At Your Leisure - September 2017
Since the last issue of At Your Leisure in May, the Leisure Activities team have been extremely busy behind the scenes with preparations for 2018 holidays and product familiarity trips. With the days will be getting shorter and the sun lowering in the sky, there's plenty to look forward to this autumn especially with our new 2018 Leisure Activities brochures launching on 6 September. If you're on the lookout for a leisurely, last-minute break in 2017, scroll down because we've got just the thing for you.
Clare Richardson, Operations Co-ordinator, recently joined a Discovery Tour in Madeira to experience this truly remarkable destination from our guests’ perspective. This is what she had to say:
“Think tropical island: graceful palm trees and luscious fruits and flowers, the hot sun in your face and unutterably beautiful scenery at every twist and turn ... Boom! You have Madeira.
Seems like too far-flung a dream? Not so! This fabulous all-year-round-summer destination was only a four-hour flight from Manchester – less time than it takes me to get from one end of England to the other. That said, I was travelling alone (something I rarely do) so it was reassuring to feel confident at every step: the quick and easy online check-in, booking my seat and my in-flight meal ahead of departure and after a very pleasant flight, being met at the airport by my smiling cab driver. Incidentally he was a wonderful mine of information - and inspiration – so when we reached the hotel, I half wished my transfer had been longer than 15 minutes.
I love that moment when you first open the door to your hotel room – my new temporary home in effect – and just as I did when I was a kid, I dived into that thrilling first exploration. All that excitement and the “just a quick peek” at the facilities before you unpack. Clean, spacious, comfortable – and comforting. This was such a good start! So good, in fact, that unpacking felt irrelevant and I went to explore the hotel and its grounds instead. The hotel is built split-level and I could confidently find my way around within a day. Taking the stairs instead of the lift became a pleasure. A word of warning, however: taking the stairs may also become a necessity in order to avoid any extra inches on the waistline as the delicious food is simply too tasty and tempting.
Hotel Galosol ticks all my personal boxes – a stunning seafront location, with lovely gardens and an inviting spa. Whilst it’s set in the small attractive resort of Caniço-de-baixo, there are so many sports and activities on offer that you could stay put and still have an amazing experience. However, not to explore this delightful island would be a sin – getting to the charming capital, Funchal, is incredibly easy and beyond, there beckons a fabulous landscape with breathtaking mountain views and lush tropical plants.
During my visit our group enjoyed some of the famous ‘must-do’ Levada walks, explored quaint old fishing villages and traditional thatched houses (palheiros). We were completely bowled over by the simply stunning gardens – a personal highlight! To say that Madeira is full of wonderful flora is an understatement: it’s positively crammed full of delightful flowers, plants and trees, including the World Heritage Laurel Forest. Such diversity in one small island! But don’t take my word for this – book your place on this holiday now and see for yourself!”
Why not join us in Madeira for 2018 and look forward to your very own European experience?
A tour of Sedbergh
July saw the Leisure Activities department welcome a new member of staff to the team. Clare Gauntlett, our new Deputy Product Manager, previously worked for HF Holidays in the Walking Leader Operations team, but has now joined Alison, Clare and Lana to work on our Leisure Activity holidays.
As part of her training, Clare travelled to Thorns Hall, Sedbergh to join a Discovery Tour to find out more about this ever-popular Leisure Activity holiday and to meet guests, too.
"Despite living only a few miles away from Thorns Hall, I’d never visited. Work and personal holidays had taken me to HF Holidays’ houses in the Lake District, Shropshire, the Yorkshire Dales, Derbyshire and other places, but never to my own ‘back yard’. It was with great anticipation then, that I drove down the winding road to Sedbergh, surrounded by the Howgill Fells and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, eagerly awaiting my first glimpse of the house. I was not disappointed: a beautiful Tudor manor house, complete with attractive rose garden, greeted me as I arrived. The welcome from David Newton, House Manager, was warm and I immediately relaxed into my comfortable surroundings.
Our first touring day took us further into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We enjoyed a very pleasant drive as our leader, Jill, gave us a great introduction to the area and its history. I enjoyed being able to take in all the stunning views and chatting to the guests on the holiday – with a Discovery Tour, all the hassle of transport is taken care of for you so you can simply sit back and enjoy the journey and the views you might otherwise miss if you’re driving yourself.
Our first stop, Aysgarth, treated us to some beautiful summer sunshine and Jill told us about a variety of things we could do while there. I chose to join the short optional walk to view the lower and middle falls and we were treated to an impressive sight – the heavy rains of the night before really added to their ‘wow factor’, both visually and aurally.
We continued on to Hawes, home of the Wensleydale cheese. Jill gave us more interesting titbits of information as we journeyed about the local area – its history, geology and culture – and I felt I learned a lot without being overwhelmed. Hawes offered us a great choice of things to explore – for example, the local Dales museum and a heritage saw mill – before our visit to the Creamery. I enjoyed a stroll through the town to make the most of the sunshine, which gave me time to have a look in the local shops. The Discovery Tours enable you to choose what you do at each destination, offering real flexibility depending on your interests.
The Wensleydale Creamery was a highlight for me and would be for any cheese lover! We learned more about the cheese and what makes it special as part of the Creamery’s Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese Experience, which included a small-scale demonstration of how the cheese is made. Then onto the best bit: tasting! The Creamery makes so many cheeses it’s hard to know which one to take home, so taste-testing them all is a must. My favourites were the oak-smoked Wensleydale and the Fountains Gold cheddar; one or two rounds found their way into my shopping basket before we left.
I had a fantastic day exploring the local area. I can see why Discovery Tours are such popular choices for our guests, offering as they do so much choice but with all the hassle of transport and timings taken care of for you."
Discover the fascinating parts of Sedbergh for yourself...
Leader profile: Sally Smith
Sally Smith, one of our Garden Tours leaders, tells us a little more about herself and her role leading for HF Holidays:
“I had been leading walking holidays for HF Holidays for a little while and spotted that the Leisure Activities department ran garden tours and needed new leaders. This was perfect for me with my background in horticulture; plus, I like nothing better than an opportunity to visit amazing gardens!
So far I have lead the Chatsworth Flower Show holiday and I’m looking forward to leading another holiday again this autumn; the Harrogate Autumn Show. Next year, I will be leading a week long garden tour holiday from our country house at Glen Coe. This holiday, at the end of May, will be perfectly timed for the Rhododendrons and Magnolia in full flower. At Crarae Garden, a wild ravine is the centrepiece: think of the Himalayas as you wander along the gorge, planted with exceptional exotic trees and shrubs brought to this country by Victorian plant hunters. Other gardens on this holiday, such as Arduaine, may be smaller in scale but offer a real ‘wow’ factor with exotic planting and magnificent views across the sea to the Western Isles of Jura and Mull.
I love leading these holidays as it allows me to share my passion for horticulture with like-minded people. On Garden Tour holidays, the guests and I all have a shared interest in plants and gardens so it’s really wonderful for me to meet them as well as lead the holiday.
A highlight for me – aside from the delicious cream teas at the country house! – has been immersing myself in the history and variety of gardens and special plants that we have growing in the UK throughout the year and across the different seasons. That said, my dream location to live would be the Scilly Isles: in August, the Agapanthus are in bloom everywhere!"
Why not join one of Sally's horticultural tours for 2018?
NEW for 2018
With the forthcoming launch of our 2018 Leisure Activities brochures, Discover Britain and Discover Your Hidden Talents, we’re excited to tell you about some of our brand new holidays to whet your appetite.
Next year sees the reissuing of the much-loved Famous Five stories; what better way to celebrate than indulging your childhood memories with our Enid Blyton’s Dorset literary heritage tour. Visiting areas featured in the novels, including Corfe Castle and the Isle of Purbeck, this tour will bring the adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog to life. A must for any literary lover!
For the singers, we think our exciting range of new singing holidays are sure to hit the right note. You could free up your soul and your singing with our Sing African & Gospel holiday. Or do you think you’re tone deaf and can’t sing? Think again! Our Find Your Voice holidays are the perfect introduction to help you unlock your voice and give you the confidence to sing along with others.
Perhaps you’re looking for something new to add to your music playing repertoire? Then why not give our Play Harmonica holiday a go. Perfect for beginners, you’ll learn the folk/blues harmonica starting with the basics through to playing simple blues riffs. Once you’ve enjoyed this, go further with the Play Harmonica – Next Step holiday, where you’ll learn scales, note bending and tone control. Our Next Step holidays are the ideal way to take your developing passions to the next level.
Our new festival holidays will put you at the heart of some of the UK’s most prestigious festivals. New for 2018 are the Presteigne Festival and York Early Music Festival, both lead by the knowledgeable Steven Robinson. If you’re seeking musical nourishment and artistic discovery, the Presteigne Festival –set in the beautiful Welsh Marches – will be music to your ears. For those looking for a unique mix of concerts, lectures and workshops, the internationally acclaimed York Early Music Festival is full of opportunity to meet like-minded people and discuss ideas as well as celebrate a host of talented artists and ensembles.
No matter what your fancy, our Leisure Activities holidays are sure to offer something for everyone.
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