Marianna Hunt

Sporty staycations to book now

Sporty staycations to book now
Holiday with Sir Chris Hoy (LeBlanq)
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The long-delayed 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off on July 23 in Tokyo. Events are being held without spectators after a spike in coronavirus cases locally. Even so, the breathtaking feats of athletic prowess will be enough to inspire many people to get off their sofas and into the great outdoors. Here are the best UK holiday spots to try out Olympic sports, from mountain biking to sailing.

Equestrian

Coworth Park, Ascot

With dressage, eventing and jumping, equestrian disciplines require both skill and style. One of the best places in Britain to learn the basics of horsemanship is Coworth Park: a country estate and five-star hotel on the edge of Ascot.

Explore the estate’s 240 acres acres on horseback including wildflower meadows and a polo pitch. Coworth’s stables offer guided hacks (from £60) or lessons covering the basics of riding, jumping or dressage (also from £60). More experienced riders might want to try the polo academy.

There’s also a tennis court where you can practise your Federer serve, a pool, and a spa for post-ride massages.

Rooms start from £775 per night, alternatively you could rent a cottage locally and come to Coworth for a day’s ride.

https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/ascot/coworth-park/

Sailing

Norris Castle, Isle of Wight, Image: iStock

Although at the London Olympics sailing events took place in Weymouth, the true home of the sport in Britain is Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

This seaport town looks out over the Solent towards the mainland and is home to the oldest and biggest sailing regatta in the world, Cowes Week. This year it begins on the last day of July.

Tackt Isle Adventures does dinghy sailing sessions for both beginners and those looking for a refresher. A two-hour session costs from £45 per boat.

The firm also offers canoe hire - another Olympic discipline - so visitors can explore the hidden coves and harbours of the island.

The town of Cowes is pretty, with plenty of independent shops to pick up some yachting wear or cafés to enjoy a post-sail aperitif.

You can reach the Isle of Wight via ferry from Southampton. There are plenty of accommodation options, including a six-person geometric dome tent at campsite Camp Wight costing £65 per night.

https://campwight.co.uk/glamp-wight-oak-geodesic-dome/

Mountain biking

The forest below Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest peak, hosts both the mountain bike World Cup and World Championships. Known as the Witch’s Trails, there are fiendishly hard routes that test even world champions, but also plenty of easy rides for beginners.

Visitors are not short on options for mountain bike hire and lessons, although Nevis Cycles is particularly well-regarded.

Fort William, the nearest major town, is often described as the outdoor capital of the UK. It has plenty of accommodation for visiting sport fans as well as sandy beaches and views out over Loch Linnhe.

Otherwise you can book onto the Scottish outdoor adventure tour with travel agent Black Tomato, which starts off with hiking on the Isle of Skye, followed by biking along the Witch’s Trails and treks through the pine forests of the Cairngorms. The cost for 10 days is £8,750 per person.

https://www.blacktomato.com/destinations/scotland/hebridean-hiking-adventure/

Golf

The Old Course hotel, St Andrews

After dropping out of the Olympic programme for more than 100 years, golf was reinstated to the summer games in Rio 2016.

St Andrews in Scotland is a classic pilgrimage spot for golf lovers. The sport has been played at the St Andrews Links course, one of the oldest and largest in Europe, since the 1400s.

The shops running along the hill into town are full of golfing paraphernalia and there are plenty of other courses around, with much lower price tags and shorter waiting lists.

However one of the best things about St Andrews Links is the views out over the North Sea and the West Sands Beach where the famous scene from chariots of fire was filmed.

The Old Course Hotel, which looks out onto some of the most iconic holes, is widely considered to be the place to stay when in town. It has a spa to ease sore muscles and the excellent Road Hole restaurant.

Rooms start from about £465 per night.

https://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk/

Canoeing

The river Wye

Snaking majestically through the valley, the River Wye stretches for around 150 miles, criss-crossing back and forth over the English-Welsh border.

Canoers that take to its waters float through limestone gorges and primordial pine forests, and past red sandstone cliffs. Flora and fauna are available in abundance, such as kingfishers, peregrine falcons and otters.

The route from Monmouth to Whitebrook with Monmouth Canoe Hire is particularly lovely, flowing under colossal iron bridges and past tranquil spots for wild swimming.

Nearby Symonds Yat has excellent hiking routes and plenty of crags for those mad on another Olympic discipline, due to be introduced for the first time this year: rock climbing.

There are a number of good glamping sites in the area, including Rockfield Glamping. A seven-night stay in its luxury bell tents, which sleep up to four, costs £700.

https://rockfieldglamping.com/about/

Cycling

Holiday with Sir Chris Hoy (Image: LeBlanq)

What better way to improve your cycling technique than by going on holiday with Sir Bradley Wiggins or Sir Chris Hoy? How about topping it off with dinner by Raymond Blanc?

LeBlanq is a luxury travel company that aims to blend together legends of both cycling and gastronomy by organising tours with rides led by world champion cyclists and dinners hosted by top chefs.

It has three trips planned for the coming months - in Perthshire, the Isle of White and Champagne in France - with cycle masters including Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins and chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Claude Bosi.

Prices for 2021 weekend breaks start from £1,895 for riding guests, and from £1,495 for non-riders. The cost covers luxury accommodation and meals, which include a five-course welcome dinner and a seven course ‘Tour de Feast’ on the final evening, so you won’t struggle to make up the calories burnt.

https://www.leblanq.com/

Tennis

The Four Seasons, Hampshire

This summer the Four Seasons Hotel in Hampshire is launching its own tennis academy with expert coach Nicola Reynolds. Reynolds is well-known for having coached numerous professionals including Olympian Heather Watson.

Both singles and doubles lessons are available, with prices starting from £40 for 30 minutes.

The Four Seasons in Hampshire is set within an 18th century manor house, surrounded by 500 acres of parkland.

Qualified instructors in other Olympic disciplines are also at hand, including clay pigeon shooting experts and riding coaches.

Rooms at the hotel start from £495 a night, or you can go self-catered in a cottage in the pretty villages surrounding Guildford or Farnham.

https://www.fourseasons.com/hampshire/