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If you are looking to get inspired by the shades of the autumn foliage in the coming weeks, we have a number of trips that will immerse you into nature – from the mountain forests of Austria’s Lake District to the vineyards of Portugal's Douro Valley.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps (8 days) departs until 19 October, from £895 per person. Find out more here
PORTUGAL | Douro Valley
Surround yourself with colour: autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
The Douro Rambler (7 days) departs daily until 15 October, from £860 per person. Find out more here
GERMANY | Bavaria
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Bavaria: King Ludwig’s Way (8 days) departs daily until 22 October, from £790 per person. Find out more here
Lisa and Bill Cumming from Bay Village, Ohio, are avid walkers with a great love for the outdoors. Having walked many trails in America, Canada, Europe and more, they chose to visit somewhere they hadn't yet ventured...Scotland! Read on to find out all about their adventure, some of their favourite stops on route and where they are planning on heading to next.
What is your walking history?
We both grew up as very active children and into adulthood. Bill was a multisport athlete throughout school, and Lisa an avid hiker and naturalist. Together we have hiked extensively throughout the United States (Acadia National Park, Glacier National Park, Edisto Beach State Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Picture Rocks National Lake Shore, and many more), Canada (Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise and many more), Europe (Italy, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, and more), and Central America (Belize, Baja California and more). Every moment that we can we are on the move – exploring, taking photos, and just enjoying the stroll.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
There were several reasons that we chose to walk the John Muir Way through Scotland: neither of us had ever been to Scotland, John Muir was instrumental in setting up the national parks in the United States, and Bill’s family immigrated from Scotland in the 1800’s to Canada.
How did you prepare?
We live in a very walkable community located on the shores of Lake Erie, and our county has an incredible park system nicknamed the Emerald Necklace as it forms a green half circle through the county. We made every effort to get out and walk in both of these areas as much as possible – from 1-mile walks to 15-mile hikes. Walking is just a normal part of life for us so we just kept walking!
What was your favourite destination?
There were several favorite stops on this trip. Dunbar, which was the terminus of the trail, was this incredible coastal and historical town with such great pubs and restaurants. Linlithgow was a friendly little town with a fantastic B&B, great places to eat, and interesting period architecture. South Berwick, which was a coastal town, had interesting rock formations. We went to a pub here and so felt a part of the town as we interacted with locals during a football game.
Best food & drink?
Oh the food! We had great food in almost every town and village but 4 really stood out. In Strathblane we had a locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared dinner at the Kirkwood Inn, where we were staying. A steak and pork dinner with sides that were just out of this world! The second dinner was in Glasgow, a stop we made after we finished our walk. We ate at the Ox and Finch – a small plate restaurant. We chose 4 different small plates for sharing: the most tender and flavorful squid; a salad with fennel, pomegranate, pecorino, and truffle; a curried duck leg confit; and a dessert with apricots, yogurt, almonds, and lemon thyme. It was literally other-worldly! In Edinburgh we visited a Nepalese restaurant close to the B&B on the recommendation of the B&B host – what incredible flavors! We had the best Indian food in Falkirk – the nuances in the flavors of the food were amazing – no one flavor overpowered the other!
We’re not sure that we were surprised by any aspect of this trip. Instead we were glad that the route was well-marked, the accommodations were fantastic, the food was great, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were so hospitable.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Honestly, no aspect of the trip was particularly challenging. We were definitely prepared for it physically, we love travelling and are quite adept at it, and we love an adventure! We have already started to plan the next one – perhaps in Ireland or Tuscany!
Who doesn’t love a cup of tea with a traditional Scottish all-butter shortbread, especially after a long walk or cycle. And it’s even better still you're actually in Scotland, right? In celebration of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we thought now was the perfect time to shine a light on Scotland’s best walking and cycling routes. Plus, if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy some of the countries specialities along the way, such as haggis, fresh Scottish lobster and Cullen skink, all washed down with a wee dram of the finest whisky around!
THE GREAT GLEN WAY
This iconic tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day) and follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland – depths of up to 750 feet. The walk finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the highlands”. Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths plenty of elegant bridges and locks as well as forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.
Find out more about The Great Glen Way here
JOHN MUIR WAY
Completed in 2014, the John Muir Way is a 134 mile route that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and with Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast to coast path. It provides an accessible and varied route across the Scottish low lands, following a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure. This route links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest.
Find out more about the John Muir Way here
ROB ROY WAY
The Rob Roy Way is a 124km walk linking Drymen with Pitlochry in Perthshire. The route joins paths and tracks through highland scenery, taking advantage of attractive villages and small towns. The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! It then passes through the forests of the Trossachs, crossing the River Forth at Aberfoyle and down beside Loch Venachar to Callander, before leading out through fine glens by Loch Lubnaig and Glen Oich to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills on the remotest stretch of the walk, before descending to follow the quiet path along the southern shores of Loch Tay. Descend to Aberfeldy via the famous Birks, and the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.
Find out more about the Rob Roy Way here
THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY - 10 DAY
This 10 Day tour follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day. The West Highland Way is a well-established and popular route, containing some landscapes of great beauty. The altitude range is from sea level to 1850 ft (4408 ft if Ben Nevis is climbed). An 8 Day route is also available.
Find out more about The West Highland Way - 10 Days here and 8 Days here.
LOCHS AND BENS
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths where cycle touring is pleasurable. En route you will visit charming historic towns such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin. A rest day at Killin is included to allow you time to visit the Falls of Dochart, sail the Loch or walk up Ben Lawers. There are also opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments found along the way.
Find out more about Lochs and Bens here.
SCOTTISH HIGHLAND’S CYCLE
Cycle from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. During this week long trip we cycle along scenic paths and quiet forest trails with opportunities enroute to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. A day in Fort William is set aside to rest or ascend Ben Nevis. A train journey takes you across desolate Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch, where you continue on bike to the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, nestled in the Perthshire hills.
Find out more about the Scottish Highland's Cycle here
It’s often said that if you do enough exercise, you can eat virtually anything you like. And after a couple of hours of hard walking or cycling, it’s very hard (in Britain, especially) not to pass up the opportunity of having a piece of cake or a cream tea of scones and jam in a local café... it can be all too easy in fact, to eat too much!
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a balanced and slowly continuous food intake, where possible; little and often being the key. You don’t need to eat a whole energy bar in one go for example, have a little bit and often. Endurance athletes know the problem, the best of them have a highly trained musculature that takes a long time to suffer from the glycogen exhaustion that a lot of beginners are effected with when blood and muscle glycogen levels fall. It is said that, at least for running, you only have enough glycogen storage for a 90 minute sustained effort, walking perhaps 3 or 4 hours, so you need to be replenishing long before you anticipate an energy crash coming.
With this in mind, we have put together some simple nutrition tips for the best things to eat and drink to provide you with sustained energy whilst staying active and training for a big walking or cycling trip.
STARTING THE DAY
The first, and one of the most important things, is starting the day right. A cooked breakfast might seem like the way to go, but with a very high concentration of fats, protein and salts it can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning as you set out, whilst your body tries to digest everything. A better, and just as filling alternative, would be a nice bowl of porridge, perhaps with banana and honey or yoghurt stirred in. If you’re extra hungry, some toast with marmalade on the side wouldn’t go amiss. This will set you up with slow release carbohydrates as well as a good supply of initial sugars to get you going.
A very popular breakfast hailing from Switzerland is Bircher muesli, a creation of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. He developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium in the late 1800s with the aim of making his patients eat more raw fruit. The rolled oat based muesli is often soaked overnight in Swiss yoghurt making it easily digestible and then lots of mixed fresh and dried fruits are added. Within this you will get a mixture of complex carbohydrates, fruits, salts, sugars and fats. Fruits are an excellent source of elements, such as potassium in banana and vitamin c in berries and citrus fruits. It is also thought that vitamins help with energy processing, as well as promoting general wellbeing.
DURING THE DAY
Once you are out and about what should you take with you? Of course there are an array of different sports bars, sports drinks and energy gels, which can be confusing. These vary in quality, some are nutritionally balanced and some are little more than sugar. Either way, they are not always necessarily the best option, and there are good alternatives that can be found in most supermarkets, usually in multiple packs.
If you want to keep things more affordable, go for items such as Snickers bars or peanut M&Ms which have a good slow and fast energy release ingredients – glucose and protein. Nuts are more expensive, but if you add a few to some some dried fruit (such as raisins) and M&Ms, you have a reasonable trail mix that you can graze on throughout the day. Also, it’s always recommended to have a packet of Jelly Babies to hand as they are pure glucose, which gives us a hit of energy and are much more palatable than energy gels. A couple of apples are also handy. However, too much fruit and vitamin c can lead to RBM (rapid bowel movement), so don’t overdo it!
If you’d rather have a convenient bar to suit all needs, energy bars which have a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as the Clif Bar are great. They generally aren’t chocolate covered so won’t melt easily, but can crumble. Anything labelled as a 'nutrition bar' is intended as a meal replacement, providing vitamins and minerals and often having more calories and protein.
Rehydration is also very important, as you need to get a balance of liquid and salts without flushing the salts out of your system (hypernatremia). The easiest way to do this is to buy a tub of rehydration powders to fill your water bottles with in the morning and then take a trusted brand of soluble rehydration tablet to put in your bottle for further refills during the day.
ENDING THE DAY
When it comes to any strenuous exercise, the way you end your day is just as vital as the way you start. So once you’ve finished a long days walk or cycle, a lot of people feel either too tired to physically consume anything, or eat far too much without thinking about it. In Britain, it also seems to be customary to end your walk at a pub with a cold beer. This is definitely not to be sniffed at, as beer drinking is sociable, contains over 300 calories a pint (plus vitamins) and is easily consumed. The thing to remember is not to drink too much and remain hydrated, so a couple of pints is fine. Alongside your drink of choice, you should ideally eat something easily consumed straight after the exercise and then a little later have some protein to help with muscle repair.
Don't forget, it was only a couple of generations ago, that good hikers were completing extraordinary walks relying on jam sandwiches, homemade cake and a thermos of sweet tea (and some still do!) Food to is meant to be enjoyable and walking sociable, so the key is to listen to your body and perhaps don’t turn up that chance for a cream tea!
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.