Travel

Why a hiking holiday makes the perfect post-lockdown UK staycation


Fancy a return to nature? (Picture: Wagner Kurt)

With new trails all over the world, a hiking holiday is the perfect post-lockdown escape.

Hiking was always in my family’s blood.

My father’s childhood home was the Youth Hostel Association lodge his mum (my grandma) ran in North Yorkshire’s windswept Swaledale. He spent his childhood hiking the moors and helping ramblers plan multi-day treks.

Sadly, when my own parents first suggested a holiday consisting of forced marches across the French Alps, as a chubby seven-year-old, I didn’t get the appeal. But by the end of that first long, hot summer I was smitten, having spent endless weeks trotting happily across alpine passes, stopping to fill my Smurf sticker-covered canteen from mountain lakes under the watchful gaze of marmots and ibex.

We’d recharge batteries at remote refuges – hikers’ huts with varying levels of comfort, ranging from converted sheep sheds to farmhouses with log fire-warmed dormitories. My mum says I almost sent my granddad, a keen hiker who often joined us, to an early grave thanks to my clumsiness – I’d often wobble off narrow paths or into mountain streams.

Now more than ever I’m craving the wide open spaces hikers are privy to

Favourite hikes include a trek to the top of Egypt’s Mount Sinai alongside snorting camels, a hike from Darjeeling into Nepal, with Mount Everest looming in the distance, and a long, hard slog up North Korea’s Mount Kumgang, complete with humiliating overtakes by stiletto-clad locals.

Tamara Hinson in Sapa, Vietnam

My parents now live in that same alpine valley, and I regularly head there for walking holidays. Hiking is one of my favourite pastimes. For me, the discovery of new landscapes is infinitely more satisfying when I arrive under my own steam.

Hiking is more accessible than ever, and since lockdown eased, there’s been a surge in bookings for walking holidays, thanks partly to the ever-expanding list of countries rolling out new and improved trails, whether it’s Spain’s revamped Caminito del Rey, or Slovenia’s new Juliana Trail, a 270-kilometre route through the foothills of the Slovenian Alps.

Then there’s the kit.

It was 1877 when US army general Henry Merriam designed what he hoped would become the first mass-produced backpack, a somewhat basic strappy contraption with a hickory frame that cinched around the waist.

Things have changed somewhat since then. And I should know, as someone who’s transformed from the reluctant youngster who threw the mother of all tantrums upon hearing my parents’ plans for that first hiking holiday, to a regular rambler with a weak spot for the latest kit, whether it’s the water-repelling backpack I splurged on for my recent hike across Slovenia, or the bacteria-filtering bottle which allowed me to quench my thirst with water scooped from a rhino poo-filled lake in Zambia.

My collection of hiking boots, meanwhile, is the outdoor equivalent of Imelda Marcos’s legendary shoe collection.

Tamara Hinson in Via Alpina, Switzerland.

Last year I hiked Switzerland’s legendary Via Alpina trail, breathing in the scent of wild thyme and taking in the soundtrack of whistling marmots. I couldn’t help but recall my grandad’s fear of hiking-relating mishaps when I accidentally startled a passing cow, which responded with a mock charge, his cowbell clanging manically.

Now more than ever I’m craving the wide open spaces hikers are privy to. At a time when many are planning on celebrating their lockdown survival with a bucket list trip, I’ve got my sights on my toughest hike yet – a trek to Everest basecamp.

I reckon my grandparents would be proud.



Five great UK hikes

Sherwood Forest

Nottinghamshire’s famous forest has some fantastic trails. We recommend the five-mile Merrie Tale of Sherwood route, which passes locations connected with Robin Hood. sherwoodforest.org.uk

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

South West Coast Path

This 630-mile route snakes along England’s southern coast, through Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, with breathtaking views throughout, and is easily broken down into smaller sections. southwestcoastpath.org.uk

(Picture: Jeremy Saul)

Yorkshire Three Peaks

This 24-mile route twists through the Yorkshire Dales, via the impressive Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough peaks, taking in 1,585m (5,200ft) of ascent. threepeakschallenge.uk

Yorkshire Three Peaks

Causeway Coast Way

Highlights of Northern Ireland’s 32-mile Causeway Coast Way include the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle. causeway coastway.com

Dunluce Castle (Picture: Northern Ireland Tourist Board)

Thames Path

Got time to kill? Walk the 182-mile Thames Path, starting in Gloucestershire and going through stunning countryside, the city of Oxford, famous Henley, past Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, and into the heart of London.
nationaltrail.co.uk

(Picture: Richard Waite)

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