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Walking Holidays

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Low Impact Adventure Sight-seeing

With the upsurge of environmental awareness, the walking holiday has been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years – and when it comes to a low impact get-away, it’s certainly hard to beat! The range of opportunities is enormous, so whether you’re looking for the chance to take a few gentle strolls, enjoy a spot of sight-seeing, or are out for a full-on adventure holiday, travelling with friends, family or alone there is sure to be something to fit the bill.

The Great British Outdoors

Everything you’ve ever heard about reducing your travel distances applies to walking too, so if you can start your holiday on foot from you own front door, so much the better! While staying closer to home to minimise your environmental impact has high green appeal – you needn’t feel hard done to, or short on choice. One of the best parts of living on our little island is the wide range of scenery, rich historical heritage and distinct regional character it contains, so everything from serious mountain walking to the more leisurely charms of rural footpaths are seldom more than a hour or two away. Although the list of UK walking opportunities is almost endless, two in particular stand out as almost uniquely British – long distance paths and the canal network – the first having been defined by our landscape, while our industrial past shaped the second.

Although the ultimate in long-distance routes has to be Land’s End to John O’Groats – much beloved by charity walkers – there are plenty of others to choose from that won’t take quite so much time out of your life to complete. From the West Highland Way in the north to the Isle of Wight Coastal Path in the south and from Peddars Way in the east all the way west to the Pembrokeshire Coast, Britain’s long distance paths offer a unique way to spend your free time.

Britain’s canal network is extensive – there are more than 3,000 miles of canals and navigable rivers, stretching from Yorkshire to the South of England and from Wales eastwards into the heartlands of the industrial revolution, with a separate smaller network in Scotland. Their towpaths and embankments lend themselves to an unrivalled series of walks – long, short and circular – and a number of excellent guidebooks are available, making planning your itinerary very simple. With the huge number of canal-side pubs, inns and guesthouses to choose from, wandering the towpath can make for a very different sort of walking holiday.

Walking Overseas

A number of specialist companies and increasingly a fair few more “traditional” operators offer an ever-growing range of walking holidays abroad – so for the responsible eco-traveller as always, all the usual precautions about selecting the right one applies. Fortunately most firms are well aware how important green issues are to most of the people thinking about taking this sort of trip and are usually very ready to provide you with all the information you need to make your choice.

The options are wide – from rail and walking holidays in France or cruise/walking breaks in the Mediterranean to trekking in Peru or Nepal – and typically “graded” depending on the degree of difficulty and level of physical fitness required. For more pioneering spirits looking for something more unique and challenging, there are holidays in some of the world’s remoter spots, while others provide “grand journeys,” extended trips involving more than one exotic location – and often more than one country!

Fitness Issues

Although some of the more energetic types of holiday obviously make major physical demands and are really only aimed at the hard-core walker, there are many opportunities for less rigorous enjoyment of the great outdoors. Most operators cater for a range of fitness levels, with many having quite deliberately set out to make the whole walking experience open to as many people as possible, making it clear how strenuous things are likely to get and if any medical precautions need to be taken.

For anyone who enjoys a walk, however short, a walking holiday can provide a great way to indulge that interest, away from the conflicting time pressures of the rest of our lives. Many of the best eco-travel slogans talk about “treading softly” or “ leaving only footprints” so pull on those hiking boots and turn the sound-bite into reality!

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