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To celebrate the start of a new decade, we have put together the ultimate list of the best trips to go on over the coming year; from catching some winter rays in the Canaries, to beating the crowds on the Amalfi Coast and bringing out your inner foodie in Burgundy.
JANUARY - Beat the winter blues in the Canary Islands
Even during the winter months, La Gomera gets 9 hours of sunshine daily, with the average day temperature close to 22°C. Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), the surprisingly lush green island remains largely untouched by mass tourism.
Find out more about our Exploring La Gomera trip here
FEBRUARY - See the orchids in bloom in Madeira
In the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate. The best time to catch the orchids in bloom is in February and you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species.
Find out more about our Madeira Island Walking trip here
MARCH - Have the Amalfi Coast for yourself before the crowds arrive
Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months... but come in March and you will have the Amalfi Coast just to yourself.
Find out more about our Amalfi Coast trips here
APRIL - Walk through bluebells in the Cotswolds
April marks the beginning of the bluebell season across the country. If you are looking to admire these quintessentially English carpets of blue, you do not have to travel far, head to the Cotswolds countryside and get inspired by this spectacle of nature.
Find out more about our Cotswolds trips here
MAY - Cycle through the Scottish Highlands at their sunniest (and driest!)
May is not only the driest month in Scotland (less than 80mm of rain) but with approximately 170 hours of sunshine it is also the sunniest. Although the Scottish weather is notoriously changeable and often localised, this is when you are least likely to avoid a downpour.
Find out more about our Scottish Highlands Cycle trip here
JUNE - Explore England before schools break up for summer
If your plans are not determined by the school summer holidays, travel in June for a quieter countryside and a less busy coast. June sees the longest day of the year (an average of 16 hours of daylight) so you can maximise your time outdoors on the most classic of all UK hiking trails, like the Coast to Coast.
Find out more about our Coast to Coast trips here
JULY - Visit the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the TV remake of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’
Channel 5 is reviving in 2020 the much-loved TV series about a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales, which was based on James Herriot’s real-life memoirs. The remake is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of James Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.
Find out more about our James Herriot Way trip here
AUGUST - Cycle your own Tour of Britain in Cornwall
Cornwall will host the Tour of Britain for the first time ever in September 2020, which will see riders travel over 100 miles through the Cornish countryside. It will be the biggest ever sporting event to take place in the county, so if you want to avoid the (extra) crowds travel a few weeks earlier.
Find out more about our Cornish Cycle Tour here
SEPTEMBER - Swim through rock arches in Sardinia
The weather in Sardinia in September is still warm and pleasant, with the lower humidity making outdoor activities much more enjoyable. Explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers, swim through rock arches and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.
Find out more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here
OCTOBER - Plan a grape escape in Tuscany
October is grape harvest time in Tuscany. Pedal past rolling vine-covered hills to the heart of the Brunello wine district, meet local winemakers and wander through ochre-coloured vineyards. When you get to Montepulciano, cheers with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile.
Find out more about our Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany trip here
NOVEMBER - Experience the ‘real’ Burgundy
By late autumn the crowds in Burgundy have thinned, the weather has cooled and the autumn temperatures will not let you get overly warm while pedalling. Do not miss the major International Gastronomy Fair in Dijon – it takes place every November and the foodie inside you will thank you!
Find out more about our Burgundy Vineyard Trails here
DECEMBER - Follow in the footsteps of smugglers in Andalusia
Today the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park is a walker’s paradise – but during ‘el hambre’ (the hunger) after the Spanish Civil War many of the locals became ‘Mochileros’ (packmen) smuggling goods using remote high paths, many of which are still in use.
Find out more about our Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena here
We all know that Switzerland is one of the go-to places for winter adventure travel, with the likes of the British royal family frequenting the ski slopes there. However, did you also know that it is the most superb destination for walking, when it comes to spring, all the way through to autumn? We have many Swiss trips that are unforgettable for different reasons, but we have hand-picked what we think could just be the best of the best and definitely ones for the bucket list! Read on to find out more.
The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
This trip serves as a fantastic introduction to the delights of Swiss walking. The highlights include taking in the stunning villages of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen as well as trekking around the classic Alpine Peaks, Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
The beauty of this tour is that it offers you a range of walks each day, often with differing grades and distances, so you can decide the nature of the walking. Whether it be a high mountain trek along a Bergweg mountain path, or a valley stroll on a Wanderweg lower level trail, there is something for everyone.
There are also lots of opportunities for utilizing the extensive mountain transport system to shorten walks, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy some time sightseeing. The flower-strewn alpine meadows in summer around Wengen and Mürren and upon the Schynige-Platte walk are an unforgettable experience too.
Bookable from 20 June – 22 September. Find out more about the trip here.
Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps
This is a 'centre based' self-guided walking tour in the small market town of Meiringen, filled with a selection of excellent day walks that are perfect at any time of the year. From the town, it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using the incredible network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways.
There are over 300km of well-marked footpaths, which range from gentle strolls to high ridges and even glacier exploring! In spring you can follow the melting snows into meadows of glorious Alpine flowers. In summer the high ridges and rugged glacial scenery become accessible. In autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour as the first frosts come.
The potential for walking is limitless. We are still finding wonderful new walks here! Thankfully, it remains unspoiled and very Swiss. The local people are welcoming, kind and hospitable.
Bookable from 15 May – 17 October. Find out more about the 5 day trip here
and 8 day trip here
The Alpine Pass Route
This walk follows the most impressive two-week section of a classic alpine walk, which embraces much of the best mountain scenery Switzerland has to offer. It is a route which will take you over many alpine passes; some a leisurely stroll, others a tougher proposition, but all offering their own spectacular rewards.
A marvellous complement to the high land of peaks and passes are the park-like valleys with their thickly wooded hillsides and unspoilt farming villages, deep-blue lakes and picturesque flower-decked chalets. As well as crossing the Grosse Scheidegg and the Hohturli, there is also the incomparable Bernese Oberland region with its towering peaks, the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger.
During your time, you are given three ‘free’ days where you can pursue optional walks, or take in other attractions such as the Jungfraujoch. This is a mountain journey full of attractions and we believe it is an impressive alternative to the Tour du Mont Blanc!
Bookable from 7 July – 15 September. Find out more about the 14 day trip here
or our new 8 day highlights trip here
This post is in partnership with Switzerland Tourism and the Bern Region.
Charlotte and her husband, Sven, are keen walkers and have been for many years, and this time chose to explore Italy on our self-guided Tuscany on Foot trip. If you want to find out why they decided to walk here and hear about all of the adventures they got up to along the way, read on!
What is your walking history?
My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq (GR5) from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures. Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I have always wanted to visit Tuscany and what better way than to walk it? Not only do we love adventure, but also food and wine. Tuscany is famous for both! Also, we recently took a course on the Etruscan history and decided it would be rewarding to visit the area where the mysterious Etruscans once resided.
How did you prepare?
We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
What was your favourite destination?
We liked them all but Volterra and San Gimignano were the most interesting. The alabaster factory (Rossi Alabastro) in Volterra was amazing which made it very difficult to choose a souvenir. The view from Hotel La Cisterna in San Gimgignano was magnificent. We also really enjoyed the pool with a view at Agriturismo Sant’ Antonio, Sensano. The walled town of Monteriggioni is so beautiful seen from a distance.
Best food & drink?
Oh my, what a decision! I think the plates of Percorino cheese with orange marmalade, salami, prosciutto, and olives. Dee-lish! And the WINE. Sven loved the Chianti from the Monteriggioni region but I prefer the refreshing white Vernaccia of San Gimignano.
On our way to San Gimignano, we took the route to Castelvecchio. We were glad we did as we were surprised it was such a worthwhile detour. It was quite unique to be all on our own out there.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Some of the days ended up being very long as we had to backtrack quite a few times as we took a few wrong turns. It was a more difficult route than we expected. More stair climbing training for us, I think!
From film releases to sporting events and notable anniversaries, there are so many reasons why you should holiday in the UK in 2020…
Travel to the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the TV remake of All Creatures Great and Small
Channel 5 is reviving in 2020 the much-loved TV series about a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales, which was based on James Herriot’s real-life memoirs. Starring Samuel West, Anna Madeley and Dame Diana Rigg, the remake is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.
The James Herriot Way
takes in some of the countryside that James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot, was so fond of; departs March-October. Find out more here
Follow in Kate Winslet’s footsteps along the Jurassic Coast
Ammonite, the latest project by acclaimed writer-director Francis Lee, sees Kate Winslet starring as Mary Anning, the ‘unsung hero of fossil discovery’, whose worked concentrated on Britain’s rugged southern coastline. Shot extensively on location in Dorset and Surrey and co-starring Saoirse Ronan, the film is set to be released in the UK in early 2020.
As you walk along the Jurassic Coast on the Dorset and Wessex Trails
find yourself immersed in the world of Mary Anning; departs March-October. Find out more here
Celebrate the ‘Year of Coasts and Waters’ in Scotland
With a coastline that extends to well over 10,000 miles, nearly 800 islands and more than 30,000 lakes of all sizes, water is the life-blood of Scotland. 2020 is celebrated as the ‘Year of Coasts and Waters’ across the country, making it the ideal time to explore the magnificent coastline, uncover the secrets of its coastal fortresses and enjoy some delicious, freshly caught seafood.
Head ‘north of the border’, hike through the Scottish Highlands and find your favourite loch along the Great Glen Way
; departs April-October. Find out more here
Relive the legend of a notorious outlaw
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Rob Roy film, which recounts the battles of notorious outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy against a duplicitous aristocrat. Starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, the film was shot entirely on location in Scotland. Today there is a dedicated Rob Roy Way that goes through classic Highland scenery and areas that were his old haunts.
The Rob Roy Way
begins at 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; departs April-October. Find out more here
Immerse yourself in the timeless landscapes of the Lake District
The Lake District has been celebrated by the poetry of Wordsworth and the stories of Beatrix Potter for centuries. With next April marking the 250th birthday of the founder of English Romanticism (and author of the well-known Guide through the District of the Lakes) and a widely-anticipated new Peter Rabbit film, 2020 is a great time to revisit these timeless landscapes.
Take in the celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, on the The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District
; departs March-October. Find out more here
Cycle your own Tour of Britain in Cornwall
Cornwall will host the OVO Energy Tour of Britain for the first time ever in September 2020, with the Grand Depart seeing riders travel more than 100 miles through the Cornish countryside. The biggest-ever sporting event to take place in the county, the route will start in Penzance and will visit St Ives, Falmouth, Truro, Newquay and the award-winning Eden Project.
Ride your own Cornish Cycle Tour
from Padstow to Lands End through Lizard Point, the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain; departs March-October. Find out more here
Find the ‘new’ Secret Garden
The English children’s classic is getting the big screen treatment in 2020 in a new film starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The scenes at the secret garden – which, according to the story, is locked by Mr Craven after his wife’s accidental death – were shot at the five-acre Helmsley Walled Garden at Helmsley close to the North York Moors, where the Cleveland Way National Trail starts.
The Cleveland Way
begins at Helmsley, so you can start your trip by taking a peek at the ‘new’ secret garden; departs March-October. Find out more here
Andrew and Sandra are experienced walkers from South Africa, who have walked many of the great long distance walks in the UK as well as within Europe. Read on to find out more about their trip along the Dales Way and why it has a special place in their hearts.
What is your walking history?
Sandra and I walked the Dales Way in August 2019. The previous year we walked a portion of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy, also booked & arranged through Sherpa Expeditions. We live in South Africa and are keen walkers, and love the scenery and excellent public transport systems that make walking in Europe so enjoyable. We have walked extensively in Cornwall, along the South Coast path, and also in Yorkshire, along the coast, and in the Lake District. The Via Francigena was our first long distance walk together, and we enjoyed it so much we decided to tackle other long-distance walks of about a week’s duration.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We chose the Dales Way for our most recent walk because I was born quite close to Ilkley, the start of the walk, and although I have walked quite a lot in the areas around Burnsall, Grassington & Kettlewell, I have seldom ventured into the northern Dales. The area has outstanding natural beauty, so much so that several times during the walk we just stopped dead in our tracks, rendered almost breathless by the often stark beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.
How did you prepare?
Although both around the 60-year-old mark, we are quite fit and active. Sandra and I go to gym and yoga respectively, and walk at least 10 km per day three or four times a week. In preparation for this walk and the previous one in Tuscany, we maintained our normal exercise routine, just making sure that our walking shoes were worn in before departing, as most of our walking here in South Africa is bare foot on the beach or in sandals.
What was your favourite destination?
We enjoyed every hamlet, village and town along the route. Ilkley is a wonderful starting point and we booked an extra night prior to starting the walk, just to get over the long journey from South Africa. Burnsall is a beautiful village, of which I am particularly fond as my Mother’s ashes are scattered under one of the arches of the bridge over the Wharfe. Grassington is interesting, as the main town for walking in Wharfedale and all the tea rooms and narrow back streets; Kettlewell brings back childhood memories of sitting outside the Blue Bell with my parents on long summer evenings; Hubberholme & Cowgill we enjoyed for their remote location and friendly welcome at our overnight stops; Sedbergh is an amazing town with its bookshops, cafés and dramatic position under the Howgills.
Best food & drink?
Our favourite overnight stay was probably the George in Hubberholme, partly because we spent the evening with a group of fellow walkers around a roaring log fire, (yes, in August!), and also because the route along the river Wharf, branching off just before Hubberholme, was beautiful, even though the river was flooded in places, with our destination coming slowly into view as we left Buckden. The food was excellent at the George, a hearty pie after a hard day’s walking, and the wine selection good for such a small place.
We had many surprises along the way, several sightings of deer, usually in the early morning, many raptors circling overhead looking for prey, but the real surprise was seeing an otter in the swollen river Wharfe, just before Buckden. We stood for several minutes watching him swim backwards and forwards to his den on a small island in the river.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The walk was more strenuous than we anticipated, but manageable all the same. The stretch from Hubberholme to Cowgill was particularly challenging, especially in strong wind, driving rain and very cold weather for most of the day. During the section along the Pennine Way, we had to stop several times just to catch our breath in the face of very strong wind gusts. Our sense of achievement on completing this section was very rewarding, especially as a group of much younger walkers looked in worse shape than us on reaching Cowgill!
The last day’s walk, from Burneside to Bowness was also quite strenuous, made more so for us as we stayed quite a way out of Burneside, making the last day longer than anticipated. The views over Lake Windermere, as we dropped off the high ground down into Bowness, were truly breathtaking.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Dales Way adventure, the scenery, history, sights along the way and hospitality at the overnight stops were all amazing. We’d have no hesitation in recommending this walk.
With the night’s drawing in and the cold and wet weather affecting large parts of the British Isles already this autumn, our attention is directed towards cold and wet weather outdoor gear to cope with it all. Read on to find out about our top suggestions.
There’s great popularity at the moment for cosy puffer and duvet jackets, which can either be quite cheap with synthetic fill insulation, or quite expensive with various degrees of down or a down and synthetic mix. Most of these are great in really cold weather, but a lot of the time people will quickly overheat wearing them if they are undertaking any activity. They are also not particularly water resistant and down jackets become like wet tea bags when they are soaked - with lack of insulation to match.
There are some very compact ones on the market however, made by companies like Montane and Mountain Equipment which offer real warmth, but are very compact and can be conveniently pushed into rucksacks for easy packing if you don't need to wear them. A compromise would be a down gillet; which is a jacket without the arms. This keeps your core warm and your arms can remain very active.
Most people will rely on the tried and tested layering method to maintain adjustable warmth as you just remove or put on layers depending on how you feel. The best thing to start with is a base layer, perhaps with smart wool which is significantly odour free after even a couple of days of activity. Over this you can then have a fleece, hooded ones are quite popular, but you can always put a beanie in your pocket.
Over the top of the fleece (which will morph into something like a wet flannel if allowed to soak) you need a shell which is waterproof and windproof. There is a lot of choice for these again such as, Berghaus, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab etc. The waterproofness depends upon the price between chemically coated fabrics and those which are layered such as Gore Tex. The trend is for lighter and lighter fabrics.
Although some of the older waterproofs had the consistency of cardboard, some of lighter weight fabrics today are not that durable and most of us can't afford or even want to replace our gear every year or two especially as we think about our footprint on the planet. Even though they are a little more expensive, we have been very impressed with the quality of Paramo jackets, a British company who have their designs made up in Colombia, part of an on-going project to help local women find gainful employment. The result is something which is quite different to the norm. There are many walkers who swear by them, and a number of mountain rescue teams use them too. Their jackets have loads of features including hand warmers, ventilation zippers and a comfortable inner lining, this makes them heavier than some, but they offer great comfort and proper waterproofing and temperature control. A great innovation is a lightweight mountain smock (and over the head jacket) with warmers, pockets, ventilators a hood and a drop down tail for mountain bikers. We would highly recommend.
We also can't forget about our legs which need protection especially when the temperature drops and the rain starts. All the major manufacturers offer waterproof trousers, although they often don't seem to last long, perhaps because the seams get quite stressed over time. However, they are essential to prevent wind chill and the best ones to look out for would be those with good venting and long leg zips to enable you to get into them with boots or shoes on if needed.
SOCKS AND GLOVES
In terms of hands and feet you can get totally waterproof socks and gloves from manufacturers like Seal-skinz, but we have found that they do take a long time to dry when they are washed and some may still prefer a traditional wool and synthetic mix of sock. It's up to you as both will do the job.
When it comes to gloves, the famous climbing mitten of the 1950s-70s: 'The Dachstein mitt,' is being manufactured again from pre-shrunk wool and it's definitely worth a try if you want the best of both worlds, with a modern take on the traditional. Note that although you are obviously more dextrous wearing a glove, mittens keep your hands warmer which is why we would rate these for colder conditions.
We have mentioned beanies, which are obviously super easy to carry around. However, perhaps the most effective and stylish winter hat that we have seen is the Tilley woollen hat. This is largely waterproof and has an inner lining for more comfort which includes drop down ear warmers, so if you're in the market for a new hat, this is the one we would choose.
Don't forget to carry a lightweight head torch, Black Diamond or Petzl have good ones, as the days are shorter and you can easily get caught out if your walk takes longer than expected. Alternatively, if you just keep a torch in your pocket it will always be waiting for you, just remember to check the batteries regularly!
If you’re not one for the long dark nights and would prefer being somewhere warm with sun on your face, why not try one of these beautiful destinations? Whether you're after something more relaxing, historical, full of nature or a bit of all three, we have a winter walking trip to suit everyone!
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. 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.
Find out more about Winter Walking in Cyprus here
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Find out more about Southern Trails of La Gomera here
, Exploring La Gomera 8 Days here
and 11 Days here
It’s easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip 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.
Find out more about Madeira Island Walking here
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Find out more about La Palma Island Walking here
SIERRA DE ARACENA
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
Find out more about Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena - 8 Days here
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Hiking the Vermillion Coast here
Heather hails from Canada and has walked many UK and European trails, as well as most recently completing the Camino Frances, with the hope of doing more in the future. Read on to find out how her and her friend found the In Van Gogh's Footsteps trip, challenges, surprises, Michelin stars and all!
What is your walking history?
Eight years ago, my friend that I walked this tour with, returned from a walking trip to Italy and couldn’t say enough great things about it. She wanted to do another walk in the Loire Valley and I said that I would join her. The Loire Valley trip was wonderful and I have done several other walks in the Cotswolds, the Dordogne Valley and Bavaria with friends and family since then. Last year I completed the Camino Frances which was an amazing experience and I hope to complete the Camino Portuguese next year with the people I met on my first Camino. My plan is to try and do a walk every year until my knees start to complain too much!
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I’ve always wanted to go to Provence and In the Footsteps of Van Gogh included many of the towns that I wanted to see. My friend and I walked in September, so we missed seeing the lavender in bloom, which is something on my bucket list, so I will just have to return another time! We learned while we were walking in Les Alpilles that we couldn’t have walked during the summer months as the risk of forest fires is too great.
How did you prepare?
When I went on my first walk, I was very nervous. I wondered if I would be able to walk that far and for that many days. I surprised myself and didn’t even develop any blisters! When you’re walking in the beautiful countryside in Europe, the fact that you might be walking 25km doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. It also amazes me how once I arrived at my destination for the day and changed my footwear, my feet felt like they could keep on walking! Since the Van Gogh walk was really only for 4 days and the maximum walking distance was 18km, I didn’t do a whole lot of preparation, other than to walk 10 km on the Saturday and Sunday of two weekends prior to departure. Walking a few more hills might have been useful, in retrospect.
What was your favourite destination?
This is a tough one as all four of our destinations were beautiful in different ways. St. Remy de Provence had a beautiful city centre and we really enjoyed following the path of Van Gogh paintings that led to the hospital where he stayed in 1889-90. We were thrilled to see some of the landmarks in his paintings as we following the route. The best part was climbing up to Les Deux Trous (The Two Holes), seeing the holes at sunrise from our hotel room the next morning and they discovering a Van Gogh painting with the holes prominently displayed above the olive trees.
Best food and drink?
We started our trip in Lyon prior to travelling to the starting point of Avignon. The gastronomy capital of the world didn’t disappoint. While we were there, we learned about Michelin starred and Michelin recommended restaurants. In Avignon, we ate at a Michelin recommended restaurant that was delicious. In Arles, we went to a tiny little restaurant that has been suggested in our route notes that was just down the street from our hotel. We got to eat outside and the dinner was amazing….I even went back for lunch the next day! We sampled various wines with our meals, tried an Aperol Spritz and the hostess at the hotel/restaurant in Les Baux de Provence gave us a thyme flavoured liquor after our dinner to ‘aid in our digestion’.
We had many lovely surprises during our trip. The things that stand out are the lovely terrace overlooking the hills that was attached to our room in Les Baux de Provence, as well as the amazing view of the amphitheatre from our hotel room window in Arles. We were also pleasantly surprised to be able to get into Palais des Papes and Le Pont d’Avignon for free, as we happened to be there on Journees du Patrimoine when all the monuments in France weren’t charging an admission fee!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
This is an easy one! It was definitely the optional 8km walk in Les Alpilles on Day 3. The first part of the walk was lovely and not too challenging so we decided to see what the optional walk would be like. We had climbed up to Les Deux Trous and loved the view so we figured it would be similar terrain. It wasn’t! There was a 1.5km section where you were walking along the ridge of the mountains. The views were spectacular, but it was quite windy, very rocky and nothing to prevent you from falling down on either side! We had been warned in the route notes that ‘a well-placed hand would come in handy’ and they were right! We found it quite challenging but we just took it very slowly and managed just fine. We certainly felt a sense of accomplishment when we were finished!
You can enjoy 10% off all our holidays until 25th October 2019 with our Early Bird deal
, including our top bucket list trips! Read on to find out more.
1. Coast to Coast
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the idyllic Coast to Coast is widely considered as the most classic of all UK long distance trails and one that has stood the test of time. The trail runs all the way across England, from the Irish sea coast to the North sea coast over nearly 200 miles and traverses three National Parks. We offer a few different options, including self-guided and guided versions of the full route, as well as shorter walks for those wanting to do part of the route.
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
2. Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc is easily one of the most spectacular walks you will ever do. This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region, affording unsurpassed views of the different faces of the massif, as well as glittering glaciers, lush valleys and of course the highest point on the route, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m.
Find out more about the Tour du Mont Blanc here
3. The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
If you enjoy being able to personalise your days a bit more, then this is the trip for you! This route is great for those wanting an introduction to the Swiss Alps, with a range of walks often with differing grades and distances. On many of the days, you can decide whether you tackle a high mountain trek along a Bergweg mountain path, or a valley stroll on a Wanderweg lower level trail. There are also lots of sightseeing opportunities, from the peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the celebrated mountain town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn.
Find out more about The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls here
4. Walking in the Dolomites
Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3342m), the Dolomites are amongst the most striking of all European mountains. The walk starts with the spectacular Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the scenery continues to impress with new panoramas unfolding with each turn. The cliffs of the Tofana, Sella and Marmolada massifs tower above the winding paths and to cap it off, there are opportunities to stand on a couple of summits and peer down almost vertical rock faces to the valleys far below…definitely not for the faint of heart!
Find out more about Walking in the Dolomites here
5. West Highland Way
This rather special and ever-popular follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to Glencoe, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day.
Find out more about the West Highland Way here
If you are looking to get inspired by the shades of the autumn foliage in the coming weeks, we have a number of trips that will immerse you into nature – from the mountain forests of Austria’s Lake District to the vineyards of Portugal's Douro Valley.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps (8 days) departs until 19 October, from £895 per person. Find out more here
PORTUGAL | Douro Valley
Surround yourself with colour: autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
The Douro Rambler (7 days) departs daily until 15 October, from £860 per person. Find out more here
GERMANY | Bavaria
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Bavaria: King Ludwig’s Way (8 days) departs daily until 22 October, from £790 per person. Find out more here