UK top universities for the great outdoors

The UK has plenty of wonderful universities based in, or near to, the countryside. If you’re hoping to study in the UK but really want to get outside often, there are some fantastic options!

University of Exeter


Flanked by the East Devon Area of Outstanding National Beauty and Dartmoor National Park, Exeter is a small South West city that suits outdoorsy types perfectly. Not only is there plenty of countryside nearby to use as your playground, but there are miles of coastline to acquaint yourself with, too.

Clubs, societies, and facilities:

  • Clubs for canoeing, caving, climbing, and sub aqua.
  • Out of Doors Society (for strollers) and Expedition Society (for adventurous hikers).
  • University climbing wall and a public climbing wall in Exeter.


Keele University


Tucked away in the Staffordshire countryside and standing in the midst of 640 acres of landscaped grounds, Keele is considered to have one of the most beautiful rural university campuses in the UK. But it’s not just the immediate grounds that are rife for stomping through on hikes and adventures: the Peak District National Park, with more than 200 square miles of land available to explore, is under an hour away.


Leeds Beckett University


Leeds is well located for the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors. Students who hike across the latter might want to stop for a break at the Tan Hill Inn – a remote pub and, at 1,732ft above sea level, the highest one in Great Britain.

Clubs and facilities:

  • University of Leeds: clubs for caving, canoeing, hiking, horse riding, mountaineering, orienteering and fell walking.
  • Leeds Beckett University: Leeds Beckett Outdoor Society and a club for kayaking and canoeing.
  • University of Leeds climbing wall, Leeds Beckett climbing wall, and three public climbing walls in the city.


Manchester Metropolitan University


Manchester is within reach of the Lake District and Snowdonia but the Peak District is its closest national park, with many treasures and challenges for walkers and climbers. The park has something for all levels of explorers, from walking high above the valley of the River Derwent to scaling the rock face of Froggatt Edge.

Clubs and facilities:

  • Manchester Metropolitan University: clubs for canoeing and mountaineering (Manchester campus) and horse riding (Cheshire campus).
  • Climbing walls at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Numerous public climbing walls in the city.


University of Plymouth


A short distance from where Francis Drake set sail to defeat the Spanish Armada, students pack themselves in minibusses to explore nearby Dartmoor or climb sea cliffs. There’s plenty of bracken, bogs, granite, and limestone terrain to get stuck into.

Clubs and facilities:

  • Plymouth University: clubs for canoeing and scuba, plus the Adventure & Expo society (caving and climbing).
  • Climbing walls at Plymouth University and the University of St Mark & St John, Plymouth.


University of Nottingham, East Midlands, England


Nottingham is well known for being the setting for the legends of Robin Hood, that charming rogue who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Most of the Robin Hood legends were centered around the city and his hideout in nearby Sherwood Forest. But even within the very campus of the University of Nottingham, students have access to an unusual amount of greenery, without even having to venture as far as the surrounding countryside. Stretching for 300 acres, the University Park campus has won scores of awards for its environmentally friendly spaces, as well as its sprawling gardens, trees, and water features. In a sense, Nottingham University is its own rural oasis right in the middle of the city!


Ulster University, Coleraine, Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland is home to a few excellent universities, but when it comes to those with access to nature, they don’t come much better than Ulster University in Coleraine. Coleraine sits along the wild and wind-battered Northern Irish Coast, which has come to the attention of the world recently for featuring heavily in the hit series Game of Thrones. The beaches of Port Stewart and Port rush are just 10 – 15 minutes away from campus, while Coleraine itself is located along the ‘Causeway Coastal Route’, an area revered for its outstanding natural beauty. The route takes its name from the nearby Giant’s Causeway, a peculiar and quite unique rock formation surrounded by sheer cliffs and verdant foothills.


If you are interested to apply for the UK universities, submit your application now:

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