Hiking through rocky landscapes, leaping off cliff edges into the water and swimming and through tidal currents; it might sound like the plight of a movie character, but this is no big-screen blockbuster.
This is coasteering; the fastest growing adventure sport in the UK, and with all of the excitement it provides it’s not hard to see why. Thrill seekers and nature lovers are in heaven on the organised excursions as they get to explore the coastline like never before. Yet many are still unaware of the sport and the exhilaration it offers.
Coasteering may have begun back in the 1980s but only over the past few years has it grown into one of the leading activities for adrenaline junkies. With the growth in popularity and many companies expressing a view that Coasteering is the most popular activity they run it is now represented by an advisory organisation, the National Coasteering Charter.
If you and your friends are thinking of giving coasteering a try, you’ll find all you need to know in our beginner’s guide.
What you’ll do
Although coasteering experiences can differ depending on your location, there are activities and situations that are mandatory in the sport.
Firstly, you’re going to get wet. For most, swimming in the sea is all part of the appeal – you can expect to explore caves and gullies whilst the waves swell in and out around you. If you’re not a fan of the water, however, then sadly coasteering just isn’t for you. Any route which purposely avoids the water or allows you to use ropes and harnesses to stay dry is not considered coasteering.
The way you get wet will also make you either salivate with excitement or want to run for the hills. Jumping and diving into the sea is arguably the part of coasteering that gets participants’ blood pumping and adrenaline flowing the most. There’s no need to panic too much though as ten metres is usually the highest you’ll leap from. Although it actually takes up the least amount of time in a coasteering session, those brief moments of being airborne are often the ones people look back on the most.
You’ll also get up close and personal with the cracks and crevices of the coastline (coasteering isn’t just a clever name, you know) and navigate your way up and along the terrain. You won’t be alone as each coasteering group has a number of experts and guides on the adventure with them. There’s often a low customer to guide ratio so you’ll always be able to ask for help when you need it (and have a photo taken when something funny happens).
What you’ll need
If you’re booking your coasteering experience through an organisation then they will provide you with all the kit you need upon arrival, so don’t worry about getting your credit card out just yet.
Naturally, as you’re going to be swimming in the sea a wetsuit is essential. It will not only warm you up a little when you’re in the cold surf, but the suit provides your skin with abrasion resistance to rough surfaces. You’ll be given a buoyancy aid to wear over it too, along with neoprene gloves, socks and balaclava, as well as a white water helmet to look after your noggin.
You’ll want to bring a suitable pair of shoes with you that you don’t mind getting wet; perhaps an old pair of trainers that will have a good drip on the rocks. And don’t forget to bring warm clothes to change into afterwards – as much you may like to, you won’t be able to wear the wetsuit home.
Where to go
There are many fantastic coasteering courses throughout the UK, but as the sport originated in Wales it’s only fair that we start there.
The Anglesey coast in the north is so perfect for the sport that it’s almost as if it was architecturally designed solely for it. With a beautiful unspoilt coastline that stretches on for miles and a plethora of hidden coves, stunning beaches and rugged cliffs, it’s no surprise Anglesey is often called the ‘Mecca of coasteering’.
Pembrokeshire on the west coast is also a prime location. The stacks and natural rock arches are ideal for exploring and the wildlife you can spot on your route (including Atlantic grey seals) is an added bonus.
Over in England, you’ll find superb locations in every direction. Down in the South West, extreme coasteering is all the rage in Newquay and Cornwall, while Devon boasts adventurous coastal routes in both the north and the south. Exmoor and Durdle Door in Dorset combine some of the UK’s finest wildlife with magnificent natural landscapes including Illfracombe and Watermouth Cove.
You’re also spoilt for choice up in the North West. There’s plenty of what they call ‘horizontal scrambling’ to be done at Grange over Sands in Cumbria, while the cliff jumps in Chester in Cheshire are regarded as some of the best in the country.
Head east and Marsden Cove in South Shields offers a stunning stretch of coastline that visitors often return to in order to experience again during a different tide state. Northumberland’s rugged coast in the Howick area is another paradise for those who love action.
There’s no shortage of vertical descents up in Scotland, either. One of the most popular places for coasteering enthusiasts is the historical fishing village of Arbroath. It hosts an abundance of wild swimming, cliff jumping and cave exploring, all situated in one of the sunniest parts of the country.
So if you’re an adrenaline junkie going coasteering for the first time, it’s safe to say it won’t be your last. Wherever you decide to go for your experience, you’ll be in for a fantastic adventure.