Wilderness Holidays in Britain
Although few areas of true wilderness remain in Britain (as highlighted in a visionary programme proposed by the Wilderness Foundation to re-establish wild regions), there are an increasing number of places to stay in relatively remote parts of the country - and many of them are accessible by train and ferry.
According to Stevie Christie of Wilderness Scotland, which runs walking, sailing and adventure holidays, experiencing wilderness is no longer exclusive to a hardy few. "It's not just about camping on the shore of a wild sandy beach or staying in a mountain hostel, there are now comfortable guesthouses and highland lodges in many remote places," he said.
Left: The Knoydart Peninsula, west coast of Scotland
Photo: Richard Hammond
Family adventure holidays, as well as more extreme holidays such as sea kayaking and ski mountaineering, are included among the 150 trips that Wilderness Scotland organises each year to the Outer Hebrides, Knoydart peninsula (above) and north-west Highlands.
Almost all the trips begin at railway stations where guests are met off the train by guides. A week's guided walking holiday exploring the wilderness and social history of the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye costs £795, staying at the four-star Galson 18th-century farmhouse on Lewis and at Beul na Mara Guest House on Harris overlooking the island of Taransay. A typical three-night family package to the Morar peninsula, the Outer Hebrides or the Cairngorms National Park costs from £345 per adult and £189 per child, based on a family of four (wildernessscotland.com).
If the more rustic charms of a remote hostel appeal, the Loch Ossian Hostel in Rannoch Moor in the Scottish Highlands (syha.org.uk) is a wind- and solar-powered lodge that can only be reached by taking the train to Corrour Station, on the Glasgow-Fort William line; from there it's a one-mile walk to the hostel. You can book the entire hostel, which has 20 beds, from £200 a night or from next Easter you can book an individual bed for the night for £13.
Now that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act has finally been extended across all of England and Wales, it's open season for people heading across previously restricted areas of hills and moorland. Among the "Discovery Breaks" naturaldiscovery.co.uk (0845 4582799) is offering "closer to home", is a two-day stay at the Old Chapel Forge (awarded Gold in the Green Tourism Business Scheme) - a chapel and cottage built in 1611 with views of the Sussex Downs - from £135pp including a guided trip to the Chichester planetarium to learn about the night sky.
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has more open country than any other protected landscape in England and has been hailed by David Bellamy as "England's last wilderness". A network of working farms are now offering B&B for tourists exploring the region. For more information, ask for the Wake up to Wildlife leaflet produced by North Pennines AONB Partnership (01388 528801).