New Year, New You with HF Holiday's Leisure Activities
Many of us start the New Year by making resolutions – to exercise more or be healthier; to explore more; or to take up a new hobby. Here at HF Holidays, we think we can help you with all of these! Read on for some inspiration about how a Leisure Activities holiday can ensure you can get to 31 December 2018 knowing you’ve kept your resolution ...
" I want to be healthier or exercise more ... "
Our Mind & Body breaks will not only help you feel invigorated and energised, but also allow you plenty of time to relax away from the stresses of modern life. We have a wide range of holidays to choose from.
You could be enjoying a Yoga & Mindfulness Meditation at Conistonwater where the tranquil backdrop of the Lake District will make your holiday even more relaxing. Or why not head further afield and join a Pilates holiday in Cyprus? Enjoy the Mediterranean charm whilst improving flexibility, core strength and muscle tone. Both holidays are suitable for complete beginners; your experienced and professional leader will guide you through the key principles and is on hand to offer advice.
The British Isles are well worth exploring, and our Discovery and Heritage Tours can help introduce you to somewhere new or immerse you in the stories, places and people of the local area. Our Northern Lake District Tour will take you to beautiful Lakeland villages, grand manors, the iconic Hadrian’s Wall and have you following in the footsteps of William Wordsworth. Or why not learn more about the rich heritage of the Industrial Revolution on our Industrial Heritage of North Staffordshire holiday? With your expert local leader, learn more about ‘The Potteries’ where a number of wonderful and well-known ceramics were produced as you discover more about the local area.
Perhaps you want to explore further afield, and one of our European Discovery Tours or City Breaks could be just the ticket. New for 2018, our Tavira Discovery Tour in Portugal’s Eastern Algarve will uncover the charm of the area whilst showcasing the stunning scenery and coastline, the pretty fishing villages and unspoilt countryside.
Our Barcelona City Break is a chance to immerse yourself in and embrace Catalan culture. Sample local flavours and discover Gaudi’s masterpieces – from the Sagrada Famílía to Casa Mila – as you explore many of the treasures this vibrant and colourful city has to offer.
Sing a range of styles as a group for the sheer fun of it – you don’t need to be able to sight-read, so just bring your enthusiasm!
Or perhaps you’ve always fancied unleashing your inner artist amongst some of the finest scenery? Then our Landscape Painting at Brecon holiday is perfect for you. With an accomplished artist leader to guide and encourage you, discover the majestic mountains, beautiful rivers and the many waterfalls of the Brecon Beacons as we learn or rediscover a range of artistic techniques.
Has Strictly Come Dancing got you wanting to learn how to dance?
Our Introduction to Ballroom & Latin dancing at Church Stretton is an ideal holiday for first-time dancers. Our knowledgeable dance leaders will introduce you to the dances that are easiest to learn, in a relaxed but fun environment – and no sequins in sight!
Alison White, Leisure Activities Product Manager, tells us about her recent trip to Krakow in December to put the finishing touches to our 2018 Krakow City Break programme.
“Once a regular traveller to Krakow, the last time I was there was 10 years ago. The city has changed immensely during this time but everything I loved about it then is still there: the amazing architecture, the important history and the beautifully friendly locals. Plus, in a country where you can buy a coffee for less than £2 or a three course meal for two for just over £20, your travel money goes a long way!"
"The hotel you’ll stay in, the 3-star Hotel Maksymilian, is in a great location just a few minutes walk from the main square and the Planty, the public park that encircles the old town. Most of the rooms overlook a tranquil courtyard, which in the summer provides outdoor seating for a relaxing drink after a day’s sightseeing. Breakfast is continental style but with some additional hot options. Neighbouring streets offer all the facilities that you could possibly need during the holiday: banks, supermarkets, foreign exchange, cafes and restaurants."
"Unusually, my husband joined me on this trip and, as first time visitor to Krakow, I wanted to make sure he saw all of the main sights."
"Krakow’s old town, the central market square (the largest city square in Europe) and the medieval Cloth Hall, now a covered market. Due to the time of year the square was decorated for Christmas and the markets were in full swing. When you travel the weather will be warmer and you’ll be able to enjoy some people watching from the many cafes that line the square."
The castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill, from where Poland was ruled for over 500 years. From here you can enjoy views down to the river and across the rest of the city.
"I was most excited about showing my husband Wieliczka Salt Mines, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walking tour takes you through a series of chambers, many with carvings made by the miners. The tour culminates in the amazing St. Kinga’s Chapel, where even the chandeliers are made from salt!"
The history of the Jewish population can never be ignored during a visit to Krakow. We walked through Kazimierz, once an independent town where the Jewish people settled when expelled from Krakow in the late 15th century, and continued across the river to site of the Jewish Ghetto.
A visit to the relatively new exhibition about Krakow under Nazi occupation housed at Oskar Schindler’s former Enamel Factory provided valuable insight. One of the most important visits though, was the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau: a stark and poignant memorial to the Holocaust.
For full details on all our city breaks click here. And don’t forget that on certain dates you can combine our city breaks at Barcelona, Krakow and Dubrovnik with a guided walking holiday at nearby resorts!
Refresh your Mind & Body
Clare Richardson, Operations Co-ordinator for Leisure Activities’ holidays, recently joined a Mind & Body Weekend at Malhamdale to support and observe the event – and experience this tempting short break from our guests’ perspective. This is what she had to say:
"For many people, the thought of booking a holiday based on an activity which they’ve never experienced before – or have long since abandoned – is daunting. Their reservations will only be reinforced by fears of possibly wasting their time, money and perhaps even “face”. I certainly felt the latter as I packed my weekend bag and set off for lovely Newfield Hall in North Yorkshire. What a revelation and what a sea change! I came away a Mind & Body convert, promising myself that I’d continue to practice and develop all those lovely relaxing exercises that I had learnt in just a few short hours."
"Be warned - if you do any research, there appears to be a disconcerting range of techniques and movements on offer. However, one joy of our Mind & Body Weekend is that all our Leaders are professional and qualified instructors with a wealth of knowledge and experience. The confidence and trust that our group soon felt in our leaders was impressive. Many of their exercises can focus on specific areas and help with particular health problems, but all of them will bring you holistic and far-reaching benefits, releasing a wonderful sense of calm, well-being and relaxation."
"To complement the Mind & Body ethos of the weekend were the delicious meals (including a variety of lighter and healthy salads and snacks) and the regular refreshment breaks which allowed us to mingle happily and share our enthusiasm for the various activity sessions – some new, some re-discovered. All in all, this was a remarkable weekend break – an introduction in several small steps but a huge leap forwards for me."
Behind the scenes at Leader Recruitment
Have you ever thought about how we recruit the best leaders to run our holidays for you? Let’s have a look behind the scenes at leader recruitment ... The role of the leader at HF Holidays is a 24/7 one – our leaders don’t clock off when the coach gets back to the house, or the day’s tutorial sessions are over. Taking part in the evening activities and continuing the holiday after dinner is a great skill, and quite demanding on a leader’s time. This is why not everyone who applies to become a Leisure Activities’ leader passes our assessment process.
We have a rigorous process which starts when potential leaders contact us. After filling in a detailed application form, we have a lengthy phone interview, which can last up to an hour. We want to know what experience potential leaders have, and how comfortable they feel taking on the role of leader – it’s more in-depth than simply providing tuition or visiting heritage or garden sites.
The next stage is to attend an assessment weekend. Not everyone passes the telephone interview, so the leaders who are invited are truly dedicated to the role and are the ones we’re interested in seeing. The assessment weekends are a great experience for both candidates and staff. We hold up to a three a year, in our UK country houses, so that potential leaders can experience a typical HF atmosphere, including dinner and after-evening activities. We meet on a Friday afternoon and take them through the history of HF Holidays, and show them what a typical year in the life of an HF leader is like. After dinner, we join in with the house activities in the lounge, and then discuss how these activities are important – and unique – to HF Holidays.
Saturdays are the potential leaders’ time to shine! They demonstrate their skills by giving a 20 minute session in their chosen subject. Over the years, we’ve had a range of interesting presentations about all the holiday categories we offer, and we get to learn new art, bridge, singing, and mind & body techniques (and all the other categories too!) that you learn on your holidays, or get to hear about some of the interesting places we visit on our Discovery, Heritage and Garden Tours.
As staff members, we really enjoy these weekends. At the end of the day, candidates are give feedback on their own, and others, presentations, and this is a great learning experience for everyone involved. As we only take the very best candidates forward to lead your holidays, sometimes we say goodbye at this stage to those who we feel aren’t right for HF Holidays.
Our new leaders bring with them new skills, enthusiasm and a fresh approach. We know that our guests can be dedicated followers of existing leaders on our panel, but if you’d like to learn something new, or try a new skill or hobby, why not sign up for a holiday with a new leader? You can put your trust in them as we’ve put them through their paces in a truly HF style.
Travelling requires a lot of thought and with so many destinations to discover it can be hard to know which country you decide to visit. We at HF believe travel is the greatest education anyone can have. It teaches so much about yourself and the world we live in and lets admit it... despite the cost of travel, it's the only form of lifestyle that makes you richer.
When flying somewhere far away from home, you either fall into two categories; a seasoned traveller who loves exploring the world or someone looking for a once in a lifetime experience.
From our experiences we've drafted our top 10 countries - in no specific order - to discover in 2018. We've picked the following countries due to their extraordinary adventure, breathtaking scenery, and ever-lasting impressions on us. Leaving us memories we will never forget!
DREAM! DARE! DISCOVER!
We have two fantastic itineraries on offer due to the ever increasing popularity from our guests so we divided our adventures into two parts. We have one itinerary discovering the North & South Islands at a more leisurely pace with a good balance of part and full days walks along with travelling and sightseeing, and the other designed with a much greater focus on walking and discovering some of the world's most stunning landscapes.
Maori culture straddled across two distinct islands
Did you know?
There are just 4.6 million New Zealanders, scattered across 268,021 sq km: bigger than the UK with one-fourteenth the population.
Not the most physically demanding itinerary, however, there is a choice of harder walks if you fancy a challenge! "Excellent", "Enjoyable", "best holiday ever" are just some of the words that are guests have expressed about their time in South Africa. Amazing walks, incredible people and fantastic wildlife are all bundled up in this one exclusive holiday.
Did you know?
Table top mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world and one of the planet's 12 main energy centres, radiating magnetic, electric or spiritual energy.
If this doesn't get your adrenaline rushing, we do have another itinerary for South Africa...
PURA VIDA! For some of you, you may understand those words as 'Good Life', for others you've just had an education lesson. Without a question of doubt, we believe that fits the tag of this immersive eco-friendly country. Plentiful in wildlife, ecologically untouched, and diverse ecosystems, the country has a strong focus on education, healthcare and the environment (25% of Costa Rica is protected), and has had no army since 1948. It’s easy to understand why Costa Rica is a travelers dream.
Did you know?
There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world's butterflies are in Costa Rica!), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects!
Namibia is home to delightful settings of the dessert and extraordinary wildlife; if you're a backpacking adventurer who loves the grit and remote experience of the wilderness, then this is your calling! Staying in a mixture of hotels and wilderness lodges you'll get an amazing appreciation for this wonderful country; the full African experience where desert meets ocean.
Did you know?
Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world making it perfect to see wildlife during your trip.
Astonishingly beautiful, rich in culture & tradition, and fantastic people makes Japan a well-loved country. Japan is remarkably creative, on your journey you'll discover intense cultural contrast; cities are now ultramodern with state-of-the-art technology and rural locations are steeped in ancient rural traditions and beliefs. Growing in popularity with our guests, we suggest you book quickly to avoid disappointment!
Did you know?
It is appropriate to slurp noodles, especially soba (buckwheat), when eating in Japan. Slurping indicates the dish is delicious. It also cools down the hot noodles.
If this doesn't get your adrenaline rushing, we do have another itinerary for Japan...
The land of fire and ice! If you haven't yet been to Iceland, where on earth have you been? Ignoring the cold weather aside, Iceland is one of the top travel destinations in the world due it's landscape and position on the northern hemisphere, you can expect to see hot springs, glaciers, northern lights, waterfalls, volcanoes and even have a dip in the blue lagoon so pack your swimwear. You'll be mad to never go - you'll also be mad to never bring a winter coat!
Did you know?
There are no McDonald's in Iceland! What!!!?
Discover Wonders >
If this doesn't get your adrenaline rushing, we do have another itinerary for Iceland...
Want to travel to the 'end of the world'? Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds. Patagonia can be challenging as you will be walking over tough terrain in some parts of the itinerary but the rewards more than make up for that small downfall... plus we all love a challenge from time to time don't we? Expanding across Chile and Argentina this incredible tour will guide you to the most breathtaking sites and scenery, with a 3 full days' walking in the majestic Torres del Paine.
Did you know?
There are 1.7 million penguins in Patagonia, compared to just 2 million people.
Touch the skies as you explore the mountain kingdom; quite literally! If you're not fearful of heights you can expect to be hiking to a maximum altitude of 10,500 feet (3,150m) with walks ranging from 2-10 miles. Despite it's terrain, easy to moderate treks can be enjoyed in the Himalayan foothills, however, a tough walk can be expected on the way towards Taktsang Monastery. Discover Thimpu - one of the world's quietest capital cities - and the scenic and enchanting Haa Valley.
Did you know?
The first tourists were allowed to visit Bhutan in 1974, not long after it was recognised as a country.
India is mighty big, so you would expect it to have some impressive features; thankfully... that's where we introduce Kerala - a state on India's tropical Malabar Coast. Historical city tours, jungle walking safaris, village strolls and scenic spice trails can all be embraced on this wonderful itinerary. Out of the 21 reviews left by guests on Feefo, we currently enjoy 5 star rating; we encourage you to see for yourself and maybe... it will be your next worldwide journey.
Did you know?
Kerala receives the first rainfall of the mainland of India. The South-West Monsoon knocks the land of Kerala every year usually on 1st June.
If this doesn't get your adrenaline rushing, we do have another itinerary for India...
Now with destinations at your disposal, you may be thinking which one should I choose?
Well fear not because you couldn't possible go wrong with choosing one of these locations; just pick the one that's most suitable to you and your partner, friend(s) or group - if going solo? Great! You'll meet like minded HF travel guests who book solo too - we guarantee you'll come back with a smile on your face.
Travel through history and unlock the secrets of some fascinating European cities with our popular City Breaks.
Our City Breaks generally involve a lot of walking, so expect to be on your feet for much of the day. Importantly, we have picked centrally located, quality hotels for a comfortable stay; giving you as much time as possible to explore the heart of the city and all its attractions.
We have five captivating cities waiting for you to discover. If you stay longer than the traditional 3 or-4 night stay, please let us know at the time of booking.
Embrace Catalan culture in Spain's second largest city! If you're seeking some sun on your city break but want a trip not too far from home, Barcelona has your name on it! Distinctive architecture can be found across Barcelona including the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia - arguably Gaudí's the most impressive architectural feat, Parc Güell and the famous Casa Mila. Noticeably, experiences in Barcelona are heavily influenced by Catalan culture, cuisine and language, therefore your time in Barcelona can make it feel completely distant from Spanish influence.
Did you know?
Barcelona is the only city in the world awarded a Royal Gold Medal for architecture by Royal Institute of British Architects.
Full of cultural and historical sites, Berlin is an explorer's dream! Visit famous landmarks and sites such as the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Charlottenburg Palace and more as well as opportunities to stroll down the majestic Unter den Linden and famous streets such as Alexanderplatz and Ku'Damm. Discovering with a small yet sociable group of up to 14 guests, learn about the city's past and how its historical sites influenced key moments in Germany history from the Prussian Empire to the Cold War.
Did you know?
There are more museums than rainy days per year! In Berlin, there are a whopping 180 museums.
Remarkably, Dubrovnik is disconnected from mainland Croatia (the 12-mile wide strip of Bosnia and Herzegovina cuts Croatia in two), yet it boasts an incredible seaport with historic cultural presence. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, you'll discover the Old Town and visit the beautiful neighbouring island of Lokrum. If beautiful scenery coated in sunshine sounds like a pleasant city break, it's because it is!
Did you know?
Constructed between the 12th and 17th century and surrounding the old city, Dubrovnik city walls have never been breached - six metres thick!!!
Pleasant atmosphere, steeped history, former capital of Poland; Krakow is one of Europe's most exquisite treasures. Discover famous buildings including the Royal Castle and the Cloth Hall as well as the breathtaking Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO site since 1978. History lovers will adore Krakow... its architecture, tradition, cuisine and community brings a warm glow to the city.
Did you know?
Krakow Market Square hosts the largest medieval commercial square in Europe.
Situated in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region, Venice is architecturally impressive with a magical aura floating around the city. Undoubtedly, Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world due to its Italian influence, scenery, backdrops, weather, culture, travel, and way of life; simply unique that can't be replicated elsewhere in the world.