Paddleboarding, North Wales and Devon
Psyched Paddleboarding runs SUP sessions and retreats in north Wales, and sometimes further afield (the west coast of Scotland, Ibiza). Now adventurers can join a two-hour guided night SUP trip (£50pp with equipment and refreshments) on Llyn Padarn, a sheltered lake in Snowdonia. The lake is surrounded by lofty peaks under a star-studded sky if you’re lucky (Snowdonia is a dark sky reserve). There are lights on the bottom of the board, and head torches are recommended. If conditions allow, it also runs a night trip in a bay in Anglesey. The next step up is an SUP overnight expedition, with an evening paddle and wild camping (from £130). Elsewhere, South West SUP runs full-moon night paddles around Plymouth (from £20).
Wildife watching, Carmarthenshire
The Bevis Trust and Wildlife Trusts Wales are working to reintroduce wild beavers in Wales. While its application is being considered, three families of beavers are living on a farm near Carmarthen. From April, visitors are welcome to watch the nocturnal animals. The evening trip involves a short walk through fields and woods to two hides, and a longer walk over rough, steep farm tracks to a third viewing location. A guide is on hand to help find the hides and answer questions. In spring, after hibernating, beavers tend to emerge at about 7pm and often stay out all night, building dams, grooming and playing. Other wildlife to be spotted includes badgers, otters and water voles.
• £20pp, from 6.30pm, booking reopens in April, bevistrust.com
Night photography, Monmouthshire
Humble by Nature, a farm owned by TV presenter Kate Humble, is this year is adding a dark skies photography course led by David Broadbent. Participants learn techniques for capturing images in low light. If it is a clear night, the focus will be on the moon and stars; in cloudy weather, Broadbent covers light painting (outlining objects with torches), and the effects of wire wool and sparklers. He also offers one-on-one tuition (£125pp).
• £50pp, next course 19 October, humblebynature.com
Night-vision walks, various locations
Forest Holidays has cabins on Forestry Commission land all over the UK, where rangers lead activities including night-vision walks. In the Forest of Dean, ranger Gerry O’Brien runs 90-minute night walks, where guests use bat scanners and infrared scopes to spot wildlife such as fallow, muntjac and roe deer, hedgehogs, tawny owls and wild boar (£12pp, over-11s, forestholidays.co.uk). The National Trust also runs night walks such as an upcoming hike at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (adult £5 adults, child £3, 8pm, 16 April, nationaltrust.org.uk).
After-dark running, various locations
Wild Night Run is a series of night events in England’s south-west from October to March. With names like Moonlight Flit, Back to Black and Night Templer, most have 1K and 2K races for kids, plus 10K, 10 miles or half-marathons (wildnightrun.co.uk). Run in the Dark is an annual charity 5 or 10K night race in 50 cities worldwide, including Belfast’s Stormont estate and Battersea Park in London (14 November, runinthedark.org). And Night Run is a programme of sociable, after-dark trail runs with the National Trust: “Explorer” routes 1 to 4K; “Adventurer” routes 5 to 9K (over-12s only). The final event of the season is at Blickling in Norfolk on 30 March: the season restarts in October (from £6, nationaltrust.org.uk).
Mountain biking, Galloway and Gloucestershire
Galloway Activity Centre in south-west Scotland offers adventurous activities on the loch and surrounding forest. One for daredevils is guided night mountain biking. Riders and bikes are whizzed across the loch in a powerboat in the pitch black, before hitting the forest trails, lit only by their headtorches. The tracks are gentle and the trip is suitable for anyone who can ride for about an hour (£19, spring and autumn, lochken.co.uk). In Gloucestershire, Pedalabikeaway Cycle Centre in the Cannop Valley runs free night rides in the Forest of Dean for proficient mountain bikers (last Thursday of the month, 6-8.30pm, pedalabikeaway.co.uk, click on “events”).
Bat spotting, various locations
There are guided bat watches all around the country from spring to autumn. For bat viewing with a difference, Scudamore’s in Cambridgeshire has a bat safari by chauffeured punt (May to September, adult £21, child £16), and Canoe2 in Northamptonshire offers evening river paddles and bat walks (August and September, from £23pp), both with experts from wildlife trusts. The National Trust runs regular walks with bat detectors, including at Polesden Lacey in Surrey, which has common and soprano pipistrelles, serotines, noctules and brown long-eared bats (10 dates in August, adult £8, child £5, call 01372 452048 to book). Other NT bat walks take place at Ickworth in Suffolk, Hatfield Forest in Essex, Charlecote Park in Warwickshire and Stackpole in Pembrokeshire. The National Trust for Scotland also runs bat nights, such as at Threave Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, where owls and badgers can be seen too (regular walks from 16 May to 19 September, £8/£4).
Twilight castle tours, Lincoln
Lincoln Castle runs monthly twilight tours from May to November, giving visitors the chance to explore William the Conqueror’s fortress in the atmospheric gloaming. Each tour is themed, focusing on topics such as the castle’s Victorian prison, where children as young as eight were held; medieval cooking, with demonstrations and samples; and falconry, where the castle’s master falconer flies his birds over the battlements. The medieval wall walk is open after-hours, too, for twilit views over the city, including a spectacular vantage point over Lincoln Cathedral from the east wall.
• Adult £20, child £18, with refreshments, 6.30-8.30pm, next tour 15 May, lincolncastle.com
Campfire music, various locations
The Nest Collective runs gigs and ceilidhs in unusual spaces. Its Friday night Campfire Club (May-September) sees guests gather around a fire in a secret London location for outdoor unplugged folk music in off the beaten track spots such as community gardens, nature reserves and city farms. This year, Campfire Clubs will also run in Bristol, Machynlleth and Sheffield. New for 2019 is a monthly Saturday night campfire singalong.
• £9-£12 online or £13 on the door, thenestcollective.co.uk
Pony trekking, Derbyshire
Derbyshire Pony Trekking has a fun approach to horse riding, with no formal lessons: learning takes place on country hacks instead, with tinsel treks at Christmas, summer pub rides – and regular sunset and night rides (October-February. Sunset treks are suitable for all, but riders on the more challenging night hacks must be able to trot independently. All routes are off-road through country park and woods, and head torches are provided. As the company says, the night rides are “NOT for the fainthearted … Let’s see what’s lurking in the woods.”
• £38 for an hour’s night ride, derbyshire-pony-trekking.co.uk
Kayaking, various locations
Norfolk Outdoor Adventures has just started stargazing kayak trips on Hickling Broad at full moon. The two-seater boats are stable and easy to paddle, leaving kayakers free to gaze at the night sky and the reflection of the moon and stars on the still waters. The first eight sessions sold out immediately, but another eight dates are being added; keep an eye on the website (£45pp). This is not the only night-time paddle on offer. During last month’s annual Dark Skies festival, How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale, in the Yorkshire Dales, ran stargazing canoe sessions on Scar House reservoir. This year’s night paddles have now finished but bookings are being taken for 2020 (£34pp including soup, pasty and hot drink, call 01423 755666 to book) In London, several companies offer night kayaking on the Thames. Kayaking London has a Big Ben by Night trip (twice a month, £42) and Secret Adventures’ Night Kayak Across London goes all the way from Battersea to Greenwich (three or four times a month, £67).
High ropes, various locations
After a trial period last year, Go Ape is bringing back Adventures After Hours. Brave souls can tackle high ropes and zipwires in total darkness at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, a Dark Skies discovery site (£12, 26 and 27 April), Aberfoyle in Perthshire (£15, 30 and 31 March), Grizedale Forest in Cumbria (£15, 23 March) and Battersea, London (£21, 28 and 29 March, 4 and 5 April). The company is also launching a new after-hours music event at Alexandra Palace in London. Guests will spend an hour on the treetop course accompanied by live acoustic musicians, followed by food and drink (£21, 11 & 12 April).
• Call 01603 895500 to book, goape.co.uk
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