We are – you may have noticed – in the midst of a sporting summer of considerable excitement. England won the Cricket World Cup in the most extraordinary fashion yesterday, the women’s football team made exhilarating (if ultimately unsuccessful) progress through their World Cup, and Wimbledon has offered its yearly parade of established stars and new talents. Then there is the Tour de France, which will dance with the Pyrenees as soon as Thursday, while the near-future promises the fire and the thud of the Rugby World Cup.
Inspired? Inspired enough to make your chosen sport the focal point of a holiday in the next couple of months? Why not? If you want to take to the field, or the saddle, or the court, or the driver’s seat, or the deck of a yacht – or just watch appreciatively from the stands – before the autumn is upon us, the following 25 breaks should show you the way.
The Alps (France)
With the Tour de France flitting across our screens throughout July, the idea of a cycling holiday can be wholly persuasive in summer. Even – or perhaps especially – if you want to tackle some of the great rock titans that test the professionals to the limit. Marmot Tours (01373 830409; marmot-tours.co.uk) still has space on the Sept 7 edition of its “Classic Cols of the Southern Alps” odyssey – a six-day guided itinerary that rides up (and down) Tour alumni such as the Col de Turini and Col de la Lombarde. From £1,540 per person, including all lodging and bike hire; flights to the start and end point (Nice) extra.
The Mediterranean’s second-largest island is rarely eulogised as one of Europe’s top-table cycling destinations, but it lends itself to family cycling breaks due to the presence of the Perdepera Beach Resort, on its east flank. Guests at this Mark Warner (0333 331 5016; markwarner.co.uk) property can make use of a fleet of road bikes that is included in the price (as is access to other sports, such as kayaking, sailing and tennis), either rolling along flat coastal highways or fighting up mountain gradients. A seven-night full-board stay for a family of four, flying out of Heathrow on Aug 17, costs from £5,316 in total.
If cycling in France sounds tempting, but also the sort of activity best served with ample doses of relaxation, the ideal solution may be the Chateau St Pierre de Serjac (0345 686 6505; serjac.com). This luxury hotel, set in the fields of Languedoc near Pouzolles, has a large swimming pool and its own winery – but breaks sweat as well by selling three-night cycling getaways (available in September and October) from £960 per person. This price includes bike hire and guided rides – plus breakfast, nightly dinners (with estate wines) and a massage (though not flights). Montpellier, 50 miles north-east, is the closest airport).
From Coco Gauff to Nick Kyrgios, this year’s Wimbledon has been a gripping affair – so much so, in fact, that you may feel like a few days on court yourself. If so, Croatia in the fading embers of summer should be a fine context for working on your first serve. Roger Walker Tennis Holidays (01962 713330; tennisholidays.co.uk) has a hosted break set to take place in Istria in the week of Sept 8-15. This will mix five days of coaching at a training academy in Umag with a night in Pula (whose huge amphitheatre is still a jewel of the Roman world). From £1,075 a head with half-board accommodation (flights extra).
The Caribbean may sound an overly warm location for dashing about behind the baseline. However, Curtain Bluff resort (curtainbluff.com), on the south coast of Antigua, has long prided itself on being a tennis oasis. It boasts four state-of-the-art championship hard courts – staffed by a team of professionals ever ready to offer advice (private lessons are US$90/£72 an hour). A seven-night stay at this all-inclusive five-star, flying from Gatwick on Aug 3, starts at £3,433 per person via Kuoni (0800 422 0761; kuoni.co.uk).
The Andes (Ecuador)
A break on horseback can be the perfect combination of sporting excitement and far-flung exploration. This is certainly the case if you opt for the “Ecuador Horse Riding Tour” sold by Andean Trails (0131 467 7086; andeantrails.co.uk). This regular eight-day group odyssey trots along a circular route in and out of Quito, taking Andean paths past the Cayambe volcano and through Cotopaxi National Park. Participants must be reasonably experienced and confident at a canter. From £3,060 per person including accommodation. Flights to Quito are extra, but can be arranged. Next tours on Aug 10 and Sept 7.
The cowboy life is rarely less than appealing, and those who want to saddle up without venturing too far from the stables can find a fine alliance of easy riding and soft comforts at Smith Fork Ranch (smithforkranch.com), near Crawford, in south-west Colorado. As well as equine endeavours, guests can try their hands at clay shooting, mountain biking, fly-fishing and archery, all amid the sky-clawing vistas of the Rockies. A seven-night stay starts at £5,600 a head, with flights, through Scott Dunn (020 3811 5265; scottdunn.com).
A more Anglocentric style of equine activity is currently on offer at Ellenborough Park (01242 545454; ellenboroughpark.com). This country-house retreat near Cheltenham has forged a partnership with its near-ish neighbour, Longdole Polo Club in Gloucester, which lets guests – parents and children alike – learn the basics of the society sport. After two hours of tuition, including a game on ponies, riders head to the hotel for a swim and dinner. This costs from £600 per night – based on four sleeping in a family room, with breakfast.
Germany and Belgium
After Sunday’s British Grand Prix, the roar of the engine may never sound more seductive. Those who cannot ignore this throaty siren’s call can fulfil their fantasy next month (Aug 4-9) via the “Ultimate Track Tour” offered by Ultimate Driving Tours (0800 098 8175; ultimatedrivingtours.com). This six-day dream trip will let participants pilot a series of high-velocity sports cars around two of Europe’s most fabled race tracks – the notorious Nürburgring (on-off venue for the German Grand Prix) and Spa (the scene of Belgium’s contribution to the Formula One season). From £5,490 per person including professional instruction and vehicle insurance (flights extra).
If you love the mystery of a speeding car, but prefer to let others do the driving, a trip to one of the remaining races in this year’s Formula One calendar may be in order. Such as, perhaps, the Singapore Grand Prix – which, slated for the weekend of Sept 20-22, is not so far into the racing year that Lewis Hamilton will have already wrapped up the title. A five-night trip (Sept 18-24) – which will have you trackside for the practice and qualifying sessions, as well as the main event – costs from £1,349 per person (including flights) through Gullivers Sports Travel (01684 879757; gulliverstravel.co.uk).
The Peloponnese (Greece)
If you want your children to improve at football, they may as well learn from a bunch of serial winners. The Germans. Specifically Bayern Munich, the club that has won the past seven German championships, and has now set up a summer coaching camp in the Costa Navarino (costanavarino.com) resort area on the south-west side of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. This will run until Aug 31 – with prices ranging from £89 per child for a one-day session to £269 a head for five days of tuition. A week’s holiday for a family of four at the five-star Westin Costa Navarino, with breakfast, transfers and flights from Gatwick, costs from £4,262 in all, via Red Savannah (01242 787800; redsavannah.com).
One of the surprise hits of the summer, the cinematic documentary Diego Maradona has revived memories of the genius and roguishness of Argentina’s most controversial footballer. The film focuses largely on the midfielder’s fruitful spell at Napoli – the club he inspired to its first Italian title in 1987. You cannot, of course, watch Maradona play now (he’s 58), but Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo remains as fiery a cauldron as it was in the Eighties. Next season’s Serie A fixtures will not will announced until July 29 – but once available, you will be able to book a three-day package of hotel, flights and match ticket via Football Break (020 8629 1017; footballbreak.co.uk). Expect to pay from £400 a head.
If Sardinia is an underrated jewel for cyclists, it barely registers for rugby fans. Nonetheless, it is revelling in line-outs and scrums this summer. Or, at least, Forte Village (fortevillageresort.com), on its south coast, is – hosting a series of five-day academies for children aged five to 16 who are keen to learn from England stars. These include World Cup winner Martin Johnson and ex-team-mate Austin Healey, who will lead the Aug 26-30 class. A seven-night half-board stay for a family of four at the resort’s Hotel Bouganville, flying from Manchester on Aug 24, costs £7,550 in total via Citalia (01293 831703; citalia.com).
Rugby Union’s biggest event, the World Cup (rugbyworldcup.com), is in the diary for this autumn – with Japan set to be a first-time host between Sept 20 and Nov 2. A good reason for a sporting holiday with a Far Eastern flavour? Absolutely. Despite time being increasingly tight for so significant an event, tickets are still available. England Rugby Travel (0344 788 5000; englandrugbytravel.com), for example, can provide an 18-night “Quarter-Finals to the Final” package featuring six knockout games – including the grand decider in Yokohama. From £9,995 per person, with flights and all internal travel.
The Ionian Islands (Greece)
Bearing in mind that it has made up a fair chunk of Britain’s Olympic successes in recent years, sailing definitely counts as a holiday with a sporting edge. Not that you’ll be racing – merely moving at leisure and delighting in your surroundings – if you opt to take part in one of the regular “North Ionian Flotillas” which Neilson (0330 057 2165; neilson.co.uk) runs in Greek waters. These seven-day tours meander out of Sivota on the mainland, and visit both Corfu and Paxos before returning to port. Space is still available for a family of four aboard a Dufour 375 yacht on the Aug 4 departure – for a total of £3,528 (with flights from Stansted). At least one Royal Yachting Association qualification is necessary.
If you want to sail the Ionian your own way (and have the experience to do so), you can still charter a yacht this summer. Click & Boat (07588 801756; clickandboat.com) offers vessels of various sizes in Malta, Croatia, Italy, Spain, France and Greece. The latter is always popular – but a Bavaria 32 (which has two double cabins and sleeps up to six) can still be picked up in Lefkada for the week beginning Aug 24, for £1,450 (flights extra). From here, you could head south. Kefalonia, Ithaca and Zakynthos are all on the horizon.
The Gironde (France)
France’s enormous Atlantic coast has long been a magnet for surfers. It won’t be hard to see why if you direct yourself to Le Pin Sec, an enclave on the Gironde shore 50 miles north-west of Bordeaux. Here, you can slot in for a break at the Feral Surf Camp – where the seven-night “Start Ripping” package covers six 90-minute lessons, equipment hire, all meals and transfers. Check in for a week on Aug 17, staying in a two-person tepee, and you pay £495 a head, via Surf Holidays (020 8144 9950; surfholidays.com). Flights extra.
Orange County (US)
California can always point to those Beach Boys LPs in the attic and proclaim itself one of the spiritual homes of surfing. The Golden State undoubtedly knows its way around a Pacific breaker – but those who are learning the art can also find their feet this summer at the Nomads Hotel – in San Clemente, 60 miles south of central Los Angeles. A stay at its eight-day Beginners’ Surf Camp, arriving on Aug 10, costs £1,223 a head – including daily two-hour lessons, shared dormitory accommodation, board and wetsuit rental, and all meals – through BookSurfCamps (020 3856 4015; booksurfcamps.com). Flights extra.
You don’t need to go all the way to the US in order to discover some excellent surf conditions. Cornwall has made a name for itself on this matter – not least on its north-west coast, near Newquay, where the Watergate Bay Hotel (01637 860543; watergatebay.co.uk) is such a mecca that it even has an attached summer surf school, the Extreme Academy (July 21-Sept 4). Lessons (two and a half hours) cost from £35, while all-day equipment hire is £50. The hotel tends to be in demand, but there is still space available in the coming months. A three-night stay for two people in a double room, with breakfast, arriving on Sept 1, costs £840 in total.
Contrary to the adage about golf being “a good walk spoiled”, the sport of short rough and long drives can be a splendid companion to travel, allowing for leisurely appreciation of a photogenic location. One might well be Catalonia, where the PGA Catalunya Resort is a challenging fixture on the professional circuit – yet more than prepared to welcome amateurs in summer. A package of seven nights at the complex’s Lavida Hotel, breakfast and five rounds costs from £759 per person in September – via Golf Breaks (0808 278 6411; golfbreaks.com). Flights – to Barcelona, 55 miles south-east – are not included.
The holy grail of golf holidays is the week away that splices fairway action to a sandy beach. Maybe one that is in a happy relationship with the waters of the Indian Ocean. Such a cocktail can be found in Mauritius, at the five-star Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort – which comes with its own championship course – on the isle’s south-westerly Le Morne Peninsula. A seven-night, half-board stay, flying out on Aug 10, including seven rounds, starts at £2289 a head via Your Golf Travel (0800 193 6631; yourgolftravel.com).
Donning trainers can seem a lot to ask in summer, but the relative coolness of Scotland’s hot season lends itself to a few hours of running. As does the scenery in the vicinity of the River Tay. Haggis Adventures (0131 557 9393; haggisadventures.com) offers a guided one-day “Highland Charge” through the woods and past the waterfalls of rural Perthshire, finishing in the village of Dunkeld – from £45 per person, with return transfers. Go next month and you can catch the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Aug 2-26; edfringe.com). A three-night stay at the four-star Leonardo Royal Edinburgh Haymarket, arriving on Aug 15, starts at £630 in all, with Expedia (020 3564 4853; expedia.co.uk).
If you consider a single day’s jogging barely worth the term “exercise”, the self-guided running holiday along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path touted by Contours Trail Running Holidays (01629 821900; contoursrun.co.uk) should prove rewarding. Participants follow 180 miles (290km) of Welsh shoreline between St Dogmaels and Amroth – and can expect hotels with breakfast, plus luggage transfers, as part of the package. The price depends on how fast you go. The 12-day “moderate” option (an average of 15 miles / 25km a day) costs £1,105 per person. The four-day “extreme” incarnation (45 miles / 70km a day) is yours for £600 a head.
With England clinching World Cup glory, and the raw rivalry of an Ashes contest with Australia imminent, you might fancy the idea of watching cricket abroad. Perhaps England’s four-Test winter series against South Africa – which will enjoy its most picturesque setting when the second Test sets up camp in Cape Town’s Newlands ground (Jan 3-7). ITC Sports (01244 355604; itcsports.co.uk) is selling an 11-day itinerary (Dec 28-Jan 9) that will enjoy all five days of the match – as well as a New Year’s Eve dinner. From £8,495 a head – with flights.
Skiing should not be possible during the European summer without a flight into the southern hemisphere or the far north. But that is to reckon without the Theodul Glacier, the ice kraken of Zermatt (zermatt.ch), which sits in the shadow of both the Matterhorn and Europe’s highest cable car station (at 12,740ft/3,883m) – and is open to skiers from June to the end of September (as “Matterhorn Glacier Paradise”). A seven-night half-board stay at the four-star Hotel Mirabeau, flying from Manchester on Aug 17, costs from £2,444 a head via Inghams (01483 676 800; inghams.co.uk). It can also involve a reduced-rate peak pass – £110 for three days or £155 for six.