Luxury walking holidays are the antithesis of the sort of walking break you might have undertaken in your youth. Instead of a tent in the middle of a field, think a cosy guesthouse or country hotel. Instead of sausages and baked beans cooked over a campfire, think a meal in a gastro pub or restaurant. And instead of an it-feels-like-I’m-carrying-the-kitchen-sink-on-my-back rucksack full of all your camping gear, think a much smaller one with just the essentials for the day (your clothes and other belongings are transferred ahead, so that they are waiting for you at your next overnight stop). Just as importantly, everything is organised for you – the walking routes, the accommodation bookings, the luggage transfers. All you need to do is walk!
This – and the time saved by not having to plan and arrange it all yourself – is enough luxury for most people, but if you want to really treat yourself, there are walking holidays which are more luxurious than others, featuring high-quality accommodation – and often fine food to match.
Choosing a luxury walking holiday depends on your definition of ‘luxury’. If you are looking for indulgence, then obviously the quality of the accommodation is the key factor. If, on the other hand, your idea of luxury is a warm welcome and a hearty meal at a characterful country inn, then the main factors to bear in mind are the scenery – do you like coastal landscapes or rolling countryside, a tranquil river valley or rugged hills? – and the level of walking. (The best advice if you have never taken a walking holiday is not to over-estimate your ability – choosing an easy holiday and finishing each walk in the early afternoon in a good mood is far preferable to choosing a holiday that is too hard and leaves you too tired and bad-tempered to enjoy your evening meal.)
There is a wide choice of luxury walking holidays in the UK, in destinations ranging from Yorkshire to Suffolk, Northumberland to Shropshire, the Scottish Borders to the South Downs. Norfolk and the Thames Valley are also great areas for a walking holiday, promising not only great scenery, but a little extra luxury, too. Read on for our top picks...
Why it features on our best luxury walking holidays in the UK list: it ticks both boxes – not only high-quality accommodation, but great food, too.
The riverbank in question is that of the River Thames: the holiday follows part of the long-distance Thames Path south of Oxford. It was near here that Kenneth Grahame spent some of his formative years and gained inspiration for Wind in the Willows. Throughout the holiday, vibrant towns – Abingdon, Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames – contrast with bucolic scenery of water meadows, tree-lined trails and quintessentially English villages. The boutique accommodation at which you stay is the icing on the cake.
Why it features on our best luxury walking holidays in the UK list: the accommodation is both characterful and high-quality, with the option to stay at an exquisitely converted windmill
The name of this walking holiday speaks for itself. The unique coastline – a combination of shingle beaches, dunes and marshes – is undoubtedly the main draw, but there’s much more to discover, too: not only Sandringham, but also the Palladian-style Holkham Hall; nature reserves teeming with birdlife; beautiful medieval churches; the UK’s largest seal colony; and a growing foodie scene.
Why it features on our best luxury walking holidays in the UK list: you stay in two boutique hotels, one of which has been converted from a former convent
Be they of Dunstanburgh’s romantic ruins overlooking the sea, Bamburgh Castle rising out of the dunes, broad sweeps of near-deserted sand, or the colourful flowers in The Alnwick Garden, there’s no shortage of memorable views on this walking break in Northumberland. There is plenty of time to explore the castles along the route, as well as the chance to visit the bird colonies on the Farne Islands or atmospheric Lindisfarne (Holy Island).