Our story

Walking the walk since 1913

The HF Holidays story starts with one man. In the late 19th century, country pastor turned social innovator Thomas Arthur Leonard, OBE sought to improve the lives of the factory workers by offering walking holidays as an alternative to the annual trend of spending a week at the seaside. He founded the Co-operative Holiday Association in 1893 before establishing the Holiday Fellowship (HF Holidays) in 1913 and was also heavily involved in setting up the Youth Hostel Association, National Trust, and Ramblers Association. On his memorial plaque on Cat Bells in the Lake District, he’s hailed as the "Father of the Open-Air Movement in this Country". And whilst, perhaps, not as recognised as other boundary-breaking holidaymaking luminaries, he still ranks as our hero. 

Now, 110 years later, we’re a co-operative with over 47,000-plus members who are part-owners of a purposeful business powered by its people and values. In addition to our two offices in Cumbria and Hertfordshire, we own and manage 16 UK country houses cherished for their one-of-a-kind charm and sense of warmth. There’s cosy Victorian manors, elegant Georgian mansions, converted granaries and farmhouses, lakeside hideaways, and more – all with desirable addresses just a skip away from some of the best-loved national parks and National Landscapes.

As Leonard’s legacy continues to shine and stick in our minds, we celebrate our success as the UK’s largest company for walking holidays. We’re recognised as a Which? Recommended Provider for Walking Tours and currently offer over 260 thoughtfully-curated guided and self-guided tours and holidays in six continents, covering nearly 40 destinations. But no one can tell our story better than the 55,000 guests who holiday with us annually, of which 80% have travelled with us before. For our 500-strong team of employees, it has only ever been about the defining principles of our founder: friendship, fun, fresh air, and the feelgood factor.

As a British heritage brand, everything we do is represented by a not-for-profit ethos and a deep respect for our guests and members, with whom we share a love of the great outdoors. Since 1998, our Pathways Fund has helped to conserve the countryside around our houses for the communities that live, work, and walk there – and provided the opportunity for struggling families to have a holiday. Leonard’s impact on the travel industry has been undeniable, and we are honoured to make his forward-facing vision our reality.