Please read our
Coronavirus/Covid 19 update.
  • Moving Towards a 'New Normal'!

    15th May, 2020

    As the UK begins tentative steps to relax the lockdown we are starting to think about how we will move forward in a responsible way that protects our clients, our partners, our environment and our business and still allows us to organise exciting and authentic holidays which introduce our clients to the hidden gems and local secrets that even the locals may not know are on their doorstep.

    We will miss many of our international friends this summer – but as they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – and we will have a very warm welcome waiting for you next spring!

    And while we trust that our fellow Brits will remain aware and alert and take steps to avoid a second wave of the pandemic, we recognise that many are in need of something to look forward to, and a much needed holiday as soon as it is sensible to do so – and we think we have just the thing! Our holidays, by their very nature are a chance to get away from it all – cycling or walking off the beaten track, discovering quiet routes and tiny villages, boutique accommodation and special foodie stops, avoiding the crowds and popular honeypots in favour of the lesser known and unspoilt treasures. But we have also put our heads together to tweak some of our trips to make them even more ideal getaways for the ‘new normal’

    Skip the Cities

    While Oxford is one of our favourite places and the hub for many of our walking and cycling tours, we are relocating our starting point to a lovely hotel on the river outside the city. Anyone who still wishes to visit the wonders that Oxford has to offer can still do so with a short walk or cycle along a quiet stretch of the river without being based ‘in the thick of it’. Similarly on our Lochs and Glens to Edinburgh tour, we are now offering the option to skip taking the train to Edinburgh and adding an extra day’s cycling along the river and through the Pass of Killiecrankie to Blair Atholl Castle. (If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook you will have seen some of our experiences from a brilliant trip in May 2019). We are looking at all our holidays to see where it may be appropriate to re route around busier areas – but as ever if you have any questions, please ask.

    Arrive by car

    We are also aware that our guests may be more likely to be arriving by car than train or plane for a while so we are making arrangements for guests to park their cars for the duration of the trip and transferring passengers either to the start of their adventure or back to their cars at the end. For example our Devon Coast to Coast is an essentially rural and traffic free cycle from the north coast of Devon down to Plymouth and we will meet you at the end to take you back to your starting point near Barnstaple and your car or onward journey. As ever we will be asking how you plan to arrive for your holiday so we can make the best arrangements for you.

    Family Friendly Holidays

    We have a selection of Family Friendly Holidays which generally have shorter distances and very traffic free routes and are ideal for children (and parents!). We have also put together a new ‘Chiltern Traffic Free Jolly’ which we think is a perfect short break for seven year olds and up, with glorious cycling along canals and woodland trails with exciting stops at 2 very special museums and a chocolate shop! Have a look at our ‘Inspire Me’ section which features some of our favourite family holidays for more ideas or ask us – we can often adapt other trips to suit your requirements.

    Terms and Conditions

    Please continue to look at our website and dream of better times and if you would like us to prepare you an itinerary, do get in touch. We have amended our Terms and Conditions in this unique period so that when you book, your deposit is fully refundable if the government advice is that it’s not safe or possible to travel. We will request the balance payment just 30 days before your trip and again if government advice changes between then and the start of your trip, this will be refundable. We do recommend you take out travel insurance to cover any other circumstances.

    At this point we are unsure when hotels and other hospitality venues will be available but we are hoping that the phased opening through July will mean we can operate from August – and we are also unsure whether at that point demand will exceed supply so if you are seriously considering a getaway later this summer we would love to hear from you.

    We look forward to the day when we have lots of explorers ‘out on the road’ but in the meantime we’ll keep planning ahead! Stay safe and keep well!

  • Life in Lockdown - Guilt Free Viewing!

    27th April, 2020

    Our thoughts are with everyone affected in different ways by the current sad and surreal situation in which we find ourselves, and our gratitude to the health professionals and other key workers who are keeping our society functioning is immeasurable.

    For many people isolated at home this may be a worrying time, but also a chance to step temporarily off the treadmill; to reconnect with simpler pleasures; clear some clutter; watch TV without feeling too guilty and make plans for the future.

    A little escapism may also be in order so we thought we would share some of our favourite TV series and films. As well as being an entertaining and educational way to pass a few hours, we think they really embody the beauty of Britain. We remain positive that things will improve and that a holiday in the glorious British countryside will be just what the Doctor ordered once this is over.

    In the meantime we wish you and your loved ones a safe passage and happy viewing!

    SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE SERIES...

    MIDSOMER MURDERS - DI BARNABY - THE CHILTERNS

    For 23 years, Midsomer Murders or Barnaby as it is known around the world, has portrayed a fictionally darker side of the beautiful Chilterns Hills where the detective series is set. This is our own backyard and we recognise many of the features in our own local Flower Show or Cricket Club – although without the body count! Have a look at Chilterns Chalk and Cheese or for the diehard fans ask us for our Meandering Through Midsomer version!

    DOC MARTIN - CORNWALL

    Martin Ellingham is a Doctor with a fear of blood and a challenging bedside manner, who sets up a general practice in the fictional Cornish village of Portwenn. With a supporting cast of quirky characters Doc Martin saves lives while murdering social skills against a back drop of the real Port Isaac in north Cornwall, which you can visit on our Captivating Cornwall Cycling Tour.

    MORSE AND LEWIS - OXFORD

    Set amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford, the irascible but brilliant Inspector Morse, with his love of beer and opera, embodies cultured Britishness. Together with his partner DS Lewis, (who got promoted to a series of his own), Morse has been solving clever crimes amongst the intellectuals of this most famous university city since 1987. What better way to explore their haunts in Oxford and the Cotswolds than by bike.

    DOWNTON ABBEY

    We were all enthralled by the lives of Lord Grantham and his family in the early 1900s despite some of the storylines! Was it the glorious setting of Highclere Castle and the National Trust village of Lacock? the elegant costumes? the whole British class system and parallel stories of ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ ? or Maggie Smith’s wonderful sarcasm!

    ...AND FILMS

    HARRY POTTER

    What better excuse than lockdown for a Harry Potter marathon! All 8 films with so many iconic moments from the flight of the Ford Anglia over Glenfinnan; stunning views of Glencoe; Hogwarts Dining Hall at Christchurch Oxford and many more culminating in the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Take a look at Highlands and Hebrides, or let us design the perfect touring itinerary for you.

    FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    An apt title for 2020! - this 2015 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's wonderful novel, tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene's struggles in Victorian England to run her farm and choose between 3 very different suitors. Take a peek at the film trailer then plan your own escape from the crowds with a cycling trip in Dorset and the New Forest.

    MISS POTTER

    Renee Zellweger plays the part of Beatrix Potter as her childhood stories and paintings are brought to life and become some of the best loved stories of all time, and allow her to indulge her love of the Lake District; buy Hill Top Farm and save some of its treasures for us today. See the film trailer then plan a walk in her footsteps on our Quintessential Lake District holiday.

    SUNSHINE ON LEITH

    This feelgood film will make you laugh and cry as two young soldiers return from Afghanistan to pick up the threads of life and love in Edinburgh. Weaving the songs of The Proclaimers throughout, it ends with a raucous finale near the castle. Even if you don't watch the film, listen to the music and you will want to add an extra day to our Lochs and Glens to Edinburgh cycle tour!

    All of these great series and films are currently available on Amazon Prime so get a cup of tea and a biscuit and transport yourself to another place and time...

  • Top Tips for Cycling Beginners

    2nd March, 2020

    With cycling becoming ever more popular you may like the idea of a cycling holiday - but have a few questions and concerns! So we asked our Founder and Chief Route Designer - Wendy Carter - for her top tips to get the most enjoyment from your trip.

    LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD

    For lots of couples or groups, one rider may be fitter and more confident than their partner. To level the playing field, choose an electric bike that makes hills a breeze and gives you a helping hand if you start to fall behind.

    KIT TIPS

    Don’t worry about what your rear looks like – comfort comes first! Buy some padded cycling shorts which protect your body parts in contact with the saddle. They are worth every penny. Check out the thickness and width of the padding as it can vary.

    Bring a gel bike seat cover. They go neatly into your suitcase and fit on top of the saddle to give you double protection. Again, they vary in thickness and shape so worth checking out a few different buys.

    Do wear a helmet. If you don’t it may invalidate your travel insurance, and it’s just general common sense. Make sure you adjust it to fit before you start your ride, using the knob at the back and the strap under your chin so your head fits neatly but not tightly. If you are hiring a helmet and don’t like the idea of using one someone has worn before, then buy a helmet liner.

    Bring comfortable shoes with reasonably thick soles that have some flexibility – trainers are good, flip flops and sandals are not, especially as they don’t protect your toes and feet from small stones, stinging nettles or mud.

    Wear layers of clothing that you can peel off and carry neatly in your pannier.

    Sun glasses have the dual benefit of protecting your eyes from bright lights and insects you may end up cycling through.

    WELL ADJUSTED

    Few novice cyclists take the time to adjust their bicycle before they start riding. Getting the saddle at the right height can make a huge difference in terms of the effort you put in to the power you get out. For maximum efficiency, adjust your saddle so that when your pedal is at its lowest position your leg is straight.

    It may help to adjust the handlebars too, making them higher so you don’t have to lean over or put so much weight on your arms, and bringing them nearer if you don’t want to stretch your arms as far. If you have to make a lot of adjustments then the bike you have been given is probably too small or too big.

    ON YOUR BIKE

    Only change gear when you are pedalling otherwise you risk the chain coming adrift. Look ahead and start changing gear before you reach an incline rather than when you reach it, which is too late. This is especially true if the incline is steep when you will need to go down several gears (rather than just one) and you should get up as much speed as possible before the incline arrives. Keep changing down until you are riding at a comfortable pace. Don’t be proud - if the slope is defeating you just get off and push!

    For safety, use both brakes when you want to slow down.

    Padlock your bike to something that’s not just temporary or can be easily snapped and try to put the cable through the front or back wheel rather than just through the frame.

    If you get a puncture, you must find and remove the offending object rather than simply replacing the inner tube. If you don’t find the cause of the problem you’ll keep getting the same problem.

    If you’re cycling behind someone, don’t get too close, otherwise if they stop abruptly you don’t have much time to react.

    In busy areas always cycle single file and keep close to the curb.

    If you’re crossing a curb, railway line or a drain, cross with your wheel at right angles to the obstacle.

    For safety keep your ears open as well as your eyes peeled. No ear phones.

    RIDE READY

    Keep your water bottle topped up and preferably have one that you can open and use with one hand or else you will have to stop every time you want a sip.

    Carry some snacks. Sometimes you might go a distance before finding somewhere to eat or buy food.

    Look at your itinerary the night before and have some idea of the shape of the day ahead, the highlights you might want to visit and where you might stop for lunch. It’s best to complete more than half the miles, sometimes even two thirds of the distance, before lunch.

    Check what time frames you need to meet, such as boat or ferry crossings. In the UK, many country pubs stop serving lunch around 2pm, and may close from 3pm to early evening.

    Try to find out where public restrooms are located for the day ahead. If you get caught out, prepare for a rural spot by bringing tissues or wet wipes with you. These are also great if you have to repair a puncture and get oily hands. If all else fails, use grass!

    GO SLOW

    If something catches your attention take the time to go and explore it. This is what slow travel is all about. It’s the journey that matters rather than the arrival.

    Engage with the locals especially en-route. They can often tell you even more about the local history or point you in the direction of hidden gems that you don’t want to miss.

    AND FINALLY

    Ask us! We have lots of experience of designing the perfect trip and we love what we do!

  • The National Trust - for everyone, for ever

    23rd January, 2020

    “Our lives are overcrowded, over-excited, over-strained. We all want quiet. We all want beauty. We all need space. Unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.”

    Octavia Hill Co-founder of the National Trust

    This year one of Britain’s most cherished institutions, the National Trust is celebrating 125 years of protecting and caring for our natural and cultural heritage. Originally founded in 1895 at the end of the Victorian era by Octavia Hill, a dedicated social reformer and philanthropist, who together with Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and Sir Robert Hunter, worked hard to save green spaces in London for the poorer members of society. The result was a campaign for the opening-up of graveyards for the people, the saving of Parliament Hill from developers and then the creation of the Trust itself, so that London’s fast-disappearing green spaces could ‘be kept for the enjoyment, refreshment, and rest of those who have no country house’.

    Now 125 years later the National Trust has 5 million members and looks after 500 special places.

    Special People

    One early supporter of the National Trust was Beatrix Potter who used income from the sale of her books to donate 16,000 hectares and 14 working farms to the Trust. Her home at Hill Top which she bought in 1905 with the proceeds of her first book ‘Peter Rabbit’ is full of her favourite things, and the house appears as if Beatrix had just stepped out for a walk. Every room contains a reference to a picture in a 'tale'. The lovely cottage garden is a haphazard mix of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables now lovingly conserved and a highlight on our Quintessential Lake District tour.

    The birthplace of Thomas Hardy - another of our celebrated writers – is also now owned and cared for by the National Trust. Few authors have such strong associations with the natural and cultural heritage of their local area as Thomas Hardy whose works are synonymous with Dorset. This cottage, where Hardy was born in 1840, was built of cob and thatch by his great-grandfather and has been little altered since the family left. Although the garden reflects most people's idea of a typical cottage garden, with roses around the door, once inside you will discover that 19th-century rural life, with its open hearths, small windows and stone floors, was not always idyllic. Despite training as an architect, writing was Hardy's first love, and it was from here that he wrote several of his early short stories, poetry and novels including 'Under the Greenwood Tree' and 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.

    In 1885 Hardy built Max Gate, an austere but sophisticated town house a short walk from the town centre of Dorchester, to show that he was part of the wealthy middle classes, to reflect his position as a successful writer, and to enable him to enter polite society. The house was named after a nearby tollgate keeper called Mack. He wrote some of his most famous novels here, including Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, as well as much of his poetry. You can explore the areas that so inspired his writing as well as visiting the cottage and his later home Max Gate on our several of our Dorset tours.

    Special Places

    20 percent of National Trust Land is coastal including the White Cliffs of Dover and the Needles on the South Coast of England making up some of the 780 miles of British Coastline protected by the Trust, along with twenty percent of the Lake District and the whole village of Lacock in Wiltshire. With its central grid of four streets, Lacock today looks much like it did 200 years ago. Its oldest house is older than the thirteenth century abbey but since the loss of the village's main source of income from wool in the nineteenth century, new development has been minimal. Today it will be familiar to many as a film location with some of the village’s most famous appearances in 'Downton Abbey', the BBC’s 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Cranford', and the films such as 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'. There are a couple of lovely hostelries in Lacock and a delightful stop on ‘A Cotswold Ride to Bath’.

    With a shared belief in the importance of historic places and green spaces Hill, Rawnsley and Hunter fought to preserve them for everyone’s ‘enjoyment, refreshment and rest’. These values are still at the heart of the National Trust and has enabled innumerable natural and architectural treasures to be preserved for the enjoyment of all - and we will be forever grateful for their foresight.

  • Stars Twinkle over The Lake District

    21st November, 2019

    There are 8 special stars shining over the Lake District – Michelin Stars that is – making this beautiful area of England not only a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors but also for those who love the bounty it produces. The Lake District’s reputation as one of the most mouth-watering foodie destinations in the UK has been given a welcome boost – thanks to three new Michelin stars announced this month and we are delighted that so many of these special places are featured in our Lake District Tours. Seven restaurants now proudly enjoy membership of an exclusive club of Lake District eateries which all share the seal of approval by the team behind the internationally-respected Michelin Great Britain & Ireland Stars for 2020 guide.

    CONTINUING TO SHINE

    Both HRiSHi at the Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, and Forest Side at Grasmere, which feature in our Luxury Quintessential Lake District have retained their one Michelin Star rating. Hrishikesh Desai – creator of HRiSHi and Gilpin Spice is becoming justly renowned for his exciting combination of great Lake District produce and classic methods to deliver innovative textures and flavours – modern British cuisine with a twist. In September he was also awarded 4AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence.

    Paul Leonard recently joined Forest Side in Grasmere as Head Chef and brings with him a great depth of experience working at the highest levels, including retaining a Michelin Star at the Isle of Eriska on the west coast of Scotland. He joins Forest Side from the Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey, where he won the Burlington restaurant four Rosettes within his first year. His new The Lal 'Un (7 course) and The Grand 'Un (10 course) tasting menus are rich with local seasonal produce.

    NEW STARS

    We are also delighted to feature Askham Hall on our Luxury Quintessential Lake District walking tour whose ‘Allium’ restaurant has just earned its first star and which judges say “makes great use of produce from its gardens and estate”.

    The other new arrivals are both small independent restaurants; The Cottage in the Wood at Braithwaite, near Keswick and the Old Stamp House in Ambleside, both of which champion local produce superbly prepared. For the complete gourmet experience we can arrange a dinner at either of these as part of your trip.

    RISING STAR

    Simon Rogan, who is already renowned for his 2 Michelin Starred L’Enclume and 1 Star Rogan & Co., both in nearby Cartmel, recently took over the restaurant at Linthwaite House, which features in both Electric Lakes and our new Dales Way Luxury Walking Tour. With stunning views over Linthwaite’s immaculately landscaped gardens, HenRock - pictured above - will showcase natural, seasonal ingredients from Rogan’s own farm. The restaurant is named after Hen Holme (a rocky outcrop on Windermere that is often visible from the terrace of Linthwaite House). In a relaxed and elegant setting Henrock’s menu features small plates and sharing dishes leaning heavily on influences, techniques and produce discovered on the chefs’ travels around the globe.

    Having been fortunate enough to dine there recently I can confirm that the poached cod with black lime curry and buttermilk is exquisite, and I was only sorry that dining alone on a business trip I was unable to enjoy one of the sharing plates. (It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it!). This will surely become one of ‘the’ places to dine before long and I look forward to a return visit!