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 >>
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.
Different countries in Europe are famed for their own style of the camping knife or pocket tool and in this month’s Gear Matters blog article, John takes you on a tour to learn about the various types of blades, potential usage of pocket knives on a cycling or walking trip, EU law, and maintenance.
Some people don't use them, others can't live without them on a walking or trekking holiday. They may be left alone in their pouches for the whole trip or maybe used several times in a single day. A camping knife or pocket tool is available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. With Christmas fast approaching, a new knife or multi-tool could make for a beautiful compact gift. Often you can even have them inscribed for the Ray Mears, Bear Grylls or Mykel Hawke in your life.
Most of us get attached to our knives over time, but the stories of people leaving their forgotten prized piece of cutlery in their hand luggage when taking a flight and losing it going through security are legion. For me especially on camping trips, a good knife or multitool combo is more or less essential.
Knives with a Tang
A good quality knife should have a sharpened edge on one side and be made of high carbon or stainless steel. I think it is best to avoid ceramics, they can shatter and break easily. The finest forged knives (e.g. from Norway or Sweden) have a cutting edge of differing hardened steel which is sandwiched in a layer of softer steel. A good outdoor or bush knife will have a 'tang' (the handle end) that extends into the end of the handle and that can be heavy duty plastic, wood or even horn. This will then be attached via brass rivets which will resist oxidation. Knives like these are superb for cutting and wood carving; the handles offer good grip to be used quite safely for controlled cutting. The Swedish Fällkniven forest knife can even be used for splitting small pieces of wood in lieu of an axe and some have claimed that these are the best bush knives in the world. Similarly, Norwegian Helle knives are great for carving. These can be bought in Flam on Sherpa's Fjordland trip. The camping knives of this brand are great for bush-craft and they make an excellent range including a beautiful model with curly birch, leather and antler handles. Their blades come in different lengths, materials and thicknesses and are handmade.
Folding & Multitools
Then we have the category of folding knives and multitools. These are generally a sandwich of aluminium and steel plates. The main blades are always a bit of a compromise, as they will never be as strong as a full tanged knife. Swiss army knives are rightly very popular; being very compact and having some wonderful useful features. They are ubiquitously available on all of our walking holidays in Switzerland an in every town in various guises. They have been used in the Swiss military since 1897. I have personally possessed three Victorinox Swiss Champ knives in the past 35 years. Two, you've guessed it, lost going through the customs x-ray in hand baggage by accident. I have used every blade for all manner of things including clearing ice from cross country ski binding cleats, to removing ticks, making holes in leather belts, opening cans and bottles, and even filing down bike spoke ends. There is a tiny driver that tightens all those minute screws that people always lose from their glasses and take it or leave it, the standard toothpick! The main blades are 'Inox' steel and very good quality, the scissors are the best of any multitool that I have seen and the can opener works really well. The downside is that with most Swiss army knives (and there are some exceptions) the blades do not lock, so you have to be very careful during any cutting activity that the knife doesn't fold onto the fingers. Also the classic acrylic side panels of the handle engraved with the Swiss flag, can scratch easily, although they are surprisingly durable.
Then there are the multitools based upon pliers, the most famous ones being from manufacturers such as Leatherman and Gerber. These normally have a main plier with the auxiliary blades and tools folding neatly into the handles of the body. The better ones have mostly or all locking blades. These are great, but I have sometimes been a little disappointed with the quality of some models: flimsy knives, scissors with poor action and hard to use tin and bottle openers. The hinges can loosen over time and you may need to remember to take a specialised tool to tighten them.
Simple Folding Knives
Some people are very happy with a simple folding knife on their travels, such as the Victorinox 'Hunter' or even the more basic and popular French made 'Opinel.' These are great for cutting cheese and salami on picnics. The latter one has a nice wooden handle with a simple twist lock that kind of half locks the blade, so some care is needed. Recently, Opinel have jazzed up the camping knife with coloured handles including a built-in whistle and a main blade with an unusual spanner aperture for tightening sail shackle pins of all things!
Some walkers may like to carry a beautiful French handmade knife and on our Way of St James walking holiday in France, you will go very near to where the Laguiole knives are being manufactured. Several village shops in the region will sell this charming model and it makes a great memento of your trip.
Camping Knife Maintenance
All knives and multitools require periodical maintenance: wash and dry them thoroughly and use a light machine oil on hinges and smeared on blades, especially if you will store your knife for some time. Vaseline is also quite useful in this regard. Wooden handles, leather pouches or sleeves should also be waxed occasionally. Follow the manufacturer’s sharpening instructions; knives should be sharp and without burrs.
Knives & EU Law
Most countries in the EU have their own laws on knives. The UK, quite rightly, has enforced laws over carrying knives, although it is pretty vague. The basic rule is that 'you cannot carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less.' If you have a long fixed bladed knife or a multitool with a locking mechanism on the blades (which just about covers all multitools sold from outdoor or tool shop), they 'are not classed as folding knives and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.'
The 'without good reason' part explains it all; it's about perceived intended use. For example, you can buy a 20-inch carving knife from a hardware shop (a public place) and walk with it back home through a high street or mall (another public place). It is unlikely that you will ever be inquisitioned. Although police can be arbitrary at times; it is a question of being sensible if you are on a walking, backpacking or cycling holiday. To make things simpler your camping knife should be sheathed and in your backpack not about your person.
For more advice on the gear to bring on a cycling or walking holiday, contact our team of travel experts.
For more in John’s series of Gear Matters blog posts and tips and advice for cycling and walking gear, see the full overview of outdoor gear articles from the past months.
Make Your 2018 New Year’s Resolution to Travel More
Start Off with an Active Spring Breakaway
Get 2018 off to a great start and immediately realise your New Year’s Resolutions!
>> Receive a Discount of £65 per person when you book before 29 December 2017
>> Have your 2018 active getaway organised now
With another new year in sight, most of us will soon be thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions. For us in the Sherpa Expeditions team, there is one resolution that always tops the rest and that is quite obviously to Travel More!
We hope you have this New Year Resolution somewhere on your list and we are here to help you realise your goals for 2018. Receive a discount of £65 per person* when you book before 29 December 2017 for a trip departing before 31 May 2018. This way you can already look forward to travelling more in 2018 and enjoy Europe when the paths and trails are still relatively quiet and flowers begin to bloom. Or, why not start even sooner and discover on foot the sunny islands of southern Europe when other places are still covered in snow.
Top 10 Popular European Destinations to Visit before June 2018
1. Walking in Cyprus
2. Coast to Coast Walk Self Guided
3. Madeira Island Walking
4. Tuscany walking & cycling
5. Exploring the Cotswolds
6. Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
7. Tenerife on Foot
8. Isle of Wight
9. Amalfi Coast
10. Cornwall Coast Path
*Terms & Conditions:
- Book a holiday departing on or before 31 May 2018 and receive a discount of £65 per person.
- Booking must be received before 29 December 2017.
- Only valid for trips departing on or before 31 May 2018.
- Valid on land portion of the trip only and not valid on extensions, supplements or extra services.
- Only valid for bookings made with Sherpa Expeditions directly, not valid for bookings made through third parties.
- Only valid for new bookings received between 1-29 December 2017.
- Only valid for Sherpa Expeditions operated trips, eg. not valid on UTracks operated trips.
- Not valid with any other discount or offer.
- Offer applies only once per person per booking.
- Subject to availability and on guided trips also subject to minimum numbers reached.
- Booking Terms & Conditions apply.
- Quote code ACTIVESPRING18 at the time of booking.
Today’s frequently asked questions are answered by walking blogger Charles Hawes, who was in the French region of Aveyron in September to walk along some typical French villages on our Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron walking holiday. If you like to read more about the trip, have a look at this Traveller Tale or at Walking the Blog on which Charles made a separate post for each walking day and illustrated the walks with many professional photographs.
#1 What was the weather like in autumn and was it good for walking?
Temperature wise the weather was near-perfect when I did this walk in late September 2017. Not too hot or cold. When it was sunny, we were walking comfortably in T-shirts/base layers. We had several days when it started off quite misty but by midday it was sunny and warm. We had just one morning when it rained but that blew over by early afternoon.
#2 What is special about trekking in this part of France?
This walking holiday in France is for the most part gentle rolling countryside; though you will cross some quite steep river valleys. One of the things that struck me and my travel partner, and we enjoyed, was that it was so quiet! So even when walking on minor roads, you will seldom be passed by any vehicles. I think we came across other serious walkers just once in 5 days. It can give a quite special feeling like having the place to yourselves! The route takes you through many tiny hamlets and small villages and many, many abandoned buildings. Even the smallest places had great character. But the main villages – several of which are listed as some of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” – were all exceptionally pretty.
#3 Is it easy to communicate with the local people?
On this walk, you will probably not see that many other people! For a large part you will be on a Grand Randonnee (GR46), but it would likely not be very busy at any time of the year. All the bed & breakfast and hotel owners were very friendly, welcoming and helpful. I guess it all depends how good your French is. Mine is pretty poor but we got by OK.
#4 Are there enough places on the route to go for a drink or a snack?
There are very few places that you walk through during the day where you could stop for a drink or a coffee. Most of the time I didn’t mind this except for once or twice when we would have loved to have found a café. In the larger villages you will have more options though; we enjoyed a lovely break at Penne in a café with a fabulous view over the river valley.
#5 What 3 items should others definitely pack for this walking holiday in France?
Do make sure you are carrying enough water. There are very few public toilets or drinking taps along the route and though I am sure anyone would be happy to fill up a water bottle for you, you may not find anyone to ask. Talking of toilets, I always carry toilet paper and a plastic trowel – much nicer to make sure your visit is not noticed! A French phrase book or translation app on your phone is handy.
#6 How would you describe the landscape of Tarn & Aveyron?
On this walking holiday in France, you will find a landscape that is well-wooded with familiar species of trees – oaks and chestnut, for instance. There are a lot of Buxus (Box trees) throughout the area, which is relatively unusual in the UK. The architecture is very different from the UK, which makes this part of France so interesting.
#7 What extra costs did you make on this trip?
The only things you will need to pay for will be your drinks and some of the evening meals. With the value of the pound having dropped by over 20% in recent months gone are the days of bargain menus and cheap wine. Wine in restaurants was probably the same as we’d pay in the UK, but the beers were eye-wateringly expensive almost everywhere – it was not unusual to pay 4 euros for a small beer.
#8 Can you describe this trip in one sentence?
This circular walk has impressively well been put together; it was a delight from start to finish.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy to hear about your suggestions.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.