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Self-guided walking holidays are holidays on which you make your way along a pre-determined route following route notes and a map. Typical instructions would be along the lines of: “Turn right at the T-junction. After 250 metres climb over the stile on the right and enter the wood. Keep straight on through the trees for 500 metres, ignoring any side paths. At the gate…” The most rewarding self-guided walking holidays are ones that go from village to village, staying in different accommodation along the way.
What are the advantages of self-guided walking holidays?
The main advantage of self-guided walking holidays is that you choose who you walk with: with a travelling companion, by yourself, or with a few friends or family members. Another major advantage is that you can walk at a pace that suits you. Not just that, but you can set off when you want each morning, rest as often as you like, take as long as you like over your picnic, and decide which, if any, detours or visits to places of interest you make along the way. If all that weren’t enough, on organised self-guided walking holidays your luggage is transported where necessary, so you only need to carry with you the essentials for the day.
What do I need to pack for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK?
The essentials for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK are good waterproofs and comfortable, worn-in walking boots or shoes. What you pack clothes-wise will depend partly on the season, but good advice at any time of year is to take a range of layers (of breathable, fast-drying material) with you for your top half so that you are prepared for varying temperatures. For your bottom half, walking trousers and/or shorts with lots of pockets are a good idea. You’ll also want an outfit or two, along with alternative footwear, for the evening.
In terms of non-clothing items, you’ll need:
• rucksack (large enough to carry your picnic, waterproofs and the items below)
• water bottle
• high-energy snacks
• route notes and map(s)
• (sun) hat
• basic first-aid kit
• sun cream
• insect repellent
The following are useful, but not essential: walking poles, especially if the route involves regular ascents and descents and/or uneven ground; a map holder so that your map (and route notes) are easily accessible, and stay dry in the rain; and a GPS device.
Where can I go on a self-guided walking holiday in the UK?
The Tweed & the Scottish Borders (grade 1-2 - easy-to-moderate)
What makes it a great choice for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK: hugely enjoyable as the walking is, there is so much more to this area, not least a variety of historic sites
The bucolic, sheep-grazed landscapes of the Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders are full of history and culture, in the form of fortified tower houses which hint at the region’s turbulent past; the Roman site of Trimontium; Melrose Abbey; Traquair House, one-time refuge of Mary Queen of Scots; and Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, with its splendid formal gardens. All this means that you can combine walking with cultural visits for a memorable holiday.
South Downs to the Sea (grade 1-2 - easy-to-moderate)
What makes it a great choice for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK: there’s something special about descending from the hills to the coast, giving your holiday a real sense of journey
Part of the charm of this holiday comes from witnessing the rolling chalk landscapes of the South Downs morph into soft seascapes as you progress southwards. On your way to the coast, you pass Bronze Age burial mounds, panoramic Iron Age hillforts and numerous reminders of the area’s Roman past, making for a fascinating and varied holiday. The high-quality accommodation is the icing on the cake.
What makes it a great choice for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK: there are formidable castles and impressive waterfalls, but it’s the green hills with their drystone walls which steal the show
Famed for its mild, crumbly cheese, Wensleydale is also enviably picturesque. This is the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so think green slopes criss-crossed with drystone walls and dotted with traditional stone villages. Our walking holiday explores the dale from east to west, passing romantic ruined castles and even more photogenic waterfalls – including famous Aysgarth – as it leads from historic Middleham to bustling Hawes.
What makes it a great choice for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK: whether or not you’ve read Thomas Hardy’s works, you’ll quickly be seduced by the bucolic scenery
The countryside either side of the Dorset-Wiltshire border is the epitome of rural England, as described so lyrically in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and many of Hardy’s other great novels and poems. There are rounded green hills grazed by contented sheep, ancient deciduous woodland filled with melodic birdsong, and high-hedged lanes linking villages of thatched cottages on whose ponds ducks swim about happily.
Castles of the Shropshire Marches (grade 2 - moderate)
What makes it a great choice for a self-guided walking holiday in the UK: there’s history seemingly at every turn, not least in handsome Ludlow, your finishing point
Saxon hillforts, Norman castles built to defend against Welsh incursion, ancient drovers’ trails, and winding river valleys which played a part in the birth of the Industrial Revolution, combine to make this unspoiled corner of England a fascinating area to explore. Starting in Bishop's Castle, the route leads along the ridgeways close to the Welsh border to reach Ludlow, a charming spot at which to finish.