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London - What's the attraction?
Fresh air, the feelgood factor and increased fitness for a start. Whether you opt for a week-long break or weekend escape, an escorted trek or self-guided ramble, walking holidays can put a spring back in your step. The range of holidays shows how popular they have become: meandering from tepee to tepee in Herefordshire (01432 870700; tipiadventure.co.uk/walking) or a mix of walking and Thames river cruising (01296 631671; capital-sport.co.uk). For a taster, Ramblers is hosting a Summer Evening Walks festival throughout July (ramblers.org.uk). Of the 380 free, escorted walks there are plenty suited for people with children, dogs, buggies or wheelchairs.
One of Foot Trails' (01747 820 626; foottrails.co.uk) new trips is “Tess's Journey in North Dorset”, a four-night, self-guided trip staying in country inns and following in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy's heroine, Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It costs from £455 (about R6 000) per person B&B. In the Eden Valley, Anja Phoenix, has devised a series of Tale Trails (taletrails.co.uk) - illustrated walks for families themed around fictional characters, including The Glenridding Griffin of Lanty's Tarn. The hand-drawn trails and stories can be downloaded (£3.95) or bought in local shops.
New this year, the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Partnership is running a series of “Rocky Weekends” that explore the geology of this district that lies south of Hadrian's Wall (northpennines.org.uk). Each weekend consists of a 10-mile guided walk on the Saturday led by a geologist, with a guest speaker and food in the evening. A local guide rounds off the weekends with a shorter (five-six mile) stroll on the Sunday. The next weekend, at Bowless in County Durham on 8-9 September, costs £45 including walks and dinner, but not accommodation. The final walk is at Dufton in Cumbria on 6-7 October.
Take the lead
Chien Bleu (0800 033 7385; chienbleutravel.com) offers holidays where dogs are welcome too. From 5-7 October, it is organising a weekend break at the Old Swan and Minster Mill in the Cotswolds that includes a walk along the River Windrush and a moonlit ramble to the Minster Lovell Hall ruins. The two-night break costs from £295 per person including dinner, B&B, dog welcome hamper, drinks reception and lunch on Saturday. In Monmouthshire, The Bell at Skenfrith (01600 750235; skenfrith.co.uk) offers six circular dog-friendly walks from the front door of this 17th-century inn.
Walk off the calories
New to Inntravel (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk) is a self-guided, four-night break walking the Cotswold Way, based at Three Ways House Hotel, the home of the Pudding Club and Dormy House Hotel. It costs from £535 per person, including breakfasts, three dinners, one picnic, afternoon tea and luggage transfers. The Spread Eagle Hotel (01730 816911; hshotels.co.uk) a coaching inn on the edge of the South Downs National Park, offers a two-night gourmet walking break, providing a picnic lunch for walks from the hotel. Have your aching muscles pummelled in the spa before tucking into dinner in the AA-starred restaurant. From £265 per person.
Off the beaten track
Wilderness Scotland's (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com) new two-centre guided wilderness walking short break explores the wild expanses of the West Highlands. Graded as an easy itinerary, it takes in the Applecross Peninsula - location for Monty Halls's first Great Escape adventure - and remote Ardnamurchan, following trails along the coastline and through the glens. The next trip, departing 26 September, costs £725 per person, including four nights' hotel accommodation, most meals, a walking guide and transport from Inverness.
Walk and talk
Singles holiday specialist, Friendship Travel (0871 200 2035; friendshiptravel.com) is offering several walking weekends this year in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the New Forest. The two-night guided breaks, on selected dates until November, cost £265 per person for the New Forest and £290 for Yorkshire including half-board, three-star hotel accommodation (with sole occupancy of a double/twin room), wine at dinner, two escorted walks and local guide.
Long distance trails
The Wales Coast Path, which officially launched last month, stretches the entire length of the country's coastline. Celtic Trails (01291 689 774; celtic-trails.com) offers walking holidays along the 870-mile, Chepstow to Deeside route. The St David's to St Dogmaels section, part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, is a six-day 63-mile cliff-top trek, costing £440 per person B&B.
The Great Glen Way stretches 78 miles from Fort William on the west coast of Scotland to Inverness on the east coast. The Fingal of Caledonia (01397 772167; fingal-cruising.co.uk), an old barge plying the Caledonian Canal, has a one-week Walk the Great Glen trip with five full days' walking and two half days from £795, full board.
Wainwright's Coast to Coast route is offered as a self-guided trip by Sherpa Expeditions (020-8577 2717; sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk). Starting on the Cumbrian coast near St Bees Head, it takes you through three national parks before reaching the North Sea at Robin Hood's Bay. From £499 per person, B&B.
Discover Adventure's (01722 718 444; discoveradventure.com) three-day Jurassic Coast Trek takes you from Durlston Head in Dorset for 23 miles west along the south-west Coast Path. The trip includes two nights' camping, meals and services of a guide. Participants can choose to raise money for charity: payment options are either £220 per person or a fundraising target of £550 per person.
Who said that?
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” - Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher
“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” - Aldous Huxley, novelist
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” - John Muir, naturalist and author
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.” - Hilaire Belloc, writer
“I'm lucky enough to live in the Chiltern Hills, and love walking from my door, across a field and on to Cobstone Hill (topped by the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang windmill). I can link up the paths round here to make longer or shorter walks and the landscape has a glorious variety, both a grandeur and intimacy. It's only 50 miles from London yet deep, tranquil countryside.”
Kate Ashbrook, President of the Ramblers (ramblers.org.uk) - The Independent