Outdoor Education Activities

Activities at Ghyll Head


You can enjoy over twenty different adventurous activities at Ghyll Head. Every course is tailored to the needs and interests of your group; we build the programme around you.

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Abseiling (from German abseilen, meaning "to rope down") Woman abseiling down rock outdoors education
Traditionally used by mountaineers as a way of descending from high mountain routes and by cavers to explore deep potholes. This presents great personal challenge. You are introduced to the best techniques and we encourage you all the way (whilst also holding your safety rope). We use a number of venues ranging from introductory grassy bank abseils through to 120ft descents into Cathedral Quarry.

All Aboard High Ropes

A real test of nerve and teamwork. The All-Aboard is a seven-Ghyll Head Outdoor Education High Ropesmetre tall pole with a small platform on top. The challenge being to ascend the pole using the holds provided and then to mount the platform. If this is not challenging enough you can then invite up to three more of your friends or colleagues to join you! Participants are involved not only in climbing but also in the essential role of belaying each other to safely ascend the pole.


Archery has played a big part in history, traditionally used as a means of hunting and warfare, it is now a sport that thousands of people enjoy on a regular basis. A balanced alternative to some of our more adrenaline-fuelled activities, archery requires thought and precision, often allowing individuals over-shadowed by their more active group members to shine. 


We have been teaching Bushcraft and wilderness skills at the centre for many years, long before Bear Grylls and I'm A Celebrity brought it to the public imagination. Using our 17 acres of woodland grounds we are able to deliver across a range of skills such shelter building, firelighting, plant identification, and bow-making, as well as pioneering skills such as cordage making and knot tying. A great way of getting back to nature and away from technology.


Canoeing sometimes known as 'Canadian' or 'open canoeing' is a very popular activity if your group is looking to explore and journey on Windermere. Used on their own they can be paddled solo or tandem, once the basic skills of turning and forward paddling have been mastered, they provide a very rewarding means of getting around. An exciting variation if you have a larger group is to raft two canoes together to make a catamaran. This provides a great team building activity, creating a stable vessel capable of navigating the wildest conditions of Windermere without fear of capsize. To progress your paddling skills we have a river fleet of canoes and can take you to some of the Lake District's finest white-water rivers. Canoeing along with Kayaking can be offered as an option for GCSE, BTEC and A-level PE and is an option for DofE skills courses and expeditions.


During your stay with us, you will be situated close to some of the country's finest caves, suitable for beginners through to experienced cavers wanting to develop single-rope technique skills. Caving is a full day activity and you won't forget easily. From a group perspective caving is ideal for breaking down barriers by offering a level playing field for all, everybody is initially 'in the dark' about what the experience will entail. You will experience the right level of challenge for your group to get the most out of your day. Caving not only offers an opportunity for adventure but also the chance to learn about cave structure and formations, so is ideal if you want to enhance the science or geography curriculum.

Climbing Wall

Our purpose-built climbing tower has two walls with climbing routes of varying difficulty. Used as an introduction to climbing or as part of one of our skills progression courses, the walls give you plenty of opportunity to work on climbing fundamentals. The climbing wall is a good choice if you would like to visit the Centre for the day and combines well with a zipwire and lake-based session. Climbing can also be offered as one of our GCSE, BTEC or A-Level PE options.

Coastal Scrambling

Coastal scrambling is a very popular activity if you want a climbing experience with a journeying element. Using one of our local coastal venues, such as Humphrey Head, you are challenged to traverse the limestone cliffs overcoming the natural climbing problems en route. Humphrey Head also provides the opportunity for curricular links to work on coastal environments. Humphrey Head, as well as being the place where the last wolf in England was killed, is home to a family of peregrine falcons which can often be seen soaring close to the rock face in search of prey.

Dark Tunnels Exploration

The dark tunnels of Cathedral Quarry provide you with a great half-day alternative to our full-day caving visits. Situated in a disused slate quarry, Cathedral (sometimes known as Black Hole) Quarry has a spectacular main cavern followed by smaller dark tunnels to explore. An inspiring venue with plenty of industrial archaeology to investigate and material for creative writing, it provides a rich learning experience for groups of all ages. The tunnels experience combines well with an abseiling activity either using the introductory 40ft wall or for those wanting a bit more excitement the 120ft big wall.


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." – Mark Twain

Our experience of organising and supporting expeditions spans four decades. Whether your interests take you to the foothills of Coniston or the summit of Kilimanjaro, we are passionate about giving young people unique experiences which have a profound, life-changing impact. Join our regular hill walking, canoeing or biking expeditions in the Lake District, Peak District, Wales and Scotland. Recent expeditions have included a week circumnavigating the Lakeland fells, paddling across Scotland via the Great Glen and sea kayaking around the Hebridian coastline. 

Ghyll Scrambling

A ghyll is a lakeland name for a gorge or canyon, basically fast flowing watercourses that have cut their way through the mountain landscape creating spectacular cascades and waterfalls. Ghyll scrambling involves the challenge of following the watercourse over these natural obstacles and whether done wet or dry this is guaranteed to be one of your most memorable activities. Watching students develop from their first tentative steps, precariously balancing on the edge of deep pools, turn into sure-footed agility, can be one of the most rewarding activities of your stay. This is an ideal activity a team challenge.

Hill Walking

Ghyll Head is surrounded by some of the country's finest hills and mountains, much loved by Wordsworth and Alfred Wainwright, and it's hard not to get excited about getting out on to the fells. From the small but beautiful Gummer's How over looking Windermere, to the mighty Scafell Pike, let us introduce you to the joys of hill walking. Walks for all ages and abilities and on a variety of terrains from simple valley walks to high level ridge scrambles. Hill walking also links well with the geography curriculum and the stunning locations provide an inspirational setting for literacy and art based activities. For GCSE, BTEC and A-level students our instructors are able to offer training and advice for you to get the most out of your awards.


Our kayaks are single seat kayaks, propelled with a double-bladed paddle. The kayak has evolved from the large sea kayaks of the Native North American Inuit peoples who used them to hunt for seals. Our kayaks are modern, smaller and very manoeuvrable so they feel very unstable at first. Students need a little time to get the 'feel' of them, but it's worth the perseverance. Kayaks are great for games and exploring on the sea, on lakes and rivers. On the river they can twist and turn to manoeuvre around rocks and surf on waves in the moving water. Their shape sheds the water and a deck over the cockpit keeps the water out. They are fast enough to allow a group to cover a reasonable distance in a morning or afternoon exploring the lake. Games in a kayak are great fun and improve skills and boost confidence. We have great whitewater venues close by for those wanting to progress their moving water skills. We can also deliver British Canoe Union star awards for personal performance. Kayaking, like canoeing, is a module of the GCSE, BTEC and A-Level PE syllabus and is a great way for students to increase their overall grades whilst taking part in an exciting new sport.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is the sport of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially designed bikes. You can mountain bike at Ghyll Head on our superb course in the grounds as an introduction to the fundamentals before progressing to one of the local circuits, such a the Rosthwaite Loop or Claife Heights. Using our dedicated bike trailer allows us to take you further afield if you want to try some of the other classic Lakeland routes. Our experienced coaches regularly run GCSE PE mountain biking courses for high schools in liaison with your teaching staff and are able to assess and collate evidence through the use of video and written reports. The course duration is three days and can be run on either a residential or non-residential basis. 


A superb test of communication and team work, in small teams students are set the challenge of navigating through the spooky forest following only the rope line set ahead of them. As the name suggests, it's a very popular night time activity though it can be done using blindfolds in the daytime too.


Orienteering is a challenging outdoor adventure sport that exercises both the mind and the body. The aim is to navigate in sequence between control points marked on a unique orienteering map and decide the best route to complete the course in the quickest time. It does not matter how young, old or fit you are, as you can run, walk or jog the course and progress at your own pace. We have a number of on-site courses at Ghyll Head with a range of challenges and difficulty. If you want to go further afield you can explore the superb forest courses of Grizedale and Whinlatter. Orienteering is a popular option for GCSE PE groups who want the chance to gain high marks in a new activity.

Raft Building

This is teambuilding and problem solving at its best. Bring together some barrels and poles, England's largest lake and a group of people who may never have tied a knot or have ever journeyed on water before. What could possibly go wrong? Under the watchful eyes of the instructors, participants have to come up with a plan, gathering ideas, filtering them down to a solution they all like, is there enough equipment? Who's going to do what? Any skills for the jobs in hand? How much time do we have? What if it falls apart? Are there big fish in there? This is a great fun way to learn about what it takes to work in a team, solve problems and make it all work. 

Rock Climbing

The English Lake District is the home of rock climbing with Napes Needle being the first recorded climb. As a full or half-day activity, rock climbing is a great way to explore some of England's finest mountain venues. Climbs can be single pitch, which are ideal for groups, or multi-pitch for a bit more adventure. You can also join us for rock climbing tuition in other regions as we have extensive experience of the Peak District, Welsh and Scottish climbing venues. Rock climbing is offered as part of our GCSE PE programme.

Ropes Course

A real test of agility our ropes course is set in the woodland grounds of Ghyll Head and is designed to be a challenge for participants of all ages. A great warm up activity before advancing to our climbing tower or All-Aboard high ropes activities.


The sheltered waters of Windermere provide a perfect opportunity to learn to sail. Whether you are drawn by the romantic appeal of Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons' or aspire to be an olympic medalist like Ben Ainslie, our instructors and coaches are able to provide courses for all abilities. Our range of boats includes the single-handed funboats, Laser Stratos and a Drascombe Gig. We also own two Access 303 dinghys which allow sailors with disabilities the freedom to sail with an instructor or independently. Ghyll Head is a registered Royal Yachting Association and RYA Sailability Centre offering a wide range of courses up to Instructor Level. Sailing can also be offered as part of our GCSE PE programmes.

Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed to go straight and fast. They are stable and easy to sail, there's no problem with capsizing you simply fall off. You don't have to get out of a cockpit as in a regular kayak and you don't have to tip any water out of them before you get back in. Flip it back over and you're ready to climb back on. Two paddlers gets them moving quickly and you'll be off across the lake in no time. They're a great kayak to explore the lake with and play games on, which always boosts confidence and skills.

Team Building

Communication, planning, time-management, identifying and utilising resources, trust, are just a few of the important skills required to be an effective team member. They are essential business and employability skills. Our experienced instructors and facilitators use a wide range of problem-solving activities to deliver an effective and fun environment, helping individuals become valuable team players. Activities can be short sessions included as part of an outdoor activity course or multi-day events specifically focused around team building. 

The Dead Shed

The Dead Shed is our environmental classroom with a difference. A hands on opportunity to find out about the flora and fauna of the Lake District National Park. (Disclaimer: No animals were hurt in the making of this dead shed!)

Zip Wire

We have two zip wires: a high zip wire which involves you launching yourself off the top of our climbing tower; and the lower zip wire which is accessible from the ground and allows students with additional needs to get used to the idea of swinging through the air at great speed. Both zip wires are carefully managed and staff will encourage and coach everyone to have a go. But stepping off the top is something you have to do yourself, it's a personal challenge supported by your team. At the end, your team will work together to help you abseil down from the zip wire in a safe and unique way. We support students with disabilities to get to the top of the tower through a unique system of trapdoors, so all your group can complete this challenge. It's very fast and gets your heart pounding and understandably is one of our most popular on-site challenges. It really boosts confidence and is an unmissable part of the One Education Outdoors experience at Ghyll Head.

For more information, please contact the Outdoor Education Team via the form below, or call on 01539 443 751