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Great Britain, our large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, all which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.
Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.
Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.
#1 Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.
The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.
>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday
>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday
Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.
>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#3 Isle of Man
According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.
Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.
>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday
Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.
Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.
>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#5 Holy Island
A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.
When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days
Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.
If you’re considering a walking holiday but you’re hesitating because you’re not sure if you’re fit enough – don’t worry! It’s an understandable concern – and whilst it’s true that some of our trips require an excellent level of fitness, others are much more gentle on the legs. We’ve picked out a few UK-based trips for different fitness levels to help you work out your own level and find the one that’s just right for you. All of our trips include a suitability guide on the main trip information pages.
Gentle Trips for First Time Walkers
The Cotswolds, as well as being picture-perfect, are an ideal introduction to walking in the English countryside. The terrain is hilly rather than mountainous, and you’re rarely too far from a pretty village in which to stop for a rest and refreshments. The walking days are generally up to around 20km – comfortable for most reasonably fit people. The Cotswolds are a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, and as you meander through the countryside visiting medieval villages built in golden limestone, it’s easy to see why.
Although this trip is gentle on the legs, you will need to be a fairly competent map-reader.
This trip is available in 5-day and 8-day versions – and if you prefer wheels to feet, you can also explore the Cotswolds by bike.
Traditional Cotswolds houses
If walking in the Scottish Highlands sounds like the preserve of the super fit, then think again! Despite taking in some of Scotland’s most dramatic and breath-taking landscapes, most of the walking on The Great Glen Way is actually fairly straightforward – much of it along canal towpaths and forest tracks. The walking becomes a little more challenging on the last 3 days – but you can avoid a particularly steep climb on the last day by taking an optional taxi transfer. The days range from around 13km to 29km. This trip is a great way to sample the splendour of the Scottish Highlands without pushing your body to the limit.
Along the canals of the Great Glen Way
Moderate Trips for the More Active
If you’re looking for a trip in this category, you’re spoilt for choice, as the majority of our trips are classed as moderate. But here are a couple you might like to take a look at.
Although the daily distances on the St Cuthbert’s Way vary from 8.5km to 22.5km, the walk includes some steep ascents and descents, and some boggy terrain, which make it a little more challenging than the distances suggest. But with that little bit of extra fitness comes the reward of some delightfully unspoilt countryside and historic towns. Starting in Melrose in Scotland, and stretching across to the Northumberland coast and the island of Lindisfarne, this is a walk deep in historical and religious significance, as well as a route that takes in some beautiful countryside away from the hordes.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Lindisfarne (Holy Island) at the end of St Cuthbert's Way
With some fairly long days (24 to 27km), and steep climbs and descents, not to mention some unpredictable weather, Hadrian’s Wall represents a moderate challenge – and you’ll need a bit of walking experience behind you to take it on. This is a walk rich in history – the Roman Emperor Hadrian began building the wall in 122AD to keep out his enemies to the north, and is now the world’s largest Roman artefact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk in the Romans’ footsteps, you’ll discover some of England’s finest landscapes, towns and villages.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Challenging Trips for Experienced Walkers
The sheer length of the entire Pennine Way (429km) makes it a pretty serious challenge, before you factor in the long days, remote sections, some fairly basic accommodation and lack of shelter from weather that can be very unpredictable. But this classic of British walking is rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest – stretching through three national parks and encompassing fells, rivers, dales and waterfalls. The Pennine Way should be on the bucket list of any serious walker with a good level of fitness.
You can make the Pennine Way a little less challenging by doing just the Southern or Northern sections.
The Pennine Way
Although the Coast to Coast is offered in extended versions (up to 18 days) for those that like to take things at a slightly slower pace, the classic 15-day version includes some long days (an average of 25km per day), with 6-9 hours a day of walking at a steady pace to cover the distances required. But the Coast to Coast is our most popular walk for a reason – three national parks, charming towns and villages, stunning landscapes, and the sheer achievement of crossing England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea has given this route legendary status.
We offer several versions of the Coast to Coast – both guided and self guided, ranging from 15 to 18 days, and you can also do shorter sections on their own.
The Coast to Coast