From the Blog
Back to Basics: Walking for Pleasure
As highlighted in one of our previous articles, walking is not often thought of as a go-to mode of transport. Much less likely, for most people, would be to think of taking a walking holiday.
However, this is in actual fact a very popular form of vacation across the world and one that can result in totally unique and memorable experiences for anyone involved. Walking has been a favourite pastime of many eminent artists, poets and musicians throughout the centuries, including Byron, Wordsworth and van Gogh. It’s said that the process of walking, along with the beautiful and sublime vistas seen along the way, stimulates the creative brain and can help produce new ideas. Read on for our guide on how to enjoy walking for pleasure.
Wherever you happen to be in the world, there is guaranteed to be a fantastic trail walk somewhere close by. Nowhere is this more true than in the United Kingdom. Britons are spoilt for choice when it comes to long distance trail walks, with 16 National Trails forming the backbone of the selection. Although these National Trails range from Yorkshire to the Cotswolds to the middle of Wales, they don’t cover everywhere. Other popular trail walks in the UK include the West Highland Way in Scotland, and the writer/walker Alfred Wainwright’s favourite, the Coast to Coast.
For the more ambitiously minded, we move over to the USA and their cache of super long distance trails. A couple of favourites are the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, both mammoth journeys through breathtaking landscape and spanning much of North America’s vast expanse. These iconic trails are thousands of miles long but well worth the commitment. Alternatively, the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal offers walkers a chance to conquer that famed mountain range on the high route and sample the Nepali culture on the low route.If you don’t fancy dedicating days, weeks or even months to a walk, then you will find plenty of local trails and circular walks in your area. Walking for pleasure isn’t just about getting from A to B, although the feeling of satisfaction once you complete a trail is second to none. However, they are also a great activity for sunny weekends or as an alternative celebratory venture.
For those who’d rather focus on the ‘holiday’ aspect of a walking holiday, there are a whole host of providers out there eager to offer you the full package experience with none of the work. This approach means that you can truly relax into your break without having to worry too much about where you’re going to sleep, what happens if you get lost or if there’s a sudden bout of dreadful weather. Names like Exodus and Macs Adventure offer package walking holidays all over the globe, with varying levels of difficulty and independence for walkers. Personally, I like to take my time when on a walking holiday and spend long lunches and gentle evenings relaxing after clocking up the miles. My recommendations for walker-friendly downtime activities include reading a good book, sharpening your mind by playing a few hands and getting stuck into a great podcast. All of these activities allow you to unwind but none of them take up very much space in your luggage. Perfect for a walking-heavy trip! Of course, if you would rather have full independence and head out on a self-guided walk, there are plenty of resources to help you get the most from it. You can buy well researched and accessible guide books for pretty much every recognised trail walk and, even if you’d like to go ‘off road’ and make up your own route, there are detailed maps available.
Although often thought of as exclusively for those who are religiously minded, there are many pilgrimage walks that can be undertaken by anybody with a wish to complete them. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Camino de Santiago, a network of routes which traverse the landscape of Western Europe and end in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Others include: St Cuthbert’s Way in the north of England which ends at Lindisfarne, or the Holy Island; the Kumano Kodo Trail in Japan upon which there are many Shinto and Buddhist shrines; and Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, which has significant importance in many different faiths.
If you are thinking of heading off on a walking holiday, make sure that you have the right kit before you go. It goes without saying that a good pair of hiking boots or shoes are the number one essential, along with appropriate clothing (usually a sturdy waterproof jacket and hiking trousers), a reliable rucksack and, for when all else fails, an emergency whistle. Depending on the style of walking holiday you take, you may need a compass, a map in waterproof pouch, or even a GPS device.