What is a self-guided hiking tour holiday?

Briefly, this means a hiking holiday (or walking holiday, it’s the same thing) on which each day you walk on to a new place for your next overnight stop. For instance on a Discerning Traveller hiking tour, we book and pay for your accommodation each night with breakfast, move your main baggage onto the next night’s stop and provide you with route directions and hikers maps to enable you find your way on foot.

Hiking, but without the heavy bags!

You carry only a daypack containing such items as lunch, drinking water, waterproofs, and camera. Our hiking tours are self-guided (i.e. no leader or guide; our route notes and highlighted maps take the place of a leader); individual (i.e. you are not part of a group; our customers are mostly in parties of 2 to 4 people who have booked together, although we do also cater for single travellers on some routes); and with some exceptions you can start any day you choose within our season.
For more on how we do things see the page “What’s special about our tours?


Please read the Frequently Asked Questions below about Discerning Traveller tours!

A week, often less, sometimes longer. In some cases we offer two or more tours of differing duration in the same area. We offer a number of shorter hiking tours of 4 to 5 nights duration which can be attractive to those with limited time to spare.
In any case you (the customer) can add in extra nights at any point on the route (this has to be done at the same time as you book the basic tour). If the duration of the basic tour on offer doesn’t fit your requirements then please consult us – we are willing to adapt and adjust!
We grade our tours as follows: ‘easy hiking’ (average 8 miles per day, up to about 10 miles); ‘moderate hiking’ (average 10 miles per day, up to around 13 miles); ‘demanding hiking’ (distances as for ‘moderate hiking’, but requiring navigation skills with map and compass and experience of hiking under a range of weather conditions); all our routes involve repeated ascents and descents, so the actual distance covered may seem a lot more!
On British trails a fit hiker can expect to average at most 2 miles per hour actual walking time (i.e. excluding rest stops). On some rougher and narrower trails average speeds may be down to 1.5 miles/2.5km per hour. You can find out more on the page How we Grade our Tours.

The Discerning Traveller selects a variety of well-furnished accommodation of character and quality. These include small hotels, country inns, farmhouses and B&Bs, many, but not all, of which have en-suite or private bathrooms. Some of the most praised of our accommodations may lack en suite or private facilities, but score highly on the basis of other qualities, such as location, character, furnishings and welcome. The great majority are very small, with only 2 or 3 guest rooms. Our policy is to visit each accommodation before inclusion in The Discerning Traveller programme. Details of what facilities are provided on each day of the tour are specified at the time of booking. There is more about accommodation on the page What’s Special About our Tours?

All breakfasts are included. Breakfast in Britain is generally a substantial meal including a cooked dish, but other and lighter options are always available. For evening meals we have found that in general our customers prefer as wide a choice as possible, so these are not included. In the route notes we provide information and recommendations as to where and when to obtain evening meals in a nearby pub or restaurant. If there is nowhere else to eat nearby we may book an evening meal at the accommodation, which customers then pay for on arrival. This is made clear on your Tour Schedule. Vegetarian and other diets can be catered for; you should indicate requirements on the booking form; don’t leave it until you arrive! Lunch is usually either a picnic or trail snack; in the route notes we suggest where to obtain the picnic materials and also indicate possible picnic sites along the trail. Sometimes (particularly in the Cotswolds) there is a convenient pub or cafe along the way and this too is mentioned in the notes.

On each day during the tour that clients move on to new accommodation baggage of up to a maximum of 20kg* per person is transferred to the next night’s stop. All you need to do is label the baggage clearly with your name and leave it where instructed by the proprietor of the previous night’s accommodation. Each label should also state the total number of pieces of baggage your party has. Baggage is normally collected at around 9.30am and delivered within an hour.
* on some tours 15kg.
  1. From the relevant trip page on this website (this is our only brochure/catalog). We no longer produce a paper brochure. All of our tours are listed by region on the menu.
  2. From the trip Factsheet. These are more detailed information sheets, one for each tour, which can be found on each tour page under the heading ‘Detailed factsheet’.
  3. Ask us – by phone, fax, e-mail or post. If you phone, best do so on Mondays to Fridays, UK office hours (9am to 5pm). If no reply, leave a message and we’ll get back to you.

Full details, including booking conditions, booking form and payment methods are on the page How to Book. Prices are on each tour page. You can choose between using the online booking form, in which case prices are automatically calculated, or printing the booking form out and completing it by hand. If your booking is made more than 55 days before the start date of the tour you can opt at this stage to pay the deposit only (20% of the total price of your booking), paying the balance 55 days before the start date. For bookings made less than one month (30 days) before the start date there is a late booking surcharge (of £25 per person in 2014). This is to cover additional costs such as express delivery of the map and route notes package.

  1. The Discerning Traveller acknowledges receipt of your booking and reserves the accommodation you have asked for. If there are any difficulties with obtaining what you have requested (e.g. only double room available rather than twin room on a particular night) we contact you.We then send you by post/fax/e-mail the following documents:
  2. A Confirmation Invoice, confirming the trip you have booked and who it is booked for, the amount paid and the balance due.
  3. A Tour Schedule (TS), with full details of the accommodation (dates, addresses, phone numbers, type of rooms, meals arranged) and details of baggage transfer arrangements (i.e. who will be moving your baggage each day).
  4. We also send you an Equipment & Preparation leaflet (EQ). This contains among other things a list of recommended equipment and clothing, suggestions on how to prepare for the trip, and some general information on Britain.
  5. Between 8 and 4 weeks before the start date of the tour (or, in the case of a later booking, after we have received your full payment) we post you the Information Package (Infopack) for the trip. Alternatively the Infopack can be sent to the first accommodation to await your arrival. For contents of the Infopack see the next section on this page.
  1. Tour Schedule (additional print-out);
  2. Route Notes; these are detailed directions (specially researched and exclusive to The Discerning Traveller) for each day of the tour, including suggestions on where to stop for a pub or picnic lunch; opening times of National Trust and similar properties (houses, castles and gardens) on or near the route; for more about our route notes.
  3. walkers’ maps normally at 1:25,000 scale (2.5 inches to one mile or 4 cms to 1 km) with the walking route highlighted and position of each accommodation pinpointed;
  4. relevant public transport timetables, including public transport links normally used during the tour (availability, particularly of current bus times, is variable, but we do our best);
  5. in some cases an overview map, usually at a smaller scale than the hiking maps;
  6. in some cases a publication with background information on the area of the tour is also included; for instance on our Cornwall (Land’s End) tour we include a booklet with details of archaeological monuments on and near our route;
  7. other relevant local information as available. Exact contents of the Tourpack will vary according to which tour you are on and also according to availability of some of the material.

You travel to the starting point (directions for getting there are provided) and start the tour! We hope you have a great time. Although we rarely get to meet our customers we do like to know how things are going, and for this purpose we may try to contact you by phone during your trip (or at least to ask one of the accommodation proprietors how you are getting on). We also welcome feedback after the tour – this is our means of Quality Control.