Great Strides 100 years on

Walking in Yorkshire Dales

Newfield Hall, Malhamdale

Malham Cove

Okay, I'll put my cards on the table and admit that the holiday budget, after much deliberation, usually finds itself being converted into Euros, Dollars or Dinah. However, as the years roll on, I have discovered that listening to other people's holiday experiences can be enlightening. In fact, using my ears has pulled me away from being glued to a sun-lounger in exchange for some surprisingly enjoyable and active ski holidays. Whatever next!

After discovering one can have fun actually doing something on holiday, a 2-day organised walking break in Yorkshire was not instantly dismissed. After all, I could test it out and if I thought the kids would like it, then - hey presto, we could stick to the UK and save some money, at least until exchange rates improved.

Stress free walking holidays

I was eager to check out a few niggling worries about the practicalities of a family walking holiday. I wouldn't want to end up lost in a field, relying on a compass or my other half's map-reading skills. Also, on my mind was being bogged down in meticulously planning routes, identifying watering holes, making packed lunches, staying in a tent and being bored in the evenings! I need not have worried.
Cut a long story short, last month we ended up boarding a train from King's Cross to Leeds. The next leg of our journey, unlike last year's wasn't a transfer to the international airport with skis in tow, but another train journey to Skipton and from here, a taxi to Newfield Hall at Malhamdale, North Yorkshire. Here, at the grand 19th Century Country House with its wonderful views of the Yorkshire Dales, our own 2 day journey of camaraderie, wonderful scenery, fresh air and all round great social activity was about to begin.

This year the organised walking holiday specialists we were travelling with HF Holidays are celebrating their centenary. The pedigree of this co-operative organisation was immediately clear as Mervyn, one of a team of volunteer leaders warmly greeted us on our arrival and answered all our questions with great patience. Mervyn and his wife Chris are part of a growing group of passionate and enthusiastic volunteer leaders who help shape the whole HF experience. They have thorough knowledge of the organisation's history and philosophy, local walking territory and are well versed on other HF Holiday activities on offer during your stay. These include Falconry, Pilates and other leisure interests. The 100-year milestone has only added to the enthusiasm of these leaders. Be warned the volunteers come from all walks of life including serving and former police officers, so mind your Ps and Qs!

Organised itineraries

There are several walks graded by category to choose from. We opted for the medium (8 miles). About to set off, after a full English (lighter options are available) it was clear I need not have worried about compasses, route planning or making picnics etc. All we had to remember was to collect the packed lunch from reception we had ordered the night before. Our guided walk started from Malham village. It took in the spectacular Janet's Foss waterfall and after some snaps from the smartphone, it was on to Malham Tarn where we had our lunch. After finishing off the freshly made sandwiches and more than enough goodies, we traversed the limestone pavements and marvelled at the spectacular Malham Cove, before returning late in the afternoon back to base.

Chris led the walk and was able to answer many questions about the Dales wildlife and geography, as well as providing us with useful tips including the location of the best pubs in the surrounding villages and where to go when nature calls. The legs managed the pace and the banter with the other guests made the time fly.


On our return before reaching our room we met some other guests who had opted for a shorter walk. Some were now at the bar sharing a drink and others were enjoying coffee and cake in the lounge after attending a Falconry showcase or participating in the afternoon's Pilates session. One of the guests even managed to squeeze in a quick dip in the indoor pool.

After walking off the calories, we thoroughly enjoyed the sociable evening meals. These are held in a communal setting with large round tables. It's easy to discuss the highlights of your day's walk and great to hear about the activities enjoyed by the other guests. The standard of food is very high- you will not be disappointed.

Walking brings out the best in people and makes you feel part of a team. Even if history is not one of your best subjects should you wish to take part in the after-dinner quiz- fear not, if you're not up to it, the bar is very welcoming and not too unlike our favourite cosy Apres-ski venue and drinks were good value. I think the kids will like it here!!

HF Holidays operates in the UK and internationally with 700 Volunteer leaders across 113 destinations in 46 countries. For further information visit

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