UK & European Holiday News
The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>
Tour de France 2018 dates are slowly approaching and before you know, the official start from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile (just off the coast of the Vendee) on July 7th will be here! It’s a unique opportunity to watch the Tour de France live in one of France’s charming towns. Spending some time with similar tour enthusiasts in high anticipation of the cyclists and then witnessing their speed and recognising famous participants will make for a lifetime memory.
This year, why not plan your summer holiday around the Tour de France dates and combine an active holiday in France with witnessing Le Tour for real? Whether you want to walk between vineyards in the Loire Valley, get lost in the Pyrenees – once a hideout for the Cathars, outperform yourself on Mont Blanc or traverse the remote countryside of Cevennes, below are six of the very best trips to combine with the Tour de France this year.
10 July: La Baule – Sarzeau >> Loire Valley
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pick a nice terrace in the shade and with a cool glass of white in your hand, watch the Tour de France cyclists pass by on one of the first stages between La Baule and Sarzeau.
Travel on the Vineyard Trails of the Loire and watch the Tour de France live >>
17-19 July: Annecy – Alp d’Huez >> Mont Blanc Region
This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region. Faced with picture postcard vistas from every vantage point, this trek affords unsurpassed views of the different faces of the Mont Blanc massif, as well as the highest point on the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m. Take in glittering glaciers and spectacular mountainscapes – your bags and supplies will be transported for you, allowing for plenty of time to explore en route. Add some extra days to see the Tour cyclists climb some of France’s highest mountains.
Travel on the Tour de Mont Blanc and watch the Tour de France live >>
21 July: Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux – Mende >> Cevennes
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this trip follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt. Ahead or after your walking holiday, visit Mende to watch the tour de France live.
Follow Louis Stevenson’s Trail and watch the Tour de France in Cevennes >>
24 July: Carcassonne – Bagneres-de-Luchon >> Crusaders Cathar Castles
Joining in Toulouse, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of the Foix, Aude Valley and Corbières areas of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose parfaits or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers and fine local dishes and will make for a mountainous stage 16 of this year’s Tour.
Trace the footsteps of the Crusaders’ Cathar Castles and watch the Tour de France >>
24-26 July: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau >> Tarn & Aveyron
Our walking route winds between the ‘Bastides’ (fortified towns) that sprung up during the Wars of Religion: rich in history and situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories, here every stop has a tangle of narrow medieval streets to wander and sweeping views from the rocky hilltops or ancient walls. The start and end point of this circular walking tour, through the departments of Tarn and Aveyron, is Cordes-sur-Ciel, the first and most important of the ‘Bastides’, founded in 1222.
Travel on the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip and watch the Tour de France >>
27 July: Lourdes – Laruns >> Pyrenees
When the Greenwich Meridian was agreed upon as the international standard, the fact that it was passing through some of the most spectacular corners of the High Pyrénées was probably not a major consideration. Trip highlights on include the dramatic, natural ‘amphitheatre’ of Cirque de Gavarnie and the famous Brêche de Roland, a natural rock doorway into Spain. The latter location is closer to the 25 July stage of the Tour de France that finishes in Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Travel on The Meridian Way: Heart of the Pyrenees and watch the Tour de France >>
If you are curious to find the exact schedule and Tour de France dates for 2018, below map may give you some support:
For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts via email, phone or drop into our office in London.
©Le Tour de France
It’s been quite the show in the UK recently and the talk of the town: Britain’s Top 100 Favourite Walks. Voted for by 8,000 Brits, the final list was presented on national television last week during a 2-hour lasting show. For those that have access to ITV, you can watch the programme online until the end of February 2018.
For us it was quite exciting to see such a mix of walks spread around the island and as far as Northern Ireland, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly. Out of the Brits’ favourites, we selected our personal Top 10 Best Walks in the UK for you.
We’d love to hear your comments in the box below and see which are your favourite walks of Britain.
#1 Helvellyn | Lake District, England
On a great walk over Grisedale Pass and around the small mountain lake of Grisedale Tarn to Patterdale, you could opt to include a two-hour detour to summit Mount Helvellyn. Explore England’s most popular mountain, located in the Lake District, for breath-taking views.
>> Take it in on the Coast to Coast Guided Walk
#2 South Downs Way | Surrey & Sussex, England
The complete South Downs Way, stretching for 100 miles over a rare large area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southern Britain, follows a route that is for most of the part ancient. The Way is often made up out of the old droving roads that took animals and goods between the market towns of southern England. At intervals the hilly downlands are broken by ‘wind gaps’ or river valleys, mixing the ridge walking with some meandering visits to beautiful rivers with their associated villages. We are happy with this listing in Britain’s best walks.
>> Follow the South Downs Way with Sherpa Expeditions
#3 Broadway Tower | Cotswolds, England
The unique Broadway Tower offers remarkable views of the Cotswolds and is fantastic to combine with the charming village of Chipping Campden. Broadway itself is a beautiful and picturesque town and the main street is lined with magnificent stone-built houses as well as some great antique shops.
>> Take in Broadway Tower on a walk to explore the Cotswolds
#4 Hadrian’s Wall Path | Northumberland, England
Officially opened in May 2003 after many years of negotiations with landlords and farmers to finalise the exact route which stretches 83 miles/133 km across town and country, forest and moorland, World Heritage Site and National Park. Omnipotent along this route, which belongs to the best walks in the UK, the Wall snakes its way, in sections interrupting a housing estate here, or popping up under a road there. Then, from being little more than a grassy bank, it transforms into stone and rollercoasters over crag tops and down into impressive fort like structures such as at Birdoswald and Housesteads.
>> Follow Hadrian’s Wall Trail with Sherpa Expeditions
#5 Offa’s Dyke | Monmouth & Hereford, Wales and England
The remaining 80 miles of Offa’s embankment forms Britain’s longest archaeological monument and the basis of a famous walk: crossing the border between England and Wales more than 10 times on the Offa’s Dyke National Trail path. This walk in the UK is a journey packed with interest. Walk through an ever changing landscape through patchworks of fields, over windswept ridges, across infant rivers, by ruined castles and into the old border market towns. Traditional farming methods have more or less remained intact and the hedgerows, oak woods and hay meadows form good wildlife habitats, home of buzzards and the rare Red Kite.
>> Follow a part of Offa’s Dyke with Sherpa Expeditions
#6 West Highland Way | Highlands, Scotland
At Sherpa Expeditions we take you to follow most of the 92-mile national long-distance trail of the West Highland Way through a part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles and as such, its spot in the list with Best Walks in the UK is justified. The route includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland. But also Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest peak), Fort William and Glencoe – famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan.
>> Follow the West Highland Way with Sherpa Expeditions
#7 The Needles | Isle of Wight, England
This is a great walk with some fantastic views, if the weather is good, eventually over much of the Isle of Wight. Enjoy a walk that takes you to visit the Needles Park, where you can view the famous sea-stacks and the military batteries, also the site of Britain's Rocket testing from the 1950s.
>> Take in The Needles on the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking trip
#8 Great Glen Way | Highlands, Scotland
Scotland, about 380 million years ago, saw the creation of the Great Glen Fault: a line splitting the highlands and leading to open water at either end. In 1822 a man-made canal was built that ran through the fault and connected lochs Lochy, Oich and Ness. The Great Glen Way basically follows the fault line and walking this trail will show you plenty of examples of elegant bridges and locks which reflect the early period of the Industrial Revolution. Together with the scenery of the Scottish Highlands, this is one of Britain’s most favourite walks.
>> Follow the Great Glen Way with Sherpa Expeditions
#9 St Cuthbert’s Way | Northumberland, England
The St Cuthbert’s Way is a long-distance path that was established in 1996. The route reflects the life of the 7th century monk, extending from Melrose Abbey in the Scottish borders to the island of Lindisfarne just off the coast of Northumberland in northeast England. The ‘Way’ includes a variety of delightfully unspoilt countryside: the Tweed Valley, the Eildon Hills & Cheviot Hills and the Northumberland coast with its broad horizons and sandy beaches. The standard route is intended to be walked in 4 long days, but we have made several modifications to make the day stages slightly shorter and perhaps more interesting.
>> Follow St Cuthbert’s Way with Sherpa Expeditions
#10 St Ives to Zennor | Cornwall, England
The seascapes around St Ives Head are beautiful! This walk in the far western part of England roller-coasts through a series of steep dips between St Ives and Zennor. It is one of the best walks in the UK and shows you some of the most stunning parts of Cornwall. The town of Zennor has a quaint church, a small museum on Cornish life and a great old pub called The Tinner’s Arms.
>> Take in this stunning part of Cornwall on our Cornish Coastal Path West: St Ives to Penzance
Curious to find the full list? Find Britain's Favourite Walks: Top 100 here. Inspired to go for a walking holiday in the UK this year? Browse our website for all destinations and routes in the UK that you can explore with us, or contact our team of travel experts for more information.
Selection of Other Walks in the UK
Even for the most seasoned walkers and hikers, the terminology used to describe directions on walking holidays may be different from what you are used to back home. Whether you need a reminder, would like to take a little quiz with your travel mate, or simply are not familiar with some of the terminology in the notes, below are some hiking terms that can be useful on your next trip in the outdoors.
Hiking Terms - Gates
Stile A little step that allows you to easily climb over a fence. They come in different forms.
Kissing gate A gate that opens out to only allow one person through at a time so that two people passing through on either side would have to 'kiss'.
Swing gate A little narrow gate in a fence which has a spring to reset it once open.
Offset gate A gate with an open entrance and two overlapping parts to restrict motorised access.
Copse/ Coppice/ Plantation A wood or plantation of similar trees, normally quite small.
Hedgerows These are the, often ancient, shrub fences that exist as field boundaries and that can be seen all over the United Kingdom.
Dry stone walls These serve the same purpose as hedgerows, but are made of un-cemented stone. Together with sheep they make up a large part of the Scottish landscape.
Cwm/ Corrie/ Cirque A generally rounded glaciated or post glaciated valle – in the mountains of Wales we use the word ‘cwm’ for this.
Beck or Burn A little stream, unless in spate.
Fell An English word that is probably related to the old Norse word fjall – a fell is a hill or a mountain.
Tarn This is a mountain lake or pool that is generally formed in a cirque that was excavated by a glacier.
Dale A valley, beautiful English dales are found along the Dales Way in the Yorkshire Dales.
Crag An outcrop of rock, or cliff strata.
Dry valley This is a valley cut into chalk or limestone that does not have a permanent stream running through it.
Ben/ Bein This is what the Scots call a mountain, the most famous one being Ben Nevis, which you’ll pass when following the Great Glen Way, West Highland Way and Lochs and Bens cycling trip.
Shoulder Literally the flank or lower sloping part of a hill or mountain, which often facilitates a pass.
Col/ Pass A low point or easier point of access on a shoulder of a hill or mountain which may facilitate an opening for a path or road so that it is easier to travel between valleys.
Breche / Notch A clear break in the rock strata in the mountains which often facilitates a pass for a footpath. A breche or notch is a type of col (see above).
Summit The highest point on a mountain; besides the one summit, there can be several peaks on one mountain, often called ‘false summits’.
Hiking Terms for Signage
Trig point A triangulation pillar used for surveying. Trig points are usually about 5 foot (150cm) high and made of concrete. Normally you can find these on top of hills and ridges.
Cairn Used for marking the trail, this is a pile of stones that is especially easier to see in bad weather circumstances.
Blaze An indication made with paint on a tree or part of a rock, again to show directions on the trail.
Fingerposts Wooden posts on hills or in fields, which have the waymark on them often via one to four ‘fingers’.
GR/ PR These red-white and yellow-white signs and paint blazes splatter the trails of the grande randonnée routes in France, Spain and Italy.
Wanderweg/ Bergweg Yellow and red-white waymarked trails in Switzerland and Austria. Wanderwegs are usually the lower and easier trails, while a bergweg tends to be used for a mountain path.
Hiking Terms for Underfoot
Bog A bog usually involves saturated peaty, mossy walking conditions.
Scramble An easy rock climb where hand and footholds are large and a rope is normally not required.
Moor A tract of open uncultivated upland, typically covered with heather, sedge grass and moss.
Scree These are small loose stones that usually cover a slope and can make the walk up a bit harder.
Tarmac If you are American you will know this as asphalt and an Australian may be more familiar to the term sealed road... it covers the ‘better’ roads & paths.
Limestone pavement A strata of limestone on the surface, usually eroded and partially dissolved into blocks and cracks called ‘Clints and Grykes’.
Ridge and furrow This is a medieval farming method of piling up ridges and creating ditches in between. You will see such forms in the pastures of the British countryside.
Sinkhole A hole in the limestone that is created by water solution, some go to great depths into extensive cave systems.
Right to Roam In England and Wales a ‘right to roam’ area is where you can walk freely, such a way may be covered by a signage to indicate your rights. It is a different right to that associated with a footpath that crosses private land.
Bridleway A permissible route to be used by travellers on foot, horse or bicycle, but not motorised vehicles. Keeping this in mind, you may spot the occasional trail biker or green-laner.
Stinging nettles These are mostly found around footpaths and stiles; they will inflict a mild sting if they are brushed against – don’t worry they are nothing like Poison Ivy! (In Latin agonious extremis or - because it ‘urts - urtica).
Have we missed anything? Or do you have extra questions on this? Please feel free to give us a call or send us an email so that we can assist you more. Contact our team of travel experts here.
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast is one of the UK’s most popular long-distance walks and crosses northern England from west to east. With so many others, both walkers and cyclists, having completed the route before you, we wanted to share with you a selection of Coast to Coast reviews. This may help you get an idea of what to expect of this famous walk between the Irish Sea and North Sea.
Coast to Coast Reviews
"Thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we found every day brought new and interesting sights and experiences. The days of walking just flew by. Great B&B's and pubs all with friendly staff." - P. & H. Jackson, Kidman Park, SA
>> Learn more about the 15 day Coast to Coast walk
>> Learn more about the 15 Day guided walk along Wainwright's Coast to Coast
"Highlights getting to the top of the mountains and seeing the sights. John the guide was the best, very helpful, way beyond duty. Thanks for a great trip." - B. Gibbons, London, UK, 04 Jul 2016
"Just wanted to let you know the trip was awesome. Pete found the maps excellent, very detailed and the extra route choices and information very helpful. All of our accommodation was amazing, the food they provided was fantastic and they went out of their way to help. The length (we had two rest days ie 20 in all) was perfect for us, and made many 'faster' folk jealous. Everything went like clockwork, thanks again for your help." - R & P Clark, Australia, 02 Aug 2017
"Overall this was a lovely walk and we would recommend to others. England is a lovely country for walking. Enjoyed the scenery, going through 3 national parks. The old English pubs we stayed in and the people we met along the way." - R & R Doyle, Nelson, New Zealand, 05 Jun 2017
"High points were the challenge, the people we met, sense of achievement and hospitality. Keep up the good work, it was a pleasure dealing with Trina." - F. O'Sullivan, Paynesville, VIC, Australia, 18 Sep 2016
"We were glad we added in the extra days so we could enjoy the Lakes District more and not have the 37km day followed by the 34 km day later on. We could enjoy the hike and not just have a forced march. I would suggest this to other people." - A. Lonsdale, Balnarring, VIC. Australia, 18 Jul 2016
>> Learn more about the 17 day Coast to Coast walk
>> Learn more about the 18 day Coast to Coast walk
"For two seventy-year-olds it was a challenging but a doable experience. Accommodations were great. Breakfast was one of the highlights of the day. Seeing the North Sea from the Yorkshire Moors was another highlight. The Sherpa Van was a reliable addition to the trip. Communication with Trina ensured our satisfaction with Sherpa." - B. Parslow, Vancouver, Canada, 28 Jun 2017
"… It was a full catalogue of enriching moments that allowed for two fine, gentle warm days at the start then 5 days of torrential rain whilst walking through Lakeland. That gave added edge to the challenges of scaling the high peaks and the experience of wading or leaping across swollen becks. Bogland is a wonderful word that really doesn't describe the glutinous, slimy, boot grabbing mud with its own special odour. Then with weather improving it was through the changing scenes of moorland towards the ultimate destination arrived at on a glorious sunny day. … " - B. Fowler, Claybrooke, UK, 22 Jun 2017
"Wonderful weather - 16 days of full sunshine - was this really England? Great people met along the way. Hospitality of the b&b owners and people in the pubs. They made us feel welcome. A great holiday overall - and a sense of accomplishment for walking across England!" - D. Goldfischer, Pennsylvania, USA, 20 Jun 2016
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at hiking gaiters and cycling overshoes to keep your feet dry and warm when on your trip.
One particularly wet day crossing the Pennines on the Coast to Coast with Sherpa Expeditions a few years ago was an extreme case in the realisation of how important gaiters can be. There is a section called White Mossy Moor, which, in normal conditions, is a saturated peaty morass. I was wearing Scarpa Yeti gaiters which came up to the knee and had a rubber rand which sealed over the boot. I didn’t get wet feet at all and they were perfect for this walk. This contrasted with the fortunes of a lady in the group who insisted on wearing low cut boots for the wetter sections; they got sucked off by the mud and she was left hopping around in her socks! We had to dig a trench around the boot to liberate it from the bog.
Hiking gaiters have come and gone in different styles and fashions over the years. They originated from the military Puttees, which were woollen or proofed canvas bands wrapped around the top of boot and leg in spirals to stop water, dust and stones entering the boot.
Today, the simplest and cheapest gaiters (such as the Regatta Caymen pictured above) are a tube of canvas or nylon that folds around the top of the boot and either up to the knee, to the mid-calf or just to the top of the ankle (in the case of the ankle gaiters). The two edges of the fabric are usually connected via a zip or Velcro, and there is normally a tie at the top to prevent the gaiter sinking down the leg and sagging around the ankle. Hiking gaiters usually have a hook which you pull to extend the (elasticated) bottom tongue of fabric over the top of the boot which connects to the boot lacing. There is normally also a strap which goes under the sole to help prevent the gaiter riding upwards.
More expensive gaiters such as the Berghaus Yeti (pictured below) have become elaborated with for example Goretex type fabrics to make them more comfortable or rubber rands, for a better waterproof seal and with insulation for high altitude walking.
Some trail runners now use light ankle gaiters to stop stones jump up your ankles such as the Montane Via-Sock It (pictured above).
If anything apart from for high altitude mountaineering, gaiters have gone slightly out of fashion with the range of more lightweight, sporty footwear most people are walking in these days. These are quick to take off and empty out, are freely draining, or have breathable fabrics.
Waterproof trousers have also got better so in the rain, people instead just wear these over the boot. Hiking gaiters can be a bother to put on and zips and Velcros don’t work too well when they are soiled. Besides, under-straps and rands wear out fairly quickly and gaiters are easily snagged by crampon points. However, they will help save you from frost bite in snowy conditions.
For cyclists, the equivalent to a hiking gaiter is an over shoe and these really do aid comfort by reducing the incidence of wet and cold numb feet. They are recommended for touring cyclists as much as for sporting riders as a great aid to all day comfort in poor weather. Overshoes can vary in price depending on the materials used: the cheapest tend to be neoprene and the more expensive elasticated Goretex-type fabrics.
Neoprene overshoes, such as the Seal Skinz (pictured below) are fine but can result in warm sweaty feet in some conditions. This however is better than cold frozen ones.
If you want a minimalist approach to keep your toes warm, there are toe covers to wear over your shoes. These can easily be stowed in your cycling jersey pocket and can be put on quickly when you’re in need to keep toes toasty. An example for this can be the Carnac Toe Cover (pictured above).
It is important to have a good fit for your over shoe. If they are too tight, they are too hard to get on. If they are too loose, the wind can conspire to pull them off or they start to rub annoyingly against cranks or even get snagged in your bike chain.
Overshoes can never be really fully water tight as rain or splash water would potentially run down the cyclist’s leg. Also, the overshoe leaves exposed the underside of the cycle shoe so that cleats can be used in the normal way.
Read more Gear Matters blog articles >>
With Spring coming up soon again, many of the Sherpa Expeditions holidays are great to enjoy at this time of year. The list is long, offering you plenty of choice in coastal walks, hiking the Swiss Alps, traditional English walks and even cycling around the UK.
To find a trip that best suits your interests and requirements, why not use the Holiday Search Wizard on which you can narrow down per destination, price, duration and start or finish dates. Now is the time to start planning for your European spring walking holiday!
>> To the Holiday Search Wizard
Traditional English Walking
Exploring the Cotswolds (8 days)
A delightful short walk through quintessential English landscapes and villages in the charming Cotswolds -- A week long walk in the picturesque Cotswolds of southern England.
Or opt for the 5-day version
Coast to Coast: St Bees to Kirkby Stephen
Follow the Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees to the historic villages and beautiful landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales.
Or find one of the other Coast to Coast trip options
The Dales Way
Walk through the Pennines and Lake District in the Yorkshire Dales staying at inns and farmhouses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Cumbrian Way: Crossing the Lake District
Walk from Ulverston to Keswick in the English Lake District, with views across Lake Coniston and Derwentwater. Visit Langdale and Borrowdale two of the prettiest Lakeland valleys.
Coast to Coast Classic Guided Walk - 15 Days
Cover 190 odd miles and traverse 3 national parks with our guide on the classic Coast to Coast walk, enjoy magnificent scenery with rolling hills and charming little villages with cosy pubs.
Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
A beautiful walk circumnavigating the Isle of Wight.
West Highland Way (8 days)
Walk through the stunning Scottish Highlands from Loch Lomond to Ben Nevis on this iconic route.
Or choose the 10-day version of this walk in Scotland
Great Glen Way
Walk through the heart of the Scottish Highlands at your own pace.
Lochs and Bens (cycling in Scotland)
Cycle the picturesque Scottish Highlands.
European Coastal Walks
Coast to Coast: St Bees to Kirkby Stephen
Follow the Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees to the historic villages and beautiful landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales.
Or find one of the other Coast to Coast trip options by bicycle or on foot
Cinque Terre Villages
A coastal walk on the Italian Riviera with a centre based stay in Monterosso. Choose from a selection of walks or just saunter around the beaches and clifftops.
Discover Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands. Walk in Samaria and Imbros Gorge and hike in the White Mountains.
Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
A beautiful walk circumnavigating the Isle of Wight.
Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps (5 days)
Walk beneath the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau for unrivalled panoramas of the Swiss Alps during a selection of daily hikes on this centre based, self guided walking tour.
Or check out an 8-day version and all other trips in the Swiss Alps
Cycling in the UK
Lochs and Bens (cycling in Scotland)
Cycle the picturesque Scottish Highlands.
Or find the complete offer of holidays in Scotland
Cotswolds by Bike
Cycle through the heart of England in the Cotswolds. Discover quaint stone built villages, ride across rolling hills between village pubs and old coaching inns.
Or check out all active holidays in the Cotswolds
NEW The Cyclist's Coast to Coast
Cycle across England through the Lake District and over the Pennines to the North Sea along the popular C2C cycle path that was inspired by Wainwright's Coast to Coast path.
Or find the complete offer of Coast to Coast holidays
For the complete offer of cycling and walking holidays in Europe, use the Holiday Search Wizard, or if you like to speak to one of our travel experts for tailored advice, contact us by email or phone.
Porto Walking Tour
Our walking holiday in Portugal’s Douro Valley takes you to finish in the up-and-coming city of Porto also known as Oporto. The Portuguese city is divided by the river Douro and Villa Nova de Gaia on the other side is well worth a visit too.
Perhaps ahead or at the end of your trip, you want to extend a few days to discover why the city’s historical core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many things to do in the town and this shortened Porto walking tour may be a good start to go out and explore.
© Manuel de Sousa
Join us on this short trip on foot that includes 11 things to see in Porto. We start at the Feitoria Inglesa, near the hotel that we normally use on the Douro Rambler trip. It was designed by British consul John Whitehead in 1786 and is also known as the British Factory House. It is one of the most fabled buildings in the Ribeira district of Porto and stands where Rua do Infante Dom Henrique crosses Rua de São João.
Casa do Infante
© Manuel de Sousa
With your back to the Hotel Carris, turn left and follow the road to the Casa do Infante. Porto-born Henry the Navigator, who was a prominent figure during the Age of Discovery, reputedly was born in this house. The house is now a museum about Oporto and a visit is certainly something to do when in Porto. Learn about the city’s history since the Roman colonisation of what was then ‘Portus Cale.’ Through diagrams, videos and historical artefacts, this castle-like history book teaches you about Porto’s people, growth and activities through time. It's an interactive and interesting way of getting to know one of the most charismatic cities of Portugal - and its free.
Praça do Infante Dom Henrique
© jad99 from Graz, Austria
Follow Rua do Infante Dom Henrique to Praça do Infante Dom Henrique. A statue of Prince Henry the Navigator graces this square. Highlight of the square is the Igreja de São Francisco, which originally was a Gothic church. Its adjacent museum once was the property of a Franciscan monastery. The church boasts the most lavish, spectacular church interior in Oporto – and competition is fierce! It is one of a kind with arcades in front of the church that are a typical blend of Gothic and Moorish elements. The single nave gives a wide impression and is the largest nave of this kind to be found in Portuguese churches. The altars in the transept are decorated with gilded sculpture work framing 16th century panels, probably painted by Flemish artists.
Rua das Flores
We follow our Porto walking tour on Rua Ferreira Borges west and veer north to Largo de São Domingos. At the top of this square, continue northwest along Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers). Some visitors consider this the most romantic street in all of Porto. It has long been known for the quality of its silversmiths, but what makes the street so architecturally striking is its wrought-iron balconies. This charming street eventually opens onto Praça de Almeida Garrett, with the Sao Bento train station (1896). Its grand main hall is decorated with large tiles tracing the historical events of transportation in Portugal.
Igreja dos Congregados
© Diego Delso
We now head up Placa de Almeida Garrett and turn left in front of the blue tiled church that is called Igreja dos Congregados. The church was built in 1703 with renovations done in the 19th century followed by the exterior of the church in the early 1900s. This is when the tiles of its façade were done by Jorge Colaco.
Placa da Liberdade
You then arrive at Placa da Liberdad, which has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area began and this included the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praça Nova (New Square). In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV, a monarch closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. During the 19th century, several factors increased the importance of the square and the town hall moved to a building on the northside. Towards the end of the century, facilities like the D. Luís Bridge and São Bento Train Station were opened nearby. Liberdade Square was a political, economic and social centre for Porto and remains an important attraction of the city.
Tower of Igreja Torre dos Clerigos
© António Amen
The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni: an Italian architect and painter who did extensive works in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. The church was finished around 1750 and the main façade is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment. The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors and with its 75.6 metres in height, the tower today still dominates the city. This great structure has even become the symbol of the city.
Placa de Gomes Teixeira
Just beyond the church there are pleasant cafes and a small garden called Pc. Da Cordoaria. Closeby are the Photographic Museum and the Natural History Museum. Continuing on from the church, you soon arrive at Placa de Gomes Teixeira, a large cobbled square with Fonte Ledes (fountain of lions) within it. This is one of the nicest squares of Porto and a must-visit. It got its name on 1936 in honour of Francisco Gomes Teixeira, a well-known professor at the University of Porto. Some of the buildings around the square belong to the university, explaining the students in long black gowns that you are likely to see. There are also a lot of interesting shops and cafes in the vicinity as you would expect from a university area.
Carmelitas & Carmo Churches
© António Amen
Across the square, look carefully and what looks like just one big church are actually two connected by what is one of the world's narrowest houses: just 1 metre wide. The house that separates the two churches was inhabited until about 25 years ago. It was built due to a law that stated that no two churches could share a wall, while also ensuring chastity between the monks of Carmo and the nuns of Carmelitas.
Return back towards Sao Bento, but before entering the road with the station, continue along Rua de 31 de Janeiro to shortly reach the top of another square, the Placa da Batalha.
From the Batalha square you can walk along Rua de Cimo de Vila and straight on through Rua Cha to visit the modern tourist office. If you continue along the road which becomes Avenue Vimara Peres, you can walk right across the top of the iconic Ponte Luis I bridge (by Gustave Eiffel) to get some great views over Ribeira and Villa Nova de Gaia. Just beyond the bridge, you can take a road up left to a further viewpoint: the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. The 16th Century fortified monastery is one of the best things to do in Porto if you are interested in panoramic views. The cloister is just beautiful. You can visit the church on a guided tour only for about 3 Euros, so check the times. You go up to the top of the church in the company of a soldier: this place is under military ownership and therefore does not get any UNESCO funds despite being included in the world heritage area.
To continue our Porto walking tour, take the steeply descending street under an arch behind the cathedral, this is another one of our favourite streets in Porto.
Continue along Rua de Dom Hugo, a narrow street that curves around the eastern side of the Sé (square), until you come to some steep steps. These were carved through remaining sections of the town walls that existed in the Middle Ages. The steps bring you into one of the most colourful and poverty-stricken sections of Porto, the Ribeira district. The backstreets of this historic neighbourhood have much charm. The area abounds with arcaded markets, churches, museums, monuments, and once-elegant buildings. Locals come here for the low-cost tascas (taverns) and seafood restaurants, and if you’re interested in fado music, there are several places to go.
From the Cais da Ribeira you can take in the port-wine lodges across the Douro at Vila Nova de Gaia. If you want to visit the port lodges, you can do this as a separate walk or continue from where you left off.
If you are interested in combing a visit to Porto with a Douro Valley walking holiday, or if you like to learn more about this part of Portugal, you can easily get in touch with our team of travel experts via this website, phone or email.
There are many reasons to travel to the Portuguese island of Madeira, but we believe that a walking holiday is the best way to fully appreciate the island. Spend your days in Madeira hiking the levadas and take in the beautiful viewpoints while at night roaming the charming streets of capital Funchal and other quaint towns.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a Madeira hiking holiday may look like, check out the images below.
(Winter) walking in Europe may bring in the occasional rain shower and also when on a cycling holiday in Europe, you may encounter some wet weather. No longer does this lead to your maps and documentation getting soaked or disintegrated. There is a new generation of waterproof map cases and in this post John brings you tips & advice.
It’s not long ago that most people carried just a clear polythene bag to protect their maps and documents from bad weather. Many suffered the fate of their expensive maps dissolving into a blob of papier-mâché; rain water driven by the wind having infiltrated through the opening and small holes in the bag that had not even been noticed. There were some early 'proper map cases,' which claimed to be water resistant. They were essentially a pouch having a fabric back, clear plastic front and a Velcro closure. However, in the rain the water seeped through the hairy Velcro to turn the map once again to papier-mâché, an insidious rising damp. The map cases were normally really tight and if you had to quickly put the map in it, say on the onset of a rain shower, it was easy to tear the seams of the case. The next generation barely fared better: this had a double seal closure actually in the plastic rather like a sandwich bag and would often pop open. Soon the plastic cracked along the seam around the closure rendering in useless.
The last 25 years however, there has been a real breakthrough with plastic design with the manufacture of Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and scratches. The resulting map case is truly waterproof - if the closure is properly fixed, and highly durable. It is made from an uncrackable slightly stretchy plastic membrane with welded seams that take a lot of stress. You need to look no further than the Ortlieb range of waterproof map cases, cycling map cases and document wallets for your active holiday.
To seal, you need to make sure the documents are totally in the pouch; then squeeze the case to purge as much air as possible from it; then tightly roll the end and engage the male and female Velcro tabs. Make sure the corners are rolled properly. The bag should now be totally waterproof and you are ready for your walking or cycling holiday.
These present-day waterproof map cases are very good as well for carrying things like tablets and important documentation that could otherwise get wet in your rucksack.
Tips for using waterproof map cases
Fold to fit
Firstly, fold your map as best you can to fit into the waterproof map case. It is usually best to buy a larger map case than the document and then fold the case around the map area. If using a large map like a UK Ordnance Survey, you may want to prise off the cardboard cover so that you can fold it better. Try to fold the map along existing fold-creases if possible. It helps to make visible all the area that you are travelling through on the day, sometimes you can fold the map in a way that you can use it on both sides. Obviously with scales such as 1:25,000 this is hard to do as you can easily walk off your map. For cycling it is generally better to use 1:50,000- 1:100,000 scale maps. The thing you have to try to avoid as much as possible is having to remove the map to refold it which is hard to do in windy conditions and of course you will have to try to avoid doing this in the rain. If you have access to a good photocopier, why not make A4 or A3 panel copies from the map of the route you are taking? They will be the correct size for fitting into the map case neatly and you can always carry the original map in your rucksack as a backup or if you want to see the 'bigger picture.'
Avoid the 'Flap-Case' scenario
Managing your map case is very important. Many beginner walkers can be seen striding across the hills with their map cases flailing about them in the wind, hitting them in the face and threatening to strangle and entangle them. With an ‘Ortlieb’ type case this is quite easy to rectify; either roll or fold the case and map into a smaller area which thus becomes more wind resistant. You could use large elastic bands to keep the map compact. It is quicker and easier navigating working on a smaller area of map, using your finger or thumb to press on and trace the route as you go, so you can quickly resume navigation from feature to feature. At intervals unfold the case to check on-going progress or features to come. If you are cycling, you don't necessarily have to have a purpose built handlebar mount to put your map on, although using it may be easier. Some people like to keep their handlebars uncluttered as much as possible. You can wind a map case around the top tube of the bike frame, hold with bungees and just move it as necessary.
Negative issues of waterproof map cases
Very few! After 8 years of use, though the plastic was still in very good condition, the Velcro seals on my Ortlieb map case eventually separated from the plastic! but these can be refixed using an appropriate bonding glue. Obviously, you need to keep Velcro closures clean. The plastic also yellowed slightly. I bought a second A3-sized Ortlieb, now 4 years old, no issues as yet. I have also bought an A3 map case made by Silva. It is similar to the Ortlieb, but has sandwich bag type seal which is not as strong as a Velcro and roll seal. It can pop open if the air is not purged properly from the case and care is needed to make sure that the map does not overlap with the seal.
The other option: Waterproof maps
So, why not cut out the map case altogether and just use water proof maps? This option is fine, although there are comparatively few maps that are waterproof. Harveys Maps are mostly waterproof: they are a print-coating on a plastic sheet backing. The O.S went down the route of map lamination with their folded series. The drawbacks? After heavy rain the coatings on Harveys maps can wear or scratch off the map easier. The Laminated OS ‘Active’ maps are plastic coated weatherproof versions of paper maps, they are more durable and can still be folded. However, over time the plastic will crack and let in water, they also tend to be a little bit heavy.
Looking for more information or have any questions on waterproof map cases? You can contact John and the other Sherpa Expeditions staffers via our website, email or phone. Find the correct contact details here.
Some waterproof map case producers
- Ortlieb A whole variety of map cases and 'safes' are made for ipads and mobile phones etc.
- Silva the M30 from Silva is a durable and functional map case which protects your map whilst allowing you to navigate even in heavy rain. Its fully transparent design allows you to view your map from both sides of the case while the comfortable enclosed neck strap provides a secure and safe way of keeping your map on your person and ready for action.
- Aquapac see the Stormproof and Waterproof Kaituna Map Case
- Sea to Summit Large Map Case Made from TPU, totally welded construction and a super-strong Ziploc closure to provide fully waterproof and dust-proof performance. Designed with a detachable neck strap and corner anchor points for versatility.
In this quick read you can find ways to make your Provence holiday different. Read on for the 5 best things to do on a Provence walking holiday.
Do something different from the usual holiday and make great memories when walking in Provence: rolling hills, quaint little bistros, hilltop perched villages, stunning views, lavender fields, and passing by olive groves & vineyards.
No matter where you go, the scenery of this part of southern France will be stunning and expanded.
Get behind the touristy scenes, explore the backroads, chat with the local Frenchies, visit wine estates, olive oil producers and really get to experience the Provence unlike others.
Enjoy the great outdoors and burn at the same time some of those calories collected from the night before.
Whichever way you look at it – you are the winner.
The only pace that counts is yours!
Explore Provence when you walk at your own pace because you are not on a schedule, stop whenever you like, stroll on a market and move on when you want to.
It’s easier than you think with our well-written route note instructions and, completed with some of our favourite and hidden addresses in each place along the trail, you will not miss out on a highlight!
Interested? You have a choice of three different Provence holidays with us:
For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office and they will be happy to assist you more.