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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.
We were lucky enough to receive some great stories from our travellers during 2018. Finding out exactly what happens when our customers head out on their travels really helps us to ensure that we’re offering the best holidays and service that we can. It also paints a great picture of what you can expect from a particular trip.
Here are a few highlights from the tales we received over the past year.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
Randy and Diane – Bernese Oberland Guided Walk
We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss, in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
Marie-Claire – Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area. It was also great to be able to spend some time with my daughter. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
Jan – UK Coast to Coast
This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage.
Charles – Alsace Vineyard Trails
I had an uncle who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called Walking in Wine Country - the Alsace was one of the regions he had covered, so I wanted to walk in his footsteps and light a few candles in his memory.
How did you prepare for your trip?
Randy and Diane: Diane and I started doing some uphill hiking over the 2-3 months prior to the trip, and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1,000 to 2,000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland.
Marie-Claire: My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie Park (in Dundee) 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend. I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
Jan: The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed.
Charles: Ahead of the trip, I wanted to improve my French so I used an app called Duolingo to practice for 20 minutes each day for several months.
What was your favourite destination on the trip?
Randy and Diane: We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town.
Marie-Claire: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone. We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Jan: This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW!
Charles: What I loved best were the hours we spent walking through the woods on the lower slopes of the Vosges. They were of such varied character and with different plants favouring different species of trees.
What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Randy and Diane: The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for!
Marie-Claire: The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
Jan: A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home.
Charles: We soon found that the Alsace Riesling was nothing like the semi-sweet wines that we had had in our youth – these were on the medium side of dry but had such wonderful flavour. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Did you have any nice surprises?
Randy and Diane: Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monch and the Jungfrau and be at 3,466m in the Swiss Alps.
Marie-Claire: On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region.
Jan: The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again.
Charles: The Haut Koenigsbourg Castle is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find the most challenging?
Randy and Diane: The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group.
Marie-Claire: The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
Jan: I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it.
Charles: Choosing wines was a challenge!
If you have a tale from your travels with Sherpa Expeditions that you’d like to share with us, email us. You’ll get a £50 discount on your next trip with us!
The variety on offer for a walking holiday in Italy is simply amazing. From the mountains of the Dolomites and the Alps, down to the lakes, across to the islands, and along the Amalfi coast – whatever type of holiday you’re after, Italy delivers it in stunning form. Add to this the delicious food and wine, and the warm welcome offered by the locals, and you have the perfect recipe for an unforgettable holiday.
Here are a few of our favourite Italian trips for 2019. For the full programme of tours in this beautiful country, visit our Italy homepage.
The Cilento National Park may not be quite as well known as its more famous and popular neighbour, Amalfi, but it offers a huge amount for a varied and rewarding walking tour. There is a wild kind of beauty here - rocky ridges set between small picturesque inlets and richly scented pinewoods backing onto wide sandy beaches. This 5-day Cilento tour is both along the coast and inland across low mountains, through pristine natural areas and attractive countryside, with all its cultural treasures - rural chapels, ancient farm houses, old water mills and charming medieval villages.
Find out more.
Available as a 6, 8 or 11 day tour, our Classic Amalfi Coast walks encapsulate everything that makes an Italian holiday so special. The entire coast has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a walking holiday here makes it easy to see why. The stunning views, culture, food and wine combine to create an unforgettable experience. The towns, villages and towers that cling to the cliffs can be a riotous mix of vibrant colours and pastel shades, and provide the backdrop to a truly special walking tour.
Find out more.
Coming soon – we’re currently putting together a new 11-day trip that combines the best of our Cilento and Amalfi trips. This will be available to book early in 2019 so watch this space!
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe, and provide a completely different backdrop to the Alps’ jagged peaks. The Dolomites are dominated by continuous sheer cliffs, forming giant chiselled monuments. Below the mountains lie green meadows full of wild flowers, orchards and vineyards. The Dolomites are also an area of fascinating history, as they were heavily fought over during WW1. This 8-day trip encompasses an exhilarating mix of high mountain paths, lush meadows, pretty villages and mountain restaurants.
Find out more.
Sardinia is a beautiful island, with a unique mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you’ll discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites. This is also a great trip if you’re interested in wildlife, and in particular, birds – as you’ll encounter large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life. This is a gentle walk that takes in some spectacular scenery, lovely villages and plenty of places to enjoy delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
Find out more.
This walk threads together some of the most attractive towns and villages in Tuscany. It’s a perfect introduction to the region and for people who love museums and galleries, Gothic and Romanesque architecture, there is plenty to see and do. You have plenty of time for attraction visits on most days. However the emphasis of the tour is to enjoy the countryside, the rolling vineyards, the poppies in spring and the wild cyclamen in autumn. This is a relatively gentle tour that is suitable for those who are new to walking. More experienced walkers will also enjoy the classic Tuscan landscape of small but sometimes steep hills, olive groves and vineyards.
Find out more.
The beauty of Lake Como has to be seen to be believed. The majestic mountains rolling down to the shores of the crystal clear blue water, the charming towns and villages dotted along the shoreline, ancient Roman villas and the majestic hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era all add up to a landscape like no other. This lovely trip starts at the historic town of Como before taking in all that the area has to offer over the next 8 days, including hilltop ascents, villages, churches and ferry crossings.
Find out more.
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope your plans for the festive season are coming along nicely. As well as enjoying this special time with friends and family, Christmas is also the perfect time to start making your holiday plans for next year – but what’s on your wish list for 2019? Here, we pick out a few of our trips that might help you decide – but there are hundreds more trips to choose from on our website. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Whichever trip you choose, Sherpa Expeditions can help to make your 2019 a very memorable year.
Tick off a classic UK walk
Coast to Coast
This classic Coast to Coast walking route, stretching from the east to west of the UK, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the Lake District. The walk starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head. You cross three National Parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided Coast to Coast walks, ranging from 15 to 18 days for the entire route, and with shorter sections available.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The West Highland Way
Cornwall: The South West Coast Path
Take on a challenge
The Pennine Way
A mountain journey across the backbone of England, The Pennine Way became the very first British National Trail in 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, through the Cheviots and down into Scotland. Its sheer length makes it the perfect for those seeking a challenge – although you can also choose to do just the southern or northern sections.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Alto Aragon : The Spanish Pyrenees
Try a Scandinavian adventure
This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. The retreating glaciers from the last ice age once overwhelmed and molded this landscape, gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Sweden: Hiking Stockholm and Beyond
Soak up some sun
Classic Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the quintessential Italian holiday, with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea with some outstanding walks to experience this destination. There is no better way to immerse in this jaw dropping Italian coastline than hiking the Amalfi Coast to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're a sun worshipper, you'll love the warmth and colours of this beautiful part of Italy.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries
Rambling in the Luberon
Enjoy a food and wine lover’s paradise
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Everyone’s idea of what constitutes great food is different, but there’s no doubting that classic French food and wine is up there with the best. The food from the Dordogne features dishes that embody most people’s idea of classic French cuisine – this is the land of truffles, magret de canard and rich, dark wines. However, there’s much more to the Dordogne than just the amazing food and wine – beautiful medieval villages, lush, green, wooded hills and even caves all add to this lovely walking tour. (8 and 10 day trips available).
Other trips that fit the bill…
Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Keep cool in the forest
King Ludwig’s Way
For those that like some trees to shade them from the heat of the summer sun, this lovely, fascinating walk offers some very enjoyable stretches through the beech forests of Bavaria. The route passes two of Bavaria's most scenic lakes and through charming villages of geranium bedecked chalets with typical onion shaped church spires. The walk ends at King Ludwig’s spectacular fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps
This is just a tiny selection of the trips available, but we hope it provides some inspiration. You can search all of our holidays here.
Dorset is one of the gems of England’s south coast. It has no motorways, and no cities – and its dramatic coastlines, fascinating geology and charming towns and villages make it an ideal destination for a walking holiday. Here we take a look at some of the top reasons for visiting this beautiful county.
Be a Fossil Hunter
There’s a reason the Dorset stretch of England’s south coast is called the Jurassic Coast. The area’s abundance of animal and plant fossils, due to continuous coastal erosion, led to it becoming England’s first natural World Heritage Site in 2001. As you walk along some of Dorset’s beaches, such as Charmouth, you’ll see people tapping away at the rocks with little hammers, in search of fossils. It’s an area of fascinating natural history, with landscapes carved over millions of years that paint a picture of how life evolved.
Charmouth Beach - a prime spot for fossil hunting
An ammonite fossil
Marvel at Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove
Thousands of years of coastal erosion have created some spectacular rock formations along the Dorset coast, and none more so than the famous Durdle Door. This natural arch is a popular tourist attraction that needs to be seen in the flesh to fully appreciate it. Just along the coast from Durdle Door is Lulworth Cove, a beautiful, naturally rounded bay that creates a perfect environment for a refreshing dip in the sea. These natural wonders are perfect examples of the variety of coastal landscapes you’ll encounter in Dorset.
Explore the History of Dorchester
Whilst our walking tours are all about enjoying the great outdoors, Dorset’s county town, Dorchester, is well worth exploring. A historic market town, Dorchester’s roots can be traced back to prehistoric times, through the establishment of a Roman settlement, and some of the early raids of the Viking area. Today it’s a lively town, with plenty of places to enjoy food and drink, shopping and historical sightseeing.
As you enter Dorchester on our walk, you'll visit Maiden Castle, a huge iron-age hillfort. Much of it was built in the 1st century BC, and excavations have revealed a fascinating insight into life during the Neolithic, Iron Age and Roman eras. Dorchester also features the remains of a Roman town house, with a beautifully preserved mosaic floor.
The centre of Dorchester
Maiden Castle, a huge iron age hill-fort just outside Dorchester
Discover Thomas Hardy’s Wessex
Many of Thomas Hardy’s most famous novels are set in a fictionalised version of the ancient county of Wessex, which covers the county now known as Dorset, as well as other parts of England’s south west. Hardy renamed his home town of Dorchester as Casterbridge, most notably for The Mayor of Casterbridge. On a Dorset walking holiday you can visit places featured in some of Hardy’s finest novels, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure. You can also visit Hardy’s Cottage, a few miles outside Dorchester.
Statue of Thomas hardy in Dorchester
Hardy's Cottage, now a National Trust property
Enjoy Delicious Food & Drink
Whilst neighbouring counties Devon and Cornwall might be a little more famous for cream teas, you’ll find plenty of places to enjoy this indulgent treat in Dorset. The scones, clotted cream and jam are as good as you’ll anywhere else. And as a coastal county, it almost goes without saying that Dorset offers some of the best fish and seafood you’ll find in the UK. To wash down your fish and chips, you can also savour some of the excellent ale that’s brewed here – made all the more delicious by the charm of many of the pubs in which you can drink it.
Cream tea... mmmm!
Fish, chips and beer - the perfect combination!
Walk along europe's longest shingle beach
Chesil Beach, all 29km of it, is a shingle beach that connects the island of Portland to Weymouth. In fact, it’s the longest shingle beach in Europe. The landward side of the beach offers one of the Jurassic Coast’s best fossil-hunting sites. Chesil Beach is interesting not just for its sheer length, but because much of it is separated from the mainland by The Fleet Lagoon, a 13km long area of shallow water – long stretches of the lagoon are just 2m deep. It’s also the setting for Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel, On Chesil Beach, which was recently made into a film.
Chesil Beach, viewed from Portland
West Bay, at the northern end of Chesil Beach
Visit Charming Towns & Villages
In some parts of Dorset, it can really feel like you’re stepping back in time. Abbotsbury is one of the prettiest and most traditional villages in the UK, and is home to a famous swannery. Lyme Regis, where our walking tour starts, is a charming, lively town with a lovely 13th century harbour. Bridport is another attractive market town on the walk that offers plenty of choices for delicious food and drink.
Abbotsbury, the quintessential English village
Lyme Regis Harbour
Sherpa Expeditions’ Dorset and Wessex Trails is a self-guided walking tour that departs daily from 29 March until 22 October 2019.
One of the most important ways of ensuring you get maximum enjoyment from a walking holiday is to make sure your fitness levels are up to scratch.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be super fit and able to scramble up a mountain in mid-summer heat without breaking sweat! All trips bring their own challenges, and require higher or lower fitness levels depending on the terrain, weather and distances covered. But even the most moderate trips will be more enjoyable if you have a decent level of fitness.
Here are a few tips for getting fit in advance of your walking holiday.
Sounds obvious, right? But the truth is that many of us don’t walk nearly enough in our day-to-day lives, especially if we have desk jobs. Whilst it’s great to get out into the countryside for a proper walk, busy lives often make this difficult. But there are ways you can fit some walking into your everyday: walk to work, or the kids to school, if it’s not too far; take the stairs in shops, office buildings and stations instead of lifts and escalators; get off the bus or train a stop early and walk the rest of the way; try and get out for a walk at lunchtime, especially if you have a desk job. Even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes, the exercise and fresh air will do you good.
When you’re out walking, try and wear the shoes or boots that you intend to wear for your trip as much as you can. You can read our guide for looking after your feet here.
Find some stairs and climb them as often as you can!
Build your muscle strength
The amount of strength you’ll need in your leg muscles depends on the type of trip you’re preparing for. If you’re heading to the Alps for the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Via Alpina, or a challenging UK walk like the Pennine Way, you need to prepared for plenty of ascents and descents, so strengthening your legs is vital.
You could hit the weights at the gym, but if that’s not your scene, try some simple exercises at home. Place your back against a wall and bend your legs as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair. Hold the position for as long as you can, and gradually increase the time you can keep it going. It’s great for the quads (the muscles on the front of your thighs), which is what you use when you’re ascending or walking up steps.
There are plenty of traditional, simple exercises like this you can do at home without the need for any equipment or weights – such as squats.
If you're heading somewhere like the Alps, you'll need to get your leg muscles nice and strong.
Increase your cardiovascular fitness
This relates to the first point about walking. Whilst the muscle exercises give you the strength to walk without getting aches, your cardiovascular fitness is what gives you the ability to exercise for long periods of time without getting breathless. Walking, running, cycling and swimming are all great for this – the more you can do the better, even if you’re booked onto a fairly moderate trip. Stopping to enjoy the view from time to time is great, but you don’t want to be doing it every 5 minutes!
If you’re someone who enjoys a walking holiday, it probably means you’re a fairly motivated person, otherwise you’d spend your holiday lying on a beach! But we can all lack motivation sometimes, especially if the weather’s bad and going outside doesn’t seem like the best idea.
Set yourself goals – if you’re walking, cycling or swimming, try to increase your distance each time you head out, or if you’re restricted to a particular distance, try and beat your time each time you tackle it. Listen to some music whilst you’re exercising - or a podcast, audio book etc. This can really make the time fly.
At the end of the day, it’s not about putting yourself under pressure and doing anything you don’t enjoy. You’re going on holiday after all, not running a marathon! But it is important to properly prepare for your trip – and if you have any questions about how challenging a tour is, you can give us a call and ask us, as well as reading the information that we include on our website about the fitness level required for each trip.
Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
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Available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, we have selected a programme of varied walks. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
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This walk along the Vermillion Coast starts in France and finishes in Spain, taking you along the coastline where the mountains of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. You’ll experience pretty fishing villages, amazing French and Spanish cuisine, and spectacular coastal landscapes. This is also a region with a strong artistic heritage – from the French sculptor Aristide Maillol to Spanish master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
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The daily walks on this trip are relatively short, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax or try some of the many activities available on La Gomera, such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or whale-watching. The places you’ll visit are peaceful and unspoilt, with plenty of family-run restaurants to help you sample the delights of the local cuisine as you make your way around the south of the island.
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Randy and Diane from Canada joined Sherpa Expeditions for a guided walk in Switzerland's spectacular Bernese Oberland in August 2018. They loved it so much they've already booked their next trip with us - a self guided walk in the Italian Dolomites for 2019. We asked them to answer a few questions about their trip...
1. What is your travelling/walking/cycling history?
Personally, I enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, although “foot power” is much more to my liking than “wheel power”. I am an avid walker/hiker in all four seasons at home (the Vancouver Canada area); I also enjoy snowshoeing and cramponing in the winter season. I enjoy multi-day trekking world-wide – I have trekked in Nepal; South America and Europe. I am also a mountain climber (within my skill set) and have climbed Kilimanjaro, Island Peak, Mt. Aconcaqua, Mt. Baker, among others. My wife, Diane, enjoys walking and trekking as well (but without the climbing) and we try to plan at least one joint trek a year. I have trekked with Sherpa twice (summer Haute Route and Bernese Oberland), with Diane along on the latter trip. We are already booked for a self guided Sherpa trip to the Dolomites for August 2019.
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
The Bernese Oberland trip (guided) we did in August 2018 was chosen for several reasons. We had two couples we wanted to trek with and chose a trek I knew something about (I had been to the Swiss Alps twice before and simply love Switzerland) and they would enjoy. We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
3. How did you prepare?
We (Diane and I) walk a lot back home, so we simply started walking further over the 2-3 months before the trek. As mentioned before, I am an avid hiker, so Diane and I started doing some “uphill” hiking over the same time frame and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1000 – 2000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland. John Millen set a very nice pace for each day’s walk and no members of the group felt that they were out of their depth in terms of fitness level.
4. Your favourite destination?
This is a hard one – the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is incredibly beautiful. We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town. The other members of our group (none of which had been to Switzerland before) were equally impressed with each of the towns we stayed in.
5. Best food and drink?
Again, it is hard to single out one restaurant or hotel for food/drink – I do not recall having a bad meal on the trip. The restaurant at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen was particularly good. In Zermatt, we ate dinner one night at the basement bistro in the Hotel Monte Rosa – the traditional Swiss dish raclette was a treat mentioned by several people in our group. The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for! Swiss wine is always a treat – as you may know, very little of the total production of Swiss wine makes it out of the country – both the whites and the reds are well crafted and complement Swiss food so well.
6. Biggest surprise?
While I had been once before, Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monc and the Jungfrau and be at 3466 m. in the Swiss Alps – the numerous pictures we took pale in comparison to the visual memories Diane and I have in our minds of this experience.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group. However, the incredible view from the pass, including a spectacular view of the north face of the Eiger and the White Spider, was well worth it. It is always difficult coming back to real world after a multi-day trek in the Alps.
Our Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls walk is available as a self guided trip for 2019. Departures start from 23 June. You can read about all of our trips to this region here.
TELL US YOUR STORY
If you've been inspired by Randy and Diane's story, we'd love you to share yours. Please email your Travellers' Tale to [email protected] along with photos from your trip. If you have any questions, just email them to the same address and we'll get back to you.
Or perhaps you'd like to write a review of your trip on Google or Facebook? Either way, we'd be very grateful for your feedback.