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With Europe’s grape harvest season fast approaching, we have put together a run down of our top trips for oenophiles...we let you know where's best to visit and what's best to drink whilst you're there.
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. Our tour links the great chateaux at Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau, Villandry and Chinon with the great vineyards of Vouvray, Chinon, Saumur, and Anjou.
The Loire is France’s valley of the kings, where you will find much of its history and see the great palaces and castles. It is the countryside that inspired Balzac, where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and where Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the 100 years war. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure; self-guided departures until 31 October.
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Burgundy has the highest number of ‘appellations d’origine contrôlée’ in France. Chardonnay, one of the world’s most planted grape varieties today, originated here and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. Its ability to adapt to different weather conditions makes it one of the ‘easiest’ grapes to cultivate and today there are more than 30 clonal varieties in France alone.
Starting in the walled city of Beaune, the region’s wine capital and home to the Hospices de Beaune, where the primary wine auction in France takes place each year, explore the best Burgundy Vineyard Trails; self-guided departures until 30 November.
Alsace Vineyard Trails
The geography of the wine growing area in Alsace is determined by the Vosges Mountains in the west and the Rhine River in the east, with the vineyards concentrated in a narrow strip on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges. Wine here is all about aromas, with Pinot d’Alsace widely considered as one of the most uniquely flavoured white wines in the world. An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on this trip, while the local cuisine includes specialties such as tarte flambé.
An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on Sherpa Expeditions’ Alsace Vineyard Trails, which starts at the Haut-Rhin, in the southern part of the region, where the best vineyards have long been associated with; self-guided departures until 24 October.
The first demarcated wine region in the world was officially established in 1756 when the Port industry developed. Today it has the country’s highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’, while the viticultural zone, which covers the steep slopes along the banks of the lower reaches of the Douro River, is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
There are plenty of opportunities for scenic boat trips, wine tasting tours and visits to port lodges on the Douro Rambler, which takes you deep into small working wine estates of vine-laced terraces; self-guided departures until 15 October.
Kim Schmelz from Wisconsin walked The Wicklow Way with her husband, Joe, in July. Read more to find out all about their trip, including their favourite and most challenging aspects of the route.
What is your walking history?
Joe and I are pretty active runners but I wouldn’t call us experienced when it comes to trail walking. This was our first walking trip.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We had a friend who walked the Wicklow Way a couple of years ago and it sounded fantastic. Ireland had always been on our bucket list as we knew we would enjoy the scenery as well as the beer. We wanted a special way to celebrate turning 40 in 2019 as well as our upcoming 15-year wedding anniversary and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our good health by staying active during the day and having no guilt enjoying a Guinness or Jameson in the evening.
How did you prepare?
Aside from our normal routine of running, cardio and weight training we didn’t do a lot differently. Joe ran 5 miles most days and I usually alternated running and strength training. We live in southwest Wisconsin so running up and down hills is a very standard practice, however the hills we saw in Ireland were much steeper than our normal running hills!
What was your favourite destination?
Our favourite day by far was the day we discovered Glendalough. Our notes told us that if the weather was good we should take the ‘Spinc’ route. Luckily for us the sky was picture perfect and the weather was beautiful. We were able to walk through the glacial trough and see the views across the lake of Glendalough. We walked uphill for about two and a half hours that day but when we saw the view it was well worth it. It was absolutely breathtaking. After taking some photos and letting the view really sink in, we started our descent down the path and took in the waterfall on the way down as well as the Miner’s Road and then finally the lakes at the bottom.
Best food & drink?
The day we finished our walk and ended in Dublin was a full day of hiking. Finding the end point wasn’t possible because Marlay Park, the point that marked the end or beginning of the trail, had huge barricades in it for a concert that had been held the weekend before and unfortunately those barricades made it so difficult to find the end point that we just finally gave up. We got outside the park, found the restaurant that we were supposed to call our cab from and took off for our hotel. We were hot, tired and hungry by the time we settled into our room so we knew we wouldn’t be going far to enjoy our dinner that night. We found a pizza place close by that served the most amazing garlic bread and pizza, our first big carb meal of the whole trip. It was delicious! The drink we grew most fond during our time in Ireland was Jameson. We usually ended each night with a bit of Jameson and a side of Ginger Ale.
I think one of my biggest surprises was how few people we would see on the trail. The first two days on the trail we only saw about a dozen people. It wasn’t until we started walking towards Glendalough that we started to see groups of walkers and crowds of people. The people that we did see on those quiet days were so nice though and usually stopped to chat for a short time, tell us where they had come from and how far away it was and we would do the same. It was interesting to learn where they were from and what brought them to the Wicklow Way.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hills! We had a bit an idea of what to expect on our hike but we didn’t realize that we would likely either be climbing up a hill or a down a hill for the majority of the walk. Our legs were sore every morning and every night but it was so worth it! Our trip was so amazing from the beauty of the country to the kind people we met along the way to the feeling of accomplishment we had at the top of each big hill and at the end of each day. Our muscles were sore but we were still excited to put on our pack each morning and start again.
I can’t say enough good things about each B&B we stayed at. They each had their own charm and wonderful hosts. We were introduced to our first Irish Breakfast at Madeline’s in Tinahely, we met our first Irish farmers at Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne and we met the friendliest dogs at the Coolalingo B&B in Glenmalure. In Laragh we had the best breakfast conversation with a couple from Norway and a mother and son from Denmark. Our favorite B&B though was the Coolakay House in Enniskerry. The grounds were beautiful and relaxing with beautiful flowers, great seating outside and inside and ponies walking the field. Yvonne, the owner had so much Irish charm. We could have stayed there for a week!
We are celebrating International Beer Day by paying homage to and highlighting some of the best trips to go on if you (like us) enjoy a nice glass of that liquid gold after a long days walking!
Austria | Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
Austria is an obvious choice if you’re after a pint as they have a big beer culture there, with the average Austrian guzzling around 105 litres of it every year! Some of the most popular beers are Fohrenburger Premium Weizen, Gösser Export and Stiegl Pils, which is known for its slightly sour taste. So, after a long walk in the Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps, why not head for a pretzel washed down with a beer?
Find out more about Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps here
France | Provence and Dordogne
Provence is famed for its lavender fields and rosé wine, but what you may not know is that there are some very interesting micro-breweries in the area as well. Petite Aixoise is definitely one that has been receiving high praise of late. Based in Aix-en-Provence, they have a delightful Ambrée pale ale (ideal with charcuterie and cheese) an IPA for bitter lovers, Blanche beer (perfect during the summer months), a Blonde lager, plus the dark and creamy Triple. There’s something for everyone.
Find out more about Walking in Haute Provence here
The Dordogne is always a go-to for it’s amazing food and drink, and is fast becoming well-known for it’s craft beers too. One of which is a beer named Ratz that is based near Cahors. They do a great range of drafts, blond, amber and dark ales, all with very unique flavours. So, if you find yourself in the area it’s well worth a try!
Find out more about Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 8 Days
and Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 10 Days
Germany | Bavaria
Germany is famous for their steins of beer, so what better place to visit for a beer fix. In Bavaria during the middle ages, they referred to beer as ‘liquid bread’ because of its calorific qualities, and it is still a staple in many Bavarians diets today. A must-try is the König Ludwig whose slogan translates to "beer of royal highness". They have a royal heritage and the current owner, Prince Luitpold of the House of Wittelsbach, is the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, Ludwig III, and a descendant of the original signatories of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, and Ludwig I, whose wedding celebration marked the first Oktoberfest! With all that history, it’s definitely one to seek out to reward yourself after a days walk.
Find out more about Bavaria: King Ludwigs Way here
Greece | Exploring Crete and Zagorian Villages
Greece probably isn’t the first place you would think about for it’s beer, however it has some really promising local brands in Crete called Brink’s and Charma lager. Solo beer, which is based in Heraklion, Crete is also won a gold medal from Barcelona Beer Festival in 2017. Mythos is a very popular Greek beer too that has won many awards, so you certainly won’t be going thirsty here!
Find out more about Exploring Crete here
Find out more about Zagoria The Secret Villages here
Ireland | Wicklow Way
You can’t go to Ireland without having a pint of Guinness or ‘the black stuff’ as it is lovingly referred, and we would always recommend that you do so, as it really doesn’t taste better than in the country it’s brewed after a long day of exerting yourself along The Wicklow Way! However, we mustn’t forget that there are other really delicious stouts and ales, such as Murphy's and Smithwick's which definitely give Guinness a run for it’s money.
Find out more about The Wicklow Way – 7 Days
and The Wicklow Way – 9 Days
Italy | Amalfi Coast
Everyone always talks about Italy’s famous food, and quite rightly so, but you also need something to pair it with, right? That’s where beer comes in! Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of the classic Italian Moretti beer, but when walking along the coastline of southern Italy you will also come across some smaller craft creations, such as the local Amalfi Coast beer. It was started by two beer-loving friends and there are interesting stories behind each of their four beers - Amalphia, Regina Major, Veteri, Pithekusa - inspired by aspects the coast.
Find out more about the Classic Amalfi Coast – 8 Days
and Classic Amalfi Coast – 11 Days
UK | Cornwall and Coast to Coast
It’s no secret that the UK has a large beer offering, with breweries cropping up all over the place, so it’s hard to choose our favourites. However, we thought we’d try to whittle it down using some of your most-loved walking trails. Firstly, along the South West Coast Path, when you get to Cornwall we would recommend a cold pint from Skinner’s Brewery, especially Cornish Knocker and Hops ‘n’ Honey. Doom Bar is also a favoured beer all across the country, but it’s extra nice to have it in the place it’s made.
Find out more about the South West Coast Path here
When walking the Coast to Coast, it’s almost impossible to come across a pub not serving Wainwrights Beer and there’s no wonder as it’s won multiple awards. So, the question is, what are you waiting for? If the sun’s out, find the nearest beer garden and put your feet up – you deserve it!
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
Planning a last minute vacation (or 'staycation' for those in the UK)? From the emerald Yorkshire Dales and all the way to the French flair of the Channel Islands. Whether you prefer on foot or by bike, here is how you can make the most of your time off – without having to break the bank…
COAST TO COAST | The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast
Biking through hills and dales, The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast stretches for 142 miles from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea on to the shores of the North Sea. Following a different path from the Coast to Coast Walk – and through a landscape that can often change abruptly – the itinerary explores Cumbria’s lakes and fells, the bleak Pennines and the beautiful Dales, as well as towns and villages of all sizes, allowing for plenty of time to visit tea shops and local pubs.
Find out more about cycling the Coast to Coast here.
CHANNEL ISLANDS | Jersey: The Channel Island Way
This weeklong centre-based walking tour around the ‘Bailiwick’ of Jersey is the shorter half (49 miles) of the recently introduced Channel Island Way. Independent in many ways, today the Channel Islands have a special relationship with the UK whilst maintaining a French flair. With long sandy beaches and undulating cliff paths, forts dating back to the 1400s and huge constructions created during the Nazi occupation, Jersey has long been a favourite place for discerning travellers.
Find out more about walking in Jersey here.
ISLE OF WIGHT | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
Find out more about cycling the Isle of Wight here.
NORTHERN ENGLAND | Hadrian’s Wall Trail
Follow the Hadrian’s Wall Path and trace the history of England’s North. A British icon protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world – it dates back to 122AD! A must-see for history aficionados, it can also be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path, taking hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.
Find out more about the Hadrian's Wall Trail here.
YORKSHIRE DALES | James Herriot Way
Considered by many as ‘the best short long-distance walk in the UK’, the six-day James Herriot Way is designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot. The beautiful 50-mile circular walk threads its way around the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale and over the mountains and moorlands between these two emerald dales.
Find out more about walking the James Herriot Way here.
THE COTSWOLDS | Exploring the Cotswolds
Also known as the ‘Heart of England’, visitors to the Cotswolds will find a mix of rolling hills, picture postcard villages and rustic old pubs for leisurely lunches. This new itinerary is specially crafted for anyone who wants a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed by Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.
Find out more about Exploring the Cotswolds here.
Becky Witt from Colorado walked Scotland's Great Glen Way in May this year. She shared the story of her walk with us, including a rather surprising method of permanently marking her achievement!
What is your walking history?
I am from Colorado and love hiking in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. I also enjoy walking in my suburban neighborhood. I have done one long-distance hike several years ago on the Colorado Trail. The hike was a guided hike which consisted of ascending and descending mountain passes for six days which was about 90 miles. We camped at the end of each day and I had to carry a day-pack. Our tent/luggage was transported for us.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
My hairstylist walked The Great Glen Way a couple of years ago and loved the walk. She told me about how beautiful the highlands are, the flavourful food and the friendly Scots. Also, she said if I didn’t find anyone to walk it with me, then she would. This didn’t make sense to me because there are so many countries to explore. But now, I get it. I, too, would walk it again!
How did you prepare?
I started physically preparing for the hike five months in advance. I started walking about four miles a day, five days a week. I did one long walk on the weekend. I started at four miles and worked up to 14 miles, which was about two weeks before the walk. I started upper body weights five months in advance, once a week. On occasion I missed daily walks, the long weekly walk and lifting weights. I also started carrying my backpack on my last four long walks. I felt physically prepared for the walk and I was able to complete each day, feeling tired, but not exhausted. I did not have any blisters or injuries during the walk. At the end of each day, I did stretch. Mentally, I prepared by reading literature on The Great Glen Way, listening to podcasts about travel in Scotland and watching a couple of documentaries on Scotland.
What was your favorite destination?
Truly, I had several favourite destinations. I loved walking in the big northern woods. The elms, oaks, maples and pines were majestic. I loved walking through the meadows seeing sheep and so many wildflowers blooming: foxgloves, thistles, bluebells, broom, gorse and poppies were a feast for the eyes. Also, there are so many unbelievable waterfalls and all different types of bridges. Of course, coming into Inverness and seeing the end trail marker was bittersweet, but a favourite.
Best food & drink?
I had a variety of fish twice a day and sometimes three times a day. Whether it was salmon, haddock, or herring, and whether it was smoked, poached, fried or fresh, it was delicious. The salmon was so flavourful, creamy and rich tasting. I never tired of eating fish. Cullen Skink chowder was phenomenal. Also, I had the sticky toffee pudding close to every night, which was amazingly rich and sweet.
I was not a Scotch drinker before I went, and actually did not like it at all. We went to the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, where The Great Glen Way begins, and I learned how to drink it with one to two drops of water in the Scotch. I can now say, I like Scotch.
Also, every morning we asked our hosts to fill our thermos with hot tea and then we added Ben Nevis whisky honey, and that tasted wonderful during our mid-morning break!
I had a couple of surprises. First, I had no idea how much self-care long distance walking gave me. I did not have headphones in for the walk and I was not on my phone at night. I truly was present in each and every moment. I read Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfections every night which gave me food for thought the next day. I had time to self-reflect about my career, family, friends and future travel for my wanderlust! I definitely had some insights which led to personal intentions.
The second surprise was that you can walk in Scottish rain. It did rain most days, but a gentle rain and not for long. We were able to do whatever that day’s walk held in the rain and we did not get one midgie bite!
Another surprise was that I tried haggis, kippers with eggs, bircher muesli and Scotch and that I loved them all. I wasn’t brave enough to try blood pudding - perhaps next time!
The last surprise was getting The Great Glen Way trail marker tattoo on my forearm!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The day we were walking into Spean Bridge during a heavy downpour, we missed the path and ended up walking on the paved road, which was a challenge. We did not read our route notes carefully the night before and took a wrong turn. We looked at the route notes later that night and yes, there it was very clearly spelled out, how to take the path and not the road. So, definitely read the route notes every night!
This month, John brings you some very useful travel photography tips. No matter what type of camera you use on your hike or bike ride, these beginner’s tips may help improve the tangible memories of your holiday.
People these days live through their cameras, mainly for gleaning memories and showing off to friends and families on Facebook or Instagram. However, sometimes the habit of taking a picture makes people forget to actually look at or see much of the subject matter. Nowadays even basic mobile phones have good cameras, and only keen photographers tend to carry a big SLR camera. In the middle ground, there are plenty of people using compact cameras. Whatever your preference is to travel with, here are a few travel photography tips that will most likely help you take even better travel photos.
1. Change Your Angle
Most people take the same shot from virtually the same angle as everybody else! Try something different, get low, lie on the ground and look up, get high in a building and look down, take the picture at a rakish angle. Once you have your standard shot try something new. Change your perspective, add blur. Change aperture for depth of field effects.
2. Add Some Effect
With SLRs and compact cameras a selection of graduated filters make interesting and easy effects: accentuating colours, darkening clouds etc. Some mobile phone cameras have effect changes that you can do after you have taken the main picture, for example increasing colour saturation, or turning pictures into paintings. Sometimes it is a bit gimmicky but other times these effects can be very effective. You may have noticed how a lot of travel photos these days look, well a bit too bright, a bit too unworldly: places are marketed with really clean looking shots which are not really 'how it looks'. Some extra advice, all JPEG type pictures can be transformed by degrees in Photoshop or Lightroom type software and it all depends upon what you want to achieve and how long you wish to spend doing it.
3. Filter & Zoom
With single lens reflex cameras, we advise to always carry a polarizing filter with you for those blue days of summer where you can get dramatic cloud or water effects. Just don't leave it on all the time. If you have a zoom lens, try a 'Vari zoom' technique, change to a 1:30 shutter speed, and try to zoom in or out with the lens in an even rate. This travel photography tip will help you get an effect of increasing blur towards the edges and more clarity in the middle, like the subject was rushing towards you. Other simple tips include, breathing lightly on the lens and you have a mist or fog effect that gradually clears as you look through the viewfinder.
4. The Golden Hours
Especially for outdoor photographers, weather conditions play an important role. In good weather, depending upon latitude and time of year, there is always that period when the golden light of dusk or dawn creates beautiful natural saturated colours. If you are staying overnight at a place, try to get up early, there will hardly be anyone about and you will be able to see the sites, although not always allowed to enter them, virtually on your own.
5. Tripods at Night
Before and beyond the Golden Hour, try night shots! If we are talking about how to take good travel photos, tiny but sturdy tripods can be really worthwhile packing to capture sharp night shots. Usually shots of illuminated monuments or cityscapes are usually better at dusk or dawn, just as the lights are going on or off, and before it is too dark altogether. There are tripods available even for mobile phones and of course for SLR and compact cameras.
Set your camera for the best resolution possible, memory space is comparatively cheap these days and there is nothing worse than having a superb shot and realizing that you cannot blow it up at all, unless the effect that you want to portray is that of Lego bricks!
7. A Clean Lens
John’s seventh travel photography tip is to keep things clean: carry a lens-cloth and keep your lenses clean. Mobile phone lenses often acquire a film of grime very quickly. SLRs have lens caps so that is easier, compacts often have retracting lenses that can suck dust into them if you are not too careful. Also, the sensor should be kept clean: on SLRs and some compact cameras, hair and dust can get trapped over the image sensor. This means they will appear in virtually every photograph you take in some form. Get your sensor carefully cleaned!
8. The Obvious!
Perhaps an obvious tip, not just for outdoor photographers, but useful at any moment really. How many times are you taking photographs and then at the critical time your battery fails or you run out of memory space? Carry a spare battery, a wireless phone or camera charger and memory card at all times.
In June 2019 we took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there with no complaining, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they finally made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
East Gill Force, Keld.
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions.
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. In May 2019 she decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
What is your walking history?
My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
How did you prepare?
With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
What was your favourite destination?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
Best food and drink?
I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast
, have a look at our guided and self guided options here
Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.
Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
La Palma Island Walking
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.
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.
Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day
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.
Tenerife on Foot
The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip 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, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week.
Walking in the Canaries
If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
Madeira Island Walking
Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its 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.
Winter Walking in Cyprus
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.
Hiking the Vermillion Coast
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.
Smugglers Trails of the 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.
My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!
One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.
You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.
Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.
Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.
There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).
No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.
The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.
Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.
The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.
Some More Thoughts
Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!
Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!
For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.
If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.