“A few years ago a friend and I went on a nine day self-guided walking tour in Derbyshire, England. This took a considerable amount of time and effort to organise. Since then I have always wanted to do another English walk but decided it would be rather nice to have someone else do the organising for me.
I Googled “Walking Tours England” and came up with a company called HF Holidays, who arrange walking trips all over Europe. I checked various reviews on their trips, and all were very positive with not one complaint. I sent several emails to them over the following weeks and was always impressed with their prompt replies and nothing was too much trouble for them. I decided to go ahead and book a one week hike.
On the advice of friends who know Cornwall well, I chose the St Ives Guided Walking Holiday. I booked a single room with en suite (with a superb ocean view from my room). The trip included 7 nights accommodation in an excellent hotel (or house as they call them), 3 meals a day, and transport to and from the walks which I thought was excellent value.
I arrived at Chy Morvah Hotel (house by the sea in Cornish) late in the afternoon, unpacked and made myself at home, then headed down to the lounge area to listen to the four walk leaders (all volunteers) giving details of the trip they would be leading the following day.
You then put your name down for the walk you wanted to complete the following day. You have the choice of an Easy, Medium or Hard walk, plus an additional event they provide is their Discovery Tour, which is provided for those who are unable to walk long distances or hilly terrain.
This walk is about 7 km a day with stops at museums, art galleries, and anything else of interest in the area they would be walking in. These walks are more social than the others and the walk is spread between sightseeing.
A lot of couples with differing walking abilities go on separate walks during the day and get together in the evenings.
Most days we were all picked up by bus – the Discovery Walkers had their own much smaller bus – with the “Hard” walkers getting off first, then the “Medium” walkers getting off about 5 km further along, and then the “Easy” walkers being let off last.
HF Holidays pick the cream of the walks on each coast for their walkers.
Although you book for a week, you only walk for 5 days, starting on the Sunday, with Wednesday as a free day.
It’s not compulsory to walk each day and some of the walkers took more than one day off and went exploring.
I took an extra day off so that I could take a coach trip to Port Isaac to check out Doc Martin’s territory. A bonus was they were actually filming series 7 the day I went.
I chose a mix of Medium and Hard walks. I didn’t find any of these walks too difficult (although I was certainly pleased I had just a day pack with me and not an overnight pack) and I certainly felt I had had a strenuous walk by the time we returned to the hotel.
Most days we started walking between 10.00 and 10.30 am and didn’t return to the hotel until about 6.00 pm. Some of this time was spent on the bus getting to and from the walks. The Hard walks were about 19 km with a lot of steep ascents and descents and the medium walks were about 16 km with slightly less hilly terrain.
I didn’t think the sea views from the cliff tops were any more impressive than those from the Cape to Cape and the Bibbulmun.
However, the views inland were far superior as we passed through a lot of farmland with cows and sheep happily grazing plus occasional wild horses and some days we walked through little fishing villages.
All the vegetation was a lush green.
The meals were excellent with lots of choices. Our days started with a very hearty breakfast (whatever appealed to you from the menu), you then selected what you wanted from the 3 course dinner menu, and this was then delivered to you in the dining room that evening.
After dinner you then selected the type of sandwich you wanted for your picnic lunch the following day. There was every ingredient imaginable to choose from. Each room had a pigeon hole in the dining room, where your sandwich was left the following morning.
You then chose whatever you wanted to accompany your sandwich from a huge selection of goodies for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. You could choose from fresh fruit, dried fruit, mixed nuts, cheeses with four or five types of cheese biscuits, plain and chocolate biscuits, every chocolate bar ever produced, blueberry or chocolate muffins, fruit cake, potato chips (a huge favourite with the English!) or tubs of yoghurt.
All this was placed in a paper carry bag and popped into your back pack. There was no limit as to how much you took.
The only thing not supplied were drinks at the bar (not that there was ever time to sit around the bar), wine with dinner or drinks for the hike. Most walkers took a flask of coffee or tea with them as very few of the walks passed by coffee shops as we were usually quite isolated.
Even with all the exercise, with some very steep terrain involved, it was difficult to prevent adding a few extra kilos by the end of the week. We all ate a lot of very unhealthy snacks that we would never eat at home but it was very hard to resist them.
We all told ourselves that with all our walking we would work it off. Ha!
Once back from our hikes, we would shower, change for dinner, head down to the lounge room to listen to the leaders describing the walk they would be leading the following day, then we would adjourn to the dining room (more like a 5 star restaurant) for dinner.
Dinner was followed by activities each evening such as a guided walk around St Ives (it was light until 10.00 pm), a guest speaker passing on his local knowledge, a humorous quiz night, a musical quiz night, a games night and a live show at the Minack open-air theatre. None of this was compulsory of course and there were evenings when some of us preferred a good book and an early night.
Because we were on the go the entire day and evening, there was very little time for exploring St Ives, which is a beautiful little village.
I was the only person in the group of about 45 walkers who was on their first ever HF Holiday. All the others had done at least one other trip and one was on her 5th holiday. I was assured that there was nothing exceptional about the St Ives Walking Holiday as all the HF Holiday trips are as good as each other.
Thank you Jane for telling us your tale!