Caroline Mills

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Wondering how to get over those Christmas excesses? It doesn’t have to be about giving things up, says Caroline Mills – get out there in your motorhome!

So you’ve picked the Christmas bird clean, waved off the last of the festive visitors, and the mince pies, cheeseboard and bottle of port have all seen better days. What now?

Plan those New Year resolutions of course!

Never mind focusing on giving up the bad things in life. How about resolving to get out more? Maybe visit a new campsite every month (or maybe every week)? Or walk that long-distance trail you’ve been meaning to do for years? Or make use of your motorhome to become more active?

Read on for six ideas to kick-start your new year touring – even before 2017 has begun!

1. It starts on Boxing Day

Not the diet or the first of the cold turkey suppers, but the madness of Christmas! One of Pembrokeshire’s biggest Christmas attractions is the Tenby Boxing Day Swim.

In effect, that means braving the cold and plunging into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean – for fun! Actually, it’s for charity. And while 600 swimmers brave the water, thousands more look on from the beach.

Whether you put yourself in the camp of bather or spectator, fancy dress is de rigueur. And there’s a roaring bonfire and ‘bravery’ medal to greet emerging swimmers from the sea.

Where to stay? Pembrokeshire campsites open in winter are few in number, but there’s a lovely Certificated Site (open to Camping and Caravanning Club Members only) called Kelpie CS (call 01834 870189 for details). It is at Manorbier, a pretty, coastal village close to Tenby.

2. Making a fresh start

Signing up to a sweaty gym in January isn’t everyone’s idea of promising to be good to yourself. If you’d rather take in lungfuls of fresh air and explore some scenic countryside rather than the steamy windows of your local fitness centre, I’d recommend the Fresh Start Walking Festival.

It takes place on the Isle of Wight on 7 and 8 January 2017. And the festival weekend consists of 10 guided walks, with plenty of variety.

Choose among the four-mile Barnsley Trail, an attractive circular walk through open countryside and along the shoreline around Seagrove Bay, or the 18-mile North to South, a walk through Parkhurst Forest.

Or you might prefer the Jail Trail, a 5.3-mile walk through historic Newport to Carisbrooke, to discover some of the island’s most famous prisoners.

Whichever walks you choose, you’ll have ticked off getting active and outdoors, a festival and the first touring of the new year in the space of one weekend – and we’re not even half-way through January yet!

For somewhere to pitch your ’van, you don’t have to ditch the indulgence of Christmas just yet as we’ve a vineyard for you to stay in! There’s a quiet touring park at Rosemary Vineyard, with eight pitches set right on the edge of the vines.

There’s also free admission to the vineyard and tastings of the award-winning wines, liqueurs, juices and ciders. Not a bad combination to begin 2017!

3. Cycling England’s smallest county

Start small and build is always the advice for getting fit. Perhaps the same could be said for touring by starting the new year with a tour of England’s smallest county, Rutland.

As it happens, Rutland Water is England’s largest manmade lake (in surface area) and it’s a fabulous location for a winter bike ride.

There are waterside cycle tracks around Rutland Water, so you can choose anything between an easy three-mile route with the family or a 25-mile circumnavigation of the lake, with most of the signposted way entirely traffic-free.

You can bring your own bicycle or rent one from the cycle hire centres at Whitwell and Normanton car parks. And your ’van will provide the perfect accommodation.

Motorhomes are welcome at all car parks around Rutland Water during the day. For overnighting, head to Rutland Caravan and Camping. The touring park sits on the edge of the village of Greetham, through which the Viking Way footpath runs, should you wish to alternate cycling with walking.

4. National Trust Night Runs

This may have a rather unfortunate title following the indulgences of Christmas excess but, nonetheless, the National Trust has established a new way in which to enjoy its wonderful collection of stately homes and estates.

Throughout the winter period you can take part in a dozen or so running events, each one taking place after dark, allowing participants to be able to appreciate the magic of a place once the daytime visitors have gone home.

Examples include a night run on 14 January across Dunstable Downs, considered a challenging course after dark. Or how about a run through the London suburbs of Osterley Park on 21 January?

Or a run through Plymbridge Woods in south Devon on 4 March with free marshmallow toasting at the finish? Here, you can stay at Riverside Caravan Park in Plymouth.

To enjoy the scenery of the Midlands and the north of England, there are Night Runs through the Longshaw Estate in the Peak District (stay at The Caravan Club’s Chatsworth site), or how about a run past the rare Tudor timber-framed house at Speke Hall near Liverpool in February (stay at Lady Heyes Touring Caravan Park)?

You can find out more about all the venues, dates, start times and the types of run on the National Trust's website.

5. Let it snow

Why not take advantage of plenty of the white stuff for a ski-motorhome break in Scotland? With no less than five large-scale ski areas, the country provides a fabulous winter playground.

CairnGorm Mountain is considered one of Scotland’s most beautiful places to ski and boasts the country’s only funicular railway. There are 22 pisted runs on the mountain, the longest of which is 3.3km with terrain parks and off-piste options too.

Meanwhile The Lecht, within the Cairngorms National Park, is a great location for families and beginners. It often receives the earliest snow of the season and has plenty of snow-based activities – such as snow tubing and sledging – besides skiing.

The Glenmore Campsite is open all year round and is perfect for skiing, with spectacular views of the Cairngorms. The site is a 15-minute drive from Aviemore.

6. Post-indulgence pampering

Of course, your idea of overcoming the stresses and strains of an indulgent Christmas might be to indulge yourself with a de-stressing trip to the spa. Sound good?

But then there’s that awful realisation that you may have put on a pound or two with those delectable mince pies, and the prospect of stripping off behind an uncooperative towel just doesn’t appeal.

No worries! For at Queensberry Bay Holiday Park you can wake up to sea views from a shoreside touring pitch (or take one of the adults-only touring pitches looking over the Queensberry Hills), detox with a magnificent beach walk along the southwest coast of Scotland before making the most of exclusive use of your own private spa time.

Within the grounds of the holiday park, Powfoot Spa is a wooden chalet containing a hot tub, sauna, and a swim spa with its own shower and changing room. It’s only available by private hire so you can be confident you’ve got the place to yourself. Go on, have another slice of Christmas cake!

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