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Inspiration and Advice for Walking in Europe Information, reviews and advice on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England. Amalfi, Cilento, Tuscany, food and more Sherpa travellers share their reviews and experiences. Information, reviews and advice on Madeira walking holidays Information, reviews and advice on walks in the Cotswolds
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Travellers' Tales: The Great Glen Way with Becky Witt

 
Becky Witt from Colorado walked Scotland's Great Glen Way in May this year. She shared the story of her walk with us, including a rather surprising method of permanently marking her achievement!
 

What is your walking history? 

I am from Colorado and love hiking in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. I also enjoy walking in my suburban neighborhood. I have done one long-distance hike several years ago on the Colorado Trail. The hike was a guided hike which consisted of ascending and descending mountain passes for six days which was about 90 miles. We camped at the end of each day and I had to carry a day-pack. Our tent/luggage was transported for us. 
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

My hairstylist walked The Great Glen Way a couple of years ago and loved the walk. She told me about how beautiful the highlands are, the flavourful food and the friendly Scots. Also, she said if I didn’t find anyone to walk it with me, then she would. This didn’t make sense  to me because there are so many countries to explore. But now, I get it. I, too, would walk it again!
 
 
Becky Witt and her travelling companion on the Great Glen Way
 

How did you prepare?

I started physically preparing for the hike five months in advance. I started walking about four miles a day, five days a week. I did one long walk on the weekend. I started at four miles and worked up to 14 miles, which was about two weeks before the walk. I started upper body weights five months in advance, once a week. On occasion I missed daily walks, the long weekly walk and lifting weights. I also started carrying my backpack on my last four long walks. I felt physically prepared for the walk and I was able to complete each day, feeling tired, but not exhausted. I did not have any blisters or injuries during the walk. At the end of each day, I did stretch. Mentally, I prepared by reading literature on The Great Glen Way, listening to podcasts about travel in Scotland and watching a couple of documentaries on Scotland. 
 
 
Becky Witt on the Great Glen Way
 

What was your favorite destination?

Truly, I had several favourite destinations. I loved walking in the big northern woods. The elms, oaks, maples and pines were majestic. I loved walking through the meadows seeing sheep and so many wildflowers blooming: foxgloves, thistles, bluebells, broom, gorse and poppies were a feast for the eyes. Also, there are so many unbelievable waterfalls and all different types of bridges. Of course, coming into Inverness and seeing the end trail marker was bittersweet, but a favourite.
 
 
The Great Glen Way
 
 
Great Glen Way waterfall
 
 

Best food & drink?

I had a variety of fish twice a day and sometimes three times a day. Whether it was salmon, haddock, or herring, and whether it was smoked, poached, fried or fresh, it was delicious. The salmon was so flavourful, creamy and rich tasting. I never tired of eating fish. Cullen Skink chowder was phenomenal. Also, I had the sticky toffee pudding close to every night, which was amazingly rich and sweet. 

I was not a Scotch drinker before I went, and actually did not like it at all. We went to the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, where The Great Glen Way begins, and I learned how to drink it with one to two drops of water in the Scotch. I can now say, I like Scotch.

Also, every morning we asked our hosts to fill our thermos with hot tea and then we added Ben Nevis whisky honey, and that tasted wonderful during our mid-morning break!
 
 
Kippers on the Great Glen Way
 
 

Biggest surprise?

I had a couple of surprises. First, I had no idea how much self-care long distance walking gave me. I did not have headphones in for the walk and I was not on my phone at night. I truly was present in each and every moment. I read Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfections every night which gave me food for thought the next day. I had time to self-reflect about my career, family, friends and future travel for my wanderlust! I definitely had some insights which led to personal intentions.  

The second surprise was that you can walk in Scottish rain. It did rain most days, but a gentle rain and not for long. We were able to do whatever that day’s walk held in the rain and we did not get one midgie bite!
 
 
Walking in the rain on the Great Glen Way

Another surprise was that I tried haggis, kippers with eggs, bircher muesli and Scotch and that I loved them all. I wasn’t brave enough to try blood pudding - perhaps next time!

The last surprise was getting The Great Glen Way trail marker tattoo on my forearm!
 
 
Great Glen Way tattoo
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

The day we were walking into Spean Bridge during a heavy downpour, we missed the path and ended up walking on the paved road, which was a challenge. We did not read our route notes carefully the night before and took a wrong turn. We looked at the route notes later that night and yes, there it was very clearly spelled out, how to take the path and not the road. So, definitely read the route notes every night!
 
 
The end of the Great Glen Way
 
 
 

Gear Matters: A Guide to Outdoor Travel Photography

Gear Matters_travel photography tipsThis month, John brings you some very useful travel photography tips. No matter what type of camera you use on your hike or bike ride, these beginner’s tips may help improve the tangible memories of your holiday.

People these days live through their cameras, mainly for gleaning memories and showing off to friends and families on Facebook or Instagram. However, sometimes the habit of taking a picture makes people forget to actually look at or see much of the subject matter. Nowadays even basic mobile phones have good cameras, and only keen photographers tend to carry a big SLR camera. In the middle ground, there are plenty of people using compact cameras. Whatever your preference is to travel with, here are a few travel photography tips that will most likely help you take even better travel photos.

 

1. Change Your Angle

Most people take the same shot from virtually the same angle as everybody else! Try something different, get low, lie on the ground and look up, get high in a building and look down, take the picture at a rakish angle. Once you have your standard shot try something new. Change your perspective, add blur. Change aperture for depth of field effects.

 

2. Add Some Effect

With SLRs and compact cameras a selection of graduated filters make interesting and easy effects: accentuating colours, darkening clouds etc. Some mobile phone cameras have effect changes that you can do after you have taken the main picture, for example increasing colour saturation, or turning pictures into paintings. Sometimes it is a bit gimmicky but other times these effects can be very effective. You may have noticed how a lot of travel photos these days look, well a bit too bright, a bit too unworldly: places are marketed with really clean looking shots which are not really 'how it looks'. Some extra advice, all JPEG type pictures can be transformed by degrees in Photoshop or Lightroom type software and it all depends upon what you want to achieve and how long you wish to spend doing it.

 

Use natural light for outdoor photography

 

Outdoor Photography tips_Sherpa Expeditions

 

3. Filter & Zoom

With single lens reflex cameras, we advise to always carry a polarizing filter with you for those blue days of summer where you can get dramatic cloud or water effects. Just don't leave it on all the time. If you have a zoom lens, try a 'Vari zoom' technique, change to a 1:30 shutter speed, and try to zoom in or out with the lens in an even rate. This travel photography tip will help you get an effect of increasing blur towards the edges and more clarity in the middle, like the subject was rushing towards you. Other simple tips include, breathing lightly on the lens and you have a mist or fog effect that gradually clears as you look through the viewfinder.

 

4. The Golden Hours

Especially for outdoor photographers, weather conditions play an important role. In good weather, depending upon latitude and time of year, there is always that period when the golden light of dusk or dawn creates beautiful natural saturated colours. If you are staying overnight at a place, try to get up early, there will hardly be anyone about and you will be able to see the sites, although not always allowed to enter them, virtually on your own.

 

5. Tripods at Night

Before and beyond the Golden Hour, try night shots! If we are talking about how to take good travel photos, tiny but sturdy tripods can be really worthwhile packing to capture sharp night shots. Usually shots of illuminated monuments or cityscapes are usually better at dusk or dawn, just as the lights are going on or off, and before it is too dark altogether. There are tripods available even for mobile phones and of course for SLR and compact cameras.

 

6. Resolution

Set your camera for the best resolution possible, memory space is comparatively cheap these days and there is nothing worse than having a superb shot and realizing that you cannot blow it up at all, unless the effect that you want to portray is that of Lego bricks! 

 

Travel photography tips with Sherpa Expeditions

 

7. A Clean Lens

John’s seventh travel photography tip is to keep things clean: carry a lens-cloth and keep your lenses clean. Mobile phone lenses often acquire a film of grime very quickly. SLRs have lens caps so that is easier, compacts often have retracting lenses that can suck dust into them if you are not too careful. Also, the sensor should be kept clean: on SLRs and some compact cameras, hair and dust can get trapped over the image sensor. This means they will appear in virtually every photograph you take in some form. Get your sensor carefully cleaned!

 

8. The Obvious!

Perhaps an obvious tip, not just for outdoor photographers, but useful at any moment really. How many times are you taking photographs and then at the critical time your battery fails or you run out of memory space? Carry a spare battery, a wireless phone or camera charger and memory card at all times.

 

 

Coast to Coast Guided Walk in Pictures

In June 2019 we took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there with no complaining, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they finally made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
 
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
 
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
East Gill Force, Keld.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions.
 
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here.
 
 
 
 

Traveller's Tale: The Coast to Coast with Cora Nelson

Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. In May 2019 she decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
 

What is your walking history?

My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
 
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
 
 

How did you prepare?

With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
 
 

Best food and drink?

I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
 
 
 

Biggest surprise?

On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
 
 
 
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
 


If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast, have a look at our guided and self guided options here.
 
 

Where to Walk in Winter

Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.

Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
 

La Palma Island Walking

A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places.  Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
 

 

Exploring La Gomera

If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
 

Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
 
 

Southern Trails of La Gomera

This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
 
 
 

Tenerife on Foot

The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast we have selected a programme of varied walks, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week. 
 
 
 

Walking in the Canaries

If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
 
 
 

Madeira Island Walking

Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.  
 
 
 

Winter Walking in Cyprus

Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods. 
 
 
 

Hiking the Vermillion Coast

This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
 
 
 

Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena

This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
 
 
 

Gear Matters: Your Guide to Choosing Walking & Cycling Sunglasses

choosing cycling sunglasses - gear matters - sherpa expeditions

My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!

 

One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!  

sports sunglasses for protection in Switzerland_Sherpa Expeditions

best cycling sunglasses for a Tuscany cycling holiday with Sherpa Expeditions

 
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.

 

Light Transmission

You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.

 

Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.

 

Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.

Lens Tints

There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).

sunglasses are unmissable on a summer walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Frames 

No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.

 

Hinges

The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.

 

Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses

Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.

 

Prescriptions

The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.

 

sports sunglasses on alpine walking holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Some More Thoughts

Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!

 

Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!

 

For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.

 

If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.

 

The Island of Eternal Spring: 600 years after Madeira was discovered by the Portuguese

July 2019 marks 600 years since the Atlantic archipelago of Madeira was discovered by Portuguese explorers, and a year-long programme of events, shows and exhibitions is taking place throughout 2019 to mark the anniversary.

It was in July 1419 when Portuguese explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz, originally heading to the coast of West Africa, came across the islands of Madeira while looking for shelter from a storm. Fast forward 600 years and the so-called ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ has become a popular tourist destination. 
 

Walking among Madeira's peaks (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
 
Walking in Madeira
Walking in Madeira (photo by Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)

Visitors are attracted by Madeira’s dramatic scenery, lush nature and perfect temperatures – and our walking holiday on the island is an ideal way to experience everything that it has to offer, especially if you’re looking for a winter walking destination.
 

Madeira Island Walking

Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of ‘levadas’ – man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation.
 
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (6,000 ft), with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.
 
Walking in Madeira

Follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside, or traverse terraced hillsides. Dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.
 
Walking along Madeira's Levadas
Walking along Madeira's levadas (photo: Visit Portugal/Tiago Sousa)

Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot, which, together with a network of local trails, make even the most remote parts of the island accessible.
 
Madeira's Pico Ruivo
Walking up to Pico Ruivo (Photo: Visit Portugal/AP Madeira)
 
Discover a myriad of colourful flowers - jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora, while the dedicated Orchid Garden is home to more than 7,500 species.
 
Madeira Flowers
 
Spend time in the bustling capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb seafood restaurants.
 
Funchal, Madeira
Funchal (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)

Madeira Market at Christmas
Funchal Market at Christmas (Photo: Visit Portugal/Franciso Correia


For more information on walking in Madeira, click here.
 
 

Walking in Yorkshire: The Best Trips to Experience ‘God’s Own County’

 
There are few counties in England with as much history, natural beauty and sheer romance as Yorkshire. The county, the largest in the UK, includes the National Parks of the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, and offers some of the most rewarding walking to be found anywhere in the UK.

Whether you’re a resident of the UK looking to explore this famous region of your own country, or a visitor from overseas after a taste of true English countryside, Yorkshire has it all. Dramatic, windswept moorland, dramatic North Sea coastlines, rolling hills and picturesque villages are all on offer when you visit the region that’s so special, it’s known as ‘God’s Own Country’.

Here we take a look at some of the best walks for discovering Yorkshire.
 
 

The Dales Way

There’s no doubt about it – the Yorkshire dales are downright beautiful. Ask many people to paint a picture of the quintessential English countryside, and they’ll present you with a scene of the Yorkshire Dales. Soft rolling hills, limestone edges, green valleys, waterfalls, Roman roads, interesting old churches, an abbey and some lovely pubs all feature here - as well as villages proud of their heritage.

 

The Dales Way runs for 78 miles from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. We offer both 8-day and 10-day self-guided itineraries.

 
 
 

 

The Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way was the second of the UK’s National Trails to be established, in 1969. What makes it so special is the contrast between the stretches along the hilly Yorkshire coastline, and the inland stages across the rolling moors. Along the Cleveland Way you’ll experience walking across field-quilted farmlands, forests, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the rugged coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs.

The Cleveland Way is offered as a 12-day self-guided itinerary.
 
 
 
 

 

Castle to Castle: The Richmond Way

The Richmond Way starts at Lancaster Castle, and finishes 69 miles later at Richmond Castle – visiting Bolton Castle along the way. As such, it is a walk that’s rich in fascinating history – the ancient trading routes that the route follows have existed at least since Roman times. It is a beautiful walk, visiting riverside footpaths, pretty little villages and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, whilst offering stunning views over the Wensleydale and Swaledale valleys.

 
The Richmond Way is an 8-day, self-guided trip.
 
 
 
 
 

James Herriot Way

This 50 mile, circular walk, has been designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wright, who, under the name of James Herriot, wrote a series of books about his life as a vet. The books were turned into a hugely popular BBC TV series – All Creatures Great and Small. As well passing through some of the finest villages and countryside that Yorkshire has to offer, the walk is a little shorter than some of the others in Yorkshire, and therefore slightly more manageable if walking for 8 days or more is a challenge.

The James Herriot Way is a 6-day self-guided trip.
 






You can also try these classic walks that include long stretches within Yorkshire, as well as other counties:
 

The Coast to Coast

The iconic Coast to Coast starts in Cumbria, and then heads through the Yorkshire Dales, and on to the North York Moors National Park, where it finishes on the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. Find out more here.
 

The Pennine Way

The UK’s first, and longest National Trail, passes through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on its way from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. Find out more here.
 
 

Autumn Foliage in Europe

The Americans call it leaf peeping,  the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves in Europe.

 

PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER

Surround yourself with colour as autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port. 

 

Departure dates until 15 October - click here for details and booking.

 

Portugal in early Autumn

 

 

SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía

The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era. 

 

Departure dates until 20 November - click here for details and booking.

 

Autumn chestnuts in Spain

 

 

GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way

Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.

 

Departure dates until 22 October - click here for details and booking.

 

Bavaria in Autumn

 

 

AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps

Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets. 

 

Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.

 

Austria in autumn

 

 

UK | Exploring the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon - the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. In autumn the trees turn into a beautiful myriad of colours - there is nowhere better to experience the splendour of the English countryside as summer slowly fades away. Our walking tours of the Cotswolds are available as 5-day or 8-day self-guided trips.
 
Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.
 
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Walking the Amalfi Coast

Amy and John from Minnesota are regular visitors to Europe's walking trails. This spring they decided to walk along Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions. Here, Amy tells us a little about their trip.

 

What is your walking history?

My husband and I have been hikers and campers  in the mountains of the western US for many years, but after completing our first Sherpa Expeditions self-guided Tour of Mont Blanc in 2014, we have become ‘addicted’ to self-guided exploration in Europe . We return each year, this year twice, to travel in this fashion . When not traveling, I can be found regularly with our dog Lila on the trails of Minnesota’s county and state parks, and my husband can be found running them.

 

 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

We chose to sign up for the 11-day Amalfi Coast trip for a variety of reasons. We love the sea and the mountains, it’s in a part of Italy to which we had never been, and we’re used to mountain hiking so we like to challenge ourselves. Also, spring options are somewhat limited for hiking where it is green and lush. 

 

 

How did you prepare?

We didn’t prepare specifically as we tend to work out on regular basis throughout the year - Nordic skiing in the winter, bicycling in warmer weather, hiking or running (ever so slowly) throughout the year. I have found regular yoga practice to be a great addition in helping my body to be ready. 

 

 

Your favourite destination?

I am not so sure I had a favourite destination, as I truly loved it all. Each town had its own personality, and each day of hiking offered different sights and sounds . We never tired of the ongoing sweeping views of the sea and of the towns nestled in the mountain-sides. From walking through, and by, the terraces of lemon groves on our first day, to finding our way through the forest above Praino to Boomerano and Path of the Gods, to our final day of hiking on Capri up to the villa where Emperor Tiberius indulged in his lascivious lifestyle, was all a delight. 

 

 

Best food and drink?

The best food was the incredibly tasty tomatoes, accompanied by what seemed to be freshly made mozzarella cheese. The swordfish I had three times was delicious, as was the lasagne in a bustling but casual small restaurant on a side street in Sorrento. I also can’t forget about the slice of cake from the coffee bakery / restaurant in Ravello that I carried in my pack for 3 days. 

 

 

Biggest surprise?

The biggest surprise to me is always the people I encounter along the way and the joy and pleasure these encounters bring me. I hope to again see Joan and Bob from Vermont who we initially met while hiking in the pouring rain, and will always remember the so very happy and friendly waitress at the restaurant adjacent to one of the hiking paths. 

 

Unique to this trip, my biggest surprise was just how many steps there could be to navigate, the incredible beauty of the area, and my amazement, given the terrain, that this area was settled in and developed in ancient times. 

 

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

My biggest challenge was my ‘failed’ rain jacket and getting soaking wet, mainly on day 3 of the hike. But of course, the day will always be remembered, especially the restaurant owner who gave us hair dryers with which to dry our boots.  Although this was a ‘really good’ jacket, I hadn’t re-tested it to see whether it was still water proof . 

 

 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

Test your rain gear, even the previously reliable apparel! 

 

Find out more about walking holidays along the Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions.

 

If you’ve been on a holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and would like to share your experience in a Traveller’s Tale, please email us. Or if you prefer, you can also leave a review of your trip on Google or Facebook.