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By John Millen, Sherpa Expeditions' resident guide and walking expert.
I was walking on the Norfolk Broads last weekend and met up with an old friend, now into his eighties. I hadn't seen him for 7 years but he used to amble along puffing his pipe, eyes bright and twinkling full of ideas. He is a landscape painter and still manages to paint three pictures a week. He sells quite a few of them and you could see him analysing the light, colour, changing clouds and the harmony of the perspective before him. The pipe smoking stopped when his son started medical school and forced him to quit, and the walking slowed, but never stopped. The little pearl of wisdom that he gave to me at the weekend was a succinct piece of Latin which can be applied to all our walking - solvitur ambulando, which literally means 'it is solved by walking'.
If the ancients knew this, then it also applies so much to our lives today. Of course running and cycling also provide an endorphin rush, which is not quite the same thing, and although you can get lost in the act of exercise, you really only get to think deeply when you have fewer distractions such as traffic or uneven paving, and when walking in beautiful landscapes. It is more the view, the smells, the sounds and the brush of the air and how they play upon our mind, mixing up emotions, memories, nostalgia and thoughts. The time and space created by walking allows us to disentangle thoughts, put things in perspective, calm down and figure out ways of sorting out issues in our often-complicated lives.
Just a couple of hours of walking certainly solved a couple of things for me. I hadn't seen a barn owl for two years, and then one flew out of a woody thicket. Two rare marsh harriers skimmed the backlit reed beds in scything silhouettes, mewing to each other.
So many people walk to clear their minds, solve problems and reach for ideas. We can think of Charles Darwin at Down House in Kent. After he bought the property he laid down various walking loops around the estate and spent much time walking and pondering the theory of natural selection, evolution and where that placed religion. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein walked together, discussing literature and religion - and wrote some rather famous books about it! Nan Shepherd, in a beautiful short book called The Living Mountain, talked about how, as we walk, we become one with the landscape and nature and, in her mind’s eye, actually entered into the mountain – in her case the Cairngorms of Scotland.
All of this points to the benefits of walking, and what better way than to take a Sherpa Expeditions walking holiday for a bit of solvitur ambulando?
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
write a review
The easiest way to give feedback on your trip is to write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
If you'd like to write about your trip in a little more detail, you could write a short account of your holiday - we call them Travellers' Tales. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.
Cornwall is one of the UK’s most dramatic, visually breath-taking and romantic counties – and so it’s no wonder that this beautiful place has served as the setting for novels, films and TV series over the years. Cornwall is regularly used as the backdrop for films or TV programmes that aren’t even set there – as it provides the perfect backdrop for anyone looking for a rugged, dramatic landscape.
But here we take a look at some films and TV series actually set in this unique coastal county, including some of the locations you can visit when on a walking holiday in Cornwall with Sherpa Expeditions.
Ladies in Lavender
Directed and co-written by Charles Dance, and starring Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, 2004’s Ladies in Lavender’s credits read like a who’s who of British film royalty.
Set in 1930’s Cornwall, the film tells the story of aging sisters Ursula and Janet, whose peaceful lives are turned upside down when they find a nearly-drowned Polish man lying on the beach, and decide to nurse him back to health.
Locations in which the film was shot include St Ives, the Lizard Peninsular and Prussia and Keneggy Coves near Porthleven, all of which can be visited on our Marazion to Mevagissey Walk.
Poldark was originally a popular British TV series in the mid-1970s, but it’s the recent remake that launched in 2015 that has made the series a global hit. It stars Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, who returns home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolutionary War. It follows his trials and tribulations as he tries to forge a new life back in Cornwall.
The stunning Cornish coastline is a major aspect of the show’s visual impact. Filming locations include St Just, Land’s End, Charlestown, Helston, Lizard Point and Porthcothan. Many of these locations are visited on our walks along the South West Coast Path – so if you’re a fan of the show you can really immerse yourself into Poldark’s world.
The 1939 film based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel of pirates, rogues and smugglers, is the definitive, and most famous version, although there have been more recent remakes for both film and TV.
This classic film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. The setting for the story, Jamaica Inn itself, is still very much around and open to visitors – built in 1750 as a coaching inn for travellers crossing Bodmin Moor.
Another 1939 adaptation of a classic Daphne du Maurier novel, again directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this time starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. The only problem with this entry on our list, is that, although set in Cornwall, the film was actually shot entirely in California! At least the 1997 remake starring Charles Dance (him again) and Diana Rigg was partly shot in Cornwall.
Rebecca tells the story of Max de Winter, who brings his new wife to live with him on his country estate in Cornwall, named Manderley. However, the new Mrs de Winter soon finds that her husband’s deceased first wife, Rebecca, still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.
Doc Martin has been a much-loved programme on British TV since 2004. It stars Martin Clunes as a gruff, abrupt surgeon from London, who relocates to the seaside village of Port Wenn in Cornwall.
Port Isaac is the real village that serves as the location for the fictional Port Wenn. Port Isaac is a charming fishing village just north of Padstow on the northern section of the South West Coast Path. As well as being a lovely visual showcase for life on the Cornish Coast, there is much humour to be had as Doc Martin slowly gets used to the sometimes-eccentric way of life in a small Cornish village.
A bit of a left-field one – as it’s unlikely you’ll have seen it unless you’ve spent some time watching German television.
Rosamunde Pilcher was a hugely successful British writer of romance novels, whose books sold over 60 million copies worldwide between 1949 and 2000. She was born in Lelant, just outside St Ives – and her Cornwall surroundings provided the setting for many of her novels.
Her books became especially popular in Germany, where her novels have been adapted into more than 100 TV films. The popularity of these hugely successful films resulted in Rosamunde Pilcher receiving a British Tourism Award in 2002 for the positive effect that her books and the TV adaptations have had on Cornwall.
It’s no surprise that so many of the books, films and TV programmes set in Cornwall over the years have been tales of romance, intrigue and high-drama – given the highly dramatic and ruggedly beautiful nature of the county. You can experience all of it on a Cornish walking tour with Sherpa Expeditions.
We know that a lot of people like to take their holidays in the summer – and it’s true that June, July and August can be a great time to walk if you’re comfortable with the potentially high temperatures.
But April and May are wonderful months for a walking holiday, especially in some of our European destinations where it can get very hot from June onwards. April is also when most of our UK routes start running, and much of the UK countryside looks at its best and most green in the spring.
Another advantage of spring walking is that the more popular destinations are quieter than they are in the height of summer, so if a little solitude is your thing then it’s definitely worth considering. Flights are often cheaper outside of the summer holidays – although bear in mind that Easter falls 19-22 April this year, and flights are sometimes pricier during the school holidays.
Here are a few of our favourite trips for spring walking – although pretty much our entire programme is running from April onwards so you have plenty of other choices if the trips below aren’t quite what you’re after.
Cornwall is the UK’s most southerly county, and in spring the weather can be lovely, and the temperatures perfect for walking or cycling. Although, as with all coastal regions, there’s always an element of unpredictability with the weather – but that’s part of the fun!
With some of the best beaches and most popular towns in the UK, it’s definitely worth a visit outside of the high summer season, before the crowds arrive.
Cornwall is a region of dramatic beauty, spectacular coastal scenery, charming towns and villages – not to mention amazing fresh seafood and some of the UK’s finest beer! There’s a lovely atmosphere in Cornwall in spring – as if an entire county is waking up after a long, cold winter and excitedly anticipating the warm summer months ahead.
We offer several trips in Cornwall – each exploring a different section of the famous South West Coast Path. Find out more here.
Cyprus can get extremely hot in high summer – which is great for some, but for those who prefer to walk in slightly lower temperatures, March to early May is a great time to visit this beautiful island in the eastern Mediterranean.
If you’re a nature lover there are other advantages of a visit in spring – with orchids starting to flower, and migratory birds passing through. When you go hiking in Cyprus, you’ll discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views, and stunning coastlines.
Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
We offer 8-day and 11-day versions of this trip. Find out more here.
Spring in Tuscany is when the vegetation starts to come back to life and the beautiful colours of the flowers are at their most vibrant, making it a very rewarding time to visit this beautiful region of Italy. As with many of our southern European destinations, spring is a great time to visit if you want to avoid the summer temperatures.
It’s difficult to know where to begin when considering the highlights of a walking tour in Tuscany. Art, culture, rolling vineyards, ancient villages, and some of the finest food and wine you’ll find anywhere on the planet – Tuscany really does have it all. Which is why it can get rather busy in summer – another reason to consider a trip in spring.
This itinerary finishes in Siena, a classic Tuscan city full of ancient architecture, museums and a spectacular gothic cathedral.
Find out more here.
Andalucia, in southern Spain, is another area of Europe that gets very hot in summer, and is a perfect destination in the spring. At this time of year the fields are awash with flowers and blossoms of all colours, framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Andalucia is a fascinating region – away from the well-known coastal beach resorts you’ll find the Moorish influence on the culture, architecture and food of this area rich in history. This trip focusses particularly on some of the more remote and unspoilt parts of the Alpujarras, a region of mountain villages clinging to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada.
This is the perfect trip if you’re looking to experience southern Spain beyond the obvious flamenco, tapas and beaches.
Find out more here.
The Douro Valley is one of the finest wine regions in Europe, and spring is the perfect time to explore it. Not only are the temperatures perfect for walking, the whole area comes to life with the first bright green vine leaves emerging, and the hillsides covered in almond blossom.
Another highlight of this trip is the opportunity to spend a day exploring the lively city of Porto, with its maze of ancient streets, traditional town squares, and iconic blue and white azulas tiles.
If wine tasting is your thing, you’ll have the option to visit some of the many wine estates of the region – in fact the Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world.
Find out more here.
We’re experiencing some pretty wintery weather here at Sherpa’s UK headquarters right now, and it’s certainly making us dream of warm southern European sunshine.
Luckily, if you’re after a bit of respite from the freezing temperatures, you don’t have to wait until the spring to feel the warmth of the sun on your face. We offer a number of trips departing in February and March, to destinations that offer all-year-round walking enjoyment. So why not treat yourself to a few days in the sun to help ease your way through the rest of winter?
Here are a few of our favourite winter walking destinations.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago situated off the northwest coast of Africa. Beyond their popular beaches, the natural beauty and amiable climate of these exotic island make them an ideal winter walking destination.
Our holidays currently focus on the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, although we are also about to launch a trip to La Palma (see below). The Canaries offer so much to the winter walker – a perfect climate, stunning scenery, delicious food and fascinating history.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
Coming soon – La Palma Island Walking. We’re currently putting the finishing touches to a new trip for 2019 – a fantastic walking tour of the volcanic island of La Palma. On this trip you’ll visit the dramatic volcanic crater of the Caldera de Taburiente, said to be the largest erosion crater in the World. This trip will be on sale very soon – if you want us to let you know as soon as it’s available to book, email [email protected] and we’ll contact you once it’s on the website.
Thanks to its year-round mild climate and low rainfall, you can enjoy walking all-year-long in Madeira. March is one of the best times to visit, when a kaleidoscope of colourful trees and flowers are starting to bloom.
When walking in Madeira, you’ll clearly see how important the dramatic scenery and botanical wonders are to the local people. Well-maintained tropical gardens, walking trails and tempting restaurants where only authentic Madeiran cuisine is served are all testament to how much the locals love their home and culture.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
The Vermillion Coast runs from France to Spain where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean – which means that on our 8-day trip you get to sample 2 different countries and cultures. This is a beautiful coastal walk that offers plenty of opportunities for swimming in the sea, visiting point of cultural interest and tasting local cuisine.
This is a great trip if you’re an art lover, as the walk starts in the former fishing village of Collioure, the birthplace of the Fauve school of painting, and concludes in Figueres, home to the Salvadore Dali museum. Along the way you’ll also visit the seaport of Banyuls, home of the great French sculptor Aristide Maillol.
This is a great opportunity to get to know a stunning stretch of coastline rich in both French and Spanish culture and cuisine.
Departures from 1 February 2019. Read more here.
Sardinia is a fascinating and beautiful island with a mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you will discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites.
Our trip to Sardinia is perfect if you’re interested in culture, nature and wildlife. Bird watchers will be entertained by the large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life, while the ancient Spanish watchtowers, small villages and the ancient site of Tharros occupied by the Phoenicians, Punics and Romans offer welcome distractions for those keen to learn more about the island's history and culture. Whilst walking, you will also come across artichoke fields, Vernaccia vineyards, olive groves and the Cabras Lagoon, famous for grey mullet and its 'Bottarga'.
Departures from 1 March 2019. Read more here.
They say 50 is the new 40. Well, if that’s true, then there’s plenty of life left in 3 of the UK’s most popular walking routes, which all celebrate their 50th anniversaries in 2019.
The Cleveland Way, the Dales Way and the Offa’s Dyke Path are all reaching this major milestone over the next few months, and you can help to celebrate their birthdays by walking the routes with Sherpa Expeditions.
Let’s take a look at what makes these routes so special as they prepare to celebrate turning 50 years young.
The Cleveland Way, which turns 50 on 24 May 2019, is a 109-mile long trail in the North York Moors National Park – and was one of the UK’s earliest official National Trails.
One of the things that makes the Cleveland Way so special is that it’s a combination of coastal and moorland walks, so you can enjoy some real variety in terms of terrain and views. Along its length there are contrasts in walking between quilted farmlands, forest patches, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, isolated moorlands and the highly eroded coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs.
There’s also a great deal of history to be enjoyed along the Cleveland Way – including the remains of the Norman Rievaulx Abbey, the 13th century Whitby Abbey, and Whitby’s Captain James Cook Museum, whose ships were all built in the coastal town.
You can have a look at the events currently planned to mark the Cleveland Way’s 50th anniversary.
Departure dates from 6 April to 1 October 2019 – read more here.
The first public Dales Way walk took place on 23rd March 1969, and was organised by the West Riding Ramblers, who were also pivotal in the creation of the route. The Dales Way runs for 78 miles from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria, following mostly riverside paths, running right across the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the gentle foothills of southern lakeland to the shore of England's grandest lake, Lake Windermere.
Along the Dales Way, you’ll come across plenty of interesting old churches, an abbey, lovely real ale pubs and traditional villages. Much of the trail follows pretty river valleys - especially the Wharfe, Dee, Rawthey, Lune and the Kent. All have beauty spots for shady picnics, small ravines and rapids and are patrolled by birds such as Berwick swans, kingfishers, dippers and wagtails.
Visit The Dales Way Association’s website for information on events taking place to mark the 50th anniversary.
Departure dates from 6 April to 5 October 2019, with 8-day and 10-day itineraries available – read more here.
The Offa’s Dyke Association marks its 50th anniversary on 29th March 2019. This National Trail follows the English-Welsh border for 177 miles, although our 8-day itinerary follows the southern half of the trail from Chepstow to Knighton, roughly half the length of the full route.
Offa was the King of Mercia in the 8th century. He decided to define his territory and protect it from the marauding Welsh by building a huge earthwork. Today the remaining 80 miles of embankment forms Britain’s longest archaeological monument.
This is a journey packed with interest through patchworks of fields, over windswept ridges, across infant rivers, by ruined castles and into the old border market towns. Traditional farming methods have more or less remained intact and the hedgerows, oak woods and hay meadows form good wildlife habitats, home of buzzards and the rare Red Kite.
Read more about the 50th anniversary of Offa’s Dyke here.
Departure dates from 7 April to 6 October 2019 – read more here.
Following our guide to trips in the UK that are ideal for walkers with different fitness levels, now it’s the turn of Europe.
An important factor in the fitness levels required when choosing a walking holiday in Europe is the weather and the time of year. Although most of our European trips fall into the ‘moderate’ category, it obviously gets hotter as you head further south, and a trip in central or southern Europe is going to be more challenging in the height of summer than it is in spring or autumn.
This is just a small selection of the European trips that we offer. Just check out the suitability description on any of our trip pages to work out if it’s the right one for you.
GENTLE TRIPS FOR FIRST TIME WALKERS
This is a gentle walk that allows time to visit historic sites and vineyards along the route. Although the second half of the week provides a little more of a challenge as the distances and climbs increase slightly, it’s generally an extremely pleasant route that allows you to discover the landscape and savour some of the finest food and wine on offer anywhere in Europe. Travellers will discover a fabled land of mediaeval chateaux, ancient monasteries and fragrant breezes where the art of living is pursued to near perfection at a gentle unhurried pace.
Vineyard Trails of the Loire
The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France, and it also has the advantage of being a great centre for cuisine and historical monuments. The walking is hilly at times, but generally the mix of old pathways, farm and forest trails make for fairly gentle walking. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure and an ideal place to start for those with a love of France or setting out on a walking holiday for the first time.
MODERATE TRIPS FOR THE MORE ACTIVE
Starting in France and ending in Spain, this walk follows the steep coastline where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. With some days stretching for 22km and with ascents of up to 700m, you’ll certainly know that you’ve been working your legs hard by the end of the day! But this is generally a lovely walk that will pose no difficulties for someone with a decent level of fitness and experience of hill-walking. The walk includes visits to some charming fishing villages and you’ll be able to sample some lovely wines and delicious Catalan cuisine.
Lake Como Rambling
This is a lovely walk, which includes some days that you can lengthen for a slightly bigger challenge if your legs allow it. The spectacular Lake Como, formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age, is lined by Roman Villas with beautiful gardens, and grand hotels built during the Victorian era for European and American tourists. You’ll also be able to savour some delicious Italian food and wine whilst enjoying some of the country’s most stunning views.
CHALLENGING TRIPS FOR MORE EXPERIENCED WALKERS
Our trip takes in the most impressive two-week section of the full classic Alpine Pass – it’s a route that takes you over many alpine passes, some a leisurely stroll, others a tougher proposition, but all offering their own spectacular visual rewards. There are some long days but lifts and cable cars can be used to shorten some of the walks and overnight locations can all be reached by public transport in case of bad weather. However, this trek is a definite challenge, which involves much daily uphill and downhill walking, and is only suitable for fit walkers who can readily manage days with more than 1000m ascent and descent.
Tour du Mont Blanc
This classic alpine walk circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain over passes and through the valleys of three contrasting countries. Walkers can savour the food and wine of France, Italy and Switzerland and enjoy some of the finest scenery in the world. There are no vertigo-inducing sections on this walk provided you stick to the itinerary as described in the route notes and defined on the maps; and avoid the ‘variations’. We make it clear in the notes which alternate routes in our opinion do require a ‘head for heights’. Some of the walks can be shortened if desired by the use of cable cars or (in Italy) a local bus service.
If you’re considering a walking holiday but you’re hesitating because you’re not sure if you’re fit enough – don’t worry! It’s an understandable concern – and whilst it’s true that some of our trips require an excellent level of fitness, others are much more gentle on the legs. We’ve picked out a few UK-based trips for different fitness levels to help you work out your own level and find the one that’s just right for you. All of our trips include a suitability guide on the main trip information pages.
Gentle Trips for First Time Walkers
The Cotswolds, as well as being picture-perfect, are an ideal introduction to walking in the English countryside. The terrain is hilly rather than mountainous, and you’re rarely too far from a pretty village in which to stop for a rest and refreshments. The walking days are generally up to around 20km – comfortable for most reasonably fit people. The Cotswolds are a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, and as you meander through the countryside visiting medieval villages built in golden limestone, it’s easy to see why.
Although this trip is gentle on the legs, you will need to be a fairly competent map-reader.
This trip is available in 5-day and 8-day versions – and if you prefer wheels to feet, you can also explore the Cotswolds by bike.
Traditional Cotswolds houses
If walking in the Scottish Highlands sounds like the preserve of the super fit, then think again! Despite taking in some of Scotland’s most dramatic and breath-taking landscapes, most of the walking on The Great Glen Way is actually fairly straightforward – much of it along canal towpaths and forest tracks. The walking becomes a little more challenging on the last 3 days – but you can avoid a particularly steep climb on the last day by taking an optional taxi transfer. The days range from around 13km to 29km. This trip is a great way to sample the splendour of the Scottish Highlands without pushing your body to the limit.
Along the canals of the Great Glen Way
Moderate Trips for the More Active
If you’re looking for a trip in this category, you’re spoilt for choice, as the majority of our trips are classed as moderate. But here are a couple you might like to take a look at.
Although the daily distances on the St Cuthbert’s Way vary from 8.5km to 22.5km, the walk includes some steep ascents and descents, and some boggy terrain, which make it a little more challenging than the distances suggest. But with that little bit of extra fitness comes the reward of some delightfully unspoilt countryside and historic towns. Starting in Melrose in Scotland, and stretching across to the Northumberland coast and the island of Lindisfarne, this is a walk deep in historical and religious significance, as well as a route that takes in some beautiful countryside away from the hordes.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Lindisfarne (Holy Island) at the end of St Cuthbert's Way
With some fairly long days (24 to 27km), and steep climbs and descents, not to mention some unpredictable weather, Hadrian’s Wall represents a moderate challenge – and you’ll need a bit of walking experience behind you to take it on. This is a walk rich in history – the Roman Emperor Hadrian began building the wall in 122AD to keep out his enemies to the north, and is now the world’s largest Roman artefact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk in the Romans’ footsteps, you’ll discover some of England’s finest landscapes, towns and villages.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Challenging Trips for Experienced Walkers
The sheer length of the entire Pennine Way (429km) makes it a pretty serious challenge, before you factor in the long days, remote sections, some fairly basic accommodation and lack of shelter from weather that can be very unpredictable. But this classic of British walking is rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest – stretching through three national parks and encompassing fells, rivers, dales and waterfalls. The Pennine Way should be on the bucket list of any serious walker with a good level of fitness.
You can make the Pennine Way a little less challenging by doing just the Southern or Northern sections.
The Pennine Way
Although the Coast to Coast is offered in extended versions (up to 18 days) for those that like to take things at a slightly slower pace, the classic 15-day version includes some long days (an average of 25km per day), with 6-9 hours a day of walking at a steady pace to cover the distances required. But the Coast to Coast is our most popular walk for a reason – three national parks, charming towns and villages, stunning landscapes, and the sheer achievement of crossing England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea has given this route legendary status.
We offer several versions of the Coast to Coast – both guided and self guided, ranging from 15 to 18 days, and you can also do shorter sections on their own.
The Coast to Coast
Kevin Liddiard, from South Australia, discovered the unique history of the Channel Islands on a self guided walk with Sherpa Expeditions. He wrote an account of his trip for Trailwalker Magazine, and shared his story with us.
I’m of the age where I don't wish to walk in high temperatures, with steep climbs, large backpacks, bugs, sweat and general discomfort. To this end, I walked a year ago in Normandy, ending at the site of the WWII D-Day landings. Motivated by this memorable experience, I decided to walk the nearby Channel Islands Coastal Way, again solo, with Sherpa Expeditions' self-guided walking holidays.
In April I took the new Qantas direct flight from Perth to London, then on to St Peters Port, Guernsey. What a delightful town. The Channel Islands, in the English Channel, have a unique history, going back to the Duchy of Normandy, when William the Conqueror bequeathed the islands to the English crown. Today the islands exist as a collection of 'states' under the allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, but independent in many ways, under a political set-up called a Bailiwick.
St Peter's Port, the capital of Guernsey
The first three days of the walk covered the Guernsey coast. A main attraction was the many Loophole Towers, erected as a defence from the French during the American Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. I opted out early on the third day of a 29km walk and took the bus around the island, costing only one pound, and visited the magnificent Castle Cornet. Here you can meet young volunteers dressed in the military uniforms of WWII and witness the noon cannon firing. The castle has its own long history, but for me the highlight of the visit was a live rendition by a talented three-women ensemble, singing In the Mood, There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover and other tearjerkers.
A loophole tower on the Guernsey coast
Next day I took the 25-minute ferry trip to the island of Herm - an easy walk and with a stop at the Mermaid Tavern, a good pub for lunch and a place to wait for the return ferry.
The following day, I took the ferry to Sark. What a delight. There are no cars - travel is on earth roads via foot, tractor, cycle or horse (with or without cart). The main attraction is the narrow passage between Sark and Little Sark, the famous La Coupée. On Sark is another Mermaid pub, an excellent restaurant, and great accommodation.
La Coupee, stretching from Sark to Little Sark
The next day I took the ferry back to Guernsey and a flight to Alderney. While I loved Sark, here was the most memorable of my walks. The island was evacuated in WWII including, I was told, the cattle. The German occupiers built massive fortifications, adding to the British forts of the 1800s. Alderney is the most remote, and wildest, of the Channel Islands and is also well known for its birdlife, notably one of the largest gannet colonies easily observed from the nearby cliffs. I was also lucky to see the quaint puffins.
A German fortification on Sark
I shed a tear when I walked past three posts at the entrance to what was Lager Sylt, a Nazi concentration camp, a dark history that the islanders would rather forget. Suffice to say, the Alderney people were welcoming, helpful and served a good beer at the excellent Georgian House Hotel to celebrate the completion of my walk.
The plaque at the entrance to Lager Sylt
Guernsey Islands: Channel Islands Way is an 8-day, self guided walking tour, with departures from 1 April to 25 October 2019. The trip to Alderney that Kevin took at the end of his holiday is an optional, 2-night extension that carries an additional supplement.