20 January 2020

Start in Scotland. While English footpaths are enshrined by tradition, and vigorously defended by dog-walkers and ramblers, in Scotland there is something called the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This allows anyone to walk anywhere they choose so long as it's not a garden or a commercial property. This confers, if anything, even greater rights.

Take Blervie House, a 40-minute drive from Inverness, that basks in a sunny microclimate near the Moray Firth. It's a substantial property set in an estate spreading over 250 acres: there are plenty of very long walks you can do from the door. If you'd prefer to ride this can be arranged too: Blervie House has its own stabling, so your horses can also stay B&B and head out for rides 25 miles long, and in all that distance only cross one road.

Jump in your car and your choices expand. There are river walks, beach walks, mountain hikes and more. Established trails in the area include the Dava Way, the Speyside Way and the Moray Coastal Trail. In June there is also the Moray Outdoor Walking Festival, a 12-day walking junket that offers phenomenal hikes.

Drop down to Wales and The Old Vicarage is a mile from Offa's Dyke, the well-trodden trail that marks the traditional border between England and Wales. This is always busy. The nearby Mortimer Trail, heading back into England to Ludlow, is quieter. But you can avoid the crowds completely: there are countless walks from the door here that head off across the hills along the Radnorshire/Herefordshire border where you'll never pass a soul. Your hosts here have devised a range of their favourite walks, allowing you to set out for as little as one hour or as many as three. With a choice of B&B or self-catering accommodation available at The Old Vicarage, this is a perfect base from which to explore this beautifully rural part of Wales.

Head south to Pembrokeshire and there are two Wolsey Lodges that are great for Walkers. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is one of the UK's most stunning walks, covering 186 sinuous miles around a dramatic coastline. This presents as good a reason as any to stop at Fishguard, as used to film 'Under Milkwood'. Under Milwood was not an especially cheerful film though. After a taste of atmospheric rural Wales make the short climb up to The Manor Town House in the Upper Town where you'll find a whole other world. Store your bikes if you have them, rent bikes if you want them, but otherwise just settle back and drink in the spectacular views. 

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path has recently been voted the 3rd best walking route in the world, so stick with it until you get to Pembroke and then from here it's a level three miles (cutting something of a corner) to reach Elm Grove Country House. Set just by the tiny village of St Florence near Tenby, this is perfect for countless walks in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and your hosts here do everything they can to help. They have a large database of walking maps which they can print as required, all rooms have thermos flasks you can take out for your hike, and they'll also advise on pubs and cafes along your chosen route. There's a page on their website that gives further details.

Let's not forget our Wolsey Lodges in Ireland. Temple House in County Sligo has a very relaxed attitude to walking. Most of the time they just release you into the grounds. It's in a thousand acres of rolling parkland, with its own lake, boathouse (with boats you're welcome to use), ruins and woodlands, and they take pride in never yet having lost a guest.

There's a growing interest in walking in Ireland though, and Sligo Walks is a good place to choose some specific expeditions that suit your fitness levels and interests. They also have two local guides who can take guests on specialised walks, focussing either on history or nature. Further details can be found on Temple House's website.

Whether you're in Wales, Eire, or Scotland, Wolsey Lodges has a walk for you. And a place to stay.

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