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Inspiration and Advice for Walking in Europe Information, reviews and advice on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England. Amalfi, Cilento, Tuscany, food and more Sherpa travellers share their reviews and experiences. Information, reviews and advice on Madeira walking holidays Information, reviews and advice on walks in the Cotswolds
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UK & European Holiday News

The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
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How To Be A More Sustainable Traveller

You may well believe it would be hard to stay sustainable whilst on holiday, but it might be easier than you think! We have put together 5 easy tips on how to be more sustainable when travelling and whilst out on your walking or cycling trips. Read on to find out more.
 
 

1.    Be conscious of litter along the route

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t see any litter lining our walking trails, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case and often people throw food wrappers on the ground or leave there takeaway coffee cups along the way. So, if you see something, don’t just walk past it, pick it up. Let’s do our bit and make sure there’s nothing lying around that could damage the environment or  the habitats of surrounding wildlife.
 
 

2.    Drink from a reusable water bottle and other reusable items where possible

While this may not be anything new, it’s always good to remember packing your reusable water bottle. There are many great ones out there, that can keep your water nice and cold until you get thirsty! Also, if you are bringing food out with you, make sure to bring it in a reusable lunch box with reusable cutlery...every little helps!
 
 

3.    Use biodegradable & eco-friendly products 

There are so many products around now that are much kinder to the environment in the ways that they are produced and the way that they can be disposed of. Some examples are bamboo toothbrushes, green cosmetics using renewable raw materials and ethically sourced and sustainable clothing, to name just a few. Why not swap out a few of your every day essentials before your next trip?
 
 

4.    Eat locally

When you are staying in various towns and villages along the way, try either buying fresh from local markets if you are cooking for yourself or eating in restaurants using ingredients sourced from local suppliers so they have not had to travel far to get to your plate. This way you will be feeding back into the local community and helping boost their economy by keeping smaller companies in business…win-win!
 
 

5.    Pack lightly to reduce CO2 emissions

Whether you’re travelling to your destination by plane, car or train, it’s always worth trying to pack as lightly as you can and only bring exactly what you need with you. You may wonder why this would make a difference, but the lighter your luggage is, the lighter the vehicle or plane will be, meaning it will use less fuel to transport your belongings and therefore reducing the effect it has on the environment via CO2 emissions. Something to think about next time, you want to bring something with you ‘just in case’.
 

 

 

 

Travellers' Tales: Amalfi Coast with Charlotte and Sven Aaberg

Charlotte and Sven are long time walkers and have completed some incredible challenges along the way. There latest adventure was in Italy's Amalfi Coast where they discovered the wonders of the limoncello, admired some beautiful views and climbed many steps!

 

What is your walking history?

My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures! Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked both Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk and also Tuscany on Foot.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

Actually a girlfriend suggested we walk this trip. She was going to come with us but had an illness in her family and was unable to join us. We had never heard much about the Amalfi Coast but are so glad we took her advice and had this wonderful expedition!
 

How did you prepare?

We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10 km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
 

What was your favourite destination?

Amalfi is a beautiful small town but very busy with cruise ship tourists. It does have a lovely walk up into the mountains behind, the ‘Valle dei Mulini’ – Valley of the Mills. It was a rainy day when we were there, but it was so peaceful and had such outstanding views. But, I think my favourite destination was Praiano. It is such an artistic community and it was very special to see the donkeys and their drivers delivering goods; just as they must have done for years.
 

Best Food & Drink

If you like something a little strong, the Limoncello is dee-lish! And you can never go wrong with a real Italian pizza! But the best food for the area is Caprese Salad – tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. YUM!
 

Biggest surprise?

Our biggest surprise was the beauty of the entire area – such stunning views! We were also surprised by the number of ceramic factories and the beautiful work they do.
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

We found the ‘Pathway to the Gods’ challenging because we both have problems with vertigo. Although the path is fairly wide, the steepness of the dropoff to the water is a little daunting at times. We also were unprepared for 1,860 stairs down one day! In fact, every day, stairs are everywhere!
 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

Practice a LOT of walking up and down stairs!
 
 
 
 
 

Five Ways To Keep Entertained During Lockdown

As well as getting out for some fresh air if you can, there are so many things you can do in the comfort of your own homes whilst in lockdown. This could be the perfect time to slow down and appreciate those small pleasures in life that may have passed you by before.
 
 

Reading

Does reading always seems to go to the bottom of the list when life gets in the way, normally reserved for holidays and long journeys? Now you have some more free time, you can really get stuck in to a new book and get transported to anywhere in the world.

The Little Italian Bakery - Valentina Cebeni

The essence of Sardinia is perfectly captured and you can easily whisky ourself out of this world into a new one.  This is a place where time has stood still for years on end, but where the secrets of the island have also been hidden in its past.
 
Get it here.

A Wedding in Provence, by Ellen Sussman

A fictional story of a couple holding their second marriage in Provence, France surrounded by their immediate family in a quaint inn set in the small town of Cassis. The bride’s two adult daughters bring a little drama to the situation and it all quickly unfolds from there. 
 
Get it here.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

This award-winning novel is Set in Ireland. The story follows two people from high school in their small town to university in Dublin, exploring their relationship as well as their own psyches.
 
Get it here.
 
 

Listening to podcasts

There are so many to choose from, but there are a few that are great to keep that hiking mindset alive and kicking! Anything  from advice on training for a bucket list trip to real-life stories and hints for beginners.

Hiking Thru

A weekly podcast in which there is a speak with experienced thru hikers about their stories from the trails and strategies for a successful thru hike. Each episode is not only full of unique stories from the trail, but also comes with dedicated 'Gear Recommendations and Trail Wisdoms' page. Here you can see what gear each thru hiker used including shoes, socks, packs, sleep gear and more, the food they ate and can recommend for you, gadgets, apps, hacks and of course wisdoms learnt along the way.
 
Listen here.

The First 40 Miles

This is a podcast for people who are new to hiking and backpacking. If you are new to backpacking, or if you're hopelessly in love with someone who wants you to love backpacking, then this podcast is for you. We talk about the essentials, how to lighten your load, and how to make the most of your time on the trail.
 
Listen here.

The Training for Trekking

This podcast is created to help hikers, trekkers and mountaineers prepare for their bucket list adventures. Rowan shares with you the simple training strategies to get you fit, strong and resilient to tackle anything the trail will throw at you, even during the current pandemic.
 
Listen here.

 

Cooking And Baking

Have you found a new found love for cooking and baking? You’re not the only ones! So, even if you can’t get to your favourite destinations right now, you can still whip up something native to the region instead and before you know, you’ll feel like you’re there!

French Coq Au Vin

A traditional French dish consisting of chicken braised with wine, bacon lardons and mushrooms. A red Burgundy wine is typically used, though many regions of France make variants using their local wines.

Find recipe here.

Greek Moussaka

Moussaka is an aubergine or potato-based dish, often including ground meat, traditionally minced lamb and topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. However, there are many local and regional variations.

Find recipe here.

Scottish Shortbread

It’s almost impossible to think of the delicacies of Scotland without thinking of their famous shortbread. Perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, these sweet and crumbly treats will be sure to keep you going.

Find recipe here.

 

Watching Films

Sometimes it’s nice to look forward to watching a nice film at the end of the day, and even better when it includes stunning scenery and cuisine from the places you have dreaming of visiting. Whether it is more hard-hitting or light-hearted, they’ll be sure to inspire your next adventure.

Wild

Starring Reese Witherspoon, this film is based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed on her path to recovery.  Still reeling from her mother's death and recent divorce, she decides to hike alone along the Pacific Crest Trail with no previous experience.

Watch it here.

A Walk In The Woods

This hilarious comedy stars Robert Redford as the bestselling travel writer Bill Bryson, who makes the improbable decision to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.

Watch it here.

The Trip

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star in ‘The Trip’ following them exploring fancy restaurants of northern England, ‘The Trip to Italy’ where the two go on a road trip in Italy from Piedmont to Capri, on the Amalfi coast, and ‘Thee Trip to Spain’ where they discover the joys of tapas in Spain. Their culinary adventures take them through Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, Rioja, Castile, La Mancha and Andalucia.

Watch The Trip here, The Trip to Italy here and The Trip to Spain here.

 

Playing games

In these times of social distancing, there are many ways to stay entertained. Whether that’s with your household over a good old board game or on a trans-generational  Zoom call and taking things digital with an online quiz.

Would I Lie To You Board Game

A game of quick thinking that calls for a cool head and a poker face. Can you fool your opponents with an on-the-spot lie? Just like the TV show, some of the facts are true, some are not, it's all down to you to decide!

Find it here.

Travel Quizzes

There is an abundance of online quizzes around, especially now, so the real question is which one to pick? If you would call yourself an expert traveller, why not test your knowledge with one or two from Traveller’s huge selection.

Find them here.

Get Puzzling

Puzzles can be great fun and really get you to concentrate, so much so you can find yourself in another world. When you’re not able to visit the places you want to, you can still recreate beautiful images of them!

Find some here.
 
 

Travellers' Tales: My Walking Journey with Julie Gordon

Julie and Rich are from California and first started their walking journey in 2008. Since then, they have been on many walking trips and have definitely got the bug for it. Read on if you want to find out about their favourite adventures and and biggest surprises along the way!
 
 

What is your walking history?

In 2008, thanks to the guidance of Sherpa Expeditions, we put our “boots on the ground” for our first, very long walk, the Coast to Coast across England.  Though we had been hikers and, generally, spend a lot of time outdoors, as most folks in California do, we had not done a long-distance walk. The 192 mile walk from St. Bee’s to Robin’s Hood Bay couldn’t have been a better choice.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

The UK is a perfect place to walk, in particular because of the attitude of the country towards walking across what, in the US, would be private land.  There is both a respect for the land and a willingness to share access to it.  At the time we did the walk we managed about 15 miles per day; now it would be less! The terrain was varied, from deep muck and bogs to gravel trails; the weather a mix of everything from rain to drizzle to sun. We learned the importance of having all tools available to make one’s way when dense fog made using certain tools impossible. Nothing like a paper map when all else fails. We also learned that the trails as described in the notes and even maps can change after the information has been shared by Sherpa. Flexibility and adaptability are key, though they can be learned on the way!!
 

How did you prepare?

Our preparation for that trip was intense as we had no idea what to expect. We walked every weekend for six months and did back to back long walks across San Francisco in order to get a sense of what walking daily might be like. In the end, our preparation paid off but, as I will note further on, such intense training is probably not required (since 2008, with a walking trip almost every year, our regimen has become considerably more limited and we rely on our daily exercise to keep us ready.  Of course, readiness is affected by age and that has increased since our first walk!)
 
Also, in addition to building stamina and strength, there is planning for what one should pack. Although Sherpa and other companies provide lists, determining what and how much you will need and how you will limit it to one 20 kilo bag takes work.  Over the years we have scaled back our tendency to “overpack”, learning that things can be purchased on route. One critical factor is how one can wash clothes and, more importantly, dry them!!  On some of our trips there were clothes lines and the ability to wash in large sinks but, for the most part, one relies on hotel or B&B small sinks and decorating the room with laundry to dry, using hair dryers in emergency, and the heat racks that are for towels but work well for socks too!  There are places that will not allow you to do laundry in your room but they are few and far between. 
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

It has been 11 years since that first long walk. During that period we walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the islands of Kerry and Beara in Ireland, the Via Fracigina in Italy, the Dordogne in France. There were also treks in Nepal and a bicycle trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. This year we just returned from walking across Scotland on the John Muir Way. Although it has not always been the case, we have sought walks that were destination based, the Coast to Coast walks being the pinnacle of that kind of walking. There is a great deal of satisfaction in walking across a country, most particularly the chance to immerse ourselves in the variation of the lands, the economies, the cultures, the history as we cross. 
 

What has been the most challenging aspect?

Each walk we have taken has challenged us in different ways.  On our first walk the challenge was simply to persevere, to walk daily, rain or shine, through rabbit holes, peaty soil and getting lots in the fog.  Walking in Italy, from hill town to hill town in Tuscany, challenged us to walk UP hill at the end of every day !!  And the hills were steep and long. Whew! And walking the John Muir Way in Scotland  challenged us because there were unexpected obstacles and diversions that added to the length of our days when, as you might have guessed, our energy was flagging. 
 

Best food & drink?

Each walk has had different culinary offerings the best of which were found in France and Italy. The other walks, including our most recent walk, seemed to have the same menu during a good part of the trip. The variations came when we came to a bigger town or city (like Edinburgh) when we could enjoy cuisines from around the world. As walkers, a hearty breakfast is critical and, though the delicious food found in Italy and France made for lovely dinners, the breakfasts were largely something sweet and coffee, so sometimes we found ourselves supplementing with local cheese and fruit. We also brought an array of protein bars to carry us through the energy gap. England and Scotland win the prize for a substantial breakfast albeit one filled with not such healthy sausages, pudding, hash browns as well as eggs, beans, bacon, tomatoes. It should be noted that in the UK one could get a vegan, vegetarian, lactose free or gluten free meal everywhere too, if required.
 

Biggest surprise?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of these walking trips, from our first to our most recent, is the level of detail in which we immersed ourselves as we walked. The myriad questions about what we are seeing made for a very stimulating experience in every case. And, although not an entire surprise, indeed a great pleasure, is the kindness of strangers.  We have been rescued from bad judgments, bad weather, bad signage and fatigued bodies by so many folks whether we could speak the same language or not. The best example of the kind of help we received was during our Coast to Coast walk when, upon arriving in a tiny village, it appeared our supposed host was in crisis and had locked his inn. At a loss for what to do, we were approached by a local woman who invited us to stay with her for the night and she arranged for dinner as well. What’s not to like about that!

Obviously I could write on and on but, if you take away nothing else from what I have written, know that long walks, supported by having your luggage carried, your lodging taken care of, and your routes provided, is the best way to see the world step by step!!
 
 

A Year In Trips - Where To Go And When in 2020

To celebrate the start of a new decade, we have put together the ultimate list of the best trips to go on over the coming year; from catching some winter rays in the Canaries, to beating the crowds on the Amalfi Coast and bringing out your inner foodie in Burgundy.
 
 

JANUARY - Beat the winter blues in the Canary Islands

Even during the winter months, La Gomera gets 9 hours of sunshine daily, with the average day temperature close to 22°C. Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), the surprisingly lush green island remains largely untouched by mass tourism. 

Find out more about our Exploring La Gomera trip here.

 

FEBRUARY - See the orchids in bloom in Madeira

In the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate. The best time to catch the orchids in bloom is in February and you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species.

Find out more about our Madeira Island Walking trip here.

 

MARCH - Have the Amalfi Coast for yourself before the crowds arrive

Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months... but come in March and you will have the Amalfi Coast just to yourself.

Find out more about our Amalfi Coast trips here.

 

APRIL - Walk through bluebells in the Cotswolds

April marks the beginning of the bluebell season across the country. If you are looking to admire these quintessentially English carpets of blue, you do not have to travel far, head to the Cotswolds countryside and get inspired by this spectacle of nature.

Find out more about our Cotswolds trips here.

 

MAY - Cycle through the Scottish Highlands at their sunniest (and driest!)

May is not only the driest month in Scotland (less than 80mm of rain) but with approximately 170 hours of sunshine it is also the sunniest. Although the Scottish weather is notoriously changeable and often localised, this is when you are least likely to avoid a downpour.

Find out more about our Scottish Highlands Cycle trip here.

 

JUNE - Explore England before schools break up for summer

If your plans are not determined by the school summer holidays, travel in June for a quieter countryside and a less busy coast. June sees the longest day of the year (an average of 16 hours of daylight) so you can maximise your time outdoors on the most classic of all UK hiking trails, like the Coast to Coast.

Find out more about our Coast to Coast trips here.

 

JULY - Visit the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the TV remake of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’

Channel 5 is reviving in 2020 the much-loved TV series about a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales, which was based on James Herriot’s real-life memoirs. The remake is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of James Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.

Find out more about our James Herriot Way trip here.

 

AUGUST - Cycle your own Tour of Britain in Cornwall

Cornwall will host the Tour of Britain for the first time ever in September 2020, which will see riders travel over 100 miles through the Cornish countryside. It will be the biggest ever sporting event to take place in the county, so if you want to avoid the (extra) crowds travel a few weeks earlier.

Find out more about our Cornish Cycle Tour here.

 

SEPTEMBER - Swim through rock arches in Sardinia

The weather in Sardinia in September is still warm and pleasant, with the lower humidity making outdoor activities much more enjoyable. Explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers, swim through rock arches and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.

Find out more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.

 

OCTOBER - Plan a grape escape in Tuscany 

October is grape harvest time in Tuscany. Pedal past rolling vine-covered hills to the heart of the Brunello wine district, meet local winemakers and wander through ochre-coloured vineyards. When you get to Montepulciano, cheers with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile.

Find out more about our Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany trip here.

 

NOVEMBER - Experience the ‘real’ Burgundy

By late autumn the crowds in Burgundy have thinned, the weather has cooled and the autumn temperatures will not let you get overly warm while pedalling. Do not miss the major International Gastronomy Fair in Dijon – it takes place every November and the foodie inside you will thank you!

Find out more about our Burgundy Vineyard Trails here.

 

DECEMBER - Follow in the footsteps of smugglers in Andalusia

Today the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park is a walker’s paradise – but during ‘el hambre’ (the hunger) after the Spanish Civil War many of the locals became ‘Mochileros’ (packmen) smuggling goods using remote high paths, many of which are still in use.

Find out more about our Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena here.
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Tuscany on Foot with Charlotte Aaberg

Charlotte and her husband, Sven, are keen walkers and have been for many years, and this time chose to explore Italy on our self-guided Tuscany on Foot trip. If you want to find out why they decided to walk here and hear about all of the adventures they got up to along the way, read on!
 
 

What is your walking history?

My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq (GR5) from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures. Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk.
 
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I have always wanted to visit Tuscany and what better way than to walk it? Not only do we love adventure, but also food and wine. Tuscany is famous for both! Also, we recently took a course on the Etruscan history and decided it would be rewarding to visit the area where the mysterious Etruscans once resided.
 
 

How did you prepare?

We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
 
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

We liked them all but Volterra and San Gimignano were the most interesting. The alabaster factory (Rossi Alabastro) in Volterra was amazing which made it very difficult to choose a souvenir. The view from Hotel La Cisterna in San Gimgignano was magnificent. We also really enjoyed the pool with a view at Agriturismo Sant’ Antonio, Sensano. The walled town of Monteriggioni is so beautiful seen from a distance. 
 
 

Best food & drink?

Oh my, what a decision! I think the plates of Percorino cheese with orange marmalade, salami, prosciutto, and olives. Dee-lish! And the WINE. Sven loved the Chianti from the Monteriggioni region but I prefer the refreshing white Vernaccia of San Gimignano.

 

 

Biggest surprise?

On our way to San Gimignano, we took the route to Castelvecchio. We were glad we did as we were surprised it was such a worthwhile detour. It was quite unique to be all on our own out there.
 
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

Some of the days ended up being very long as we had to backtrack quite a few times as we took a few wrong turns. It was a more difficult route than we expected. More stair climbing training for us, I think!
 
 

Travellers' Tales: In Van Gogh's Footsteps with Heather Zrini

Heather hails from Canada and has walked many UK and European trails, as well as most recently completing the Camino Frances, with the hope of doing more in the future. Read on to find out how her and her friend found the In Van Gogh's Footsteps trip, challenges, surprises, Michelin stars and all!

 

What is your walking history?

Eight years ago, my friend that I walked this tour with, returned from a walking trip to Italy and couldn’t say enough great things about it. She wanted to do another walk in the Loire Valley and I said that I would join her. The Loire Valley trip was wonderful and I have done several other walks in the Cotswolds, the Dordogne Valley and Bavaria with friends and family since then. Last year I completed the Camino Frances which was an amazing experience and I hope to complete the Camino Portuguese next year with the people I met on my first Camino. My plan is to try and do a walk every year until my knees start to complain too much!
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I’ve always wanted to go to Provence and In the Footsteps of Van Gogh included many of the towns that I wanted to see. My friend and I walked in September, so we missed seeing the lavender in bloom, which is something on my bucket list, so I will just have to return another time! We learned while we were walking in Les Alpilles that we couldn’t have walked during the summer months as the risk of forest fires is too great.
 

How did you prepare?

When I went on my first walk, I was very nervous. I wondered if I would be able to walk that far and for that many days. I surprised myself and didn’t even develop any blisters! When you’re walking in the beautiful countryside in Europe, the fact that you might be walking 25km doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. It also amazes me how once I arrived at my destination for the day and changed my footwear, my feet felt like they could keep on walking! Since the Van Gogh walk was really only for 4 days and the maximum walking distance was 18km, I didn’t do a whole lot of preparation, other than to walk 10 km on the Saturday and Sunday of two weekends prior to departure. Walking a few more hills might have been useful, in retrospect.
 

 

What was your favourite destination?

This is a tough one as all four of our destinations were beautiful in different ways. St. Remy de Provence had a beautiful city centre and we really enjoyed following the path of Van Gogh paintings that led to the hospital where he stayed in 1889-90. We were thrilled to see some of the landmarks in his paintings as we following the route. The best part was climbing up to Les Deux Trous (The Two Holes), seeing the holes at sunrise from our hotel room the next morning and they discovering a Van Gogh painting with the holes prominently displayed above the olive trees.
 

 

Best food and drink?

We started our trip in Lyon prior to travelling to the starting point of Avignon. The gastronomy capital of the world didn’t disappoint. While we were there, we learned about Michelin starred and Michelin recommended restaurants. In Avignon, we ate at a Michelin recommended restaurant that was delicious. In Arles, we went to a tiny little restaurant that has been suggested in our route notes that was just down the street from our hotel. We got to eat outside and the dinner was amazing….I even went back for lunch the next day! We sampled various wines with our meals, tried an Aperol Spritz and the hostess at the hotel/restaurant in Les Baux de Provence gave us a thyme flavoured liquor after our dinner to ‘aid in our digestion’.
 

 

Biggest surprise?

We had many lovely surprises during our trip. The things that stand out are the lovely terrace overlooking the hills that was attached to our room in Les Baux de Provence, as well as the amazing view of the amphitheatre from our hotel room window in Arles. We were also pleasantly surprised to be able to get into Palais des Papes and Le Pont d’Avignon for free, as we happened to be there on Journees du Patrimoine when all the monuments in France weren’t charging an admission fee!
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

This is an easy one! It was definitely the optional 8km walk in Les Alpilles on Day 3. The first part of the walk was lovely and not too challenging so we decided to see what the optional walk would be like. We had climbed up to Les Deux Trous and loved the view so we figured it would be similar terrain. It wasn’t! There was a 1.5km section where you were walking along the ridge of the mountains. The views were spectacular, but it was quite windy, very rocky and nothing to prevent you from falling down on either side! We had been warned in the route notes that ‘a well-placed hand would come in handy’ and they were right! We found it quite challenging but we just took it very slowly and managed just fine. We certainly felt a sense of accomplishment when we were finished!
 

Travellers' Tales: John Muir Way with Lisa and Bill Cumming

Lisa and Bill Cumming from Bay Village, Ohio, are avid walkers with a great love for the outdoors. Having walked many trails in America, Canada, Europe and more, they chose to visit somewhere they hadn't yet ventured...Scotland! Read on to find out all about their adventure, some of their favourite stops on route and where they are planning on heading to next.
 
 

What is your walking history?

We both grew up as very active children and into adulthood. Bill was a multisport athlete throughout school, and Lisa an avid hiker and naturalist. Together we have hiked extensively throughout the United States (Acadia National Park, Glacier National Park, Edisto Beach State Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Picture Rocks National Lake Shore, and many more), Canada (Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise and many more), Europe (Italy, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, and more), and Central America (Belize, Baja California and more). Every moment that we can we are on the move – exploring, taking photos, and just enjoying the stroll.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

There were several reasons that we chose to walk the John Muir Way through Scotland: neither of us had ever been to Scotland, John Muir was instrumental in setting up the national parks in the United States, and Bill’s family immigrated from Scotland in the 1800’s to Canada. 

 

How did you prepare?

We live in a very walkable community located on the shores of Lake Erie, and our county has an incredible park system nicknamed the Emerald Necklace as it forms a green half circle through the county. We made every effort to get out and walk in both of these areas as much as possible – from 1-mile walks to 15-mile hikes. Walking is just a normal part of life for us so we just kept walking!
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

There were several favorite stops on this trip. Dunbar, which was the terminus of the trail, was this incredible coastal and historical town with such great pubs and restaurants. Linlithgow was a friendly little town with a fantastic B&B, great places to eat, and interesting period architecture. South Berwick, which was a coastal town, had interesting rock formations. We went to a pub here and so felt a part of the town as we interacted with locals during a football game.
 

Best food & drink?

Oh the food! We had great food in almost every town and village but 4 really stood out. In Strathblane we had a locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared dinner at the Kirkwood Inn, where we were staying. A steak and pork dinner with sides that were just out of this world! The second dinner was in Glasgow, a stop we made after we finished our walk. We ate at the Ox and Finch – a small plate restaurant. We chose 4 different small plates for sharing: the most tender and flavorful squid; a salad with fennel, pomegranate, pecorino, and truffle; a curried duck leg confit; and a dessert with apricots, yogurt, almonds, and lemon thyme. It was literally other-worldly!  In Edinburgh we visited a Nepalese restaurant close to the B&B on the recommendation of the B&B host – what incredible flavors! We had the best Indian food in Falkirk – the nuances in the flavors of the food were amazing – no one flavor overpowered the other!
 
 

Biggest surprise?

We’re not sure that we were surprised by any aspect of this trip. Instead we were glad that the route was well-marked, the accommodations were fantastic, the food was great, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were so hospitable.
 
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

Honestly, no aspect of the trip was particularly challenging. We were definitely prepared for it physically, we love travelling and are quite adept at it, and we love an adventure! We have already started to plan the next one – perhaps in Ireland or Tuscany!
 

Scotland’s Best Walking and Cycling Routes

Who doesn’t love a cup of tea with a traditional Scottish all-butter shortbread, especially after a long walk or cycle. And it’s even better still you're actually in Scotland, right? In celebration of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we thought now was the perfect time to shine a light on Scotland’s best walking and cycling routes. Plus, if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy some of the countries specialities along the way, such as haggis, fresh Scottish lobster and Cullen skink, all washed down with a wee dram of the finest whisky around!

 

THE GREAT GLEN WAY

This iconic tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day) and follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland – depths of up to 750 feet. The walk finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the highlands”. Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths plenty of elegant bridges and locks as well as forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.
 
Find out more about The Great Glen Way here.
 
 

JOHN MUIR WAY

Completed in 2014, the John Muir Way is a 134 mile route that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and with Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast to coast path. It provides an accessible and varied route across the Scottish low lands, following a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure. This route links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest. 
 
Find out more about the John Muir Way here.
 
 

ROB ROY WAY

The Rob Roy Way is a 124km walk linking Drymen with Pitlochry in Perthshire. The route joins paths and tracks through highland scenery, taking advantage of attractive villages and small towns. The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! It then passes through the forests of the Trossachs, crossing the River Forth at Aberfoyle and down beside Loch Venachar to Callander, before leading out through fine glens by Loch Lubnaig and Glen Oich to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills on the remotest stretch of the walk, before descending to follow the quiet path along the southern shores of Loch Tay. Descend to Aberfeldy via the famous Birks, and the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.
 
Find out more about the Rob Roy Way here.
 
 

THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY - 10 DAY

This 10 Day tour follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day. The West Highland Way is a well-established and popular route, containing some landscapes of great beauty. The altitude range is from sea level to 1850 ft (4408 ft if Ben Nevis is climbed). An 8 Day route is also available.

Find out more about The West Highland Way - 10 Days here and 8 Days here.

 

 

LOCHS AND BENS

The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths where cycle touring is pleasurable. En route you will visit charming historic towns such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin. A rest day at Killin is included to allow you time to visit the Falls of Dochart, sail the Loch or walk up Ben Lawers. There are also opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments found along the way.

 

Find out more about Lochs and Bens here.

 

 

SCOTTISH HIGHLAND’S CYCLE

Cycle from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. During this week long trip we cycle along scenic paths and quiet forest trails with opportunities enroute to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. A day in Fort William is set aside to rest or ascend Ben Nevis. A train journey takes you across desolate Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch, where you continue on bike to the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, nestled in the Perthshire hills.
 
Find out more about the Scottish Highland's Cycle here
 

Nutrition Tips To Help Boost Energy And Recovery

It’s often said that if you do enough exercise, you can eat virtually anything you like. And after a couple of hours of hard walking or cycling, it’s very hard (in Britain, especially) not to pass up the opportunity of having a piece of cake or a cream tea of scones and jam in a local café... it can be all too easy in fact, to eat too much!

Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a balanced and slowly continuous food intake, where possible; little and often being the key. You don’t need to eat a whole energy bar in one go for example, have a little bit and often. Endurance athletes know the problem, the best of them have a highly trained musculature that takes a long time to suffer from the glycogen exhaustion that a lot of beginners are effected with when blood and muscle glycogen levels fall. It is said that, at least for running, you only have enough glycogen storage for a 90 minute sustained effort, walking  perhaps 3 or 4 hours, so you need to be replenishing long before you anticipate an energy crash coming.

With this in mind, we have put together some simple nutrition tips for the best things to eat and drink to provide you with sustained energy whilst staying active and training for a big walking or cycling trip.
 
 

STARTING THE DAY

The first, and one of the most important things, is starting the day right. A cooked breakfast might seem like the way to go, but with a very high concentration of fats, protein and salts it can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning as you set out, whilst your body tries to digest everything. A better, and just as filling alternative, would be a nice bowl of porridge, perhaps with banana and honey or yoghurt stirred in. If you’re extra hungry, some toast with marmalade on the side wouldn’t go amiss. This will set you up with slow release carbohydrates as well as a good supply of initial sugars to get you going. 

A very popular breakfast hailing from Switzerland is Bircher muesli, a creation of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. He developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium in the late 1800s with the aim of making his patients eat more raw fruit. The rolled oat based muesli is often soaked overnight in Swiss yoghurt making it easily digestible and then lots of mixed fresh and dried fruits are added. Within this you will get a mixture of complex carbohydrates, fruits, salts, sugars and fats. Fruits are an excellent source of elements, such as potassium in banana and vitamin c in berries and citrus fruits. It is also thought that vitamins help with energy processing, as well as promoting general wellbeing. 
 
 

DURING THE DAY

Once you are out and about what should you take with you? Of course there are an array of different sports bars, sports drinks and energy gels, which can be confusing. These vary in quality, some are nutritionally balanced and some are little more than sugar. Either way, they are not always necessarily the best option, and there are good alternatives that can be found in most supermarkets, usually in multiple packs. 

If you want to keep things more affordable, go for items such as Snickers bars or peanut M&Ms which have a good slow and fast energy release ingredients – glucose and protein. Nuts are more expensive, but if you add a few to some some dried fruit (such as raisins) and M&Ms, you have a reasonable trail mix that you can graze on throughout the day. Also, it’s always recommended to have a packet of Jelly Babies to hand as they are pure glucose, which gives us a hit of energy and are much more palatable than energy gels. A couple of apples are also handy. However, too much fruit and vitamin c can lead to RBM (rapid bowel movement), so don’t overdo it!

If you’d rather have a convenient bar to suit all needs, energy bars which have a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as the Clif Bar are great. They generally aren’t chocolate covered so won’t melt easily, but can crumble. Anything labelled as a 'nutrition bar' is intended as a meal replacement, providing vitamins and minerals and often having more calories and protein. 

Rehydration is also very important, as you need to get a balance of liquid and salts without flushing the salts out of your system (hypernatremia). The easiest way to do this is to buy a tub of  rehydration powders to fill your water bottles with in the morning and then take a trusted brand of soluble rehydration tablet to put in your bottle for further refills during the day. 
 
 
 

ENDING THE DAY

When it comes to any strenuous exercise, the way you end your day is just as vital as the way you start. So once you’ve finished a long days walk or cycle, a lot of people feel either too tired to physically consume anything, or eat far too much without thinking about it. In Britain, it also seems to be customary to end your walk at a pub with a cold beer. This is definitely not to be sniffed at, as beer drinking is sociable, contains over 300 calories a pint (plus vitamins) and is easily consumed. The thing to remember is not to drink too much and remain hydrated, so a couple of pints is fine. Alongside your drink of choice, you should ideally eat something easily consumed straight after the exercise and then a little later have some protein to help with muscle repair. 

Don't forget, it was only a couple of generations ago, that good hikers were completing extraordinary walks relying on jam sandwiches, homemade cake and a thermos of sweet tea (and some still do!) Food to is meant to be enjoyable and walking sociable, so the key is to listen to your body and perhaps don’t turn up that chance for a cream tea!