Wight walkers

George Clode gets a taste of HF Holidays’ guided walking tours

There can surely be no better way to explore a holiday destination than on foot, and when it comes to guided and self-guided walking tours, HF Holidays are at the top of their game.
My walking tour of the Isle of Wight began with a warm welcome on a cold Friday afternoon at Freshwater Bay House courtesy of the HF walk leaders and PR team.

All the gear

I was kitted out with some serious hiking clobber, including a padded Berghaus windbreaker and a pair of Hi-Tec walking boots, before an excellent evening meal and introductions from local speakers, who talked us through some of the island’s history.
The food throughout my stay at Freshwater Bay House was top notch. Hearty breakfasts equipped walkers with fuel for the day’s hike, and delicious evening meals catered for all, including vegetarians and those who prefer gluten free meals.
On Saturday morning we picked up our pre-selected packed lunches and assembled with our allocated walk leaders. The walks range in difficulty from easy (seven miles), medium (eight miles) and hard (12 miles), and begin at different times to ensure everyone returns around the same time.

Lunch with a view

Being a bit of a fence-sitter, I opted for medium, which was a glorious route along the coast at Totland Bay with lunch in the sun in view of the Needles ¬¬– a row of three jagged stacks of chalk which rise out of the sea near Alum Bay.
Like the easier route, the medium walk involves a climb of 1,250 feet, and finished with a gentle decline over Tennyson Down, past the Tennyson Monument and back to Freshwater Bay House by late afternoon.
The walk leaders are HF volunteers. They are friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating to fitness levels of all hikers. Our guide highlighted points of interest and stopped sporadically throughout the walk to give in-depth background on various sites along the way. His light-hearted approach and passion for walking were infectious.
The evening brought another enjoyable, sociable dinner followed by live blues courtesy of a talented local band.

Inside the Isle

These trips are usually a week long, with walks every day, giving guests a thorough insight into the surrounding area. They are a perfect way to explore regions you may not be so familiar with, or to revisit already trodden territory with an HF twist. My group was a mix of couples, families, and older groups, all of whom enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
For them, that first walk was the start of a week of bracing outdoor excursions into the Isle of Wight’s beautiful countryside and coast. For me, it was the end of a walking weekend to remember.

Get there: Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink are the island’s ferry travel providers, running regular services from the south coast of England to ports on the north side of the Island.

Price: Guided Walking at Freshwater Bay starts from £249 for 3-7 nights. A number of other packages are available.