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Following our guide to trips in the UK that are ideal for walkers with different fitness levels, now it’s the turn of Europe.
An important factor in the fitness levels required when choosing a walking holiday in Europe is the weather and the time of year. Although most of our European trips fall into the ‘moderate’ category, it obviously gets hotter as you head further south, and a trip in central or southern Europe is going to be more challenging in the height of summer than it is in spring or autumn.
This is just a small selection of the European trips that we offer. Just check out the suitability description on any of our trip pages to work out if it’s the right one for you.
GENTLE TRIPS FOR FIRST TIME WALKERS
This is a gentle walk that allows time to visit historic sites and vineyards along the route. Although the second half of the week provides a little more of a challenge as the distances and climbs increase slightly, it’s generally an extremely pleasant route that allows you to discover the landscape and savour some of the finest food and wine on offer anywhere in Europe. Travellers will discover a fabled land of mediaeval chateaux, ancient monasteries and fragrant breezes where the art of living is pursued to near perfection at a gentle unhurried pace.
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. The walking is hilly at times, but generally the mix of old pathways, farm and forest trails make for fairly gentle walking. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure and an ideal place to start for those with a love of France or setting out on a walking holiday for the first time.
MODERATE TRIPS FOR THE MORE ACTIVE
Starting in France and ending in Spain, this walk follows the steep coastline where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. With some days stretching for 22km and with ascents of up to 700m, you’ll certainly know that you’ve been working your legs hard by the end of the day! But this is generally a lovely walk that will pose no difficulties for someone with a decent level of fitness and experience of hill-walking. The walk includes visits to some charming fishing villages and you’ll be able to sample some lovely wines and delicious Catalan cuisine.
Lake Como Rambling
This is a lovely walk, which includes some days that you can lengthen for a slightly bigger challenge if your legs allow it. The spectacular Lake Como, formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age, is lined by Roman Villas with beautiful gardens, and grand hotels built during the Victorian era for European and American tourists. You’ll also be able to savour some delicious Italian food and wine whilst enjoying some of the country’s most stunning views.
CHALLENGING TRIPS FOR MORE EXPERIENCED WALKERS
Our trip takes in the most impressive two-week section of the full classic Alpine Pass – it’s a route that takes you over many alpine passes, some a leisurely stroll, others a tougher proposition, but all offering their own spectacular visual rewards. There are some long days but lifts and cable cars can be used to shorten some of the walks and overnight locations can all be reached by public transport in case of bad weather. However, this trek is a definite challenge, which involves much daily uphill and downhill walking, and is only suitable for fit walkers who can readily manage days with more than 1000m ascent and descent.
Tour du Mont Blanc
This classic alpine walk circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain over passes and through the valleys of three contrasting countries. Walkers can savour the food and wine of France, Italy and Switzerland and enjoy some of the finest scenery in the world. There are no vertigo-inducing sections on this walk provided you stick to the itinerary as described in the route notes and defined on the maps; and avoid the ‘variations’. We make it clear in the notes which alternate routes in our opinion do require a ‘head for heights’. Some of the walks can be shortened if desired by the use of cable cars or (in Italy) a local bus service.
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.
Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
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Available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, we have selected a programme of varied walks. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
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This walk along the Vermillion Coast starts in France and finishes in Spain, taking you along the coastline where the mountains of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. You’ll experience pretty fishing villages, amazing French and Spanish cuisine, and spectacular coastal landscapes. This is also a region with a strong artistic heritage – from the French sculptor Aristide Maillol to Spanish master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
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The daily walks on this trip are relatively short, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax or try some of the many activities available on La Gomera, such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or whale-watching. The places you’ll visit are peaceful and unspoilt, with plenty of family-run restaurants to help you sample the delights of the local cuisine as you make your way around the south of the island.
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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.
Sherpa HQ team member Nathalie headed to the Dordogne with her mum in September for some autumn sunshine, and to savour the delights of this beautiful region of France. Here she gives us her top 5 reasons to try this self-guided walking trip for yourself.
GET AWAY FROM THE HUSTLE & BUSTLE
Now I see why the trip is called Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne. It was certainly reflected in the number of walkers mum & I saw, which were only a couple every few days. For me this made it feel like much more of a special & immersive experience, and also encouraged me to practice my rusty French more!
A typical sleepy hamlet - Greze.
Lush forests provide welcome shade from the hot sun.
The walnut groves got more and more plentiful as the walk goes on. Thanks to mum I can now identify chestnuts, figs etc. It was like having my own guide!
GAZE OVER THE VISTAS
As I normally tend to gravitate towards mountains, I wasn’t sure if the landscape in rural France would entertain me for the week - but I needn’t have worried. Each day offered beautiful, varied landscapes that came with their own highlights. Country fields, walnut orchards, gorges, forests and rivers - there was always something beautiful to absorb.
Kayakers at Beaulieu-Sur-Dorogne.
Glimpsing Curemont as we descend after our picnic – don’t forget to visit the Lou Pé de Grill farm shop as you enter the village!
The climbs are worth it when you get rewarding views like this.
EXPLORE MEDIEVAL VILLAGES & CAVES
The league table for French villages is the exclusive 143 top villages in the country, and you visit several just in this trip. I actually felt like I had stepped back in time or into a fairy tale. If, like me, you enjoy photography and finding local produce, you’ll be in your element.
Carennac on the morning of the last day. Not only do you visit lovely villages, you get to stay in them too.
The impressive Chateau de Castelnaud.
The Padirac Caves were a wonderous, cooling detour at only 13 degrees Celsius, when it’s 27 above ground. More than 100m below ground, I loved floating on an underground river and seeing all the weird and wonderful formations which we named “the jellyfish” and “the cauliflower” - although like cloud shapes, we all see different things!
Padirac Caves – after the short boat ride you get a chance to explore the caves on foot.
SAMPLE THE LOCAL CUISINE
It’s funny how quickly you get used to three-course dinners, and in the Dordogne Valley you certainly get spoilt. I’m not sure if my calories burned cancelled out the calories consumed, but it was worth it. In my mind it was guilt-free after the hikes anyway! Starting off the week at the Bonne Famille, which has been in the same family for some 97 years now, we could feel the love in the service and the food. As an area famed for confit why wouldn’t you indulge in duck or cassoulet? And the food highs just kept coming.
The Bonne Famille served tasty duck home-cooked meals.
Hostellerie Fenelon’s Lamb two ways was packed with flavour.
INDULGE YOURSELF WITH WINE & CHEESE – YOU’VE EARNED IT!
When a cheese board with a selection of more than 10 cheeses is set in front you, you can’t not smile. It’s even better after you’ve been enjoying a bottle of the local red from Glanes, which can only be bought locally, and if you have the right contacts. Luckily the proprietor of the Hostellerie Fenelon has friends in the right places!
Look out for this wine on the menus – the traditional blend is perfect as it compliments many dishes.
Save room for the local goat’s cheese if you can!
My conclusion – this was a wonderful trip that certainly convinced me that you don’t have to be in the mountains to enjoy nature. This is a beautiful region of France, with friendly people, delicious food and fantastic wine. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a proper taste of French countryside and culture.
2019 dates for Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne are now available to book - with the option of either an 8-day or 10-day itinerary .
Our 2019 dates have been announced for the Tour du Mont Blanc – so now is the time to secure your place on one of the classic alpine walking tours. Here are just some of the reasons why we think you should book this spectacular trip…
1. EIGHT fixed departure days for summer 2019
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a self guided walking holiday – but due to the logistics of baggage transfer, the trip departs on fixed dates throughout the summer season. Our 8 departure dates, spanning the entire summer, give you plenty of options for when to do the trip.
2. Support from our friendly, knowledgeable team in London
Our London office is staffed by people with plenty of walking experience, and an in-depth knowledge of our holidays. They can provide you with all the information you need and answer all of your questions, providing support both before and during your trip.
3. Walk independently, but at the same time as other Sherpa travellers
Although the Tour du Mont Blanc is a self guided holiday, the fact that the trip departs on fixed dates means there will always be a small number of other Sherpa walkers doing the tour at the same time. So you can be as sociable or independent as you like – it’s the best of both worlds!
4. Enjoy the benefits of support from our team members who live in the area
Our friendly local staff who take care of your baggage transfers also act as your contacts in case of any problems, or simply to offer advice and information.
5. Our route notes are second to none
When you book with Sherpa you’ll receive a pack including detailed route notes, maps and information on local points of interest and attractions. The notes have been prepared by experts with intimate knowledge of the area, and also include details of alternative routes for certain parts of the tour.
6. Enjoy a meet & greet on your first night
The evening before you set off from Les Houches for your first day’s walking, our ground support staff will hold a briefing to give you all the information you need and to ask any questions you might have. It also gives you the opportunity to meet the other Sherpa travellers who’ll be doing the walk at the same time as you.
7. Solo travellers can avoid paying a single supplement
If you’re a solo traveller and are happy to share a room with another traveller (of the same gender), you won’t have to pay a single supplement - as long as we can pair you up. (NB: there are no single rooms available in Les Chapieux, on the 3rd night of the tour, and if not paired up single travellers will have to stay in a small dormitory at Refuge Les Mottets, which is 7km further up on the route).
8. First-timer on a self guided walk? No problem!
Although the Tour du Mont Blanc provides views of breath-taking alpine scenery, the walk itself is graded as ‘moderate to challenging’ and requires no mountaineering experience. This means that anyone with the level of fitness required to walk for 6 to 7 hours a day on uneven ground should find it within their capabilities. Some of the walks can be shortened by the use of cable cars or local bus services.
9. Enjoy the culture of 3 different countries
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Tour du Mont Blanc is that you’ll pass through France, Italy and Switzerland, each with its own culture, customers and delicious food and wine. A true European adventure awaits you.
10. Rest days, or extra walking days - the choice is yours
The itinerary includes 3 ‘rest’ days when you can take it easy – but there’s certainly no need to rest if you’re feeling energetic! There’s plenty to explore in all of the areas (the route notes will provide information), or you can choose to do some extra walking if you prefer.
Find more details, dates and book online, for the Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided Walk.
This article is the first in a series of 5 and is written by Andrew Hudson from the UK. It narrates his experiences of walking the Stevenson’s Trail in the Cevennes together with his friend John*.
In 1878 Robert Louis Stevenson walked from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille in the Haute Loire to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the Gard region of France. His main reason was to collect material for his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, which was published in the following year. Several years ago, my friend John and I followed in his footsteps on the GR70 (Grande Randonnee). There obviously are differences between Stevenson’s journey and ours. His trip was certainly ground-breaking at the time and by comparison, our walking holiday was actually rather easy.
Stevenson was by no means new to travel or walking. He had completed many walks in Scotland and England and had made a Grand Tour of Europe by train and stage-coach with his family in 1863 at the age of twelve. He chose to make his Cevennes journey in October of 1878. Stevenson suffered from (what is now thought to be) tuberculosis for most of his life and from which he eventually died, making his exploits all the more heroic.
Stevenson states the philosophy behind his Cevennes journey:
"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future.” – R.L. Stevenson in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
My attitude to our walk was to have a small adventure, sample the local French wines and delicacies, while staying firmly on the feather-bed of civilization.
In 1878, in rural France, few people had any idea why someone would want to make this journey without good reason. Some pointed out to him that only a century before, a wolf known as “La Bête du Gévaudan,” had killed over one hundred people, many of them children, by ripping their throats out, in an area he would be passing through. Although, during the Romantic Era, writers and poets had sung the praises of the Great Outdoors, anyone actually making this type of journey, was still looked upon as an eccentric, if not stark raving bonkers.
Now with lightweight clothing and boots, and a company like Sherpa Expeditions that transports luggage from one overnight stop to the next, with specialist maps and navigational aids, it is more of a relaxed saunter than a trek. Chemin du Stevenson is now a known destination in France and travellers of all types are catered for. Even so, this walking holiday in the Cevennes is still around 220 kilometres of hilly, sometimes mountainous, countryside and should not be taken too lightly.
Stevenson had no maps of a scale suitable for walking in the area he planned to walk. He did take a compass but his primary source of navigation seems to be by asking others the way.
I should say at this point that my hiking trip in the Cevennes was with my friend and we were both reasonably experienced walkers. John, my son’s father-in-law and also a friend, was a lovely man. He was a railway buff and so when I suggested this walk to him, I also asked him if he would like us to go by train leaving from England. He jumped at the chance and as he knew the railways much better than I did we agreed that he would arrange the trip for us. My part in the groundwork tended to concentrate on the wines of the regions which we would pass through.
John booked our hotels and luggage transfers through Sherpa Expeditions which simplified the arrangement as they offered maps and route notes for the itinerary we wanted to walk. He booked the trains separately and must have made a good job of it because both the outward and return journeys went like clockwork.
Walk the GR70 in France
*The author’s friend John was a big man in every way who loved life but is now sadly no longer with us. He was one of those people that enjoyed the planning as much as the holiday itself and the author had a memorable walking trip on the Stevenson’s Trail in France with him.
Walk alongside imposing cliffs before taking a cobbled mule track descending in hairpin turns to the base of the Aiguebrun Valley where you will find your overnight accommodation on this week of hiking in the Luberon Mountains.
At the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge in the Luberon Mountains, there is a breath-taking 17th century goat cheese farm that is now restored and converted into the most unique hotel in the Luberon. The Auberge des Seguins is in harmony with the original buildings that are found in this enchanting region in southern France.
The hotel offers a lovely escape from modern life where you can enjoy your surroundings and it is here that we stay at for one night during our Rambling in the Luberon hiking holiday.
The name of the hotel is chosen for a reason. Seguins derives from the Waldensian, which is a reformed religious group. A family of the same name lived in the area centuries ago. In the 16th century however, the Waldensians were massacred throughout the Luberon mountains.
The oldest buildings of our accommodation and those that are still standing today were built in the 17th century, long after the Seguins had left. Fast-forward to 1850 when the hamlet was shared by three farming families. Jumping another 100 years or so and we arrive in 1960. At this time the hamlet in the Luberon Mountains was run as a goat farm until it was purchased by the Pessemesse family to convert it into a hotel.
The Pessemesse family still runs the Auberge today, and when you visit, you may meet one of the sisters Amélie and Estelle or brother Simon.
Luberon Mountain Life
The accommodation is located at the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge, both storybook scenic and peaceful. Both to and from the hotel, we expect you to find the hiking to be beautiful. Off the beaten path and far from tourist crowds, you can enjoy limestone karst mountains, quaint oak forests and imposing cliffs. Savouring dinner family-style and with home-cooked Provençal specialties, such as lamb shoulder braised with olive purée served in a large casserole for the whole table. Breakfast is also communal and eaten on large farm tables with no bells and whistles, but with the freshest breads and tasty homemade jams.
All that is left doing - watching the swifts dance atop the soaring limestone cliffs, and relaxing in a lounge chair in the open field, facing the centuries-old golden stone buildings. Sounds like you? Check out our 7-day Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday.