European Holiday News
The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>
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 departing in the next few weeks where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you like the look of these trips but would prefer to visit next spring, summer or autumn, you can book for 2019 now.
Our 2019 dates have been announced for the Tour du Mont Blanc – so now is the time to secure your place on one of the classic alpine walking tours. Here are just some of the reasons why we think you should book this spectacular trip…
1. EIGHT fixed departure days for summer 2019
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a self guided walking holiday – but due to the logistics of baggage transfer, the trip departs on fixed dates throughout the summer season. Our 8 departure dates, spanning the entire summer, give you plenty of options for when to do the trip.
2. Support from our friendly, knowledgeable team in London
Our London office is staffed by people with plenty of walking experience, and an in-depth knowledge of our holidays. They can provide you with all the information you need and answer all of your questions, providing support both before and during your trip.
3. Walk independently, but at the same time as other Sherpa travellers
Although the Tour du Mont Blanc is a self guided holiday, the fact that the trip departs on fixed dates means there will always be a small number of other Sherpa walkers doing the tour at the same time. So you can be as sociable or independent as you like – it’s the best of both worlds!
4. Enjoy the benefits of support from our team members who live in the area
Our friendly local staff who take care of your baggage transfers also act as your contacts in case of any problems, or simply to offer advice and information.
5. Our route notes are second to none
When you book with Sherpa you’ll receive a pack including detailed route notes, maps and information on local points of interest and attractions. The notes have been prepared by experts with intimate knowledge of the area, and also include details of alternative routes for certain parts of the tour.
6. Enjoy a meet & greet on your first night
The evening before you set off from Les Houches for your first day’s walking, our ground support staff will hold a briefing to give you all the information you need and to ask any questions you might have. It also gives you the opportunity to meet the other Sherpa travellers who’ll be doing the walk at the same time as you.
7. Solo travellers can avoid paying a single supplement
If you’re a solo traveller and are happy to share a room with another traveller (of the same gender), you won’t have to pay a single supplement - as long as we can pair you up. (NB: there are no single rooms available in Les Chapieux, on the 3rd night of the tour, and if not paired up single travellers will have to stay in a small dormitory at Refuge Les Mottets, which is 7km further up on the route).
8. First-timer on a self guided walk? No problem!
Although the Tour du Mont Blanc provides views of breath-taking alpine scenery, the walk itself is graded as ‘moderate to challenging’ and requires no mountaineering experience. This means that anyone with the level of fitness required to walk for 6 to 7 hours a day on uneven ground should find it within their capabilities. Some of the walks can be shortened by the use of cable cars or local bus services.
9. Enjoy the culture of 3 different countries
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Tour du Mont Blanc is that you’ll pass through France, Italy and Switzerland, each with its own culture, customers and delicious food and wine. A true European adventure awaits you.
10. Rest days, or extra walking days - the choice is yours
The itinerary includes 3 ‘rest’ days when you can take it easy – but there’s certainly no need to rest if you’re feeling energetic! There’s plenty to explore in all of the areas (the route notes will provide information), or you can choose to do some extra walking if you prefer.
Find more details, dates and book online, for the Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided Walk.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he takes a look at an essential yet often overlooked area - your toiletries and wash kit, and how to save weight and space in your luggage.
In the world of travel and back-packing, where it’s important to keep weight down, one of the least obvious places to start is your wash kit. It’s amazing how much a bag of soaps, gels, pastes and brushes add up. So many people bring full size containers of everything from toothpaste to shampoo, big cans of deodorant and heavy towels. Of course a distinction could be made between tours, where basic soaps and shampoos may be provided by hotels and B&Bs, and camping trips where more items may be required, but sometimes even in a hotel you may not find basic items such as soap or a plug.
Perhaps don't pack anything toiletry wise, until you get to the airport! If you are flying from UK airports, most have a chemist such as Boots air-side. Boots have tried hard to develop useful and very travel-friendly items: small deodorants, hand gels, shampoos, and folding toothbrushes which fold into their own handle. On a normal one or two week trip you won't need a large volume of tooth paste for instance.
Another way of doing it is filling your own bottles with your favourite brand of shampoo etc. If you can make the effort to decant these at home you could buy something like the LifeVenture Silicone Air Travel Bottles Set. These fulfil carry-on liquid volume requirements and are reusable, as the silicone does not perish or crack like conventional plastic containers.
The lightest way forward here are Soap Leaves (from LifeVenture) which come in a plastic container and you just add to water depending on what needs to be cleaned. Although light, these are hard to get on with because they just seem too weak to work, and the temptation is to just keep pulling more out of the container - and once your hand is wet, the whole container of them gets wet. Much better is a simple block of soap, maybe cut in half as it can be used for scrubbing clothes, and will dry very quickly and can be wrapped into a towel. You could also consider taking a shampoo bar rather than a traditional bottle of liquid shampoo. These are concentrated blocks of shampoo that can outlast two to three bottles of the liquid stuff - one manufacturer claims that one bar will last up to 80 washes!
Plug or Washbowl
I used to carry a travel sink plug for budget hotels and hostels so that you knew you were going to be able to wash clothes each night. I’m quite surprised these days how many hotels either don’t have plugs, have lost them, or have ill-fitting ones. This may be because some basins don't have an overflow and they are worried about flooding. However a travel plug can be a good investment (Boots, Lifeventure). They come in different sizes so that you aren’t caught out with a non-standard size, and some are just silicone circles that fit over the plug hole and are held in place and seal with water pressure. For camping trips, a great luxury, but very useful, is a lightweight collapsible travel bowl (Ortlieb, Lifeventure). They are great because you can decant water from springs and streams and wash in your tent or under a tree without contaminating water sources. I have always carried one in Morocco and on the World Expeditions Simien Mountains and Rinjani trips. Even in hotels they can be useful, because you can soak clothes separately and still use your sink.
After washing you need a towel! Lightweight towels are quite hard to get used to - they can feel like large panels of blotting paper. They dry quickly, but they also saturate quickly. Most of them claim to be anti-bacterial which means they should not smell too much after prolonged use. They often have drying hooks. The hardest thing is folding them up to fit into the sachets they come in after use, especially with wet and cold fingers.
After rinsing and wringing out clothes, you can roll them up in a large travel towel to dry them. Then with the risk of turning your hotel room into a laundry, many outdoor shops and even Boots sell travel washing lines that do not weigh a bean, but can take up a number of items.
Obviously you will want all of your toiletries conveniently stored in one place so that you can find items easily enough. The neatest way forward in this respect will be a lightweight roll-up wash bag (Osprey and Lifeventure do some nice ones). But quite frankly you could just use a strong poly bag with a few holes in it, to save even more weight!
Jan Clarke, from Western Australia, booked on to the Guided Coast to Coast walk in order to reconnect with her UK roots, and to feed her passion for walking. Here, she shares her experience, and her tips for looking after your most important piece of kit - your feet!
What is your walking history?
I have enjoyed walking ever since I was a little girl growing up in Tasmania, Australia. I spent a lot of weekends in my primary school years free-ranging over the foothills of Mount Wellington and the National Parks in Tassie. As a family we hiked in to say farewell to the original Lake Pedder before it was dammed and flooded to feed the hydro-electric scheme. It was a local pilgrimage. I think dad used to like the freedom and fresh air of wide open space, and my brothers and I had lots of energy to get rid of. I guess it just got into my bones. I still work full time at 60, but in the last decade I’ve found time to hike in the Colorado and Canadian Rockies, the Italian Cinque Terre, Table Mountain in South Africa, the calderas of volcanoes in Bali and Hawaii, the summit of Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula, the Blue Mountains, Central Australia, the gorges in The Kimberley and Pilbara and parts of the Bibbulmun Track and the Cape to Cape in Western Australia. I have never walked 13 consecutive days before, though! I am more used to hiking in very hot, dry conditions than boggy, cold and rainy.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage. I love visiting National Parks and this walk had three in a row! I like a physical challenge so I chose something that would make me sweat. I figured the Coast to Coast would tick all those boxes – and it did. I gave myself the walk as my 60th birthday present and was happy to fly to the UK by myself to prove I could meet the challenge. My dad certainly came with me… in spirit, anyway.
How did you prepare?
Preparation for mountains was a bit difficult where I live. I can walk forever on flat ground because there is a LOT of that in Perth and I have always enjoyed long walks. The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed. Actually, I think it was an advantage to have practised on harsh stones because there are a lot of those on the Coast to Coast. Another advantage was being used to hiking in hot weather with hot feet. I think that saved me from getting blisters. I think some mental preparation is a good thing too. I have spent my life being stubborn. I don’t like to let things beat me!
Your favourite destination?
This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW! I love standing on top of any mountain, but that one was a real winner for me. That’s my mountain!
Best food and drink?
To be honest, everything was amazing and a real taste of so many things “English”. I did not expect little places to have such excellent meals. Truly. Part of my concept of “knowing a country” is also to try local foods and drink, so I did. A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home. Rachael’s fresh berries and rhubarb yoghurt at Gillercombe B&B in Rosthwaite – oh YUM! The beef and ale pie at The White Lion in Patterdale was outstanding. The Wainwright beer and rhubarb gin were winners everywhere. Oh, and the blueberry and cream ice-cream at the PO in Patterdale and the scones, jam and cream everywhere, but especially at the little café with the penny-farthing bikes in Gunnerside. Thumbs up, too, to the publican at The Station Tavern in Grosmont who made extra space for ten of us for dinner, served up a cracking meal at a cracking pace, and then gave four of us a lift home. Above and beyond the call!
I probably shouldn’t admit to this. The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again. So I think my nanna body pleasantly surprised me the most. As for the knees - so pleased I was a hockey player and swimmer and not a netballer or tennis player in my youth!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it. Having the sole of my hiking boot detach unexpectedly at the top of Kidsty Pike in a sleet storm was a little north of “interesting”. However, my husband calls me “Mrs MacGyver” because I enjoy the satisfaction of creatively solving problems. John also had duct tape and clever ideas in his emergency box of tricks, so between us we worked it out and the group never skipped a beat. Gotta love a good challenge. Keeps you young on the inside. Like All Bran for the soul.
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
My best tip sounds like the most obvious. Look after your feet! They need to be your friends. If they’re not used to walking for two weeks solid, then tape them up with Fixomull (or slap on the Compede) BEFORE you start. Any investment in being kind to your feet will pay off ten-fold. If you feel hot-spots developing then stop and patch them immediately. Don’t be shy! Poles were also really useful. There are plenty of places where the pressure they take off downhill hiking or help with stability on uneven ground is really useful. I also had magic butterscotch lollies. Pop one at the beginning of a hill and it’s amazing how a little sugar buzz powers you up a hill (unless you are one of the good souls who have sworn off the evil of sugar, of course). Take every kind of clothing in your day-pack as the weather can change in an instant. Oh - and take a spare pair of hiking boots. Your faves might give in well before you ever do!
>> Find out more about Sherpa Expeditions' Coast to Coast walking and cycling holidays.
Great Britain, the large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.
Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant and sheer holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.
Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.
#1 Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.
The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.
>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday
>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday
Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.
>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#3 Isle of Man
According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.
Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.
>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday
Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.
Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.
>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#5 Holy Island
A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.
When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days
Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.
As proud supporters of the South West Coast Path in Cornwall, we are excited to announce that this year the English long-distance trail is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The path spans 630 miles between Minehead and Poole and is one of the UK’s National Trails. We have divided it up in several sections for both walkers and cyclists and these trips cross landscapes with special status. There are, for example, the UNESCO listed areas of Jurassic Coast in Devon and the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.
Originally, the path had served as a route for coastguards to trace smugglers and their activities on the sea. The coastguards walked between lighthouses, often at the end of the cliffs to be able to look down into the coves and bays. The creation of the trail that we can hike today was done in sections, with the last section completed in 1978. It still follows much of the original route and thanks to England’s right-of-way laws it even allows visitors to pass through private property. Walkers along the South West Coast Path follow undulating trails, walk through moorlands & charming fisherman towns, and can take in panoramic views of the Bristol Channel, English Channel and Celtic Sea from the high viewpoints.
To mark the occasion, the team at South West Coast Path Association who maintain the path, have created a challenge of raising £40,000 by the end of October 2018. If you are planning to walk the path this year, you will find along the trail many other activities to celebrate the path. And if you are feeling generous, you can find information of how to donate to the path here.
Walk the Highlights of the South West Coastal Path with Sherpa Expeditions
Cycle the South West Coast Path with Sherpa Expeditions
For more information on each section, please download the trip notes from this website or feel free to discuss your queries directly with our team in London.
Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world.
A must-see for history aficionados, this Roman wall in England can also be explored on foot along the adjoining 83-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel – we believe that the middle three days in the south Northumberland National Park are the most spectacular!
Below are 7 Hadrian’s Wall Walk facts you may not yet know about the celebrated British icon:
1. The history of the Hadrian’s Wall goes back to 122AD
The Hadrian’s Wall is a defensive fortification conceived by Hadrian, who ruled the Roman Empire for more than 20 years (117-138AD). It was constructed in the province of Britannia, which at that point marked the northernmost border of the Empire, to “separate Romans from Barbarians”.
2. The Roman Wall is built across northern England’s narrowest point
Hadrian’s Wall originally ran between the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and the banks of the River Tyne, close to the North Sea; this is the narrowest point in northern England. It took 6 years to complete and, in its original form, it covered 80 Roman (73 modern) miles.
3. Post forts were built on every Roman mile…
…although Hadrian's Wall mainly served as a military construction: huge garrison forts were built at intervals, allowing for a counter attack or a raid to be organised at short notice. A deep ditch, known as The Vallum, was dug alongside it, while gatehouses would control access over the frontier forests and moors.
4. It was extended and enhanced with impressive stone defences over the years
Initially, stone was brought in on the Tyne by boat to supply those areas where it could not be cut locally. At later stages, much of the stonework was mortared, allowing the Wall to survive the centuries to become one of the oldest structures in the country today.
5. UNESCO describes Hadrian’s Wall as “a striking example of the organization of a military zone”
Hadrian’s Wall was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987 as an “outstanding example of Roman military architecture”, protected for its “extraordinarily high cultural value”. According to UNESCO, much of it remains “in an exceptionally good state of preservation, surviving as part of a landscape which still contains significant visible traces of the Roman military presence”.
6. The Hadrian’s Wall Path celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018
Classified as a ‘National Trail’ in the UK, the Hadrian’s Wall Path officially opened in May 2003 after many years of negotiations with landlords and farmers to finalise the exact route. A Hadrian’s Wall walk will take you to follow 83 miles across English town and country, forest and moorland, World Heritage Site and National Park.
7. It is often described as an alternative English Coast-to-Coast route
More than just tracing the history of England’s North, the Hadrian's Wall Path offers abundant scenic variety, from the modern cityscapes of Newcastle upon Tyne (North Sea) to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle and from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway (Irish Sea). With that, it can be seen as an alternative route to the famous Wainwright's Coast to Coast trail. Expect barren blustery heights in the Northumberland National Park and lime green pastoral scenes in the Eden Valley… omnipotent along the route, Hadrian’s Wall snakes its way!
If you feel inspired to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path, at Sherpa Expeditions we offer two options to follow the Roman wall in England over 8 or 10 days.
Follow Hadrian's Wall Walk in England
>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 8 Days
>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 10 Days
This article is the first in a series of 5 and is written by Andrew Hudson from the UK. It narrates his experiences of walking the Stevenson’s Trail in the Cevennes together with his friend John*.
In 1878 Robert Louis Stevenson walked from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille in the Haute Loire to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the Gard region of France. His main reason was to collect material for his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, which was published in the following year. Several years ago, my friend John and I followed in his footsteps on the GR70 (Grande Randonnee). There obviously are differences between Stevenson’s journey and ours. His trip was certainly ground-breaking at the time and by comparison, our walking holiday was actually rather easy.
Stevenson was by no means new to travel or walking. He had completed many walks in Scotland and England and had made a Grand Tour of Europe by train and stage-coach with his family in 1863 at the age of twelve. He chose to make his Cevennes journey in October of 1878. Stevenson suffered from (what is now thought to be) tuberculosis for most of his life and from which he eventually died, making his exploits all the more heroic.
Stevenson states the philosophy behind his Cevennes journey:
"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future.” – R.L. Stevenson in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
My attitude to our walk was to have a small adventure, sample the local French wines and delicacies, while staying firmly on the feather-bed of civilization.
In 1878, in rural France, few people had any idea why someone would want to make this journey without good reason. Some pointed out to him that only a century before, a wolf known as “La Bête du Gévaudan,” had killed over one hundred people, many of them children, by ripping their throats out, in an area he would be passing through. Although, during the Romantic Era, writers and poets had sung the praises of the Great Outdoors, anyone actually making this type of journey, was still looked upon as an eccentric, if not stark raving bonkers.
Now with lightweight clothing and boots, and a company like Sherpa Expeditions that transports luggage from one overnight stop to the next, with specialist maps and navigational aids, it is more of a relaxed saunter than a trek. Chemin du Stevenson is now a known destination in France and travellers of all types are catered for. Even so, this walking holiday in the Cevennes is still around 220 kilometres of hilly, sometimes mountainous, countryside and should not be taken too lightly.
Stevenson had no maps of a scale suitable for walking in the area he planned to walk. He did take a compass but his primary source of navigation seems to be by asking others the way.
I should say at this point that my hiking trip in the Cevennes was with my friend and we were both reasonably experienced walkers. John, my son’s father-in-law and also a friend, was a lovely man. He was a railway buff and so when I suggested this walk to him, I also asked him if he would like us to go by train leaving from England. He jumped at the chance and as he knew the railways much better than I did we agreed that he would arrange the trip for us. My part in the groundwork tended to concentrate on the wines of the regions which we would pass through.
John booked our hotels and luggage transfers through Sherpa Expeditions which simplified the arrangement as they offered maps and route notes for the itinerary we wanted to walk. He booked the trains separately and must have made a good job of it because both the outward and return journeys went like clockwork.
Walk the GR70 in France
*The author’s friend John was a big man in every way who loved life but is now sadly no longer with us. He was one of those people that enjoyed the planning as much as the holiday itself and the author had a memorable walking trip on the Stevenson’s Trail in France with him.
If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this Christmas, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during Christmas. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period, accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to drop by at our office in London (we’re located right along the Thames Path), give us a call or send us a message.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he has chosen to give you ten ideas of what to bring on a hiking trip. Especially with mountain trips in mind, but also useful to those that plan to walk outside the mountains, these items to pack on your walking holiday can certainly help you enjoy your holiday in the European outdoors even more.
Bookmark this list of 10 things to pack on your alpine walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and keep it handy for your next holiday in Europe.
Wear several layers of thin clothing such as a thin merino top under a shirt and then a thin or thick fleece that can be taken off to adapt to the ambient temperature. Also, have a waterproof coat ready and waiting. Quite a nice item to have if you are prone to feeling the cold, is a down 'gillet' which is like a puff jacket without the arms. These can be packed away easily and can be brought out if you have gotten very cold.
Take comfortable broken in, but not broken-down hiking boots with some cushioning either in the insole, outsole or both! Trail or fell runners maybe used to tackling alpine paths in trail shoes but for travellers on our trips, trainers or running shoes do not give enough support for the rocky, uneven terrain. Hiking boots come in different categories of stiffness (based on the difficulty of the terrain for which the shoes are designed). On particularly stony trails, a pair of short gaiters called ankle gaiters, can be fitted to stop your boots filling up with stones.
>> Bonus: Tips on cleaning your boots
Wear a hat to protect your face from the sun. Some have flaps to protect your ears and neck as well. The best hats are the ones that not only dry fast but retain their shape once you have stuffed them in your bag. Tilley hats for example are expensive, but they are very good.
Take along suitable sunglasses: they should be wrap-round style and rated Category 3. For those of you that plan to go particularly high or into snow then 'Category 4' and, preferably, a pair with side protection is recommended.
Always remember to bring on your active European holiday a rainproof top and trousers. Rain showers are quite regular in the Alps and you do not want to be caught out in the wet. It is amazing how many people return or replace Goretex and other 'breathable' garments because they think that they no longer breathe. It is usually the case however that the garment is fine, but the fabric works on a humidity gradient and sweat will always build up in conditions where you work yourself hard, or there is a high level of ambient humidity. However, make sure that you check the taped seams are in place and wash the piece regularly.
Wear thick socks, preferably loop stitched and seamless ones. This can prevent your feet from getting blisters and adds cushioning to your walk. Tip of the expert: carry a spare pair on you.
Detailed Paper Map & Compass
GPS is generally accurate and reliable, however when it goes wrong it is great to have the back-up of a real map and compass. Although high end GPS and some phones have good mapping features, it is often difficult to view the LCDs in bright sunlight and also to see 'the big picture'. Don't forget a waterproof map case (e.g. Ortlieb) to protect the maps that we prepare for you on your walks and cycling days.
Bring for example a whistle to warn people in the area if you are in trouble. The emergency signal to use if you need help is 6 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. You should repeat this until help arrives or until you get an answer of 3 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. In case you don't have a whistle, you can use a torch (flashlight).
Put all these items in a comfortable day pack, there are many makes at so many different prices. You will be generally better off having a bag that is a bit bigger than all that you put into it, to avoid crushing items. So if you know that your 30 litre pack is crammed full, get a 45 or 50 litre one. Bags with a chest harness as well as waist harness give better stability while you are walking or moving downhill. If you like your photography and are used to carrying your camera, then you should have enough room to stow it during bad weather.
Very few makes of rucksack are waterproof and during a big shower some water can penetrate even if you have a raincover. So, a bag for delicate items such as First Aid Kit, camera, passport etc, are really useful.
- First aid kit, including a rescue or Bivouac bag or blanket, in case you have to stop in an emergency.
- Mobile phone with important phone numbers at hand, even though alpine areas may have no mobile coverage, there may be others near you with satellite phones.
- Trekking poles are convenient for both descending and ascending as well they are indispensable on difficult terrain. Poles can be used to preload your weight as you descend and save pressure on the knees. It is likely in the Alps that you will be crossing path sections with scree or even snow patches.
- Sufficient amount of food and drinks: a water bottle with at least 1-liter capacity, normally there are plenty of places to fill up with in the mountains to avoid dehydration. Also bring with you some spare food such as energy bars, nuts, dried fruit etc.
- If you wear shorts, don’t forget to also pack a lightweight pair of long trousers to protect against the sun, cold and insects. Trousers are also useful when walking through thicker vegetation.