Splendour on the path to freedom: Travel firms have swept away the youth-hostel image of walking tours – the latest trips promise grand hotels and historic inns
- The six-night Literary Walking Holiday in the Lake District includes a stay at Laura Ashley Hotel The Belsfield
- Stop for lunch at the highest pub in the country, Tan Hill Inn, on the seven-night Ales And Dales Trail
- The base for Walk Northumberland is a charming pub in Alnwick where you’ll join a group of up to 16 people
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Walking holidays in the UK.
Luxury will be in the (fresh) air on Britain’s best walking tours this summer as travel firms sweep away the old giant-rucksack-and-youth-hostel image.
The latest trips promise stays in grand country house hotels and beautiful historic inns. And while you follow a route through some amazing countryside, your luggage is delivered to your next stop so there are no concerns about having to pack light.
Not a backapack in sight: The seven-night Ales And Dales Trail is one of the top-selling self-guided trips at Macs Adventure and has weekly departures until October
Peckish: Tan Hill Inn, located in the Yorkshire Dales, stands as the UK’s highest pub at 1,732ft above sea level
Some holidays are for small groups, where about a dozen guests are led by experts or historians, while others are self-guided trips where you head off at your own pace each day following detailed directions from a tour company.
With plenty of availability, pick from short breaks, long-distance walks or even themed trips.
The seven-night Ales And Dales Trail is one of the top-selling self-guided trips at Macs Adventure and has weekly departures until October.
Accommodation includes nights at The Devonshire hotel in Grassington – its cosy bar is in the new TV series of All Creatures Great And Small – and the oak-beamed White Lion Inn, set next to the stepping stones that cross the River Wharfe in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.
Each day, walkers clock up about 12 miles. The route includes recommendations for pub lunches (including at Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the country) and attractions such as the Wensleydale Creamery.
Holidays cost from £710pp (macsadventure.com).
Take in Coniston, the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic Swallows And Amazons, on the Literary Walking Holiday
If you prefer books to beer then the six-night Literary Walking Holiday (headwater.com) in the Lake District may tempt you.
As well as incredible scenery, the route takes in Coniston, the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic Swallows And Amazons, and Hill Top farmhouse, the favourite retreat of Beatrix Potter.
Most daily walks are less than eight miles and accommodation includes a stay amid classic Laura Ashley designs at The Belsfield hotel overlooking Windermere. Breaks cost from £859pp.
Stunning: Pictured is the lounge at The Belsfield in the Lake District with its elegant Laura Ashley furnishings
Walkers who would rather stay at the same hotel each night can choose from four new tours with Explore (explore.co.uk). The base for Walk Northumberland is a charming pub in Alnwick where you’ll join a group of up to 16 people.
Each morning a guide drives the guests to a starting point for a different walk, including across the causeway to Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle, to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, along a section of Hadrian’s Wall and to Cragside, a Victorian country house that was the first in the world to use hydro-electric power for its lights. Other one-hotel trips explore the South Downs, the Lake District and Snowdonia, and cost from £690pp.
If you fear getting lost on a walking holiday, technology can help.
Follow Pilgrims’ Way from Rochester to Canterbury in Kent, passing Leeds Castle (pictured) and Godmersham Park
Family-run travel firm Walk Awhile (walkawhile.co.uk) has always given its holidaymakers marked-up route maps and guidebooks – now it has added GPS links so you can keep track of your ramble by phone.
A five-night favourite follows the Pilgrims’ Way from Rochester to Canterbury in Kent, passing Leeds Castle and Godmersham Park, said to be the inspiration for Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park. It costs from £649pp.
Alternatively, head to Northern Ireland where a six-night trip with Ramblers Holidays (ramblersholidays.co.uk) takes in the Giant’s Causeway, ruined Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Holidays cost from £850pp.