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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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!
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.
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”.
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
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*.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this Christmas, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during Christmas. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours are a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period, accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to drop by at our office in London (we’re located right along the Thames Path), give us a call or send us a message.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he has chosen to give you ten ideas of what to bring 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 European outdoors even more.
Bookmark this list of 10 things to pack on your alpine walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and keep it handy for your next holiday in Europe.
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 the ambient 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 have gotten very cold.
Take comfortable broken in, but not broken-down hiking boots with some cushioning either in the insole, outsole or both! Trail or fell runners maybe 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
Wear a hat to protect your face 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.
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.
Always remember to bring on your active European holiday a rainproof top and trousers. Rain showers are quite regular in the Alps and you do not want to be caught out in the wet. It is amazing how many people return or replace Goretex 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.
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.
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.
Bring for example 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).
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.
Very few makes of rucksack are waterproof and during a big shower some water can penetrate even if you have a raincover. So, a bag for delicate items such as First Aid Kit, camera, passport etc, are really useful.
- 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 alpine 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 preload your weight as you descend and save pressure on the knees. It is likely in the Alps that you will be crossing path sections with scree or even snow patches.
- Sufficient amount of food and drinks: a water bottle with at least 1-liter capacity, normally there are plenty of places to fill up with 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.
In the southwest of England, you can find the longest and, perhaps, the finest trail of the country: the 630-mile long South West Coastal Path. Almost half of which covers the stunning county of Cornwall. Made famous through the Doc Martin TV series and the Poldark books & TV series, there is a plethora of interesting places to visit in Cornwall.
White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rugged cliffs and even palm trees dot the long coastline that also has kept enough space for cute fishing villages to try a famous Cornish pasty. With a mild climate (that is classed as oceanic according to the Köppen classification), Cornwall is a holiday region that comes with many things to do for the active visitor.
If you are searching for holiday inspiration, we believe that the below ten places to visit in Cornwall will certainly trigger your interest.
Bustling with people aspiring for St Michael's Mount, Marazion has some claim to be the oldest town in Britain. At least it was mentioned by Siculus in the 1st Century BC as the port from which tin was shipped to Brittany in France. The monastery sits on the civil parish of St Michael’s Mount and can only be reached via man-made causeway during low tide. It was probably built sometime between the 8th-11th Centuries under the rule of Edward the Confessor. Not surprisingly, it was a dependence of Mont St Michel in France that you can visit on one of UTracks’ cycling trips in Brittany.
Porthleven is a pleasant harbour town that mainly developed during the last century. Today it is still a working port and one of the great places to visit in Cornwall. It houses a fascinating three-section harbour that gets closed off with wooden baubles in stormy weather, usually out of season. Loe Bar, Loe Pool and Penrose Estate are all worth to explore on foot if you arrive early.
If you are looking for some charming places to go on your visit to Cornwall, may we suggest to consider Gunwalloe to the west of Lizard peninsula? It is here that the first transatlantic radio signals were transmitted by Marconi, the inventor of the radio. Visit Poldhu Point Monument and the Marconi Centre for more information on this achievement.
The Church Cove right between Gunwalloe and Poldhu is where the Church of St Winwalloe squats beside the beach. The church has a separate bell tower, which is dug into the cliff wall and also well worth a visit.
Portloe: Step Back in Time
A very popular place is Portloe, which, thankfully, due to the lack of horizontal space has changed little over the years. It is said that only one new house has been built since the Second World War, leaving the layout and feel of the town virtually as it was over 200 years ago. This harbour of an inlet sits in a 'cramped and dramatic situation' where smuggling, fishing and drinking used to go hand in hand. You can almost still smell the rum when you navigate its picturesque old streets.
Relax in Falmouth
Falmouth is a leading resort on the south west coast and allegedly the third largest natural harbour in the world. The Cornish town has many things to do and you can for example wander its bustling waterfront, relax at one of its four bathing beaches, or visit for example Pendennis Castle, constructed by Henry VIII. Other things to do in Falmouth are sailing, golfing on the golf course, visiting a former post office packet station, gardens, or the maritime museum to learn more about the strong maritime tradition of the town.
Well worth visiting in Veryan are its round houses: 19th Century circular buildings with thatched roofs and a cross. Besides that, there are an interesting church, an art gallery and a tumulus at Carne, which is the supposed burial mound of King Geraint. Nearby Caerhays Castle is designed by John Nash and has famous gardens which are open between mid-February and June.
Learn about Porthallow & Porthoustock
The secluded coves on the east of Lizard Peninsula between Porthallow and Porthoustock are notable for angling. Closeby St Keverne is a pleasant village that you may like to make a detour for. It has a pleasant village square and is known for its remarkable churchyard in which 400 shipwreck victims of the nearby Manacle Reef are buried. Check out the beaches at Porthallow, Porthoustock, Housel Bay and Kennack Sands.
Still very much a fishing port, Mevagissey is the largest city in St Austell Bay. Cob cottages spill down to the harbour walls from the steep sided valley and you can visit the beaches at Portmellon and Gorran Haven. Mevagissey also houses an interesting model railway exhibition.
Travel to St Mawes
If you are keen about sailing, one of the places to visit in Cornwall is St Mawes. It is a popular sailing centre on Roseland and overlooks Falmouth. The port is quite sheltered and is relatively remote. Spend some time at the small beach and fine cloverleaf St Mawes Castle that dates back to 1542 and is open year-round.
The picture postcard village on Helford River is not to be missed on your walking holiday in Cornwall. It is a yachtsman’s haven full of activity and you can take it all in during a lunch at the pub near Frenchman’s Creek made famous by author Daphne du Maurier.
On the Cornwall Coastal Path you can really escape the crowds, dipping in and out of coves and harbours and ascending beside dramatic cliffs, up to high viewpoints, along promontories and back down to expansive beaches.
Experience Cornwall for yourself on any of the below trips:
- Cornish Coastal Path (North): Padstow to St. Ives - 8 days
A beautiful part of the South West Coastal Path, this northern section undulates along the coast between the popular resorts of Padstow and St. Ives, visiting the surfer’s paradise of Newquay.
- Cornish Coastal Path (West): St. Ives to Penzance - 8 days
This section of the Cornwall Coast path contains generally shorter days than either our Cornwall North and South tours, allowing you more time to spend in coves, on beaches, or up on the cliff moorlands.
- Cornish Coastal Path (South): Marazion to Mevagissey - 8 days
Explore the most scenic and varied part of the Cornish coast, on either side of Lizard Head, the southern-most tip of mainland Britain.
- Cornish Coastal Path: Padstow to Penzance - 13 days
Enjoy a stunning 106 miles/170 km walk along the Cornish Coastal Path. Dip in and out of coves and harbours, ascend beside dramatic cliffs to panoramic viewpoints, idle along promontories and explore the expansive beaches, which out of the high season, can be all but deserted.
- Cornish Coastal Path: St Ives to Mevagissey - 14 days
This section of the South West Coast Path encompasses a vast array of coastal landscapes from the dramatic cliffs of Lands End, the impressive coves of Mullion and Kynance, famous resort towns such as St Ives & Penzance and smaller fishing villages.
Guernsey is a unique place with a stunning coastline. Not legally a part of the UK and in close proximity to Normandy in France, the Channel Island is a mix of both countries and this will show when you leisurely discover the island on foot. Our team member Nathalie visited Guernsey just a couple of weeks ago for a check on the services we deliver and came back with a camera full of stunning images.
Of course, we wanted to share these with you as soon as possible and have therefore compiled this elaborate photo album to give you a bit of an idea what walking in this part of the British Isles, south from England, can also be like.
From a two-celled prison and German WWII bunkers to cosy pubs and the most spectacular trails, scroll down to view some splendid shots.
Stunning Scenery of Guernsey
>> Show me the Guernsey walking holidays
Historical Interest in Guernsey
Where to Eat along the Channel Island Way
>> Discover Guernsey on foot
The Channel Island Way of Life
>> Find out how you can organise your Guernsey walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions
Visit Portugal’s Douro Valley and walk in the amazing wine terraces and Quinta wine estates high above the Douro River. Read on to find out about 5 reasons for spending your active holiday in Douro Valley.
The Douro Wine Estates
Walking in the Douro Valley should be regarded as a ‘Quinta-essential’ walk: it takes you deep into the working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines and wires to support them. The local people will be busy picking the grapes in September/October while at other times in the year, there are activities taking place such as pruning, training, spraying or weeding. Some times of the year, you will hardly see a soul about. Most of the Quintas, estates or inns in the Portuguese countryside, produce their own wine. The area is of UNESCO World Heritage interest, and there are some amazing Escher-type perspective views of the vine terraces from across the hills in certain lights, dissected in places by roads and paths.
Discover the two famous ironwork bridges when you’re visiting the Douro Valley. They both date back to the late 1800s. Walk across the Gustav Eiffel Bridge that connects both sides of River Pinhão and that is also a main landmark in the charming village of the same name. The bridge was designed by, surprise-surprise, Gustav Eiffel who was also involved with the ‘Luis I Bridge’ in Porto. Nowadays, the bridge is considered as a national masterpiece.
When you visit Douro Valley, you can also walk high above the magnificent Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge. This is Porto’s most recognisable landmark over the river Douro. The iron bridge was designed by Seyrig, one of Gustav Eiffel's co-workers, in 1886.
Cruise along the Douro River
Relax and take a replica Barco Rabelo, wine boat for a little cruise along the Douro River while passing numerous wine estates that advertise themselves via large riverside boards. You can slouch in a bean bag quaffing a tawny port, watching riverside birds. To break your walking days, you could hire a boat to visit the village of ‘Tua’. There are a couple of restaurants there, which are excellent to have some lunch at before catching the train back to either Pinhão or Oporto.
Porto, O Pretty Porto
Get lost in Oporto (Porto)! This is a must on your Douro Valley holiday. Having survived through periods of European war, Porto has a maze of ancient streets and old buildings focussed on the River Douro. It is a proud and friendly city bursting with cafes, bars, restaurants and some unusual stores selling things like Portuguese guitars.
Check out some of Porto’s ornate churches that are decorated with blue and white azulejos tiles such as the Igreja de Sto Ildefonso church. The railway station, Estação de São Bento, is also internally decorated with a mass of these tiles illustrating Portuguese landscapes and train travel.
There are lovely squares, and terraced vistas. Always you will find good restaurants (ask around for tascas) where you can taste famous national dishes such as bacalhau, dried and salted cod, in its varying preparations.
The Port Lodges
Visit a couple of Port Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. This town is a separate entity to Porto (just across from the river and easily accessible); most importantly, this is where all the traditional factories of the wine estates exist. Here, the port is made by adding spirit to stop the wine fermentation process and the finished product is then aged, usually in oak barrels. A visit to a couple of the estates is recommended, they often have the most beautiful premises and outlooks. There is a small entry charge that includes tasting a few ports or wines. There are so many lodges to choose from including Dutch and German brands. For Anglophiles perhaps the most famous are Sandeman, Grahams, Croft, Churchills, Ferreira, Taylors, Offley and Cockburns. Some also do food, which is just as well before you wobble back to your hotel!
The best times to visit Douro Valley for an active holiday are spring, between mid-March until June, and autumn (fall) from around September until mid-October and when also the annual grape harvest takes place.
Walk alongside imposing cliffs before taking a cobbled mule track descending in hairpin turns to the base of the Aiguebrun Valley where you will find your overnight accommodation on this week of hiking in the Luberon Mountains.
At the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge in the Luberon Mountains, there is a breath-taking 17th century goat cheese farm that is now restored and converted into the most unique hotel in the Luberon. The Auberge des Seguins is in harmony with the original buildings that are found in this enchanting region in southern France.
The hotel offers a lovely escape from modern life where you can enjoy your surroundings and it is here that we stay at for one night during our Rambling in the Luberon hiking holiday.
The name of the hotel is chosen for a reason. Seguins derives from the Waldensian, which is a reformed religious group. A family of the same name lived in the area centuries ago. In the 16th century however, the Waldensians were massacred throughout the Luberon mountains.
The oldest buildings of our accommodation and those that are still standing today were built in the 17th century, long after the Seguins had left. Fast-forward to 1850 when the hamlet was shared by three farming families. Jumping another 100 years or so and we arrive in 1960. At this time the hamlet in the Luberon Mountains was run as a goat farm until it was purchased by the Pessemesse family to convert it into a hotel.
The Pessemesse family still runs the Auberge today, and when you visit, you may meet one of the sisters Amélie and Estelle or brother Simon.
Luberon Mountain Life
The accommodation is located at the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge, both storybook scenic and peaceful. Both to and from the hotel, we expect you to find the hiking to be beautiful. Off the beaten path and far from tourist crowds, you can enjoy limestone karst mountains, quaint oak forests and imposing cliffs. Savouring dinner family-style and with home-cooked Provençal specialties, such as lamb shoulder braised with olive purée served in a large casserole for the whole table. Breakfast is also communal and eaten on large farm tables with no bells and whistles, but with the freshest breads and tasty homemade jams.
All that is left doing - watching the swifts dance atop the soaring limestone cliffs, and relaxing in a lounge chair in the open field, facing the centuries-old golden stone buildings. Sounds like you? Check out our 7-day Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday.