Where the experts’ holiday: Richard Harpham, kayaker and adventurer

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Richard Harpham – one half of the leadership of the Big 5 Kayak Challenge, a small team taking on five distinct and unique expeditions, paddling some of the most challenging water on the planet – talks travel


What do you like to do on holiday?
In general I love travel for amazing places, people and being close to nature.  For me that can be around the British Isles or further afield in Morocco, Alaska or pretty much anywhere. I don’t think I do holidays in the conventional sense. As a kid we would go to Wales or Scotland to walk or camp.  This stayed with me and for many years I would pack a rucksack, book a plane ticket and head off. This took me to South America, USA, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other locations.


Where did you last go?
I last went to Norway to visit the Arctic Circle. We flew into Oslo, grabbed a hire car and followed our noses. The roads got interesting at times with ice and snow. We arrived at the Arctic Circle in a full blizzard and then spent five hours driving back south in a whiteout.



Do you know where you’re going this year?
The Cairngorns and some other parts of Scotland, the Jurassic Coast and hopefully Quay West and St Pete’s Clearwater in the US and various new human powered adventures including back to the Yukon Territories. My wife and I also plan to visit Vietnam and Cambodia this year and to paddle some rivers in the UK together.


Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
That’s a bit like asking someone to select their desert island discs: it’s almost impossible!  However there are some incredible places that I have been fortunate enough to travel to, that have special memories for me. These include playing rugby in New Zealand in 1997, various expeditions in Yukon Territories, Canada and Alaska, cycling part of the Sahara in Morocco and Vancouver – where I managed the Ghana Ski team at the Winter Olympics 2010.


Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
There are so many in Britain and of course further afield, on my list, I would love to visit India to experience its diverse culture.


In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I love Pembrokeshire. We went there for our mini-moon and found so many lovely, unspoilt places to visit.  I can’t tell you all of them but suggest you go visit and explore. A few places to consider include St David’s and TYF and the Dyfed Shire Horse Farm. On the other side of the country Northumberland has many historic and nature treasures.


How do you plan your holiday?
I have lists of adventure ideas and also destinations I want to visit. I do have a bookcase full of maps, books and resources but also use the web a fair amount.


How often do you go away?
It varies from year to year. In 2010 I was out of the country for five months whereas last year I was away on six trips but for much shorter periods of time. For me it is a combination of adventure expeditions and precious time away with my wife, Ashley.


Who do you travel with?
I either travel with my wife and family or, when on expeditions, I work with other adventuring types I trust with similar goals and ideas. It may sound corny but I have and do need to trust them with my life.


Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
I think Britain offers so much. I am fortunate that I have spent a huge proportion of my life climbing, paddling, cycling and visiting different parts of the British Isles. It is really important that we ensure it remains unspoilt and we take only pictures and leave it pristine for future generations. On one of my expeditions in Alaska I was fortunate enough to spend time with a first nation elder who commented: “What will we tell our children and their children about why we have over-consumed the planet? Nothing will make any sense.”


Thanks Richard! Read more about Richard’s adventures here:


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