Discover the world and bag a bargain with £100 off European walking breaks
Leading international tour operator, HF Holidays is asking people ‘Where will you walk in 2019?’ with £100 per person off walking holidays to some of the world’s most picturesque hiking regions, whilst availability lasts. With breaks to the Douro Valley in Portugal and Puglia in Italy to name but a couple, book now to avoid disappointment!
Also, book now to take advantage of deposits from as little as £99 per person on the selected European breaks (terms and conditions apply). Please see selected holidays below with discount details and booking information – for a full list of UK & European breaks with January discounts and low deposits, head to www.hfholidays.co.uk
Douro Valley Guided Walking Holiday
Was £1,279pp – NOW £1,179pp
The Douro Valley in Portugal is famous for its sleepy villages, rolling vineyards and spectacular river views, making it an excellent base for a walking holiday with HF Holidays. A choice of daily guided walks will show off the very best of the rural region.
Price: Seven nights departing 16th June 2019 from £1,179pp. Price includes full board accommodation, a selection of daily guided walks and return flights from London Gatwick.
Puglia Guided Walking Holiday
Was £1,149pp – NOW £1,049pp
Puglia’s majestic landscapes, charming farmhouses and endless rows of olive trees make it a beautiful region to explore on foot. This relatively undiscovered region of Italy is surrounded by mountains and turquoise seas, with plenty of wildlife to discover as you take in the location on foot. Stay at the four star Hotel San Nicola, a beautifully restored building in the heart of Altamura.
Price: Seven nights departing 18th May 2019 from £1,049pp. Price includes full board accommodation, a selection of daily guided walks and return flights from London Gatwick.
Places are limited on these holidays so book now to avoid disappointment. For more information on HF Holidays, please visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or call 020 3974 8876.
HF Holidays' January Sale discount on UK and European walking holidays
Thursday 27 December 2018
Leading walking activity holiday provider, HF Holidays, is kick-starting the new year with its amazing January Sale, with up to £125pp off UK & European Walking Holidays. It means that you can escape the winter blues by booking a sunshine break to the picturesque surroundings of Cyprus, Sorrento or even Madeira!
Madeira Guided Walking Holiday – Save £125pp!
11 March, 7 nights – was £949pp, NOW £824pp
The small volcanic island of Madeira is packed full of bright flowers and rugged mountains where you can test your legs. Join HF Holidays as you step out in search of majestic waterfalls and unrivalled panoramic views.
Cyprus Guided Walking Holiday – Save £125pp!
10 March, 7 nights – was £1,149pp, NOW £1,024pp
The lush green landscapes and spring sunshine make the island of Cyprus an absolute gem for walkers. Discover charming villages, ruins and vineyards as you work your way around the island, spotting rich and diverse wildlife as you go.
Sorrento Guided Walking Holiday – Save £125pp!
27 April, 7 nights – was £1,299pp, NOW £1,174pp
Step out into excellent coastal scenery, ancient ruins and idyllic olive groves as you walk on daily guided routes that take in the very best of Sorrento.
Las Alpujarras Guided Walking Holiday – Save £125pp!
4 May, 7 nights – was £1,049pp, NOW £924pp
The glorious valleys of the Sierra Nevada are best discovered on foot. Soak up the local traditions and gastronomy as you make your way around the region with expert guides on hand every step of the way.
Lanzarote Guided Walking Holiday – Save £125pp!
3 March, 7 nights – was £1,199pp, NOW £1,074pp
Explore the volcanic landscapes of the sun-drenched Canary Island as you make your way through Islote Hilario National Park, around sleepy fishing villages and across a series of gorgeous beaches. www.hfholidays.co.uk/JAN19
Places are limited on these holidays so book now to avoid disappointment. For more information on HF Holidays, please visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or call 020 3974 8876.
Enjoy a Festival of Walks with Ramblers Walking Holidays in 2019
Monday 10 December
With the Festival of Winter Walks* taking place throughout the UK from Friday 21 December to Sunday 6 January with some great winter-themed walks, why not set the pace for the year ahead by booking one of Ramblers Walking Holidays new UK 2019 breaks such as The Nidderdale Way in North Yorkshire (bordering the Yorkshire Dales National Park), which has departures in April, June, August and September 2019.
A favourite amongst continuous trail walkers, walk sections of this 53 mile long circular footpath within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty passing though small historic villages, along the River Nidd and Gouthwaite Reservoir and uncovering some of the north Yorkshire's most interesting sights.
Taking in Ripley Castle with its gardens laid out by Capability Brown and remarkably unchanged 19th century model village, the natural gritstone sculptures at Brimham Rocks, the spectacular limestone ravine How Stean Gorge and the towering landmarks Guisecliff buttresses, Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) six night The Nidderdale Way starts from £789/person, including half board en suite accommodation, transport to from walks and an experienced leader.
Other new 2019 UK holidays include The Iron Bridge Gorge and Museums and Highlights of the Two Moors Way.
Black Friday sees 50% off selected walking breaks with HF Holidays
Leading walking and activity holiday provider HF Holidays has released a selection of travel deals for Black Friday with discounts of up to a massive 50% off selected UK Guided Walking Breaks! With chance to bag a bargain on picturesque countryside breaks to the Shropshire Hills, Scottish Highlands and the Peak District this is an offer not to be missed. More details at www.hfholidays.co.uk/blackfriday
Spring & Winter Guided Walking at the Peak District
8th March, 7 nights – was £725pp, Now £362.50pp
Embark on a challenging jaunt across Dark Peak, Stanage Edge and The Roaches and put your legs to the test, or opt for a more leisurely stroll through pretty villages and fields, ending the day in a cosy pub or tearoom.
Spring & Winter Guided Walking in the Shropshire Hills
1st February, 7 nights – was £725pp, Now £362.50pp
Step out into the crisp Shropshire air as you discover everything from forts and castles through to sleepy market towns and glorious countryside. With so much to explore, it is no wonder the region has been dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’.
Guided Walking in the Scottish Highlands
1st April, 4 nights – was £495pp, Now 247.50pp
Discover the peaceful surroundings and awe-inspiring seascapes of Glen Coe as you explore the region whilst staying at Altshellach, a fine highland residence which is popular with outdoor enthusiasts. www.hfholidays.co.uk/blackfriday
And in addition, there's a Cyber Monday offer where under-18s go free on selected Family Walking Adventures!
Family Walking Adventure to the Lake District
18th February, 4 nights, £498pp
With up to four specially tailored family walks to choose from every day, set off on an adventure through the Lake District’s world-famous rolling countryside with so much to spot along the way.
Family Walking Adventure to the Brecon Beacons
19th April, 7 nights, £723pp
With everything from cascading waterfalls to secluded caves and rugged mountains, there is something to explore around every corner on this HF Holidays break to the Brecon Beacons.
Family Walking Adventure to the North Yorkshire Moors
10th August, 7 nights, £928pp
A short walk from the seaside, Whitby is the perfect base for this summer Family Walking Adventure with historic harbours, sandy beaches and rock pools to make the most of along a range of guided walks.
* Places are limited so book now to avoid disappointment by logging onto www.hfholidays.co.uk/blackfriday or call 020 8732 1250.
Enjoy a bargain pre-Christmas walking break in the beautiful Cotswolds
There’s no better time for a stroll in the English countryside than in the autumn and leading walking and activity holiday provider, HF Holidays, has the perfect escape to the Cotswolds to help you unwind and prepare ahead of the festive period. What’s more, you can now save up to £90pp on this fantastic autumnal break.
Self-Guided Walking Holiday in the Cotswolds
Discover the vibrant colours of autumn on a stunning break in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Explore the very best of the region at your leisure, from a gentle stroll through The Slaughters to a leg stretching walk soaking up the autumnal landscape of the Gloucestershire Way.
Enjoy a selection of local ales at quirky pubs, relax in quaint tea rooms or pick up a unique Christmas gift or two as you savour the beautiful scenery. Stay at HF Holidays’ historic 4-star Country House located in the charming village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
With the picturesque countryside right on your doorstep, it’s the perfect setting to unwind ahead of the festive period.
Price: Four nights departing 26th November 2018 from £249 per person (it was was £339) which includes full board accommodation and the services of HF Holidays’ expert leaders. To book, visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or call 020 8732 1250.
Discovering Thomas Hardy's fictional county of Wessex on foot
Words and pictures
by Alan Wooding
Monday, 16 April 2018
I must admit that I've been a fan of Victorian author Thomas Hardy since falling in love with actress Julie Christie as a teenager when she starred in the 1960s film, Far From The Madding Crowd.
Filmed in and around Dorset, one of Britain's most picturesque counties, Ms Christie was cast in director John Schlesinger's cinematic masterpiece as the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene in a film which recreates Hardy's classic tale in all its glory. She plays a headstrong woman who inherits a farm and is then pursued for her hand in marriage by the likes of fellow actors Peter Finch, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates.
With Hardy's beloved Dorset homeland to the fore, I was recently invited to explore the wild uplands, rolling hills and quaint semi-fictional Wessex villages close to the south coast downs by HF Holidays – www.hfholidays.co.uk (0345 470 7558) – with the intention of learning more about one of Britain's most prolific Victorian authors and poets.
Staying at West Lulworth House – one of 18 such UK properties owned by the 105-year-old holiday company – from it's lofty position, the four-star residences is located just a 200 metre stroll from the picturesque Lulworth Cove on Dorset's historic Jurassic Coast.
On arrival for our four night stay we were warmly greeted by HF Holidays' enthusiastic walks leader Sandy Franklin who immediately invited us to join her Thomas Hardy Discovery group.
As we had originally planned to undertake a self-guided Thomas Hardy tour, we jumped at the chance and joined ten fellow guests – but what none of us expected were the dreadful walking conditions… but more of that later!
Also on hand at the reception area was keen cyclist Lucinda Rhodes from Cambridge who was there to offer valuable information to 17 self-guided walkers and to show them the house's invaluable Discovery Point with its list of maps and various grade walks located on the first floor.
We quickly settled into our comfortable double aspect en suite room with its views over to Lulworth Cove to the south and to the coastal path which leads to Durdle Door to the west… and within a couple of hours we were tucking into one of those famed Dorset cream teas!
West Lulworth House is managed by husband and wife team Mark and Lisa Abbott, but as he was called away to look after another HF (Holiday Fellowship) property in Somerset at short notice – Selworthy in Minehead – the day to day running was down to Lisa who really made everyone feel at home.
One thing that HF Holidays prides itself on is its cuisine and as everyone was on a full board basis, it certainly doesn't disappoint. There is a huge choice at both breakfast and dinner while locally produced meat and vegetables are very much a big priority. In fact on the final night there was a five course dinner featuring the very best that Dorset has to offer.
Naturally midday lunches are of the picnic variety as everyone is either walking or sightseeing so these are ordered the night before and, apart from a choice of sandwiches, there is also a massive choice of 'extras' (fruit, pies, cereal bars, etc).
West Lulworth village and its nearby Cove are justifiably popular with walkers, fossil hunters and bird watchers alike while HF Holidays' house itself dates back to 1881. It was originally built for the former Mayor of Weymouth Sir Richard Howard who owned a paddle steamer which cross-crossed The Solent, taking passengers, supplies and cargo to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
The property was purchased by HF Holidays in 2013 while it underwent a full refurbishment two years later. It now has 22 en suite bedrooms and can accommodate a maximum of 44 guests, although some are located in the annex.
When renovated, West Lulworth House gained a new lounge and dining room while it has a sunny south facing garden and an outdoor swimming pool (open May to September), while there is free parking for guests in the public car park directly across the road opposite the house.
Like all HF Holidays' Country Houses, West Lulworth House is tailored for walkers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts with a boot room and drying room, a Discovery Point plus a rather sociable bar.
As well as outstanding walking, the UNSECO World Heritage Jurassic Coast around the Lulworth area has many fine beaches including Middle Beach to the west and that world-famous geological wonder, Durdle Door.
The massive rock arch is found after a steep uphill walk along the coastal path from Lulworth Cove's car park – it's approximately a two hour round trip and is said to be made by more than 250,000 visitors each year – while the 'door' itself is absolutely stunning, the sloping pebbled beach ideal for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling.
The eastern beaches of Mupe Bay and Arish Mell lie below land owned by the military and while these are open to the public when not in army use, you really need to check the opening times before accessing that particular area!
Lulworth Cove itself is a near-perfect circle which has been carved by the waves into the soft rocks. There is a free Heritage Centre next to the public car park which is worth a visit while facilities in the Cove itself are limited to a selection of pubs, cafés and souvenir shops. You can also hire sea canoes and kayaks with which to discover the hidden inlets and coves along the rugged coastline.
Thomas Hardy Walks
Despite a heavy mist rolling in off the sea, we joined walks leader Sandy on a short stroll down to the Cove and up to Stair Hole – a mini version of Durdle Door – prior to dinner on the first day while entertainment that evening was the 2005 film of Hardy's Under The Greenwood Tree starring Keeley Hawes (The Durrells), the late Tony Haygarth and Steve Pemberton (Benidorm).
The following morning we boarded a Mercedes Benz coach driven by Callum and were dropped off close to the village of Higher Bockhampton (formerly Upper Bockhampton) and Hardy's Birthplace Visitors Centre close to the brick, cob and thatched cottage where he was born in June 1840.
Now looked after by the National Trust, the cottage was built by Hardy's grandparents and he lived there with them, his parents Thomas Snr and Jemima, two sisters and a brother. The cottage overlooks heathland – immortalised as Egdon Heath – which he later includes in one of his most powerful novels, The Return of the Native.
Shortly after leaving the Thorncombe Wood area we were at the mercy of the elements as we headed along a path which Hardy regularly used next to the River Frome on his way to the village of Stinsford which he called Mellstock in Under the Greenwood Tree.
With the river having burst its banks due to heavy overnight rain, I soon had two very wet feet as the water invaded my walking boots. But we paddled on to view St Michael's Church and the grave of Hardy's first wife Emma Gifford (1874-1912). It is said that Hardy's heart is also buried there even though his body lies in a Poets Grave in Westminster Abbey.
We continued to walk across rain-soaked farmland, encountering oozing mud and soggy pastures which became the location of Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd while we also climbed heavily wooded tracks in Puddletown Forest to reach an ancient burial site which Hardy named Rainbarrow.
Hardy's characters and locations were certainly brought to life by walks' leader Sandy's fine descriptions. Then crossing the Roman Road we discovered the place where Eustacia Vye lived, the Rushy Pond close by and where she met her lover Wildeve... and then there was the pub which also featured strongly in Hardy's stories.
In total we walked 9.32 miles but in those conditions it was more like 15 and one wag even suggested that it was more reminiscent of the Somme than a countryside walk!
We also passed through the village of Tolpuddle, home of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs who were banished to Australia for seven years after leading a revolt against the establishment with a march to London, their actions being the basis of today's Trade Union movement.
That evening we were treated to a rather special talk by Dorchester's long serving Town Crier, Alistair Chisolm, an active and extremely entertaining members of the Thomas Hardy Society. His theatrical delivery and wonderful diction certainly kept everyone amused.
Unfortunately my wife managed to twist her knee coming out of St Mary's Church in Puddletown right at the end of the walk and that curtailed our involvement in the next two day's Thomas Hardy walks. They were from Cerne Abbas and Melcombe Bingham which would feature the locations and characters in his novels The Woodlanders and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, his heroine Tess having clearly been an intrepid walker!
However we did manage to make the climb and take the coastal path to Durdle Door as well as visiting the National Trust sites at Corfe Castle and the beautiful Kingston Lacy with its fine collection of artworks and landscaped gardens.
Each Wednesday, every one of the 18 HF Holidays residences hosts exactly the same quiz with the questions being set from head office. Consisting of four general knowledge rounds of 15 questions each, making a total of 60 in all, at West Lulworth House we were joined by three other Thomas Hardy walkers to make up a team… and I'm proud to say that we won with a score of 53. We later learned that the winners came from Yorkshire with 59 points while the runners-up with 58 were from Cumbria, but I thought our efforts in netting fourth spot overall was still a pretty good result!
We also made the short trip into Dorchester and Hardy's home at Max Gate where he wrote the majority of his novels – plus over 1,000 poems – and where he died from pleurisy on 11 January 1928, the same year as his second wife Florence Dugdale whom he had married in 1914.
Hardy also renamed Dorset's county town as Casterbridge – hence The Mayor of Casterbridge – while his final book was Jude The Obscure which received such mixed reviews that he turned instead to writing poetry, many of them romanticising the love of his first wife Emma even though their marriage had often been a tempestuous affair.
We also passed Clouds Hill, the tiny isolated 19th century-built cottage close to Bovington Camp near Wareham which was the former home of T E Lawrence, better known as 'Lawrence of Arabia'. He was stationed at Bovington and was a close friend of Hardy's. The cottage is now run as a writer's home museum by the National Trust while there was a shed which once housed Lawrence's collection of motor cycles. He died at the age of 46 after suffering head injuries after hitting a tree close to his cottage.
However one common misconception made by visitors to Dorset relates to the 72-foot tall Thomas Hardy Monument on the summit of Black Down. It was erected in 1844 – just four years after the author Thomas Hardy was born – and is in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, a commander at the Battle of Trafalgar and of whom Admiral Lord Nelson spoke those immortal words "Kiss Me Hardy" on his death bed.
Other Dorset attractions
A brisk walk from Lulworth Cove finds you at Lulworth Castle, a 17th century mock medieval castle that was once the heart of an extensive estate. Having been gutted by fire in 1929 it was derelict for many years, but has since been completely renovated – www.lulworth.com/castle
The iconic ruins of Corfe Castle stand guard over a natural gap in the Purbeck Hills. It's a half hour drive from Lulworth Cove and dates back from the 11th century. Today to is maintained by the National Trust – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle
Close to Corfe village is a lovingly restored branch railway line which runs through the Purbeck countryside. Steam hauled trains run throughout the year and you can leave your car in the Park & Ride at Norden (a 30 minute drive from Lulworth), and use the railway to visit Swanage – www.swanagerailway.co.uk
Kingston Lacy is a fine country mansion and estate close to Wimborne Minster. It dates back to 1665 and was built for the Bankes family who also purchased Corfe Castle from royalty in 1635. Now managed by the National Trust, it houses a fine collection of antiques, with many notable examples from the Middle East and Egypt – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy
Near the village of Wool you find Monkey World which again is just 20 minutes from Lulworth by car. Orginally set up to rescue mistreated monkeys from overseas, it's now home to a huge collection of primates – www.monkeyworld.org
Close by you will find the military premises at Bovington and the Tank Museum with its impressive collection from around the world dating back to the First World War – www.tankmuseum.org
Slightly further afield is Brownsea Island, located in the middle of Poole Harbour. Boats depart from Poole Quay and from Sandbanks. The island, famous for Lord Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting movement, is now a nature reserve managed by the National Trust and one of last remaining places in Britain to see red squirrels – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island
And finally, no trip to this part of the Dorset coast would be complete without a visit to nearby Weymouth, a fine Regency seaside resort with an ever-popular beach and bustling harbour.
Many thanks to Michael Leonhardt of Gough Bailey Wright of St Johns House, 16 Church Street, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B61 8DN (www.gough.co.uk, 01527 579555) for arranging our stay at HF Holidays' West Lulworth House in Lulworth Cove, Dorset.
We stayed for four nights (from Monday 9 April until Friday 13 April) at a cost of £475 per person which included full board accommodation and three guided walks. For self-guided walking, the four night cost was £395 per person. For more details of all HF Holidays – Catalyst House, 720 Centennial Court, Centennial Park, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SY – call 0345 470 7558 or visit their website at www.hfholidays.co.uk
About HF Holidays
All HF Holiday country houses welcome self-guided walkers, so you can enjoy the same diverse array of scenery, culture, history and wildlife as the rest of the guests, but with the freedom to explore wherever and whenever you choose. Each of the houses has a Discovery Point packed with a selection of local walks for you to explore. All you need to do is decide how far you feel like walking that day, pick your route card off the wall, lace up your boots and head off.
HF Holidays is actually owned by its members. Standard membership can be brought for a minimum investment of £100 (100 £1 shares) while Investment Membership means an minimum outlay of £1,000 (1,000 £1 shares) – details at www.hfholidays.co.uk/membership or call 020 8732 1290. Membership itself means various rewards, discounts and advanced booking privileges.
With over 100 years' expertise in creating unique breaks, HF Holidays has devised special courses with experts for Photography, Arts & Crafts, Music, Theatre and Festivals, Dancing, Natural World, Mind & Body, Bridge and Touring. And while the majority of these activities take place in Great Britain, there is the opportunity to travel to all parts of the globe by checking out the website at www.hfholidays.co.uk
The 18 HF County Houses in the UK are:
Chy Morval, St Ives, Cornwall; Harrington House, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds; The Pevril of the Peak, Doverdale, Derbyshire; Freshwater Bay House, Isle of Wight; Derwent Bank, Portinscale, Cumbria; Monk Coniston, Coninstonwater, Cumbria; Longwynd House, Church Stretton, Shropshire; Abingworth Hall, Abingworth, Sussex; Craflwyn Hall, Snowdon, Wales; Dolserau Hall, Dolgellau, Wales; Alltshellach, Glen Coe, Scotland; Larpool Hall, Whitby, Yorkshire; West Lulworth House, Luworth Cove, Dorset; Holnicote Gouse, Selworthy, Devon; Nether Grange, Alnmouth, Northumberland; Nythfa House, Brecon, Wales; Newfield Hall, Malhamdale, Yorkshire Dales; Thorns Hall, Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales.