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Top Tips for a First-time Walking Holiday

by resident guide John Millen
 
Top tips for first time walkers - UK holidays Sherpa Expeditions
 
If you are considering going on a multi-day walking holiday for the first time, it will often mean a total direction change from your previous vacations where you were sightseeing or relaxing on a beach break. 
There is a formality with walking tours in the sense that you will be moving to a new location and accommodation on some or most days. But this kind of holiday gives you so much time and flexibility to do what you please on the way: stopping at viewpoints or visiting gardens, homes, castles, pubs and cafes. You may decide to have a picnic wherever you please, take in the landscapes or talk to the locals. So within the framework of an itinerary there is normally plenty of scope for doing and seeing. 
 

First steps for walkers

As a first step, you may choose to go for a long weekend of walking or doing a couple of day walks in succession to see if you do actually like it! 
The key point for a first time walker is to not bite off more than you can chew; try an easy-ish straightforward itinerary which you know you can probably follow. You can then relax and take your time.  
By going on a shorter break for a first time walking holiday, you will be able to get used to the walks and whether you may have issues with feet or knees etc. Imagine what it could mean if you were to discover this in a really remote location!
 
Visit Cotswolds for a first time walking holiday
 
Dorset offers good walking for first timers
 

Guided or self guided as a first time walk?

If you are thinking about a self-guided itinerary, look for the lower graded and better waymarked options such as the more southern trails in the UK like The South Downs Way and The Thames Path – or if you want to go further afield, the pilgrim routes in Spain and France. If you have not had much walking experience then it is best to keep to the more simply navigated walks such as these. If you are considering a guided walk, then the navigation and a lot of the decisions are taken for you. In general though, guided walks are a bit harder and you will need to be mindful about your fitness and pacing within a group.
 

Pacing

Pacing implies getting to a certain place by a certain time. Although it is certainly good to have a challenge, an easier itinerary means that you don't have to worry too much about pacing. This ultimately means more time for stops along the way and arriving at your destination more relaxed. 
 

Do I need special gear for a walking trip?

Outdoor gear can be quite expensive. So if you are not sure about whether this type of holiday is for you, on an easier-graded trip you will not necessarily have to invest in expensive outdoor gear. To get an idea of some of the items you may need, check out my tips on What to Take on a Hiking Trip
Maybe you will have half the gear already, trainers/ old walking boots a small rucksack, and a waterproof jacket. 
You could look to borrow some gear from friends and family, and then having completed the first holiday, you can decide if you want to do another and invest in some gear. 
Perhaps use a locally sourced wooden stick instead of buying walking poles, until you decide that you want to use them or not. 
 
 

Keeping hydrated

Some first time walkers worry about water intake or toilet stops and keeping hydrated. Unless it is really hot, it is rarely worth carrying more than two litres with you, and remember each litre weighs a kilogram. Quite a good idea is to try and drink quite a bit to flush your system before you set out each morning or even the night before. Normally on the easier walks you will not be too remote to refill your bottles or to buy a drink or two somewhere. Just make sure that any tap or faucet water is drinkable. It may be worth carrying water sterilizer tablets or a small filter. Some water bottles (more about water bottles here) come with this feature fitted. Normally there will be some kind of sign if the water in undrinkable. 
Walking hours without visiting a toilet may be a worrying proposition but it need not be, just discreetly make use of terrain and vegetation. If you use toilet paper, fold it up and put it in a bag until you can dispose of it in the usual way.
 

What about navigating a route? 

Get used to using a compass for general direction finding before you head off on your walking holiday. There is plenty of online guidance on map/ compass reading and I have written some advice on navigating before. Download any mapping apps and use any GPS data that the company may provide to help you along, but always carry the printed map, route notes and the name and address of your ultimate stop of the day. If using a phone or GPS, it makes sense to carry an auxiliary power bank and the appropriate leads.
 

What to pack for my first walking trip?

Don't overburden yourselves on your first walking holiday, but you may wish to carry a small umbrella (for shade as much as for rain), a Thermos flask (most UK B&Bs have tea and coffee making facilities in most rooms,) a small pen knife and maybe a piece of foam or a garden kneeler to sit on during a picnic. Plasters or compeed are useful for any abnormal hot spots developing on your feet.  
With such considerations and warm or cold weather clothing packed appropriately for the coming day, you should be able to enjoy your first walking holiday ever!

GGot excited to go and try out the concept of a walking holiday? At Sherpa Expeditions you can choose from a list of options that are great for a first-time walking trip:
 
England walking holidays for first timers

Scotland walking holidays for first timers

Camino walking holiday for first timers

Or contact our team of friendly travel consultants to give you personalised advice, by phone or email. 
 

Travellers' Tales: Wainwright's Coast to Coast with Gail

Gail upon completing UK Coast to Coast walk
 
Gail Rast from Australia went on a self guided Coast to Coast walk with us last summer and in this article shares her feedback of the walking holiday across England. Her walking history began around five years ago when she walked the entire Camino Frances – solo! 
 

What is your walking history? 

I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, but became really passionate about walking a little over 5 years ago when I made the decision to walk the Camino Frances. This was fairly ambitious for my first multi-day hike, but I succeeded in walking the entire 800km (solo). Since then I have done a number of multi-day hikes in Australia (including bush-camping) and 2 years ago I did the Portuguese Coastal Camino (260km).
 

"I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors"

 

Wainwright Coast to Coast feedback

Why did you choose to walk the UK’s Coast to Coast? 

I chose the Coast to Coast long distance walk because I have always wanted to see the Lake District and spend some time in the English countryside. Walking is a great way to see and experience new places.
 

"Walking is a great way to see and experience new places."

 

How did you prepare for this long distance walk?

I keep myself fit year-round by swimming, walking and other activities such as kayaking. In the lead-up to the Coast to Coast walk, I increased my walking (distance and more difficult terrain) and trained with a pack. I also incorporated weight training into my routine to strengthen my muscles.
 
Gail in the Lake District UK with Sherpa Expeditions
 
Osmotherly village and viewpoint on Coast to Coast
 

What was your favourite destination along the trail?

I genuinely enjoyed the entire Coast to Coast Trail – I loved the diversity of the terrain! Stand-out village for me was Osmotherley, such a pretty place and such friendly locals. I also loved the coastal terrain of St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay (great way to start and finish!).
 

Best Food & Drink?

The pub food was hearty and sustained my ravenous appetite at the end of the day! My most memorable meal was braised Cumbrian lamb in a pub in Rosthwaite – it was plentiful and absolutely delicious. I also enjoyed the local ales, and have now developed a taste for boutique gins!
 

Biggest surprise? 

The biggest surprise was the number and variety of animals that shared the trail – so many different types of sheep and cows, as well as horses and numerous birds including pheasants and grouse. As I was walking solo most of the time, they were great company!

Belted galloway - walking Wainwright Coast to Coast
 
Stiles and bleak moors - walking UK Coast to Coast - Sherpa Expeditions
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging? 

The descents of the Lake District were more challenging than I had imagined. I managed fine with the ascents, but my knees struggled coming down the peaks. But the views and sense of achievement made it absolutely worth it.

 
Want to experience Wainwright's Coast to Coast for yourself and cross England's Lake District on foot? At Sherpa Expeditions we offer a variety of ways to discover the area, whether on foot or by bike, guided or self guided, check out your options here
 

>> More about the Coast to Coast trail in the UK

 

Gear Matters: A Guide to Outdoor Travel Photography

Gear Matters_travel photography tipsThis 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.

 

Use natural light for outdoor photography

 

Outdoor Photography tips_Sherpa Expeditions

 

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.

 

6. Resolution

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! 

 

Travel photography tips with Sherpa Expeditions

 

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.

 

 

Gear Matters: Your Guide to Choosing Walking & Cycling Sunglasses

choosing cycling sunglasses - gear matters - sherpa expeditions

My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!

 

One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!  

sports sunglasses for protection in Switzerland_Sherpa Expeditions

best cycling sunglasses for a Tuscany cycling holiday with Sherpa Expeditions

 
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.

 

Light Transmission

You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.

 

Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.

 

Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.

Lens Tints

There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).

sunglasses are unmissable on a summer walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Frames 

No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.

 

Hinges

The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.

 

Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses

Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.

 

Prescriptions

The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.

 

sports sunglasses on alpine walking holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Some More Thoughts

Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!

 

Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!

 

For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.

 

If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.

 

Gear Matters: What to Take on a Hiking Trip

Gear tips for walking holidays with Sherpa ExpeditionsJohn Millen, our resident guide and walking expert, lists his essential items to take on a hiking trip. Especially with mountain trips in mind, but also useful to those that plan to walk outside the mountains, these items to pack on your walking holiday can certainly help you enjoy your holiday in the outdoors even more.

 

Bookmark this list of 10 things to pack on your walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and keep it handy for your next holiday in Europe.

 

 

Clothing

Wear several layers of thin clothing, such as a thin merino top under a shirt and then a thin or thick fleece that can be taken off to adapt to changes in temperature. Also, have a waterproof coat ready and waiting. Quite a nice item to have if you are prone to feeling the cold, is a down 'gillet' which is like a puff jacket without the arms. These can be packed away easily and can be brought out if you get cold. 

 

Boots

Take comfortable broken in, but not broken-down hiking boots with some cushioning either in the insole, outsole or both! Trail or fell runners may be used to tackling alpine paths in trail shoes, but for travellers on our trips, trainers or running shoes do not give enough support for the rocky, uneven terrain. Hiking boots come in different categories of stiffness (based on the difficulty of the terrain for which the shoes are designed). On particularly stony trails, a pair of short gaiters called ankle gaiters, can be fitted to stop your boots filling up with stones.

 

>> Bonus: Tips on cleaning your boots

 

gear tips for walking in the alps _ Sherpa Expeditions

 

what to bring on a hiking trip - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Hat

Wear a hat to protect your face and head from the sun. Some have flaps to protect your ears and neck as well. The best hats are the ones that not only dry fast but retain their shape once you have stuffed them in your bag. Tilley hats, for example, are expensive, but they are very good.

 

Sunglasses

Take along suitable sunglasses: they should be wrap-round style and rated Category 3. For those of you that plan to go particularly high or into snow then 'Category 4' and, preferably, a pair with side protection is recommended.

 

Waterproofs

Always remember to take a rainproof top and trousers. Rain showers are quite regular in the Alps, as well as most of northern Europe and the UK, and you do not want to be caught out in the wet. It is amazing how many people return or replace Gore-tex and other 'breathable' garments because they think that they no longer breathe. It is usually the case however that the garment is fine, but the fabric works on a humidity gradient and sweat will always build up in conditions where you work yourself hard, or there is a high level of ambient humidity. However, make sure that you check the taped seams are in place and wash the piece regularly. 

 

Socks

Wear thick socks, preferably loop stitched and seamless ones. This can prevent your feet from getting blisters and adds cushioning to your walk. Tip of the expert: carry a spare pair on you.

 

>> Bonus: Looking after your feet on a walking holiday

 

Detailed Paper Map & Compass

GPS is generally accurate and reliable, however when it goes wrong it is great to have the back-up of a real map and compass. Although high-end GPS and some phones have good mapping features, it is often difficult to view the LCDs in bright sunlight and also to see 'the big picture'. Don't forget a waterproof map case (e.g. Ortlieb) to protect the maps that we prepare for you on your walks and cycling days.

 

maps for walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

bring a water bottle on your hiking trip in the mountains with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Alarm

Take a whistle to warn people in the area if you are in trouble. The emergency signal to use if you need help is 6 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. You should repeat this until help arrives or until you get an answer of 3 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. In case you don't have a whistle, you can use a torch (flashlight).

 

Ruck Sac

Put all these items in a comfortable day pack, there are many makes at so many different prices. You will be generally better off having a bag that is a bit bigger than all that you put into it, to avoid crushing items. So if you know that your 30 litre pack is crammed full, get a 45 or 50 litre one. Bags with a chest harness as well as waist harness give better stability while you are walking or moving downhill. If you like your photography and are used to carrying your camera, then you should have enough room to stow it during bad weather.

 

Waterproof Drybags

Very few makes of rucksack are completely waterproof, and during a big shower some water can penetrate even if you have a rain cover. So, a dry bag for delicate items such as first aid kit, camera, passport etc, are really useful.

 

And finally…

  • First aid kit, including a rescue or Bivouac bag or blanket, in case you have to stop in an emergency.
  • Mobile phone with important phone numbers at hand, even though remote areas may have no mobile coverage, there may be others near you with satellite phones.
  • Trekking poles are convenient for both descending and ascending as well they are indispensable on difficult terrain. Poles can be used to pre-load your weight as you descend and save pressure on the knees. 
  • Sufficient amount of food and drinks: a water bottle with at least 1-litre capacity - normally there are plenty of places to fill up in the mountains to avoid dehydration. Also bring with you some spare food such as energy bars, nuts, dried fruit etc.
  • If you wear shorts, don’t forget to also pack a lightweight pair of long trousers to protect against the sun, cold and insects. Trousers are also useful when walking through thicker vegetation. Trousers with zips around the legs that turn into shorts can be useful if you prefer not to carry an extra pair.

 

 

10 of The Best Long-Distance Walks in the UK

In the UK a trail is often considered ‘long distance’ when it is at least 30 miles (48km) long. However, we like to stretch this a little and will look in this article at those paths that are over 70 miles or about 100km. Spread throughout all corners of Britain, you can find a diverse range of long-distance walks. 

 

A long-distance path in the UK is traditionally waymarked but won’t necessarily follow established footpaths and as such, walkers will often find themselves traversing pastures, fells, river shores or beaches. It's exactly that why we love some of our walks so much.

 

At the same time, going on a long-distance walk allows you to really travel deep inside a region and experience the real character and spirit away from outside borders.

 

Inspired by iconic figures, historical boundaries or geographical regions, read on for some of the UK’s best long distance walks.

 

Coast to Coast Walk

 

 

Entire Length: 309 km / 192 miles
Country: England
Best time to go: late spring until early autumn

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

One of Britain’s classic walking routes, the Coast to Coast, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the English Lake District. Walk this trail for the feeling of crossing England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, and to explore the national parks of the Lake District, Pennines and North York Moors.

 

“High points were the challenge, the people we met, sense of achievement and hospitality. Keep up the good work.”F. O’Sullivan from Paynesville, Australia

 

Channel Island Way

 

 

Entire Length: 177 km / 110 miles
Country: England
Best time to go: walk the Channel Island Way between April and late October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

Each of the eight Channel Islands have their own separate character, and in terms of scenery resemble some of Cornwall’s nicest features. This long distance walk along the isles to the south of England takes you island hopping to see well preserved WWII fortifications, rugged cliffs, quiet villages and a fantastic range of pubs.

 

John Muir Way

 

 

Entire Length: 215 km / 134 miles
Country: Scotland
Best time to go: between April and early October is the best time to undertake this British long distance walk

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

The John Muir Way is a route that symbolically links Dunbar (John's hometown) with Scotland’s first national park (Loch Lomond) and the Trossachs with Helensburgh (from where John and his family departed for the USA) in the west. Both towns are located by the sea and as such the trail is known as the Scottish Coast to Coast. Along the way, you are rewarded by views over Ben Lomond, an exploration of Edinburgh, and lots of historical features. There are many highlights on the John Muir Way - read about 10 interesting sites.

 

Hadrian’s Wall Trail

 

follow Hadrian's Wall Path in England - Sherpa Walking Holidays

 

Entire Length: 133 km / 83 miles
Country: England
Best time to go: the climate of Northern England is renowned for being unpredictable, but the best time of year to walk Hadrian’s Wall Trail is between April and early October, with June being the sunniest month

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

A reason for hikers to choose to walk Hadrian’s Wall is the rich Roman history along the way, as it’s not just the wall itself that you will see, but also remains of important Roman forts and good museums. This walk brings you scenic variety that stretches from the modern, busy cityscapes of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle and from the barren heights in Northumberland to the lime green pastoral scenes of Eden Valley.

 

“Great experience but hard work. However, the feeling of ‘we did it’, made it all worthwhile!” – M. Murphy from Tewantin, Australia

 

Rob Roy Way

 

long distance walks uk Rob Roy Way

 

Entire Length: 124 km / 77 miles
Country: Scotland
Best time to go: for a long distance walk in Scotland like this, travel in the UK's spring and summer - between April and October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

The Rob Roy (MacGregor) Way takes hikers through areas where the notorious cattleman & outlaw used to reside, and on routes where his family drove their cattle towards market towns. This long distance trail allows you to walk in the footsteps of a Scottish legend while taking in highland scenery, famous lochs, and pretty Victorian villages.

 

Great Glen Way

 

walking the Great Glen Way with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Entire Length: 117 km / 73 miles
Country: Scotland
Best time to go: walk this long distance trail between April and October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

The Great Glen Way long distance trail was opened in April 2002 and passes the foot of the UK’s highest mountain (Ben Nevis), follows the shores of Loch Ness (will you spot Nessie?), and crosses the Scottish Highlands. The forts and castles scattered along the way are witness to Scotland’s turbulent past.

 

“This was our first multi-day walk so we were a little apprehensive but we had a fantastic time and will definitely be doing more in the future.” - J. Taylor, Bolton, UK

 

South Downs Way

 
 
 

Entire Length: 161 km / 100 miles
Country: England
Best time to go: as the south of England is one of the sunniest places in all of the UK, you can enjoy the South Downs Way from as early as mid-March and until the end of October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

Most of the route of the South Downs Way is ancient, made up out of the old droving roads that took animals and goods between the market towns of the region. On the way ‘Dew Ponds’, ring forts, cross dykes and tumuli reflect a history stretching back into the mists of time. What better way to take in the rolling landscapes and areas of outstanding natural beauty of Southern England than on foot?

 

“A wonderful range of terrain & experiences. Lovely scenery. Gorgeous villages full of history. We loved it! Terrific walking - challenging & interesting. Thank you for a great holiday. We'll be back.” – M. O'Rourke, Auckland, NZ

 

South West Coastal Path

 

walk the South West Coastal Path - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Entire Length: 579 km / 360 miles
Country: England
Best time to go: late March until the end of October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

Cornwall is very much a holiday county with beaches, famous Cornish pasties, pirates, shipwrecks and the roaring sea. It has been voted Britain’s favourite holiday region for many good reasons. By following on foot one of the UK’s longest walks, you can let yourself be surprised by the tropical scenery.

“Loved how the walking tour created a more intimate connection with the towns, people, area & community. High points: scenery of coastal Cornwall and The Tinners Arms - loved it! Would have liked to have another day included at the end of the tour to get to St Michael's Mount.” – R. Masters, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, USA

 

Offa’s Dyke Path

 

Offa's Dyke - walking in the UK - Sherpa expeditions

 

Entire Length: 285 km / 177 miles
Country: Wales
Best time to go: the best time to walk Offa’s Dyke Path is between April and September

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

Offa’s Dyke Path takes you through patchworks of fields, over windswept ridges, across infant rivers, by ruined castles and into the old border market towns. Traditional farming methods have more or less remained intact and the hedgerows, oak woods and hay meadows form good wildlife habitats. Add to that historic castles and abbeys and you have yourself a fantastic introduction to Wales.

 

West Highland Way

 

walk historical west highland way with sherpa expeditions

 

Entire Length: 155 km / 96 miles
Country: Scotland
Best time to go: from late March until the beginning of October

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 

Embark on a hike on the West Highland Way and you step back into history - most of the stages follow the famous droving and military roads that linked the Scottish Highlands to the Lowlands. Many of the hotels you find today have originated from the droving inns that have operated for centuries. On this long distance trail you’ll also walk to the foot of Ben Nevis and past the shores of the UK’s largest lake, Loch Lomond.

 

And a bonus 11th long-distance walk - The Pennine Way

 

Entire Length: 268 miles / 429km
Country: England
Best time to go: late spring to early Autumn

 

Why is this one of the best long-distance walks in the UK?

 
 
The Pennine Way, a mountain journey across the backbone of England, became the very first British National Trail on April 24th 1965. It stretches 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. It is iconic because it was the product of the post First World War mass trespass movement of often working class walkers with a socialist outlook.

 

 

We hope your bucket list hasn’t grown too much after reading about these favourite long-distance walks. If you'd like our support planning your walk, choosing the best hike for you, or have any other queries, please feel free to contact our team in London directly. 

The Great British Isles

British Isles walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Great Britain, the large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.

 

Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant and sheer holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.

 

Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.

 

#1 Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.

The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.

>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday

>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday

 

#2 Jersey

walking in Jersey - Channel Island Way - British Isles - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.

>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday

>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday

 

#3 Isle of Man

English Islands walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.

Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.  

>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday

 

#4 Guernsey

Discover Guernsey one of the British Isles with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.

Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.

>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday

>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday

 

#5 Holy Island

Lindisfarne - Holy Island - British Isles for walking - Sherpa Expeditions

 

A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.

When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.

>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days 

>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days

 

Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.

 

 

40 Years of Walking the South West Coast Path

walking the South West Coast Path with Sherpa Expeditions

 

As proud supporters of the South West Coast Path in Cornwall, we are excited to announce that this year the English long-distance trail is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

 

The path spans 630 miles between Minehead and Poole and is one of the UK’s National Trails. We have divided it up in several sections for both walkers and cyclists and these trips cross landscapes with special status. There are, for example, the UNESCO listed areas of Jurassic Coast in Devon and the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.

 

the south west coast path - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

admire historical features when walking the South West Coast Path with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Originally, the path had served as a route for coastguards to trace smugglers and their activities on the sea. The coastguards walked between lighthouses, often at the end of the cliffs to be able to look down into the coves and bays. The creation of the trail that we can hike today was done in sections, with the last section completed in 1978. It still follows much of the original route and thanks to England’s right-of-way laws it even allows visitors to pass through private property. Walkers along the South West Coast Path follow undulating trails, walk through moorlands & charming fisherman towns, and can take in panoramic views of the Bristol Channel, English Channel and Celtic Sea from the high viewpoints.

 

Celebrate the Cornish Coastal Path - Sherpa Expeditions in support of South West Coast Path Association

 

To mark the occasion, the team at South West Coast Path Association who maintain the path, have created a challenge of raising £40,000 by the end of October 2018. If you are planning to walk the path this year, you will find along the trail many other activities to celebrate the path. And if you are feeling generous, you can find information of how to donate to the path here.

 

Walk the Highlights of the South West Coastal Path with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Cycle the South West Coast Path with Sherpa Expeditions

 

For more information on each section, please download the trip notes from this website or feel free to discuss your queries directly with our team in London.

 

Hadrian’s Wall Walk: 7 Facts About the English Icon

Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world. 

 

Follow Hadrian's Wall walk with Sherpa Expeditions


A must-see for history aficionados, this Roman wall in England can also be explored on foot along the adjoining 83-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel – we believe that the middle three days in the south Northumberland National Park are the most spectacular!


7 facts about hadrian's wall path in england - sherpa expeditions


Learn about Hadrian's Wall - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Below are 7 Hadrian’s Wall Walk facts you may not yet know about the celebrated British icon:

 

1. The history of the Hadrian’s Wall goes back to 122AD

The Hadrian’s Wall is a defensive fortification conceived by Hadrian, who ruled the Roman Empire for more than 20 years (117-138AD). It was constructed in the province of Britannia, which at that point marked the northernmost border of the Empire, to “separate Romans from Barbarians”.

 

2. The Roman Wall is built across northern England’s narrowest point

Hadrian’s Wall originally ran between the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and the banks of the River Tyne, close to the North Sea; this is the narrowest point in northern England. It took 6 years to complete and, in its original form, it covered 80 Roman (73 modern) miles.

 

follow hadrian's wall walk with sherpa expeditions

 

Hadrian's Wall - alternative coast to coast walk in England - Sherpa Expeditions

 

3. Post forts were built on every Roman mile…

…although Hadrian's Wall mainly served as a military construction: huge garrison forts were built at intervals, allowing for a counter attack or a raid to be organised at short notice. A deep ditch, known as The Vallum, was dug alongside it, while gatehouses would control access over the frontier forests and moors.

 

4. It was extended and enhanced with impressive stone defences over the years

Initially, stone was brought in on the Tyne by boat to supply those areas where it could not be cut locally. At later stages, much of the stonework was mortared, allowing the Wall to survive the centuries to become one of the oldest structures in the country today.

 

5. UNESCO describes Hadrian’s Wall as “a striking example of the organization of a military zone”

Hadrian’s Wall was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987 as an “outstanding example of Roman military architecture”, protected for its “extraordinarily high cultural value”. According to UNESCO, much of it remains “in an exceptionally good state of preservation, surviving as part of a landscape which still contains significant visible traces of the Roman military presence”.

 

walking hadrian's wall path with Sherpa Expeditions

 

On Hadrian's Wall in England - Sherpa Expeditions

 

6. The Hadrian’s Wall Path celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018

Classified as a ‘National Trail’ in the UK, the Hadrian’s Wall Path officially opened in May 2003 after many years of negotiations with landlords and farmers to finalise the exact route. A Hadrian’s Wall walk will take you to follow 83 miles across English town and country, forest and moorland, World Heritage Site and National Park.

 

7. It is often described as an alternative English Coast-to-Coast route

More than just tracing the history of England’s North, the Hadrian's Wall Path offers abundant scenic variety, from the modern cityscapes of Newcastle upon Tyne (North Sea) to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle and from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway (Irish Sea). With that, it can be seen as an alternative route to the famous Wainwright's Coast to Coast trail. Expect barren blustery heights in the Northumberland National Park and lime green pastoral scenes in the Eden Valley… omnipotent along the route, Hadrian’s Wall snakes its way!

              

If you feel inspired to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path, at Sherpa Expeditions we offer two options to follow the Roman wall in England over 8 or 10 days.

 

Follow Hadrian's Wall Walk in England

>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 8 Days

>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 10 Days

 

In Stevenson’s Footsteps: The Cevennes Part I

This article is the first in a series of 5 and is written by Andrew Hudson from the UK. It narrates his experiences of walking the Stevenson’s Trail in the Cevennes together with his friend John*.

 

Walking the GR70 in Cevennes - Sherpa Expeditions


In 1878 Robert Louis Stevenson walked from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille in the Haute Loire to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the Gard region of France. His main reason was to collect material for his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, which was published in the following year. Several years ago, my friend John and I followed in his footsteps on the GR70 (Grande Randonnee). There obviously are differences between Stevenson’s journey and ours. His trip was certainly ground-breaking at the time and by comparison, our walking holiday was actually rather easy.

 

Stevenson was by no means new to travel or walking. He had completed many walks in Scotland and England and had made a Grand Tour of Europe by train and stage-coach with his family in 1863 at the age of twelve. He chose to make his Cevennes journey in October of 1878. Stevenson suffered from (what is now thought to be) tuberculosis for most of his life and from which he eventually died, making his exploits all the more heroic.

 

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by RL Stevenson - Sherpa Expeditions

Stevenson states the philosophy behind his Cevennes journey:

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future.” – R.L. Stevenson in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

 

 

My attitude to our walk was to have a small adventure, sample the local French wines and delicacies, while staying firmly on the feather-bed of civilization.

 

In 1878, in rural France, few people had any idea why someone would want to make this journey without good reason. Some pointed out to him that only a century before, a wolf known as “La Bête du Gévaudan,” had killed over one hundred people, many of them children, by ripping their throats out, in an area he would be passing through. Although, during the Romantic Era, writers and poets had sung the praises of the Great Outdoors, anyone actually making this type of journey, was still looked upon as an eccentric, if not stark raving bonkers.

 

pass a tunnel when walking in the Cevennes with Sherpa Expeditions


a butterfly on the GR70 Stevenson's Trail in Cevennes _ Sherpa Expeditions


Now with lightweight clothing and boots, and a company like Sherpa Expeditions that transports luggage from one overnight stop to the next, with specialist maps and navigational aids, it is more of a relaxed saunter than a trek. Chemin du Stevenson is now a known destination in France and travellers of all types are catered for. Even so, this walking holiday in the Cevennes is still around 220 kilometres of hilly, sometimes mountainous, countryside and should not be taken too lightly.

 

Stevenson had no maps of a scale suitable for walking in the area he planned to walk. He did take a compass but his primary source of navigation seems to be by asking others the way.

 

I should say at this point that my hiking trip in the Cevennes was with my friend and we were both reasonably experienced walkers. John, my son’s father-in-law and also a friend, was a lovely man. He was a railway buff and so when I suggested this walk to him, I also asked him if he would like us to go by train leaving from England. He jumped at the chance and as he knew the railways much better than I did we agreed that he would arrange the trip for us. My part in the groundwork tended to concentrate on the wines of the regions which we would pass through.


French countryside of the Cevennes - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

John booked our hotels and luggage transfers through Sherpa Expeditions which simplified the arrangement as they offered maps and route notes for the itinerary we wanted to walk. He booked the trains separately and must have made a good job of it because both the outward and return journeys went like clockwork.

 

Walk the GR70 in France

 

*The author’s friend John was a big man in every way who loved life but is now sadly no longer with us. He was one of those people that enjoyed the planning as much as the holiday itself and the author had a memorable walking trip on the Stevenson’s Trail in France with him.