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Planning for Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk: Cheat Sheet Part II
In the previous cheat sheet for planning a walk on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, we helped you with general information on the trail that included more on the background of the route and different gradings of the walk. In this blog article, we wanted to help you with more detailed questions on walking England’s most famous long distance trail.
Read on to find out about the type of accommodation, the food, weather conditions, the walking pace and how to get there. And as always, if you have specific questions, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
Click here for a complete overview of 9 holidays on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast >>
I Like to Walk in a Group, But I'm Not Sure if I Should Go for the 15 or 18 Day Option?
To make sure you can enjoy your walking holiday in the best way possible, last year we added a second longer, guided walking holiday on the Coast to Coast route. There are now two options to choose from and these are a guided 15-day Coast to Coast Walk or a guided 18-day Coast to Coast Walk. The 15 day itinerary is the classic 13-day walk and the 18 day itinerary breaks up a couple of the longer walking days extending out to 16 days walking.
The 18-day walk departs in May and July and the 15-day walk on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in June, July, August and September.
Can I Start the Coast to Coast Walk in Robin Hood’s Bay Instead?
At Sherpa Expeditions, we typically take the walking route from West to East (St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay). This follows Wainwright’s original description of the walk and is the way all available guidebooks describe the trail. If you follow this direction, it means that you’ll have the wind in your back and towards the end of the day, the sun will not set in your eyes! On all of the Sherpa Expeditions Coast to Coast holidays we follow this direction.
People Say It Rains a Lot in England, What Weather Can I Expect?
The climate of northern England is variable with rainfall occurring throughout the year, although this is much more likely from October to April. If you’ve been to continental Europe, you’ll see the weather is similar to that of countries along the North Sea coast and northern France. The sunniest months in the English Lake District are June, July and August and temperatures between April and October fluctuate between from 4°C (40°F) to 20°C (68°F), although it may be slightly cooler on the higher sections of the trail.
Do I Miss Anything if I Choose a 15-Day Classic Coast to Coast Option?
Besides the classic, 15 day guided or self guided, option to walk the Coast to Coast route, you can choose for a 16, 17, or 18-day version as well. In principle, all of these walking trips follow the same route. This means that whether you choose to walk the classic route or one of the extended versions, you will still take in all the important villages, sights and wonderful nature. When we look at the exact sections of the trip covered, there are minor differences between the routes in that you cover slightly different paths in order to arrive in a village on time.
The main difference between the four durations of the Coast to Coast walk, is the walking pace.
I’m More of a Cycling Person…
Then you’re lucky! Because of the Coast to Coast Walk being such a classic route, it was inevitable that a cycling version would be developed. This cycling route is referred to as the C2C or Sea-to-Sea and covers a slightly different route and embraces different scenery. We are currently working on updating our Coast to Coast cycling holiday to create an itinerary that combines the Cumbria Cycle Way Route and the popular C2C cycle route, offering a superb week’s cycling amidst great scenery. If you like to keep up to date or find out about options to cycle the route already this year, please get in touch with our team for advice.
What Are the Nearest Airports to the Start and Finish of the Coast to Coast Walk?
For both the start of the Coast to Coast Walk in St Bees and the end in Robin Hood’s Bay, the nearest international airport is Manchester. You can also choose to fly in and out of London. From both airports you can get a train to Carlisle and from there a local train to St Bees (1 hour 15 mins). It’s then a short walk from the train station to your hotel, or you can get a train from Carlisle to Whitehaven, which is a short taxi or bus ride away from St Bees.
Domestic nearby airports to both St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay are Leeds, Durham, and Newcastle.
At the end of the English walking holiday you will need to take a bus or taxi from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough and then a train to either London or Manchester.
What Type of Accommodation Will I Stay at On the Coast to Coast Walk?
There is limited accommodation on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk due to it being such a popular route and the remoteness of the route. Because of that you will stay at different Bed & Breakfasts, guesthouses, inns or hotels, which are all run by the friendly people of the Lake District and northern England. With the enthusiastic hospitality of the locals, you will feel like staying in a home away from home. There is no 5-star luxury accommodation available on any Coast to Coast walking holiday, but we can help you look at upgrading your accommodation where available if you prefer so. This would then involve short transfers to nearby villages.
The English Food, What Can I Expect of My Meals and Will There Be Variety?
Dinners and lunches are not included on our walking holidays on the Coast to Coast route, so you can decide per day what you feel like ordering. Whether it be typical British fish & chips along the coast or a good meat pie after a long day of walking, in the pubs and locally run establishments you’ll be surely taken good care of. And if you feel like international cuisine, there will be Italian, Indian and lots of other restaurants to cater for your needs in the bigger towns such as Grasmere, Kirkby Stephen and Richmond.
So yes, there will be variety, but we definitely advise to enjoy the hearty pies, a proper fish & chips and of course a good roast.
Haven’t seen Part I of the Coast to Coast Cheat Sheet yet? You can find more information on Wainwright’s walk here >>
If you have any other questions or like to have more details related to your specific situation, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices. It is our pleasure to assist you in choosing the best walk for you.
Self Guided Walking Holiday: Tenerife on Foot
Watch this short video in which Sherpa Expeditions shows you what it's like to go walking in Tenerife.
Are you after some days of leisurely walking in Tenerife? Up for an active inn to inn Tenerife hiking trip? Or are you looking to mix your active walking days with a day of relaxing? On the 8-day self guided walking holiday on the Spanish island, 'Tenerife on Foot', you have plenty of freedom to adjust the days to your wishes. Spend your rest day at the beach or exploring towns and coastal paths and have the opportunity to use the network of buses to shorten your walks.
>> Learn more about Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands
>> View the 8-day self guided walking holiday Tenerife on Foot
On an escorted walking holiday, every day you will have our guide to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. As he or she leads the way and looks after all arrangements, all you need to do is take in the impressive scenery, enjoy the fresh local produce and put one foot in front of the other.
Enjoy the benefits of our experienced guides whose passions are to bring to life the flora, fauna and history of the region you explore. Immerse in local life of Switzerland, England, and Italy and join the company of kindred spirits on a guided small group trip. Our group sizes generally vary from 6 to 14 people.
We choose below five of the best guided trips in Europe and the UK to book in 2017.
Perfect Introduction to Swiss Mountain Walking
Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
The iconic Matterhorn, famous for its four steep faces rising above the surrounding glaciers, was not climbed until 1865 when British climber Edward Whymper summited the peak. Since then, the walking scene has developed extensively, while the landscape fortunately is still as stunning as it was back then. This guided walk is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Swiss Alps as there are different trails we can take each day. Together with the group, our leader decides which routes we’ll follow to take in vistas of flower-strewn alpine meadows and vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country (many over 4,000m!). Travel to the Swiss Alps’ two most postcard perfect regions: the peaks of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the quintessential mountain-lover’s town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn.
Guided departure in August
Show me everything about the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk >>
Take Your Time on a UK Classic
Coast to Coast Guided Rambler
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks” and widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails, there are different ways to walk the 192 miles (309km) Coast to Coast trail.
The longer version of the idyllic Coast to Coast, 18 days instead of 15, allows for a more ‘relaxed’ pace. It features six days on which you will undertake less walking compared to the ‘standard’ two-week itinerary. This will give your more time to take in the rolling surroundings and enjoy your overnight stays at the traditional English villages.
Guided departures in May & late July
Show me everything about the Coast to Coast Guided Rambler >>
A Quiet Alpine Classic
NEW Wildstrubel Circuit Guided walk
As the name implies, this is a circular tour of the Wildstrubel mountain range. We take in both the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and a small part of the French speaking Valais. Starting from the municipality of Kandersteg that lies west from the Jungfrau massif, our guide will take you over a series of mountain passes. In a series of linear walks, we will pass the villages of Leukerbad, Crans, Lenk and Adelboden, before we together finish our circuit back in Kandersteg. This route is known as a quieter Alpine classic and includes two stages of the famous Alpine Pass Route. We grade this as a moderate to challenging walk.
Guided departure in July
Show me everything about the Wildstrubel Circuit Guided Walk >>
Mountain Thrills in Italy
Guided Walking in the Dolomites
They may not be exceptionally high but the gigantic limestone peaks of Italy’s ‘pale mountains’ (or Dolomites) provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the Alps. Join our guide as you walk the region that is dotted with flowering fields, green forests, idyllic mountain lakes, and vast high plateaus and natural parks. Thousands of trails wind their way between the characteristic jagged mountains, while high in the cliffs are tunnels and bunkers from WWI, when the mountains were the setting of fierce fighting.
Guided departure in September
Show me everything about the Guided Walking in the Dolomites trip >>
Alps Beyond Tour du Mont Blanc
The Alpine Pass Route
The complete Alpine Pass Route extends from the Liechtenstein border to Lake Geneva in Switzerland; however, our two-week itinerary focuses on the central – and most spectacular – section. This is a programme for experienced walkers with much daily uphill and downhill hiking. Most of the passes are only open to walkers and are above 2,000m, the highest point of the trip is at Hohturli with 2,778m. One of our guides will lead you along an almost unbroken succession of magnificent rock and ice peaks, including the classic triptych of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Plus, you will have three free days for optional walks or taking in other attractions of this splendid part of Switzerland.
Guided departure in July
Show me everything about the Guided Alpine Pass Route >>
For more information and bookings please contact our team of travel experts in the London office by phone or email and we will be happy to assist you more.
When we are out walking or cycling we of course should drink regularly to stave off dehydration and exhaustion. We naturally drink more at higher temperatures and humidity, but even in cold weather we should maintain a good fluid balance. However we have never been so spoilt for choice for the ways and means of doing so. Long gone are the days of clipping an army surplus water bottle to your belt, unless of course you want to!
Why Purchase a Specialist Water Bottle?
Well of course you don't have to, quite a few people carry plastic mineral water or soft drinks bottles that they reuse until they crack as they are usually pretty thin. Let’s face it most tap water in the UK, and mainland Europe at least is perfectly drinkable and the idea is not to revert to buying bottled mineral water, which causes a huge worldwide environmental problem with discarded bottles in land fill and floating around in our oceans. However, you should ensure that the plastic bottles you use are free from BPA (a chemical used to make certain types of plastic that research shows can affect your health if it seeps into your water).
A good solid bottle however should last a long time. The best ones for a good many years were the Swiss-made aluminium Sigg bottles, still available but not so cheap. They tended to last for 20 years until finally so dented, you split the bottle trying to push the dents out! If you liked this style, you could try the beautiful stainless steel bottles from Klean Kanteen with a 'sports Mouth piece', which is easy to use on the go and there is a loop to secure it to your backpack. Also, check out the Brita Blue Sports Water Bottle, which has a filter to reduce impurities such as chlorine. The filter will need soaking every four weeks to keep it clean. It also has a hoop so you can attach it to your rucksack.
It is easy to forget about your bottles after a trip, but all bottles, flasks, bags and feeder tubes need to be thoroughly cleaned in hot soapy water and rinsed before use. Especially with water bags, they can be cleaned with lemon juice, vinegar or use sterilizer solutions such as Milton or those available for home brewing. Concentrate especially on pipes and bite valves where bacteria can build up. Most of the water bag manufacturers sell ingenious brushes which can be pulled through tubing to clean it.
How Much Should I Carry?
The amount of liquid capacity you carry should be determined by the type of activity undertaken, the environmental temperatures and the propensity on a trip to refill or purchase additional drinks. Bearing in mind that a litre of liquid weighs 1 kg (in addition to the weight of the vessel it is in), bringing 3 litres with you is usually more than enough to carry in most conditions. Obviously, you are going to drink it throughout the exercise, but too much to carry makes you work so much harder. Most people will be fine carrying two 1 litre bottles or two 500ml bottles, especially if you are cycling.
Bottles to Squash
Some people don't like the fact that they are carrying large volume bottles that take up quite a bit of room in their bags, and may not always be that light. Luckily the new ultra-running craze has provided us with some very lightweight and durable silicone based bottles, which squash flat once they are used. They also fit really well into external rucksack pockets. Check out the range of Salomon Soft Flasks, or those by Ultimate Direction.
Still very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists there are many makes of water bags to be carried in the rucksack such as Camel Back and Salomon. They come in different sizes with all manner of closure systems. The advantage being that you can drink on the hoof or at the wheel without having to lay a finger anywhere else, or take your bag off. This means that you are more likely to drink more regularly. There is a downside however, some types of closure may leak or fail under pressure in your bag resulting in your gear getting soaked. Even triple laminate plastics can fail after they have been creased a few times, although more often now the water pouch is being made of highly durable silicone. Feed leads can also come adrift and bite ends pull off quite easily or can dangle in the dirt when you take your bag off. Everyone has their preferences, but I was put off by this kind of system when I saw a 3-litre pouch just drain through a bag on a trip.... not good if you are carrying camera gear and a laptop, not so bad if you are just out running!
Walking in Britain or elsewhere you may have a kettle in your room, or even if you don’t, if you take a lightweight heating element kettle, you can produce hot drinks including soups and carry them in stainless steel flasks, some with wide mouths, which keep them hot for hours. Most supermarkets produce very cheap vacuum flasks, which unlike their predecessors are almost unbreakable. However, do check the cap-closure pourer, the simpler the better. Anything you have to push in is likely to fail. There is a brand called Chillys that make some very pretty steel flasks, which may keep drinks hot or very cold for 12 hours. Try not to use straight boiling water in flasks and bottles. A head of steam can spray from the cap when you open it and burn you. The best thing is to put some hot water in the vessel to preheat it, pour it away and then pour in the hot drink.
On the cold front, the simplest way to keep a drink cold is to put a damp sock over the bottle and the evaporation cools the bottle. However, there are modern double walled plastic drinks bottles which do the job very well such as the Camel Back Eddy Insulated Bottle. Cyclists will also find a range of insulated bike fitting water bottles, see models manufactured by Elite or Salomon.
You've seen how race cyclists tend to throw their bottles on to the road or in the verge during a race? A way forward with all plastic water bottles may be what we are seeing in the Elite Supercorsa Biodegradable cycling bottle. Finally, Elite have produced the Supercorsa Bottle, made of vegetable oil based plastic, rather than from petroleum based plastic and it will - eventually – decompose if abandoned by the too eager cyclist. It may well be a way forward for other bottle manufacturers too.
Lucy and Ángel run and own the guesthouse in the Sierra de Aracena (Spain) that is the start to our Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking holiday. It gives opportunities for hiking near Seville in an area that is dotted with tiny white-washed villages and a network of 70+ year-old walking paths. We sat down with the couple to talk about their love for Andalusia, the best regional food and their favourite places of the Sierra de Aracena.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you ended up in the Sierra de Aracena?
We are Lucy and Ángel an Anglo Spanish couple that met in the USA almost 30 years ago, when we coincided on a working holiday at a family-run hotel in upstate New York. The seed was sown!
We lived together in Sevilla, Ángel’s home city, for over 10 years. Both teachers, we loved to escape and discover Spain whenever we could – usually on a motorbike. Trips to the Alpujarras, Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Galicia, Leon, Murcía, Jaen, Ronda, Cadiz coastline and Portugal were all memorable explorations. However, the place we kept going back to was the Sierra de Aracena in Huelva. We fell in love with the tiny village (750 inhabitants) of Alájar; its narrow-cobbled streets, the lack of mainstream tourism, the friendliness of the people, the great walking and the mild climate all concluded to us taking over the business and setting up home at the original Posada de Alájar in 2004. In 2006 our family was completed with our amazing daughter.
Ángel always says I am not here for him but for the jamón and the gambas (prawns), which I sometimes find hard to dispute! We love the feeling of being part of a community, where everyone knows each other and even when life does get a bit difficult you can get out and go talk to the pigs!
“We fell in love with the tiny village of Alájar: the narrow-cobbled streets, the lack of mainstream tourism, the friendliness of the people, the great walking and the mild climate.”
What are your 3 most favourite places in the Sierra de Aracena?
We chose Alájar, so we really are very biased about our favourite place! La Posada de San Marcos is somewhere very close to our hearts. We have set up this accommodation with sustainability at the forefront and it is a favourite for us. We are proud of the fact that our carbon footprint is minimal and enjoy explaining to our visitors how everything works in terms of eg. (water) recycling, building materials like sheep wool, and renewable energy. Every little bit helps - as they say!
The Peña de Arias Montano is a very special place with a spiritual pull and views all the way down to the coast. Aracena is our main town, it’s a bustling market town that covers most of everyone’s needs and boasts the Caves of Wonder (Gruta de las Maravillas), an amazing set of caves that are well worth a visit.
What do you like best about welcoming travellers to your accommodation?
The conversations! It is so interesting to chat about all sorts of things, share recipes and give tips on where to walk, eat and what to look out for. We love chatting with Sherpa’s hikers when they get back to Alájar to hear all about their walk and discuss what they have seen along the route.
What is a typical dish for people to try when visiting the Sierra de Aracena?
The most important ingredient of the area is the Iberian ham. The Iberian pig is endemic to this area and has been farmed free-range for centuries. On a walk, you will see many roaming around the hillsides under the holm and cork oaks eating as many acorns as possible. The acorns and the air from the sierra in the drying process give the ham a unique flavour. The fresh meat is also amazing – nothing like regular pork. The noble cuts were sold to those who could afford to eat such delicacies meaning that the locals were left with the poorer cuts and therefore have developed lots of dishes based on pulses, locally grown vegetables and the wild mushrooms found in abundance given the right weather, so there is plenty for the vegetarian too.
“We like to call it our secret sierra”
What is special about walking in this part of Andalusia?
Less than 90 minutes from the sophisticated city of Sevilla it feels like time has stopped still in La Sierra de Aracena. We like to call it our secret sierra with a greenness more likely to be found in the north of Spain and the warmth of the Andalusian sun then on a trip hiking near Seville. There is an amazing variety of flora and the area has recently been designated a starlight dark sky destination.
Walking is still not a pastime in this area, it used to be a necessity and the paths between the villages show you a way and pace of life that has been lost in most parts of Europe. Walkers are surprised at how few people they actually see on the trails, which helps you feel you are discovering the area and then you come across a lovely traditional village or hamlet.
The Andalusians are happy to stop and chat and try hard to communicate, it amazes them that people are fascinated by something that is second nature to them and are even envious of what they have here.
What kind of people should go for self guided walking trips in Andalusia?
The walking is quite easy, there are no major climbs. We do recommend to wear boots as the once cobbled paths have now become quite stony in places. You never feel completely alone while walking as there are plenty of animals along the route and there is usually a small hamlet or village just in time for refreshment! Just 1,5 hours away from Seville, the walking route starts in Alájar and makes a circuit around the sierra. Hikers will be sleeping in other lovely whitewashed, cobblestone paved villages and return to our accommodation for the final night, which is lovely for us as we can greet you back ‘home’ and hear your stories.
If you like more information on hiking near Seville and the 8-day Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking holiday, please contact our team of travel experts.
Linking Scotland’s east and west coasts, the recently added John Muir Way trip offers an alternative to the most famous coast to coast walk in the UK: Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. We compare this ever-popular classic walking route in England with the new walk that takes you from coast to coast in Scotland.
Before we get to the actual comparison of both walking trails, let us introduce you to two of the most iconic walking tours in Scotland and England.
John Muir Way: Coast to Coast in Scotland
John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, on Scotland’s southeast coast, and as a child developed a deep love of the natural world around him. Best known for encouraging the establishment of the Yosemite National Park in the USA, Scotland honoured its famous son in 2014 with the John Muir Way, which symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs) and the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast-to-coast route.
England’s Coast to Coast Walk by Wainwright
Described by Alfred Wainwright in 1973 as “one of the world’s great walks” and becoming more and more popular every year, the idyllic Coast to Coast in England is widely considered as the most classic of all UK hiking trails. Starting on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head, it crosses three national parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors.
Now that you have a good understanding of the origin of both long-distance walking routes in the UK, we can start to make some comparisons to hopefully help you choose which coast to coast walk you like to take, or tick off your list first.
Where Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in England is 192 miles, the John Muir Way is ‘just’ 134 miles. The latter can be walked in 12 days on a self guided trip and we offer opportunities to walk the coast to coast trip in England in 14-18 days on escorted or self-guided walking holidays.
Coast to Coast Scotland: leads you from Helensburgh in Firth of Clyde in the west of Scotland, just south from Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park, via lively cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh to Dunbar on the east coast at the North Sea.
England’s Coast to Coast: this route also goes from west to east and starts in St Bees on the Irish Sea and takes you via the famous Lake District and Yorkshire Dales to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea.
England's Coast to Coast walk
There are three national parks that you will get to fully appreciate on Wainwright’s coast to coast, these are some of England’s most famous parks and include the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. For those with less time available, ask for our separate walking trips in these national parks.
Over in Scotland you pass through the very bottom of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Grade of Walking
Walking from coast to coast in Scotland means you will have easy to moderate walking days, with hilly, undulating and flat sections.
In England, the coast to coast walk is graded challenging. When the weather is poor as you have to be able to navigate the high mountain and moorland sections.
Overall the John Muir Way is very well waymarked throughout with the new, purple colour John Muir Way logo.
Despite its popularity, the Coast to Coast in England is not classified as a National Trail so there is no official way marking; however, a number of signs can be found in many villages and lowlands.
John Muir Way, Scotland
What to Expect
Coast to Coast Scotland: A lot of history – in capital Edinburgh and not only! The Antonine Wall dates back to Roman times, many historical battle sites are associated with William Wallace, The Jacobites and Henry VIII's ‘Rough Wooing’. The city of Helensbugh had the world’s first steamboat ferry service, while Loch Lomond’s canals are closely linked to the industrial heritage.
England’s Coast to Coast: Lots of contrasting landscapes, as each National Park has its own character. The walk is a mix of forest tracks, mountain trails and paths through fields and pastures (you will be crossing many gates!), interspersed with coastal cliff and village walking.
What You May Not Expect
Many parts of the walking tour in Scotland involve ‘urban walking’ through big towns and cities, such as Falkirk, Mussellburgh and, of course, Edinburgh.
The route leading through England’s Lake District and Yorkshire Moors is extremely rural – you will find only one settlement with a population of more than 2,000, the market town of Richmond (population: 8,413).
With the new John Muir Way, or known as Scotland’s Coast-to-Coast trail, launching in spring 2017 – and while Wainwright’s walking route remains more popular than ever before – we hope that this list of how the two trails compare to each other will be able to help you decide which of these coast to coast walks in the UK is the right one for you.
For assistance from one of our travel experts or for booking requests, contact us by email or phone.
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).