Our history

A timeline of HF Holidays

1891

Country pastor turned social innovator, Thomas Arthur Leonard, takes a small party from his congregation on a ‘strenuous and simple’ walking holiday to Ambleside in the Lake District. His objective is to improve the lives of the working classes by offering an alternative to a week at the seaside – the annual trend at the time.

1891

1894

This group becomes the Co-operative Holiday Association (affectionately known as the CHA).

1913

Feeling the CHA had become too middle class, Leonard sets up the Holiday Fellowship (later to become HF Holidays). In 1914, our first holidays operate at three locations – Conwy, the Lake District, and the Yorkshire Dales. We also take guests to Germany, making us one of Britain’s first overseas tour operators.

1913

1914

View our earliest surviving brochure from May 1914 here

1929

We offer our first holidays at Alltshellach, our stately Scottish house in North Ballachulish with an enviable setting right on the shores of Loch Leven (we purchase the property in 1953).

1929

1930s

Leonard remains our HF Holidays General Secretary until 1934. During the 1930s, he helps create the Youth Hostels Association and is one of the founders of the Friends of the Lake District. He also chairs the first national meeting of the Ramblers Association in 1935.

1937

We purchase Derwent Bank, our 18th century country house set in lovely grounds that slope down to the shores of Derwentwater.

1937

1939 - 1945

Our holidays operate at a handful of locations during WWII. However, many country houses are requisitioned by the government and used to accommodate troops.

1945

We lease Monk Coniston from the National Trust. This Grade II-listed house delights with a desirable address overlooking Coniston Water. Our country houses at Alnmouth and Bourton-on-the-Water follow soon after.

1945

1948

Our founder, Thomas Arthur Leonard, dies at his home in Conwy aged 84. On his memorial plaque atop Cat Bells in the Lake District, he’s hailed as the "Father of the Open-Air Movement in this Country".

1956

We run our holidays at Freshwater Bay House in the Isle of Wight, just a skip from Tennyson Down.

1956

1959

We publish our ‘Holidays that are Different’ brochure, including activities such as pony trekking, golf, photography, sketching, and dancing. This has evolved over the years into our special interest holidays - a hugely popular choice.

1963

We celebrate our 50th birthday. To date, approximately 1.5 million guests have travelled with HF Holidays.

1963

1960s & 1970s

Affordable air travel results in a decline in the traditional British walking holiday. Conversely, this is a boost for our Europe holidays.

1982

We change our name from Holiday Fellowship to HF Holidays and introduce new logos and brochures.

1982

1988

Our youth centres close and Newfield Hall at Malhamdale is converted into a country house base for our walking and special interest holidays. We purchase Thorns Hall at Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales in the same year.

1989

We launch our first worldwide brochure, offering long-haul destinations such as the Canadian Rockies, New Zealand, and the USA.

1989

1998

We set up our Pathways Fund to help to conserve the countryside around our houses for the communities that live, work, and walk there. We also provide the opportunity for struggling families to have a holiday.

2011

HF Holidays join Co-operatives UK, becoming Britain's only co-operative holiday provider. We purchase Dolserau Hall, our 17th century manor house at the southern end of Snowdonia National Park.

2011

1934

We open Newfield Hall, our baronial mansion set in two acres of grounds near Malham at the southern base of Yorkshire Dales National Park.

2012

We open four HF Holidays country houses, including Longmynd House at Church Stretton and The Peveril of the Peak at Dovedale.

2012

2013

Our centenary year in 2013 is royally marked by King Charles III’s visit to Thorns Hall. Not only was His Majesty (then the Prince of Wales) briefed about our history, but he was invited to cut a special anniversary cake.

2023

We've installed EV car charging points at all UK country houses. Please note, this excludes Nether Grange in Alnmouth which does not have a car park. This is just one of the many steps we're taking to secure the long-term future of HF Holidays.

2023