Growing numbers of older Britons are pulling on their boots and setting off on walking holidays, as a low-cost antidote to the recession.
“Bookings are up by around 10 per cent compared to the same time last year,” says Brian Smith, chief executive of HF Holidays, the UK’s largest walking holiday organisation. “We’re delighted with 2012 sales so far, with revenue currently about 11 per cent up on last year.”
HF Holidays, which has transformed its image since the early days of Holiday Fellowship, has recently added new hotels in Lulworth Cove, on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, and in Snowdonia and mid-Wales. It currently offers seven-night all-inclusive breaks in the Shropshire Hills from £269 in June.
Ramblers Worldwide’s Tony Maniscalco says: “What can be cheaper than walking? And when we’re bombarded with information about how to keep healthy, what is better than getting out in the countryside?”
Bookings are booming for two reasons, according to Maniscalco: “Most enthusiasts are in the 45-80 age bracket and largely immune to recession, if they have almost paid off the mortgage and the children have left home.
“Secondly, there is fantastic choice, and some great value to be had: we can walk you round the Orkneys, or the middle of New York, and our new series of self-guided walks in Britain starts at £179 for three nights’ full-board in Lakeland, in a hotel with great views overlooking Lake Buttermere.”
At On Foot Holidays, which specialises in arranging the journey for walkers who set their own pace, Debbie Rigg says: “We are picking up the people who used to be backpackers and now want more creature comforts.”
The two routes in Europe that are a magnet for walkers this summer are the Amalfi coast, from Amalfi to Sorrento, and the Lycian Way in Turkey, from Ovacik to the lighthouse at Gelidonya.
Many walkers love their grub too: Rigg says there’s strong demand for two gourmet routes in France, with seven-night rambles in the Luberon from around £840, plus the cost of return travel to Avignon.
Even Albania faces booming demand from walkers this summer, says Mark Knowles, at Walks Worldwide. He’s added two more departure dates for “The Accursed Mountains” trek in response to exceptional demand.
The trekking is graded as “demanding”, with altitudes of up to 2,000m.