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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!
There’s something very calming about walking beside a lake. The stillness of the water, and the views to the hills or mountains rising up from the far side of the lake can give a wonderful sense of space. And whether in the UK or Europe, lakeside towns and villages are often some of the most picturesque you’ll come across.
We offer a number of walks that include significant stretches of beautiful lakeside walking – here are a few of our favourites.
The Italian lakes are stunning – beautiful blue ribbons of water carving their way through majestic mountains, with classic coastal towns and villas dotted along the shores. Lake Como is one of the most famous, and has been a popular destination since the days of the Romans. As well as ancient Roman villas, the lake boasts grand hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era.
Our trip starts in Como, and includes several walks that take you to some of the most attractive towns and villages on the lake’s shores, offering plenty of opportunities to drink in the magnificent views and sample the delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Lake Como Rambling here.
Undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Cumbria’s breath-taking natural beauty and refreshingly clear air is at a leisurely pace walking the Cumbria Way.
This tour provides an excellent introduction to the charms of English Lakeland, England’s most mountainous area, and one if its most beautiful regions. Walking is unquestionably the best way to see this celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by the likes of poets, authors and painters. Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arthur Ramson, Beatrix Potter and Wainwright have all left their mark.
Starting in Ulverston and finishing in Keswick, the walk takes in views of Lakes Coniston and Derwentwater, as well as Langdale and Borrowdale, two of the area’s prettiest valleys.
Find out more about walking the Cumbrian Way here.
Welcome to beautiful Upper Austria in the hinterland of Mozart’s city of Salzburg. The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best ‘typical’ alpine hiking in Europe.
After a few days in the mountains you’ll descend to the waters of Lake Hallstattersee, and the ancient, picture-perfect lakeside town of Hallstatt. From here you’ll be able to explore the fascinating local area, and swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough.
Find out more about the trip here.
The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest waymarked trail, pioneered by a famous hill walker, J.B Malone over 40 years ago and reveals some of Irelands finest views - Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Loch Dan, Glenmalure and historical Glendalough.
The Wicklow Way explores unspoilt trails, remote scenery, lakes, glacial valleys, forests and gentle farmland – before finishing in the famous city of Dublin. Along the way, you’ll pass through the spectacular Glendalough valley, with views of the two lakes that sit at the bottom of the valley.
Photo: Magdalena Smolnicka
We offer 7-day and 9-day versions of the Wicklow Way.
Loch Ness hardly needs an introduction – Scotland’s second largest loch stretches for 23 miles along the Great Glen, which links Fort William in the south to Inverness in the north, and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Whilst walking the great Glen Way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Loch Ness, as well the other lochs, and the majestic surrounding mountains, including, of course, Ben Nevis itself, the UK’s highest peak. Along the way, you’ll be treated by famous Scottish hospitality, and traditional food.
Read more about walking the Great Glen Way here.
Not technically lakes, the Fjords are great coastal grooves, gouged out by retreating glaciers from the last ice-age. What they definitely are though, is spectacular – providing a breath-taking walking experience that will live with you forever. There are a wide range of walks to take in the highlands, which lead you right up onto the glaciers edge; it is even possible to go out onto the ice to take an excursion. There are also the lusher walks down into the pastoral settings of the Flam and Aurland Valleys. These are furnished with forests, farmsteads, cascades and churches.
You’ll also visit Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the world.
Find out more about walking in the Fjordland here.
One of our self-guided cycling holidays, this trip takes you through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. Along the way, you’ll visit beautiful lochs Tay and Earn, as well as the River Tay and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead and Killin.
En route there are opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments to be found along the way.
Find out more about cycling the Lochs and Bens.
If you’re considering a walking holiday but you’re hesitating because you’re not sure if you’re fit enough – don’t worry! It’s an understandable concern – and whilst it’s true that some of our trips require an excellent level of fitness, others are much more gentle on the legs. We’ve picked out a few UK-based trips for different fitness levels to help you work out your own level and find the one that’s just right for you. All of our trips include a suitability guide on the main trip information pages.
Gentle Trips for First Time Walkers
The Cotswolds, as well as being picture-perfect, are an ideal introduction to walking in the English countryside. The terrain is hilly rather than mountainous, and you’re rarely too far from a pretty village in which to stop for a rest and refreshments. The walking days are generally up to around 20km – comfortable for most reasonably fit people. The Cotswolds are a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, and as you meander through the countryside visiting medieval villages built in golden limestone, it’s easy to see why.
Although this trip is gentle on the legs, you will need to be a fairly competent map-reader.
This trip is available in 5-day and 8-day versions – and if you prefer wheels to feet, you can also explore the Cotswolds by bike.
Traditional Cotswolds houses
If walking in the Scottish Highlands sounds like the preserve of the super fit, then think again! Despite taking in some of Scotland’s most dramatic and breath-taking landscapes, most of the walking on The Great Glen Way is actually fairly straightforward – much of it along canal towpaths and forest tracks. The walking becomes a little more challenging on the last 3 days – but you can avoid a particularly steep climb on the last day by taking an optional taxi transfer. The days range from around 13km to 29km. This trip is a great way to sample the splendour of the Scottish Highlands without pushing your body to the limit.
Along the canals of the Great Glen Way
Moderate Trips for the More Active
If you’re looking for a trip in this category, you’re spoilt for choice, as the majority of our trips are classed as moderate. But here are a couple you might like to take a look at.
Although the daily distances on the St Cuthbert’s Way vary from 8.5km to 22.5km, the walk includes some steep ascents and descents, and some boggy terrain, which make it a little more challenging than the distances suggest. But with that little bit of extra fitness comes the reward of some delightfully unspoilt countryside and historic towns. Starting in Melrose in Scotland, and stretching across to the Northumberland coast and the island of Lindisfarne, this is a walk deep in historical and religious significance, as well as a route that takes in some beautiful countryside away from the hordes.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Lindisfarne (Holy Island) at the end of St Cuthbert's Way
With some fairly long days (24 to 27km), and steep climbs and descents, not to mention some unpredictable weather, Hadrian’s Wall represents a moderate challenge – and you’ll need a bit of walking experience behind you to take it on. This is a walk rich in history – the Roman Emperor Hadrian began building the wall in 122AD to keep out his enemies to the north, and is now the world’s largest Roman artefact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk in the Romans’ footsteps, you’ll discover some of England’s finest landscapes, towns and villages.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Challenging Trips for Experienced Walkers
The sheer length of the entire Pennine Way (429km) makes it a pretty serious challenge, before you factor in the long days, remote sections, some fairly basic accommodation and lack of shelter from weather that can be very unpredictable. But this classic of British walking is rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest – stretching through three national parks and encompassing fells, rivers, dales and waterfalls. The Pennine Way should be on the bucket list of any serious walker with a good level of fitness.
You can make the Pennine Way a little less challenging by doing just the Southern or Northern sections.
The Pennine Way
Although the Coast to Coast is offered in extended versions (up to 18 days) for those that like to take things at a slightly slower pace, the classic 15-day version includes some long days (an average of 25km per day), with 6-9 hours a day of walking at a steady pace to cover the distances required. But the Coast to Coast is our most popular walk for a reason – three national parks, charming towns and villages, stunning landscapes, and the sheer achievement of crossing England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea has given this route legendary status.
We offer several versions of the Coast to Coast – both guided and self guided, ranging from 15 to 18 days, and you can also do shorter sections on their own.
The Coast to Coast
Best Pubs in the UK for Walkers
The UK is famous for its historic inns and pubs, and no matter what your choice of refreshment, relaxing in one at the end of a day’s walk is an essential part of a walking holiday in the UK. We’ve asked around the office and here is a list of our favourite pubs that you can visit on one of our UK walking holidays.
Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langsdale
Located in the Lake District, the Old Dungeon Ghyll is a famous climber’s bar that has offered accommodation and sustenance to weary fellwalkers and climbers in the midst of some of the highest mountains in England, for over 300 years.
Why we like it: Stunning location and a great place to rest up with other exhausted walkers and listen to their epic tales.
Visit the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and more on our Cumbria Way walking holiday >>
DORSET AND WESSEX TRAILS
Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills
This lovely old pub dates back to the 13th century and was once the home of the leader of the most notorious gang of smugglers in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries (Emmanuel Charles).
Why we like it: Cosy inn near the sea has some good ales and its location makes you feel miles from the real world.
Visit the Smugglers Inn and more on our Dorset and Wessex Trails walking holiday >>
Red Lion, Burnsall
The Red Lion in North Yorkshire was originally a Ferryman’s Inn from the 16th century and on top of some delicious real ales the pub also serves up a tasty selection of local game and produce. Image from Tip Advisor
Why we like it: Good old-fashioned pub with great food, nestled right by the old bridge.
Visit the Red Lion pub on our Dales Way walking holiday >>
GREAT GLEN WAY
Glenmoriston Arms, Glenmoriston
Another pub that was originally a Drover’s inn, the original hotel built on the site dates back to 1740, six years before the battle of Culloden.
Why we like it: Great old bar with over 100 varieties of single malt Whisky, including some from extinct distilleries.
This renowned whisky bar has a huge range of single malts to choose from and friendly bartenders who can talk you through the tasting of Scotland’s national drink.
Why we like it: Great food and whiskey (obviously) and a relaxing place for a meal after a visit to Urquart Castle.
Visit the Glenmoriston Arms, Fiddlers and more on our Great Glen Way walking holiday >>
WEST HIGHLAND WAY
Kings House Hotel, Glencoe
The Kings House hotel is one of the oldest (and most remote!) licenced inns in Scotland and offers an extensive bar with magnificent views of the hills. It even has a sneaky climber’s bar round the back.
Why we like it: Location, Location! This pub has one of the most famous backdrops in Scotland (Buchaille Etive Mor).
Visit the Kings House Hotel and more on our Great Glen Way walking holiday >>
COAST TO COAST
Buck Hotel, Reeth
Originally a coaching Inn dating back to around 1760, the Buck in has been refreshing weary travellers for centuries. Inside you’ll find a cost bar with many of the original features still in tact.
Why we like it: Good range of well-kept beers/ales on draught and great zippy food.
Black Bull, Reeth
Older still than the Buck Hotel, the Black Bull dates back to 1680 and offers a wide selection of hand-pulled ales and good hearty food.
Why we like it: The Black Bull’s position on the village green makes for a great spot to rest in the sun (if you’re lucky!) and the pub is also amusingly famous for its ‘Old Peculiar on draught’; two pints of which apparently and you are anyone's!
The Lion, Blakey
The Lion Inn on remote Blakey Ridge is a 16th Century freehouse. Located at the highest point of the North York Moors National Park, it offers breathtaking views over the valleys of Rosedale and Farndale.
Why we like it: This cavernous old pub in the middle of nowhere has a great feel to it inside with open fires and low beams, and outside in the beer garden you have some great views over the dales.
Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge
The 18th century Horseshoe Hotel sits on some stunning grounds on the bank of the River Esk, in the quaint English village of Egton Bridge. Catering to walkers it is a great place to relax and replenish your energy.
Why we like it: You always hit this old fashioned pub right about when you feel like a drink! It’s beautiful beer garden is a great place to rest your weary feet before you contemplate crossing the Esk on stepping stones!
Visit these pubs and more on one of our Coast to Coast walking holidays >>
The Boathouse is a traditional pub, with low-beamed ceilings, stone floor and a dark wood bar decorated with tankards, pump-clips, and paintings.
Why we like it: Extraordinary range of 12 varieties of real ale or cider on hand-pulls and great home-cooked meals.
Twice Brewed Inn, Once Brewed
Overlooked by Steel Rigg, one of the best stretches of Hadrian’s Wall, the Twice Brewed Inn’s setting in rural Northumberland is quite unique. There are many theory’s surrounding it’s unique name that you can learn more about on your visit.
Why we like it: Once a brewery, this pub lives up to its name with a range of tasty ales.
Visit the Boathouse and Twice Brewed Inn on our Hadrian’s Wall walking holiday >>
Image credits: Some images used in this article were sourced from the pub's website, Trip Advisor or Visit Scotland.