With more and more people opting for both staycations and activity holidays every year, we thought it’d be a good idea to see what was on offer for those of us who wish to combine the two and experience the raw beauty of the British Isles the adventurous way. So, if you love the hills and mountains but don’t feel too confident straying too far away from your familiar terrain, or you’d just like the benefit of knowledgeable experts to take you to hidden gems away from the more touristy routes while you meet like-minded people; walking holidays could well be for you.
There’s no doubt that walking holidays are on the rise. A survey of 25000 people by the Association of Independent Tour Operators found that 54% of people are interested in taking one. While a few decades ago this may have kindled ideas of hordes of pensioners taking over chocolate box villages in their tweed and wax jackets, today it’s a very different story. More young people are taking adventure holidays, and specifically walking holidays, than ever before. Neither is a walking holiday the preserve of boring middle-aged men like me. In fact, women between the ages of 18 and 34 are three times as likely to book themselves onto walking holidays than men, helped apparently by the raft of female A-list celebs who have Instagrammed their own walking holidays.
So, let’s say that you’re interested in guided walking holidays in Europe, but aren’t exactly sure where to start. Well, thankfully, we’ve teamed up with the awesome HF Holidays to give you a whistlestop tour of what to look for when booking walking holidays. Here goes…
First up, check out what is and what isn’t included in the cost of the holiday. Unlike package holidays where you tend to select the resort and hotel as a matter of priority, with walking holidays it’s all about the region and routes. As such, cheaper suppliers may rely on hostels to keep costs down. So, if you’re after a little bit of en-suite country house luxury to rest your limbs after a long day on the trail, you may have to look around a little. Likewise, when you’re on a walking holiday, having all of your meals, including a readymade packed lunch made for you every day; is a big plus. After all, the last thing you’ll want is to get up early after a long previous day to source your own sustenance for the next day’s adventure.
Next, check that the walking holidays website or agent has details about the difficulty of walks. At the end of the day you want to push yourselves a little, but it still needs to be immensely enjoyable. It is a holiday after all! So, whether you’re exploring the Cornish coast, the Shropshire hills or the Scottish Highlands; make sure each holiday has clear guidance on how difficult each route will be.
This is also where a great walk leader comes into their own. They’ll know the area and quickly assess the capabilities of the group to get the most out of every single day. Make sure that your chosen operator utilises well qualified individuals who have both walking leadership and first aid qualifications. We don’t like to think accidents will happen but a simple ankle sprain in remote area can become a problem if you haven’t got someone there to tend you and call in help. Preferably, you also want your leader to be a local guide as local leaders tend to know all of the hidden gems that mere short-stay tourists can only dream of seeing.
Another thing to consider is kit. Although many would argue that walking gear is walking gear, depending on the region, the time of year, and the difficulty of your routes; this is again something that can flummox people. Consequently, a good quality walking holidays company should provide you with a list of essentials and recommendations to both put your pre-packing mind at ease and to ensure your safety and comfort during the holiday itself.
Walking holidays are in essence very different from your standard, hotel holidays that do not centre around a key daily adventure or activity. If you’re like me, during most ‘normal’ holidays you pretty much keep yourself to yourself. You only tend to mix with the family or friends that you originally booked to go away with in the evenings. However, on an activity holiday, such as a walking holiday, you are a group led by a guide for the vast majority of each day. Whether you’re a solo traveller or on holiday with a friend or partner, there’s no doubt that you’ll also make new friends while you’re away. So, with that in mind, check whether your operator makes any allowances for this and organises optional evening activities for you all after you’ve sat down to dinner together. This can be a great way to strengthen the friendships in the group, which will further enable you to get more out of each day.
So, there you have it. A whistle-stop guide to what to look for in a walking holiday. As ever, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch. In the meantime, I’m off to persuade Nat that we really need to book onto an Eiger to the Matterhorn walking holiday.