On ‘yer feet everyone, May is National Walking Month. An initiative from Living Streets it’s designed to encourage the nation to get active by walking at least 20 minutes a day. As the month of May also brings us Mental Health Awareness Week, we also recognise the benefits of activity for mental health. Walking holidays here we come!
Easy peasy? Or more difficult than it sounds? Either way, whether you’re walking the kids to school for a change, walking to the shops instead of driving, taking a car-free holiday, or packing your walking boots for a rambling weekend, it’s time to burn some rubber off those sedentary shoe soles.
Naturally our thoughts turn to feel-good walking holidays in the UK when we think about this awareness month here at Love Cottages. But a walking holiday doesn’t have to mean long socks, cargo pants, cagoules and soggy sandwiches. Sorry, no, that’s just our memories of school outdoor activity centres in the 80s! Back to the present day and left, right, left, right…
Best staycation walking holidays
Walking in the Peak District
Actually this is where many of our school residential memories seem to stem from. Dovedale is impaled on our brains as both a place of glorious lushness and a muddle of accident inducing stepping stones, exhausting climbs, and really cool nooks and crannies in the rocks.
Walking holidays in the Peak District start from some of Derbyshire’s prettiest rural villages, including Bakewell and Castleton. And the major drawcard? Peak District walking holidays welcome all abilities. From rugged Pennine ridge walks to tranquil riverside wanders, you’re spoilt for choice and stunned by scenery (and birdlife).
Walking in the Lake District
Spot the trend, we’re starting with England’s most undulating regions. The Lakes are synonymous with walking holidays. Brits and tourists schlep to Cumbria in their droves to tackle Scafell Pike or to capture the best lakeside selfie from a height (be careful though, won’t you).
As dog friendly walking holidays go, you’re sorted here. Pet friendly accommodation in the Lake District is offered in abundance. There are so many trails to explore it’s more a question of who will need to stop first. The Lake District National Park provides myriad walking routes as well as a walkers’ checklist. Note to self: remember you’re dealing with altitude (albeit English levels of altitude) and the weather ain’t always the same t’up there – be prepared.
Walking in Snowdonia
When in Snowdonia start at Betws-y-Coed. It’s the outdoor activity hub of North Wales. Ramblers, mountain climbers, mountain bikers and everyone else descend on this well-connected village (on the train line from Birmingham New Street). So established a centre for outdoor enthusiasts, you can get kitted out, refuelled and guided on the best routes and trails for your ability.
Got your sights set on the Three Peaks Challenge once you’ve nailed 20 minutes a day? You’ll need to conquer Scafell Pike, Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis. There are a number of walking tracks up Mount Snowdon (or walk part way and take the train the rest of the way, in season).
Walking in the Brecon Beacons
Lord Hereford’s Knob is no more offensive than a Roald Dahl joke book. This endearingly humorous title for one of the Brecon Beacons most recognised hills makes it quite the tourist attraction. If hillwalking is a novelty for your calves, book a guided walk for beginners. That way you won’t get lost, won’t miss the view while staring at the map, and won’t over do it so you can’t enjoy the rest of your stay!
Amidst the high country are lakes and forests, ensuring a range of activities to titivate the senses of even the most curious and short attention spanned brood. There are plenty of picnic spots with enviable views too. Stay a while to discover why the Brecon Beacons National Park is one of just seven Dark Sky Reserves in the UK.
Walking holidays in Northumberland
What do you think of when you imagine north east England? Hadrians Wall, Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle spring to mind, all of which proffer fabulous rambling opportunities. In fact, pack a spare pair of boots, there are some 600 miles of footpaths and moorland trails in the Northumberland National Park.
The Northumberland Coast Path promises castles and beaches. The national park suits both relaxed weekend wanders with the kids as well as long distance challenges. Whether you have time and ability to manage the 84 mile Hadrian’s Wall Path or just one of its many circular walks, you’ll discover such varied and stunning landscapes along your way. It doesn’t sound as tough t’up north as someone once made out.
Walking the South Downs
Skip from county to county. Soak up textbook English countryside and idyllic market towns, rolling hillsides, chalk cliff faces and a hearty hill or two to take your breath away momentarily. The South Downs is a vast area covering Hampshire and Sussex. Its biggest fans campaigned from the 1940s for it to be one of Britain’s national parks. They finally succeeded in 2009. It’s a walker’s wonderland because the options are endless from rural to coastal.
A 7-mile walk taking in the iconic Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and the woodlands of Friston Forest is a great way to see how diverse this area is. For those in search of who ate all the honey, there are walks aplenty around Ashdown Forest – also known as Pooh Bear Country. And if a pub walk in Sussex is on the cards The Anchor Inn on the banks of the Ouse near Lewes is the perfect place to park your bum and rest your feet a while.
Walking in Dorset
As far as official paths go, there are more than 4,700 Dorset walks to choose from. The Jurassic Coast pulls in the rambling crowd along the South West Coast Path and in search of Harry’s Rock (Dorset’s version of the Needles). The Dorset coast fascinates walkers of all abilities with its smuggler’s tales, former quarries and its reputation as a haven for reptiles at Studland Salt Marsh. Perhaps most well known though is Chesil Beach stretching out for what seems forever protecting Weymouth harbour from erosion – that’s a walk in itself!
But step inland to discover Thomas Hardy country across the Melbury Downs, Instagrammable villages wherever you stop to refuel, and the Iron Age hill forts and castle escarpments dotted across Marshland.
Walking the Isle of Wight
For fans of coastal walks, catch the ferry across the Solent and get over to the island. There are walking events galore on the Isle of Wight in May. Whether you opt for the 106 km Great Ormond Street Isle of Wight Challenge (maybe next year!), or a walking marathon, there are plenty of reasons to walk and many involve doing so for good causes.
It might be small, but you don’t have to attempt all 500 miles of walking paths at once! Sit a bit, walk a bit when you join the Rambles by Bus scheme where all the walks start and finish by a bus route. Or if you need to take a walk without even realising it, there are guided walks hunting for fossils and discovering the island’s dinosaur heritage.
Wherever you’re walking this month or next. However far you’re able to wander. Enjoy your walk. Keep us in mind if walking holidays become your ‘thing’. Pack a picnic and off you go!
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