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We were lucky enough to receive some great stories from our travellers during 2018. Finding out exactly what happens when our customers head out on their travels really helps us to ensure that we’re offering the best holidays and service that we can. It also paints a great picture of what you can expect from a particular trip.
Here are a few highlights from the tales we received over the past year.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
Randy and Diane – Bernese Oberland Guided Walk
We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss, in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
Marie-Claire – Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area. It was also great to be able to spend some time with my daughter. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
Jan – UK Coast to Coast
This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage.
Charles – Alsace Vineyard Trails
I had an uncle who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called Walking in Wine Country - the Alsace was one of the regions he had covered, so I wanted to walk in his footsteps and light a few candles in his memory.
How did you prepare for your trip?
Randy and Diane: Diane and I started doing some uphill hiking over the 2-3 months prior to the trip, and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1,000 to 2,000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland.
Marie-Claire: My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie Park (in Dundee) 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend. I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
Jan: The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed.
Charles: Ahead of the trip, I wanted to improve my French so I used an app called Duolingo to practice for 20 minutes each day for several months.
What was your favourite destination on the trip?
Randy and Diane: We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town.
Marie-Claire: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone. We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Jan: This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW!
Charles: What I loved best were the hours we spent walking through the woods on the lower slopes of the Vosges. They were of such varied character and with different plants favouring different species of trees.
What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Randy and Diane: The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for!
Marie-Claire: The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
Jan: A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home.
Charles: We soon found that the Alsace Riesling was nothing like the semi-sweet wines that we had had in our youth – these were on the medium side of dry but had such wonderful flavour. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Did you have any nice surprises?
Randy and Diane: Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monch and the Jungfrau and be at 3,466m in the Swiss Alps.
Marie-Claire: On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region.
Jan: The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again.
Charles: The Haut Koenigsbourg Castle is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find the most challenging?
Randy and Diane: The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group.
Marie-Claire: The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
Jan: I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it.
Charles: Choosing wines was a challenge!
If you have a tale from your travels with Sherpa Expeditions that you’d like to share with us, email us. You’ll get a £50 discount on your next trip with us!
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope your plans for the festive season are coming along nicely. As well as enjoying this special time with friends and family, Christmas is also the perfect time to start making your holiday plans for next year – but what’s on your wish list for 2019? Here, we pick out a few of our trips that might help you decide – but there are hundreds more trips to choose from on our website. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Whichever trip you choose, Sherpa Expeditions can help to make your 2019 a very memorable year.
Tick off a classic UK walk
Coast to Coast
This classic Coast to Coast walking route, stretching from the east to west of the UK, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the Lake District. The walk starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head. You cross three National Parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided Coast to Coast walks, ranging from 15 to 18 days for the entire route, and with shorter sections available.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The West Highland Way
Cornwall: The South West Coast Path
Take on a challenge
The Pennine Way
A mountain journey across the backbone of England, The Pennine Way became the very first British National Trail in 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, through the Cheviots and down into Scotland. Its sheer length makes it the perfect for those seeking a challenge – although you can also choose to do just the southern or northern sections.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Alto Aragon : The Spanish Pyrenees
Try a Scandinavian adventure
This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. The retreating glaciers from the last ice age once overwhelmed and molded this landscape, gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Sweden: Hiking Stockholm and Beyond
Soak up some sun
Classic Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the quintessential Italian holiday, with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea with some outstanding walks to experience this destination. There is no better way to immerse in this jaw dropping Italian coastline than hiking the Amalfi Coast to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're a sun worshipper, you'll love the warmth and colours of this beautiful part of Italy.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries
Rambling in the Luberon
Enjoy a food and wine lover’s paradise
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Everyone’s idea of what constitutes great food is different, but there’s no doubting that classic French food and wine is up there with the best. The food from the Dordogne features dishes that embody most people’s idea of classic French cuisine – this is the land of truffles, magret de canard and rich, dark wines. However, there’s much more to the Dordogne than just the amazing food and wine – beautiful medieval villages, lush, green, wooded hills and even caves all add to this lovely walking tour. (8 and 10 day trips available).
Other trips that fit the bill…
Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Keep cool in the forest
King Ludwig’s Way
For those that like some trees to shade them from the heat of the summer sun, this lovely, fascinating walk offers some very enjoyable stretches through the beech forests of Bavaria. The route passes two of Bavaria's most scenic lakes and through charming villages of geranium bedecked chalets with typical onion shaped church spires. The walk ends at King Ludwig’s spectacular fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps
This is just a tiny selection of the trips available, but we hope it provides some inspiration. You can search all of our holidays here.
Marie-Claire, originally from Brittany but a resident of Scotland for the last 40 years, headed to the Dordogne in September with her daughter Nathalie, to discover this beautiful region of France for the first time.
1.What is your walking history?
I have always been interested in cycling and walking but, to be fair, hiking is now what I do most. Some years ago, I did a cycling trip along the Danube from Passau to Vienna with a group of senior pupils from Arbroath High School doing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, and the following year friends and I did a 7-day cycle tour in Holland, staying in a barge overnight, cycling and sightseeing during the day and ‘finding’ the barge at the end of the day!
I have now been retired for 3 years and have joined the Dundee ramblers. We have walks every Saturday in the Angus Glens, Perthshire or the Fife Coastal Path.
In April this year, a group of us completed the West Highland Way. Challenging but breath-taking scenery!
2. Why did you choose to walk where you did?
In September, my daughter Nathalie invited me to do an 8-day trip with her - Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne.I am French but I have lived in Scotland for 40 years. When the children were young, we would always go to Brittany, where I am from, during the holidays. That’s one of the reasons there are many regions of France I don’t know.Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area.It was also great to be able to spend some time with her. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
3. How did you prepare for the trip?
My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie park 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend.I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
4. What was your favourite destination on the trip?
It is difficult to pick a favourite destination. Two places stand out: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone.
We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Curemonte was another picturesque village and we had lunch near an orientation table, on a hill overlooking the village. We could see the whole village from there and it gave us a different perspective to the one we had when we were in the village itself.
There was a little shop at the entrance to the village selling organic home-made jam and chutneys, made with fruit and produce from the owner’s estate. I was puzzled as to the names of some of the produce and the owner explained to us that his son has a sense of humour and had come up with funny names for some of them.
One chutney which Nathalie bought was from an old Indian recipe and it was called “pipi o lit”- and it contained dandelion flowers! We did learn that you can also make jam, wine and beer from dandelions! Who would have known?
We also learnt that a “telefilm” called L’orange de Noel had been shot there in 1995. It is set just before the First World War and is the story of a young primary school teacher, Cécile, who arrives in the village to teach at the local state school. Up to then, education had mainly been the domain of the Catholic church, and Catholics called state schools “L’école du diable.”
The local priest had always managed to force the state school teachers to quit after a year but this time... he meets a young woman of character!
5. What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Delicious hearty food, foie gras, cassoulet, duck, walnuts, cèpes territory! Not a paradise for vegetarians or vegans!!
The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert
menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘Flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
The 4-course ‘menu du terroir’ dinner in Carennac was also superb!
6. Did you have any nice surprises or serendipitous experiences?
On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region. The little ‘superette’ in Loubressac had none left when we were there. The owner explained that some tourists had bought their entire stock a few weeks before we were there.
We were lucky enough to sample it in Carennac and the traditional red went superbly with the lamb and of course the cheese!
On day 6, we visited the “Gouffre de Padirac”, a huge cave over 100 metres deep. You can walk down or take the lift, walk along the narrow passages and admire the way the underground river has carved the stone over thousands of years. After a 10-minute boat trip you continue your journey to ‘la salle du grand dôme’ and discover stalactites, stalagmites and amazing rock formations which are reminiscent of a Lord of the Rings setting.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
There was also more road walking than I was expecting... and I did get blisters!
Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne and Port de Gagnac to Loubressac were tough! I wished I had taken 2 pairs of walking boots with me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. More training beforehand would have been good!
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne has daily departures from 1 April 2019, and is also available as a 10-day trip.
Sherpa HQ team member Nathalie headed to the Dordogne with her mum in September for some autumn sunshine, and to savour the delights of this beautiful region of France. Here she gives us her top 5 reasons to try this self-guided walking trip for yourself.
GET AWAY FROM THE HUSTLE & BUSTLE
Now I see why the trip is called Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne. It was certainly reflected in the number of walkers mum & I saw, which were only a couple every few days. For me this made it feel like much more of a special & immersive experience, and also encouraged me to practice my rusty French more!
A typical sleepy hamlet - Greze.
Lush forests provide welcome shade from the hot sun.
The walnut groves got more and more plentiful as the walk goes on. Thanks to mum I can now identify chestnuts, figs etc. It was like having my own guide!
GAZE OVER THE VISTAS
As I normally tend to gravitate towards mountains, I wasn’t sure if the landscape in rural France would entertain me for the week - but I needn’t have worried. Each day offered beautiful, varied landscapes that came with their own highlights. Country fields, walnut orchards, gorges, forests and rivers - there was always something beautiful to absorb.
Kayakers at Beaulieu-Sur-Dorogne.
Glimpsing Curemont as we descend after our picnic – don’t forget to visit the Lou Pé de Grill farm shop as you enter the village!
The climbs are worth it when you get rewarding views like this.
EXPLORE MEDIEVAL VILLAGES & CAVES
The league table for French villages is the exclusive 143 top villages in the country, and you visit several just in this trip. I actually felt like I had stepped back in time or into a fairy tale. If, like me, you enjoy photography and finding local produce, you’ll be in your element.
Carennac on the morning of the last day. Not only do you visit lovely villages, you get to stay in them too.
The impressive Chateau de Castelnaud.
The Padirac Caves were a wonderous, cooling detour at only 13 degrees Celsius, when it’s 27 above ground. More than 100m below ground, I loved floating on an underground river and seeing all the weird and wonderful formations which we named “the jellyfish” and “the cauliflower” - although like cloud shapes, we all see different things!
Padirac Caves – after the short boat ride you get a chance to explore the caves on foot.
SAMPLE THE LOCAL CUISINE
It’s funny how quickly you get used to three-course dinners, and in the Dordogne Valley you certainly get spoilt. I’m not sure if my calories burned cancelled out the calories consumed, but it was worth it. In my mind it was guilt-free after the hikes anyway! Starting off the week at the Bonne Famille, which has been in the same family for some 97 years now, we could feel the love in the service and the food. As an area famed for confit why wouldn’t you indulge in duck or cassoulet? And the food highs just kept coming.
The Bonne Famille served tasty duck home-cooked meals.
Hostellerie Fenelon’s Lamb two ways was packed with flavour.
INDULGE YOURSELF WITH WINE & CHEESE – YOU’VE EARNED IT!
When a cheese board with a selection of more than 10 cheeses is set in front you, you can’t not smile. It’s even better after you’ve been enjoying a bottle of the local red from Glanes, which can only be bought locally, and if you have the right contacts. Luckily the proprietor of the Hostellerie Fenelon has friends in the right places!
Look out for this wine on the menus – the traditional blend is perfect as it compliments many dishes.
Save room for the local goat’s cheese if you can!
My conclusion – this was a wonderful trip that certainly convinced me that you don’t have to be in the mountains to enjoy nature. This is a beautiful region of France, with friendly people, delicious food and fantastic wine. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a proper taste of French countryside and culture.
2019 dates for Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne are now available to book - with the option of either an 8-day or 10-day itinerary .
Walking in the Dordogne
France’s rural Dordogne region is an ideal setting for a walking holiday, offering lush and green countryside with rolling hills and some of the most beautiful villages in the country. The sights and attractions in the region are equally varied in their appeal, with amazing produce and cuisine, loads of history from pre-historic man to raging battles in Roman times/middle ages, along with many chateaux and outstanding gardens to visit.
Best time of year to walk in Dordogne
We recommend walking in the Dordogne from mid-April through to mid-October although it can get hot during the afternoons in late July and early August.
In April & May there are lots of spring flowers, an abundance of butterflies and the waterfall in Autoire is also in its full glory. The markets and town are busy, bustling and larger during the summer months in Meyssac and Beaulieau sur Dordogne and the afternoons can get quite warm. September and October offer cooler temperatures, less crowds and the added charm of the annual grape harvest.
Our Favourite Villages in the Dordogne
We love climbing to the top of Cesar's Tower in Turenne where you can see magnificent views over four departments and looking down over the ramparts and rooftops of the ancient village below.
Another hidden gem is the 'red' village of Collonges la Rouge with its unique red sandstone buildings featuring turrets and towers atop and twisting lanes in between. This is a great place to stop, enjoy a drink and watch the world go by.
One of our favourite panoramas can be found when approaching Curemonte (see below) from the hilltop. You have a wonderful view of the old village straddled along a ridge with its two chateaux. Absolutely spectacular.
Food and Drink in the Dordogne
First and foremost the Dordogne is the home of the truffle! Black truffles are the local delicacy and are often served in omelettes and pastries as well as alongside pate de foie gras. The local sweet 'Vin Paille' wine is excellent served as an aperitif, with foie gras or cheese and dessert.
Other specialities of the Dordogne are duck and goose in its many forms; from magret and foie gras served with spiced bread and sweet preserved figs, to confit of duck served on a bed of white beans and garlic. The most delicious walnut oil can be purchased on route direct from small local producers, and it is a great addition to your picnic lunch. Simply dip in chunks of baguette in the oil and enjoy with local charcuterie (cold meats, salami and saucison).
Getting There and Away
Brive la Gaillarde is the closest airport to get you to our walking holidays in the Dordogne and offers regular flights to/from London Stansted. Most of our clients however find it easiest to fly into Toulouse and take the train to Brive (2.5 hours) or Quatre Routes (3 hours) and get a taxi to their starting hotel from there. From Paris it’s around a 4.5 hour direct train down to Brive la Gaillarde or 5 hours to Quatre Routes, with a change in Brive. Getting away is simply a reverse of this with a taxi from your last hotel to Brive or Quatre Routes and the train to Toulouse.
Our Walking Holidays in the Dordogne
Sherpa Expeditions offer an 8 or 10-day self-guided walking holiday in the Dordogne, along with an 8-day self-guided cycling holiday. Visit the Walking and Cycling Holidays in the Dordogne page to find out more about our range of trips that will help you get the most out of your time there.