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Ten great non-flying holidays

Posted by Richard Hammond at 07:19 on Wednesday 02 January 2008

Explore Corsica's spectacular mountain villages by rail
The island’s old, trundling rail service is soon being replaced by smarter, faster, air-conditioned train  that will cross the length of the island in less than three hours. Take the ferry from Nice to Bastia then hop on the train to the mountain village of Bocognano where Exodus organises guided day walks up the mountains or through forests, valleys and traditional villages to the coast. An 8-day trip costs from £549, including food, accommodation and a guide (exodus.co.uk). Train from London to Nice costs from £109 per person return (raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070). Ferry from Nice to Bastia (return from Ajaccio) costs from €32 (corsicaferries.com). 

Left: Corsica's new rail service. Photo: Richard Hammond

Ride the wild west of Ireland on horseback
Trot along country lanes, canter across moorland and forest, or gallop along miles of sandy beach along the Atlantic coast at sunset. Saddle-up at a farmhouse ranch near Sligo where a week’s B&B costs from £650pp, including horses and guide (equineadventures.co.uk, 0845 130 6981). Train from London to Holyhead and ferry across to Dublin costs from £25 single (sailrail.co.uk, 08450 755755). Car hire at Dublin Port costs from £129 a week (dooleycarrentals.com, +353 62-53103).

Discover the Couserans region of the French Pyrenees on a self-guided walking itinerary
Upland Escapes new self-guided walks are based at a locally run riverside hotel in the small village of St Lary near the head of the Vallée de la Bellongue, from where you hike to the forested slopes of the Cornudère ridge, up to mountain lakes and summer pastures beneath the Pic de la Calabasse. A seven-day trip costs £615 per person including B&B, packed lunches, a handbook of local walks and maps, and hire car from Toulouse (uplandescapes.com, 01367 851111). Train from London to Toulouse from £109pp return (raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070). Our listing for a walking tour from the French Pyrenees to the Atlantic.

Take the sleeper to the Scottish Highlands and stay in a new self-catering cottage
Yards from Tulloch train station on the Glasgow-Fort William line, Torr an Daimh Cottage looks like a traditional, lime-washed croft cottage, but inside there all the mod cons, including a playstation, flatscreen TV and iPod speakers. Loch Laggan is nearby and there are lots of local walks and mountain bike tracks. The cottage sleeps up to six and costs £450 for a week (cottages-and-castles.co.uk, 01738 451610). Sleeper from Euston to Tulloch return costs from £112 per person in a 2-berth cabin (firstscotrail.com, 08457 55 00 33). For more holidays in the Scottish Highlands.

Cycle round the lakes and volcanoes of the Garrotxa in northern Catalonia

Part of the route on Inntravel’s new cycling holiday for 2008 follows the traffic-free Via Verde – a system of disused railway lines that have been converted into cycling and walking tracks – and the final section is a gentle riverside descent through the ancient woodland of La Selva to Girona where you catch the train home. Costs £895 per person, including seven nights B&B, four dinners, cycling maps, and luggage transfers between hotels (inntravel.co.uk, 01653 617906). Train from London to Girona costs from £162pp return, including a bed on the sleeper from Paris (raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070). For more holidays and places to stay in Catalonia.

Take the family to Sardinia
Take the family to the beautiful island of Sardinia and make the journey there a part of the adventure by taking the train down to Marseille then the overnight ferry across to Port Torres. Stay at Keycamp’s Baia Blu Tortuga in the shade of a pine forest half a mile from the beach on the Sardinia’s north coast, where there’s a kids club, tennis courts, bike hire and lots of watersports. Eight nights in a self-catering ‘Villa Classic’ costs from £203 for two adults and two children (keycamp.co.uk, 0844 406 0319). Train from London costs £406 return for a family (raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070) and overnight ferry in a cabin from Marseilles to Port Torres from £409.68 return (sncm.fr).

Join an island-hopping whiskey and gastro tour in Scotland
You’ll be picked up in a 16-seat mini-coach from Edinburgh and taken to Arran for the first night before crossing by ferry to the islands of Islay, Mull and Sky where you’ll visit whisky distilleries, restaurants, fisheries and farms. En route you can hop off the bus to enjoy the islands’ remote beaches and a tour leader will help you keep a blurry eye out for whales, otters, puffins and basking sharks along the coast. The trip costs £349, including transport and a tour leader, but not accommodation  (rabbies.com, 0131-226 3133).

Take the kids to the YHA's new eco hostel in the National Forest

The 70-bed hostel has two-, three- and four-bed ensuite rooms, a games room, bar and restaurant. Forest walks and cycle trails leave from the front door and nearby is an outdoor adventure park, ‘Conkers’ (visitconkers.com). A bed costs £14.95 per adult, £11.50 for children (yha.org.uk, 0870 770 6141).

Take a bike on the ferry from Newcastle to Bergen and cycle the Norwegian fjords
Get up close to the awesome Norwegian fjords from the comfort of a saddle. Take a bike on the ferry from Newcastle to Bergen then start off the ride with a thrilling 13-hairpin bend descent of the Stalheim Pass. Cruise alongside the narrow Nærøy fjord to Jotunheimen National Park where there’s another exhilarating descent from northern Europe's highest pass at Sogne Fjell. You then reach the waterfalls of Geiranger fjord before the final 1,000 metre descent of the Geiranger Pass. A week’s cycling costs from £1,375, including accommodation, most meals, vehicle support, but not bike hire ("skedaddle.co.uk":http://www.skedaddle.co.uk, 0191-265 1110). Overnight ferry from Newcastle to Bergen in a cabin costs from £231, bike costs £5 each way (dfds.co.uk, 0871 522 9955).

Learn how to track whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean
After meeting at the port of Almeria on the Spanish south coast, you’ll live for 12 days on board a traditional Norwegian wooden sail boat where marine biologists will teach you how to identify common dolphins and whales to help provide conservation data. The trip costs from £1,250, including all meals, accommodation and training  (www.earthwatch.org). Train from London to Madrid costs from £162pp (raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070), train from Madrid to Almería costs from €98 return (renfe.es).

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