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Over the Border - RWH Part One

Now, we all know how obsessed with Cornwall I am. I tell at least one person daily how much I love being Cornish, I share regularly on the Cornish Ramblings social media pages how beautiful a county she is, I swoon over every inch of Cornwall whenever I am outside, and I plan to spend the rest of my life with her.


We get it, I'm obsessed.

However, when Ramblers Walking Holidays asked if I'd be keen to join them for a week's guided walking holiday in North Devon, I had already packed my suitcase, said goodbye to my family, and bid farewell to Cornwall even before replying "yes please, I would absolutely love to."


Cornwall and I have an open relationship. She knows she will always be my number one love affair. She knows I will always put her first. But when it comes to exploring further afield, she waves me off with a glint in her eye and a fond farewell, knowing I will be back soon enough with wonderful stories to tell and an ache in my heart having missed my beloved Kernow immensely.


First Date

Before I go on and tell you about my week across the border in North Devon, let me share with you a bit about Ramblers Walking Holidays (RWH), and why I am super excited to have partnered up with this incredible organisation again.

I collaborated previously with RWH when I met them several years ago at an event - where I first met my beloved Julia Bradbury - and after chatting to them about how I could get involved as a young ambassador, ended up in The Lake District a few months later for a week-long Women’s Activity Week, which meant spending five days with a group of incredible women, exploring The Lakes on foot.


That week was literally life-changing for me and ignited my love of walking more deeply than I ever thought possible. Meeting Julia and RWH was also where the idea of Cornish Ramblings was first ignited and where many doors and opportunities began to open for me. It has been a fantastic opportunity to partner up with an organisation such as RWH and I am thrilled to be able to collab with them again - what a dream, I am so thankful for this opportunity.


But who is Ramblers Walking Holidays? 👇🏼

“Ramblers Walking Holidays launched our first tour in 1946; today we offer over 200 small-group walking holidays in the UK, Europe, and around the world, all hosted by expert leaders with the knowledge and experience to turn every journey into a memorable adventure. Being a not-for-profit organisation is at the heart of everything we do, all of our profits are channelled back into charities and initiatives that support access to the great outdoors.”

The Ramblers Walking Holiday tours cover six continents and offer a wide range of walking styles. From lowland ambles to high mountain trekking, from short sightseeing walks to challenging long-distance trails, and from adventurous activity holidays to a gentle stroll among the museums and monuments of Renaissance Italy – their holidays have something for everyone and anyone who enjoys exploring the world on foot.

I know firsthand how nervewracking it can be turning up to an organised group event - I do it every weekend as part of Cornish Ramblings and know how nervous some of my ramblers have been at the start. But I also hear from many of said ramblers how walking in a group such as Cornish Ramblings has had such a positive impact on their confidence, given them opportunities to talk to new people, and allowed them to endlessly explore parts of Cornwall they otherwise may not have had the chance to if they hadn't joined us.


The same applies when going on a guided walking holiday with RWH. Being a single person, going alone on a hiking holiday could be quite daunting. But with RWH I felt safe in knowing I'd be joining other like-minded folks where the stress of organising the trip is in the hands of the company. From the hotel, coach transfers, (most) meals, and routes. To organised rest stops, itineraries, and timings. Everything is organised for you so all you need to do is turn up, meet your leader and fellow hikers, and have the best time adventuring at your chosen location.

Partnering up with RWH and being able to showcase why these guided holidays are so beneficial has been fantastic and I hope to give you a little insight into my time with RWH, and why I cannot WAIT to get back out there with them for another adventure. The only question is, where next?


Keep reading for a snippet into my first day in North Devon; from arriving, meeting the rest of the group and our guide/leader, and checking out the hotel facilities. To our first proper day hiking on the trail. I will be sharing more exciting content from this holiday in upcoming blogs so, keep your eyes peeled...


The Highlights of North Devon

For my guided walking holiday I was very excited to find out I'd be heading over the border to North Devon on a 7-day stay in Barnstaple, where we would spend five glorious days exploring the Highlights of the North Devon Coast.

Graded at "level 6 - challenging" this week included full-day walks covering between 9 and 13- miles each day, with appreciable amounts of ascent and descent (no more than 850m). The terrain was mainly coastal paths which were rugged and challenging in places, but no amount of slipping and sliding could deter us from the fact we were hiking along some pretty spectacular parts of the Devon coastline. We also had one free day where we could go off and do anything of our choosing.


Arriving in North Devon

Luckily for me, North Devon was only a couple of hours up the road so I didn't have to travel far before reaching my accommodation; The Barnstaple Hotel.

Checking in at 4pm, I had a few hours to chill before meeting everyone at 6:45pm for a briefing and then dinner so, I did what any sane person does when they arrive at a hotel and unpacked everything straightaway, before heading out to nosy at the hotel and its facilities. I was not disappointed.


With a swanky sofa area that had comfortable leather sofas to lounge about on, a decent-sized restaurant and bar (which housed plenty of rum, thankfully) which is where the group spent most of our time together after our hikes, and full access to the hotels' leisure facilities, which included an indoor and outdoor heated pool, sauna, and gym, the hotel was a perfect spot for a little hiking holiday getaway.

As soon as I had checked in, unpacked, and checked out my room and view, I proceeded to take full advantage of the leisure facilities and took myself for a swim in the heated outdoor pool, where I got to see the hotel from a different angle and admired the 70's feel it had with its wooden slatted balconies that overlooked the pool and garden area. I then headed back to my room for a shower and to make myself decent before anxiously heading back down to meet the group of strangers I was about to spend the next 7-days with. Eek!


The Meeting of Ramblers

I was a tad nervous to meet everyone. I wondered if I would be the only one by myself, and I worried no one would like me. But I needn't have worried for as soon as I entered the room, our wonderful Walk Guide, Amanda, welcomed us with open arms and gave us a wonderfully detailed brief of what we were to expect over the next few days.

After finding out more about the routes we would be walking each day, we then spent some time introducing ourselves to one another, before heading to the restaurant for our first of many sit-down meals together. And the rest is history...


Hike Day One: Saunton Sands to Woolacombe

9-miles

Folks! When I say it rained on our first hike of the week, I mean it down-poured so hard we had to literally wring our socks and pants out. But my gosh it was an absolute corker of a hike, with 9-miles in the bag and my first section of the North Devon South West Coast Path ticked off.


We started our morning with a hearty breakfast (the food at The Barnstaple Hotel is *chefs kiss*) before meeting at the mini-bus at 9:30am. Travelling approximately 30-minutes, our beginning location was at the pleasantly sunny (for now) golden beach of Saunton Sands, where for the first few miles we hiked along the coast with a spring in our step, face basking in the warmth, chatting merrily to our newfound buddies.

Continuing along to our first mini stop of the day, Croyde, we dropped onto the sand and watched a gazillion surfers playing with the waves. Making our way along the fine sand and working our calves out, we finally reached the much welcomed hard ground, where up ahead we had use of the facilities and a cafe.


Our next milestone was Baggy Point; a headland jutting out to sea and overlooking Croyde Beach that would lead us higher onto the coast path. And here is where the weather did a complete 1-80…

We could see the thick, ominous cloud tormenting us in the distance, faint rolls of thunder could be heard, and as we reached Baggy Point, drops of rain began to fall; cue a mad dash of zips opening, rain covers flung hurridly over rucksacks, and the loud rustling of waterproofs being hastily pulled on. And then it came; the heaviest of heavy rain, deep rolls of thunder that lasted for several seconds at a time, flashes of lightning on the horizon, and chunky hail battering our faces until suddenly, we were just left with relentless dense rain and rumbles of thunder that accompanied us all the way to Putsborough Sands.


The fields became rivers and it was a case of head down and hike to our next stop where hopefully, we'd find some shelter. Even the sheep were watching us scurry past, rolling their eyes at these foolish ramblers. At this point, my boots were waterlogged and my pants completely sodden, but did this dampen my spirits?! Did it heck. And as we headed down the coast path towards the beach, as luck would have it the rain completely stopped, the hostile clouds slid over to reveal an expanse of blue sky, and the sun shone brightly. Relief!

At Putsborough Sands 14-paris of boots came off and were emptied of the pools of water that had formed, socks were wrung out, coats happily pulled off and shaken to release some of the water, and as we stared up at the now joyful blue sky, here is where we decided to stop for lunch. After we’d refuelled and slightly dried off, the last leg of the hike took us three squelchy miles to Woolacombe.


Woolacombe

Woolacombe is one of North Devon’s best-loved holiday destinations and home to the beach voted number one in the UK. Stretching over three miles, the golden sand of Woolacombe can be found between the headlands of Baggy Point and Morte Point, backed by sand dunes and with views across the ocean to Lundy Island.


As much as we wanted to explore more of Woolacombe, half of us just wanted a hot beverage and a sit down in the warmth. The weather was still unpredictable so on finding a cafe, the majority of us opted for a cuppa where we could chat about our past few hours on the trail before our minibus whisked us away and back to the hotel.


Finale

When you spend an entire day with a group of people where you eat three meals a day together, you quickly form friendships with one another. After getting back to the hotel, several of us decided to end the day in the outdoor pool and sauna which felt great on our achy limbs, before meeting at 7pm in the bar for a drink before dinner.

As part of this holiday breakfast and dinner was included. What I didn't realise was that our dinner was to be a cracking 3-course meal...every single night! When I tell you the food was impeccable, I certainly ain't lying. I went for a prawn cocktail to start - my absolute favourite starter but one you don't see much of these days - a hearty roast turkey dinner with an entire roasted red onion (game changer!), and then a literal work of art in the form of a strawberry pavlova. Delish!


After stuffing our faces, most headed to our rooms around 10:30pm. However, four of us decided we wanted one last evening stroll and took ourselves on a little 15-minute jaunt to the Tarka Trail and around the block, where one of our ramblers, who grew up in Barnstaple, took great joy in telling us stories of when she was little. A fantastic way to end the evening before calling it a night and heading to bed.

As far as first days go, this is one I won't forget in a hurry. I don't mind walking in the rain and although this was extreme weather as far as hiking goes, having a group of hardy hikers who were happy to just crack on and make the best out of it with smiles on their faces made the entire day such a joy. Laughing with one another on the mini-bus back, sitting together at dinner, and reminiscing over delicious food with new friends, it really was the perfect start to what was to become a pretty perfect week.


 

Part Two

In this blog series, I will be sharing with you snippets from the seven days I spent in North Devon with Ramblers Walking Holidays. I will go into detail on each day spent out on the SWCP and give you a better insight into what you can expect on a guided walking holiday.

If you'd like to continue following my rambling journey in North Devon then be sure to keep an eye out on your inbox over the coming weeks. And don't forget to follow Cornish Ramblings on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest shenanigans.


A huge thank you to Ramblers Walking Holidays for gifting me this special opportunity and incredible experience. You can follow RWH on Instagram and Facebook.

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