When fear of transmission of disease is all around us, how can we consider taking short breaks and holidays responsibly? The answer is, for the time being, we can't. This article sets out some suggestions for activities that might, in the future, be safe and socially responsible, and it's also a reminder of some of the more remote regions of the UK where it's still possible to walk for hours, if not days, and not see another person.
When fear of transmission of disease is all around us, how can we consider walking, cycling and taking short breaks and holidays responsibly? The answer is, in our imagination for the time being.
At Cicerone, we’re all as keen as you are to keep taking walks and going on bike rides, whether on a day trip or for longer. However, for the time being we MUST follow Government guidelines, and only go out for the essential reasons specified. Easter and summer holiday plans will be on hold, changing, and changing again. We’re not pretending to be experts in anything other than publishing great guidebooks, but we have been thinking about how we might be able to help you get away from it all, in your dreams, while staying safe and being responsible.
The first thing is, for the time being, follow the latest Government instructions and do not travel for anything other than absolute essentials. Avoid ANY activity that might put you at risk of injuring yourself. That means do anything and everything more carefully, more slowly, not trying anything new or different, or trying to beat your best time. Maybe take up some gentle stretches – there are loads of good yoga videos, climb the stairs multiple times to stay a bit fitter, you name it, you can do it, carefully, sensibly. Walking is the thing... Just round the block or, if it's allowed, maybe a little further locally if you , but still walking from home.
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What follows are some UK staycation suggestions for when we are able to emerge once again, taking as an example a typical family, or group of four. Over the next few weeks and months we will look in more detail at different regions and activities, and explore how people are coping and responding to the pandemic. Please always follow official guidelines for health, travel and social distancing.
A walk or bike ride can start from home
Starting out from home, from your own front door, is perhaps the easiest way to get out into fresh air. Granted, if you live in a city, the air isn’t going to be quite as fresh, and your proximity to people is going to be greater, but there are parks, river and canal sides to explore, when they are open, and it is safe to do so again. If you’re on a bike, once you’ve safely negotiated your local roads, there should be access to the National Cycle Network, where cycle lanes, and reduced traffic or traffic-free routes are available, not just exclusively for cyclists, but for walkers, too.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, or smaller towns and villages, then you will probably already be familiar with superb walks in the surrounding fields, hills and woodlands, with or without the help of a guidebook full of tried and tested suggestions.
This will be for later, but for now, why not buy a guidebook or two to plan for the future?
Day trips in your region
Travel a little further, when the time is right, and you can be open to many more ideas. But how to travel, when you are trying to be both environmentally ethical, but maintain social distancing?
Possibly the best suggestion is to travel by car. A family unit of four will make a relatively low carbon footprint when travelling together*, and the family will remain self-contained and away from other travellers. Take the bikes, if you’re a cycling family, and maybe buy the ingredients of a picnic when you get there – it keeps you away from busy restaurants, helps the local economy and saves you money. There are plenty of places relatively close to home where you can walk or cycle all day and not see another human being, and there just might be a guidebook to help you choose what to do.
* BAIS/Defra Greenhouse gas Conversion Factors 2019 suggest when four people travel by car, the CO2 emissions per passenger are equivalent to 43g, while rail travel is 41g per person.
Short breaks, longer family holidays
For a family of four, it has long been the case that the cheapest form of accommodation is camping… Or a combination of camping for the kids, and something slightly more robust for the parents! Other ideas are obviously renting a cottage, caravan/glamping pod, or an apartment or timeshare. All of these are options where you can stay as a self-contained family unit, without any fear or risk of either spreading or catching the coronavirus – or any other lurgies come to that!
We’ve put together some suggestions of areas that are often neglected as holiday destinations. They’re quieter, with wide open spaces and fresh, clean air, but which nonetheless offer fantastic walking and cycling terrain.
- Southern Uplands – wild hill country, green and gentle, but with hidden surprises and remote escapes
- Galloway – solitude and rugged natural beauty, this rocky, heathery wilderness presents some great hiking opportunities for experienced hillwalkers
- Scottish Islands – there are Cicerone guidebooks for just about all of them!
- Anywhere else in Scotland, as even the popular areas like the Cairngorms and Ben Nevis/Lochaber are deserted once you have walked away from the car park for 10 minutes!
- North Pennines – England's last wilderness; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with fascinating geology, designated in 2003 as England’s first Geopark and with a rich industrial heritage
- Northumberland – immense, empty beaches, dramatic, crag-top castles, remote hills and Dark Skies of the Cheviots and Pennines
- County Durham – remote high Pennine moors and valleys, waterfalls and the Teesdale valley, coastline walks
- North York Moors – high heather moorlands, verdant dales and cliff coastline, pretty villages, abbeys, castles, prehistoric remains, industrial archaeology
- The Eden valley – Cumbria’s best kept secret! Between the Pennines and the extended Yorkshire Dales National Park, with wide views and big skies, prehistoric settlements, wooded gorges and stone circles
- The Forest of Bowland – quiet valleys, open moors and wide views
- Carmarthenshire – miles of golden sands, breathtaking mountain scenery, rivers and quiet upland lakes, forest, castle ruins, empty country lanes and a rich industrial heritage
- Brecon Beacons – wild and empty mountains, dramatic waterfalls, wooded gorges and upland valleys
- Dartmoor – rolling, sweeping horizons, prehistoric stone circles, remote 'tors' and Dartmoor ponies
- Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire – known as the North Wessex Downs. An AONB with panoramic views, the Thames, Kennet, Pang and Lambourn rivers, villages with thatched cottages, Prehistoric sites; Avebury, Neolithic and Bronze Age long barrows and Iron Age hill forts
- Chilterns – panoramic views, peaceful beech woods, riverside paths, picturesque villages
- South Downs National Park – majestic seascapes and visions of rolling chalk upland and quiet valleys inland
- The New Forest – native woodland, open heath and a stretch of coastline, a paradise for nature lovers
- Essex – Saltmarsh, chalk uplands, Epping Forest, Dedham Vale, and 560 miles of deserted coastline
- Suffolk coast – Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, featuring estuaries, saltmarsh, heath, dunes and shingle beaches