UK & European Holiday News
The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>
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.
The variety on offer for a walking holiday in Italy is simply amazing. From the mountains of the Dolomites and the Alps, down to the lakes, across to the islands, and along the Amalfi coast – whatever type of holiday you’re after, Italy delivers it in stunning form. Add to this the delicious food and wine, and the warm welcome offered by the locals, and you have the perfect recipe for an unforgettable holiday.
Here are a few of our favourite Italian trips for 2019. For the full programme of tours in this beautiful country,
visit our Italy homepage.
The Cilento National Park may not be quite as well known as its more famous and popular neighbour, Amalfi, but it offers a huge amount for a varied and rewarding walking tour. There is a wild kind of beauty here - rocky ridges set between small picturesque inlets and richly scented pinewoods backing onto wide sandy beaches. This 5-day Cilento tour is both along the coast and inland across low mountains, through pristine natural areas and attractive countryside, with all its cultural treasures - rural chapels, ancient farm houses, old water mills and charming medieval villages.
Find out more .
Available as a 6, 8 or 11 day tour, our Classic Amalfi Coast walks encapsulate everything that makes an Italian holiday so special. The entire coast has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a walking holiday here makes it easy to see why. The stunning views, culture, food and wine combine to create an unforgettable experience. The towns, villages and towers that cling to the cliffs can be a riotous mix of vibrant colours and pastel shades, and provide the backdrop to a truly special walking tour.
Find out more.
Coming soon – we’re currently putting together a new 11-day trip that combines the best of our Cilento and Amalfi trips. This will be available to book early in 2019 so watch this space!
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe, and provide a completely different backdrop to the Alps’ jagged peaks. The Dolomites are dominated by continuous sheer cliffs, forming giant chiselled monuments. Below the mountains lie green meadows full of wild flowers, orchards and vineyards. The Dolomites are also an area of fascinating history, as they were heavily fought over during WW1. This 8-day trip encompasses an exhilarating mix of high mountain paths, lush meadows, pretty villages and mountain restaurants.
Find out more.
Sardinia is a beautiful island, with a unique mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you’ll discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites. This is also a great trip if you’re interested in wildlife, and in particular, birds – as you’ll encounter large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life. This is a gentle walk that takes in some spectacular scenery, lovely villages and plenty of places to enjoy delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
Find out more.
This walk threads together some of the most attractive towns and villages in Tuscany. It’s a perfect introduction to the region and for people who love museums and galleries, Gothic and Romanesque architecture, there is plenty to see and do. You have plenty of time for attraction visits on most days. However the emphasis of the tour is to enjoy the countryside, the rolling vineyards, the poppies in spring and the wild cyclamen in autumn. This is a relatively gentle tour that is suitable for those who are new to walking. More experienced walkers will also enjoy the classic Tuscan landscape of small but sometimes steep hills, olive groves and vineyards.
Find out more.
The beauty of Lake Como has to be seen to be believed. The majestic mountains rolling down to the shores of the crystal clear blue water, the charming towns and villages dotted along the shoreline, ancient Roman villas and the majestic hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era all add up to a landscape like no other. This lovely trip starts at the historic town of Como before taking in all that the area has to offer over the next 8 days, including hilltop ascents, villages, churches and ferry crossings.
Find out more.
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
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
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
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe. They consist of thick layers of the mineral ‘Dolomite’, akin to limestone, originally deposited on the floor of an ancient sea. The Dolomite peaks are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. High mountain paths are interspersed with lush meadows and pretty hamlets and villages.
But don't just take our word for it - have a look at these stunning images from our 8-day self guided trip - Walking in the Dolomites.
If these photos have inspired you to find out more about walking holidays in the Italian Dolomites,
click here for more information.
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.
The highlights of a
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) walking holiday are without a doubt the excellent views of Mt Blanc itself and of the snow-clad alpine peaks of the Wildstrubel, Valais and Bernese Oberland, plus plenty of impressive glaciers. For others, magnets can also be the fresh cheeses & local wines, classic mountain cottages, or the fact that you’re circumnavigating an entire peak, in this case western Europe’s highest one!
But why go trekking around Mont Blanc with Sherpa Expeditions? To give you a better idea of how our Tour du Mont Blanc walking holiday stands out, we made this short overview that helps explain how our trip works:
10 fixed departure days in this summer’s season
Walk independently, but at the same time as a small number of other Sherpa travellers
Enjoy the benefits of support from our team members who live in the area
Stay in good value for money accommodation while trekking around Mont Blanc
Receive maps and very detailed route notes that include options to walk different trails
Lots of background information and tips for local establishments
Complete circumnavigation of Mont Blanc; from Les Houches to Les Houches
Meet & greet at the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Are you a single traveller? Make use of the option to share a room with another single traveller of the same gender and avoid paying a single supplement
A suitable choice for first-timers on a self guided walk
En-suite facilities in the accommodation we selected for you (except for the nights in a guesthouse & auberge)
Days at leisure on which you can choose to rest, explore museums, go shopping or undertake more walks
The personal support of our friendly team in London, before, during and after your trip
Have you got any questions on this? Do feel free to
contact our friendly team in London via phone, email or drop by if you are in the area.
You May Be Interested in This Too
5 Long Weekend Break Ideas for Europe
If you’ve only got a few days of holiday left this year, it does not mean there are no options to go away anymore. For those who’ve got at least 2 days of annual leave available and are looking for a weekend break in Europe, we gathered a few really short breaks across the continent and in England.
All of these short breaks depart daily, so it is entirely up to you to choose when you like to go. Perhaps you’re combining a break with a visit to overseas family and friends or saw a good flight offer. Our team in London can quickly support you with your request, leaving you to pack your bags and get ready for places like Tuscany, England’s Yorkshire Dales and the Swiss Alps.
Italy | Cycle San Gimignano to Siena
Delve into the magic of Tuscany from the walled medieval hill town of San Gimignano to one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns, Siena. This iconic bicycle ride takes you through the typical landscapes that characterise this part of Italy. The trip is specially designed for those who want to experience the best of Tuscany’s palette of colours at handlebar level, but who only have a few days available.
You can take this European weekend break from March-November and it is graded as a moderate-challenging cycling holiday, find more info here >>
England | Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in northern England and stay at the Old Brewery, a tastefully decorated house that retains its old-world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. The bed & breakfast is a stone’s throw from the River Swale, at the foot of the castle hill, and just a short walk from the cobbled market place. This little break is perfect for several days walking surrounded by peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages.
You can take this trip year-round and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the Isle of Wight, and let your holiday begin! This European mid-week or weekend break is deal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the British island.
You can take this short break in Europe from March-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate cycling holiday, find more info here >>
Switzerland | Meiringen: Panorama’s of the Swiss Alps
Swiss Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cataract that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A natural transport hub situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, getting around is easy and it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using a network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways. A perfect setting for you a quick weekend break in Europe. The high places can be reached quickly without long uphill climbs out of the valley and you can fill a week with excellent day walks, from gentle strolls to high ridges.
You can take this short break in Europe from May-October and it is graded as a moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Exploring the Cotswolds
An itinerary specially crafted for those who want a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed under Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.
You can take this weekend break from April-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
More information? Download the complete trip notes via the blue button on the trip page or
contact our team of travel experts for a chat.
Hidden on the foot of the Apuan Alps in Italy’s
Tuscany is the (teaching) farm of Francesca and her family. Besides producing her own honey and olive oil, she loves to discover more of the Apuan Alps, hiking its hidden paths and admiring the same woods and hills that generations before her already have.
We asked Francesca to share some of her secrets on the Italian region and give you a bit of an insight into what an Apuan Alps hiking experience may involve.
Can you tell us who you are and your relation to the Apuane Alps?
I’m 54 and it was my father who taught me to love mountains. My family have always been living in areas surrounded by mountains, first the Appennino Tosco Emiliano and later the Alpi Apuane. I went out ‘walking’ on his shoulder first and when I got older on my own legs. Today I like going out together with my dogs, it's one of the best things to do! I really like to discover where each road or path goes (or was going in the past) and to see and feel what the generations before me were thinking and doing when they used to cross my same steps. The history of the Apuan Alps goes far, first there were pre-roman populations, followed by the Romans, medieval and renaissance people and then WWII soldiers (we are on the
Gothic line) and finally us today.
What is special about the Apuane Alps National Park?
The Apuane Alps are “new mountains”, which means young geologically speaking. The alps are a kind of an island out of the sea. There are great peaks that are perfect for expert alpinists allowing spectacular views on the Versilia Coast and the Tuscan Archipelago with the biggest island of Elba. The alps can be rocky and steep with waterfalls and caves. The peculiarities of these rare mountains are that while being not so high, they do offer all what other great chains bring, but you can experience it all in one day.
For example, you can wake up in a medieval village and start walking on a path that takes you through a chestnut wood; when getting out of it, you will find yourself where trees no longer grow. After the blackberry bushes and grassy bit, here called
paleo, finally you’ll hike up the rocky part that goes fast up to the sky. In as quick as 3 hours from leaving your bed you can hike up a great peak, and back!
What is your favourite spot in the Apuan Alps?
There are many, some of them for example are abandoned villages that are perfect for a picnic break sitting on an ancient ruin. One of my most favourite spots is the top of Monte Croce, which is full of white flowers in late May/early June.
What are other interesting places in the Apuan Alps and why?
There are natural caves like the Grotta del Vento and Antro del Corchia, which are well organised for a visit. But there are many other interesting caves than just these two. When walking in the Apuane Alps, travellers will also encounter castles, fortresses and walled towns. Barga, where I live, is an amazing town for example. It was first a Roman settlement, then a medieval walled town that in the time of the Renaissance developed into an even more beautiful city. The marble from here is plentiful and it is so white. It can only be found around the Apuane Alps Park and Michelangelo got the marble for his statues from one of the quarries here, imagine!
Can you tell us about the food in this part of Italy?
I’m an agrichef myself and consider myself an expert in food. I am also a guide to local food producers. I know where in the alps they make the perfect pecorino cheese, as well the best
salumi, prosciutto and lardo, olive oil and wines. I’m a beekeeper and on our farm we produce our own honey, as well as extra virgin olive oil from our own olive trees.
Farro (spelt), chestnut and our Formenton 8 file (our corn) are the renowned treasures of the valley around Barga. The DNA of our Formenton 8 file shows that it is exactly equal to the maíz found in Mexico. This means that from the day that Columbus came back with the first seeds of corn, we have never changed it or mixed it with other variants. We still grow exactly the same corn!
Chestnuts, if you allow me to tell you a story, made “us” survive through the cold winter of 1944 during WWII. You can survive eating just and only chestnuts as they are rich in healthy ingredients and vitamins such as the vitamin C. It didn’t get boring to eat, as the chestnuts were prepared in the thousands of ways we know.
What are your most favourite restaurants in the Alps?
I personally know, as I mentioned earlier, most of the food producers in the region. So, I know to which restaurants their products go, and those places are exactly where I like to go for dinner, lunch or a snack. For example, I can recommend Il Vecchio Mulino, Ristorante La Buca and Theobroma, an ice-cream maker that uses my honey!
What, for you, is the best time of year to walk in the Apuane Alps?
Walking in the Apuane Alps in winter may complicate things a little due to colder temperatures, precipitation and slippery paths, but every season is different and an amazing time of year to visit for their own reasons.
What tip or advice do you have for travellers who want to do a walking holiday in the Apuane Alps?
They will love
hiking the Apuane Alps for sure. Most of the time, walkers will find themselves on the paths alone, meeting other people only in the small settlements. The Apuane Alps are not a wild land, but we are an old land that evolved by marks left by pilgrims, merchants, emigrants and passers-by.
My tips for an Apuane Alps hiking trip: wear long trousers and never ask local people for directions - few of them walk themselves, but if you ask for the right path to take, they will come up with an answer anyway and it will be wrong for sure. Also, do not ask the same people about snakes: everywhere in the valley, the locals are afraid of snakes in a silly way. Each village will have their own legend or tale involving snakes, whether based on reality or not, that is up to yourself…
You can go on a hiking trip exploring the Apuane Alps yourself from the first of April until early October. On Sherpa Expeditions’
8-day Walking in the Apuane Alps holiday, you’ll spend one night at Francesca’s farm before you head on to discover more of the 'Parco Alpi Apuane'.
Finding the right route on a walking or cycling trip in a new environment is not always straight forward. The maps and route notes that you receive on Sherpa's self guided cycling and walking holidays allow you to take the right decision on the trail. Another useful aide are trail blazes, as writer Richard Mellor describes in this article.
By Richard Mellor
Do you ever wander about waymarks (or trail blazes, as they’re called outside of the UK)?
I mostly spend my hikes looking for these symbols, feeling either triumph when one appears, or a growing trepidation that I’ve gone astray amid their continued absence.
But occasionally – as with this section of Sherpa’s Cilento Coast & Mountain walk that I am currently undertaking [red. May 2017], following a high ridge down from mighty Monte Stella, the sea glittering far ahead – I have a rare certainty of being on-track, and can instead ponder these universal hiking signposts.
The Cilento’s paths mostly utilise the classic red and white bars, plus some same-coloured wooden arrows. To install these, trail blazers must therefore have had to stride long sections lugging a large tin of red paint, a large tin of white, brushes for each and, for the arrows, lots of nails to sink into trees or rocks.
They’ll also have been needing all the stuff I carry: water, extra clothing, maps, food (my main luggage fortunately was transferred by the Sherpa team).
Which means – I realise while crossing butterfly-rich heather, the stone-built village of Galdo now visible ahead – they’re probably hauling heavy loads around for long distances, and often up and down steep hills. Ouch. Suddenly, waymakers seem like heroes.
Last year I hiked in northwestern Spain, and let’s just say the waymarks were intermittent. At certain forks invisible on my map, there they, er, weren’t.
At the time, I blamed wild boars or rogue farmers. But now I’m imagining that perhaps the daubers simply ran out of paint, or were conserving their last precious blobs for a tougher junction.
Who are these blazers anyway? Is waymarking an official thing, only to be done by official people? I make a mental note to find out this evening. ( Wikipedia, it later turns out, suggests a mixture of volunteer and local authorities)
Also, how often are waymarks updated – some smudges here are very faded, yet others so fresh I swear I can smell paint – and who decides? Do they travel in pai...
Hang on a second. I’m now entering Galdo and, now I think of it, when was the last waymark? Uh-oh. Let the worrying commence…
Richard describes the panoramic day walk along the Monte Stella ridge on day 4 of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walking holiday. Superb views of the and Amalfi Coast Capri, an abandoned fortress, and charming historical villages like Celso, Cannicchio and Galdo characterise this day’s walk.
Like to know more about the Cilento Coast route in a remote section of Italy? Find the trip details, grading and cost of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walk now.
Richard Mellor is a freelance writer and copywriter on mainly travel related topics. He gives lectures on journalism and you can read his articles in Metro, The Times, The Guardian, Telegraph Online and many more. Early May 2017 he walked solo Sherpa Expeditions’ 5-day Cilento Coast & Mountain trip in Italy. Follow Richard on Twitter.
The alps are full with mountain flowers and especially in the summer months, you’ll very likely be rewarded with the sights of many colourful versions. When you’re walking in the Alps, bring a mobile device like a mobile phone or tablet with you, or print this article so you can look up a little information on the species that you’ll see along the way.
When does it flower? June-July
Where can I find the plant? There are many variants of gentians, we especially like the yellow gentian. The plant can grow as old as 70-100 years and the flowering part of the plant dies around July-August. This alpine flower is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and grows in grassy alpine pastures. Other names by which the plant goes are 'bitter root', 'genciana', or 'bitterwort'.
Alpine Pasque Flower
When does it flower? Very early in the season, May-June, sometimes springing up from under the snow
Where can I find the plant? The alpine pasque flower is native to the mountain ranges of central and southern Europe and you can find the flower in mountains all the way between Spain and up to Croatia. Besides the white one, there is a yellow variant of this mountain flower. Look at rocky areas or in dry stone wall gaps to find the flower.
When does it flower? April-June
Where can I find the plant? The leaves of the plant look like grass and it’s flower looks very similar to a cotton wool ball, hence its name. When you come across peat or acidic soils, open wetland, or moorland on your walk in the Alps, there’s a good chance that you can find a patch of cotton grass.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? Edelweiss is quite a special mountain flower if not only because it being used a symbol for alpinism. Edelweiss normally grows between 1800-3000 metres altitude and in rocky limestone places. The alpine flower is a protected plant in France, Switzerland and Italy among others.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? We believe that the harebell is perhaps one of the most attractive of all wildflowers. Look out for the mountain plant on dry grasslands, in the valleys or on heaths.
When does it flower? April – September
Where can I find the plant? The wild kind of heartsease is quite rare and blooms yellow and white, it appears in a white or purple form and you may know it from your garden at home in the name of wild pansy or love-lies-bleeding. But did you know that it also is a powerful medicinal herb? It can benefit for example people with skin problems, respiratory problems or chest infections.
When does it flower? It only flowers a short period between late June and mid-July
Where can I find the plant? This plant is a Eurasian variety of the lily and it grows as far east as Mongolia. It’s also known as Turk’s cap lily, Lily of Istanbul, Sultan Lily or Dragon Lily. You can only see the Martagon Lily from late June to mid-July and plants can grow as high as 2 metres.
When does it flower? April - June
Where can I find the plant? Saxifrage is a very common alpine wildflower that appears in as many as 400+ shapes and forms. The plant is also known as saxifrages or rockfoils. Often you can find them on old grassland, especially on chalk or limestone soil.
When does it flower? July
Where can I find the plant? You can find the cobweb houseleek (or cobweb sedum) between rocks that are quite moist. They form mats that cover up the rocks and are happy in full sunlight. Especially in the summer months, when it flowers, the colour of this wildflower is pinkish and reddish.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? Usually the Rosebay Willowherb grows in rocky places or woodland clearings. It is common to find the plant in places where the ground was burned.
Nigritella nigra bzw. rubra
When does it flower? July
Where can I find the plant? It is quite likely to find the almost black or purple vanilla orchid in grassy, limestone meadows above the forest limit. The more grassy variant that we saw on one of our walks on the Haute Route is quite a rare variety. What’s special about it? Smell this wildflower and you understand where it got its name!
When does it flower? Around August until October
Where can I find the plant? A native flower to the Alps, you can find the crocus on mountain grassland in France, Switzerland as well as Italy. Besides the obviously pink version in the picture above, you can find paler rosy/pink versions of the flower.
See mountain flowers on one of our alpine walking holidays to
France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.