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Picture This! A Cathar Castles Tour

Joining in Perpignan, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of Corbières area of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose ‘Perfects’ or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers, forest, charming French towns and fine local dishes.


If you’re curious to understand a little more what a walking tour of the Cathar castles in this part of southern France looks like, check out the images below.



Way-marks on a Cathar Castles Walk

Waymarks on Cathar Castles tour in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Waymarks on Cathar Castles tour in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Waymarks on Cathar Castles tour in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Waymarks on Cathar Castles tour in France - Sherpa Expeditions



Hilltop Castles & Forts in the French Pyrenees

Castle Ruins in Pyrenees in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Hilltop village in Corbieres, France - Sherpa Expeditions


Castle Ruins in Pyrenees in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Village in Corbieres, France - Sherpa Expeditions


Cathar castle Ruins in Pyrenees in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Castle Ruins in Pyrenees in France - Sherpa Expeditions 



Ancient Trails of the Cathars

Ancient trails of Cathars, French Pyrenees - Sherpa Walking Holidays


Ancient trails of Cathars, French Pyrenees - Sherpa Walking Holidays


Ancient trails of Cathars, French Pyrenees - Sherpa Walking Holidays


Ancient trails of Cathars, French Pyrenees - Sherpa Walking Holidays



French Wining & Dining

Restaurant in the shadow, walking in France with Sherpa Expeditions


Cheers with French craft beer on a walking trip with Sherpa Expeditions


appetiser in France - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


A break on our Cathar Castles Tour in France - sherpa expeditions uk


fresh french pain - Sherpa walking holidays


Breakfast on the Cathar Castles tour with Sherpa Expeditions



Flora & Fauna

poppy fields in French Pyrenees - sherpa walking holidays


bird on a cathar castles walk with Sherpa Expeditions


French cattle near Corbieres - sherpa expeditions


cathar castle ruins in France - Sherpa Expeditions


butterflies in French Pyrenees - Sherpa Expeditions


roses on a walking holiday in France with Sherpa Expeditions


For more information on Cathar castles walks, how to get to and from Perpignan and any other queries you may have, please contact our team of travel experts or download the trip notes. 


Passionate Francesca on an Apuan Alps Hiking Experience

Hidden on the foot of the Apuan Alps in Italy’s Tuscany is the (teaching) farm of Francesca and her family. Besides producing her own honey and olive oil, she loves to discover more of the Apuan Alps, hiking its hidden paths and admiring the same woods and hills that generations before her already have.

We asked Francesca to share some of her secrets on the Italian region and give you a bit of an insight into what an Apuan Alps hiking experience may involve.


hiking in Italy's Apuane Alps - Sherpa Expeditions


Can you tell us who you are and your relation to the Apuane Alps?

I’m 54 and it was my father who taught me to love mountains. My family have always been living in areas surrounded by mountains, first the Appennino Tosco Emiliano and later the Alpi Apuane. I went out ‘walking’ on his shoulder first and when I got older on my own legs. Today I like going out together with my dogs, it's one of the best things to do! I really like to discover where each road or path goes (or was going in the past) and to see and feel what the generations before me were thinking and doing when they used to cross my same steps. The history of the Apuan Alps goes far, first there were pre-roman populations, followed by the Romans, medieval and renaissance people and then WWII soldiers (we are on the Gothic line) and finally us today.


What is special about the Apuane Alps National Park?

The Apuane Alps are “new mountains”, which means young geologically speaking. The alps are a kind of an island out of the sea. There are great peaks that are perfect for expert alpinists allowing spectacular views on the Versilia Coast and the Tuscan Archipelago with the biggest island of Elba. The alps can be rocky and steep with waterfalls and caves. The peculiarities of these rare mountains are that while being not so high, they do offer all what other great chains bring, but you can experience it all in one day.

For example, you can wake up in a medieval village and start walking on a path that takes you through a chestnut wood; when getting out of it, you will find yourself where trees no longer grow. After the blackberry bushes and grassy bit, here called paleo, finally you’ll hike up the rocky part that goes fast up to the sky. In as quick as 3 hours from leaving your bed you can hike up a great peak, and back!


hiking through farmland in Apuane Alps - Sherpa walking holidays


The magnificent Apuane Alps in Italy - Sherpa walking holidays


What is your favourite spot in the Apuan Alps?

There are many, some of them for example are abandoned villages that are perfect for a picnic break sitting on an ancient ruin. One of my most favourite spots is the top of Monte Croce, which is full of white flowers in late May/early June.


What are other interesting places in the Apuan Alps and why?

There are natural caves like the Grotta del Vento and Antro del Corchia, which are well organised for a visit. But there are many other interesting caves than just these two. When walking in the Apuane Alps, travellers will also encounter castles, fortresses and walled towns. Barga, where I live, is an amazing town for example. It was first a Roman settlement, then a medieval walled town that in the time of the Renaissance developed into an even more beautiful city. The marble from here is plentiful and it is so white. It can only be found around the Apuane Alps Park and Michelangelo got the marble for his statues from one of the quarries here, imagine!  


Fantastic hiking in the Apuan Alps - Sherpa Expeditions


Hiking holidays in Italy: Apuane Alps


Enjoy charming towns in Apuan Alps with Sherpa walking holidays


Can you tell us about the food in this part of Italy?

I’m an agrichef myself and consider myself an expert in food. I am also a guide to local food producers. I know where in the alps they make the perfect pecorino cheese, as well the best salumi, prosciutto and lardo, olive oil and wines. I’m a beekeeper and on our farm we produce our own honey, as well as extra virgin olive oil from our own olive trees.

Farro (spelt), chestnut and our Formenton 8 file (our corn) are the renowned treasures of the valley around Barga. The DNA of our Formenton 8 file shows that it is exactly equal to the maíz found in Mexico. This means that from the day that Columbus came back with the first seeds of corn, we have never changed it or mixed it with other variants. We still grow exactly the same corn!

Chestnuts, if you allow me to tell you a story, made “us” survive through the cold winter of 1944 during WWII. You can survive eating just and only chestnuts as they are rich in healthy ingredients and vitamins such as the vitamin C. It didn’t get boring to eat, as the chestnuts were prepared in the thousands of ways we know.


What are your most favourite restaurants in the Alps?

I personally know, as I mentioned earlier, most of the food producers in the region. So, I know to which restaurants their products go, and those places are exactly where I like to go for dinner, lunch or a snack. For example, I can recommend Il Vecchio Mulino, Ristorante La Buca and Theobroma, an ice-cream maker that uses my honey!


What, for you, is the best time of year to walk in the Apuane Alps?

Walking in the Apuane Alps in winter may complicate things a little due to colder temperatures, precipitation and slippery paths, but every season is different and an amazing time of year to visit for their own reasons.


Italian life of Apuane Alps - Sherpa Expeditions


Walk this way - Apuan Alps hiking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions


What tip or advice do you have for travellers who want to do a walking holiday in the Apuane Alps?

They will love hiking the Apuane Alps for sure. Most of the time, walkers will find themselves on the paths alone, meeting other people only in the small settlements. The Apuane Alps are not a wild land, but we are an old land that evolved by marks left by pilgrims, merchants, emigrants and passers-by.

My tips for an Apuane Alps hiking trip: wear long trousers and never ask local people for directions -  few of them walk themselves, but if you ask for the right path to take, they will come up with an answer anyway and it will be wrong for sure. Also, do not ask the same people about snakes: everywhere in the valley, the locals are afraid of snakes in a silly way. Each village will have their own legend or tale involving snakes, whether based on reality or not, that is up to yourself…




You can go on a hiking trip exploring the Apuane Alps yourself from the first of April until early October. On Sherpa Expeditions’ 8-day Walking in the Apuane Alps holiday, you’ll spend one night at Francesca’s farm before you head on to discover more of the 'Parco Alpi Apuane'. 


Europe’s Most Charming Coastal Towns

If you're looking to settle yourself down for a few days to get that true experience of a small place that seems to have stood still in time, there's no need to look any further. Here are 10 charming coastal villages that offer exactly that.


best coastal villages of europe _Sherpa Expeditions


Often a small market square where the local delicatessen shop is your go-to point for the best cheeses, the olives served are as fresh as you've ever had and shaded terraces serve wines directly from the vineyard… all this in close proximity to our friendly guest houses and family-run hotels. These types of villages along the coastlines of Europe form a great base for a few days of exploring on foot or by bike as they are a pleasant distance to rugged cliffs, quiet beaches, inland woods and pastures, groves, and mountain foothills.


Breathe in Europe through 10 of its most charming coastal villages.


Agios Georgios tis Pegeias – Cyprus

seaside places Cyprus-Agios Georgios tis Pegeias_Sherpa Expeditions (c)senza senso

©senza senso


Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is situated about 400m from the coast and has a small fishing harbour and beach area. The surrounding area is mainly agricultural with bananas and citrus fruit, a few tavernas, two churches and the ruins of an early Christian basilica.


It is locally claimed that the sunset from Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is the most beautiful on the island of Cyprus. Perhaps the best place to be to view this spectacle is above the cliff next to the St. Georges Restaurant, above the fishing harbour or on the coast itself. 



Flam – Norway

coastal village of Flam, Norway - Sherpa Expeditions


When you walk down to Flam, you’ll experience a beautiful trail that follows the lush valley route through woods and pastures in Norway. There’s always the sounds of rushing waters and when you eventually drop down to the Aurlandsfjord, a branch off Sognefjord, you’ll enter Flam.


The small coastal village of Flam has several restaurants serving local & traditional Norwegian meals (think of berries and salmon) and one of Norway’s most popular craft beer breweries can be found here. Out of town, enjoy a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord, take one of the most scenic bicycle rides in Norway, and hop on the famous Flam Railway.



Collioure – Vermillion Coast, France

collioure, Vermillion Coast, France - SHerpa Expeditions


Flower-decked Collioure is a very pretty little town set against the foothills of the Alberes Range near France’s Vermillion Coast. It has an idyllic setting with sun, sea and sky attracting lots of travellers each year. The seaside town consists of two little fishing ports separated by the mediaeval castle on a spur.


Did you know? This former fishing port was the birthplace of the Fauve movement of painters in the early 20th century, led by Matisse, and today still is a colourful place attracting painters and photographers alike.  



St Peter Port – Guernsey

coastal village of St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands - Sherpa Expeditions


St. Peter Port, Guernsey Island’s capital, is a bustling, friendly place with a row of attractive harbours and marinas set under a steeply terraced townscape, with some remarkably well-preserved buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Visit Castle Cornet, the 800-year old fortress, the restored Victorian Gardens, the house where Victor Hugo stayed, or just relax along the promenade with its array of pubs and restaurants.


At certain high points in the coastal town you can see the other Channel Islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney - and the coast of Normandy in France. 



Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre, Italy

Riomaggiore seaside town on Cinque Terre - Sherpa Expeditions walking in Italy


Riomaggiore, perhaps the most interesting town of the five Cinque Terre villages, is occupied by little fishing and day trip boats. The Italian seaside town has mediaeval tower blocks that are crammed together overlooking an inlet of intense aquamarine colour. The buildings are all painted in bright pastel shades, complementing the natural Mediterranean light. 



Bowness-on-Solway – Scotland

Scotland's border town Solway Firth - Sherpa Expeditions


The views from Bowness-on-Solway on the border between Scotland and England are special for several reasons. This is the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall tour - behind are rolling hills and country lanes while in front is the beautiful expanse of the Solway Firth.  


The coastal village of Bowness-on-Solway has less than 100 houses and is the site of the Roman fort of Maia.



Ajaccio – Corsica, France

Near Ajaccio, Corsica_Sherpa Expeditions walking in France


Ajaccio, the capital town of Corsica, lies on the island’s rugged west coast. Although a busy cosmopolitan Mediterranean coastal town, it is a pleasant place to spend a few days. Enjoy the impressive harbour and old winding streets where you’ll have plenty of choice of little restaurants and boutique shops. 


Did you know that it was on this seaside town that Napoleon Bonaparte was born? You can visit his home, which is now a museum.



St Ives – Cornwall, England

charming town of St Ives in Cornwall, England - Sherpa Walking Holidays


In England, magical St Ives is a town of art, ice creams and fish ‘n’ chips. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted and the fishing fleet largely disappeared.


However as early as 1811 Turner visited to paint the seascapes and by the late 1880s there were several artists installed, and the town became famous for its vibrant artists’ colony. This perhaps reached its peak during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery. We offer several holidays that include a stay in St Ives.



Porto – Portugal

In the town of Porto, Douro Valley - Sherpa Expeditions


In Porto, famous for its port and wine, there are lots of traditional tascas (taverns) that serve marine cuisine. Explore for example vibrant Ribeira district down by the quays. The city is located right between the Green (Costa Verde) and Silver (Costa de Prata) coasts of Portugal and forms part of the Douro Valley


To get the best idea of this Portuguese coastal city with a small-town feel, we suggest a walking itinerary taking in the famous sites such as the Cathedral and churches of 'Igreja de sto Ildefonso' and the 'Igreja Clerigos' with its monumental tower. Maybe walk along the upper and lower spans of the famous Luis I Road Bridge and admire the riverside districts of the old towns on both river banks. For those with extra time in Porto, why not take a trip across the river to the other town, 'Vila Nova de Gaia'. 



Santa Caterina – Sardinia, Italy

Santa Caterina on Sardinia, Sherpa walking holidays (c)Club Hotel

©Club Hotel


When you descend from the Montiferru Mountains on a walking holiday in Sardinia, you’ll walk into Santa Caterina di Pittinuri, located on the coast. Santa Caterina is a quiet bay surrounded by oak forests, olive groves and quiet pastures. This is a small coastal village, with just one small shop and a couple of bars. There’s also a nice 4-star hotel located right on the coast on a cliff at the edge of the beach with an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea. What more do you need besides a good glass of local wine, fresh produce from the island and the charming village life passing by?


A Guide in Your Pocket...

Gear Reviews - walking guide books - Sherpa ExpeditionsWith so many trail guides out there providing you with directions on your cycling or walking holiday, which of the walking guide books is best for you? John discusses three.


There is an old English joke: 'What's worse than a guide in your pocket?... A brownie in your underpants!' Let’s face it like this joke, some walking guide books are pretty terrible as it for example can be hard to follow the routes using the book rather than a map. One of the main issues of weakness in regards to interpretation, which is not always understood correctly is distance.

A typical sentence in a trail guide would be 'Turn left at the junction and then turn left at the thatched cottage.' When you are on this walk you turn left at the junction, but how far is it to the thatched cottage? From the description, you might expect it to be shortly after the left turn, but after 15 minutes of walking you still haven't found it, frustration sets in. Another 5 minutes and you do actually reach two thatched cottages, but there is no left turn, so you go on and there is a modern house with a tiled roof by the left turn which may have replaced a thatched cottage that in reality burnt down two years ago…


This example points to two possible flaws; the book was out of date and/or there is no estimation of timing or distance to the turn off. It is a hard thing for authors and publishers to get right, especially with a copy of a guidebook that looks new but is actually a reprint of a book which was written 15 years ago and has not been updated.


There are other details that can lead to confusion, especially if the book has been translated from another language. Typical in these cases, a direction could go something like 'pass by the river', but does this mean literally pass the river or cross it? A typical oddity in some translations done by French publishers into English is 'Follow the bifurcation' - literally the branch.

Different types of guidebooks suit different types of people and a lot also depends upon whether you can read maps and if the walking route described is waymarked or not. If the walk isn't waymarked, there will be much more obvious reliance on books and maps.


Today, I will talk about three types of cycling & walking guide books which are popular, while none of them will appeal to everyone.


National Trail Guides

walking guides from National Trail UK - Sherpa Expeditions


For many years the National Trail guides have been the benchmark guidebook for the UK long distance trails. The guides are well written books which use detailed OS map panels in the text. The descriptions have masses of historical and anecdotal detail. They also have walking details, which go in a sequence of lettered nodal points that are printed on the maps. The trail guides assume you can read and follow the maps. Although there is hardly any information on shops, B&Bs, pubs and public transport, they are great walking guidebooks for negotiating the 'Nationals' in the UK.


Cicerone Guide Books

walking guides from Cicerone - Sherpa Expeditions


Cicerone guide books are the quintessential pocket walking guide books. They have a huge international range and the style of writing varies between authors and some have more detail than others. Their wide-ranging UK walking guides include some publications with supplementary OS map booklets covering the route which is really handy. On these guidebooks, there will be added lateral mapping detail. The books are well laden with photos and have a lot of historical detail as well as practical panels. Useful feature of the Cicerone books are that the information text is either coloured differently to the walking text, or italicized. Some of the publications have a durable plastic cover.


Trailblazer Guides

walking guides Trailblazer - Sherpa Expeditions


Finally, there is the newer kid on the block, the 'Trailblazer Guide' series. They take the novel approach of completely rearranging cycling and walking maps into a cartoon form that could be interpreted by most map illiterate people. You just follow panel to panel through the book, and timings between points are given on each panel and some GPS coordinates are given at critical junctions. There isn't so much verbal text describing the route, but each stage has an introduction and there are useful pages on things like public transport etc. Another strong point is the town mapping showing the location of some B&Bs, shops and pubs. There is enough historical information in panel form, although this might not be enough for some. They have taken a few ideas from well-known travel guide series by having listings of accommodations and where to eat in each town or village. The Trailblazer books are revised every couple of years and the new edition is clearly marked on the binding.

Some walkers do however find it hard to interpret some of the map panels and if somehow they walk off the panel they can easily get lost. However, but this is the same for other strip maps in guidebooks if auxiliary maps aren’t carried.


Art for Arts’ Sake

Now I come to mention it, if you want something that is less practical to use as a walking guide, but brilliant on artwork and idiosyncratic description, I have something for you. Go no further than viewing Alfred Wainwright's masterpieces which date from the 1950s and were first sold from Patterdale Post Office. If you do a UK walk such as The Pennine Way or The Coast to Coast, you should perhaps reward yourself at the end with one of these classic trail books.


A Waterproof Case

All these guide books have one universal flaw of course, in heavy rain they turn to paper mâché. My advice therefore is, take a waterproof map case like an 'Ortilab' large enough that you can have the guide book open within it as you go along if it rains. Even then you must be careful when you need to turn the pages!       


In the future, walking guide books will of course be interactive and use a GPS and downloaded map package on a phone or tablet. These will then enable you to follow the trail while details of shops and B&Bs or places of interest will pop up, much as they do with some of the phone functions at the present. This is a great development, as long as you can see the screen even when the sun is bright and when you can keep your device powered up. But that’s another topic, which you can read up on in one of my previous postings on USB chargers.


Do you have questions on guidebooks for walkers and cyclists? Or do you like to know more about one of the walking routes John mentioned in his blog article, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts

Sherpa Shows: Sandy Beaches & More of Guernsey

On day 4 of our Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way, you’ll undertake a relatively flat and long walk. The route follows the bays of the west coast of the island and allows you to complete a full walk around Guernsey before you arrive back in St Peter Port.



Visit Guernsey created this fantastic video of the stretch between Grandes Rocques and Port Soif, passing sandy beaches and historical fortifications. Watch the video to get an idea what a walking holiday in Guernsey may be like.


For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of travel experts or find more on our 7-day Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way walking trip. 

6 Things to Do in Provence – By an Enthusiastic Local

Things to Do in Provence, France - Sherpa Expeditions


Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, our walking holidays in Provence bring you an immersive experience of a region that is known for its lavender fields, charming hilltop towns, rolling vineyards, medieval chateaux, bright sunflowers and the nearby beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Being such a diverse region, there are many things to do in Provence. Enthusiastic hiker Sonja became a Provençal resident 14 years ago and therefore we asked for her top reasons to visit and besides discovering the French region on foot, what else there is to do.


Local Markets & Provençal Specialties

Visit the French markets in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


In France, make sure you do visit one of the lively local markets. It is the perfect place to purchase delicious Provençal specialties for your picnic break from walking. In the route notes that we provide, you can find an overview of the exact market days and of course the best places to get fresh goat cheese, charcuterie, quiche lorraine, wine, olive oil and where the baguettes are the best. With so many delicacies at hand, it’s easy to let the outstanding Rhone Valley cuisine and wine do the pampering for you.


Doze Off

walking holidays in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions


After your picnic along the trails, why not stretch out on one of the lavender or thyme-laden hills? Slip your backpacks behind your heads, hat over your eyes, and enjoy the chant of cicadas soothe you into a quick nap. If you go between March until May, you'll experience the thyme in full bloom and between mid-June to mid-August, the lavender fields colour beautifully purple.



visit Avignon in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


Discover Avignon, the papal seat before it moved to Vatican City after the French Revolution. Avignon is the ideal place to visit ahead of your walking holiday and both the In Van Gogh’s Footsteps trip and Rambling in the Luberon holiday start just outside the historical town. Meander through its cobbled streets and walk on the famous St Benezet bridge – remember to sing the famous song: “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…”


Van Gogh Legacy

visit Provence for Vincent van Gogh legacy - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


In 1888 painter Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in Provence. The move was the start of his most ambitious and productive period of his life and he loved the region with so many things to do. Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps to some of the places that he painted and knew well: cross historic Arles – the painter’s hometown, charming Les Baux, the Alpilles landscapes made famous by his paintings, and visit St Paul de Maussole and St Remy where Van Gogh spent his last years.


Provençal Wines

Provence wines on a walking holiday in France - Sherpa Expeditions


Learn more about the famous Côtes du Rhône Wines on a visit to Provence. Stroll through the vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and walk from one wine estate to another, perhaps with a wine expert who can unveil the secrets of the mysterious concept of terroir. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is without a doubt the most prestigious of the Rhône Valley’s wine-making villages. The best part about a tour is getting into the heart of the countryside: cycling or walking along farm tracks between the vines of Grenache and Syrah, taking you past some of the most fabled estates. And of course, a wine-tasting.


The Colorado in Provence

Explore the Colorado of France in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions


Colorado Provençal nearby the village of Rustrel (finishing point of the Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday) is a real surprise to first time visitors. The area covers a wide area right in the heart of Provence which have featured in many films including Cliffhanger and Westerns. Visit this part of Provence to see the canyon-like quarries dotted with pillars in all kinds of forms and shapes. 


The best thing to do in Provence, we believe, is to walk its timeless hiking trails far from the crowds and at your own pace. The self guided walking holidays in Provence come with well-written and easy-to-follow instructions and practical information. Learn about the villages along the way, where to buy your picnic fare, where to go to get the best bottles of wine and olive oil. Of course, we also asked Sonja for some of her most favourite addresses and have included a selection of restaurants, wine estates, olive oil mills, and other places of interest and “must see” visits.


We also include historical & cultural information about the towns visited, monuments passed, as well as information about local plants and wildlife, geology, agriculture, and all sorts of other interesting topics along the way.


Provence is a fantastic place to go for a walking holiday, whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner.


Interested in a Provence Walking Holiday Yourself?

  • For another walking holiday, the 7-day Rambling in the Luberon trip starts and finishes in Isle sur la Sorgue and takes in places like Fontaine de Vaucluse, Bonnieux and Buoux. 



The Alternative to Clothes Recycling: Gift Your Gear

There is a whole range of reasons why we acquire new outdoor gear for our cycling and walking holidays. More often than not, the items we have, can still be used…. Don't discard them, instead take them to a clothes recycling point or why not Gift Your Gear.


Gift Your Gear, an initiative that accepts gear donations and then provides them to community organisations, youth groups and charities that work with young people in the outdoors. This outdoor gear exchange initiative was founded in 2012 by Sarah Howcroft, who was co-founder of the outdoor clothing company Rohan. Sarah has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 40 years and this has taken her all over the world. We asked her some questions about the clothes recycling initiative Gift Your Gear.


Collection for clothes to recycle for Gift Your Gear ©Malcolm Snelgrove

©Malcolm Snelgrove

“It has been great to follow the development of some of the outdoor travel areas over 40 years.” – Sarah Howcroft

What is the story behind Gift Your Gear?

Gift Your Gear came about out of a realisation of two realities. Because I have been in the outdoor industry for over 40 years I have seen a lot of outdoor gear. I have made the gear, sold the gear and used the gear. In general, outdoor gear is made to last. It is made well and because product failure is not an option by default, the gear last.


However, over the last few years I have become increasingly aware that most gear does not get used until it wears out. The outdoor industry is innovation-lead and active travellers in general want the latest gear. That means there is a lot of outdoor gear that is unused and unwanted. I spent some time looking at what happens to this gear. The answer is anything from nothing to ending up in charity shops.


About the same time, I became more aware that funding for the groups responsible for getting young people out on to the hills was being reduced and cut. This resulted in, amongst other things, a serious lack of outdoor equipment available to groups.


So the solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed and that is what Gift Your Gear today is.

"The solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed."

What happens with the gear after you receive a donation?

Gear that is sent to our depot in Manchester is sorted, checked and donated to Gift Your Gear beneficiary groups. We also have a network of local groups that are involved in getting young people outdoors and who will collect gear donations around the UK.

Gift Your Gear provides a reuse solution. There is very little that cannot be reused. Maybe not for the original purpose or we recycle the clothes for other means. For example, a waterproof that is no longer waterproof can still make a great windproof.


Can travellers from outside the UK donate their gear too?

We collect outdoor gear by various methods inside the UK. We also receive parcels from people all over the world at our depot in Manchester and if Sherpa travellers are looking for a good place to recycle their clothes, they can send the goods or bring them to Europe with them. When people are in the UK, they can drop off gear either at our depot or through a national network of outdoor shops and supporters that collect for Gift Your Gear.


Do you have other tips for travellers to recycle their outdoor clothes & gear?

Well, my number 1 tip is be careful what outdoor clothes you buy. Make sure you can use it to the end of its life. Longevity of use is by far the best option. Better even than to reuse and finally recycling the gear. There is no global network for the reuse of outdoor gear, but one solution is to put a free ad on the UK-based platform Here you can state if you wish to donate your gear to a particular profile or group it is also a place where travellers can browse and purchase second hand outdoor gear.


What are do’s & don’ts for travellers who want to donate their gear?

Do your research before you go out to actually bring a donation. There may be similar initiatives like Gift Your Gear locally to you. Please also send us an email at Gift Your Gear and we will look at ways at how we can help.


Outdoor gear donated to young people ©GiftYourGear


Can you tell us some examples of what has happened with donated gear?

Since 2012, Gift Your Gear has supplied over 1000 groups in the UK with quantities of unwanted outdoor clothing and equipment. They range from DofE Groups, scout and guide groups, cadet groups, school groups, forest schools and more. Let me give you two examples that embody the spirit of Gift Your Gear.


Au Revoir Olfio

An Olfio is a classic Rohan over-the-head piece of clothing; a padded top with lots of pockets. We have two nationwide Olfio collections each year through Rohan Shops in the UK. The ideas is that during one collection, we receive a substantial number of donated Olfios, some appeared to be even over 30 years old and all are in great condition. We decided to send them back in to the great outdoors.


Fresh Tracks

This is a programme that was created especially for young adults with a range of challenging life issues. The youngsters are from both mainstream and special needs schools. The programme was created, coordinated and delivered by the Equine Assisted Learning section at the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, and is called ‘Ponies Inspiring People’.


Olfios clothes recycled ©GiftYourGear


Is there anything else you like to share with our travellers?

Because dedicated travellers rely so heavily on their gear, they often become very attached to their gear. We know of travellers that have experienced the disappointment of going out with gear that really does not perform to expectations. So, for anyone that has a special attachment to their gear, we like you to know that we will make sure your gear goes on to a new life in the outdoors after you donate it to Gift Your Gear. It’s a nice feeling and this way of clothes recycling really makes a difference.


Learn more about Gift Your Gear or contact one of our team for any specific questions you may have. 


In Praise of Trail Blazers

Finding the right route on a walking or cycling trip in a new environment is not always straight forward. The maps and route notes that you receive on Sherpa's self guided cycling and walking holidays allow you to take the right decision on the trail. Another useful aide are trail blazes, as writer Richard Mellor describes in this article. 


Walking in Italy Cilento Coast - Sherpa Expeditions

By Richard Mellor

Do you ever wander about waymarks (or trail blazes, as they’re called outside of the UK)?

I mostly spend my hikes looking for these symbols, feeling either triumph when one appears, or a growing trepidation that I’ve gone astray amid their continued absence.


trailblaze in Italy - Sherpa Expeditions


trail blazers waymarking in Italy - Sherpa Expeditions


But occasionally – as with this section of Sherpa’s Cilento Coast & Mountain walk that I am currently undertaking [red. May 2017], following a high ridge down from mighty Monte Stella, the sea glittering far ahead – I have a rare certainty of being on-track, and can instead ponder these universal hiking signposts.


The Cilento’s paths mostly utilise the classic red and white bars, plus some same-coloured wooden arrows. To install these, trail blazers must therefore have had to stride long sections lugging a large tin of red paint, a large tin of white, brushes for each and, for the arrows, lots of nails to sink into trees or rocks.

Monte Stella ridge walk - Sherpa Expeditions Cilento walking holiday

Waymarks on the Cilento Coast Italy - Sherpa Expeditions


They’ll also have been needing all the stuff I carry: water, extra clothing, maps, food (my main luggage fortunately was transferred by the Sherpa team).


Which means – I realise while crossing butterfly-rich heather, the stone-built village of Galdo now visible ahead – they’re probably hauling heavy loads around for long distances, and often up and down steep hills. Ouch. Suddenly, waymakers seem like heroes.


Last year I hiked in northwestern Spain, and let’s just say the waymarks were intermittent. At certain forks invisible on my map, there they, er, weren’t.


At the time, I blamed wild boars or rogue farmers. But now I’m imagining that perhaps the daubers simply ran out of paint, or were conserving their last precious blobs for a tougher junction.


Who are these blazers anyway? Is waymarking an official thing, only to be done by official people? I make a mental note to find out this evening. (Wikipedia, it later turns out, suggests a mixture of volunteer and local authorities)


Also, how often are waymarks updated – some smudges here are very faded, yet others so fresh I swear I can smell paint – and who decides? Do they travel in pai...


blazes lead to historical villages in Italy, Cilento - Sherpa Expeditions

Hang on a second. I’m now entering Galdo and, now I think of it, when was the last waymark? Uh-oh. Let the worrying commence…


Richard describes the panoramic day walk along the Monte Stella ridge on day 4 of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walking holiday. Superb views of the Amalfi Coast and Capri, an abandoned fortress, and charming historical villages like Celso, Cannicchio and Galdo characterise this day’s walk.


Like to know more about the Cilento Coast route in a remote section of Italy? Find the trip details, grading and cost of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walk now

Richard Mellor is a freelance writer and copywriter on mainly travel related topics. He gives lectures on journalism and you can read his articles in Metro, The Times, The Guardian, Telegraph Online and many more. Early May 2017 he walked solo Sherpa Expeditions’ 5-day Cilento Coast & Mountain trip in Italy. Follow Richard on Twitter.

Lace Up Your Boots: New in Walking Holidays

Scotland’s take on the Coast to Coast and the French flair of the Channel Islands

New UK walking holidays_Sherpa Expeditions

New in our walking holidays offer are the John Muir Way in Scotland and part of the Channel Island Way in Guernsey.

If you are planning a trip to Scotland this summer and wasn’t sure yet what part to cover, consider the new John Muir Way that links the east and west coasts of the country. As such, it is also affectionately known as the Scottish Coast to Coast. Visit historical features including the Antonine Wall and Roman Forts, follow in the footsteps of a Scottish legend and walk past lochs and bens of the Scottish Lowlands.  

Much further south, close to the French coast of Normandy, is the island of Guernsey. You already have the possibility to go on a three-centre cycling trip in the Channel Islands, but the offer is now complemented by a week-long walking option on the islands of Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Alderney. The islands brim with character and are a walker’s paradise.


John Muir Way

new UK walking holidays_John Muir Way_Sherpa Expeditions

on the John Muir Way_Sherpa UK walking Holidays

John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, on the southeast coast of Scotland, and as a child developed a deep love of the natural world around his home. Best known for encouraging the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, Scotland has been rather slow to recognise its famous son – it was not until 2014 that he was honoured with a trail in his native land. The John Muir Way is a path that 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.

The John Muir Way 12-day self guided walking holiday launches in April >> View trip


The Channel Island Way

walking in Guernsey _ Sherpa Expeditions

Sunset in Guernsey - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

This week-long walking tour around the islands of Guernsey is the longer half of the Channel Island Way. Originally part of the Duchy of Normandy but bequeathed to the English Crown by William the Conqueror, today they are independent in many ways yet maintaining a special relationship with the UK. Expect long sandy beaches and beautiful undulating cliff paths leading to tiny coves with sparkling rock pools, with forts of various sizes, some dating back to the 1600s while others, more recent, were created by the Nazis during their occupation of the islands in World War II.

Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way 7-day self guided walking holiday launches in April >> View trip


Read More


Contact our team of travel experts for more information on these new UK walking holidays and for booking details. 

Gear Matters: Highly Charged Walking

Gear Matters: walking gear blog by Sherpa Expeditions walking holidaysEvery 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 looks at the best portable chargers and some points to consider when choosing to buy a power bank for your next cycling or walking holiday.


The following scenario is a possibility on any tour, but more significant when you are walking in the mountains. There is an accident, you reach for your phone to make the emergency call, but, you forgot to recharge it last night and the one bar of power left is already flickering! However, help is at hand: you reach into your backpack and pull out a USB connected portable charger from which the device can feed off and perhaps recharge from fully. It could literally save the day.

I have been carrying one of these chargers on my walking holidays for some time now and had to use it to recharge my phone and camera, especially in remote destinations where there was no power supply.


Size & Capacity

Most portable battery chargers either are lipstick sized or a similar size to a mobile phone containing a lithium battery. Specifications of course vary, but they nearly all have USB couplings to power any kind of device that can be USB recharged. The size of the power bank will of course effect the weight, but also how many times you can do a full recharge. Measured in milliampere hours (mAh), the number of times a unit can recharge your phone or camera depends on its capacity and the capacity of the device itself. In order for your device to get at least one full charge from the charger, make sure the phone’s capacity is no more than 70 percent of the charger’s capacity. Another important consideration is the portable charger's power output. The higher the better, as it means it has the potential for powering up a device more speedily. 


portable phone charger for walking directions


portable charger for walking holidays Sherpa Expeditions


Hardware at Low Charges

Nearly all the portable phone chargers are very economically priced. On the small side, but beautifully light at less than 100g, are the little Barrel rechargers for example by Belkin or Anker. They have capacities of around 3000 mAh - enough to recharge a smartphone once or twice. At the other extreme, weighing five times as much, is the Zendure A8 Pro. This one has a capacity of 25,600 mAh and has four USB slots so you can really go to town recharging basically anything. In between these options, you can look at popular and cheap models from places such as Amazon, such as the AmazonBasics Portable External Battery Charger of which you can get models with different power ranges from 2,000 mAh to 16,100 mAh.


portable phone charger for remote locations


take pictures & find directions with portable chargers


Get Wired

Before you head for the hills and set off on your walking holiday with your portable charger, let me supply you with a couple of obvious suggestions:

  • make sure that the charger is itself fully charged (this can take hours depending on the capacity) and
  • take the correct USB coupling cables for your devices before you leave.


For more advice on the gear to bring on a cycling or walking holiday, contact our team of travel experts.

For more in John’s series of Gear Matters blog posts and tips and advice for cycling and walking gear, see the full overview of blog articles from the past months.