Local characters | John Millen
by resident guide John Millen
If you are considering going on a multi-day walking holiday for the first time, it will often mean a total direction change from your previous vacations where you were sightseeing or relaxing on a beach break.
There is a formality with walking tours in the sense that you will be moving to a new location and accommodation on some or most days. But this kind of holiday gives you so much time and flexibility to do what you please on the way: stopping at viewpoints or visiting gardens, homes, castles, pubs and cafes. You may decide to have a picnic wherever you please, take in the landscapes or talk to the locals. So within the framework of an itinerary there is normally plenty of scope for doing and seeing.
First steps for walkers
As a first step, you may choose to go for a long weekend of walking or doing a couple of day walks in succession to see if you do actually like it!
The key point for a first time walker is to not bite off more than you can chew; try an easy-ish straightforward itinerary which you know you can probably follow. You can then relax and take your time.
By going on a shorter break for a first time walking holiday, you will be able to get used to the walks and whether you may have issues with feet or knees etc. Imagine what it could mean if you were to discover this in a really remote location!
Guided or self guided as a first time walk?
If you are thinking about a self-guided itinerary, look for the lower graded and better waymarked options such as the more southern trails in the UK like The South Downs Way
and The Thames Path
– or if you want to go further afield, the pilgrim routes in Spain
and France. If you have not had much walking experience then it is best to keep to the more simply navigated walks such as these. If you are considering a guided walk
, then the navigation and a lot of the decisions are taken for you. In general though, guided walks are a bit harder and you will need to be mindful about your fitness and pacing within a group.
Pacing implies getting to a certain place by a certain time. Although it is certainly good to have a challenge, an easier itinerary means that you don't have to worry too much about pacing. This ultimately means more time for stops along the way and arriving at your destination more relaxed.
Do I need special gear for a walking trip?
Outdoor gear can be quite expensive. So if you are not sure about whether this type of holiday is for you, on an easier-graded trip you will not necessarily have to invest in expensive outdoor gear.
Maybe you will have half the gear already, trainers/ old walking boots a small rucksack, and a waterproof jacket.
You could look to borrow some gear from friends and family, and then having completed the first holiday, you can decide if you want to do another and invest in some gear.
Perhaps use a locally sourced wooden stick instead of buying walking poles, until you decide that you want to use them or not.
Some first time walkers worry about water intake or toilet stops and keeping hydrated. Unless it is really hot, it is rarely worth carrying more than two litres with you, and remember each litre weighs a kilogram. Quite a good idea is to try and drink quite a bit to flush your system before you set out each morning or even the night before. Normally on the easier walks you will not be too remote to refill your bottles or to buy a drink or two somewhere. Just make sure that any tap or faucet water is drinkable. It may be worth carrying water sterilizer tablets or a small filter. Some water bottles come with this feature fitted. Normally there will be some kind of sign if the water in undrinkable.
Walking hours without visiting a toilet may be a worrying proposition but it need not be, just discreetly make use of terrain and vegetation. If you use toilet paper, fold it up and put it in a bag until you can dispose of it in the usual way.
What about navigating a route?
Get used to using a compass for general direction finding before you head off on your walking holiday. There is plenty of online guidance on map/ compass reading. Download any mapping apps and use any GPS data that the company may provide to help you along, but always carry the printed map, route notes and the name and address of your ultimate stop of the day. If using a phone or GPS, it makes sense to carry an auxiliary power bank and the appropriate leads.
What to pack for my first walking trip?
Don't overburden yourselves on your first walking holiday, but you may wish to carry a small umbrella (for shade as much as for rain), a Thermos flask (most UK B&Bs have tea and coffee making facilities in most rooms,) a small pen knife and maybe a piece of foam or a garden kneeler to sit on during a picnic. Plasters or compeed are useful for any abnormal hot spots developing on your feet.
With such considerations and warm or cold weather clothing packed appropriately for the coming day, you should be able to enjoy your first walking holiday ever!
Excited to go and try out the concept of a walking holiday? At Walkers' Britain you can choose from a list of options that are great for a first-time walking trip:
England walking holidays for first timers
Scotland walking holidays for first timers
Camino walking holiday for first timers
Or contact our team
of friendly travel consultants to give you personalised advice, by phone or email.