Christian Locke, head of product, Headwater.

Family-run, friendly hotels, an authentic experience of a region, and above all a fantastic level of personal service, with staff on hand in resort to help and guide as required – there’s so much to enjoy on a self-guided walking or cycling holiday in Europe.

Over the past year, we’ve seen some great growth in some of the lesser known areas of Italy, including the Piedmont region and the Dolomites. Part of the reason for this is Italy has been well advertised and featured on various television series, with celebrity chefs visiting different parts of the country and extoling the virtues of the local cuisine as well as some spectacular scenery – which is a testament to the power of broadcast.

The Dolomites, of course has scenery coming out of every pore (as well as some superb Michelin starred restaurants) and Piedmont, being one of Italy’s foremost gastronomic regions, also has the bonus of some excellent and well-respected wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Our customers can experience these wonderful regions in a unique way, with detailed self-guided itineraries, and an excuse to eat the amazing food having earnt it with walking or cycling during the day!

Differences between self-guided and escorted touring

On a self-guided holiday, we provide comprehensive route directions and detailed maps, but our customers choose where they stop and how long for – whether it’s to explore a rural church or taste the local wine, our itineraries are all about offering the freedom to enjoy the surroundings.

Guided holidays make for a perfect opportunity to travel with like-minded walkers or cyclists and make some new friends. Whether you’re travelling solo or as a couple, our trips guarantee plenty of camaraderie. On guided trips customers are accompanied by a highly experienced, passionate and knowledgeable local guide.

What are the benefits of a self-guided walking or cycling holiday?

We all have busy lives – but a Headwater holiday is a chance to get away from the everyday and explore a destination in a completely unique way. Travelling by foot or by bike allows customers to get closer to nature, take in magnificent scenery and incredible historic sites, while also having a sense of achievement throughout the holiday.

Our itineraries don’t cover vast areas, but instead allow customers to really get to know a destination – its culture, food and scenery.

Are there any other travel trends / up and coming destinations you predict for 2020 for self-guided holidays?

Up-and-coming areas for Headwater include the UK – with more overseas customers looking to take advantage of exchange rates against the pound and some Brits looking for a “staycation” with the continued uncertainty around Brexit and the value of the pound against the Euro. Headwater is adding much more UK and Ireland walking and cycling holidays to our portfolio for 2020.

Other travel trends for us include the use of technology on our holidays – our cycling audio navigation app and e-bikes are going down a storm. We’ve even added tandem bikes to the mix and longer routes for road bike enthusiasts.