Ironmen, ultrarunners, mountain bikers and plain old marathoners: increasing numbers of us are planning our holidays around what some might consider bloody hard work.
Indeed, for some of us, it’s the only acceptable way to achieve that enviable holiday glow, and the only holiday snaps we want to share. Some might call it extreme sports tourism. Our friend Matt Ward over at North Wales based run.comm.co.uk calls it the rise of the sweaty pound. It’s a phrase we kind of like.
What is the sweaty pound?
You may have sweated virtual blood and tears to earn it, but that’s not what we mean. The sweaty pound is the cash we chose to spend on ‘invigorating’ challenges and pursuits.
At one end of the scale marathons, ultra runs and triathlons. At the other, a holiday which takes in mountain biking, cycling, hiking or any other kind of active experience.
The feedback we get from our guests at Dioni tells us that significantly increasing numbers of us are planning weekend getaways as well as longer breaks around taking part in specific events or challenges.
And this isn’t done as a solitary pursuit – usually our event-focused guests will come in a family group or with a bunch of friends. If not to take part in the same challenge, then at least to be part of the cheerleading entourage.
The most popular challenges on our doorstep include the Slateman, Sandman and Snowman Triathlons, the Snowdonia Trail Marathon, the Tour De Mon cycle sportive and the Anglesey Half Marathon. All excellently organised by the brilliant team at Always Aim High.
But there are plenty of places to head to if you don’t want the pressure of a bib and whistle start line. We highly recommend the excellent Run Coed y Brenin trail running centre, world-class mountain biking at the Gwydir Mawr / Marin trail and Antur Stiniog, and world-first inland surfing at Adventure Parc Snowdonia.
And then there’s a whole host of outdoor specialists like Gaia Adventures, or the team at Plas-y-Brenin who will lead you in to the stunning Snowdonia landscapes to try out gorge walking, coasteering, climbing and the rest. And of course, there’s almost limitless opportunity for the simple pleasures of walking, hiking and scrambling your own way around our mountains and coast.
Why do some many of us want to exert ourselves on our holidays?
As more and more of us become more sedentary in our daily lives – chained to our screens and long hours at the office – it’s natural that we should look to exactly the opposite when we get the chance to escape.
The simple act of being active in the outdoors can have such a transformative and positive effect that parts of the NHS are now prescribing ‘nature’ to help treat conditions like diabetes, obesity and depression.
But taking part in organised challenges and race events has an added value. Though very often inspired by the desire to challenge mindset, fitness and commitment, the great – and often unintended – it’s about coming together with like minded individuals and being part of a wider community.
And that has its own payoff. A recent study by the Journal of Psychology says that recreational runners are happier and more satisfied with life during the weeks in which they had taken part in an organised race. Double the benefits for your sweaty pound money!
What’s the ideal holiday cottage if I’m taking part in an event?
Well apart from proximity to your chosen location or event, you might want to look out for the following: hot tubs (great for muscle recovery and post-race beers), cottages with outdoor equipment rooms and secure bike storage, and – especially if you’re considering the great Welsh tradition of bog snorkelling as your chosen challenge event – maybe even a cottage with an outdoor shower. Failing that, a hose.
Oh yes, and plenty of room for your cheerleading entourage.
Here’s a selection we think would serve you well.
Price From £57 / Night
Sleeps 4 | Farm Stay | WiFi | Near Beach | Pet Friendly | Real Fire
Ty Chi is a two bedroom holiday cottage near Newborough beach. Sleeping four, this beautiful and elegant barn conversion has the added benefit of a private garden with great views towards the Menai Strait and out over the mountains of Snowdonia.
Price £107 / Night
Sleeps 8 + cot | Hot Tub | WiFi | Near Snowdon | Pet Friendly | Real Fire
This four bedroom holiday cottage in the heart of Snowdonia is the perfect mountain getaway. Complete with a log fire, the Scumble glaze wood panelled walls and doors add to the character and feel of being out in the mountains.
Price From £86 / Night
Sleeps 8+cot (6 Adults & 2 Children)| WiFi | Real Fire
This wonderful Holiday cottage in Coed Y Brenin Forest, North Wales sits in a small clearing and is totally unique! The original brick built cottage has been combined with an oak clad extension to provide holiday accommodation for up to 8 people. State of the art construction combined with a biomass burner and photovoltaic panels has helped owners Chris and Charlotte, create a tasteful and stylish carbon neutral property in this most natural of environments.
Price From £51 / Night
Sleeps 2 | Hot Tub | WiFi | Real Fire
Parlwr Godro, a one bedroom luxury cottage with a hot tub near Conwy. Everything you could want from a holiday cottage. A beautiful property in a beautiful location. Modern and traditional interiors sit so beautifully in this stone cottage.
Price From £93 / Night
Sleeps 8 + cot | Hot Tub | WiFi | Real Fire
Tyddyn Sarn is a traditional farmhouse holiday cottage on the Llŷn Peninsula. With hot tub and games barn, it sleeps up to eight. Ideal for a family break.
Price From £86 / Night
Sleeps 8+cot | Farm Stay | Hot Tub | WiFi | Near Snowdon | Real Fire
This beautiful barn has been converted into a very handsome holiday cottage in wild Snowdonia. A rugged farm track leads you up through a disused slate quarry and the mountains of Snowdonia to a haven of peace and tranquillity. Here a traditional welsh long barn as well as the main farmhouse nearby provides idyllic holiday accommodation for guests wanting to escape the hassle of modern life.