The ACAI Blog

Britain’s Favourite Sports: Victoria Pendleton’s PoB Break

by Zoe Allison on Jul 01, 2024

Britain’s Favourite Sports: Victoria Pendleton’s PoB Break

Olympic cyclist and trained jockey Victoria Pendleton is eyeing the quintessential Cotswolds scenery with an athlete’s eye as she embarks on her very own PoB Break.

“The terrain for cycling and horse riding is good,” she says. “The chocolate-box villages and quiet country lanes aren’t so different from where I grew up, in Bedfordshire.”

She sets off to explore the rolling hills on two wheels after arriving at The Painswick near Stroud, a 17-room hotel that’s perfectly placed for mountain biking in the scenic Five Valleys. Her guide, Tim Porter, meets her at the hotel door with a bike – she’s decided against an electric one but is relieved that he has too as she says she’s a bit rusty.

The day is so clear, they can see to the Severn and the Malvern Hills on their tour of local viewpoints – there’s a lot of stopping to take photos. “That’s not normal for me,” laughs Victoria. “Tim is great company; he’s very knowledgeable about the area. I did a lot of mountain biking in my childhood with my brother and my dad.” They return, happy but muddy, for an orange and soda in the hotel bar before Victoria recovers in a warm bath followed by a sumptuous and elegant meal – “I can definitely justify the calories after that.”

She needs the fuel for her workout at her next stop, Calcot & Spa, a manor in 220 acres of rewilded Cotswolds countryside near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, which has just added the Grain Store, an extensive fitness haven to its grounds. “I have been to a lot of spit and sawdust gyms in my time so when you get to go to a really plush, beautifully laid out modern gym like this, it’s a real treat,” says Victoria. As well as all the usual equipment, it has a weighted sled, which you push and pull along a track, and a Nordic skiing machine for a full body cardio workout. Naturally, Victoria tries the spinning class, and raves over the all-important playlist. Workout over, it’s time to reward herself in the sublime spa. “I am very much into having a sauna and then a cold dip,” says Victoria, who also enjoys a massage and a facial. Dinner proves to be a treat too. A vegan, Victoria is delighted when the chef points out some delicious plant-based options – so delicious that she gives in and indulges in the full three courses, unable to resist the dark chocolate torte.

Next day, it's just an hour’s drive south to Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa near Chippenham, a Palladian mansion set in 500 acres of parkland. When Victoria reaches the hotel at the end of the mile-long avenue lined with lime and beech trees, she is “literally giddy” to see a foal in the field just outside the hotel. Lucknam has 25 horses in its equestrian centre and can tailor its rides to everyone from children as young as three to experienced horsewomen such as Victoria, who heads off for a canter. “Riding here you can enjoy being in the beautiful grounds without having to worry about traffic – you can just enjoy the scenery,” she says.

Back inside, while the afternoon tea looks sensational, Victoria saves herself for dinner at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones, thoroughly enjoying the tasting menu as well as the grandeur of her surroundings. “I am a bit of a period drama fan,” she relates. “Anything that makes you feel like you’re in Downton Abbey makes me happy – I spent my childhood visiting National Trust properties.”

There’s more period drama to enjoy at Victoria’s next stop, at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, a sweep of 30 terraced houses in the heart of historic Bath. “I have seen the Royal Crescent on costume dramas before. It’s very imposing with beautiful architecture,” she says, excited to be staying in the Jane Austen suite.

Victoria explores the city on an early-morning run, heading up to the Bath Skyline viewpoint to see the city from above, and then sees if from a different angle altogether on a kayaking expedition. It’s a watery adventure that leaves right from the centre of the city on the River Avon, gliding beneath the city’s bridges. She returns with an appetite – and not just to see more of Bath. “I’m trying to be good with my food but I can’t help myself,” she says. “It is a real pleasure not to have to cook. The gnocchi with artichoke and hazelnuts look so good I don’t want to eat it.”

Swapping the Cotswolds for the fringes of the Chilterns for the last sporting event on her break, Victoria heads east to the Relais Henley, a 16th-century inn on the banks of The Thames. Olympic rower and double world champion Toby Garbett takes her out on the river with two other British athletes in a four and coaches her every stroke. “You don’t get the same sense of speed and movement on a rowing machine,” she says. “To do single sculling on an early morning on flat water must be divine – really smooth and fast and powerful.”

A subsequent tour of the prestigious Leander Club proves equally fascinating. “It is a real treasure trove of Olympic history – I know Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent quite well – it is really interesting to see where they trained.”

So is she inspired by her visit to follow in their wake and take up a new sport? “I’m very tempted,” she says. “So much so that I have looked into my local rowing club to see if they take on beginners. They do but I have to go for an induction; they want to see what I can offer…”

Inspired by Victoria Pendleton's exhilarating journey across the British Isles? Whether you want to follow her adventurous path or create your own bespoke break, our interactive map is your perfect guide. Embark on a personalised adventure tailored to your interests, exploring the diverse landscapes and thrilling activities the British Isles have to offer. Begin crafting your unforgettable British escape today!

And if you're eager to embrace a new British sport or hone your skills in a favourite activity, discover Get Set, and Go for all the inspiration you need.

And for a bit of clothing inspiration, look no further…

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