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Have you ever considered walking Offa’s Dyke Path? Our friends at
Cicerone prepared a very quick introduction to this historic trekking trail along the boundary between England and Wales and we are sharing it here with you.
Where is Offa’s Dyke Path and how far is it?
The Offa’s Dyke Path starts in Sedbury, near Chepstow, and finishes in Prestatyn 177 miles later (285km). This well waymarked walk can easily be fitted into a two week holiday and, although long, is not too difficult. Sherpa Expeditions grades the walk as a moderate one that includes some long days and steep climbs and descends.
Who was Offa and what is his dyke?
Offa became the king of Mercia in 757 and inherited a set of poor defensive ditches designed to protect his kingdom from invasion. Around the time of 780, King Offa organised the strengthening of the existing dykes by making the ditches deeper and piling the earth into high banks. All ‘facts’ about this are merrily disputed as there is little real evidence remaining. Still, Offa’s Dyke would have posed a considerable challenge to incomers from the Welsh side and, in some places, the bank is as high as 8 metres today.
Why should you go for an Offa’s Dyke walk?
Who doesn’t want to walk along Britain’s longest linear earthwork? Need more reasons? What about hiking in the Wye Valley (one of the southern UK’s most dramatic and scenic landscapes)? Visiting historic castles and abbeys dating from 1066? Or the fact that you are walking along the boundary of a former kingdom?
When should you go?
The Offa’s Dyke Path can be enjoyed in any season but the shorter days of winter may scupper some of the longer stages. You would also need to prepare for winter conditions, particularly on the high hills. The bluebell woodlands in springtime are a particular highlight. We recommend walking Offa’s Dyke between April and October.
Where should you stay?
There are areas of this walk that are remote from towns and services and accommodation must be carefully planned. Travel with Sherpa Expeditions to take away this hassle. The long-standing relationship with charming hotels and guesthouses helps getting availability, even in busy periods, such as the Hay on Wye festival
or at the time of the Grand National
The oldest stone-built castle in the UK just happens to be in Chepstow
, the start of Offa’s Dyke Path, and is utterly spectacular.
Easter this year falls in the third weekend of April and is a great time for catch the first beams of sunlight all over Europe. The obvious question then is, where to go for Easter in Europe this year? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
To give you an idea, here are five places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays and that are easily combined with a walking trip.
Easter in La Palma >> Majorca, Spain
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onward, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in La Palma. Other Mallorcan places to go for Easter are the churches with performances of children and other special Easter events. On the Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols when you’re in Majorca this Easter.
Head to Majorca a few days before Easter to enjoy all of the large processions that take place around the island and spend a few days in La Palma before you head off for your days of walking. Away from the burgeoning coastal resorts, discover the majestic Sierra de Tramontana massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Interested in visiting Majorca for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries walking holiday.
Easter in Florence >> Tuscany, Italy
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, today, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire, here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral so that it causes a 20 minutes fireworks show ‘the explosion of the car’. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th Century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
Combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the rich Italian cuisine, oh the cuisine...
Interested in visiting Florence for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Tuscany on Foot, Cycle San Gimignano to Siena, Tuscany Uncovered, Walking South of Siena, Cycling South of Siena, and Tuscany Cycle Explorer walking and cycling holidays.
Easter in Kato Paphos >> Cyprus
Right outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos (the start and/or finish point of our Cyprus walking trips), the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, this year in 2017, dates coincide. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your eight or eleven day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Interested in visiting Cyprus for Easter? Browse for inspiration The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – 11 days or The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – 8 days walking holidays.
Easter in Braga >> Douro Valley, Portugal
There are several places to go for Easter in northern Portugal. Close to the starting point of our walking holiday, Porto, there is the city of Braga. Both cities host many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week, but head for Braga to witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. It is led by coffin-bearers wearing a traditional purple robe on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The surprisingly unspoilt Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride away from Braga and home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Interested in visiting Douro Valley for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Douro Rambler walking holiday.
Easter in Alghero >> Sardinia, Italy
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and are influenced by the (Spanish) Catalan culture. Celebrations evolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onward and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at the Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find much bird life and generally quieter trails.
Interested in visiting Sardinia for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Saunter in Sardinia or Cycling in Sardinia walking and cycling holidays.
For more information on where to go for Easter in Europe or on any of the suggested destinations, please contact our team of travel experts.
Budget Holidays in Europe
You may already know from previous experience that early in the season, often you will have the tracks and trails of Europe to yourself. Guesthouse and restaurant owners have more time for a chat and the atmosphere can be more relaxed. To help you profit from the spring season, we have selected five budget holidays in Europe that cost less than £500 (and don't compensate on value) so that you can easily squeeze them in at the start of the year (or later on, as most run until late autumn!).
Isle of Wight >> From £420
5 days of island cycling in the UK
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your budget trip in the UK's Isle of Wight begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta (taking place early August); the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
>> Find out more >> Isle of Wight Cycle
The Balkan Mountains >> From £480
8 days of mountain walking in Bulgaria
The narrow roads of the Central Balkan National Park meander through valleys, forests and villages that have not changed for centuries. Along the self-guided Balkan Mountains walking route, you will see several of Bulgaria’s most significant Orthodox monasteries and churches with colourful murals. On the final day, you will ascend Petrahilya Peak, the highest mountain in the area, and enjoy panoramic views of Teteven and the Central Balkan National Park.
>> Find out more >> Balkan Mountains Walk
Yorkshire Dales >> From £270
4 days of relaxing walking in England
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales staying at the Old Brewery, a tastefully decorated house that retains its old-world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. A stone’s throw from the River Swale, at the foot of the castle hill, and just a short walk from the cobbled market place, you can set off to explore peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages of the Yorkshire Dales. With just four days, this is a perfect and short budget holiday in the UK.
>> Find out more >> Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
English Cotswolds >> From £360
5 days of easy walking in friendly England
An itinerary specially crafted for those who want a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside and have a limited budget for it. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture-perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed under Henry VIII) and the still inhabited castle of Sudeley. You will stay in charming, family-run B&Bs on this budget walking holiday in the Cotswolds.
>> Find out more >> Exploring the Cotswolds - 5 Days
The James Herriot Way >> From £450
6 days of walking around Wensleydale & Swaledale in England
Launched only in 2016, this new trip in the Yorkshire Dales, a six-day version of the James Herriot Way, is considered by many as ‘the best short long-distance walk in the UK’. The 50-mile (80km) circular walk has been designed to take in some of the countryside that James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot, was so fond of.
>> Find out more >> James Herriot Way
For more information and ideas for other budget holidays in Europe, please download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of travel experts by email or phone.
Soles for Shoes, Choosing Walking Boots
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. Thinking about getting new footwear this spring for your walking holidays? Time to check the soles for your shoes with John!
Often people have just one pair of outdoor footwear and this may mean that they end up wearing a less appropriate shoe for their particular activity.
Soles that are too heavy for faster low level walking can leave you with blisters, whereas soles that are too light for 'proper' mountain walking could leave you lame. The development of extremely lightweight running shoes and boots with light fabrics have changed the landscape in this area completely, giving you so much choice flexibility. For a lot of walking holidays, we always advise on a degree of ankle support. Numerous people with a running background will probably have quite flexible ankles though, so could cope with less protective footwear. A good place then to look at are the Salomon Speed Cross range for example, or various trail running models from Merrell, Vaude etc. There are also shoes called 'approach shoes' in this category, which have more of a traditional walking-shoe-look about them. Some of these come with Gore-Tex fabric, which helps on wet days, although some may prefer more quick draining, faster drying shoes. The type of material is important if you are going walking in warm or cold conditions, where ventilation rather than waterproofness may be a bigger concern.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Easy-Moderate Walking
A lot of the easier to moderate walking tours that we offer involve farm and gravel tracks, through fields, forests and over downs and through dales. Generally, lowland-walking does not include sustained steep trails or climbs, or a lot of rocky paths, so the appropriate soles for these shoes and boots should be quite bendy. This will give you a lot of spring on your fore step. These types of hiking boots often wear comfortable straight out of the box. Inevitably there will be some road walking on our tours, so have as much cushioning as possible. The running-style footwear is very suited to this. Some of the soles on lightweight shoes or boots have a grippy sole of differing materials, which can mean that parts of the sole wear quite quickly. Also, on the grip part there may only be a thin 'skin' on a compressed foam midsole, which can tear or separate if it is used for mountain usage. These are quite good types of shoe for say walking in Tuscany, Burgundy, Tarn or doing the South Downs Way, or the lowland parts of the Coast to Coast or Dales Way.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Moderate-Challenging Walking
When it comes to the more moderate to challenging walks, often in national parks going uphill and on steep slopes, soles for shoes or boots should be much more rigid, flexing slightly at the ball of the foot. Vibram soles are the most famous in this department, usually with one type of hard rubber used on soles with large rubber cleats for gripping mud and moor, and the welt well bonded with the fabric or leather. There may be a cushioning element in the heel or even forefoot, but often if you want better cushioning, you may want to invest in a cushioned insole. Bear in mind though that this may reduce the clearance between the top of your toes and the roof of the shoe. This offers your foot, ankle and even calves more support. The sole of a hill-walking boot will often be much tougher and stronger than a standard rambling boot, as they are built to take on tougher terrain. See Meindl Bhutan or Scarpa GTX for example. These are ideal for tours such as the Alpine Pass Route, Tour du Mont Blanc, or the upland bits of the Coast to Coast.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Challenging Hiking
Now we come to choosing the right soles for big mountain tours like the Mont Blanc Ascent, Aconcagua, Mera and Island Peak. At this point, insulation becomes more of an issue and so does having a rigid sole. There is very little flex at the ankle and you walk around like C-3PO (the Star Wars character). However, the sole is usually a pretty solid Vibram unit, good for kicking steps in the snow or using crampons. These types of soles have become a lot lighter over the years with new materials used. My advice would be to use boots like Scarpa Mantas and Scarp Charmoz on the Scottish and Alpine peaks and chunky Scarpa Vegas or Phantoms (with integrated insulated gaiter) for winter mountaineering and bigger Andean and Himalayan peaks.
If you have booked a walking holiday with us and are unsure of the type of shoes needed for your trip, or if you like some general advice on soles for shoes, please don’t hesitate to contact John or other members of our team.
Did you know? When you book a trip with us, you receive a unique discount code for shopping at Cotswold Outdoor (with stores online and all over the UK).
This year you can be visiting Spain again from March onward, benefitting a long travel season in the southern European country. This opens up opportunities for all types of travellers. Whether you are up for a challenge, like to go remote, are interested in crossing borders or can’t choose between the mountains and the sea, Spain offers a type of holiday for any interest. Will you be visiting Spain in March or later this year?
Check out the below ideas that show the variety of options available for active holidays in the outdoors of Spain.
If You Like to Get 2 For the Price Of 1
With an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, the dramatic coastline where the Pyrenees tumble to the Mediterranean can be enjoyed almost all year. For those of you who can’t decide between the French or Spanish section of the Pyrenees, why not cross the border between France and Spain on foot. Hike the Vermillion Coast and expect stunning mountainscapes, sea views, bright skies and delicious seafood. Also, there is plenty of time for relaxation built in the itinerary, so that you can enjoy the off-season calm of the pretty fishing ports along the Vermillion Coast in months like March, April and May.
Travel to Spain in Spring >> Go Hiking the Vermillion Coast >>
For Those Who Like to Go Remote
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but come in spring for beautiful fresh colours of green lighting up the valleys. Visit this part of Spain from March onward and find the hedgerows and paths lined with flower buds and migratory birds, while enjoying the pleasant temperatures. With the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, go on an exhilarating walk in a remote part of Spain. Explore along terraced fields and irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era, while staying in hidden white-washed villages.
Travel to Spain in Spring >> Go Hiking in Hidden Andalucia >>
If You Can’t Choose
The majestic Sierra de Tramontana is a massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters of the Balearic Sea on the northwest part of Majorca. For those that can’t choose between mountain hikes or coastal walks, this is the perfect setting. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Travel to Spain in Spring >> Go walking along Majorca's Sierras and Monasteries along the coast >>
Go Island Hopping
Hiking in Spain can be easily done year-round as long as you choose its exotic islands. Explore for example the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera while visiting Spain in March or any other time in spring. Hike your way around the second smallest Canary Island, La Gomera. Here you can experience high rocky mountains to cloud forest and banana plantations, but before that, explore Tenerife and Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain and the world’s third tallest volcano!
Travel to Spain in Spring >> Go Walking in the Canaries >>
If You’re After a Challenge
The Spanish side of the Pyrenees has a drier climate than the French side and is less visited. It offers a magnificent array of rugged mountains, deep gorges, beech and pine forests, cultivated terraces, ancient stone bridges, unspoilt towns and villages with many historic buildings, linked through a network of waymarked trails and paths. The walking is about 5-8 hours a day with an average altitude gain of 900m (sometimes over 1000m) and you’ll need to be competent at map reading and compass work.
Travel to Spain from June onward >> Go walking in the Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees >>
For the complete overview of cycling and walking holidays in Spain, have a look these 15+ trips. If you like more information on any of the above-mentioned holidays, please download the trip notes from the blue button on the trip page or contact our team of travel experts.
Walking the Channel Island Way
When you’re planning a walking holiday on the Channel Island Way, you will notice there are many things to do in Guernsey and its surrounding islets of Sark, Herm, Lihou and Alderney. The area is steeped in history with influences of French and English monarchies, World War II, and European aristocrats like Victor Hugo and Renoir. Add to that the beautiful seascapes taken in from the many bays, rugged cliffs and endless beaches, and a selection of eclectic pubs and quiet villages, and your Guernsey attractions list is complete. Here is a top 5:
1. L'Eree Bay
The coast section between L’Eree Bay and Perelle Bay is a special marine reserve (Ramsar site). With its many rock pools L'Eree Bay is an important place for wading birds. Try to take in some of the amazing sunsets when looking towards Lihou Island. If you have time, you can go rock hopping in search for crabs and sea anemones. Other things to do in this part of Guernsey is to go and explore the trench defenses near Fort Saumarez.
2. Bluebell Woods
There is a rare stand of deciduous forest on Guernsey Island, situated in a sheltered dip south of St Peter Port. This one does exactly what it says it does on the map: it becomes a breathtakingly - beautiful dense 'Bluebell Wood' between April and May. Quite a contrast with much of the seaside flora that you will see when walking elsewhere on the island. The Channel Island Way passes directly through this unique Guernsey attraction and it draws a host of photographers and romantics at that time of year.
3. Petit Bot Bay
Descending from the cliff path on the first day of the 7-day Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way walk, you reach the small but perfectly formed Petit Bot Bay. It is a sheltered sand and shingle beach on the south coast of Guernsey. There is of course a nice cafe to go for a cuppa, or pint later in the day. Petit Bot Bay also has a defensive tower, which actually dates from the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) when France, which had joined the war in support of the fledgling USA, threatened to send over waves of invading ‘visitors’. You can read more about Guernsey's fascinating history in the guidebook by Paddy Dillon.
4. Cobo Bay
Another excellent Guernsey attraction for sunsets are Cobo Bay and Saline Bay. They run as a wonderful stretch of white sandy beaches up to a Victorian fort in the dunes. Many of the things to do in Guernsey are related to the beautiful scenery and Cobo Bay is no exception to this. Large sections of the Channel Island Way can be accomplished on beach sections such as Cobo Bay. Watch sublime scenes from the terrace of the superb hotel-restaurant you will find along the way. Out of the high season you have beaches like this nearly all to yourself.
Just about everywhere on Sark is a brilliant part of the Guernsey islands! Sark is just so different, with its quasi feudal laws, and mainly because there are no cars it is so peaceful. What you’ll hear is just the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves and the occasional rumble of a tractor (they are allowed). The landscapes of Sark island are generally quite rugged and also pastoral. These reflect the boundaries of the original settling families of the island who arrived in Tudor times. Paths go out to the various gorse clad headlands with some amazing sea cliffs. From the north, you can see Guernsey and Herm islands. La Coupée is an interesting feature: a narrow road that connects to Sark’s baby neighbour, Little Sark, which will one day be a separate island. The walking trails are lovely as well - oh, there is no street lighting on Sark either, so bring a torch (flashlight).
Are you a big fan of the island just like us and like to find out about other things to do in Guernsey and beautiful places to see when walking on the island? The guidebook publisher, Cicerone, has 5 more beautiful places in Guernsey and along the Channel Island Way that we believe should be on your radar.
For more information on the 7-day self-guided walking holiday in Guernsey that we highlighted in this article you can have a look here and download the trip notes, or get in touch with our team of travel experts with your queries.
Dublin City Tour
Most people that take a walking holiday on the Wicklow Way or Dingle Peninsula in Ireland will arrive in Dublin. Even if your time is limited, it is recommended to see the wide array of sites in the Irish capital. There are so many things to do in Dublin.
If you for example have a late afternoon or evening flight and have just a half day to spend in the city, there is plenty to explore. Your Dublin hotel may have baggage storage available so leave your main bag, take your valuables and head off on a walk around the city.
Let us take you on a short walking tour that includes nine things to see on your visit to Dublin. For starters, head up Talbot Street, where at the ‘Spire’ you join O’Connell Street, turn left here for the post office and the River Liffy.
The Spire is the tallest sculpture in the world, built of stainless steel in 2002-3 at the site of the previous Nelson Monument that was blown up by the IRA in 1966. The steel is ‘tuned’ so that it does not sway, it is 121.2m (397.6ft).
General Post Office
Walk over to the GPO (General Post Office) with its famous Ionic columned portico. This was the site of the start of the 1916 Rebellion, where Patrick H. Pearse read out the declaration of the Irish Republic. It was largely rebuilt, but much of the façade survived and when there, you could look out for the bullet damage still visible in some of the columns. Go inside to see the huge Lego model of the 1916 shootout (last seen in September'16). The building remains a very elegant functioning post office but there is also a new museum
(entry fee) which is about the Easter Rising and its aftermath.
The Custom House
Reaching the River Liffy from the post office, turn left to dodge over bridges to visit the elegant Custom House. It was designed by James Gandon (from the 1790s) and was the seat of customs activities; from ships unloading on the River Liffy, to taxation, revenue and Poor Law administration by the British during the Great Famine. It was severely damaged when it was burnt down by the IRA in 1921 during the War of Independence, then restored in the 1920s to fulfil more or less the same functions, with health care rather than poor law!
Close by, along the River Liffy, are two stark reminders of what the famine meant. The first is a collection of ragged bronze figures and their dog called 'Famine' (1997). The sculpture is a commemorative work dedicated to those Irish people forced to emigrate during the 19th century Irish Famine. The bronze sculptures were designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie.
This location is a particularly appropriate and historic as one of the first voyages of the Famine period was on the 'Perseverance’, which sailed from Custom House Quay on St Patrick's Day 1846.
Jeanie Johnston Ship
Just downstream from the statues there is an authentic replica famine ship called the Jeanie Johnston built in Tralee. If you have time to spare, it’s worth a visit
. The original Jeanie Johnston made 16 emigrant journeys to North America between 1847 and 1855, carrying over 2,500 people with no loss of life.
Walk back along the river and cross over the famous iron ‘Ha’penny Bridge’ built in 1816 in England and shipped over for construction to replace some rather poor ferries. A half penny was originally charged for pedestrians, hence the bridge’s nickname. Officially this is the Liffy Bridge.
Temple Bar Area
Once you have walked across the bridge, walk up into Temple Bar, an area full of bars, restaurants and tourists. Pop into one of the traditional Irish pubs for a pint of Guinness or a glass of Baileys Irish Cream or go for one of the other things to do in Dublin’s bar area like having a black - or white pudding, boxty, local stew, or colcannon.
Next it is up to Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule for 700 odd years. The castle is built in different styles from the Normans, through the Tudors and on to the Victorians. The castle was not taken in the 1916 rebellion, although the first fatal casualty of it was the poor policeman who was shot shutting the gates. It was only however defended by about seven soldiers. The Viceroy of Ireland handed the country over to Michael Collins here in 1922.
Christ Church Cathedral
Further up the road from the castle you can visit the Norman Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral was founded probably sometime after 1028 when King Sitric Silkenbeard, the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin made a pilgrimage to Rome. Henry II attended the Christmas service at the cathedral in 1171, the first time Henry received Holy Communion following the murder of Thomas Beckett by his knights in Canterbury. In the 1180s, Strongbow and other Norman magnates helped to fund a complete rebuilding of Christ Church (initially a wooden building) in stone. This rebuilding comprised the construction of a choir, choir aisles and transepts. It was redeveloped during the Tudor reformation and extensively remodelled in Victorian times. If you go in, visit the crypt which is the largest in the British Isles.
There are many other things to do in Dublin if you have time, some of the more potent attractions would be the infamous Kilmainham Gaol Museum, or a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Distillery (reopens March 2017). All these attractions of course take a bit more time than just walking past.
For more information on visiting Dublin, assistance with booking pre- or post-walking tour accommodation, or more information about our walking holidays in Ireland, please contact our team of travel experts in London.
Cyprus Winter Holidays to Enjoy A Milder Climate
Swap the cold British weather for a few days of milder climate in the Mediterranean on a Cyprus winter holiday.
While you may expect days in the winter months to be shorter and colder, the winter in Cyprus actually brings excellent walking conditions. Even in January and February, the heart of winter, the island south of Turkey enjoys daily averages of seven hours of sunshine and temperatures above 16 degrees Celsius. At the same time, you avoid the summer crowds and have more time to interact with the Cypriot people.
So, if you are planning a winter walking break, surrounded by unspoilt countryside and away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts, go and explore Cyprus.
Sherpa Expeditions’ walking trip concentrates on the Akamas Peninsula in the western part of the island. Here, the winter weather is warmer than in the Cypriot mountains. Highlights of a Cyprus winter holiday include:
- Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible, as due to its mountainous nature there are no roads running through its heartland
- Rugged, pine-clad mountains, woodland and gentle orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages and Byzantine monasteries
- A real geological mosaic, as almost all the geological formations of Cyprus can be found here, from narrow deep valleys and caves to islets and dramatic gorges
- Breathtaking sea views of Cyprus’ western coastline, secluded bays and small fishing harbours
- Visit the Baths of Aphrodite where, according to the legend, the goddess would come to bathe in a pool fed by a freshwater mountain spring – and where she met her lover, Adonis!
- Accommodation in traditional family-run inns, guesthouses and small hotels
Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible and especially in the winter months, you can escape to a region where you will get a warm and friendly welcome from the local people. All that’s left for you to do is enjoy your winter walking days.
To learn more about the 8-day Cyprus winter walking holiday, download the trip notes here or get in touch with our team of travel experts by phone or email.
The climate in southern England is widely praised by outdoor holidaymakers. With average temperatures around 17 degrees Celsius between April and October, this makes for excellent walking and cycling. With around 170 hours of sunshine in the same period, the region is one of the sunniest places in all of the UK. Reason enough for us to look at five places for active holidays in the south of England.
Whether you are looking for a windswept cliff top stroll to breathe in some salty sea air, want to immerse in the stunning beauty of the South Downs, are looking for an island break to really feel away from it all, or like the variety of walks going through forests and beaches, from April onward you can enjoy these holidays in southern England. Have a look at these self-guided walking and cycling ideas to make the most of your days off.
Isle of Wight – A Limited Holiday Opportunity
The island in the south of the UK is disappearing into the sea, in some parts at rates of 3.5 metres a year. This means you have about another 4000 years to spend your holiday on the Isle of Wight. On an eight day visit, you can take in the Isle of Wight’s great natural beauty on foot, enjoy glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel, as well as the white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles. This is the place where Queen Victoria had her second home, Osbourne House, where she painted, rode horses, swam, and went for walks. Or for a five day getaway, pick up a bicycle at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde and take an undulating circular route with short cycling distances to allow enough time to stop and explore.
Isle of Wight holidays
Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
Isle of Wight Cycle
Cornwall – Britain’s Favourite Holiday Region
Cornwall is very much a holiday county known for its beaches, pirates and, of course, Cornish pasties. Cornwall enjoys the mildest climate in the UK, making it ideal for walking and cycling both earlier and later in the year. To give you even more choice, there are three 8-day options of classic Cornish coastal walking: North, striding out from Padstow’s old harbour and taking in Newquay, Britain’s surf capital, and the artist town of St. Ives; West, featuring mysterious Celtic standing stones, quaint smugglers’ coves and the celebrated Land’s End; and South, crossing picturesque ports and fishing villages all the way to Lizard Head, the southernmost tip of mainland Britain. For those that are more interested into cycling, and don’t mind a bit of wind along the way, discover the patchwork of landscapes from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves on a 9-day cycling holiday in this most southern part of England.
Cornish Cycle Tour
Cornish Coastal Path (North): Padstow to St Ives (8 days)
Cornish Coastal Path (West): St Ives to Penzance (8 days)
Cornish Coastal Path (South: Marazion to Mevagissey (8 days)
Cornish Coastal Path: Padstow to Penzance (13 days)
Cornish Coastal Path: St Ives to Mevagissey (14 days)
Dorset & Wessex – Natural Wonders of the South
The coastline of Dorset is an area of high geological importance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is named the Jurassic Coast of England: over 200 million years of rocks have been laid down, bent and twisted before being eroded by the sea to expose rock profiles on beaches, accessible to fossil hunters and scientists. The pleasures of this part of the south of England are the unspoilt rural villages, the natural arch formation of Durdle Door, hill forts, fossil-encrusted cliffs, and the famed Golden Gap, a 190-metre headland of orange sandstone, and the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!
Walking in Dorset, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, parts of the hike are as beautiful as it gets in the British Isles. Yet, you are always in close proximity to attractive villages and towns.
Dorset & Wessex holidays
Guernsey Islands – Historical Channel Islands
Closer to the coast of north-western France, and easy to access from southern England, you can find a group of four islands: Alderney, Herm, Sark and the bigger Guernsey Island. They are part of the Channel Islands and are brimming with historical sites including well preserved Nazi German fortifications, and other fortresses from the 16th to 20th century. Other places of historical interest are the home of Victor Hugo in St Peter Port, Victoria Tower that was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's 1846 visit to the island with Prince Albert, and the beach of Moulin Huet made famous by the paintings of Renoir and at the time a well-known resort for artists.
Nature-wise expect long sandy beaches, beautiful undulating cliff paths, and tiny coves with sparkling rock pools on the Guernsey Islands.
Channel Islands holidays
Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way
South Downs – Rolling Landscapes of Southern England
In busy southern England, is the tranquil haven of the South Downs National Park with the South Downs Way long distance trail stretching from Eastbourne to Winchester. The trail is an ancient route that follows a chalk ridge, in the past used to take animals and goods between the market towns of southern England. Because the ridge is elevated, there are breathtaking views of the south of England all the way to the Isle of Wight and High Weald. You can walk the entire 100 miles stretch or go for a shorter 67 mile option. The hilly downlands are at intervals broken by “wind gaps” or river valleys, mixing the ridge walking with some meandering visits to beautiful rivers such at the Cuckmere, Arun, Ouse and Meon with their associated villages.
South Downs Way holidays
The South Downs Way - 8 Days
The South Downs Way – 10 Days
If you like to receive more information about walking destinations in the south of England, when to go, or if you like to make adjustments to the trips on offer, please get in touch with our team of travel experts.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he brings you the latest outdoor gear news and talks about hiking gear essentials, drones, packing, and trendy camping gear.
A new year dawns, and with it no doubt some of you are thinking about some bright and shiny new gear that you can spoil yourself with. So, let’s look at some of the newer trends rather than the obvious fleeces and waterproofs of yore.
Boots & Soles
What more innovation could a humble walking boot have after all of the material and waterproofing revolutions of the last few years? Well, Vibram, the famous sole manufacturer, has come up with the Arctic Grip Sole. The rubber of the sole is embedded with gritty-type materials that increase friction on slick surfaces. It is not designed to replace the crampon, but may give better security at times when you may have to cross an occasional short snow section like on a Tour du Mont Blanc trip, Haute Route, Alpine Pass or Norwegian Fjordland tour.
Trendy Camping Gear
There are new makes of tents that double as a hammock, for instance ‘The Crua' is an all-in-one sleep system. It can be set up on the ground as a tent or hung as a hammock. It has a built-in insulated air mattress and detachable sleeping bag. It is made from ripstop nylon, with bug mesh with an aluminium frame so that the total weight is only about 3kg.
Different companies are offering “inflatable hammocks,” which can be used on the ground like a sofa. To inflate, no foot pump is necessary; you just swipe the bag through the air. Once the bag is filled, it closes like a drybag with a fastex buckle. The original one is made by Dutch manufacturer Lamzac, but there are others such as Windpouch. Besides serving as a perfect hiking gear essential, they also work on the beach or at an outdoors concert. Some have attachments so they can be used as a hammock as well and pack to about the size of a small sleeping bag.
Hot Weather Wear
Polartec has launched a fabric called Delta, advertised to “cool you down in the hottest conditions”. the fibres hold water yet let the fabric breathe and no chemical treatments are used. The fibres in the weave disperse moisture, increasing airflow, reducing friction against the skin when you move. There was no mention of how smelly this fabric may get after a couple of wears however.
Measure Your Meters
Power meters were developed primarily for cyclists to show their power output in Watts in order to train, but new technology is bringing power meters to walkers and runners. Although costly, during 2017 we will start to see models like Stryd and RPM2 enter the mainstream at a price. The RPM2 uses pressure pad sensing insoles and the Stryd is a device that just attaches to your shoe.
Packing Gear Essentials
If you like trekking from inn to inn, you can now get segmented roll packs. These are meant to keep your pack or luggage organised. You feed pockets with rolled up shirts, underwear, socks, toiletries and miscellaneous items. When you get to the hotel, pull the roll out, hang it up and easily find your things. These are made by Hang and Roll and if you like more information you can have a look at Kickstarter.
Pretty soon any activity you do you could have your personal drone following and filming you. One example of this, the Staaker (perhaps should be called The Stalker), is touted as “artificially intelligent” enough to auto-follow (and film) anyone at up to 50mph. GoPro have brought out a (non-intelligent) model recently. Whether people will soon get fed up with being buzzed by these all the time and start waving their walking poles at them is another matter.
Next month I test the power metres while being chased by a drone....or perhaps not!
If you have specific questions on your hiking gear, cycling equipment or other outdoor items, why not get in touch with John and the Sherpa team directly. For more Gear Matters blog articles, have a look at this overview of the latest posts.