Over the last few years, llama walking/trekking with llamas has become a popular activity in the UK, and at the Merry Harriers Inn in Hambledon, you can walk llamas through the Surrey Hills AONB.
During my 2-night shepherd hut stay, I got the chance to get up close and personal with these endearing creatures and experience what walking with a llama was really like.
This was a real treat for me as it combines two of my favourite things – being in the countryside and interacting with animals, and in this post, I share my experience of llama trekking in Surrey.
Llama Trekking Experiences at the Merry Harriers Inn
There are several different ways you can get to see the llamas:
The Merry Harriers Llama Treks are open to non-residents and make the perfect gift for someone who loves animals and the great outdoors. Choose from picnic treks, morning and afternoon treks and a summer twilight trek which, by all accounts, is pretty magical.
The minimum age to trek with a llama is eight years old, so all the family can enjoy this great experience.
The Llama Love Stay Experience includes a guided llama trek, two nights at the Merry Harriers, a full English breakfast, a two-course dinner, and a Spring or Summer picnic (which the llamas carry to the picnic spot in panniers, how cute is that!).
Meeting the llama herd
After a hearty pub breakfast, it was time to meet the llamas and find out who my walking companion would be.
12 llamas live in a huge paddock at the back of the Merry Harriers, and they come in all different coat colours and sizes. They are often mistaken as alpacas which can also be walked, but llamas are larger and don’t have that tale-tell fringe dangling in their eyes.
Some are brothers and sisters, while others are simply friends, and, as I found out, they all have different characteristics and temperaments.
From feisty teenage boys to gentle older ladies and youngsters, each llama is matched to a human for the best possible experience. You can be assured there is a llama who will be perfect for you.
When I turned up, it caused quite a stir, and the llamas were all popping their heads over the fence to see who had arrived and, more importantly, if I had any food with me. I hadn’t, so they soon lost interest in me and resumed their positions in the paddock chomping on the grass.
I have to say the little white one with what looks like a drawn-on smile made me chuckle. He was extremely inquisitive and came right up to me to have his photo taken!
Meeting Champagne and Tito
After meeting the herd, Sally, the llama guide, introduced me to the two llamas that would walk with us; Champagne and Tito.
Champagne is a beautiful golden cream colour and is an older member of the herd; he is also pretty big.
Tito is a juvenile with a soft brown fleece and adorable big brown eyes. He is gently being familiarised with taking humans for a walk under the watchful eyes of Sally and Champagne!
All the llamas get to go out on treks (apart from the retirees who prefer to stay at home). And they are all rotated, so no one feels left out.
More importantly to them, it means they all get a chance to feast on the woodland goodies they find on the route, which is something they love.
Llama trekking in the Surrey Hills
After a quick briefing on handling Champagne and Tito during the two-hour trek and a quick cuddle, I was ready to channel my inner Peruvian explorer vibe.
Tips included keeping the bridle lead slack and holding it at the ends to allow the llama more head movement. Also, to watch their banana-shaped ears – upright if something has sparked their curiosity and laid back when they are relaxed.
As for spitting, no one wants to be covered in llama spit, but they will only do that if they are faced with danger and get scared. My ploy was to keep them as calm as possible and go home clean and dry. Would I succeed?
What to Expect on a Llama Walk
There are many different llama trekking experiences to choose from, and each llama walk lasts around 2 hours ( depending on how long the llamas want to stop along the route to graze).
The mainly flat walk follows a route from the Merry Harriers Inn through the local woods in Hambledon and finishes at a viewpoint that takes in far-reaching views of the Surrey Hills, an area of outstanding beauty and beyond.
Part of the walk follows the Greensand Way, a 108-mile route crossing from Haslemere in Surrey and finishing in Hamstreet, Kent.
On my trek, some areas were pretty muddy, so make sure that if you walk with a llama in winter, you wear waterproof walking boots or wellies. That said, there are wooden planks in places to help you and your furry friend navigate the boggy areas.
Llamas don’t like standing in the mud any more than we humans do, and I was amazed that Champagne and Tito could nimbly cross the planks with me.
Tito refused to walk forward at a few points on the trek, but with a light tug on his lead, he soon got the idea and happily wandered through the woods with Champagne, Sally and myself.
Tito hasn’t been out on too many walks, but he was very well-behaved on our walk together.
Sally the llama whisperer
My trek guide was the lovely Sally, who is passionate about the llamas and knowledgeable about all my llama-related questions. I learnt a wealth of interesting information during my trek.
I found out that llamas could live for up to 20 years in captivity; however, in their natural habitat of the Peruvian mountains, they only reach the age of 15. This is because they are vulnerable to predators such as mountain lions.
And also that farmers use llamas to guard livestock such as sheep and alpacas. Move over guard dogs, the guard llamas have arrived.
And who would have guessed they were related to giraffes? Well, those longs necks are a slight giveaway when you think about it, aren’t they?
One thing that shocked me was learning that llamas could pee for up to 20 minutes and that they use the same spots for toilet breaks during their walks. Make sure to bring a good book while you wait!
(Just joking about the book but not the peeing time).
On my llama walk, Tito decided he was ready for a convenience break and circled me twice before relieving himself.
It was hilarious following him around, and I thought this was something they all did until Sally informed me she had not seen that characteristic before.
I guess Tito was checking the coast was clear of onlookers before feeling confident about performing!
I’m glad to say he only lasted around five minutes, but it was continual!
Hambledon Common Viewpoint
Continuing my llama trekking experience, we stopped at a fabulous elevated viewpoint. The panoramic views from here across the Weald to the Surrey Downs were sensational.
Cuddle Time with the Llamas
This was also a good spot to have a cuddle with the llamas. Llamas are pretty gentle animals, and Champagne and Tito had been a delight to accompany on this walk.
Llamas love to have their necks stroked and patted and a good old cuddle. I was more than willing to oblige!
The floor here is also quite sandy and so a favourite spot for Champagne and Tito to sit down and have a roll in the sand.
Rolling back and forth helps to clean their coats of wood chippings (that they sleep on in the barn). It also removes leaves and twigs that get matted in their fur.
On my return to the Merry Harriers, we passed the beautiful Moor Cottage, a Grade ll listed timber-framed building, the perfect backdrop for a few more llama photographs. Tito was more than willing to pose for the shot.
Llama Snack Breaks
On a llama trek, these gorgeous animals enjoy grazing and will stop at every opportunity, as I found out! They love to nibble on the ivy, holly, and heather growing in the woods.
When you hike with a llama, you will soon realise that their favourite treat is acorns, and the noise of them crunching on them is quite comical. Champagne and Tito certainly enjoyed a feast on our woodland walk.
One plant that is not good for llamas is the rhododendron, so we made sure to steer clear of those bushes during our llama walk, as we didn’t want them to have tummy aches later on that day.
Towards the end of my llama experience, we led Champagne, and Tito passed a huge pine field and said hello to some distant relatives.
Llamas aren’t too enamoured by horses or small dogs, though Champagne tolerates well-behaved pooches and other farmyard animals. The sheep seemed very interested in Champagne and Tito.
Before I knew it, my llama walk had ended, and as we led Champagne and Tito back into the field, I had one last hug and said my goodbyes. They happily rejoined their friends without a second glance in my direction and set about eating the grass.
And guess what? Champagne and Tito did not spit at me once during the trek. I think the Peruvian vibe I was manifesting must have put them in their comfort zone!
My final thoughts on walking with llamas at the Merry Harriers
I absolutely loved my llama walking experience and would highly recommend it to others. It’s obvious to see that the llamas are very well cared for and loved by Sally and the team.
I would say that this activity is more an amble than a trek, so don’t expect to be going at 20 miles an hour over hill and dale. The llamas will walk at a slow pace and will stop quite frequently to graze.
And don’t expect the trek to be cancelled if it rains. Martine, the manager, says, “if the storm hasn’t got a name, we trek”, referring to storms across England that have uprooted trees and caused flooding!
If you are looking for a great present idea for a special occasion, why not purchase a Llama Experience Gift Voucher? It’s a gift that is unique and will leave a lasting memory.
You could even combine one of the llama walks with a night in a shepherd hut, just as I did. Fabulous!
Check out the Merry Harriers website for information on llama trekking and inclusive stays.
My llama trek at The Merry Harriers was complimentary for the purpose of this review and organised by CJ Hotel Consultancy. As always, my thoughts and comments are entirely my own and without bias.
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