Long gone are the days when a typical adventurer conjured up images of a rugged, bearded man trekking through a desert or ascending a mountain. Nowadays there are more adventurous women pushing boundaries than ever before – whether they are running, cycling, kayaking, climbing or travelling to remote parts of the world.
We’ve put together 20 extraordinary British female adventurers who document their travels on Instagram. As the American author Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. These women couldn’t agree more...
1. Shauna Coxsey
Reason to follow: For a climbing fix.
No one in her family was into rock climbing, but that didn’t deter Shauna Coxsey from picking up the sport at the age of four. After being inspired by French freeclimber Catherine Destiville, Shauna is now Britain’s most successful competitive climber. She has won an astonishing eight World Cup medals as well as being the first British woman to climb a V12, V13 and V14. We know there’s still lots more to come from Shauna.
Follow Shauna on Instagram @shaunacoxsey.
2. Rachel Atherton
Reason to follow: Her Instagram feed is full of mud, sweat and some seriously rad riding shots.
There are few women on the planet (let alone Great Britain) that can ride a mountain bike like Rachel Atherton. The four-time Downhill World Champion has been pushing women’s mountain biking ever since joining the World Cup in 2007.
Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachybox.
3. Katie Ormerod
Reason to follow: For some serious snowboarding skills.
She learnt to snowboard on a dry-slope in Yorkshire aged five. Now Katie Ormerod is one of the most exciting up-and-coming female snowboarders in the world. She became the youngest women to land a double backflip on a snowboard aged 15. Just one year later, she nailed the first female backside double-cork 1080. Katie’s topped the podium numerous times, most notably in 2017 at the FIS Big Air World Cup stop in Russia.
Follow Katie on Instagram @ormerodkatie.
4. Mollie Hughes
Reason to follow: If you're after a mountaineering fix.
Climbing Mount Everest once is no easy feat, but Mollie Hughes’ goal was to scale the world’s tallest mountain twice. After becoming one of the youngest Brits to summit Everest in 2012 at the age of just 21, Mollie returned to the Himalayas in 2017 and successfully tackled the famous peak from the north side through Tibet. She became the first British climber to summit the mountain from both sides. Described by Sir Ranulph Fiennes as “a unique young lady with a genuine passion for adventure and achievement”, you know Mollie is someone to keep an eye on.
Follow Mollie on Instagram @molliejhughes.
5. Holly Budge
Reason to follow: Holly pushes boundaries – and then some.
For most people, climbing Mount Everest is an odyssey in itself. Holly Budge decided to take her adventure one step further and become the first woman to skydive over the world’s tallest mountain. Launching yourself from a plane at 29,500ft requires oxygen tanks and a parachute three-times as large as a regular one. Neither the plane nor the occupants had ever jumped from this height before. Luckily, it was a successful first-time mission. Holly then went on to climb Everest on foot, because, why not?
Follow Holly on Instagram @hollybudge.
6. Pip Stewart
Reason to follow: Adventures with a story.
Cycling doesn’t mean a quick pedal down to the shops for Pip Stewart. After working as a reporter in Malaysia, she decided to cycle home to London, UK, covering a whopping 10,000 miles and 26 countries in one year. Pip took to the saddle again in 2016, travelling across the Amazon rainforest by bike, boat and plane to raise awareness about environmental devastation in Brazil. Her Instagram pics are far more than pretty shots, there are great stories beneath them too. In 2018, she's teaming up with the two adventurers below to take on a world first – paddling South America's third largest river, the Essequibo.
Follow Pip on Instagram @pipstewart.
7. Laura Bingham
Reason to follow: Proof that money and motherhood aren't barriers to adventure.
You don’t need heaps of money to have an epic adventure. Laura Bingham is living proof that if you have enough passion and determination, you can achieve anything. She left home aged 18 to travel the world and ended up sailing across the Atlantic after blagging her way onto an 38ft trimaran. In 2016, Laura cycled over 7,000km across South America from the west to the east coast without spending any money. She relied entirely on human generosity. While pregnant, she even took on a 135-mile Irish cycling challenge. Laura gave birth to a baby boy in 2017, and she’s planning her next jungle adventure – to paddle the Essequibo river – as we speak.
Follow Laura on Instagram @laurabingham93.
8. Ness Knight
Reason to follow: If you like endurance feats.
Ness Knight is gearing up for the biggest adventure of her life in 2018 – to row the Pacific Ocean – solo. Ness isn't afraid of a bit of hard graft though: she's the first woman to swim the length of the River Thames, has paddle boarded the Missouri River, and cycled solo across America. In Feb 2018, she will head off to the Guyana with Laura Bingham and Pip Stewart to paddle the Essequibo River.
Follow Ness on Instagram @Ness_Knight.
9. Erin Bastian
Reason to follow: For outdoors inspiration.
Erin Bastian isn’t your average kayaker. The sea kayak coach from Cornwall has paddled 800km down the west coast of Patagonia, 600km around Corscia and 700km circumnavigating Sardinia. Her motto is “rethink impossible”, encouraging women to push their boundaries and take a chance on their most far-fetched dreams.
Follow Erin on Instagram @erinbastian.
10. Anna McNuff
Reason to follow: Anna's an adventurer with a cracking sense of humour.
If anyone can take on a mind-bogglingly difficult, long-distance challenge, it’s Anna McNuff. As the daughter of two Olympians, sport has always been a huge part of Anna’s life. She rowed for Great Britain before swapping water for the open road. Since 2013, she has cycled 11,000 miles through every state in the US, run the length of New Zealand and cycled across the Andes. If you want to live vicariously through Anna, check out her adventures on Instagram.
Follow Anna on Instagram @annamcnuff.
11. Sophie Radcliffe
Reason to follow: Want that nudge to change your life? Sophie's example might help...
Age 27, Sophie Radcliffe gave up her job in a tech startup to follow her dream of travelling and seeking adventure. Years on, she has completed two Ironmans, cycled London to Paris in 24 hours, raced her bike coast-to-coast across the USA and become the first person to have climbed the highest mountains in the eight Alpine countries and cycled between them.
Follow Sophie on Instagram @challengesophie.
12. Lucia Griggi
Reason to follow: Her Instagram is a colourful insight into her amazing adventures – from shooting Kelly Slater surfing Pipeline in Hawaii to capturing brown bears in Alaska.
Lucia Griggi began her career teaching surfing in Newquay, Cornwall before realising her talent behind the lens. Since picking up her first professional camera, she has shot surf and adventure travel photos all over the world for the World Surf League, National Geographic, Sri Lankan Airlines, Conde Nast Traveller, ESPN, GQ and more. Lucia now lives in California.
Follow Lucia Griggi on Instagram @luciagriggi.
13. Alexa Hohenberg
Reason to follow: For a snow and surf fix.
When Alexa first strapped into a snowboard age 11, she knew life would never be the same again. After a few years on the competitive snowboarding scene, Alexa went on to make the first British female snowboarding movie, Snowballs, in 2005. She left Europe to travel and ended up working as a TV producer in Sydney, Australia before training to become a helicopter mountain guide in Alaska.
Follow Alexa on Instagram @still_stoked.
14. Sophie Hellyer
Reason to follow: For philosophical musings and inspiring surf shots from County Clare.
Sophie Hellyer is a coldwater surfer who spent her teenage years surfing competitively in the UK. Originally from North Devon, she now lives on a farm in Ireland and runs her own surf school and shop called The Green Room. Caring for the environment is a huge part of Sophie’s life. She’s a vegetarian and ambassador for sustainable local living.
Follow Sophie on Instagram @sophiehellyer.
15. Kiko Matthews
Reason to follow: Kiko's positive attitude in the face of adversity – and the fact she's planning on rowing the Atlantic solo...
In 2009, Kiko Matthews could barely walk up stairs or get out of the bath. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s, a disease caused by a brain tumour which resulted in muscle wasting, osteoporosis and diabetes. Eight years on, she’s now attempting a world record to become the fastest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not just a physical challenge but a mental test as well, spending weeks in the ocean alone with up to 16 hours per day rowing.
Follow Kiko on Instagram @kikomatthews.
16. Sarah Williams
Reason to follow: Sarah also champions others on her brilliant Tough Girl Podcast.
You can see why Sarah Williams lives us to her nickname ‘Tough Girl’. After working in finance for nearly a decade, Sarah quit her job and spent 18 months climbing Kilimanjaro, backpacking around South America and doing a ski season. Last year Sarah completed the Marathon des Sables, a gruelling 156-mile ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert. Now she’s preparing to through-hike the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail in just 100 days.
Follow Sarah on Instagram @toughgirlchallenges.
17. Hazel Findlay
Reason to follow: Hazel travels the world, taking on some of the toughest granite faces on the planet.
Hazel first started climbing age six on door frames in her parents' house. Her dad was an enthusiastic trad climber who encouraged Hazel to scale sea cliffs in Pembrokeshire, Wales. After becoming British Junior champion six times, Hazel said goodbye to competitive climbing to pursue trad climbing full-time. She was the first British woman to climb a trad route at E9 and free-climb El Capitan in Yosemite. Her Instagram is a mish-mash of van life photos, mountain vistas and climbing shots. What else would you expect from one of Britain’s greatest mountaineers?
Follow Hazel on Instagram @hazel_findlay.
18. Justine Gosling
Reason to follow: If you like adventure and history...
History and adventure are two things Justine Gosling is incredibly passionate about. The NHS physiotherapist has walked the length of Finland, cycled 3,500 miles along the old Iron Curtain and skied coast-to-coast across Svalbard. Her aim is to engage people in history through awe-inspiring adventures.
Follow Justine on Instagram @justine_gosling.
19. Lizzie Carr
Reason to follow: For an environmental take on adventure.
Plastic pollution is increasingly becoming a huge problem for our planet, clogging up our waterways and killing marine life. Lizzie Carr is a stand-up paddleboarder who broke a world-record paddling solo across the English Channel. She’s dedicated the last year to raising awareness of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans by starting her #PlasticPatrol map. Join Lizzie on one of her summer SUP beach cleans this year.
Follow Lizzie on Instagram @lizzie_outside.
20. Catherine Capon
Reason to follow: For eco-travel inspiration.
Naturalist and adventurer Catherine Capon believes we should travel the world as long as we do it sustainably. She has organised eco-adventures interacting with wild animals across the planet – from orangutans to manta rays. Catherine aims to encourage travellers to get up-close-and-personal with wildlife to inspire them to live more environmentally-friendly lives.
Follow Catherine on Instagram @catherinecapon.
21. Lauren Morton
Reason to follow: To inspire you to push your limits.
When Lauren Morton finished university, she didn’t have a clue what she wanted to do. She knew she wanted something that made her feel excited. In 2016 Lauren skippered team Row Like A Girl across the Atlantic Ocean. They broke two Guinness World Records, becoming the fastest women to cross any ocean (in just 40 days) and the youngest female team to ever attempt the challenge. She also ran seven marathons in seven days in seven different countries. She's now training for an Ironman.
Follow Lauren on Instagram @laurenmortonadventures.