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Kevin Liddiard, from South Australia, discovered the unique history of the Channel Islands on a self guided walk with Sherpa Expeditions. He wrote an account of his trip for Trailwalker Magazine, and shared his story with us.
I’m of the age where I don't wish to walk in high temperatures, with steep climbs, large backpacks, bugs, sweat and general discomfort. To this end, I walked a year ago in Normandy, ending at the site of the WWII D-Day landings. Motivated by this memorable experience, I decided to walk the nearby Channel Islands Coastal Way, again solo, with Sherpa Expeditions' self-guided walking holidays.
In April I took the new Qantas direct flight from Perth to London, then on to St Peters Port, Guernsey. What a delightful town. The Channel Islands, in the English Channel, have a unique history, going back to the Duchy of Normandy, when William the Conqueror bequeathed the islands to the English crown. Today the islands exist as a collection of 'states' under the allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, but independent in many ways, under a political set-up called a Bailiwick.
St Peter's Port, the capital of Guernsey
The first three days of the walk covered the Guernsey coast. A main attraction was the many Loophole Towers, erected as a defence from the French during the American Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. I opted out early on the third day of a 29km walk and took the bus around the island, costing only one pound, and visited the magnificent Castle Cornet. Here you can meet young volunteers dressed in the military uniforms of WWII and witness the noon cannon firing. The castle has its own long history, but for me the highlight of the visit was a live rendition by a talented three-women ensemble, singing In the Mood, There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover and other tearjerkers.
A loophole tower on the Guernsey coast
Next day I took the 25-minute ferry trip to the island of Herm - an easy walk and with a stop at the Mermaid Tavern, a good pub for lunch and a place to wait for the return ferry.
The following day, I took the ferry to Sark. What a delight. There are no cars - travel is on earth roads via foot, tractor, cycle or horse (with or without cart). The main attraction is the narrow passage between Sark and Little Sark, the famous La Coupée. On Sark is another Mermaid pub, an excellent restaurant, and great accommodation.
La Coupee, stretching from Sark to Little Sark
The next day I took the ferry back to Guernsey and a flight to Alderney. While I loved Sark, here was the most memorable of my walks. The island was evacuated in WWII including, I was told, the cattle. The German occupiers built massive fortifications, adding to the British forts of the 1800s. Alderney is the most remote, and wildest, of the Channel Islands and is also well known for its birdlife, notably one of the largest gannet colonies easily observed from the nearby cliffs. I was also lucky to see the quaint puffins.
A German fortification on Sark
I shed a tear when I walked past three posts at the entrance to what was Lager Sylt, a Nazi concentration camp, a dark history that the islanders would rather forget. Suffice to say, the Alderney people were welcoming, helpful and served a good beer at the excellent Georgian House Hotel to celebrate the completion of my walk.
The plaque at the entrance to Lager Sylt
Guernsey Islands: Channel Islands Way is an 8-day, self guided walking tour, with departures from 1 April to 25 October 2019. The trip to Alderney that Kevin took at the end of his holiday is an optional, 2-night extension that carries an additional supplement.
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!
Randy and Diane from Canada joined Sherpa Expeditions for a guided walk in Switzerland's spectacular Bernese Oberland in August 2018. They loved it so much they've already booked their next trip with us - a self guided walk in the Italian Dolomites for 2019. We asked them to answer a few questions about their trip...
1. What is your travelling/walking/cycling history?
Personally, I enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, although “foot power” is much more to my liking than “wheel power”. I am an avid walker/hiker in all four seasons at home (the Vancouver Canada area); I also enjoy snowshoeing and cramponing in the winter season. I enjoy multi-day trekking world-wide – I have trekked in Nepal; South America and Europe. I am also a mountain climber (within my skill set) and have climbed Kilimanjaro, Island Peak, Mt. Aconcaqua, Mt. Baker, among others. My wife, Diane, enjoys walking and trekking as well (but without the climbing) and we try to plan at least one joint trek a year. I have trekked with Sherpa twice (summer Haute Route and Bernese Oberland), with Diane along on the latter trip. We are already booked for a self guided Sherpa trip to the Dolomites for August 2019.
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
The Bernese Oberland trip (guided) we did in August 2018 was chosen for several reasons. We had two couples we wanted to trek with and chose a trek I knew something about (I had been to the Swiss Alps twice before and simply love Switzerland) and they would enjoy. 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.
3. How did you prepare?
We (Diane and I) walk a lot back home, so we simply started walking further over the 2-3 months before the trek. As mentioned before, I am an avid hiker, so Diane and I started doing some “uphill” hiking over the same time frame and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1000 – 2000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland. John Millen set a very nice pace for each day’s walk and no members of the group felt that they were out of their depth in terms of fitness level.
4. Your favourite destination?
This is a hard one – the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is incredibly beautiful. 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. The other members of our group (none of which had been to Switzerland before) were equally impressed with each of the towns we stayed in.
5. Best food and drink?
Again, it is hard to single out one restaurant or hotel for food/drink – I do not recall having a bad meal on the trip. The restaurant at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen was particularly good. In Zermatt, we ate dinner one night at the basement bistro in the Hotel Monte Rosa – the traditional Swiss dish raclette was a treat mentioned by several people in our group. 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! Swiss wine is always a treat – as you may know, very little of the total production of Swiss wine makes it out of the country – both the whites and the reds are well crafted and complement Swiss food so well.
6. Biggest surprise?
While I had been once before, 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 Monc and the Jungfrau and be at 3466 m. in the Swiss Alps – the numerous pictures we took pale in comparison to the visual memories Diane and I have in our minds of this experience.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
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. However, the incredible view from the pass, including a spectacular view of the north face of the Eiger and the White Spider, was well worth it. It is always difficult coming back to real world after a multi-day trek in the Alps.
Our Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls walk is available as a self guided trip for 2019. Departures start from 23 June. You can read about all of our trips to this region here.
TELL US YOUR STORY
If you've been inspired by Randy and Diane's story, we'd love you to share yours. Please email your Travellers' Tale to [email protected] along with photos from your trip. If you have any questions, just email them to the same address and we'll get back to you.
Or perhaps you'd like to write a review of your trip on Google or Facebook? Either way, we'd be very grateful for your feedback.
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.
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
So before that holiday becomes a long-distant memory, we’d love you to write a short account of your trip. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
write a review
If you'd rather leave a brief review instead of a full Travellers' Tale - you can write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
Jan Clarke, from Western Australia, booked on to the Guided Coast to Coast walk in order to reconnect with her UK roots, and to feed her passion for walking. Here, she shares her experience, and her tips for looking after your most important piece of kit - your feet!
What is your walking history?
I have enjoyed walking ever since I was a little girl growing up in Tasmania, Australia. I spent a lot of weekends in my primary school years free-ranging over the foothills of Mount Wellington and the National Parks in Tassie. As a family we hiked in to say farewell to the original Lake Pedder before it was dammed and flooded to feed the hydro-electric scheme. It was a local pilgrimage. I think dad used to like the freedom and fresh air of wide open space, and my brothers and I had lots of energy to get rid of. I guess it just got into my bones. I still work full time at 60, but in the last decade I’ve found time to hike in the Colorado and Canadian Rockies, the Italian Cinque Terre, Table Mountain in South Africa, the calderas of volcanoes in Bali and Hawaii, the summit of Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula, the Blue Mountains, Central Australia, the gorges in The Kimberley and Pilbara and parts of the Bibbulmun Track and the Cape to Cape in Western Australia. I have never walked 13 consecutive days before, though! I am more used to hiking in very hot, dry conditions than boggy, cold and rainy.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
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. I love visiting National Parks and this walk had three in a row! I like a physical challenge so I chose something that would make me sweat. I figured the Coast to Coast would tick all those boxes – and it did. I gave myself the walk as my 60th birthday present and was happy to fly to the UK by myself to prove I could meet the challenge. My dad certainly came with me… in spirit, anyway.
How did you prepare?
Preparation for mountains was a bit difficult where I live. I can walk forever on flat ground because there is a LOT of that in Perth and I have always enjoyed long walks. 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. Actually, I think it was an advantage to have practised on harsh stones because there are a lot of those on the Coast to Coast. Another advantage was being used to hiking in hot weather with hot feet. I think that saved me from getting blisters. I think some mental preparation is a good thing too. I have spent my life being stubborn. I don’t like to let things beat me!
Your favourite destination?
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! I love standing on top of any mountain, but that one was a real winner for me. That’s my mountain!
Best food and drink?
To be honest, everything was amazing and a real taste of so many things “English”. I did not expect little places to have such excellent meals. Truly. Part of my concept of “knowing a country” is also to try local foods and drink, so I did. 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. Rachael’s fresh berries and rhubarb yoghurt at Gillercombe B&B in Rosthwaite – oh YUM! The beef and ale pie at The White Lion in Patterdale was outstanding. The Wainwright beer and rhubarb gin were winners everywhere. Oh, and the blueberry and cream ice-cream at the PO in Patterdale and the scones, jam and cream everywhere, but especially at the little café with the penny-farthing bikes in Gunnerside. Thumbs up, too, to the publican at The Station Tavern in Grosmont who made extra space for ten of us for dinner, served up a cracking meal at a cracking pace, and then gave four of us a lift home. Above and beyond the call!
I probably shouldn’t admit to this. 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. So I think my nanna body pleasantly surprised me the most. As for the knees - so pleased I was a hockey player and swimmer and not a netballer or tennis player in my youth!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
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. Having the sole of my hiking boot detach unexpectedly at the top of Kidsty Pike in a sleet storm was a little north of “interesting”. However, my husband calls me “Mrs MacGyver” because I enjoy the satisfaction of creatively solving problems. John also had duct tape and clever ideas in his emergency box of tricks, so between us we worked it out and the group never skipped a beat. Gotta love a good challenge. Keeps you young on the inside. Like All Bran for the soul.
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
My best tip sounds like the most obvious. Look after your feet! They need to be your friends. If they’re not used to walking for two weeks solid, then tape them up with Fixomull (or slap on the Compede) BEFORE you start. Any investment in being kind to your feet will pay off ten-fold. If you feel hot-spots developing then stop and patch them immediately. Don’t be shy! Poles were also really useful. There are plenty of places where the pressure they take off downhill hiking or help with stability on uneven ground is really useful. I also had magic butterscotch lollies. Pop one at the beginning of a hill and it’s amazing how a little sugar buzz powers you up a hill (unless you are one of the good souls who have sworn off the evil of sugar, of course). Take every kind of clothing in your day-pack as the weather can change in an instant. Oh - and take a spare pair of hiking boots. Your faves might give in well before you ever do!
>> Find out more about Sherpa Expeditions' Coast to Coast walking and cycling holidays.
For Charles Hawes, walking is his main recreational fun. “For me a decent walk is around 10 miles, though it very much depends on how much climbing hills is involved!” he tells us. One of the things he likes to do most, is to walk for several days at a time, travelling through the countryside and absorbing the atmosphere of a place. Last year, Charles travelled with his friend on the Sherpa trip in the Tarn & Averyron region of France for a five day walk and that was brilliant. In Spring 2018, he set off on yet another adventure: hiking in Alsace, France. Read on for his experiences on this holiday (Alsace Vineyard Trails).
Why did you choose to go hiking in Alsace?
I love France and have visited many times but the Alsace region was unknown to me. I had an uncle (Nigel Buxton) who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called Walking in Wine Country and 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 this walking trip in France?
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. It helped a bit, but I still found lots of gaps. Other than that, I do walk most days for about 30 minutes just to maintain basic fitness (I’m 62). I plotted each day’s walk onto a large scale map in my phone – I find it very easy to take the wrong path and the GPS location facility makes getting lost quite difficult.
Your favourite destination on our Alsace Vineyard Trails?
I love hills and views and we had plenty of those on this trip. The hilltop chateaux were on or very close to the trail and had some had good information boards and were well worth the visit. What I loved best though 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. I have never seen Lily of the Valley growing so abundantly.
What was the best food & drink in Alsace?
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. We also liked the red Pinot Noir served chilled. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Auberge de la Meuniere at Thannenkirch was a fabulous place. A really lovely hotel with great character, friendly staff and a lovely terrace for evening drinks. Great food here!
What was your biggest surprise on this walking trip?
When I had got to the departure gate in Basel airport on the way home, I realised that I no longer had my wallet. I thought that I might have dropped it at check-in, so went all the way back and then to the information/lost property desk, but it had not been handed in. I thought maybe I had put it in my suitcase so they retrieved that for me but it wasn’t there. So I was feeling rather low after going through all this. I phoned the lost property desk again just in case it had been found. It had! I had dropped the wallet in the bus on the way to the airport and the driver had taken the trouble to bring it into the desk. The guy on the desk then brought it to me 10 minutes before I boarded the plane. There was quite a bit of cash in it and nothing was missing. Such kindness and good service.
On another note, Haut Koenigsbourg is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
There were several quite long climbs on the last two days which took it out of us. It might have had something to do with the fact that it was in the low 80s; we were grateful for the several benches that we came across and for the shade of the trees. Choosing wines was a challenge.
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
Make sure that you carry enough water.
More information on the Alsace Vineyard Trails can be found on the trip page and by downloading the trip notes there. For any specific questions or booking requests you may contact one of our travel experts.
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Wainwright’s Coast to Coast is one of the UK’s most popular long-distance walks and crosses northern England from west to east. With so many others, both walkers and cyclists, having completed the route before you, we wanted to share with you a selection of Coast to Coast reviews. This may help you get an idea of what to expect of this famous walk between the Irish Sea and North Sea.
Coast to Coast Reviews
"Thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we found every day brought new and interesting sights and experiences. The days of walking just flew by. Great B&B's and pubs all with friendly staff." - P. & H. Jackson, Kidman Park, SA
>> Learn more about the 15 day Coast to Coast walk
>> Learn more about the 15 Day guided walk along Wainwright's Coast to Coast
"Highlights getting to the top of the mountains and seeing the sights. John the guide was the best, very helpful, way beyond duty. Thanks for a great trip." - B. Gibbons, London, UK, 04 Jul 2016
"Just wanted to let you know the trip was awesome. Pete found the maps excellent, very detailed and the extra route choices and information very helpful. All of our accommodation was amazing, the food they provided was fantastic and they went out of their way to help. The length (we had two rest days ie 20 in all) was perfect for us, and made many 'faster' folk jealous. Everything went like clockwork, thanks again for your help." - R & P Clark, Australia, 02 Aug 2017
"Overall this was a lovely walk and we would recommend to others. England is a lovely country for walking. Enjoyed the scenery, going through 3 national parks. The old English pubs we stayed in and the people we met along the way." - R & R Doyle, Nelson, New Zealand, 05 Jun 2017
"High points were the challenge, the people we met, sense of achievement and hospitality. Keep up the good work, it was a pleasure dealing with Trina." - F. O'Sullivan, Paynesville, VIC, Australia, 18 Sep 2016
"We were glad we added in the extra days so we could enjoy the Lakes District more and not have the 37km day followed by the 34 km day later on. We could enjoy the hike and not just have a forced march. I would suggest this to other people." - A. Lonsdale, Balnarring, VIC. Australia, 18 Jul 2016
>> Learn more about the 17 day Coast to Coast walk
>> Learn more about the 18 day Coast to Coast walk
"For two seventy-year-olds it was a challenging but a doable experience. Accommodations were great. Breakfast was one of the highlights of the day. Seeing the North Sea from the Yorkshire Moors was another highlight. The Sherpa Van was a reliable addition to the trip. Communication with Trina ensured our satisfaction with Sherpa." - B. Parslow, Vancouver, Canada, 28 Jun 2017
"… It was a full catalogue of enriching moments that allowed for two fine, gentle warm days at the start then 5 days of torrential rain whilst walking through Lakeland. That gave added edge to the challenges of scaling the high peaks and the experience of wading or leaping across swollen becks. Bogland is a wonderful word that really doesn't describe the glutinous, slimy, boot grabbing mud with its own special odour. Then with weather improving it was through the changing scenes of moorland towards the ultimate destination arrived at on a glorious sunny day. … " - B. Fowler, Claybrooke, UK, 22 Jun 2017
"Wonderful weather - 16 days of full sunshine - was this really England? Great people met along the way. Hospitality of the b&b owners and people in the pubs. They made us feel welcome. A great holiday overall - and a sense of accomplishment for walking across England!" - D. Goldfischer, Pennsylvania, USA, 20 Jun 2016
Since he was in his teens, Charles Hawes has been walking for fun. In recent years, he has re-discovered the pleasure of walking and Charles calls himself fortunate in having the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley on his doorstep in south Wales. “I especially enjoy the rhythm of a good day’s walk (10-12 miles) to get to a new place, staying a night at a pub or Bed and Breakfast and then walking on. I completed the 870-miles Wales Coast path this way over nearly three years,” he recalls. According to Charles, perhaps the most enjoyable way of completing a long-distance walk, is to have all one’s creature comforts transported for you and to walk with a light day pack. That is how he did 10 days on The Way of St James in France with Sherpa and most recently how he did our circular walk along some of the most beautiful villages in France (Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron). The latter is what Charles shares his memories on after coming back from the trip in early October.
Why did you choose to walk in France’s Tarn & Aveyron region?
I was introduced to France as a child and have loved it ever since. In my teens I hitch-hiked through the country, picking apples in the Loire. I love the language (though speak it badly), the food, the countryside with the typical French villages and the culture.
How did you prepare for this walk in France?
I had been suffering from a bad back so I did daily strengthening exercises ahead of the trip. I also found a great app for my smartphone, which is called DuoLingo. A few weeks before the trip departed, I did half an hour of French lessons each day – it certainly made a difference.
What was your favourite or most beautiful village in France’s Aveyron region?
My favourite place must be Puycelci. We arrived at lunchtime on a sunny day with nothing better to do than have an omelette and frites and a cool beer and enjoy the views.
Best French food and drink on this walk?
Without question the best food I had was at the wonderful chambre d’hôte a little outside the village of Vaour. Our host, Nathalie, is married to a chef who trained under one of the Roux brothers. A tomato flan was followed by steaks from her brother’s herd of Aubrac cattle, a wonderful cheeseboard and a simple apple and pear pudding. And needless to say, a local French wine.
What was your biggest surprise on this walking holiday?
From time to time we saw wild colchicums (autumn crocus) growing along the paths. I knew about these plants before and asked a passing lady what they were called in French. The word is the same, but she then sang me a little song about the flower!
What aspect of this walk in the Aveyron region did you find most challenging?
I think the hardest climb was after a leisurely visit we made to the extraordinarily pretty village and castle at Penne. That pull up the hill opposite felt unrelenting. It wasn’t really; we had just relaxed in this beautiful French village just a bit too much!
Do you have any advice for travellers thinking about walking the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip?
Pay careful attention to the written notes you are given ahead of your trip, carry plenty of water, don’t be in a rush.
Our walking holiday along some of the most beautiful villages in France departs on any day you like during the European spring, summer and autumn months from May until the end of September. To learn more about the walk that Charles and his friend took, have a look at the full description of Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron, or as always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or write an email to our team of travel experts in the London office.
“We have been enthusiastic expeditioners for more than 30 years” say Australians Kerry Mather and Lachlan McCaw. Last summer they embarked on our Fjordland walking holiday in Norway with their daughter Darcie. In recent years they undertook a wide variety of walking throughout Australia including mountains, coastal areas and the remote arid interior of Western Australia. Living in the south-west of Western Australia they regularly take the opportunity to explore sections of the Bibbulmun Track. They didn’t stick to Australia: “Our overseas walking exploits have included an extended trek from Kashmir into Ladakh, the Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand, and multi-day walks in the Pyrenees and Dinaric Alps of central Bosnia,” says Lachlan. Their 20-year-old daughter accompanied them on the Norway walking holiday and really enjoyed the experience of a tour like this as well.
Why did you choose to walk in the Fjordlands in Norway?
Our travel plans included visiting friends in Denmark, exploring southern Norway and Sweden, and spending time in Finland for a professional conference. Past experience has confirmed that including a challenging outdoor activity in our travel schedule adds greatly to the enjoyment and understanding of the country that we are visiting. Western Norway is renowned for stunning scenery of mountains and fjords, and the opportunity to stand on the summit of a sub-arctic mountain and gaze across glaciers and icefields was a strong drawcard. The Sherpa Expeditions Fjordland self-guided walking holiday offered a variety of walking experiences with interesting accommodation venues linked conveniently by public transport.
“The long mid-summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat.”
How did you prepare for this Norway walking holiday?
The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required. The walk is graded as moderate to challenging and we found this to be an accurate description of the terrain, track conditions and weather. Our daily life activity program includes regular swimming, walking and moderate cycling and this ensured we had a good level of fitness to enjoy the walk. The trip did include some relatively long days on mountain tracks.
What was your favourite destination in the Fjordland?
There were so many beautiful places on our Norway walking holiday that it’s hard to pick a favourite. We relished the challenge of walking from Finse up to the summit of St Paul’s peak (1700 m) across deep hard-packed snow. The view from the summit was spectacular, made all the more atmospheric by an icy arctic wind and snow flurries. Our reward at the end of this (summer) day was hot chocolate and dinner in the warm and comfortable hotel at Finse! We loved the cosy library overseen by a solemn reindeer head mounted on the wall. The following day we walked 21 km from Myrdal to Flam down the beautiful Flam valley, basking in warm sunshine. The steep and rugged Aurland valley provided a stunning setting for the final day of walking. Our visit to the isolated stone Sinjarheim farmlet perched high above the river made this last day even more interesting.
“The award for the most innovative dish would go to…”
What about the food and drinks in Norway?
All the hotels offered an excellent buffet breakfast which prepared us well for active days in the mountains. Evening meals provided at the hotels were of a uniformly high standard, well presented and tasty. Wine is expensive in Norway, but beer, cider and lunch supplies can be purchased at reasonable cost from small supermarkets in most of the villages used for overnight stays. The award for the most innovative dish would go to the chefs at the Vestlia Resort in Geilo who prepared a luscious dessert of pannacotta, fresh berries and cream served on a traditional slate roof tile!
What was your biggest surprise on this walking holiday?
While at Aurland we took a shuttle bus up to the Stegastein lookout. It’s located high up on the side of the valley and offers stunning views of the fjord and town below. It’s well worth the visit. The long mid summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat.
What aspect of walking in Norway did you find most challenging?
Heavy spring snowfalls in 2015 resulted in one of deepest snow packs for several decades. This meant that the higher elevation walks were across continuous snow cover. Routes were generally well marked and easy to follow, but boots and snow gaiters were essential to keep our feet dry and comfortable.
The track from Osterbo to Vassbygdi traverses rugged gorge country and is steep and challenging in places, but well within the capabilities of fit and well-prepared walkers.
In several places we encountered small waterfalls and had to zip up our waterproof jackets and run the gauntlet through a shower of icy water on this walking holiday in Norway.
“The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required.”
Our walking holiday to Norway’s Fjordland departs on any day you like during the European summer months from July until September. To learn more about the walk that the Mather-McCaw family took, have a look at the full description of The Fjordland Walk here, or as always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or write an email to our team of travel experts in the London office.