Which? Travel looks at the pros and cons of accompanied group walking and going it alone
Walking is one of the most popular leisure activities in the UK, with roughly 3.6 million walking holidays taken each year.
Some prefer to arrange walking trips independently, planning routes with local maps and walking books.
Others like to join up with companies that organise the trip for you, and who will help with transferring luggage, booking accommodation and planning walking routes.
We look at the pros and cons of these two options.
Accompanied group walking
A shared interest in walking, culture and the outdoors brings like-minded people together.
Walkers are generally very sociable and enjoy discussing the walks over good food and company in the evenings almost as much as the walks themselves.
A group also often allows for a greater feeling of security, especially for destinations that you may not feel very comfortable visiting on your own.
Advantages of accompanied group walking holidays
- All the route planning and refreshment stops are arranged for you so you can just enjoy the walk.
- A good guide will have expert knowledge of the local area and share this with you. They can take you to places that you are unlikely to find by yourself and point out plants and wildlife.
- You will be surrounding yourself with a group of like-minded individuals, which could provide stimulating conversation for the duration of the trip.
- They can be great for single people. Some companies, such as Headwater, HF and Ramblers offer holidays without single supplements.
Disadvantages of accompanied group walking holidays
- Having to conform to walking group speeds, although some companies may offer different walks that cater for different levels. HF Holidays, for example, does this within bigger group trips so they can cater for companions of varying ability.
- Occasionally you may come across an unpaid guide who is getting a free holiday in return for acting as a group leader. Check the status, experience and language abilities of the guide.
- You’ll need to be prepared to compromise at times to fit with group plans.
- Your group could be too large, which may mean a lot of hanging around waiting for stragglers.
- Overseas trips can occasionally be cancelled if all the places in the group haven’t been filled.
If you prefer walking on your own, then there are a number of companies that can help you arrange your own walking holiday, for example: ATG Oxford, Contours, Headwater and Inntravel.
Of course, there is also nothing stopping you from arranging everything, or nearly everything, yourself.
Some companies, such as The Sherpa Van Project, will help you take your bags from one hotel to another (in the UK), leaving you to plan and book the rest.
Advantages of unaccompanied walking hoildays
- Unaccompanied holidays can be cheaper than group trips as you are not paying for a guide.
- You know and set your own pace and interests, and can plan your itinerary and sightseeing accordingly.
- Some of the better walking companies will update the walking notes they provide throughout the season after feedback from their customers. This is especially important for walks in new destinations.
Disadvantages of unaccompanied walking hoildays
- You will need to be responsible for back-up plans/ideas if there is bad weather or you can’t do the route you’ve planned.
- If you don’t know the route, there is the danger of getting lost, especially in poor weather conditions.
- The amount of items you need to carry increases significantly when you travel alone. You need to ensure you get any walking notes in advance of your trip to help you plan.