Why You Should Try an A to B Walking Holiday

by Nicky Jaquiery

I completed my first A to B walking tour in 1982, when I was 17 years old. My dad dropped off my friend and I at St Bees Head and, carrying my first rucksack (an old canvas one with leather straps inherited from my dad) and £100 in cash (the amount we had calculated we would need for two weeks), I set off with my friend on the Coast to Coast Walk.

I can still remember the thrill of embarking on a long-distance walk, no doubt partly due to the prospect of two weeks of freedom away from my parents! I certainly don’t remember feeling daunted by the walk, which is considered to have some of the most challenging terrain in England.

Neither was I apprehensive about whether or not I would complete it. It seemed the most natural thing to do and I never questioned why I shouldn’t do it. All I wanted was to get started!

Technical terrain on the Coast to Coast A to B walk across the UK.

Less than two weeks after we began, we finished the walk, but I’ve never really stopped. Since then I’ve gone on to do other A to B walks, some similar in length and others longer.

So, what is it that inspires me? Why should you consider an A to B walking tour?

See more as you travel

A map demonstrating the way the Coast to Coast crosses the UK from A to B.

The biggest attraction for me is that an A to B walking tour represents a journey that spans several days, sometimes several weeks, and each day ends in a new place.

It’s the journeying nature of the walk that especially appeals: the fact that you always move onto a new location each day. There is always something different to see and you’ll find that you visit places that you probably wouldn’t go to otherwise.

Interests and themes

As well as taking you through some of the most inspiring landscapes, walking for successive days along a particular route will provide an opportunity to fully indulge in a particular interest or something that you enjoy.

For example, the Hadrian’s Wall Path walk allows you to see the spectacular landscape of the Northumberland National Park whilst also immersing yourself in the Roman history that this area is famous for.

Likewise, if you prefer to explore undulating countryside with forests and stunningly pretty villages, then the Cotswold Way is a quintessentially English A to B adventure.

The ancient monument of Hadrian's Wall cuts across the Northumbrian countryside.
A series of honey-coloured houses in the Cotswolds.

The walking routine

I love the simplicity of an A to B walking tour, whether it’s one that you’ve planned yourself or one that’s been organised for you. Walking day after day means that you quickly become accustomed to a simple routine that essentially involves walking, eating and sleeping.

Once your accommodation has been booked along your route, there are very few decisions to make beyond what to eat. Assuming that you’re travelling light and have minimal clothing with you, even deciding what to wear is not an issue!

I find the simplicity of life associated with A to B walks immensely liberating and, for me, it’s the best form of relaxation. It’s a chance to completely switch off, unwind and immerse yourself in the present.

Challenges and successes

Even with the passage of time, the one thing that still inspires me to embark on an A to B walk and keeps me motivated each day is the sense of achievement I feel on reaching the end. Some walks are more challenging than others for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the terrain, the distance or the weather, but the harder the walk, the more satisfaction there is to be gained from finishing.

Two walkers approach a hilly section of their A to B walk.

A long-distance walk that proves to be more difficult than I anticipated also makes me appreciate the simple things in life and reminds me not to take them for granted. There have been many occasions when I’ve relished standing under a hot shower and getting into a comfortable bed at the end of a hard day’s walking!

Health and relationships

A to B walks are an excellent way to increase your daily activity and improve your health. Given that they tend to be longer distances that take a minimum of several days to complete, you’ll develop your fitness regardless of the speed you walk.

A man stands by a cairn atop a stony peak on the West Highland Way walking holiday.
Walkers clamber up a steep coastal track at the start of a long-distance hike from coast to coast.

In fact, the essence of A to B walks is not to hurry, but to take your time and enjoy what’s around you.

An important aspect of A to B walks is meeting and getting to know like-minded people who are walking the same route as you. This creates a spirit of camaraderie and friendships are developed that last long after the walk has finished.

Get planning

There’s no doubt that an A to B walking tour involves more planning than most. You’ll be walking for more than one day, so inevitably you need to think about your daily mileages, where you want to stay, your meals, what to carry, how to reach the start and depart from the finish of your walk, and more.

I enjoy the preparation involved in planning a long-distance A to B walk, but if all this sounds too much like hard work, don’t be put off. Organised A to B walking tours are available from Contours.

There are shorter walks, such as the Dales Way, which you may want to start off with, and longer ones, such as the Pennine Way or the South West Coast Path, that you can progress to as your fitness and confidence increases. There are trail running tours, too, if you want to push your fitness further still, and cycling holidays that follow a similar format.

Hit the trails

If you’re a keen walker, but haven’t yet attempted an A to B walk, I urge you to give one a go. Try an organised A to B walking tour and you’ll never look back! All the logistics will be taken care of so you’ll have few decisions to make, leaving you unencumbered and able to fully enjoy your walk.

Walkers cross a wide, undulating field on an A to B walking holiday.

Originally published 03/07/15

Top posts