It’s free, sociable or solitary and you get a close up of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. So grab your hiking boots and get set for… your own long walk to freedom
- Big skies and a unique ecosystems greet those who put boot to sand in Holkham, on the north Norfolk coast
- Serious walkers can test their mettle, and their calf muscles, in western Bulgaria’s craggy Rila mountain range
- Trek through northern Spain’s Basque Country and balance physical effort with heady gastronomic rewards
If your own two feet are your preferred mode of holiday transport, then slip on your comfiest walking shoes, for it’s never been so easy to enjoy an adventure on foot, with everything from urban trails to coastal paths and woodland hikes ready and waiting…
UP HILL, DOWN DALE
Heaven-sent for walkers: A highlight is the limestone ravine, sculpted by time, at How Stean Gorge in Yorkshire (above)
God’s own country is heaven-sent for walkers (and sheep); and the Nidderdale Way, a 53-mile circular meander through the North Yorkshire Dales, showcases its rural and architectural treasures.
Cast out from genteel Harrogate — a cup of finest at Bettys Tea Rooms to see you off — and conquer a different chunk each day with natural gritstone sculptures at Brimham Rocks and 14th-century Ripley Castle among the scenic treats.
HIGHLIGHT: The limestone ravine, sculpted by time, at How Stean Gorge.
LEVEL: Easy to moderate.
BOOK IT: A six-night Nidderdale Way walking holiday costs from £789 pp including half-board accommodation in Harrogate, transfers and a guide, based on September 14 departures. Call 01707 818 381, or visit ramblersholidays.co.uk.
Enjoy a slightly surreal two-day family-friendly trot through this tiny principality’s wilder scenery, carving a route from alpine Triesenberg (above) to the remote village of Sück
These furry four-legged mountain dwellers are ideal trek companions, apparently. Enjoy a slightly surreal two-day family-friendly trot through this tiny principality’s wilder scenery, carving a route from alpine Triesenberg to the remote village of Sücka, with dinner and an overnight mountain stop at Berggasthaus.
HIGHLIGHT: Visiting an alpine cheese dairy.
LEVEL: Easy to moderate.
BOOK IT: A weekend trek costs £237 for adults and £158 for children, including food, one night’s accommodation and a trained guide, call 00 41 78 767 29 85 or visit lama-alpaka.li. Fly to Zurich, 90 minutes away, from £42 easyjet.com.
NORFOLK’S DAWN CHORUS
Big skies and a unique ecosystems greet those who put boot to sand in Holkham, on the north Norfolk coast
Big skies and a unique ecosystems greet those who put boot to sand in Holkham, on the north Norfolk coast. An eight-hour exploration of this 3,706-hectare splendour, a national nature reserve since 1967, with an expert guide reveals the diverse wildlife that call these pine forests, saltmarshes and sweeping beaches home.
HIGHLIGHT: Pink-footed geese, sea lavender, and deafening silence in the pine forests.
BOOK IT: An October guided walking tour for four, including lunch, at Holkham National Nature Reserve costs £75 each. Call 01328 713111 to book. Doubles at the Victoria Inn from £155 including B&B. Call 01328 711 008 or visit holkham.co.uk.
Perched mid-way between Sorrento and Salerno on the Amalfi coast, the characterful Monastero Santa Rosa hotel offers the double-pronged delight of morning hikes and lazy spa afternoon
Perched mid-way between Sorrento and Salerno on the Amalfi coast, the characterful Monastero Santa Rosa hotel offers the double-pronged delight of morning hikes and lazy spa afternoons. Among the trails is the lesser-known Valle delle Ferriere (Ironworks Valley).
A four-hour walk sees you bypassing streams, waterfalls and Ice Age fauna. Back at the ranch, there’s an infinity pool and a soothing natural rock sauna.
HIGHLIGHT: Enjoy a rallying limoncello in the medieval village of Pontone.
LEVEL: Easy to moderate.
BOOK IT: Three nights B&B at Monastero Santa Rosa from £1,115, based on two sharing. Price includes a private hike and a spa treatment, visit monasterosantarosa.com. Flights to Naples from £98, ba.com.
An escapade that thrusts walkers into Marrakech’s colourful chaos, including the clatter of the souks, before winding 90 minutes south to amber-hued Ouirgane Valley. There, a Berber guide continues the narrative, and agricultural villages, peach orchards and the hidden valleys of the Atlas Mountains await— with traditional pancakes providing sustenance.
HIGHLIGHT: The fortified settlement Tin-Mal; the only Moroccan mosque non-Muslims can visit.
BOOK IT: A one-week tour with Inntravel costs from £870 pp, based on two sharing half-board accommodation and transfers. Call 01653 617 000, or visit inntravel.co.uk. Fly to Marrakech in April from £147 return, airarabia.com.
More serious walkers can test their mettle, and their calf muscles, in western Bulgaria’s craggy Rila mountain range
More serious walkers can test their mettle, and their calf muscles, in western Bulgaria’s craggy Rila mountain range. The endgame being the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, which still houses 60 monks, in the Rilska River valley. Keeping trekkers buoyed are cool beech forests, wild meadows and mirror lakes, and the knowledge Sterling stretches pretty far in this portion of eastern Europe.
HIGHLIGHT: Bulgaria’s 9,596ft-high giant, Mount Musala (Musala means ‘near God’).
LEVEL: Moderate to hard.
BOOK IT: A seven-night guided tour with On Foot Holidays costs from £930 pp, based on two sharing. Includes accommodation, guide, some meals and transfers. Call 01722 322 652, or visit onfootholidays.co.uk. Flights to Sofia from around £57, wizzair.com.
Properly stretch your legs on a ten-day guided walking holiday that loops from the sensory overload of ancient Athens to the calmness of Cape Tenaro. En route, there’s a clutch of Hellenic sights to explore including archaeological wonder Olympia and the tower houses of Mani plus a visit to the former home of 1930s British explorer Patrick Leigh Fermor.
HIGHLIGHT: The lofty Meteora monasteries, which, from a distance, appear suspended in mid-air.
LEVEL: Moderate, with trickier routes also available.
BOOK IT: Based on October 12 departures, Kudu Travel has a guided ten-night trip from £2,790 pp, including four-star accommodation, all meals and transfers. Call 0208 150 3367 or visit kudutravel.com. Return flights to Athens from £68, ryanair.com.
Trek through northern Spain’s dramatic Basque Country and balance physical effort with heady gastronomic rewards. Stride forth with purpose through the green Pyrenean foothills of Navarra and soak up the French beauty of St Jean de Luz, knowing a pintxos (Basque tapas) feast and well-chosen wine awaits at each day’s end.
HIGHLIGHT: Joining part of the spiritual Santiago de Compostela pilgrims’ route.
BOOK IT: A seven-night Hidden Spain trip costs £1,559 pp half-board, including guides, transfers and flights, based on May 12 departures. Call 01707 818224, or visit adagio.co.uk.
The brooding Cliffs of Moher, where the Atlantic appears infinite beyond them
A three-day Emerald Isle tour that strikes west from Dublin includes an amble across the brooding Cliffs of Moher, where the Atlantic appears infinite beyond them. There’s also a lively urban jaunt on foot around Galway City and a visit to 1,500-year-old Clonmacnoise Abbey, which sparked Ireland’s golden age of learning.
HIGHLIGHT: A midway wander around Locke’s, one of the world’s oldest distilleries.
BOOK IT: Three-day tours with Rabbie’s — including guided walking excursions and two nights’ hotel accommodation in Galway City — cost from around £330 pp. Call 0131 226 3133, or visit rabbies.com. Flights to Dublin from the UK from £66, visit aerlingus.com.
FJORDS ON FOOT
Western Norway’s Sunnmøre region, where waterfalls thunder and peaks rise to 1,700m, favours humans over cars, with many of the best vistas accessible only on foot. Join an eight-day tour with Headwater, and the walking comes with a string of lovely fjord-side stays, including a favourite with European royalty, the Hotel Union in Oye.
HIGHLIGHT: Take a breather under the shadow of Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier.
BOOK IT: A seven-night guided tour including full-board hotels, all transfers, a guide and flights from the UK costs £2,599 pp, based on September departures. Call 01606 369400 or visit headwater.com.
- Everest England: 29,000 Feet In 12 Days by Peter Owen Jones (AA Publishing, £12.99) is out now.
TV’s Reverend Peter Owen Jones on why walking holidays are wonderful
TV’s Reverend Peter Owen Jones pictured above
What happens on a walking holiday is that you slow down. After a couple of days of travelling at what is our natural speed, the body begins to relax, releasing the stresses and strains of our working lives.
Our minds are not bombarded by screens and the demands of machines begin to quieten. It is out in the space of the natural world that we find real space. We loosen up to laugh, dance and even let the tears flow if that is what is needed.
Most of all, on a walking break you are not tied to one place. There is a different view every day; every hour is different. And a walking holiday has much more to do with the journey than the destination.
It is this ‘journeying’, this walking into hill villages at dusk, waking up by the sea, falling asleep in a monastery in the mountains and not knowing what is around the next corner that is surely the essence of adventure. We are renewed by discovering what is new to us.
Nothing could be easier, too. Once you’ve bought your boots you’re away. No tolls, no queuing, stop when you want and sing as loudly as you like. The best thing is to start slowly, maybe walk for a weekend, taking in a hill or two. The Saints Way in Cornwall from Padstow to Fowey is a very sweet summer stroll full of flowers and butterflies gliding in all that liquid light.
For those who want to travel further afield, the Cinque Terre near Genoa is a wonderful weekend trek, taking in five rust-coloured Italian fishing villages and fashionable Portofino.
Ashes Hollow in the Shropshire Hills is one of the most exquisite paths in England. There is contentment here.
Maybe it is because so much is being born here, leaves emerging, wings unfolding, eggs warm. There is one wide grey mare heavy with foal; it won’t be long now. She will slip away, find somewhere alone to give birth. There is something pure that is awakening.
Best of all is to set your own route. All you will need is a couple of Ordnance survey maps and you are away, but if you are walking for most of the day it is important to have pre-booked your accommodation for the night.
There are now a good handful of tour operators in both the UK and overseas that will ferry your luggage from one night to the next, so if you are planning to walk for a week you need not carry a week’s worth of socks and a change of clothes.
Always remember to stay safe, take a mobile phone and call in once you have reached the pub. Walk well.
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