternative Britain. Hatch packed up the car last year and took off on a five month road trip around Britain with his wife and two young children in tow; the result was Are We Nearly There Yet?, a humorous travel book that shares the madness and the beautiful moments in a guide to family-friendly attractions in the UK.

We asked Ben to pick five of his favourite lesser-known attractions, and our experts selected five more to create this visual guide to the alternative British summer. Read more about our selections below – whether you are looking to escape Olympic fever, or you are heading to the UK specifically for the occasion, make sure you take some time to explore Britain’s alternative destinations. Why not work out how many you can already tick off the list as well?


Wenlock Olympian Games
Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England, 8-22 July 2012

Ben says: “The multi-billion pound Olympics were inspired by the efforts of Dr. William Penny Brookes who organised his own Olympian games here in 1850, 44 years before the revival of the ancient Greek spectacle… There is an Olympian Trail from the Guildhall and Wenlock Tourist Information Centre complete with a map.” Don’t miss the special celebrations on 14 July, and slots are still open for would-be competitors interested in Kwik Cricket, gliding and a seven-mile road race, to name a few events. (, 0195 272 7907, free)

Blakeney Point seals
Blakeney, Holt, Norfolk, England

“About 100 grey and harbour seals live on sandbars a boat ride from Marston along the beautiful Norfolk coast. Early summer is the best time to come as it’s when the pups are born. The boat trips are available through Beans Boats.” (, 0126 374 0505, £9 for those aged 15+, and £5 for children 14 and under)

National Space Centre
Leicester, England

“There are hundreds of hands-on exhibits, Martian rovers to operate, theatres showing films about the stars and a full size Russian space rocket.” Perfect for a rainy day. (, 0116 261 0261, £13 for adults, £11 concessions and children age 5-17, under 5s free)

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick, Northumberland, England

“Alnwick Castle is the setting for the Quidditch game in the Harry Potter movies and also doubled for Hogwarts itself. There are Potter-themed tours, a fantastic knights’ quest and dressing up for kids.” (, 0166 551 1350, £14 for adults, £12.60 concessions, £7 for children age 5-17, under 5s free)

Dolphin spotting
Chanonry Point, Fortrose, Scotland

“This spit of land extending into the Moray Firth is one of the best dolphin-watching spots in Europe. You can see from the shoreline and there are also Ecoventure boat tours. On a good clear day you can witness a pod of 130 bottlenose dolphins and occasionally seals, porpoises and minke whales. They come here for the salmon the unique tides throw up and are seen throughout the year, although do take binoculars and also a flask of hot tea to keep out the biting wind.” (


Watergate Bay, Cornwall, England, 8-12 August 2012

Not one for young kids, but perfect for teenagers and adults. This awesome surf and music festival features acts such as Dizzee Rascal and the Black Seeds, and some of the best surfers in the world will be competing in Newquay all week. Watch the Vans Summer Sessions skate competition and catch some BMX action too – all in sunny Cornwall, far from the stressful crowds of London. (, £17 for an evening gig on the beach, £43.50 for a single day admission without camping, £96 for a weekend camping pass, plus VIP and luxury options)

Worthing Birdman
Worthing, West Sussex, England, 18-19 August 2012

Watch people don madcap flying machines and jump off a pier. It’s really that simple, and it’s just as funny as it sounds. Cheer from the shore or submit your own flying creation and give it a go – contestants are judged on fancy dress, ‘entertainment value’ and distance flown, and serious competitors can win £10,000. You can even use the event to raise money for charity. (, 0190 320 3252, spectators free, competitors pay £25)

World Alternative Games
Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales, 17 August-2 September 2012

These wacky summer games were born as an everyman’s alternative to the Olympics, and look set to be far more fun than the original. Sports include penny farthing races, bog snorkelling, synchronised bathtubbing and conkers. One day is set aside for children’s events such as Rock, Paper, Scissors and Pooh Sticks. Join the competitors or see the silliness from the sidelines. (, 0159 161 0270, free)

Hot air balloons over the Lake District
Kendal, Cumbria, England

Watch Windermere fall away and enjoy a glass of champagne as you float above the beautiful Lake District in a hot air balloon. Take your mum for her birthday or invite your partner for a romantic ride; if you have a strong constitution and well-behaved offspring, take your older children too. (, 0845 337 1566, prices from £85, ages 7+, under 16s must be accompanied by an adult)

Go Ape!
Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire, Scotland

The Go Ape! Tree Top Adventure in Aberfoyle features one of the UK’s longest zip lines, clocking in at more than 400 metres long. Swing through the Highlands on an aerial course 150 metres above the ground, test your nerve and see the forest from a new perspective; the adrenaline rush and stunning views across the beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park won’t be quickly forgotten. Aberfoyle’s proximity to Edinburgh and Glasgow makes this a perfect day trip for locals or for those visiting the Edinburgh festivals this summer. (, 0845 643 92 15, £30 for adults, £20 for children 10-17, under 18s must be accompanied by an adult)

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Ben Hatch is the author of “Are We Nearly There Yet? 8,000 Misguided Miles Round Britain in a Vauxhall Astra”. Follow Ben Hatch @BenHatch

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