A holiday with a breath of fresh air

A holiday with a breath of fresh air

Did you know the UK’s largest walking and leisure holidays operator is a co-operative?

Thomas Arthur Leonard pioneered walking holidays, when back in 1891, he gave Lancashire mill workers an alternative to a break in Blackpool or Morecambe. During Wakes Week, when the mills closed for maintenance, he felt the workers would benefit from the fresh air, exercise and companionship that a walking holiday could offer.

In 1913 Mr Leonard realised his ambition to provide an all-inclusive holiday for the price of an average weekly wage and set up the Holiday Fellowship (HF Holidays) with headquarters in Conwy, Wales.

The aim of the Holiday Fellowship was ‘to bring holidays within reach of poorer folk and to keep the arrangements as simple as possible’. It proposed ‘to supply cheap holidays and to deepen their physical and moral value to those who take part in them’.

Value for money

HF holidays 2HF Holidays has come a long way since those first trips, with comfortable accommodation in country houses across the UK. Yet the values that Leonard believed in have never been lost and the company offers excellent value for money holidays.

Given those values set down by the company founder, we just had to make a visit to see what it was like nowadays. We visited Holnicote House near Minehead, Somerset where you will find walks right from the doorstep to the picturesque village of Selworthy, with its wonderfully preserved thatched cottages. From Selworthy Beacon there are breathtaking views in all directions across Exmoor and the stunning coastline.

During our stay we visited the quaint Victorian resort of Lynton and nearby Lynmouth, and the seaside towns of Minehead and Ilfracombe. And a real gem in Castle Hill, a Palladian House set in 18th century parkland, with follies, temples and a path to the Castle on top of the hill, which again gave us wonderful panoramic views across Exmoor, Dartmoor and even over to Lundy Island from one vantage point.

The social atmosphere at the hotel will have a real appeal to guests whether you are travelling alone, with family or with friends. Guests dine together and we soon made new friends at dinner on the first day. We also had the opportunity to join in light-hearted social activities in the evenings, we had a quiz night, a talk on beekeeping and a magician on our short break, so a real variety of entertainment!

Guests can join a walking group of people led by expert and knowledgeable walk leaders, who are also residents at the hotel during the holiday. A choice of guided walks is on offer each day from easier, shorter ambles to longer, more strenuous walks. Difficulty is measured on many factors such as distance, ascent/descent, terrain and weather. Leaders are able to advise which would be most appropriate for each guest.

The holiday did include a day with no planned walks, so we took the opportunity to explore and relax; making use of the heated swimming pool.

HF Holidays is the only UK holiday provider that is a co-operative society. All profits are ploughed back into making experiences better for guests. If you are a member, you can even have your say on the way the company is run. The holidays offer something really quite special.

Patricia was a guest of HF Holidays and stayed at Holnicote House, owned by the National Trust.

HF Holidays’ 3 night breaks start at only £166* per person, twin-share, inclusive of full board accommodation (cooked breakfast, picnic lunch and three course evening meal), full use of the house facilities and information on local attractions and activities.

The company has 19 UK Country Houses – all in peaceful locations with immediate access to some of the most beautiful countryside Britain has to offer, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty.

As a Mature Times reader you can save up to £100 off your first break with HF Holidays – quote 1MT, terms and conditions apply. *Price shown includes discount.

You can contact HF Holidays by phone on 0345 470 7558, by email info@hfholidays.co.uk or through their website www.hfholidays.co.uk