EVEN the most hardy of cyclists will admit that going for a bike ride in the British winter is not as enjoyable as it is in the balmy summer months.

Dark nights, gloomy mornings, chill winds and stinging rain make it a challenge just to put your nose out of the front door when the central heating is fired up and there's another cup of tea in the pot.

It's at this time of year that thoughts understandably turn to cycling in warmer climes, a temptation that has kept one Northwich holiday company in business for three decades.

Headwater was set up by husband and wife Christine and Richard Bass in 1985 and born of their enjoyment of more active breaks.

The company, which specialises in arranging cycling, walking and canoeing holidays in Europe, was originally run from the couple's kitchen table in Hartford before moving to London Road and then to its current location in Castle.

In the past few years its cycling section has been booming.

Melanie McAnaw, from Headwater, said: "Cycling now is more popular than ever.

"We are finding more people are wanting to explore on bike – with the Olympics and Tour de France it's all of a sudden become trendy and people are interested in cycling."

Headwater, based at The Old Schoolhouse, in Chester Road, provides bicycles, which are made specially for its holidays, and transports baggage for its holidaymakers so they are free to cycle unencumbered from hand-picked hotel to hand-picked hotel.

The holidays, which tour locations in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland and the eastern Mediterranean, are self-guided so travellers can pedal at their own pace, but Headwater provides detailed route guides, maps and 24-hour support from a Headwater representative when needed.

"It's great for people who are new to this kind of thing, " Melanie said.

"It's good feeling that you're doing it on your own but you've got us here as back-up if needed."

She explained the emphasis of the holidays is the activity but also food, wine and relaxation so many of the routes take travellers from hotel to hotel every two days, providing free rest days to sightsee.

Holidays follow either gentle routes, aimed at beginners or families, or more varied terrain, aimed at fair weather cyclists or more active riders looking for a relaxed trip.

All routes are researched and chosen to pass through areas of interest and beauty.

Melanie said: "It's perfect if you want to get active and try something more adventurous but don't want it all on your shoulders.

"You see what the tourists don't see, visit places you wouldn't find otherwise and meet local people.

"It's not just staying in a resort, it's exploring the countryside and trying local cuisine."

She added: "They're genuinely fantastic – I've been on tons now, I love them, me and my husband go every year."

For more information visit headwater.com