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10+1 Things to do in Porto for Walkers

Porto Walking Tour

Our walking holiday in Portugal’s Douro Valley takes you to finish in the up-and-coming city of Porto also known as Oporto. The Portuguese city is divided by the river Douro and Villa Nova de Gaia on the other side is well worth a visit too.

Perhaps ahead or at the end of your trip, you want to extend a few days to discover why the city’s historical core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many things to do in the town and this shortened Porto walking tour may be a good start to go out and explore.


Feitoria Inglesa

things to do in porto: feitoria inglesa_Sherpa Expeditions

© Manuel de Sousa

 

Join us on this short trip on foot that includes 11 things to see in Porto. We start at the Feitoria Inglesa, near the hotel that we normally use on the Douro Rambler trip. It was designed by British consul John Whitehead in 1786 and is also known as the British Factory House. It is one of the most fabled buildings in the Ribeira district of Porto and stands where Rua do Infante Dom Henrique crosses Rua de São João.


Casa do Infante

Casa do Infante museum in Porto - Sherpa walking holidays

© Manuel de Sousa

 

With your back to the Hotel Carris, turn left and follow the road to the Casa do Infante. Porto-born Henry the Navigator, who was a prominent figure during the Age of Discovery, reputedly was born in this house. The house is now a museum about Oporto and a visit is certainly something to do when in Porto. Learn about the city’s history since the Roman colonisation of what was then ‘Portus Cale.’ Through diagrams, videos and historical artefacts, this castle-like history book teaches you about Porto’s people, growth and activities through time. It's an interactive and interesting way of getting to know one of the most charismatic cities of Portugal - and its free.


Praça do Infante Dom Henrique

Placa do Infante Dom Henrique_Porto walking tour_Sherpa Expeditions

© jad99 from Graz, Austria 


Follow Rua do Infante Dom Henrique to Praça do Infante Dom Henrique. A statue of Prince Henry the Navigator graces this square. Highlight of the square is the Igreja de São Francisco, which originally was a Gothic church. Its adjacent museum once was the property of a Franciscan monastery. The church boasts the most lavish, spectacular church interior in Oporto – and competition is fierce! It is one of a kind with arcades in front of the church that are a typical blend of Gothic and Moorish elements. The single nave gives a wide impression and is the largest nave of this kind to be found in Portuguese churches. The altars in the transept are decorated with gilded sculpture work framing 16th century panels, probably painted by Flemish artists.


Rua das Flores

things to do in porto_rua das flores_Sherpa Expeditions


We follow our Porto walking tour on Rua Ferreira Borges west and veer north to Largo de São Domingos. At the top of this square, continue northwest along Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers).  Some visitors consider this the most romantic street in all of Porto. It has long been known for the quality of its silversmiths, but what makes the street so architecturally striking is its wrought-iron balconies. This charming street eventually opens onto Praça de Almeida Garrett, with the Sao Bento train station (1896). Its grand main hall is decorated with large tiles tracing the historical events of transportation in Portugal.


Igreja dos Congregados

iglesia dos congregados - porto walking tour - sherpa expeditions

© Diego Delso 


We now head up Placa de Almeida Garrett and turn left in front of the blue tiled church that is called Igreja dos Congregados. The church was built in 1703 with renovations done in the 19th century followed by the exterior of the church in the early 1900s. This is when the tiles of its façade were done by Jorge Colaco.


Placa da Liberdade

porto walking tour - placa da liberdade - sherpa expeditions


You then arrive at Placa da Liberdad, which has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area began and this included the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praça Nova (New Square). In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV, a monarch closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. During the 19th century, several factors increased the importance of the square and the town hall moved to a building on the northside. Towards the end of the century, facilities like the D. Luís Bridge and São Bento Train Station were opened nearby. Liberdade Square was a political, economic and social centre for Porto and remains an important attraction of the city.


Tower of Igreja Torre dos Clerigos

things to do in porto - iglesia torre dos clerigos

© António Amen 


The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni: an Italian architect and painter who did extensive works in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. The church was finished around 1750 and the main façade is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment. The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors and with its 75.6 metres in height, the tower today still dominates the city. This great structure has even become the symbol of the city.


Placa de Gomes Teixeira

things to do in porto - gomes teixeira square - sherpa expeditions


Just beyond the church there are pleasant cafes and a small garden called Pc. Da Cordoaria. Closeby are the Photographic Museum and the Natural History Museum. Continuing on from the church, you soon arrive at Placa de Gomes Teixeira, a large cobbled square with Fonte Ledes (fountain of lions) within it. This is one of the nicest squares of Porto and a must-visit. It got its name on 1936 in honour of Francisco Gomes Teixeira, a well-known professor at the University of Porto. Some of the buildings around the square belong to the university, explaining the students in long black gowns that you are likely to see. There are also a lot of interesting shops and cafes in the vicinity as you would expect from a university area.


Carmelitas & Carmo Churches

porto walking tour - carmelitas carmo churches - sherpa expeditions

© António Amen 


Across the square, look carefully and what looks like just one big church are actually two connected by what is one of the world's narrowest houses: just 1 metre wide. The house that separates the two churches was inhabited until about 25 years ago. It was built due to a law that stated that no two churches could share a wall, while also ensuring chastity between the monks of Carmo and the nuns of Carmelitas.


Return back towards Sao Bento, but before entering the road with the station, continue along  Rua de 31 de Janeiro to shortly reach the top of another square, the Placa da Batalha.


Viewpoints

porto offers amazing views of the city - Sherpa walking holidays


From the Batalha square you can walk along Rua de Cimo de Vila and straight on through Rua Cha to visit the modern  tourist office.  If you continue along the road  which becomes  Avenue Vimara Peres, you can walk right across the top of  the iconic Ponte Luis I bridge (by Gustave Eiffel) to get some great views over Ribeira and Villa Nova de Gaia. Just beyond the bridge, you can take a road up left to a further viewpoint: the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. The 16th Century fortified monastery is one of the best things to do in Porto if you are interested in panoramic views. The cloister is just beautiful. You can visit the church on a guided tour only for about 3 Euros, so check the times. You go up to the top of the church in the company of a soldier: this place is under military ownership and therefore does not get any UNESCO funds despite being included in the world heritage area.


To continue our Porto walking tour, take the steeply descending street under an arch behind the cathedral, this is another one of our favourite streets in Porto.


Ribeira District

ribeira district on a porto walking tour with sherpa expeditions


Continue along Rua de Dom Hugo, a narrow street that curves around the eastern side of the Sé (square), until you come to some steep steps. These were carved through remaining sections of the town walls that existed in the Middle Ages. The steps bring you into one of the most colourful and poverty-stricken sections of Porto, the Ribeira district. The backstreets of this historic neighbourhood have much charm. The area abounds with arcaded markets, churches, museums, monuments, and once-elegant buildings. Locals come here for the low-cost tascas (taverns) and seafood restaurants, and if you’re interested in fado music, there are several places to go.


From the Cais da Ribeira you can take in the port-wine lodges across the Douro at Vila Nova de Gaia. If you want to visit the port lodges, you can do this as a separate walk or continue from where you left off. 


If you are interested in combing a visit to Porto with a Douro Valley walking holiday, or if you like to learn more about this part of Portugal, you can easily get in touch with our team of travel experts via this website, phone or email


Picture This! Madeira Hiking

There are many reasons to travel to the Portuguese island of Madeira, but we believe that a walking holiday is the best way to fully appreciate the island. Spend your days in Madeira hiking the levadas and take in the beautiful viewpoints while at night roaming the charming streets of capital Funchal and other quaint towns.

 

If you’re curious to understand a little more what a Madeira hiking holiday may look like, check out the images below.  

 

Hiking The Levadas of Madeira

Madeira hiking levadas walks - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Madeira walks year round with Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

things to do in Madeira: levada walking - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Madeira walking holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

 

What to do in Madeira: walking year round - Sherpa Expeditions

  

 

What to do in Madeira by Night

Things to do in Madeira - charming at night

 

Charming Madeira at night - Sherpa walking holidays

 

Roaming the streets of Madeira at night - Sherpa Expeditions

 

 

Viewpoints on Our Madeira Walks

enjoy the viewpoints when in Madeira - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Viewpoints on Madeira hiking holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Viewpoints on Madeira walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Discover quaint towns when hiking in Madeira - Sherpa Expeditions

 

 

The People & Places You’ll Meet on Your Madeira Hiking Trip

Things to do in Madeira on a Sherpa walking holiday

 

Active locals hiking in Madeira

 

Find charming houses on your Madeira hiking holiday

 

Things to do in Madeira with Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Cheers to Madeira walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

 

For more information about Madeira, have a look at this introduction to walking in Madeira or please get in touch with our team of travel experts with any queries you may have. 

 

 

Madeira hiking with Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

Gear Matters: Waterproof Map Cases for Walkers & Cyclists

walking gear, waterproof map cases - sherpa expeditions(Winter) walking in Europe may bring in the occasional rain shower and also when on a cycling holiday in Europe, you may encounter some wet weather. No longer does this lead to your maps and documentation getting soaked or disintegrated. There is a new generation of waterproof map cases and in this post John brings you tips & advice.

 

It’s not long ago that most people carried just a clear polythene bag to protect their maps and documents from bad weather. Many suffered the fate of their expensive maps dissolving into a blob of papier-mâché; rain water driven by the wind having infiltrated through the opening and small holes in the bag that had not even been noticed. There were some early 'proper map cases,' which claimed to be water resistant. They were essentially a pouch having a fabric back, clear plastic front and a Velcro closure. However, in the rain the water seeped through the hairy Velcro to turn the map once again to papier-mâché, an insidious rising damp. The map cases were normally really tight and if you had to quickly put the map in it, say on the onset of a rain shower, it was easy to tear the seams of the case. The next generation barely fared better: this had a double seal closure actually in the plastic rather like a sandwich bag and would often pop open. Soon the plastic cracked along the seam around the closure rendering in useless.

 

The last 25 years however, there has been a real breakthrough with plastic design with the manufacture of Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and scratches. The resulting map case is truly waterproof - if the closure is properly fixed, and highly durable. It is made from an uncrackable slightly stretchy plastic membrane with welded seams that take a lot of stress. You need to look no further than the Ortlieb range of waterproof map cases, cycling map cases and document wallets for your active holiday.

 

avoid wet maps with waterproof cases - Sherpa Expeditions

 

To seal, you need to make sure the documents are totally in the pouch; then squeeze the case to purge as much air as possible from it; then tightly roll the end and engage the male and female Velcro tabs. Make sure the corners are rolled properly. The bag should now be totally waterproof and you are ready for your walking or cycling holiday

 

These present-day waterproof map cases are very good as well for carrying things like tablets and important documentation that could otherwise get wet in your rucksack.

 

 

Tips for using waterproof map cases

 

Fold to fit

Firstly, fold your map as best you can to fit into the waterproof map case. It is usually best to buy a larger map case than the document and then fold the case around the map area. If using a large map like a UK Ordnance Survey, you may want to prise off the cardboard cover so that you can fold it better. Try to fold the map along existing fold-creases if possible. It helps to make visible all the area that you are travelling through on the day, sometimes you can fold the map in a way that you can use it on both sides. Obviously with scales such as 1:25,000 this is hard to do as you can easily walk off your map. For cycling it is generally better to use 1:50,000- 1:100,000 scale maps. The thing you have to try to avoid as much as possible is having to remove the map to refold it which is hard to do in windy conditions and of course you will have to try to avoid doing this in the rain. If you have access to a good photocopier, why not make A4 or A3 panel copies from the map of the route you are taking? They will be the correct size for fitting into the map case neatly and you can always carry the original map in your rucksack as a backup or if you want to see the 'bigger picture.'

 

waterproof map cases for walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 


Avoid the 'Flap-Case' scenario 

Managing your map case is very important. Many beginner walkers can be seen striding across the hills with their map cases flailing about them in the wind, hitting them in the face and threatening to strangle and entangle them. With an ‘Ortlieb’ type case this is quite easy to rectify; either roll or fold the case and map into a smaller area which thus becomes more wind resistant. You could use large elastic bands to keep the map compact. It is quicker and easier navigating working on a smaller area of map, using your finger or thumb to press on and trace the route as you go, so you can quickly resume navigation from feature to feature. At intervals unfold the case to check on-going progress or features to come. If you are cycling, you don't necessarily have to have a purpose built handlebar mount to put your map on, although using it may be easier. Some people like to keep their handlebars uncluttered as much as possible. You can wind a map case around the top tube of the bike frame, hold with bungees and just move it as necessary.


Negative issues of waterproof map cases

Very few! After 8 years of use, though the plastic was still in very good condition, the Velcro seals on my Ortlieb map case eventually separated from the plastic! but these can be refixed using an appropriate bonding glue. Obviously, you need to keep Velcro closures clean. The plastic also yellowed slightly. I bought a second A3-sized Ortlieb, now 4 years old, no issues as yet. I have also bought an A3 map case made by Silva. It is similar to the Ortlieb, but has sandwich bag type seal which is not as strong as a Velcro and roll seal. It can pop open if the air is not purged properly from the case and care is needed to make sure that the map does not overlap with the seal.

 


The other option: Waterproof maps

So, why not cut out the map case altogether and just use water proof maps? This option is fine, although there are comparatively few maps that are waterproof. Harveys Maps are mostly waterproof: they are a print-coating on a plastic sheet backing. The O.S went down the route of map lamination with their folded series. The drawbacks? After heavy rain the coatings on Harveys maps can wear or scratch off the map easier. The Laminated OS ‘Active’ maps are plastic coated weatherproof versions of paper maps, they are more durable and can still be folded. However, over time the plastic will crack and let in water, they also tend to be a little bit heavy.

 

map reading on a walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


Looking for more information or have any questions on waterproof map cases? You can contact John and the other Sherpa Expeditions staffers via our website, email or phone. Find the correct contact details here.

 

 

Some waterproof map case producers

  • Ortlieb A whole variety of map cases and 'safes' are made for ipads and mobile phones etc.
  • Silva the M30 from Silva is a durable and functional map case which protects your map whilst allowing you to navigate even in heavy rain. Its fully transparent design allows you to view your map from both sides of the case while the comfortable enclosed neck strap provides a secure and safe way of keeping your map on your person and ready for action.
  • Aquapac see the Stormproof and Waterproof Kaituna Map Case
  • Sea to Summit Large Map Case Made from TPU, totally welded construction and a super-strong Ziploc closure to provide fully waterproof and dust-proof performance. Designed with a detachable neck strap and corner anchor points for versatility.          

 

 

Things to Do in Provence: 5 Reasons to Go for A Walk

things to do in provence - Sherpa Expeditions

 

In this quick read you can find ways to make your Provence holiday different. Read on for the 5 best things to do on a Provence walking holiday.

 

 

1

Do something different from the usual holiday and make great memories when walking in Provence: rolling hills, quaint little bistros, hilltop perched villages, stunning views, lavender fields, and passing by olive groves & vineyards.

No matter where you go, the scenery of this part of southern France will be stunning and expanded.

 

2

Get behind the touristy scenes, explore the backroads, chat with the local Frenchies, visit wine estates, olive oil producers and really get to experience the Provence unlike others.

 

3

Enjoy the great outdoors and burn at the same time some of those calories collected from the night before.

Whichever way you look at it – you are the winner.

 

4

The only pace that counts is yours!

Explore Provence when you walk at your own pace because you are not on a schedule, stop whenever you like, stroll on a market and move on when you want to.

 

5

It’s easier than you think with our well-written route note instructions and, completed with some of our favourite and hidden addresses in each place along the trail, you will not miss out on a highlight!

 

Interested? You have a choice of three different Provence holidays with us:

provence holidays on foot with Sherpa Expeditions

 

For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office and they will be happy to assist you more. 

 

Gear Matters: Camping Knives & Multitools

Different countries in Europe are famed for their own style of the camping knife or pocket tool and in this month’s Gear Matters blog article, John takes you on a tour to learn about the various types of blades, potential usage of pocket knives on a cycling or walking trip, EU law, and maintenance.

 

Some people don't use them, others can't live without them on a walking or trekking holiday. They may be left alone in their pouches for the whole trip or maybe used several times in a single day. A camping knife or pocket tool is available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. With Christmas fast approaching, a new knife or multi-tool could make for a beautiful compact gift. Often you can even have them inscribed for the Ray Mears, Bear Grylls or Mykel Hawke in your life.

Most of us get attached to our knives over time, but the stories of people leaving their forgotten prized piece of cutlery in their hand luggage when taking a flight and losing it going through security are legion. For me especially on camping trips, a good knife or multitool combo is more or less essential.

 

Knives with a Tang

tang camping knives for active holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

A good quality knife should have a sharpened edge on one side and be made of high carbon or stainless steel. I think it is best to avoid ceramics, they can shatter and break easily. The finest forged knives (e.g. from Norway or Sweden) have a cutting edge of differing hardened steel which is sandwiched in a layer of softer steel. A good outdoor or bush knife will have a 'tang' (the handle end) that extends into the end of the handle and that can be heavy duty plastic, wood or even horn. This will then be attached via brass rivets which will resist oxidation. Knives like these are superb for cutting and wood carving; the handles offer good grip to be used quite safely for controlled cutting. The Swedish Fällkniven forest knife can even be used for splitting small pieces of wood in lieu of an axe and some have claimed that these are the best bush knives in the world. Similarly, Norwegian Helle knives are great for carving. These can be bought in Flam on Sherpa's Fjordland trip. The camping knives of this brand are great for bush-craft and they make an excellent range including a beautiful model with curly birch, leather and antler handles. Their blades come in different lengths, materials and thicknesses and are handmade.   

 

Folding & Multitools

folding camping knives for active holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Then we have the category of folding knives and multitools. These are generally a sandwich of aluminium and steel plates. The main blades are always a bit of a compromise, as they will never be as strong as a full tanged knife. Swiss army knives are rightly very popular; being very compact and having some wonderful useful features. They are ubiquitously available on all of our walking holidays in Switzerland an in every town in various guises. They have been used in the Swiss military since 1897. I have personally possessed three Victorinox Swiss Champ knives in the past 35 years. Two, you've guessed it, lost going through the customs x-ray in hand baggage by accident. I have used every blade for all manner of things including clearing ice from cross country ski binding cleats, to removing ticks, making holes in leather belts, opening cans and bottles, and even filing down bike spoke ends. There is a tiny driver that tightens all those minute screws that people always lose from their glasses and take it or leave it, the standard toothpick! The main blades are 'Inox' steel and very good quality, the scissors are the best of any multitool that I have seen and the can opener works really well. The downside is that with most Swiss army knives (and there are some exceptions) the blades do not lock, so you have to be very careful during any cutting activity that the knife doesn't fold onto the fingers. Also the classic acrylic side panels of the handle engraved with the Swiss flag, can scratch easily, although they are surprisingly durable.

 

Plier Multitools

plier multitools for active holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Then there are the multitools based upon pliers, the most famous ones being from manufacturers such as Leatherman and Gerber. These normally have a main plier with the auxiliary blades and tools folding neatly into the handles of the body. The better ones have mostly or all locking blades. These are great, but I have sometimes been a little disappointed with the quality of some models: flimsy knives, scissors with poor action and hard to use tin and bottle openers. The hinges can loosen over time and you may need to remember to take a specialised tool to tighten them.

 

Simple Folding Knives

simple folding camping knives for active holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Some people are very happy with a simple folding knife on their travels, such as the Victorinox 'Hunter' or even the more basic and popular French made 'Opinel.' These are great for cutting cheese and salami on picnics. The latter one has a nice wooden handle with a simple twist lock that kind of half locks the blade, so some care is needed. Recently, Opinel have jazzed up the camping knife with coloured handles including a built-in whistle and a main blade with an unusual spanner aperture for tightening sail shackle pins of all things!

Some walkers may like to carry a beautiful French handmade knife and on our Way of St James walking holiday in France, you will go very near to where the Laguiole knives are being manufactured. Several village shops in the region will sell this charming model and it makes a great memento of your trip.

 

Camping Knife Maintenance

All knives and multitools require periodical maintenance: wash and dry them thoroughly and use a light machine oil on hinges and smeared on blades, especially if you will store your knife for some time. Vaseline is also quite useful in this regard. Wooden handles, leather pouches or sleeves should also be waxed occasionally. Follow the manufacturer’s sharpening instructions; knives should be sharp and without burrs.

 

Knives & EU Law

Most countries in the EU have their own laws on knives. The UK, quite rightly, has enforced laws over carrying knives, although it is pretty vague. The basic rule is that 'you cannot carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less.' If you have a long fixed bladed knife or a multitool with a locking mechanism on the blades (which just about covers all multitools sold from outdoor or tool shop), they 'are not classed as folding knives and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.'

The 'without good reason' part explains it all; it's about perceived intended use. For example, you can buy a 20-inch carving knife from a hardware shop (a public place) and walk with it back home through a high street or mall (another public place). It is unlikely that you will ever be inquisitioned. Although police can be arbitrary at times; it is a question of being sensible if you are on a walking, backpacking or cycling holiday. To make things simpler your camping knife should be sheathed and in your backpack not about your person.

 

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 outdoor gear articles from the past months.

 

 

Get 2018 Off to a Great Start & Save on Travel

Make Your 2018 New Year’s Resolution to Travel More

Start Off with an Active Spring Breakaway

Sherpa Expeditions discount walking holidays

 

Get 2018 off to a great start and immediately realise your New Year’s Resolutions!

>> Receive a Discount of £65 per person when you book before 29 December 2017

>> Have your 2018 active getaway organised now

 

With another new year in sight, most of us will soon be thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions. For us in the Sherpa Expeditions team, there is one resolution that always tops the rest and that is quite obviously to Travel More!

 

We hope you have this New Year Resolution somewhere on your list and we are here to help you realise your goals for 2018. Receive a discount of £65 per person* when you book before 29 December 2017 for a trip departing before 31 May 2018. This way you can already look forward to travelling more in 2018 and enjoy Europe when the paths and trails are still relatively quiet and flowers begin to bloom. Or, why not start even sooner and discover on foot the sunny islands of southern Europe when other places are still covered in snow.

  

Top 10 Popular European Destinations to Visit before June 2018

1.      Walking in Cyprus

2.      Coast to Coast Walk Self Guided

3.      Madeira Island Walking

4.      Tuscany  walking & cycling

5.      Exploring the Cotswolds

6.      Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne

7.      Tenerife on Foot

8.      Isle of Wight

9.      Amalfi Coast

10.   Cornwall Coast Path

 

*Terms & Conditions:

  • Book a holiday departing on or before 31 May 2018 and receive a discount of £65 per person.
  • Booking must be received before 29 December 2017.
  • Only valid for trips departing on or before 31 May 2018.
  • Valid on land portion of the trip only and not valid on extensions, supplements or extra services.
  • Only valid for bookings made with Sherpa Expeditions directly, not valid for bookings made through third parties.
  • Only valid for new bookings received between 1-29 December 2017.
  • Only valid for Sherpa Expeditions operated trips, eg. not valid on UTracks operated trips.
  • Not valid with any other discount or offer.
  • Offer applies only once per person per booking.
  • Subject to availability and on guided trips also subject to minimum numbers reached.
  • Booking Terms & Conditions apply.
  • Quote code ACTIVESPRING18 at the time of booking. 

On Track – Q&A on Walking in France’s Tarn and Aveyron Region

Today’s frequently asked questions are answered by walking blogger Charles Hawes, who was in the French region of Aveyron in September to walk along some typical French villages on our Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron walking holiday. If you like to read more about the trip, have a look at this Traveller Tale or at Walking the Blog on which Charles made a separate post for each walking day and illustrated the walks with many professional photographs.

 

most-beautiful-villages-in-France-with-Sherpa-Expeditions

 

#1 What was the weather like in autumn and was it good for walking?

Temperature wise the weather was near-perfect when I did this walk in late September 2017. Not too hot or cold. When it was sunny, we were walking comfortably in T-shirts/base layers. We had several days when it started off quite misty but by midday it was sunny and warm. We had just one morning when it rained but that blew over by early afternoon.

 

#2 What is special about trekking in this part of France?

This walking holiday in France is for the most part gentle rolling countryside; though you will cross some quite steep river valleys. One of the things that struck me and my travel partner, and we enjoyed, was that it was so quiet! So even when walking on minor roads, you will seldom be passed by any vehicles. I think we came across other serious walkers just once in 5 days. It can give a quite special feeling like having the place to yourselves! The route takes you through many tiny hamlets and small villages and many, many abandoned buildings. Even the smallest places had great character. But the main villages – several of which are listed as some of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” – were all exceptionally pretty.

 

locals-walking-holidays-in-France-with-Sherpa-Expeditions

 

Cordes-walking-holidays-in-France-with-Sherpa-Expeditions

 

#3 Is it easy to communicate with the local people?

On this walk, you will probably not see that many other people! For a large part you will be on a Grand Randonnee (GR46), but it would likely not be very busy at any time of the year. All the bed & breakfast and hotel owners were very friendly, welcoming and helpful. I guess it all depends how good your French is. Mine is pretty poor but we got by OK.

 

#4 Are there enough places on the route to go for a drink or a snack?

There are very few places that you walk through during the day where you could stop for a drink or a coffee. Most of the time I didn’t mind this except for once or twice when we would have loved to have found a café. In the larger villages you will have more options though; we enjoyed a lovely break at Penne in a café with a fabulous view over the river valley.

 

#5 What 3 items should others definitely pack for this walking holiday in France?

Do make sure you are carrying enough water. There are very few public toilets or drinking taps along the route and though I am sure anyone would be happy to fill up a water bottle for you, you may not find anyone to ask. Talking of toilets, I always carry toilet paper and a plastic trowel – much nicer to make sure your visit is not noticed! A French phrase book or translation app on your phone is handy.

 

walking-holidays-in-France-with-Sherpa-Expeditions

 

#6 How would you describe the landscape of Tarn & Aveyron?

On this walking holiday in France, you will find a landscape that is well-wooded with familiar species of trees – oaks and chestnut, for instance. There are a lot of Buxus (Box trees) throughout the area, which is relatively unusual in the UK. The architecture is very different from the UK, which makes this part of France so interesting.

 

#7 What extra costs did you make on this trip?

The only things you will need to pay for will be your drinks and some of the evening meals. With the value of the pound having dropped by over 20% in recent months gone are the days of bargain menus and cheap wine. Wine in restaurants was probably the same as we’d pay in the UK, but the beers were eye-wateringly expensive almost everywhere – it was not unusual to pay 4 euros for a small beer.

 

#8 Can you describe this trip in one sentence?

This circular walk has impressively well been put together; it was a delight from start to finish.

 

 

Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy to hear about your suggestions.

Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here

 

Picture This! Carol's Coast to Coast Walk

Wainwright's Coast to Coast is an all-time popular walking path in the English Lake District. Travellers Carol and Mona set off on foot to explore the coastal paths, moors and country towns of northern England in May this year. Their photos give a fantastic image of what walking the Coast to Coast Path looks like and we are enthusiastic and were thankful of them for sharing their English Lake District pictures with us.

 

If you’re curious to understand a little more what walking in the English Lake District and following Wainwright's Coast to Coast looks like, check out the images below.

 

Signboards on Wainwrights Coast to Coast

start of wainwright's coast to coast - Sherpa Expeditions pictures

 

walking the coast to coast - Sherpa Expeditions

 

pictures of walkers in lake district - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Fat Betty on the Coast to Coast - Sherpa Expeditions

 

complete the Coast to Coast Walk - Sherpa Expeditions

An image of Lake District Fauna

English lake district pictures_Osmotherley_Sherpa Expeditions

 

Lake District pictures pheasant - Sherpa Expeditions

 

English Lake District sheep - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Geese & goslings on Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions

 

rabbit crossing - lake district pictures - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Accommodation on the Coast to Coast Walk

walking into Grasmere - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Lion Inn - English Lake District pictures - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Black Lion Hotel Richmond - walk coast to coast - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Mosscrag guest house on Coast to Coast walk - Sherpa Expeditions

 

The Buck in Reeth - lake district - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Lake District Paths in Pictures

english lake district pictures - sherpa Expeditions

 

High route to Grasmere - Sherpa Expeditions

 

photos of coast to coast walk - sherpa expeditions

 

walk to Robin Hood's bay - Sherpa Expeditions

 

image of sheep in lake district - Sherpa Expeditions

 

walking near Kirkby Stephen - Sherpa Expeditions

 

english lake district picture perfect - Sherpa Expeditions

 

english town on coast to coast path - Sherpa Expeditions

 

 

Carol and Mona did the self guided Coast to Coast Walk in 16 days and walked in the spring of 2017, from 3-18 May. 

 

For more information on the English Lake District, have a look at all blog articles related to Wainwright's Coast to Coast >>

For more impressions of Sherpa Expeditions' walking holidays, check out the Picture This! series >>


 

The People Behind Europe’s Most Famous Hiking Trails

Legendary and influential personalities from the past were the inspiration for many of the famous hiking trails that we find today scattered all over Europe. Roman emperors, artists, environmentalists and kings & warriors, these famous names have all left their legacy in places that are still attractive to discover on foot today. If you like to follow in the footsteps of legends, below overview of popular hiking trails may bring you some ideas for your next walking holiday.

 

John Muir

The walk: John Muir Way

John Muir, the great bushy bearded man, was born into a strictly religious household. As a child, he developed a deep love for the natural world around his home. He was known to escape from his bedroom window into the Dunbar countryside to enjoy the natural wonders of Scotland.

As a grown up, he moved to the United States where he founded the Sierra Club, convinced politicians to create the Yosemite National Park, and raised the cry for conservationism and environmentalism decades before it was fashionable to do so.

John Muir and famous hiking trail in Scotland - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Scotland, this trail is also dubbed as Scotland’s Coast to Coast walk

Distance? 216.2 kilometres / 134 miles

Highlights of the Walk: Beautiful coastal walking around Dunbar and North Berwick, time spend at the city of Edinburgh, pretty Scottish fishing villages and historical sites such as the Antonine Wall, Roman forts and castles.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of John Muir >>

 

Emperor Hadrian

The walk: Hadrian’s Wall Trail

Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus as his full name was, ruled the Roman Empire between 117-138. The emperor spent a great deal of time with the military among ordinary soldiers, visited basically all corners of the empire and is known to have been one of the ‘good emperors’. To separate the Romans in Brittania, as the UK was known in the time, from the ‘barbarians’ in the north and to keep intact the empire, he called for the construction of the wall. In this way, trade between the border could be controlled and it also helped regulate immigration.

The wall was built by 15,000 men in under six years and runs from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. From here the Romans could command their resources and control the raiding skirmishes of the Northern Britons.

famous hiking trail of Hadrian's Wall with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? North England, an alternative English Coast to Coast route between Carlisle and Whitley Bay

Distance? 133 kilometres / 83 miles

Highlights of the Walk: To start with, the wall itself of which much can still be seen today and along which many other interesting Roman sights such as bath houses, forts and bridges. Then we like this famous trail because of the scenic variety from the modern cityscapes of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle, from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of the Roman emperor Hadrian >>

 

King Ludwig

The walk: King Ludwig’s Way in Bavaria

Also known by names such as the Swan King, Mad King Ludwig or ‘der Märchenkönig’ (the Fairytale King), King Ludwig was the head of Bavaria in Germany for 20 years until his death in 1886. He never got married or had any heirs and during his reign, he was mostly occupied by the construction of castles and other buildings, as well as art & music. He was so taken by his passions, that he spent all of his royal money on this and even borrowed extra to realise his projects. All this probably explains his nicknames.

Luckily for us, today his legacy can still be admired in the German region of Bavaria by means of, for example, Linderhof Palace, Herrenchiemsee and his architectural masterpiece Neuschwanstein Castle. King Ludwig was a keen walker himself and you will pass the lake where his body was found in 1886.

walking in Bavaria and Neuschwanstein Castle - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Bavaria in Germany and close to the border with Austria

Distance? 96.5 kilometres / 60 miles

Highlights of the Walk: Being one of the famous longer walks in Germany, the trail takes you past two scenic lakes, baroque architecture, plenty of castles, gorges, a limestone wall, fine viewpoints and finally King Ludwig’s superb Neuschwanstein Castle.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of the German King Ludwig >>

 

James Herriott

The walk: James Herriott Way

James Alfred Wight was born on 3 October 1916, in Sunderland, County Durham, England. In 1939, at the age of 23, he  qualified as a veterinary surgeon and in July 1940 he took on a position in the town of Thirsk where he spent the rest of his life. The practice was located close to the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, where he spent a lot of his time.

Today we know him as James Herriot and the author of a series of books based on his personal life: ‘If Only They Could Talk’ or perhaps better known as ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’ In 1977 filming started for a TV series of the books and the majority of this was shot in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

James Herriot in Yorkshire Dales - sherpa expeditions

©Jim Wight

Where? The Yorkshire Dales National Park in England

Distance? 80 kilometres / 50 miles

Highlights of the Walk: For a fantastic exploration of England’s Yorkshire Dales, this walk brings you attractive fell walking, contrasting Dales (valleys), typical English villages, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and moorlands.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of James Herriott (or James A. Wight) >>

 

Bishop St Cuthbert

The walk: St Cuthbert’s Way

St Cuthbert’s ministry began around 650AD and he became the prior of Lindisfarne where he was famous for his healing powers. In his life, he increasingly craved for more solitude so he decided to retreat to St. Cuthbert's Isle, just off Holy Island, and later to Inner Farne where he lived as a hermit in a small enclosure.

Soon he was appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne and was obliged to travel around preaching the gospel. He eventually returned to Inner Farne to die and, eleven years later, his coffin was opened to reveal such a miraculously well-preserved body that he was canonised. This was also the reason for the extended cult following that has developed and that is known as The Community of St. Cuthbert. The Community was responsible for the Lindisfarne Gospels; claimed by some as the greatest work of art in the Anglo Saxon period. In 875AD, during the times of Viking raids, the Community left the island with the relics of St. Cuthbert for an eight-year jaunt around the borders of England and Western Scotland. The relics were meant to have rested in a spot known as St. Cuthbert's Cave on the first night off the island and you will be able to pass the cave on the famous trail that is the St Cuthbert’s Way.

famous hiking trails - St Cuthbert's Way in Scotland - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? From the Scottish borders to the coast of Northumberland in northeast England

Distance? 147 kilometres / 91 miles

Highlights of the Walk: This hiking trail includes unspoilt countryside and the broad horizons of the Northumberland coast, small historic towns, grand castles, Tweed Valley (from where the famous tweed cloth origins), and the holy island of Lindisfarne.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of bishop St Cuthbert >>

 

Offa, King of Mercia

The walk: Offa’s Dyke Path

Offa, King of Mercia in 757 to 796 AD, may have taken some inspiration from Hadrian's Wall (which would have then still have been moderately intact) when ordering the construction of Offa’s Dyke. Originally it was about 27 metres wide and 8 metres from the ditch bottom to the bank top.

King Offa wielded a tremendous amount of power over a kingdom that effectively made him an early English monarch. His domain included the Trent - Mersey River line in the north and south to the Thames. Kent and East Anglia were also included, and although Wales, Wessex and Cornwall were all ruled by different kings, Offa strategically created a series of alliances with the Kings of Wessex and Northumbria by marrying his daughters off to them. He had diplomatic and trading links with Charlemagne, the powerful King based in Francia, and communicated with the Pope.

King Offa is famous for having established the penny as the standard monetary unit in England, with the same silver content as coins in circulation in Francia, thereby assisting both national and international trading.

walking Offa's Dyke Path with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Wales

Distance? 125 kilometres / 79 miles

Highlights of the Walk: One of Wales’ most famous hiking trails follows the boundary of Mercia and brings you to walk past historic castles and abbeys, the Wye Valley and more than 10 crossings of the border between England and Wales.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of King Offa >>

 

Alfred Wainwright

The walk: England’s Coast to Coast Trail

We know about the Coast to Coast Trail today thanks to British fell walker, illustrator and guidebook author Alfred Wainwright. He was the founding father of one of the world’s most popular and famous hiking trails when between 1955-1966 he published the seven-volume Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. In fact, the books have been available ever since. His Coast to Coast Walk guidebook (still available and a great souvenir of the trip) was the first to describe “one of the world’s great walks” and is used as a base for other publishers today. As a child, little Alfred already drew his own maps of his local area and England and at age 23 he first saw the Lakeland Fells. There are 214 of these described in the Pictorial Guides and visiting them all is a famous way of peak bagging.

Alfred Wainwright was born in 1907 and passed away in 1991 after a heart attack.

walking Wainwright's Coast to Coast - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? England

Distance? 315 kilometres / 195 miles

Highlights of the Walk: The feeling of accomplishment after crossing a country from coast to coast can hardly be beaten. Along the way, appreciate classic English countryside, the dramatic landscapes of the Lake District National Park and lakes, rocky coastline, and welcoming English village pubs.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of the British author & fell walker Alfred Wainwright >>

 

St James

The walk: The Way of St James

The name Santiago is linked to the apostle James (Santiago means Saint James) who was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He travelled to the most north-western part of Spain to preach and convert people to Christianity. After his passing in 44AD, his tomb was placed in the city Santiago de Compostela. In the 9th Century this was unearthed at which point early Christian pilgrims started to walk from their own homes to the city in Spain. Today, this famous pilgrimage is known as the Camino de Santiago, or just Camino.

walking the Way of St James to Santiago - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? France, on the old pilgrim’s route between Le Puy and Conques

Distance? 200 kilometres / 124 miles

Highlights of the Walk: This ancient pilgrims’ route goes through the Auvergne and Languedoc to let you explore rural France, the Massif Central and the green hills of the Aveyron and the legacy of the Hundred Year War.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of Saint James or known as Santiago >>

 

Rob Roy MacGregor

The walk: Rob Roy Way

Rob Roy MacGregor became a well-known cattleman at a time when cattle rustling was a commonplace means of earning a living. Defaulting on his loans he became an outlaw and a price was placed on his head. Escaping capture several times turned him into a Scottish folk hero and in later life, due to his fame or notoriety, King George gave him a pardon.

famous hiking trails: Rob Roy Way - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Scottish Highlands

Distance? 124 kilometres / 77 miles

Highlights of the Walk: The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! From there, highlights of this famous hiking trail include attractive lochs (or lakes), a Victorian spa town, forests, river paths and of course the Scottish Highlands.

Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of Rob Roy MacGregor >>

 

Vincent van Gogh

The walk: In Van Gogh’s Footsteps

In 1888 Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in Provence where, after a 16-hour train journey, he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provencal Sun painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafes, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins.

Living at Arles, his technique modified as he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense colours that you see in works like ‘Bedroom at Arles’ (1888), and ‘Starry Night’ (1889). He seemed to imbue visible phenomena with vitality. In his enthusiasm he encouraged the painter Paul Gauguin to join him, but within weeks they began to have violent disagreements, culminating in a quarrel in which van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. It was on that night, when in deep remorse, Van Gogh famously cut off part of his own ear. 

famous hiking trails - Provence Vincent van Gogh - Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Provence, France

Distance? 48-56 kilometres / 30-35 miles

Highlights of the Walk: The reason why Van Gogh spent so much time in this part of France becomes obvious when you walk along vineyards and olive groves, medieval villages, beautiful Avignon and Arles, and the small massif of Les Alpilles.

Read more about this area in France made famous because of painter Vincent van Gogh >>

 

Inspired? Contact our team of travel experts with all queries you may have regarding these famous hiking trails and we are happy to assist you more.

 

 

 

Gear Matters: Outdoor Winter Jackets - Fleece or Duvets?

walking gear reviews by travel guide - Sherpa ExpeditionsLeaves are falling from the trees and bonfire nights, Halloween, country walks and hot soup remind us that the cold weather is approaching. Now is the time we start to think about winter clothing, whether or not we are intending to walk into the high mountains or stick to the lower trails along to the country pub.

 

 

 

 

 

A Step Back in Time

Thirty years ago, most of us outdoor types wore more simple fibre pile (polyester fibre-hair lined) jackets from Helly Hanson or Berghaus. The large duvet (puffa) jacket was very much the provenance of the mountaineer. Companies such as Mountain Equipment produced amazing down-filled duvets at the higher end with Gore-Tex shells which would keep you warm in Scottish, Alpine or Himalayan conditions. The level of insulation was determined by the quality and weight of the duck or goose down mix. Most of these were way too warm as soon as the temperatures became slightly bearable and all of these winter jackets commanded a high price tag, unless you opted for the Dacron (artificial fibre) filled alternatives which were heavy.

 

Some common points were that the fibre piles when soaked became a sponge and heavy and had to be carefully rung out. Duvet jackets once wet became like huge tea bags, lost their insulatory value and had to be left to dry and re-lofted.

 

down jackets for hiking - gear advice - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Down the Line

All these years down the line, technology has meant these things have changed at least to some degree! Fibre pile has largely disappeared being replaced by compact fleece jackets often with stretchy 'Polar tech' fabric, some with hoods, extended thumb loop sleeves and hand warmer pockets. Fleeces are ubiquitous, competitively priced and are usually easy to compare in the shop just by putting on and testing what feels best. They come in many different thicknesses, all the main brands do them and the price is directly proportional to the brand name and the complexity of the product. 

 

Duvet jackets are back in favour with loads of manufacturers offering different takes on design. You can decide whether to look like the ‘Michelin Man’ or maybe something a bit sleeker. We are concerned in this discussion about duvets from outdoor gear manufacturers rather than with those of fashion companies. The mountain duvets are generally lighter and have a better cut to allow movement than they ever used to.

 

Down vs Fleece Jacket

In making a decision about jackets, you should have a budget in mind and also know how you feel the cold. A duvet jacket can easily cost five times as much as a fleece and If you overheat easily, a duvet may not be for you in most cold conditions; a fleece might be a better option. Good quality duvets are rated by numbers which refer to the amount of down to the volume of the jacket and is quoted 500, 600, 800 etc. These jackets can be extremely compact and light and can be carried in a rucksack in addition to having a fleece if you want to invest in a possibly lifesaving piece of kit or perhaps something for the base camp on a high walking holiday. The Montane Featherlite jacket is very impressive in this category. 

 

outdoor winter jackets for cycling - Sherpa Expeditions

 

winter hiking jackets for the Coast to Coast with Sherpa Expeditions

 

New developments to increase the efficiency of down jackets include the use of mixed linings as a compromise between weight price and the thermal range of a jacket such as in the Berghaus Asgard Jacket.

Some jackets now use 'Hydrophobic downs' that are meant to absorb less water, see the Mountain Equipment Dewline range or the Rab Microlight for example. Synthetic duvets have got a lot more compact than they were and of course keep you warmer when soaked than purely down jackets. Examples include the Rab Altus or Montane Prism.

 

Same, Same..

Some things obviously have not changed: fleeces and duvets still succumb eventually to rainfall and will need to be worn under, or in some cases zipped into, good waterproof jackets. This can make duvets impossible to wear if you are doing anything active.

Duvets need quite a bit of care in order to keep them in good condition - don’t wash too regularly, use special down detergent and be careful to fluff out or re-loft after washing and drying so that all the down is not concentrated in a few places.

Also don't store them in their stuff sacs for prolonged periods as this can damage the fill.     

 

 

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.