Category Archives: Accommodation

New Austrian mountain fitness holiday for women, by women

Take your pick of mountain biking or an alpine e-bike tour

Take your pick of mountain biking or an alpine e-bike tour

So the summer’s over. Just about. And the thought that autumn and winter will soon be upon us is becoming an annoyingly real reality. Having had your lovely relaxing holiday, you’re now back to routine, back to the grind. If you’re anything like me, that means you want to go on holiday even more right now. But you’ve done just about all the lounging by the poolside you can do, so what would you think of a fitness and adventure holiday in the beautiful Austrian Alps? Tempting…?

Whether you’ve signed up for the Snowdonia Marathon or been inspired by Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, this new Austrian alpine escape looks a great way to get motivated and conditioned, ready for your next challenge.

Your hosts for the duration of your mountain fitness holiday

Your hosts for the duration of your mountain fitness holiday

This new four day Mountain Ladies of Lungau fitness escape, run by St. Martin Chalets, is packed with activity. You’ll have a chance to contour the peaks, valleys and trails of Austria’s newest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve alongside some particularly fit locals.

Staying in one of St. Martin Chalets’ beautifully authentic Austrian chalets, in the Southern Alpine region of Lungau, each day you’ll be joined by St. Martin’s Power Princesses. They’ll encourage, guide and motivate you during a mix of alpine sporting endeavours, including trail running, summit walks, mountain biking and rock climbing.

It's not all serious, your hosts are up for a bit of fun too!

It’s not all serious, your hosts are up for a bit of fun too!

All five ladies live for the outdoors and boast plenty of credentials, from trained mountain guides, skiing instructors and UNESCO Biosphere Rangers to accomplished mountaineers, climbers, ski racers and cyclists. No need to be intimidated though… They’re up for plenty of fun too so you can take it as hard or as gentle as you like each day.

Here’s what it’s all about…

Who’s it for? They’ve obviously had a lot of interest from female guests and groups but they actively encourage male guests to pit their skills and fitness against the Power Princesses too!

Who are these ladies? All five ladies have different skills and talents to offer — you can meet them by visiting St. Martin Chalets’ website and scrolling down to ‘THE LADIES AND THE ITINERARY’.

Your home for the holiday, St. Martin Chalets

Your home for the holiday, St. Martin Chalets

Where is it? St. Martin Chalets is located 1.5hrs directly south of Salzburg Airport within the Lungau UNESCO Biosphere, Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve.

How long is it? This trip lasts four days and three nights, but there is no set departure date, which means longer/bespoke stays are also available. The new itinerary is available until the end of October 2014 and is subject to availability. After this, the next booking slot is between May – October 2015.

How much is it? Prices start at €450 (roughly £360) per person based on six people sharing. This includes chalet accommodation, return airport shuttle transfer, all activities and guiding, plus equipment hire (bikes, rucksacks, helmets, climbing harnesses and poles), use of private gym and sauna, daily chalet breakfast, a stocked fridge and a traditional Austrian chalet supper, plus dinner in a local castle. Not included in the price are flights, meals and car hire, except where stated.

Where can I fly from? Flights depart from London and the UK for Salzburg Airport, from as little as £45 each way.

Where can I get more information? Check out the St. Martin Chalets website — it has plenty of additional information.

A great spot to relax after a tiring day in the mountains

A great spot to relax after a tiring day in the mountains

So, what would I get up to on the fitness break?

Day 1

  • Fly into Salzburg before grabbing the airport shuttle to St. Martin Chalets
  • You’ll then get to know the girls over a few cold Austrian beers and a traditional Austrian ‘Jause’, which is a fantastic dish packed full of delicious cuts of cured meats and local produce (vege version available too). What better way to kick off your stay?! And depending on flight times this can be either before or after your run (see next point)
  • 17:00: Acclimatising 5km trail run along amazing trails and through beautiful mountainscapes
  • 19:00: Evening walk into downtown St. Michael for some more authentic Austrian food that’ll really hit the spot (the Austrians sure can cook!)
Explore Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve

Explore Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve

Day 2

  • 08:00: Chalet breakfast (DIY fresh rolls delivered and fridge re-filled daily)
  • Then take your pick from these activities…
    • 09:30: Three to four hours of mountain biking (e-bike optional) at altitudes between 1,000m and 1,900m. The super fit guides will lead you through the ups and downs of Lungau’s beautiful scenery. The girls are all keen mountain bikers, but if you’re looking for something a little more extreme, Isabella is a fearless speed junkie and is known by the locals as Lungau’s downhill lady!
    • 10:00: Climbing (rock or wall depending on weather). Don’t worry, the five ladies know some excellent lines for people of all abilities. Nina is probably their best climber (well she’s the youngest, so she should be). Climbing three times a week, both on the climbing wall and the real thing, she’s super strong.
  • 16:00: Evening trail run ca. 10km through the hills. This option is only if you’re really up for it! Living in the mountains keeps you lean and fit and there’s nothing like ending the day with a good jog. Plus it means you can eat cakes and pastries without feeling guilty — yay! Kerstin is the ‘gazelle’ of the team, and with perfect calves, she’ll motivate you to keep going!
  • 19:00: Catered chalet supper. Here’s a little secret… They’ve done a deal with the owners of the only Michelin Star restaurant in the region. Lucky you! They provide your chalet catering, and don’t worry, you’ll get served up mountain-sized portions of delicious local dishes. It’s pretty darned good!
The beautiful Castle Moosham lies just 4km from St. Martin Chalets

The beautiful Castle Moosham lies just 4km from St. Martin Chalets

Day 3

  • 06:00: Breakfast roll delivery (pack your rucksacks with sarnies)
  • 08:00: Summit climb — reach the heavens at 2,700m above sea level. Depending on how fast you are, two of the girls will whip you into shape over a five to six hour mountain hike over Alpine terrain. They’ll even hold your hand when it gets a bit precarious!
  • Lunch on the mountain
  • 17:00: Free time — use of gym and sauna
  • 19:00: Supper in the medieval castle, Burg Mauterndorf

Day 4

  • 07:30: Chalet breakfast before airport shuttle departs (depends on flight times)

All images courtesy of


Walking after the Christmas festivities

Wellie it up for some extra fun

Wellie it up for some extra fun

So you’ve eaten enough turkey, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and chocolate, that you’re quite happy to give it up until next Christmas. You’re a little woozy from all the wine and sitting around watching Christmas movies and playing games. If that’s how you feel, I’ve got just the cure for you (if it’s not raining too much)!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to go walking up Ben Nevis or swim across the channel. It’s a little less taxing than that and a little closer to home. It involves grabbing some willing family members, a canine friend, a pair of wellies and taking advantage of the beautiful scenery around you.

As you do at this time of year, I’m visiting the family for Christmas. In fact we had family visiting from Hamburg and Paris this year, so it’s a pretty full house. Waiting for your turn in the shower may be a chore, but the banter at the breakfast and dinner table is so worth it.

The perfect walking companion

The perfect walking companion

My family lives in rural Carmarthenshire, and is surrounded by lovely countryside and some stunning walking routes. So after all the food and wine, we wanted a bit of fresh air and so did our Welsh border collie, but none of us really fancied trekking up some mountain for six hours.

So we chose a route closer to home, the Teifi Loop Walk. It’s a short drive from our house and starts in the Coed y Foel Woodland Trust car park. The walk is mainly along country lanes, but can be extended to include a section along the banks of the River Teifi (or in Welsh: Afon Teifi). We did spot a little route slightly off the beaten track on the last leg of our walk, so think we’ll have to try that one out next time…

“…that would have spoiled the fun of jumping through all the puddles!”

Venture off the country lane a little

Venture off the country lane a little

We were on the road for about an hour and a half – the perfect post-Christmas distance if you ask me. Wales has suffered from serious rain over the last few weeks, and although we were lucky enough to have chosen a non-rainy day, wellies were still a must. You could just about get away with a good pair of walking boots, but that would have spoiled the fun of jumping through all the puddles!

But Carmarthenshire is not only good for walking. There are a number of other activities and places worth visiting while you’re here.

The amount of rain the county gets is good for at least one thing – the rivers. The Teifi river is great for kayaking and canoeing, and if that’s your thing, there’s a great paddling club in Llandysul. You might also want to keep an eye on this blog over the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be speaking to Fiona Beale, an instructor at Llandysul Paddlers and a former world champion motorcycle stunt rider.

You might also want to stop by the Rock Mill, where you can still purchase traditional tapestry bedspreads, blankets, shawls, scarves, and more. And if you’re keen on staying in the area, the Rock Mill has a lovely self-catering cottage that sleeps up to four people. Or if you’re a bigger group, the Long Barn in Capel Dewi, a fully converted 18th Century stone barn, offers some cosy accommodation for groups and individuals.

Yorkshire’s perfect getaway this winter

Bivouac's woodland shack is crafted using round wood timber framing

Bivouac’s woodland shack is crafted using roundwood timber framing

This is a secret between you and me, OK? I was speaking to a friend recently about a nice place to stay over New Year with some friends. We all like walking and wanted somewhere near the mountains that offered us something unique, natural and cosy – somewhere we could curl up next to the fire and drink hot chocolate or mulled wine after a refreshing day in the great outdoors.

And where should he suggest we stay? The Bivouac near Masham, North Yorkshire. If you want to stay in something a little nicer than a tent or a bothy after a nice long walk, but want something a little different than your average B&B, the Bivouac will suit you down to a tee. Luxury accommodation, glamping, whatever you want to call it; the Bivouac offers its guests a variety of choices from a woodland shack, to a meadow yurt or a bunk barn.

The amount of thought the founders Beth and Sam Hardwick have put into this place is so enticing it makes me want to visit all the more. They’ve put a great deal of effort into creating accommodation distinctly different from your average hostel, hotel or B&B. Much of the wood used to craft the shacks and barns is locally sourced and they’ve purposely used a roundwood timber framing technique, because they wanted to give their guests a refreshing break from the ‘harsh angular structures we’re surrounded by in everyday life’.

A sneak peek into the woodland shack

A sneak peek into the woodland shack

A lot of the furniture is handmade or up-cycled. They’ve even been thoughtful enough to put a skylight into the ceiling of every shack to allow top bunkers the pleasure of enjoying the stars on a clear night. And after a long day out in the open, you might want to take some time to admire the stunning views into the surrounding valley from the comfort of your very own verandah.

Sound like the perfect getaway? I spoke to Beth to get a better feel for the place…

How would you describe your accommodation?
“Unique, creative, sustainable and cosy.”

What inspired you to set up Bivouac?
“Bivouac was born from a desire to offer something inspiring, sustainable but very comfortable. Something which offers people a chance to slow down, reconnect with nature, family and friends whilst being really well looked after.”

The friendly founders Beth and Sam Hardwick with their daughters

The friendly founders Beth and Sam Hardwick with their daughters

When did you set it up?
“We’ve been planning and preparing for 5 years and we opened in April this year.”

Where did the name come from and how do you pronounce it?
“Biv – o – ack… I was in the bath one night thinking of what to call our vision. The name came to me as I loved the idea of creating a home from where you are and where you had need for home to be.”

What are some activities visitors can get involved in while staying with you?
“Gosh, next year’s calendar is looking amazing. It’s published mid January on the website and main flyer. We’ll be doing bush crafts for all stages and ages, outdoor cooking, family music courses where you make your own instruments. You take inspiration from the sounds of nature and compose your own piece! We have busking gigs, secret gigs, bonfire nights, foraging, an amazing Christmas experience through the woodland… And so much more!”

Can people eat there or is it self catering? What kind of food can they expect?
“We have a gorgeous cafe open all day serving local home cooked food. We also offer self catering accommodation and have a licensed bar.”

Mmmm... A gorgeous cafe with delicious home cooked food

Mmmm… A gorgeous cafe with delicious home cooked food

What’s most special about Bivouac?
“The team matched with location.”

What’s the most popular thing people love to do when they stay at Bivouac?
“Hmm… Good question… A whole mix of things really. The most commented thing is how folks have loved to be in accommodation which forces them to relax.”

So there you have it. A beautiful place complimented by beautiful people. Something to think about for the new year. But… If you just can’t wait, they have a number of activities in the run up to Christmas and New Year, including a family walk on Boxing Day and one on New Year’s Day, an afternoon of board games on 27 and 28 December, as well as a royal knee’s up on 31 December to welcome in the new year.