'Think walking's for wimps? Think again!

Taylor Anderson discovers the body benefits of Nordic walking in the Nordic of England

I walking country ramble, luxurious Rockliffe Hall hotel in County Durham sounded like the perfect break for me. I'd read about the benefits of walking with poles (total body toning, up to 46% more calories burned than traditional walking), but wasn't convinced I'd exert that much energy strolling about. How wrong I was!

At our first lesson (yes, you need lessons) our instructor tells us a daily dose of Nordic walking is so good for cardio and toning, he's given up most other exercise - and he's a former Marine! After only a few minutes of arm-swinging, 1 can feel the challenge on my shoulders and triceps, while bouncing on the balls of my feet has my calves begging for mercy.

Description: Rockliffe Hall

There's no doubt next day's eight-hour hike over the moors is a physical challenge but the fresh air, the friendliness of my companions and a vista of rolling hills dotted with wild horses keep me going. As we make our final ascent up a steep hill face to take in the amazing view of the moors - the poles give us the power and balance to scale it easily - I'm glad 1 put in the effort to master this new skill. Plus, I can't wait to indulge in the saunas, hydrotherapy pools and a special Nordic walking leg treatment waiting for me back in Rockliffe Hall's incredible spa.

Travel facts

Rooms for two at Rockliffe Hall start from $438 per night. B&B (rockliffehall.com; 01325 729999). Travel by East Coast Trains to Darlington: direct from London, East Midlands, Yorkshire, Scotland (eastcoast.co.uk: 08457 225225).

'Fitness, fun and food- it’s genius'

Rachel Corcoran explores the footpaths, bike tracks and gastro highlights of the South Tyro!

My gears and clunking, my calves are aching and I’m doing my best to enjoy the panoramas glimpsed through the pine trees as I follow our bike guide's pumping calves up into the woods.

I'm on a girls' holiday, taking in two chocolate-box small towns in the heart of the Dolomites: Selva and Convara. This area of Italy, the South Tyrol, is influenced by its Austrian and German neighbours, and the lush green fields and cows with their bells and bulging udders are all very Heidi.

The week started less strenuously with some warm-up walks in Selva, our first foray being a trip by funicular from Ortisei up to Mount Rasdesa, at 2.150 metres. From here, rocky footpaths lead in all directions but we head to the Rasciesa Peak with its dramatic statue of Christ and glorious views all the way to the Swiss Alps.

En route to our second hotel in Corvara we indulge in a spa visit with a Hay Bath at the Hotel Adler's holistic spa (adler-resorts.com) - a quirky traditional treatment that involves being wrapped in new-mown hay. The sauna and steam rooms set me up nicely for the next leg of biking and hiking.

To finish off our trip we set out on a hedonistic hiking trail with The Peaks of Gastronomy This brilliant set-up combines Alta Badia walking tours with gourmet stops at mountain huts along the route. We have our starter of pasta with porcini and speck at La Tabla, Then, an hour's walk away we tuck into our main course and dessert at the Bioch Refuge overlooking the Marmolada glacier. Absolutely delicious – it was only the call of the last lift down that lured us from our stupor.

Travel facts

A twin-centre holiday (four nights Selva at the Aaritz Hotel, three nights in Corvara, at the Hotel Col Alto) costs $1066 pp with Inghams (inghams.co.uk; 020 8780 4454.) Half-day mountain-bike guiding costs $120 (dolomitebiking.com).

‘Pack your trainers and dancing shoes’

Andrea Sullivan combined a rowing and fell-running race with a luxury stay in the Lake District

We arrive at the Lakeside Hotel on Lake Windermere, slightly weary after a long journey from Kent. But the beautiful lakeside setting and the lovely relaxed atmosphere soon soothe us into serenity.

First things first, though: my friend and I haven’t seen each other for a while so we head to the bar to do some catching up. Somehow, this culminates with a trip into Windermere to dance the night away. It seems a good idea at the time but I do wake up the next day - race day - a little jaded. Thank goodness for a hearty breakfast and some fresh lake air to clear the head. Plus, the Gummers How fell race doesn't start until 5,30pm, so 111 have plenty of time to rebuild my energy levels in the amazing hotel spa.

Gummers How fell is right across the lake and there's no doubt it's a big hill, But just now I am more worried about the fact that we will have to row across the lake before running up the fell. We wisely agree it’s a good idea to practise before the race, so we get set up with one of the hotel boats and life jackets and off we go...

Well, not quite. It's harder than it looks and we're genuinely worried we won't be able to make it to the other side. Things are not looking good. Still, we gather for the race an hour before the start. There's a mix of hardened fell runners with more amateur types, including one hen weekend group – they won't be taking it very seriously.

The start of the race sends runners on a loop to spread out the field before reaching the banks, where the boats are lined up and ready to go. I get to the other side without too much drama - a huge relief - and can really start to enjoy myself. The fell run starts off gradually, but it's not long before the incline kicks up and my quads and lungs start burning.

It's a relief to spot the two race officials marking the highest point so I can turn and head down. The descent requires real concentration and only the seasoned fell runners manage it at any pace. Then I'm back in the boat and rowing to the hotel where a cheering crowd and a cold beer await. What a brilliant way to spend a weekend!

Travel facts

A one-night stay at Lakeside Hotel & Spa on Lake Windermere costs from $285 per room per night with breakfast; spa treatments cost from $48 (lakesideholel.co.uk: 015395 31699). To take part in a fell run, visitfellrunner.org.uk

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