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Scattered around England and Wales, you may have come across a so-called UK National Trail. Marked by the iconic acorn symbol, these are walking (and sometimes cycling) routes designated by the British Government. The conditions along the trail are looked after by a dedicated officer and are kept maintained to a standard that truly sets them apart.
They are a fantastic option to discover some of the best that the UK has to offer to outdoor enthusiasts as they wind their way through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks. All being long distance walks
, allow yourself a week or two to step into the outdoors and soak up the British countryside.
With nine out of the 15 trails to choose from, let Sherpa Expeditions be your guide when completing a UK National Trail
The 110 mile Cleveland Way follows a walking route from Helmsley to Filey. What stands out is the experience of half a walk over hill and scarp edges and half along the hilly coastline of the Yorkshire seaside.
The Cotswolds is the epitome of the English countryside. It is no wonder that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as rolling hills meet with quaint villages that are all preserved in a glorious state.
Hadrian’s Wall Path
Hadrian’s Wall stretches from the aptly named Wallsend in Newcastle Upon Tyne to the quaint village of Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path takes hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, following the world’s largest Roman artefact.
Offa’s Dyke Path
Crossing the border between England and Wales more than 10 times, the Offa’s Dyke National Trail path follows some of the finest scenery in both countries for 177 miles (285 km).
The Pennine Way, a mountain journey across the backbone of England, became the very first UK National Trail on April 24th 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 and down into Scotland.
South Downs Way
Exactly 100 miles of chalk downland walking separates the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne and the ancient Saxon Capital of Wessex and England – Winchester, forming the South Downs Way. Stretching over a rare large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Southern Britain, the walk generally follows the chalk (soft limestone) ridge just to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast.
South West Coast Path
England’s longest and, many would say, finest trail is the 630 miles long South West Peninsula Coastal Path from Poole to Minehead, of which almost half is in Cornwall.
Following the Thames Path will help you to understand not only the Thames but also why it is the key to the history of London. There is a lot to see: the palaces such as Hampton Court and Syon Park; castles such as Windsor and the Tower of London; multiple bridges each with their own history; and wildlife reserves. And always as the backdrop to it all is the life on the river.
In June 2019 we took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there with no complaining, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they finally made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
East Gill Force, Keld.
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions.
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. In May 2019 she decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
What is your walking history?
My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
How did you prepare?
With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
What was your favourite destination?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
Best food and drink?
I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast
, have a look at our guided and self guided options here
There are few counties in England with as much history, natural beauty and sheer romance as Yorkshire. The county, the largest in the UK, includes the National Parks of the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, and offers some of the most rewarding walking to be found anywhere in the UK.
Whether you’re a resident of the UK looking to explore this famous region of your own country, or a visitor from overseas after a taste of true English countryside, Yorkshire has it all. Dramatic, windswept moorland, dramatic North Sea coastlines, rolling hills and picturesque villages are all on offer when you visit the region that’s so special, it’s known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
Here we take a look at some of the best walks for discovering Yorkshire.
The Dales Way
There’s no doubt about it – the Yorkshire dales are downright beautiful. Ask many people to paint a picture of the quintessential English countryside, and they’ll present you with a scene of the Yorkshire Dales. Soft rolling hills, limestone edges, green valleys, waterfalls, Roman roads, interesting old churches, an abbey and some lovely pubs all feature here - as well as villages proud of their heritage.
The Dales Way runs for 78 miles from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. We offer both 8-day and 10-day self-guided itineraries.
The Cleveland Way
The Cleveland Way was the second of the UK’s National Trails to be established, in 1969. What makes it so special is the contrast between the stretches along the hilly Yorkshire coastline, and the inland stages across the rolling moors. Along the Cleveland Way you’ll experience walking across field-quilted farmlands, forests, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the rugged coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs.
Castle to Castle: The Richmond Way
The Richmond Way starts at Lancaster Castle, and finishes 69 miles later at Richmond Castle – visiting Bolton Castle along the way. As such, it is a walk that’s rich in fascinating history – the ancient trading routes that the route follows have existed at least since Roman times. It is a beautiful walk, visiting riverside footpaths, pretty little villages and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, whilst offering stunning views over the Wensleydale and Swaledale valleys.
James Herriot Way
This 50 mile, circular walk, has been designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wright, who, under the name of James Herriot, wrote a series of books about his life as a vet. The books were turned into a hugely popular BBC TV series – All Creatures Great and Small. As well passing through some of the finest villages and countryside that Yorkshire has to offer, the walk is a little shorter than some of the others in Yorkshire, and therefore slightly more manageable if walking for 8 days or more is a challenge.
You can also try these classic walks that include long stretches within Yorkshire, as well as other counties:
The Coast to Coast
The iconic Coast to Coast starts in Cumbria, and then heads through the Yorkshire Dales, and on to the North York Moors National Park, where it finishes on the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. Find out more here
The Pennine Way
The UK’s first, and longest National Trail, passes through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on its way from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. Find out more here
The Americans call it leaf peeping, the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves in Europe.
PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER
Surround yourself with colour as 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.
Departure dates until 15 October - click here for details and booking.
SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era.
Departure dates until 20 November - click here for details and booking.
GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way
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.
Departure dates until 22 October - click here for details and booking.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps
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.
Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.
UK | Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon - the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. In autumn the trees turn into a beautiful myriad of colours - there is nowhere better to experience the splendour of the English countryside as summer slowly fades away. Our walking tours of the Cotswolds are available as 5-day
If you’re someone who likes to travel solo, but without walking on your own, you may have tried an escorted tour in the past. After all, it’s a great way to ensure that you’ve got a group of people to walk with, especially if you’re not so keen on navigating on your own. But what do you do if you didn’t like the pace, or even the company? Maybe there was not enough time to take photos, or to visit that rather interesting pub on the way? Are you walking alone to get away from people, to clear your mind? Or are you hoping to meet new friends and see where the path takes you? In this article we take a look at a selection of trips, at different ability levels, that might make good choices for solo walkers.
So what is the difference between solo walking and going with friends or family? Well, for a start there is no one to argue with over directions or to where to stop for a break... you can literally take that all in your stride! A very important aspect is solo safety: if you were to have an accident, would phone reception be enough to raise the alarm or would there be people on the trail to help? It’s important that solo walkers think about such matters, have a fully charged phone and perhaps a fully-charged portable battery recharger. Carry a small first aid kit and a lightweight survival bag, and make sure you have a map and compass, a torch (plus spare batteries), extra water and emergency snack supplies.
Less Challenging Trips
If you’re starting down this road, there is no better place to look at than Hadrian's Wall
in Northern England, starting at Wallsend near Newcastle. There is a day of urban walking before you burst out across the countryside, essentially following a linear feature, the famous Roman wall. Although this no longer stretches all the way as an intact wall, the clues are often in the landscape, and just to help out you will have little white National Trail acorn waymarks to guide you. There are usually quite a number of people on the trail each day, particularly on the popular central section of the walk, which covers a couple of days.
Walking the Hadrian's Wall Path
A bit quieter, but covering a similar theme with the National Trail white acorns to show you the way, are both the South Downs Way and Dales Way, which both represent relatively easy challenges. Some care is needed with navigation, as these twist and turn a bit, and you need to follow the map carefully to be prepared for a junction. The Dales Way is the harder of the two - as you cross the Pennines you have a greater chance of bad weather, which can mean low visibility. There is a bit of route-finding across fields in places, and although well waymarked, it only takes one to be missing for you to have to consider where you are going.
Walking the Dales Way
If you’re looking for a similar trip in Europe you could consider something like the Alsace Vineyard Trail in France or King Ludwig's Way in Bavaria, Germany. Both are largely waymarked routes - the French long distance paths the, known as GRs, have red and white flash markings which are usually clear in dim forest light, although not all our trips continuously follow such waymarks. A couple of good trips for solo walkers in southern France are The Way of St. James, or the Robert Louis Stevenson Walk in the Cevennes. There are some long days but you are generally following drove roads and mule paths with good waymarking.
Walking King Ludwig's Way
Stevenson's Trail in the Cevennes
Another good concept for a solo traveller is a centre-based holiday in Switzerland - Sherpa has one based in Meiringen. There are several walks you can choose, so you can do shorter or longer options, and there are a lot of public transport possibilities in general. Something else in its favour is that Swiss walks are generally very clearly waymarked and signposted at most junctions.
Walking solo in the Swiss Alps
Harder up the scale for solo walkers in terms of navigation are trails with some wild terrain and maybe fewer, or no waymarks. In the UK there’s the short but beautiful James Herriot Way
, celebrating the life and times of the famous British vet, whose books inspired the much-loved TV series All Creatures Great and Small
. This walk climbs and drops into the great dales of the Pennines, and may require some careful navigation in bad weather. But if solitude is what you’re after you’ll definitely find it! The Troodos and Akamas
tours in Cyprus have few waymarks, but generally follow dirt roads and quiet, surfaced lanes. This is definitely one for the walker seeking solitude, as apart from a couple of trails in the Akamas, it is unlikely you will see many another walkers.
The James Herriot Way
Harder tours present more of a challenge for solos as they are more remote. We can suggest the Tour du Mont Blanc and The Alpine Pass Route - both are well waymarked, have various variants you can follow, and, especially on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you will always find people walking, running or mountain biking. In the UK the Coast to Coast also stands out, with quite a number of people on the trail every day, although you may also find yourself alone for some long sections. If you’re really looking for a decent amount of time on your own, you could consider the Pennine Way for the ultimate challenge, with long, deserted moorland sections on a walk covering 270 miles!
The UK Coast to Coast Walk
The Pennine Way
But what about solo traveller supplements, we hear you ask? Well, it is true that we have to add a supplement to the cost of your holiday if you’re travelling alone. This is mainly due to the cost of luggage transfers for just one bag. However, we try to keep the solo supplement as low as we possibly can, as we do not want to create any barriers for those wishing to travel alone.
As we approach St George’s Day on 23 April, it’s time to roll up your trousers and get out and about to explore England’s most beautiful corners.
For a small country, England offers a huge amount of variety when it comes to walking and cycling. Mountains, great lakes, dramatic coastlines and picture-perfect villages are all on offer as you choose your ideal way to explore the countryside.
Here are a just a few of our favourite holidays in England, now booking for 2019.
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the iconic Coast to Coast is widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails. Nearly 200 miles and traversing three National Parks, this is the quintessential English hill-walking and long-distance trail experience. Typically taking two weeks to complete, the walk starts near the red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head in Cumbria, and finishes at the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North York Moors coast.
We offer self-guided and guided Coast to Coast trips, with itineraries lasting 15, 16, 17 and 18 days, as well as shorter sections of the trail, and the Cyclist’s Coast to Coast.
Known for its beaches, pirates and Cornish pasties, Cornwall is very much a holiday county, enjoying the mildest climate in the UK. From Padstow to Land’s End through Lizard Point, the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain, this cycling journey takes you through a patchwork of landscapes, from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves. The daily rides are not that long, allowing plenty of time to see Cornwall the way you want to!
We also offer several self-guided walking holidays along the Cornish coast.
There is no dedicated way-marking throughout this route but that is part of its appeal. Covering 69 miles, The Richmond Way is a picturesque, yet unofficial, long distance trail along ancient trading routes that crossed the Pennines. From the medieval Lancaster Castle, passing through quaint villages, the trail traces the Lower Lune Valley before entering the Georgian town of Richmond, ending below the keep of Richmond Castle, one of the greatest Norman fortresses to be found in Britain.
Find out more about walking the Richmond Way
From Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, Dorset has inspired generations of authors. Crossing unspoilt rural villages, this trip follows the coast as it stretches eastwards, along fossil-encrusted cliffs and the famed Golden Gap, a 190-metre headland of orange sandstone. Explore a timeless landscape of hidden valleys and hill forts before dropping down to the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!
Find out more about walking our Dorset & Wessex Trail.
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. 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. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall – with a largely a rural feel!
We offer 8-day and 10-day itineraries along the Hadrian’s Wall Trail.
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 our Isle of Wight Cycle trip. We also offer a coastal walking tour of the island.
Do you love being surrounded by flowers in bloom? Whether you’re thinking of a spring getaway to the English countryside or a trip to Europe later in the summer, we have a number of trips departing in the next few months that will allow you to experience nature in all its glory.
From bluebells and daffodils to orchids and edelweiss, this is where you need to head to enjoy nature’s beautiful spectacle of colours…
DAFFODILS IN NORTH YORKSHIRE | BEST TIME: MARCH-APRIL
Daffodils may be typically associated with the English countryside but for the genuine wild variety (two-tone yellow flowers, narrow trumpets and forward pointing petals) head to North Yorkshire to walk the Cleveland Way. The daffodils at Farndale Valley are reputed to have been planted by the monks of the nearby Rievaulx Abbey and there is even a dedicated mile-long ‘daffodil walk’!
Find out more about the Cleveland Way
BLUEBELLS IN THE COTSWOLDS | BEST TIME: APRIL-MAY
The Cotswolds are on the finest regions to enjoy these quintessentially English carpets of blue. The Cotswolds landscape features a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath through Cheltenham to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Along the way you’ll encounter villages lined with stone-built houses and unspoilt woodland, often covered with bluebells during the spring months .
Find out more about walking in the Cotswolds
A carpet of bluebells
LAVENDER IN PROVENCE | BEST TIME: JUNE-AUGUST
With colours varying from violet to indigo and everything in between, the lavender fields of Provence are guaranteed to take your breath away and awaken all your senses. The heady scent of lavender is strongest in the height of summer, when the fine stalks wave in the wind, with prairies in bloom stretching as far as the eye can see.
Discover our Rambling in the Luberon trip
Lavender in Provence
Lavender in Provence
SUNFLOWERS IN TUSCANY | BEST TIME: JULY-AUGUST
It’s hard not to fall in love with sunflowers: they give a sense of happiness, like a sun shining on a beautiful summer’s day. Sunflowers in bloom are a striking sight and in Tuscany they are an icon of the region. Follow the backroads in the warm summer months and spot the sun-loving ‘girasoli’ among cypresses, vineyards and traditional Tuscan architecture.
Find out more about walking in Tuscany
A field of sunflowers
EDELWEISS IN THE ALPS | BEST TIME: JULY-SEPTEMBER
The national flower of Switzerland, edelweiss takes its name from the German words ‘edel’ (noble) and ‘weiß’ (white). It is probably Europe’s best known mountain flower, mostly seen between the months of July to September. It grows in rocky limestone places and its scarce, often short-lived bloom can be found in remote mountain areas of the Alps. There plenty of other wild flowers that adorn the meadows of the Swiss Alps throughout the summer.
Find out more about walking in Switzerland
An Alpine meadow
ORCHIDS IN MADEIRA | BEST TIME: YEAR ROUND
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. There is a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species, while a week-long Flower Festival takes place every spring. This year the festival takes place from 2 - 19 May.
Find out more about walking in Madeira
Orchids in Madeira
Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.
Cornwall is one of the UK’s most dramatic, visually breath-taking and romantic counties – and so it’s no wonder that this beautiful place has served as the setting for novels, films and TV series over the years. Cornwall is regularly used as the backdrop for films or TV programmes that aren’t even set there – as it provides the perfect backdrop for anyone looking for a rugged, dramatic landscape.
But here we take a look at some films and TV series actually set in this unique coastal county, including some of the locations you can visit when on a walking holiday in Cornwall with Sherpa Expeditions.
Ladies in Lavender
Directed and co-written by Charles Dance, and starring Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, 2004’s Ladies in Lavender’s credits read like a who’s who of British film royalty.
Set in 1930’s Cornwall, the film tells the story of aging sisters Ursula and Janet, whose peaceful lives are turned upside down when they find a nearly-drowned Polish man lying on the beach, and decide to nurse him back to health.
Locations in which the film was shot include St Ives, the Lizard Peninsular and Prussia and Keneggy Coves near Porthleven, all of which can be visited on our Marazion to Mevagissey Walk.
Poldark was originally a popular British TV series in the mid-1970s, but it’s the recent remake that launched in 2015 that has made the series a global hit. It stars Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, who returns home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolutionary War. It follows his trials and tribulations as he tries to forge a new life back in Cornwall.
The stunning Cornish coastline is a major aspect of the show’s visual impact. Filming locations include St Just, Land’s End, Charlestown, Helston, Lizard Point and Porthcothan. Many of these locations are visited on our walks along the South West Coast Path – so if you’re a fan of the show you can really immerse yourself into Poldark’s world.
The 1939 film based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel of pirates, rogues and smugglers, is the definitive, and most famous version, although there have been more recent remakes for both film and TV.
This classic film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. The setting for the story, Jamaica Inn itself, is still very much around and open to visitors – built in 1750 as a coaching inn for travellers crossing Bodmin Moor.
Another 1939 adaptation of a classic Daphne du Maurier novel, again directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this time starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. The only problem with this entry on our list, is that, although set in Cornwall, the film was actually shot entirely in California! At least the 1997 remake starring Charles Dance (him again) and Diana Rigg was partly shot in Cornwall.
Rebecca tells the story of Max de Winter, who brings his new wife to live with him on his country estate in Cornwall, named Manderley. However, the new Mrs de Winter soon finds that her husband’s deceased first wife, Rebecca, still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.
Doc Martin has been a much-loved programme on British TV since 2004. It stars Martin Clunes as a gruff, abrupt surgeon from London, who relocates to the seaside village of Port Wenn in Cornwall.
Port Isaac is the real village that serves as the location for the fictional Port Wenn. Port Isaac is a charming fishing village just north of Padstow on the northern section of the South West Coast Path. As well as being a lovely visual showcase for life on the Cornish Coast, there is much humour to be had as Doc Martin slowly gets used to the sometimes-eccentric way of life in a small Cornish village.
A bit of a left-field one – as it’s unlikely you’ll have seen it unless you’ve spent some time watching German television.
Rosamunde Pilcher was a hugely successful British writer of romance novels, whose books sold over 60 million copies worldwide between 1949 and 2000. She was born in Lelant, just outside St Ives – and her Cornwall surroundings provided the setting for many of her novels.
Her books became especially popular in Germany, where her novels have been adapted into more than 100 TV films. The popularity of these hugely successful films resulted in Rosamunde Pilcher receiving a British Tourism Award in 2002 for the positive effect that her books and the TV adaptations have had on Cornwall.
It’s no surprise that so many of the books, films and TV programmes set in Cornwall over the years have been tales of romance, intrigue and high-drama – given the highly dramatic and ruggedly beautiful nature of the county. You can experience all of it on a Cornish walking tour with Sherpa Expeditions.