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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!
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!
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
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!
With Europe’s grape harvest season fast approaching, we have put together a run down of our top trips for oenophiles...we let you know where's best to visit and what's best to drink whilst you're there.
Vineyard Trails of the Loire
The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France, and it also has the advantage of being a great centre for cuisine and historical monuments. Our tour links the great chateaux at Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau, Villandry and Chinon with the great vineyards of Vouvray, Chinon, Saumur, and Anjou.
The Loire is France’s valley of the kings, where you will find much of its history and see the great palaces and castles. It is the countryside that inspired Balzac, where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and where Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the 100 years war. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure; self-guided departures until 31 October.
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Burgundy has the highest number of ‘appellations d’origine contrôlée’ in France. Chardonnay, one of the world’s most planted grape varieties today, originated here and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. Its ability to adapt to different weather conditions makes it one of the ‘easiest’ grapes to cultivate and today there are more than 30 clonal varieties in France alone.
Starting in the walled city of Beaune, the region’s wine capital and home to the Hospices de Beaune, where the primary wine auction in France takes place each year, explore the best Burgundy Vineyard Trails; self-guided departures until 30 November.
Alsace Vineyard Trails
The geography of the wine growing area in Alsace is determined by the Vosges Mountains in the west and the Rhine River in the east, with the vineyards concentrated in a narrow strip on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges. Wine here is all about aromas, with Pinot d’Alsace widely considered as one of the most uniquely flavoured white wines in the world. An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on this trip, while the local cuisine includes specialties such as tarte flambé.
An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on Sherpa Expeditions’ Alsace Vineyard Trails, which starts at the Haut-Rhin, in the southern part of the region, where the best vineyards have long been associated with; self-guided departures until 24 October.
The first demarcated wine region in the world was officially established in 1756 when the Port industry developed. Today it has the country’s highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’, while the viticultural zone, which covers the steep slopes along the banks of the lower reaches of the Douro River, is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
There are plenty of opportunities for scenic boat trips, wine tasting tours and visits to port lodges on the Douro Rambler, which takes you deep into small working wine estates of vine-laced terraces; self-guided departures until 15 October.
Kim Schmelz from Wisconsin walked The Wicklow Way with her husband, Joe, in July. Read more to find out all about their trip, including their favourite and most challenging aspects of the route.
What is your walking history?
Joe and I are pretty active runners but I wouldn’t call us experienced when it comes to trail walking. This was our first walking trip.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We had a friend who walked the Wicklow Way a couple of years ago and it sounded fantastic. Ireland had always been on our bucket list as we knew we would enjoy the scenery as well as the beer. We wanted a special way to celebrate turning 40 in 2019 as well as our upcoming 15-year wedding anniversary and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our good health by staying active during the day and having no guilt enjoying a Guinness or Jameson in the evening.
How did you prepare?
Aside from our normal routine of running, cardio and weight training we didn’t do a lot differently. Joe ran 5 miles most days and I usually alternated running and strength training. We live in southwest Wisconsin so running up and down hills is a very standard practice, however the hills we saw in Ireland were much steeper than our normal running hills!
What was your favourite destination?
Our favourite day by far was the day we discovered Glendalough. Our notes told us that if the weather was good we should take the ‘Spinc’ route. Luckily for us the sky was picture perfect and the weather was beautiful. We were able to walk through the glacial trough and see the views across the lake of Glendalough. We walked uphill for about two and a half hours that day but when we saw the view it was well worth it. It was absolutely breathtaking. After taking some photos and letting the view really sink in, we started our descent down the path and took in the waterfall on the way down as well as the Miner’s Road and then finally the lakes at the bottom.
Best food & drink?
The day we finished our walk and ended in Dublin was a full day of hiking. Finding the end point wasn’t possible because Marlay Park, the point that marked the end or beginning of the trail, had huge barricades in it for a concert that had been held the weekend before and unfortunately those barricades made it so difficult to find the end point that we just finally gave up. We got outside the park, found the restaurant that we were supposed to call our cab from and took off for our hotel. We were hot, tired and hungry by the time we settled into our room so we knew we wouldn’t be going far to enjoy our dinner that night. We found a pizza place close by that served the most amazing garlic bread and pizza, our first big carb meal of the whole trip. It was delicious! The drink we grew most fond during our time in Ireland was Jameson. We usually ended each night with a bit of Jameson and a side of Ginger Ale.
I think one of my biggest surprises was how few people we would see on the trail. The first two days on the trail we only saw about a dozen people. It wasn’t until we started walking towards Glendalough that we started to see groups of walkers and crowds of people. The people that we did see on those quiet days were so nice though and usually stopped to chat for a short time, tell us where they had come from and how far away it was and we would do the same. It was interesting to learn where they were from and what brought them to the Wicklow Way.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hills! We had a bit an idea of what to expect on our hike but we didn’t realize that we would likely either be climbing up a hill or a down a hill for the majority of the walk. Our legs were sore every morning and every night but it was so worth it! Our trip was so amazing from the beauty of the country to the kind people we met along the way to the feeling of accomplishment we had at the top of each big hill and at the end of each day. Our muscles were sore but we were still excited to put on our pack each morning and start again.
I can’t say enough good things about each B&B we stayed at. They each had their own charm and wonderful hosts. We were introduced to our first Irish Breakfast at Madeline’s in Tinahely, we met our first Irish farmers at Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne and we met the friendliest dogs at the Coolalingo B&B in Glenmalure. In Laragh we had the best breakfast conversation with a couple from Norway and a mother and son from Denmark. Our favorite B&B though was the Coolakay House in Enniskerry. The grounds were beautiful and relaxing with beautiful flowers, great seating outside and inside and ponies walking the field. Yvonne, the owner had so much Irish charm. We could have stayed there for a week!
We are celebrating International Beer Day by paying homage to and highlighting some of the best trips to go on if you (like us) enjoy a nice glass of that liquid gold after a long days walking!
Austria | Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
Austria is an obvious choice if you’re after a pint as they have a big beer culture there, with the average Austrian guzzling around 105 litres of it every year! Some of the most popular beers are Fohrenburger Premium Weizen, Gösser Export and Stiegl Pils, which is known for its slightly sour taste. So, after a long walk in the Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps, why not head for a pretzel washed down with a beer?
Find out more about Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps here
France | Provence and Dordogne
Provence is famed for its lavender fields and rosé wine, but what you may not know is that there are some very interesting micro-breweries in the area as well. Petite Aixoise is definitely one that has been receiving high praise of late. Based in Aix-en-Provence, they have a delightful Ambrée pale ale (ideal with charcuterie and cheese) an IPA for bitter lovers, Blanche beer (perfect during the summer months), a Blonde lager, plus the dark and creamy Triple. There’s something for everyone.
Find out more about Walking in Haute Provence here
The Dordogne is always a go-to for it’s amazing food and drink, and is fast becoming well-known for it’s craft beers too. One of which is a beer named Ratz that is based near Cahors. They do a great range of drafts, blond, amber and dark ales, all with very unique flavours. So, if you find yourself in the area it’s well worth a try!
Find out more about Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 8 Days
and Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 10 Days
Germany | Bavaria
Germany is famous for their steins of beer, so what better place to visit for a beer fix. In Bavaria during the middle ages, they referred to beer as ‘liquid bread’ because of its calorific qualities, and it is still a staple in many Bavarians diets today. A must-try is the König Ludwig whose slogan translates to "beer of royal highness". They have a royal heritage and the current owner, Prince Luitpold of the House of Wittelsbach, is the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, Ludwig III, and a descendant of the original signatories of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, and Ludwig I, whose wedding celebration marked the first Oktoberfest! With all that history, it’s definitely one to seek out to reward yourself after a days walk.
Find out more about Bavaria: King Ludwigs Way here
Greece | Exploring Crete and Zagorian Villages
Greece probably isn’t the first place you would think about for it’s beer, however it has some really promising local brands in Crete called Brink’s and Charma lager. Solo beer, which is based in Heraklion, Crete is also won a gold medal from Barcelona Beer Festival in 2017. Mythos is a very popular Greek beer too that has won many awards, so you certainly won’t be going thirsty here!
Find out more about Exploring Crete here
Find out more about Zagoria The Secret Villages here
Ireland | Wicklow Way
You can’t go to Ireland without having a pint of Guinness or ‘the black stuff’ as it is lovingly referred, and we would always recommend that you do so, as it really doesn’t taste better than in the country it’s brewed after a long day of exerting yourself along The Wicklow Way! However, we mustn’t forget that there are other really delicious stouts and ales, such as Murphy's and Smithwick's which definitely give Guinness a run for it’s money.
Find out more about The Wicklow Way – 7 Days
and The Wicklow Way – 9 Days
Italy | Amalfi Coast
Everyone always talks about Italy’s famous food, and quite rightly so, but you also need something to pair it with, right? That’s where beer comes in! Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of the classic Italian Moretti beer, but when walking along the coastline of southern Italy you will also come across some smaller craft creations, such as the local Amalfi Coast beer. It was started by two beer-loving friends and there are interesting stories behind each of their four beers - Amalphia, Regina Major, Veteri, Pithekusa - inspired by aspects the coast.
Find out more about the Classic Amalfi Coast – 8 Days
and Classic Amalfi Coast – 11 Days
UK | Cornwall and Coast to Coast
It’s no secret that the UK has a large beer offering, with breweries cropping up all over the place, so it’s hard to choose our favourites. However, we thought we’d try to whittle it down using some of your most-loved walking trails. Firstly, along the South West Coast Path, when you get to Cornwall we would recommend a cold pint from Skinner’s Brewery, especially Cornish Knocker and Hops ‘n’ Honey. Doom Bar is also a favoured beer all across the country, but it’s extra nice to have it in the place it’s made.
Find out more about the South West Coast Path here
When walking the Coast to Coast, it’s almost impossible to come across a pub not serving Wainwrights Beer and there’s no wonder as it’s won multiple awards. So, the question is, what are you waiting for? If the sun’s out, find the nearest beer garden and put your feet up – you deserve it!
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
We were lucky enough to receive some great stories from our travellers during 2018. Finding out exactly what happens when our customers head out on their travels really helps us to ensure that we’re offering the best holidays and service that we can. It also paints a great picture of what you can expect from a particular trip.
Here are a few highlights from the tales we received over the past year.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
Randy and Diane – Bernese Oberland Guided Walk
We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss, in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
Marie-Claire – Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area. It was also great to be able to spend some time with my daughter. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
Jan – UK Coast to Coast
This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage.
Charles – Alsace Vineyard Trails
I had an uncle who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called Walking in Wine Country - the Alsace was one of the regions he had covered, so I wanted to walk in his footsteps and light a few candles in his memory.
How did you prepare for your trip?
Randy and Diane: Diane and I started doing some uphill hiking over the 2-3 months prior to the trip, and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1,000 to 2,000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland.
Marie-Claire: My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie Park (in Dundee) 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend. I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
Jan: The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed.
Charles: Ahead of the trip, I wanted to improve my French so I used an app called Duolingo to practice for 20 minutes each day for several months.
What was your favourite destination on the trip?
Randy and Diane: We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town.
Marie-Claire: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone. We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Jan: This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW!
Charles: What I loved best were the hours we spent walking through the woods on the lower slopes of the Vosges. They were of such varied character and with different plants favouring different species of trees.
What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Randy and Diane: The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for!
Marie-Claire: The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
Jan: A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home.
Charles: We soon found that the Alsace Riesling was nothing like the semi-sweet wines that we had had in our youth – these were on the medium side of dry but had such wonderful flavour. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Did you have any nice surprises?
Randy and Diane: Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monch and the Jungfrau and be at 3,466m in the Swiss Alps.
Marie-Claire: On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region.
Jan: The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again.
Charles: The Haut Koenigsbourg Castle is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find the most challenging?
Randy and Diane: The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group.
Marie-Claire: The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
Jan: I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it.
Charles: Choosing wines was a challenge!
If you have a tale from your travels with Sherpa Expeditions that you’d like to share with us, email us. You’ll get a £50 discount on your next trip with us!
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope your plans for the festive season are coming along nicely. As well as enjoying this special time with friends and family, Christmas is also the perfect time to start making your holiday plans for next year – but what’s on your wish list for 2019? Here, we pick out a few of our trips that might help you decide – but there are hundreds more trips to choose from on our website. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Whichever trip you choose, Sherpa Expeditions can help to make your 2019 a very memorable year.
Tick off a classic UK walk
Coast to Coast
This classic Coast to Coast walking route, stretching from the east to west of the UK, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the Lake District. The walk starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head. You cross three National Parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided Coast to Coast walks, ranging from 15 to 18 days for the entire route, and with shorter sections available.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The West Highland Way
Cornwall: The South West Coast Path
Take on a challenge
The Pennine Way
A mountain journey across the backbone of England, The Pennine Way became the very first British National Trail in 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, 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. Its sheer length makes it the perfect for those seeking a challenge – although you can also choose to do just the southern or northern sections.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Alto Aragon : The Spanish Pyrenees
Try a Scandinavian adventure
This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. The retreating glaciers from the last ice age once overwhelmed and molded this landscape, gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Sweden: Hiking Stockholm and Beyond
Soak up some sun
Classic Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the quintessential Italian holiday, with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea with some outstanding walks to experience this destination. There is no better way to immerse in this jaw dropping Italian coastline than hiking the Amalfi Coast to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're a sun worshipper, you'll love the warmth and colours of this beautiful part of Italy.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries
Rambling in the Luberon
Enjoy a food and wine lover’s paradise
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Everyone’s idea of what constitutes great food is different, but there’s no doubting that classic French food and wine is up there with the best. The food from the Dordogne features dishes that embody most people’s idea of classic French cuisine – this is the land of truffles, magret de canard and rich, dark wines. However, there’s much more to the Dordogne than just the amazing food and wine – beautiful medieval villages, lush, green, wooded hills and even caves all add to this lovely walking tour. (8 and 10 day trips available).
Other trips that fit the bill…
Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Keep cool in the forest
King Ludwig’s Way
For those that like some trees to shade them from the heat of the summer sun, this lovely, fascinating walk offers some very enjoyable stretches through the beech forests of Bavaria. The route passes two of Bavaria's most scenic lakes and through charming villages of geranium bedecked chalets with typical onion shaped church spires. The walk ends at King Ludwig’s spectacular fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps
This is just a tiny selection of the trips available, but we hope it provides some inspiration. You can search all of our holidays here.
It makes us feel old to think about it, but in May 2019 the channel tunnel celebrates its 25th birthday!
This ground-breaking development made France easier to reach than ever before, and changed the way we travel to the continent from the UK. To celebrate this approaching milestone, we’ve picked out 6 fantastic walking trips in France that you can book now for 2019.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, on this trip you can wander through fragrant vineyards, meet local winemakers, discover vine-covered valleys and visit private cellars. Burgundy claims the highest number of ‘appellations d'origine contrôlée’ than any other region in the country. Chardonnay originated here, and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. The ‘Route des Grands Crus’ runs through many of the great appellations of Burgundy wine, punctuated by nearly 40 picturesque villages and little towns. Read more here
On the Massif Central, above the broad valley of the Rhone, lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardeche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This little-known watershed for some of France’s great rivers is a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams, where massive ruined farmhouses seem embedded into the landscape, and the bleat of goats and call of the wild birds are often the only sounds. This Ardeche ramble begins to unfold with breath-taking views across the enchanting Doux Valley from Le Crestet, a medieval fortified village built on a rocky hill. Read more here
Explore vineyards, wine estates and chateaux as you walk through the majestic Valley of the Kings, a region steeped in history – this is where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the Hundred Years’ War! The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France: the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap. With a cool continental climate that slows down the ripening on the vine, the region’s winemaking history dates back to the 1st century. Read more here
This beautiful rural walk winds between the bastides or fortified towns that sprung up between the Cathar Crusades of the 1200s and the Wars of Religion in the 1500s. They are situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories or broad hills and are rich in history. No fewer than 4 of the villages on this tour (Cordes, Bruniquel, Puycelci and Castelnau-de-Montmiral) are included on the unofficial but prestigious list of 143 most beautiful villages in France. The intervening countryside is a beautiful mixture of forests, fields and river valleys with a distinct lack of tourists. This has become not only one of our most venerated walks, but also one of the most popular tours in France. Read more here
In 1888 Van Gogh left Paris for Arles in Provence where he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provençal sun, painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafés, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins. This walk traces his footsteps through some of the places that he painted and would have known well. Here you will discover the many images of the landscapes he painted, from St-Rémy to the Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles. We are confident that you will have a better time of it than Van Gogh did; for a time he was in a hospital at Arles, he then spent a year in the nearby asylum of Saint-Rémy, working between repeated spells of madness. Just after completing his ominous Crows in the Wheat fields (1890), he shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died two days later. Read more here
This was one of our original hotel treks, and has been a consistently popular tour over the past 40+ years for those who love rural France and wish to visit some of its more unusual, less visited landscapes. The route covers a large swathe of the uplands of the Massif Central taking a path that the early Pilgrims walked on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain - one of the great journeys of history. This is a walk in deepest France, for those who really want a bit of peace and quiet away from it all, a flavour of the past with a dose of religious history and the echoes of The Hundred Year War. Read more here
This is just a small selection of trips that we offer to France. To browse all of our France holidays, click here.
Marie-Claire, originally from Brittany but a resident of Scotland for the last 40 years, headed to the Dordogne in September with her daughter Nathalie, to discover this beautiful region of France for the first time.
1.What is your walking history?
I have always been interested in cycling and walking but, to be fair, hiking is now what I do most. Some years ago, I did a cycling trip along the Danube from Passau to Vienna with a group of senior pupils from Arbroath High School doing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, and the following year friends and I did a 7-day cycle tour in Holland, staying in a barge overnight, cycling and sightseeing during the day and ‘finding’ the barge at the end of the day!
I have now been retired for 3 years and have joined the Dundee ramblers. We have walks every Saturday in the Angus Glens, Perthshire or the Fife Coastal Path.
In April this year, a group of us completed the West Highland Way. Challenging but breath-taking scenery!
2. Why did you choose to walk where you did?
In September, my daughter Nathalie invited me to do an 8-day trip with her - Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne.I am French but I have lived in Scotland for 40 years. When the children were young, we would always go to Brittany, where I am from, during the holidays. That’s one of the reasons there are many regions of France I don’t know.Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area.It was also great to be able to spend some time with her. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
3. How did you prepare for the trip?
My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie park 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend.I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
4. What was your favourite destination on the trip?
It is difficult to pick a favourite destination. Two places stand out: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone.
We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Curemonte was another picturesque village and we had lunch near an orientation table, on a hill overlooking the village. We could see the whole village from there and it gave us a different perspective to the one we had when we were in the village itself.
There was a little shop at the entrance to the village selling organic home-made jam and chutneys, made with fruit and produce from the owner’s estate. I was puzzled as to the names of some of the produce and the owner explained to us that his son has a sense of humour and had come up with funny names for some of them.
One chutney which Nathalie bought was from an old Indian recipe and it was called “pipi o lit”- and it contained dandelion flowers! We did learn that you can also make jam, wine and beer from dandelions! Who would have known?
We also learnt that a “telefilm” called L’orange de Noel had been shot there in 1995. It is set just before the First World War and is the story of a young primary school teacher, Cécile, who arrives in the village to teach at the local state school. Up to then, education had mainly been the domain of the Catholic church, and Catholics called state schools “L’école du diable.”
The local priest had always managed to force the state school teachers to quit after a year but this time... he meets a young woman of character!
5. What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Delicious hearty food, foie gras, cassoulet, duck, walnuts, cèpes territory! Not a paradise for vegetarians or vegans!!
The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert
menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘Flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
The 4-course ‘menu du terroir’ dinner in Carennac was also superb!
6. Did you have any nice surprises or serendipitous experiences?
On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region. The little ‘superette’ in Loubressac had none left when we were there. The owner explained that some tourists had bought their entire stock a few weeks before we were there.
We were lucky enough to sample it in Carennac and the traditional red went superbly with the lamb and of course the cheese!
On day 6, we visited the “Gouffre de Padirac”, a huge cave over 100 metres deep. You can walk down or take the lift, walk along the narrow passages and admire the way the underground river has carved the stone over thousands of years. After a 10-minute boat trip you continue your journey to ‘la salle du grand dôme’ and discover stalactites, stalagmites and amazing rock formations which are reminiscent of a Lord of the Rings setting.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
There was also more road walking than I was expecting... and I did get blisters!
Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne and Port de Gagnac to Loubressac were tough! I wished I had taken 2 pairs of walking boots with me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. More training beforehand would have been good!
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne has daily departures from 1 April 2019, and is also available as a 10-day trip.