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Race The Sun - Lake District

Britain's Hidden Gems: 6 places you need to see

As born explorers, it can come around to March time and we’re getting very itchy feet. Perhaps it’s from the practical frostbite, perhaps it’s from sticking them under the radiator for too long, but we have a sneaky suspicion that it’s because the UK winter can bring us down. It goes on way too long and just as we think it’s about to get warmer, it hits us with another cold spell and bout of snow.

Therefore, it never ceases to surprise us how beautiful the UK can actually be. From the dazzling bright lights of London to the simply stunning sunsets over the sea, to the hidden lakes, the forest trails, the patchwork fields, the valley streams and the grassy peaks. And let’s not forget the cute little brick bridges, like something out of Postman Pat.

We live in a wonderful part of the world; so beautiful, in fact, that we're dedicating a blog post to the British gems.  Here are six places in Britain you need to see

1. Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is renowned for its huge open spaces and stunning starry skies. Home to waterfalls hidden in the woods and hills in a hundred shades of green, the scenery is just ridiculous. It should really change its name to the Brecon Beauties. Seriously, no one would blame you if you went Insta-mad exploring this place!

Stretching 1,344 km², there’s an endless amount of outdoor activities you can do here, so it makes the perfect place to train for your next Dream Challenge. Whether you want to hike many of its charming walking routes, ride your bike through post-card-perfect scenes or canoe its lakes, tucked in the valleys of forested hills - or all three - it really is the place to be.

Even at night, the Brecon Beacons is a National Dark Sky Reserve, meaning its night-sky is a breath-taking canvas. Stargazing with sheep, you’ll likely catch a few shooting stars and feel like you’re in a Welsh fairy tale.

Needless to say, we thought it was only fitting to host a team challenge here - one that allows you to taste all the beauties of Brecon in one day! Starting at dawn and racing the sun till nightfall, you’ll hike up Pen Y Fan for breath-taking vistas over the National Park, cycle for 75 km through its lush, green landscape and canoe across the Pontsticill Reservoir, whose water reflects the surrounding hills and trees. The best part is, you get to take this challenge on in teams of four, so you’re with your friends or family or even work colleagues the whole time and raising money for an invaluable cause: to help sick children through the work of Action Medical Research.

If Race The Sun doesn’t tickle your fancy, we recommend you still visit the Brecon Beacons independently, perhaps for a weekend away to train for your next challenge.

2. London

A step away from the Brecon’s tranquil countryside, London has a population of over eight million people! And it isn’t for nothing. London’s iconic. Loaded with history, packed with famous monuments and free museums, bustling with people from all over the world and home to many a celebrity, London is a must-see.

While admiring Big Ben and the night skyline over the River Thames is nothing short of magical, it’s some of London’s little back-streets that give the capital its old English charm. Walking or cycling along the canal from Camden Market (also a must-see!) to Little Venice or King’s Cross (or further!), you pass Regent’s Park and London Zoo, most of the time surrounded by willow trees. At Christmas time, you’ve probably heard of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park - but we recommend skipping the crowds and walking or riding to South Kensington instead, not just to admire the miraculous Christmas lights strewn upon trees, the glowing ice rink outside the Victoria and Albert museum and the ultra-festive Harrods; but also to take a trip to the free museums, the V and A, the Natural History and the Science Museum. It’s also THE place for a high(ly expensive) cream tea!  

For these reasons alone, we recommend you take the opportunity to stay a couple more days before or after you Walk or Ride the Night with us in support of those affected by cancer. Our charity challenges, Ride the Night and Walk the Night, are the best way to see London at night - surrounded by unbelievably inspiring people and passing not just the iconic sights but also through quiet streets and parks.

3. Snowdonia

Back to Wales to admire its mountains and if you climb high enough, to catch a view of Ireland across the pond. Snowdonia not only boasts several castles and Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, but this diverse natural wonder is also bordered by a charming coast-line, where you can spot a few seals!

Trekking through the farms, hills and valleys, you’ll cross trickling streams and charming bridges, always surrounded by lush, natural beauty.

This isn’t even to mention North Wales’ fascinating history. Tucked in Snowdonia is a collection of ancient Celtic settlements, whose slate history has earned the area UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Perhaps Snowdonia is being a bit greedy with these, as three of its castles have also been named World Heritage Sites - those of Mighty Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy, all links in the medieval ‘iron chain’ built by Edward I.

Where there’s a gem there’s a challenge - and so we’re privileged to offer the opportunity to take on a team challenge in the Snowdonia National Park. Testing spirit, strength and stamina, you hike up Snowdon, canoe Llyn Gwynant and cycle 64 km through Snowdonia’s gorgeous countryside - all with three friends and all in aid of the incredible charity, Regain, which dedicates itself to helping those who have become tetraplegic (paralysed) in a sporting injury regain their independence, so that they can enjoy Britain’s gems as well.

4. Lake District

We can’t write a blog post about Britain’s beauty and not include the Lake District. Surely everyone’s piece of Kendal mint cake, the area’s tranquil lakes, old country cottages and rolling countryside makes it an outdoor lover’s dream. Every single one of the Lake District’s thirteen lakes is stunning, with all but three allowing you to canoe and swim - a perfect way to cool down after trekking or cycling its hills, forests and lake-side trails.

Whether you’re looking to train somewhere new or for an intense physical fitness challenge (like our Race The Sun team challenge) or just want to take a break from everyday life and chill out in perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the whole world, the Lake District should definitely be on your bucket list.

So what are you waiting for? CUMBRing-it on and cycle, trek and canoe in this beautiful area to support sick children and babies.

5. Isle of Wight

More like Sm-Isle of Wight, there are no sad faces here. Britain’s coast line is, in our eyes, grossly underappreciated, especially that of the Isle of Wight.

With sandy bays and views from its rugged coastal paths across the fresh, blue sea to Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight makes a great escape from your everyday cycle. Here, too, is a fab place to cross-train - with idyllic shores to swim and canoe and an abundance of nature trails and coastal paths to trek and cycle. This is why - and you’ve probably guessed - we have a Race The Sun team challenge based here as well.

If training or challenging yourself for charity is not your priority and you just want to travel the UK, the Isle of Wight is still a must-see. You can follow the fossil trail and buff up on the island’s history - home to dinosaurs and much, much later, attracting visitors like Lewis Carol and Queen Victoria. You can spend the evening in the electric forest, wandering under trees bedecked in fairy lights and sitting by an open fire, toasting marshmallows. You can visit one of the many old English pubs, coastal cafés or fancy restaurants and gorge on the freshly-made food.

These would all make perfect activities to do the day after Race The Sun Isle of Wight. The huge sense of achievement you and your friends will get for conquering such an amazing feat for charity will make relaxing on the Island so much more rewarding.

6. Your own doorstep

Perhaps most importantly, we need to appreciate what we have right in front of us - literally on our doorstep. No matter where you live, be it town or country, busy or quiet, it’s familiar and there’s beauty in familiarity and seeing the place you live in a different light.

A brilliant way to motivate yourself to train for your next challenge is to explore the areas in your neighbourhood, surrounding countryside or nearest municipality that you’ve never visited - or haven’t in a while.

There’s nothing like the way you see home right after coming back from completing a Dream Challenge. After being abroad for a long time, you’ll notice things you’ve taken for granted before - the smell of fresh grass, for example, the taste of the crisp, English air, the scent of your house and garden itself, the feeling of the rain fresh on the ground. In the first few days after coming back from your challenge, you’ll have a greater appreciation for your home than ever before. Our participants have commented, for example, upon taking on the Britain V Cancer Jordan Desert Trek, that they’ve never appreciated water so much and they now use it with much greater consideration to aid preservation.

So if you remember anything from this blog post, remember this: we need to love our local area - and the UK - for what it is - and make the most of it, because despite the temperamental and (sometimes downright frustrating) weather, it is a lovely place to live. And if you still don’t believe us, honestly check those gems above!

Feeling so appreciative of your home that you want to give something back? Take on a Dream Challenge for charity. 

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