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New UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK
The latest additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List were unveiled earlier this month, and guess what? Our beloved Lake District has made it as the UK’s first national park to be awarded World Heritage status.
England's Lake District was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on 9 July 2017.
Inscribed to protect a landscape that has been “greatly appreciated from the 18th century onwards by the Picturesque and later Romantic movements, which celebrated it in paintings, drawings and words”, the English Lake District is applauded for having “inspired an awareness of the importance of beautiful landscapes and triggered early efforts to preserve them” according to the World Heritage Convention.
Immerse yourself in the timeless landscapes of the UK’s first national park with World Heritage status
Our classic walking options allow you to experience the charms of the world famous ‘Lakeland’ - England’s largest and most visited Lake District National Park. Below we listed some highlights of our trips and why we believe the Lake District indeed deserves to be on the UNESCO list are:
- A celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by poets, authors and painters such as Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Tennyson, Ramson and Wainwright.
- You can follow the shores of quintessentially English lakes and find out why larger bodies of water are generally named as “mere” or “water”, whilst smaller ones are denoted by “tarn”.
- Walk through sensational woodlands and forests that provide habitat for native English wildlife, including the red squirrel, one of the UK’s best-loved species.
- Make time to visit poet Wordsworth’s home at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, one of the Lakeland’s most celebrated villages, and make sure to drop into the famous Ginger bread shop!
- Cross typical stiles and ‘kissing gates’ along the footpaths on your way to tiny, centuries old hamlets and traditional lively market towns, such as Ulverston and Keswick.
- A descent to Borrowdale; perhaps the most delightful valley in the Lake District with its crags and broadleaved trees.
- Visit the traditional fell village of Caldbeck, where many of its old mill buildings, a testament to its glorious industrial past, are still in use.
- Stop at Hoad Monument – this concrete structure, built in 1850, commemorates statesman and local resident Sir John Barrow, and offers scenic views across Morecambe Bay.
- Cosy handpicked accommodation throughout the Lake District, including traditional pubs, rural family-owned guesthouses, as well as a Georgian townhouse.
If you want to immerse yourself in these timeless landscapes, we can take you there on one of the below 10 activity holidays in the Lake District National Park.
To give you a deeper understanding of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe, we like to introduce you to our new On Track feature. Today is the first in a series of quick Q&A’s on a specific trip in our offer. We conducted this inaugural Q&A with resident guide John who was in Norway earlier this month where he hiked the routes of our The Fjordland walking trip. We describe this Norway hiking trip as
"A wide-ranging introduction to trekking in Norway, featuring a range of walks of different standards, in differential scenery".
Get a better understanding of The Fjordland walking trip and what you may expect of walking in Norway via the below questions and answers.
#1 What is special about hiking in Norway?
I think you could say there is a frontier, wild feeling to hiking in Norway. The scenery can be bleak and beautiful in places with expansive vistas over distant lakes. There are tracks of forest and then you find the fjords with the most dramatic scenery imaginable.
#2 To what other region in the world can you compare the Norwegian landscape?
Norway has aspects that are similar to Sweden of course, but it can also be similar to parts of Scotland and Iceland. There are moderate fells and glacial features. Norway has the same geology to parts of the Scottish Highlands and let’s face it, similar weather - southern Norway is on quite the same latitude as Northern Scotland.
#3 Doesn’t this Norwegian climate prevent good trekking possibilities?
Norwegian weather is frontal and fickle, it can do anything at these latitudes, there is great trekking here but you should be prepared with your clothing (good shells and layering) and have a positive attitude. The weather changes all the time. All being well, there should be enough walks of different standards in our package to enable you to cope with the vagaries of weather, as well as other things to do!
The walking remains dramatic in all different types of weather.
#4 Will we encounter other walkers on this trip?
It depends whether it is the weekend and where you are. On most of the walks in my week in July, I have seen between 5 and 12 people, it isn't a lot. Maybe on the more tourist oriented routes like from Myrdal to Flam you would see a few dozen, but mostly on bikes.
Most Norwegians have good English and although it is worth having a phrase book, generally the people speak our English language very freely... like the Dutch or Danes.
#5 Are there enough places on the route for a drink or a snack?
On the walks, there are very few places where you can buy refreshments and some of the huts are unmanned. There are a couple of cafes on a couple of the routes. These are quite charming; one is for example in an old farm and another used to be a railwayman's house. A lot of the emphasis when walking in Norway is on the self-reliant experience.
#6 What 3 items should I pack for a Norway hiking trip?
- Walking poles... a great help on snow patches and long steep descents.
- Shell clothing including gaiters... you need to be waterproof as much as possible
- Duty free... save yourself a fortune on drinks.
We hope this information has indeed answered some of the questions you may have had. If you have other queries, please get in touch with John and the Sherpa team via phone or email.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy for you to tell us about your suggestions.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.
Perhaps you have been flirting with the idea of taking a walking holiday for a while now? Maybe you are thinking something not too strenuous? Have the cuisine and vineyards (including associated wines) of France always been appealing and do you like the charming towns and diverse countryside? At Sherpa Expeditions, you’re at the right place to start your search as we have a number of walking holidays in France that can be enjoyed comfortably by everyone, even first timers.
Although a reasonable good level of physical fitness is required, a walking holiday does not have to be demanding or only for seasoned, fitter hikers. From walking itineraries that discover some of the famous French vineyards and from following centuries-old paths in the Luberon to stepping in the famous pictures of Van Gogh, check out the below four introductory to moderate graded walking holidays in France:
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Calling all oenophiles (and not only): a trip where you can wander through fragrant vineyards, meet local winemakers, discover vine-covered valleys and visit private cellars. Burgundy claims the highest number of appellations d'origine contrôlée than any other region in the country. The ‘Route des Grands Crus’ runs through many of the great appellations of Burgundy wine, punctuated by nearly 40 picturesque villages and little towns.
The walk should present no difficulties for anyone in reasonable condition and accustomed to day walks in undulating countryside. Day stages are between 10km to 20km, which comes down to 3 to 6 hours walking per day. We’ve planned the itinerary to give you plenty of time to visit sites, and vineyards, along the way.
In Van Gogh’s Footsteps
Van Gogh’s time in Provence – where he first arrived in early 1888 – was the most productive period of painting in his life. Along footpaths dotted with cypress trees, crumbling farmhouses and lone chapels, this trip follows in his footsteps from St-Rémy to Les Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles.
Take in the sublime images of the region, with highlights including the Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery (where Van Gogh painted 150 paintings in one year!) and the painter’s much-loved second home, the city of Arles, where he lived in the late 1800s.
You don’t have to be super fit to do this tour, but you should be able to walk for a few hours each day and be able to cover some steep ascents and descents. Day stages are 3.5 – 6 hours of easy-to-moderate walking.
Rambling in the Luberon
Gain a unique insight into rural French life as you walk the secret hills and gorges of the Luberon – some of which plunge to depths of 30 metres – dotted with ‘mas’ (stone Provençal farmhouses) and ochre coloured hilltop villages. Starting in the heart of Papal Avignon, you will cross a revolving landscape through magnificent forests filled with oak, maples, cherry and fig trees, but also butterflies, owls and eagles.
The walking on this tour varies between introductory and moderate. Due to the length of walks and terrain we would classify the tour as more moderate and a reasonable level of fitness and ability to walk on rocky paths is required.
Vineyards Trails of the Loire
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. With a cool continental climate that slows down the ripening on the vine, the region’s winemaking history dates back to the 1st century!
The Loire region is hilly but there are no prolonged ascents or descents and few steep gradients on this trip. Several of the days are however fairly long with day stages between 15-27 kilometres and 5-7 hours per day.
Check out all walking holidays in France or contact our team of travel experts with any queries you may have.
5 Regions in Europe to experience the grape harvest and indulge in your favourite wine
With Europe’s grape harvest season coming upon us again in September, we wanted to give you some ideas for walking experiences that will appeal to oenophiles – and which wines you will best enjoy where.
During the grape harvest season in September, weather in southern Europe is generally ideal for walking. On top of that, there is a lot to see on the vineyards when entire villages work together to get the harvest in on time. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon one of the many local wine festivals taking place this time of year.
Learn more about these five regions in France, Italy and Portugal that are great for walking – and wine tasting – in the late summer.
Loire Valley >>> Sauvignon Blanc
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. With a cool continental climate that slows down the ripening on the vine, the region’s winemaking history dates back to the 1st century!
Explore vineyards, wine estates and chateaux as you walk through the Valley of the Kings on the Vineyard Trails of the Loire – our itinerary is 8 days and takes you from Amboise to Saumur.
Tuscany >>> Chianti
Historically known for its squat bottle wrapped in a straw basket, Chianti just celebrates its 300th anniversary: the area now called ‘Chianti Classico’, between Florence and Siena, was originally designated in July 1716 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in an attempt to regulate the wine trade. Chianti wine must be produced with at least 80 per cent Italian Sangiovese grapes.
Discover the famous Chianti wine region and more of Tuscany on Foot on an 7-day self guided walking holiday in Italy between April and November.
Burgundy >>> Chardonnay
Burgundy has the highest number of ‘appellations d'origine contrôlée’ in France and Chardonnay, one of the world’s most planted grape varieties, originated here, where it remains the most commonly grown white grape. Its ability to adapt to different weather conditions makes it one of the ‘easiest’ grapes to cultivate and today it has more than 30 clonal varieties in France alone.
Starting in the walled city of Beaune, the region’s wine capital, explore the very best Burgundy Vineyard Trails on an 8-day self guided walking holiday.
Provence >>> Provençal Rosé
One of the most iconic, picturesque regions of France, Provence is also the home of French rosé, which today accounts for more than half of the production of Provençal wine. The main grape variety cultivated here is the darker, thick-skinned Mourvèdre, which in France is found almost exclusively along the southern coast, as it needs a warm, sunny climate to ripen fully.
On the 7-day In Van Gogh’s Footsteps itinerary, enjoy a stroll in Les Alpilles, a small massif standing out as its white peaks rise apparently sheer from the plain of the Rhône valley, its slopes covered in vineyards along with olive and almond trees.
Douro Valley >>> Port
The first demarcated wine region in the world was officially established in 1756 when the Port industry developed. Today it has the country’s highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’, while the Douro ‘vinhateiro’ (winegrowing) area is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The 7-day Douro Rambler takes you deep into small working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines, offering plenty of opportunities for scenic boat trips on the Douro River, wine tasting tours and visits to the Port lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto.
For more information on each trip you can download the trip notes. Or for any specific queries you may have, our team of travel experts can be contacted via phone or email.
Joining in Perpignan, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of Corbières area of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose ‘Perfects’ or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers, forest, charming French towns and fine local dishes.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a walking tour of the Cathar castles in this part of southern France looks like, check out the images below.
Way-marks on a Cathar Castles Walk
Hilltop Castles & Forts in the French Pyrenees
Ancient Trails of the Cathars
French Wining & Dining
Flora & Fauna
For more information on Cathar castles walks, how to get to and from Perpignan and any other queries you may have, please contact our team of travel experts or download the trip notes.
Hidden on the foot of the Apuan Alps in Italy’s Tuscany is the (teaching) farm of Francesca and her family. Besides producing her own honey and olive oil, she loves to discover more of the Apuan Alps, hiking its hidden paths and admiring the same woods and hills that generations before her already have.
We asked Francesca to share some of her secrets on the Italian region and give you a bit of an insight into what an Apuan Alps hiking experience may involve.
Can you tell us who you are and your relation to the Apuan Alps?
I’m 54 and it was my father who taught me to love mountains. My family have always been living in areas surrounded by mountains, first the Appennino Tosco Emiliano and later the Alpi Apuane. I went out ‘walking’ on his shoulder first and when I got older on my own legs. Today I like going out together with my dogs, it's one of the best things to do! I really like to discover where each road or path goes (or was going in the past) and to see and feel what the generations before me were thinking and doing when they used to cross my same steps. The history of the Apuan Alps goes far, first there were pre-roman populations, followed by the Romans, medieval and renaissance people and then WWII soldiers (we are on the Gothic line) and finally us today.
What is special about the Apuane Alps National Park?
The Apuane Alps are “new mountains”, which means young geologically speaking. The alps are a kind of an island out of the sea. There are great peaks that are perfect for expert alpinists allowing spectacular views on the Versilia Coast and the Tuscan Archipelago with the biggest island of Elba. The alps can be rocky and steep with waterfalls and caves. The peculiarities of these rare mountains are that while being not so high, they do offer all what other great chains bring, but you can experience it all in one day.
For example, you can wake up in a medieval village and start walking on a path that takes you through a chestnut wood; when getting out of it, you will find yourself where trees no longer grow. After the blackberry bushes and grassy bit, here called paleo, finally you’ll hike up the rocky part that goes fast up to the sky. In as quick as 3 hours from leaving your bed you can hike up a great peak, and back!
What is your favourite spot in the Apuan Alps?
There are many, some of them for example are abandoned villages that are perfect for a picnic break sitting on an ancient ruin. One of my most favourite spots is the top of Monte Croce, which is full of white flowers in late May/early June.
What are other interesting places in the Apuan Alps and why?
There are natural caves like the Grotta del Vento and Antro del Corchia, which are well organised for a visit. But there are many other interesting caves than just these two. When walking in the Apuane Alps, travellers will also encounter castles, fortresses and walled towns. Barga, where I live, is an amazing town for example. It was first a Roman settlement, then a medieval walled town that in the time of the Renaissance developed into an even more beautiful city. The marble from here is plentiful and it is so white. It can only be found around the Apuane Alps Park and Michelangelo got the marble for his statues from one of the quarries here, imagine!
Can you tell us about the food in this part of Italy?
I’m an agrichef myself and consider myself an expert in food. I am also a guide to local food producers. I know where in the alps they make the perfect pecorino cheese, as well the best salumi, prosciutto and lardo, olive oil and wines. I’m a beekeeper and on our farm we produce our own honey, as well as extra virgin olive oil from our own olive trees.
Farro (spelt), chestnut and our Formenton 8 file (our corn) are the renowned treasures of the valley around Barga. The DNA of our Formenton 8 file shows that it is exactly equal to the maíz found in Mexico. This means that from the day that Columbus came back with the first seeds of corn, we have never changed it or mixed it with other variants. We still grow exactly the same corn!
Chestnuts, if you allow me to tell you a story, made “us” survive through the cold winter of 1944 during WWII. You can survive eating just and only chestnuts as they are rich in healthy ingredients and vitamins such as the vitamin C. It didn’t get boring to eat, as the chestnuts were prepared in the thousands of ways we know.
What are your most favourite restaurants in the Alps?
I personally know, as I mentioned earlier, most of the food producers in the region. So, I know to which restaurants their products go, and those places are exactly where I like to go for dinner, lunch or a snack. For example, I can recommend Il Vecchio Mulino, Ristorante La Buca and Theobroma, an ice-cream maker that uses my honey!
What, for you, is the best time of year to walk in the Apuane Alps?
Walking in the Apuane Alps in winter may complicate things a little due to colder temperatures, precipitation and slippery paths, but every season is different and an amazing time of year to visit for their own reasons.
What tip or advice do you have for travellers who want to do a walking holiday in the Apuane Alps?
They will love hiking the Apuane Alps for sure. Most of the time, walkers will find themselves on the paths alone, meeting other people only in the small settlements. The Apuane Alps are not a wild land, but we are an old land that evolved by marks left by pilgrims, merchants, emigrants and passers-by.
My tips for an Apuane Alps hiking trip: wear long trousers and never ask local people for directions - few of them walk themselves, but if you ask for the right path to take, they will come up with an answer anyway and it will be wrong for sure. Also, do not ask the same people about snakes: everywhere in the valley, the locals are afraid of snakes in a silly way. Each village will have their own legend or tale involving snakes, whether based on reality or not, that is up to yourself…
You can go on a hiking trip exploring the Apuane Alps yourself from the first of April until early October. On Sherpa Expeditions’ 8-day Walking in the Apuane Alps holiday, you’ll spend one night at Francesca’s farm before you head on to discover more of the 'Parco Alpi Apuane'.
If you were looking to settle yourself down for a few days to get that truly European experience of a small place that seems to have stood still in time, no need to look any further. Below 10 charming coastal villages offer exactly that.
Often a small market square where the local delicatessen shop is your go-to point for the best cheeses, the olives served are as fresh as you never had them before and shadow-rich terraces serve wines directly from the vineyard… all this in close proximity to our friendly guest houses and family-run hotels!
These types of villages along the long coastline of Europe form a great base for a few days of exploring on foot or by bicycle as they are in a pleasant distance to rugged cliffs, quiet beaches, inland woods and pastures, groves, and mountain foothills.
Breathe in Europe through 10 of its most charming coastal villages.
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias – Cyprus
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is situated about 400m from the coast and has a small fishing harbour and beach area. The surrounding area is mainly agricultural with bananas and citrus, a few tavernas, two churches and the ruins of an early Christian basilica.
It is locally claimed, that the sunset from Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is the most beautiful on the island of Cyprus. Perhaps the best place to be to view this spectacle is above the cliff next to the St. Georges Restaurant above the fishing harbour or on the coast itself.
Flam – Norway
When you walk down to Flam, you’ll experience a beautiful trail that follows the lush valley route through woods and pastures in Norway. There’s always the sounds of rushing waters and when you eventually drop down to the Aurlandsfjord, a branch off Sognefjord, you’ll enter Flam.
The small coastal village of Flam has several restaurants serving local & traditional Norwegian meals (think of berries and salmon) and one of Norway’s most popular craft beer breweries can be found here. Out of town, enjoy a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord, take one of the most scenic bicycle rides in Norway, and hop on the famous Flam Railway.
Collioure – Vermillion Coast, France
Flower-decked Collioure is a very pretty little town set against the foothills of the Alberes Range near France’s Vermillion Coast. It has a very idyllic setting with sun, sea and sky attracting lots of travellers each year. The seaside town consists of two little fishing ports separated by the mediaeval castle on a spur.
Did you know? This former fishing port was the birthplace of the Fauve movement of painters in the early 20th century, led by Matisse, and today still is a colourful place attracting painters and photographers alike.
St Peter Port – Guernsey
St. Peter Port, Guernsey Island’s capital, is a bustling, friendly place with a row of attractive harbours and marinas set under a steeply terraced townscape with some remarkably well-preserved buildings especially from the 1700s and 1800s. Visit Castle Cornet, the 800-year old fortress, the restored Victorian Gardens, the house where Victor Hugo stayed, or just relax along the promenade with its array of pubs and restaurants.
At certain high points in the coastal town you can see other Channel Islands of Herm, Sark, Alderney and the coast of Normandy in France.
Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore, perhaps the most interesting town of the five Cinque Terre villages is occupied by little fishing and day trip boats. The Italian seaside town has medieval tower blocks that are crammed together overlooking an inlet of intense aquamarine colour. The buildings are all painted in bright pastel shades, complementing the natural Mediterranean light.
Bowness-on-Solway – Scotland
The views from Bowness-on-Solway on the border between Scotland and England are special for several reasons. This is the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall tour; behind are rolling hills and country lanes while in front is the beautiful expanse of Solway Firth.
The coastal village of Bowness-on-Solway has less than 100 houses and is the site of the Roman fort of Maia.
Ajaccio – Corsica, France
Ajaccio, the capital town of Corsica, lies on the island’s rugged west coast. Although a busy cosmopolitan Mediterranean coastal town, it is a pleasant place to spend a few days. Enjoy the impressive harbour and old winding streets where you’ll have plenty of choice in little restaurants and boutique shops.
Did you know that it was on this seaside town that Napoleon Bonaparte was born? You can visit his home, which is now a museum.
St Ives – Cornwall, England
In England, magical St Ives is a town of art, ice creams and fish ‘n’ chips. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted and the fishing fleet largely disappeared.
However as early as 1811 Turner visited to paint the seascapes and by the late 1880s there were several artists installed and the town became famous for its vibrant artists’ colony. This perhaps reached its peak during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery.
Porto – Portugal
In Porto, famous for its port and wine, there are lots of traditional tascas (taverns) that serve marine cuisine. Explore for example vibrant Ribeira district down by the quays. The city is located right between the Green (Costa Verde) and Silver (Costa de Prata) coasts of Portugal and forms part of the Douro Valley.
To get the best idea of this Portuguese coastal city with a small-town feel, we suggest a walking itinerary taking in the famous sites such as the Cathedral and churches of 'Igreja de sto Ildefonso' and the 'Igreja Clerigos' with its monumental tower. Maybe walk along the upper and lower spans of the famous Luis I Road Bridge and admire the riverside districts of the old towns on both river banks.
For those with extra time in Porto, why not take a trip across the river to the other town, 'Vila Nova de Gaia'.
Santa Caterina – Sardinia, Italy
When you descend from the Montiferru Mountains on a walking holiday in Sardinia, you’ll walk into Santa Caterina di Pittinuri located on the coast. Santa Caterina is a quiet bay surrounded by oak forests, olive groves and quiet pastures. This is just a small coastal village, with just one small shop and a couple of bars. There’s also a nice 4-star hotel located right on the coast on a cliff at the edge of the beach with an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea. What more do you need besides a good glass of local wine, fresh produce from the island and the charming village life pass by.
Like to explore one of these coastal towns of Europe? Learn more about each place by looking at the trips on which we take you there, or contact our team of travel experts in London with your specific queries.
With so many trail guides out there providing you with directions on your cycling or walking holiday, which of the walking guide books is best for you? John discusses three.
There is an old English joke: 'What's worse than a guide in your pocket?... A brownie in your underpants!' Let’s face it like this joke, some walking guide books are pretty terrible as it for example can be hard to follow the routes using the book rather than a map. One of the main issues of weakness in regards to interpretation, which is not always understood correctly is distance.
A typical sentence in a trail guide would be 'Turn left at the junction and then turn left at the thatched cottage.' When you are on this walk you turn left at the junction, but how far is it to the thatched cottage? From the description, you might expect it to be shortly after the left turn, but after 15 minutes of walking you still haven't found it, frustration sets in. Another 5 minutes and you do actually reach two thatched cottages, but there is no left turn, so you go on and there is a modern house with a tiled roof by the left turn which may have replaced a thatched cottage that in reality burnt down two years ago…
This example points to two possible flaws; the book was out of date and/or there is no estimation of timing or distance to the turn off. It is a hard thing for authors and publishers to get right, especially with a copy of a guidebook that looks new but is actually a reprint of a book which was written 15 years ago and has not been updated.
There are other details that can lead to confusion, especially if the book has been translated from another language. Typical in these cases, a direction could go something like 'pass by the river', but does this mean literally pass the river or cross it? A typical oddity in some translations done by French publishers into English is 'Follow the bifurcation' - literally the branch.
Different types of guidebooks suit different types of people and a lot also depends upon whether you can read maps and if the walking route described is waymarked or not. If the walk isn't waymarked, there will be much more obvious reliance on books and maps.
Today, I will talk about three types of cycling & walking guide books which are popular, while none of them will appeal to everyone.
National Trail Guides
For many years the National Trail guides have been the benchmark guidebook for the UK long distance trails. The guides are well written books which use detailed OS map panels in the text. The descriptions have masses of historical and anecdotal detail. They also have walking details, which go in a sequence of lettered nodal points that are printed on the maps. The trail guides assume you can read and follow the maps. Although there is hardly any information on shops, B&Bs, pubs and public transport, they are great walking guidebooks for negotiating the 'Nationals' in the UK.
Cicerone Guide Books
Cicerone guide books are the quintessential pocket walking guide books. They have a huge international range and the style of writing varies between authors and some have more detail than others. Their wide-ranging UK walking guides include some publications with supplementary OS map booklets covering the route which is really handy. On these guidebooks, there will be added lateral mapping detail. The books are well laden with photos and have a lot of historical detail as well as practical panels. Useful feature of the Cicerone books are that the information text is either coloured differently to the walking text, or italicized. Some of the publications have a durable plastic cover.
Finally, there is the newer kid on the block, the 'Trailblazer Guide' series. They take the novel approach of completely rearranging cycling and walking maps into a cartoon form that could be interpreted by most map illiterate people. You just follow panel to panel through the book, and timings between points are given on each panel and some GPS coordinates are given at critical junctions. There isn't so much verbal text describing the route, but each stage has an introduction and there are useful pages on things like public transport etc. Another strong point is the town mapping showing the location of some B&Bs, shops and pubs. There is enough historical information in panel form, although this might not be enough for some. They have taken a few ideas from well-known travel guide series by having listings of accommodations and where to eat in each town or village. The Trailblazer books are revised every couple of years and the new edition is clearly marked on the binding.
Some walkers do however find it hard to interpret some of the map panels and if somehow they walk off the panel they can easily get lost. However, but this is the same for other strip maps in guidebooks if auxiliary maps aren’t carried.
Art for Arts’ Sake
Now I come to mention it, if you want something that is less practical to use as a walking guide, but brilliant on artwork and idiosyncratic description, I have something for you. Go no further than viewing Alfred Wainwright's masterpieces which date from the 1950s and were first sold from Patterdale Post Office. If you do a UK walk such as The Pennine Way or The Coast to Coast, you should perhaps reward yourself at the end with one of these classic trail books.
A Waterproof Case
All these guide books have one universal flaw of course, in heavy rain they turn to paper mâché. My advice therefore is, take a waterproof map case like an 'Ortilab' large enough that you can have the guide book open within it as you go along if it rains. Even then you must be careful when you need to turn the pages!
In the future, walking guide books will of course be interactive and use a GPS and downloaded map package on a phone or tablet. These will then enable you to follow the trail while details of shops and B&Bs or places of interest will pop up, much as they do with some of the phone functions at the present. This is a great development, as long as you can see the screen even when the sun is bright and when you can keep your device powered up. But that’s another topic, which you can read up on in one of my previous postings on USB chargers.
Do you have questions on guidebooks for walkers and cyclists? Or do you like to know more about one of the walking routes John mentioned in his blog article, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts.
On day 4 of our Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way, you’ll undertake a relatively flat and long walk. The route follows the bays of the west coast of the island and allows you to complete a full walk around Guernsey before you arrive back in St Peter Port.
Visit Guernsey created this fantastic video of the stretch between Grandes Rocques and Port Soif, passing sandy beaches and historical fortifications. Watch the video to get an idea what a walking holiday in Guernsey may be like.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of travel experts or find more on our 7-day Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way walking trip.
Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, our walking holidays in Provence bring you an immersive experience of a region that is known for its lavender fields, charming hilltop towns, rolling vineyards, medieval chateaux, bright sunflowers and the nearby beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Being such a diverse region, there are many things to do in Provence. Enthusiastic hiker Sonja became a Provençal resident 14 years ago and therefore we asked for her top reasons to visit and besides discovering the French region on foot, what else there is to do.
Local Markets & Provençal Specialties
In France, make sure you do visit one of the lively local markets. It is the perfect place to purchase delicious Provençal specialties for your picnic break from walking. In the route notes that we provide, you can find an overview of the exact market days and of course the best places to get fresh goat cheese, charcuterie, quiche lorraine, wine, olive oil and where the baguettes are the best. With so many delicacies at hand, it’s easy to let the outstanding Rhone Valley cuisine and wine do the pampering for you.
After your picnic along the trails, why not stretch out on one of the lavender or thyme-laden hills? Slip your backpacks behind your heads, hat over your eyes, and enjoy the chant of cicadas soothe you into a quick nap. If you go between March until May, you'll experience the thyme in full bloom and between mid-June to mid-August, the lavender fields colour beautifully purple.
Discover Avignon, the papal seat before it moved to Vatican City after the French Revolution. Avignon is the ideal place to visit ahead of your walking holiday and both the In Van Gogh’s Footsteps trip and Rambling in the Luberon holiday start just outside the historical town. Meander through its cobbled streets and walk on the famous St Benezet bridge – remember to sing the famous song: “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…”
Van Gogh Legacy
In 1888 painter Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in Provence. The move was the start of his most ambitious and productive period of his life and he loved the region with so many things to do. Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps to some of the places that he painted and knew well: cross historic Arles – the painter’s hometown, charming Les Baux, the Alpilles landscapes made famous by his paintings, and visit St Paul de Maussole and St Remy where Van Gogh spent his last years.
Learn more about the famous Côtes du Rhône Wines on a visit to Provence. Stroll through the vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and walk from one wine estate to another, perhaps with a wine expert who can unveil the secrets of the mysterious concept of terroir. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is without a doubt the most prestigious of the Rhône Valley’s wine-making villages. The best part about a tour is getting into the heart of the countryside: cycling or walking along farm tracks between the vines of Grenache and Syrah, taking you past some of the most fabled estates. And of course, a wine-tasting.
The Colorado in Provence
Colorado Provençal nearby the village of Rustrel (finishing point of the Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday) is a real surprise to first time visitors. The area covers a wide area right in the heart of Provence which have featured in many films including Cliffhanger and Westerns. Visit this part of Provence to see the canyon-like quarries dotted with pillars in all kinds of forms and shapes.
The best thing to do in Provence, we believe, is to walk its timeless hiking trails far from the crowds and at your own pace. The self guided walking holidays in Provence come with well-written and easy-to-follow instructions and practical information. Learn about the villages along the way, where to buy your picnic fare, where to go to get the best bottles of wine and olive oil. Of course, we also asked Sonja for some of her most favourite addresses and have included a selection of restaurants, wine estates, olive oil mills, and other places of interest and “must see” visits.
We also include historical & cultural information about the towns visited, monuments passed, as well as information about local plants and wildlife, geology, agriculture, and all sorts of other interesting topics along the way.
Provence is a fantastic place to go for a walking holiday, whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner.
Interested in a Provence Walking Holiday Yourself?
- The 7-day self guided walking holiday In Van Gogh’s Footsteps takes you from Avignon and Saint Remy south to Arles.
- For another walking holiday, the 7-day Rambling in the Luberon trip starts and finishes in Isle sur la Sorgue and takes in places like Fontaine de Vaucluse, Bonnieux and Buoux.