This summer with my son very much otherwise engaged on the cricket pitch, it left my beautiful teenage girl and me free to go adventuring together. And many an escapade we had 😊 From scaling tors on Dartmoor to hanging upside down in an aerial hoop class to sleeping in a wooden shepherd’s hut with mice running around our heads, adrenaline flowed, and comfort zones were challenged (mostly mine). But there was also so much laughter, joy and special conversations. A suitcase full of magical lifelong memories.
Adventuring with my teenage girl is an absolute privilege.
As my baby grows up and enters her formative teenage years, it’s becoming only too apparent how little time I have left with her before she grows her wings of independence and flies the nest. I’m sure dear reader, you know the feeling. I’m determined to relish every moment with her.
There’s something special about going on adventures that strengthens a bond with a teenager. Together you set out into the unknown, the identities of mother and daughter (adult and child) briefly stripped away. In their place sit two best friends, tackling something new and unfamiliar side by side. Facing a challenge that gets the brain ticking, the muscles working or the adrenaline pumping. And what remains afterwards: a deepened connection with your fellow adventurer and a shared set of stories to retell for ever more.
Below are eleven special adventures I was lucky enough to enjoy with my teenage girl.
1. Climbing a Munro & Sleeping in a Bothy
Some definitions for the non-Scottish amongst us:
A Munro is defined as “any of the 277 mountains in Scotland that are at least 3,000 feet high (approx. 914m).”
A Bothy is defined as “a small hut or cottage, especially one for housing farm labourers or for use as a mountain refuge.”
The Mountain Bothies Association maintains over 90 bothies, mainly across Scotland but with a few scattered across England and Wales. They’re basic shelters, with no electricity, heating or running water, which are left unlocked for anyone to sleep in overnight. They tend to be located in remote mountainous areas only accessible by foot. It is not an option to book these huts. So, although it’s possible that you’ll get a bothy all to yourselves, it’s equally likely that you’ll be sharing the floor space with a bunch of strangers… Or even worse, it might already be completely full. It’s the risk you take.
As an introvert, the idea of sleeping in the middle of nowhere with a group of people I’ve never met – and possibly many of them – is acres outside of my comfort zone. But for my little girl, whose extroversion is off the chart, bothying is a hugely exciting adventure! She was keen for a big crowd and hopeful of some younger people to share with.
So, for her, I decided to push my limits. We planned an adventure to climb a Munro in the morning followed by an evening in a nearby bothy.
As Kentish people, we opted for the most southerly Munro, Ben Lomond. Luckily for us, it happened to be an especially spectacular one, nestled alongside the stunning Loch Lomond. We arrived on the hottest day in the year, feeling especially smug to have escaped the searing heat in England for the more pleasant, but still very warm temperatures of Scotland. The lake was utterly spectacular. Cooling down in its refreshing waters was sheer joy.
Early in the morning, we set off on our hike up the slopes of Ben Lomond. We took the steeper but shorter Ptarmigan Trail.
The gradient makes this a much less popular route, so we only met three other walkers on the way. The path was clear and the views breath-taking. With good weather, we found the hike relatively straightforward, with just a little bit of rock scrambling at the summit.
From the top, you are rewarded with a spectacular 360-degree outlook over Loch Lomond, Loch Chon and Loch Arklet.
After a short break to enjoy the views and take some calories onboard, we took the longer but gentler Ben Lomond mountain path down.
On the way, Rosie thrashed me at our favourite hiking game. In this, one of you chooses an author or character from a book and gives the initial letters of their first and surname. The other person guesses who it is, with clues along the way if required (many in my case)!
Including the walk to and from the hotel, the total route up the 978m mountain was 8.4 miles and took us 4 hours 39 minutes. We were back in time for a filling hot lunch at the hotel before embarking on the next part of the adventure.
It was supposed to be a flat and easy 4-mile walk to Rowchoish bothy, being one of the least isolated of the huts. I felt this gave us an option to bail out and walk back to the hotel if it turned out to be fully crammed with people.
Our amble along the West Highland Way started out easy. But then we arrived at a junction and had to decide between the higher, longer route or the lower, more direct trail. It was here that we made our big mistake. We opted for what appeared to be the easier option – the lower path. How wrong we were…
Although on the OS map, the path looks to follow one contour, in reality, the route was a continually twisting series of extreme ups and downs along a steep bank of the loch. Scrambling over boulders, our heavy loads threatening to tip us over, with tired legs from our mountain climb, and in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, it was quite simply torturous! Far harder than our Munro mount earlier in the day.
I nearly gave up. Luckily, we bumped into a couple of walkers who assured us it wasn’t far to go. This “not far” equated to another mile of painful ups and downs, but finally, after 5 miles of blood, sweat and nearly tears, we arrived at the bothy. We later discovered that the section we’d walked was the hardest part of the 96-mile West Highland Way!
There was no way we were going back to the hotel now…
A hiker was sat outside the hut on our arrival. Smiling at him, I introduced us and said, “Hope you don’t mind us joining you this evening?”
His deadpan answer: “Well, I don’t think I have any choice in the matter even if I did.”
So, not the most auspicious of starts.
This combined with the slightly spooky setting – the bothy was used as a location for filming the unsettling horror movie, Under the Skin – meant that our afternoon was not looking up.
Regardless, we laid out our sleeping bags to ensure a spot on the wooden floor and went for a wash in the beautiful loch.
Then, we persevered in trying to befriend our fellow bothy sleeper and he soon warmed up. After a while, a young couple joined us (Rosie gleefully whispered to me, “I got my wish of a young couple!”) and then even later, another couple. The last two decided it was a little cramped inside the bothy and so set up their tent outside.
As the sun set, we spent an enjoyable evening sitting around the table eating and sharing adventure stories. Rosie thoroughly loved it!
The night was not the most comfortable of sleeping experiences and there was a LOT of mice activity. At one point, one of them got trapped inside the rubbish bag of our fellow camper, causing quite a racket. Another time, I woke suddenly and sat bolt upright convinced one had just run over my head… But with the help of a sleeping tablet, I made it through the night. Rosie’s smile which greeted me as I woke the next morning made it all worthwhile!
Our journey back to the hotel/car on the higher part of the West Highland Way turned out to be a gentle and easy stroll!
2. Rock Climbing the Tors
Poor Rosie gets dragged along to many many cricket matches over the summer to watch her brother. This summer, he had a week-long festival down in Taunton. To make it more exciting for Rosie, I planned some adventures for us nearby.
Luckily, Dartmoor was only an hour’s drive. One morning, I booked us in for a bespoke family rock climbing session with Crag 2 Mountain. Rosie had made friends with the siblings of Harry’s teammates, so I invited a couple of them to join us too. So that was how I found myself driving across the moors with three very excited – and possibly a little nervous – girls (10, 13 and 16).
Our guide Connor welcomed us at our meeting place with a big smile on his face. He fitted our climbing harnesses and helmets, gave us a safety briefing and then we all walked up to our designated tor. He’d already set up the lines for us, so we got stuck in immediately.
We started with the easiest wall, and each had a turn climbing to the top. He taught the children how to manage the belaying and help each other abseil down.
There was a lovely atmosphere, with everyone hugely supportive of one other. The girls gave each other advice about where best to put your hands/feet, as well as words of reassurance and reinforcement.
It had been raining all morning but amazingly it cleared up once we started climbing. Although it did mean that the rocks were quite slippery initially. This made the climbs more difficult but all four of us, with time and a bit of encouragement made it to the top. Rosie then wanted to time herself to see how quickly she could reach the summit. She’s a very confident climber and whipped up in a blur!
Connor then moved us on to the harder wall. This was trickier and took longer for each of us to master, but again we all made it to the crest of the tor.
Before our last climb, Connor taught us all how to form the knots to tie ourselves on, which was interesting.
And then onto the final challenge, a very difficult climb, complete with an overhang and very few hand/foot holds. I was proud to see all the girls pushing themselves really hard, giving it their best shot and using any which way to pull themselves to the top. Sadly, we didn’t have time for me to do this ascent!
The three hours flew by, the girls bonded, and I think it’s fair to say that we all loved this experience, ending it as they did with huge grins on their faces. The car journey back was a lot quieter as they were all wiped out from the morning’s exertions.
“Weaselling is a rock-based activity which is best described as above ground caving and parkour mixed together.”
Basically, it involves scrambling over rocks, crawling through tunnels, and wiggling through tight spaces. It’s using the moors’ natural features as your own adventure playground.
This was an add-on to the rock-climbing experience above. After a brief instruction, we set off to clamber over the boulders strewn across the landscape and find small spaces through which to squeeze! This time, both Rosie and I were out of our comfort zone. We kept reassuring ourselves that if we could somehow fit our shoulders into the gap, we could pull the rest of our bodies through!
Some of the routes were somewhat hairy and the adrenaline was pumping, but it was a great little activity. We only had a taster of this great sport. There are various companies across the UK offering half day weaselling sessions. Go on, be brave, give it a whirl!
4. A Tandem Bike Ride!
I’ve only ever been on a tandem bike ride once, in Canada, with James. That time, I managed to steer us into an ornamental garden. Surely now, as a mummy, I’d be much more sensible!
Rosie had never had the pleasure of tandem bike riding, so I thought we’d give it a whirl. One sunny afternoon, we hired a tandem from Kent Cycles in Canterbury. The owner gave us a very thorough demonstration of how to cycle a tandem, helping us practice get the hang of it up and down the road in front of the shop. Thankfully it was a lot easier than I remembered.
Kent Cycles has a sister shop in Whitstable – our destination for the day. You can drop the bike back at either shop. We opted for an out and back cycle to Whitstable along the beautiful Crab and Winkle Way. This charming route is a 7.6-mile cycle track through ancient broadleaved woodland (Blean Woods) from the centre of Canterbury to the harbour at Whitstable. The shop owner handed us some excellent directions in a waterproof folder which we attached to the front of the bike.
It was honestly such fun! There is one steep hill as you cycle out of Canterbury centre up to the university, where we needed to get off and push. But other than that, the route was undulating, and oh so pretty.
Rosie was extremely brave cycling at the back of the tandem. With my big rucksack on, she couldn’t see over the top and had to trust me implicitly! In a quiet spot, we swapped positions to give her a chance to lead the way. It was utterly terrifying at the back! I’m afraid I was a terrible back seat driver, wiggling us too much for her to get us straight. So, we reverted to our more comfortable positions!
The route terminated at the delightful Whitstable harbour, with restaurants and a little craft market to peruse. We picnicked here overlooking the fishing boats on the sea. So pretty. And then, fully refuelled, we biked our way back to the cathedral city. A perfect day out, one that we’ll definitely repeat.
5. A Leather Making Workshop
On a day when Harry was busy at another cricket trial, Rosie and I spent a lovely day in a workshop in Tenterden making these gorgeous leather notebook holders with our fair hands:
Our instructor for this session, Paul, had a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with leather. He started off with a very comprehensive talk about the different types of leathers, techniques for leather working and a run through of the tools we’d use.
Making Our Notebook
And then onto the hands-on section. First, we each selected our leather and got to work cutting out the patterns provided. At every stage in the process, Paul gave us a clear demonstration. We then had a go with the tools provided but he was there, ever patient, to help if we got into trouble. This happened to me quite a bit!
Once our pieces were cut, we used this burnisher to smooth the edges on our leather.
And this roller to soften the leather piece. The resident cat very kindly helped me out with this part!
The next task was to mark out the lines for our stitches using a pair of wing dividers.
And then we made holes for the stitches themselves with this clever stitching chisel and mallet.
Following this, it was time for the stitching itself. This was a lot harder than it looked but once in a rhythm, quite therapeutic. Paul showed us how to do the traditional saddle stitch with the aid of this fun stitching pony. We chose thread to match our leather (a big decision!) and started to sew. This part took a long old time and made me appreciate the effort that goes into handmade items.
And finally, he taught us some finishing techniques, such as edge burnishing, to add to the overall professional look.
With the addition of a mini notebook, we were done. Both of us were very proud of our leather notebook holders, items we’ll treasure forever. And we learned a great deal along the way.
If you’re interested in having a go at this adventure, we booked with the fantastic Jack Raven Bushcraft.
6. A Llama Walk on Dartmoor
Dartmoor Llama Walks offer guided hikes across this wild and open terrain with your own llama or alpaca in tow. On route, Steve, whose family have been farming on the moors since the 1600s, gives you a history of Dartmoor and its wildlife.
On perusing their website, I noticed an endorsement from Griff Rhys Jones who used this company when filming his TV series “Griff’s Great Britain.” What’s good enough for Griff is good enough for us, so I booked us up for a 2-hour trek with one of their lovely llamas. This included a half-way stop by Sharp Tor for cake and mint tea.
We were lucky enough to be allocated the beautiful Bella:
OK at first glance, taking a llama along with you for a walk seems a strange adventure. But it was oddly therapeutic. What made it such a relaxing experience? Their soft fleeces which Rosie spent a long time snuggling into? Their big doleful eyes? Their gentle and kind nature? The fact that you can’t hurry with a llama; they’ go at their pace, stopping every so often to nibble a prickly bush. And in the process, slowing you down so that you start to notice more details in the world around you. Or just a combination of all these factors. Whatever it was, we came home and immediately started investigated the possibility of owning one or two of our own!
So, if you get a chance for a stroll with one of these special animals, jump at the opportunity.
A tranquil adventure and one of my favourites. Rosie and I hired a canoe for a gentle paddle along the Stour River. The setting was stunningly beautiful, the water blissfully calm and the atmosphere quiet except for the odd bird call alongside our tinkling laughter. There could not have been a more relaxing way to spend an afternoon than pootling along that sunny river.
As Ratty says so perfectly to Mole in The Wind in the Willows: “Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.”
I couldn’t agree more!
We hired our canoe from Canoe Wild in Fordwich. We opted for the hour session, but I also have my eye on the half-day sessions. With this option, you canoe from Fordwich to Grove Ferry, from where you’re collected and driven back to your car. A great choice for a family adventure.
8. An Aerial Hoop Class
And for something completely different, Rosie and I booked ourselves in for an aerial hoop class! It was another absolute win 😊 It turned out to be both fun and, at the same time, an incredible whole-body workout. My muscles ached reassuringly the next morning!
We booked with Heavenly Fitness in Maidstone. There were only five of us in the class, at a range of levels from us beginners to the more advanced. We did our warmup together to some great tunes, which got the blood pumping. And then, the instructor seemed to move seamlessly between us all, setting us off to practice moves of a varying degree of difficulty.
For this session, we started learning a range of moves in and under the hoop. The more advanced in the group were working on more complex actions and linking them together into mini routines.
I have to confess that it’s harder than it looks! Even getting into the hoop took a lot of upper body and core strength. At my first attempt, the hoop was swinging around wildly as I attempted to get up, until another classmate kindly came to steady it!
But after a while and with some excellent instruction, Rosie and I managed a variety of positions. They had excellent names, such as Man in the Moon, Candlestick, Front Balance Roll, Pike Seat, Single Leg Cradle, and Arabesque.
So intense was our concentration, that the time flew by. If there was a class closer to our house, I would definitely make this a regular occurrence.
9. Axe Throwing
Our summer was filled with random excursions. And so it was that one Saturday morning we found ourselves ambling through some woodland for an hour’s axe throwing (with Wide Eyed Falconry)!
After a brief safety talk and some expert tuition at this medieval-style art, we were allowed to chose from an array of deadly-looking implements to practice our Viking skills. From Tomahawks to double bit axes to hatchets to what looked like mini sharp-ended spades, they had them all.
We spent a fun hour selecting our weapon of choice, honing our target-hitting skills and competing to see who was the most accurate (Rosie). The absolute perfect antidote to a stress-filled week!
10. A Ghost Walk!
The first time I went on a ghost tour was in Edinburgh. I remember being utterly terrified! Not an adventure for small or sensitive children. But seeing as my now 13-year-old’s current reading genre of choice is the somewhat macabre post-apocalyptic world horror stories, I thought she might cope better than me.
The Canterbury Ghost Tour, led by our witty host John, was fortunately less frightening, but still with many a chilling tale giving goose bumps aplenty.
It was also crammed with fascinating dark facts about this famous city’s history – John’s knowledge about the topic and supply of interesting anecdotes seemed limitless. This combined with many a joke made for a thoroughly entertaining evening as together we explored its cobblestone streets. Rosie was entranced!
And last but not least a very sedate adventure – more of an experience really. Punting in the scenic backwaters of Canterbury. We even allowed Harry and my mum to join us for this one.
Our guide taught us even more about the history of Canterbury with some fascinating stories. For example, at the back of the Old Weaver’s House is this original ducking stool. Supposedly it was used for unruly women, scolds and tradesmen as a form of punishment and public humiliation… So glad we live in a modern era!
If you’ve never punted before, I would encourage you to have a try. It’s another very relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
And that’s it, eleven special adventures with my not-so-little girl. Hope it’s provided some inspiration.