Recently I was having breakfast in a very small guest house.  The owner was a Basil Fawlty-type, complete with passive-aggressive repartee and an unctuous smile.  To another guest he said “Ah, you’re another of those walkers.  Sorry, but I just don’t get how walking and holiday go together.  When I’m on holiday I just want to lie on a lounger and click my fingers for another Pina Colada.” 

I had plenty of time to think about his words as I walked that day’s route of 19 miles of rugged coastline path, scrambling over rocks, walking along narrow paths alongside precipitous cliff edges, and with steep descents to sea level before huge climbs back to the top.  Perhaps the guest house owner had a point.  Was “walking holiday”, like “military intelligence”, an oxymoron?  And as I thought about it I quickly came up with some reasons. 

One foot in front of another – that’s all there is.  It’s a simple pleasure and it reminds us that the only reality is now 

Time – Walking provides the space for real thinking and contemplation.  Life is lived forward but can only be understood backwards. Walking is the same.  We walk forwards but we can only understand our journey in relation to where we’ve come from.  Walking offers fewer distractions and it can often provide the space for creative thinking.  Perhaps that’s why so many thinkers, writers, artists and composers loved to walk.  (Try A philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros)

Beauty – some places can only be reached on foot.  No cars or bikes, just you and the world.  It is often uplifting to feel far away from civilisation even if the nearest village is only a few miles away

Nature – most of our lives is spent ignoring nature as we rush past it in our cars or in our distracted mindset.  Walking slowly brings the sights, sounds, and smells of nature’s glory into focus

Solitude – Hell is other people, as Sartre said.  Sometimes it can be energising to be far away from the madding crowd.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many walkers were waiters fed up with people clicking their fingers at them for another drink

Exertion – the 19-mile leg of the walk was exhausting. It was a real physical challenge.  But at the end came a huge sense of achievement at having done it.  Feet up with a pint at the end of a long walk – there’s nothing quite like it   

And finally, there’s the three dimensions: Time, Height, and Distance

                Time – the longer that you’re away from issues the less important they seem

                Height – the higher you climb the more insignificant issues seems

                Distance – and the further away you are then the easier it is to see things in perspective.

That’s my list.  Others will have their own.  And don’t get me wrong, sun loungers have their place as well.  But I don’t think anything can beat a long, blister-free walk.