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Andrew and Sandra are experienced walkers from South Africa, who have walked many of the great long distance walks in the UK as well as within Europe. Read on to find out more about their trip along the Dales Way and why it has a special place in their hearts.
What is your walking history?
Sandra and I walked the Dales Way in August 2019. The previous year we walked a portion of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy, also booked & arranged through Sherpa Expeditions. We live in South Africa and are keen walkers, and love the scenery and excellent public transport systems that make walking in Europe so enjoyable. We have walked extensively in Cornwall, along the South Coast path, and also in Yorkshire, along the coast, and in the Lake District. The Via Francigena was our first long distance walk together, and we enjoyed it so much we decided to tackle other long-distance walks of about a week’s duration.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We chose the Dales Way for our most recent walk because I was born quite close to Ilkley, the start of the walk, and although I have walked quite a lot in the areas around Burnsall, Grassington & Kettlewell, I have seldom ventured into the northern Dales. The area has outstanding natural beauty, so much so that several times during the walk we just stopped dead in our tracks, rendered almost breathless by the often stark beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.
How did you prepare?
Although both around the 60-year-old mark, we are quite fit and active. Sandra and I go to gym and yoga respectively, and walk at least 10 km per day three or four times a week. In preparation for this walk and the previous one in Tuscany, we maintained our normal exercise routine, just making sure that our walking shoes were worn in before departing, as most of our walking here in South Africa is bare foot on the beach or in sandals.
What was your favourite destination?
We enjoyed every hamlet, village and town along the route. Ilkley is a wonderful starting point and we booked an extra night prior to starting the walk, just to get over the long journey from South Africa. Burnsall is a beautiful village, of which I am particularly fond as my Mother’s ashes are scattered under one of the arches of the bridge over the Wharfe. Grassington is interesting, as the main town for walking in Wharfedale and all the tea rooms and narrow back streets; Kettlewell brings back childhood memories of sitting outside the Blue Bell with my parents on long summer evenings; Hubberholme & Cowgill we enjoyed for their remote location and friendly welcome at our overnight stops; Sedbergh is an amazing town with its bookshops, cafés and dramatic position under the Howgills.
Best food & drink?
Our favourite overnight stay was probably the George in Hubberholme, partly because we spent the evening with a group of fellow walkers around a roaring log fire, (yes, in August!), and also because the route along the river Wharf, branching off just before Hubberholme, was beautiful, even though the river was flooded in places, with our destination coming slowly into view as we left Buckden. The food was excellent at the George, a hearty pie after a hard day’s walking, and the wine selection good for such a small place.
We had many surprises along the way, several sightings of deer, usually in the early morning, many raptors circling overhead looking for prey, but the real surprise was seeing an otter in the swollen river Wharfe, just before Buckden. We stood for several minutes watching him swim backwards and forwards to his den on a small island in the river.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The walk was more strenuous than we anticipated, but manageable all the same. The stretch from Hubberholme to Cowgill was particularly challenging, especially in strong wind, driving rain and very cold weather for most of the day. During the section along the Pennine Way, we had to stop several times just to catch our breath in the face of very strong wind gusts. Our sense of achievement on completing this section was very rewarding, especially as a group of much younger walkers looked in worse shape than us on reaching Cowgill!
The last day’s walk, from Burneside to Bowness was also quite strenuous, made more so for us as we stayed quite a way out of Burneside, making the last day longer than anticipated. The views over Lake Windermere, as we dropped off the high ground down into Bowness, were truly breathtaking.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Dales Way adventure, the scenery, history, sights along the way and hospitality at the overnight stops were all amazing. We’d have no hesitation in recommending this walk.
With the night’s drawing in and the cold and wet weather affecting large parts of the British Isles already this autumn, our attention is directed towards cold and wet weather outdoor gear to cope with it all. Read on to find out about our top suggestions.
There’s great popularity at the moment for cosy puffer and duvet jackets, which can either be quite cheap with synthetic fill insulation, or quite expensive with various degrees of down or a down and synthetic mix. Most of these are great in really cold weather, but a lot of the time people will quickly overheat wearing them if they are undertaking any activity. They are also not particularly water resistant and down jackets become like wet tea bags when they are soaked - with lack of insulation to match.
There are some very compact ones on the market however, made by companies like Montane and Mountain Equipment which offer real warmth, but are very compact and can be conveniently pushed into rucksacks for easy packing if you don't need to wear them. A compromise would be a down gillet; which is a jacket without the arms. This keeps your core warm and your arms can remain very active.
Most people will rely on the tried and tested layering method to maintain adjustable warmth as you just remove or put on layers depending on how you feel. The best thing to start with is a base layer, perhaps with smart wool which is significantly odour free after even a couple of days of activity. Over this you can then have a fleece, hooded ones are quite popular, but you can always put a beanie in your pocket.
Over the top of the fleece (which will morph into something like a wet flannel if allowed to soak) you need a shell which is waterproof and windproof. There is a lot of choice for these again such as, Berghaus, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab etc. The waterproofness depends upon the price between chemically coated fabrics and those which are layered such as Gore Tex. The trend is for lighter and lighter fabrics.
Although some of the older waterproofs had the consistency of cardboard, some of lighter weight fabrics today are not that durable and most of us can't afford or even want to replace our gear every year or two especially as we think about our footprint on the planet. Even though they are a little more expensive, we have been very impressed with the quality of Paramo jackets, a British company who have their designs made up in Colombia, part of an on-going project to help local women find gainful employment. The result is something which is quite different to the norm. There are many walkers who swear by them, and a number of mountain rescue teams use them too. Their jackets have loads of features including hand warmers, ventilation zippers and a comfortable inner lining, this makes them heavier than some, but they offer great comfort and proper waterproofing and temperature control. A great innovation is a lightweight mountain smock (and over the head jacket) with warmers, pockets, ventilators a hood and a drop down tail for mountain bikers. We would highly recommend.
We also can't forget about our legs which need protection especially when the temperature drops and the rain starts. All the major manufacturers offer waterproof trousers, although they often don't seem to last long, perhaps because the seams get quite stressed over time. However, they are essential to prevent wind chill and the best ones to look out for would be those with good venting and long leg zips to enable you to get into them with boots or shoes on if needed.
SOCKS AND GLOVES
In terms of hands and feet you can get totally waterproof socks and gloves from manufacturers like Seal-skinz, but we have found that they do take a long time to dry when they are washed and some may still prefer a traditional wool and synthetic mix of sock. It's up to you as both will do the job.
When it comes to gloves, the famous climbing mitten of the 1950s-70s: 'The Dachstein mitt,' is being manufactured again from pre-shrunk wool and it's definitely worth a try if you want the best of both worlds, with a modern take on the traditional. Note that although you are obviously more dextrous wearing a glove, mittens keep your hands warmer which is why we would rate these for colder conditions.
We have mentioned beanies, which are obviously super easy to carry around. However, perhaps the most effective and stylish winter hat that we have seen is the Tilley woollen hat. This is largely waterproof and has an inner lining for more comfort which includes drop down ear warmers, so if you're in the market for a new hat, this is the one we would choose.
Don't forget to carry a lightweight head torch, Black Diamond or Petzl have good ones, as the days are shorter and you can easily get caught out if your walk takes longer than expected. Alternatively, if you just keep a torch in your pocket it will always be waiting for you, just remember to check the batteries regularly!
If you’re not one for the long dark nights and would prefer being somewhere warm with sun on your face, why not try one of these beautiful destinations? Whether you're after something more relaxing, historical, full of nature or a bit of all three, we have a winter walking trip to suit everyone!
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
Find out more about Winter Walking in Cyprus here
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Find out more about Southern Trails of La Gomera here
, Exploring La Gomera 8 Days here
and 11 Days here
It’s easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip 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.
Find out more about Madeira Island Walking here
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Find out more about La Palma Island Walking here
SIERRA DE ARACENA
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
Find out more about Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena - 8 Days here
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Hiking the Vermillion Coast here
Heather hails from Canada and has walked many UK and European trails, as well as most recently completing the Camino Frances, with the hope of doing more in the future. Read on to find out how her and her friend found the In Van Gogh's Footsteps trip, challenges, surprises, Michelin stars and all!
What is your walking history?
Eight years ago, my friend that I walked this tour with, returned from a walking trip to Italy and couldn’t say enough great things about it. She wanted to do another walk in the Loire Valley and I said that I would join her. The Loire Valley trip was wonderful and I have done several other walks in the Cotswolds, the Dordogne Valley and Bavaria with friends and family since then. Last year I completed the Camino Frances which was an amazing experience and I hope to complete the Camino Portuguese next year with the people I met on my first Camino. My plan is to try and do a walk every year until my knees start to complain too much!
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I’ve always wanted to go to Provence and In the Footsteps of Van Gogh included many of the towns that I wanted to see. My friend and I walked in September, so we missed seeing the lavender in bloom, which is something on my bucket list, so I will just have to return another time! We learned while we were walking in Les Alpilles that we couldn’t have walked during the summer months as the risk of forest fires is too great.
How did you prepare?
When I went on my first walk, I was very nervous. I wondered if I would be able to walk that far and for that many days. I surprised myself and didn’t even develop any blisters! When you’re walking in the beautiful countryside in Europe, the fact that you might be walking 25km doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. It also amazes me how once I arrived at my destination for the day and changed my footwear, my feet felt like they could keep on walking! Since the Van Gogh walk was really only for 4 days and the maximum walking distance was 18km, I didn’t do a whole lot of preparation, other than to walk 10 km on the Saturday and Sunday of two weekends prior to departure. Walking a few more hills might have been useful, in retrospect.
What was your favourite destination?
This is a tough one as all four of our destinations were beautiful in different ways. St. Remy de Provence had a beautiful city centre and we really enjoyed following the path of Van Gogh paintings that led to the hospital where he stayed in 1889-90. We were thrilled to see some of the landmarks in his paintings as we following the route. The best part was climbing up to Les Deux Trous (The Two Holes), seeing the holes at sunrise from our hotel room the next morning and they discovering a Van Gogh painting with the holes prominently displayed above the olive trees.
Best food and drink?
We started our trip in Lyon prior to travelling to the starting point of Avignon. The gastronomy capital of the world didn’t disappoint. While we were there, we learned about Michelin starred and Michelin recommended restaurants. In Avignon, we ate at a Michelin recommended restaurant that was delicious. In Arles, we went to a tiny little restaurant that has been suggested in our route notes that was just down the street from our hotel. We got to eat outside and the dinner was amazing….I even went back for lunch the next day! We sampled various wines with our meals, tried an Aperol Spritz and the hostess at the hotel/restaurant in Les Baux de Provence gave us a thyme flavoured liquor after our dinner to ‘aid in our digestion’.
We had many lovely surprises during our trip. The things that stand out are the lovely terrace overlooking the hills that was attached to our room in Les Baux de Provence, as well as the amazing view of the amphitheatre from our hotel room window in Arles. We were also pleasantly surprised to be able to get into Palais des Papes and Le Pont d’Avignon for free, as we happened to be there on Journees du Patrimoine when all the monuments in France weren’t charging an admission fee!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
This is an easy one! It was definitely the optional 8km walk in Les Alpilles on Day 3. The first part of the walk was lovely and not too challenging so we decided to see what the optional walk would be like. We had climbed up to Les Deux Trous and loved the view so we figured it would be similar terrain. It wasn’t! There was a 1.5km section where you were walking along the ridge of the mountains. The views were spectacular, but it was quite windy, very rocky and nothing to prevent you from falling down on either side! We had been warned in the route notes that ‘a well-placed hand would come in handy’ and they were right! We found it quite challenging but we just took it very slowly and managed just fine. We certainly felt a sense of accomplishment when we were finished!
You can enjoy 10% off all our holidays until 25th October 2019 with our Early Bird deal
, including our top bucket list trips! Read on to find out more.
1. Coast to Coast
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the idyllic Coast to Coast is widely considered as the most classic of all UK long distance trails and one that has stood the test of time. The trail runs all the way across England, from the Irish sea coast to the North sea coast over nearly 200 miles and traverses three National Parks. We offer a few different options, including self-guided and guided versions of the full route, as well as shorter walks for those wanting to do part of the route.
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
2. Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc is easily one of the most spectacular walks you will ever do. This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region, affording unsurpassed views of the different faces of the massif, as well as glittering glaciers, lush valleys and of course the highest point on the route, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m.
Find out more about the Tour du Mont Blanc here
3. The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
If you enjoy being able to personalise your days a bit more, then this is the trip for you! This route is great for those wanting an introduction to the Swiss Alps, with a range of walks often with differing grades and distances. On many of the days, you can decide whether you tackle a high mountain trek along a Bergweg mountain path, or a valley stroll on a Wanderweg lower level trail. There are also lots of sightseeing opportunities, from the peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the celebrated mountain town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn.
Find out more about The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls here
4. Walking in the Dolomites
Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3342m), the Dolomites are amongst the most striking of all European mountains. The walk starts with the spectacular Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the scenery continues to impress with new panoramas unfolding with each turn. The cliffs of the Tofana, Sella and Marmolada massifs tower above the winding paths and to cap it off, there are opportunities to stand on a couple of summits and peer down almost vertical rock faces to the valleys far below…definitely not for the faint of heart!
Find out more about Walking in the Dolomites here
5. West Highland Way
This rather special and ever-popular follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to Glencoe, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day.
Find out more about the West Highland Way here
You may well believe it would be hard to stay sustainable whilst on holiday, but it might be easier than you think! We have put together 5 easy tips on how to be more sustainable when travelling and whilst out on your walking or cycling trips. Read on to find out more.
1. Be conscious of litter along the route
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t see any litter lining our walking trails, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case and often people throw food wrappers on the ground or leave there takeaway coffee cups along the way. So, if you see something, don’t just walk past it, pick it up. Let’s do our bit and make sure there’s nothing lying around that could damage the environment or the habitats of surrounding wildlife.
2. Drink from a reusable water bottle and other reusable items where possible
While this may not be anything new, it’s always good to remember your reusable water bottle. There are many great ones out there, that can keep your water nice and cold until you get thirsty! Also, if you are bringing food out with you, make sure to bring it in a reusable lunch box with reusable cutlery...every little helps!
3. Use biodegradable and eco-friendly products
There are so many products around now that are much kinder to the environment in the ways that they are produced and the way that they can be disposed of. Some examples are bamboo toothbrushes, green cosmetics using renewable raw materials and ethically sourced and sustainable clothing, to name just a few. Why not swap out a few of your every day essentials before your next trip?
4. Eat locally
When you are staying in various towns and villages along the way, try either buying fresh from local markets if you are cooking for yourself or eating in restaurants using ingredients sourced from local suppliers so they have not had to travel far to get to your plate. This way you will be feeding back into the local community and helping boost their economy by keeping smaller companies in business…win-win!
5. Pack lightly to reduce CO2 emissions
Whether you’re travelling to your destination by plane, car or train, it’s always worth trying to pack as lightly as you can and only bring exactly what you need with you. You may wonder why this would make a difference, but the lighter your luggage is, the lighter the vehicle or plane will be, meaning it will use less fuel to transport your belongings and therefore reducing the effect it has on the environment via CO2 emissions. Something to think about next time, you want to bring something with you ‘just in case’.
If you are looking to get inspired by the shades of the autumn foliage in the coming weeks, we have a number of trips that will immerse you into nature – from the mountain forests of Austria’s Lake District to the vineyards of Portugal's Douro Valley.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps (8 days) departs until 19 October, from £895 per person. Find out more here
PORTUGAL | Douro Valley
Surround yourself with colour: autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
The Douro Rambler (7 days) departs daily until 15 October, from £860 per person. Find out more here
GERMANY | Bavaria
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Bavaria: King Ludwig’s Way (8 days) departs daily until 22 October, from £790 per person. Find out more here
Lisa and Bill Cumming from Bay Village, Ohio, are avid walkers with a great love for the outdoors. Having walked many trails in America, Canada, Europe and more, they chose to visit somewhere they hadn't yet ventured...Scotland! Read on to find out all about their adventure, some of their favourite stops on route and where they are planning on heading to next.
What is your walking history?
We both grew up as very active children and into adulthood. Bill was a multisport athlete throughout school, and Lisa an avid hiker and naturalist. Together we have hiked extensively throughout the United States (Acadia National Park, Glacier National Park, Edisto Beach State Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Picture Rocks National Lake Shore, and many more), Canada (Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise and many more), Europe (Italy, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, and more), and Central America (Belize, Baja California and more). Every moment that we can we are on the move – exploring, taking photos, and just enjoying the stroll.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
There were several reasons that we chose to walk the John Muir Way through Scotland: neither of us had ever been to Scotland, John Muir was instrumental in setting up the national parks in the United States, and Bill’s family immigrated from Scotland in the 1800’s to Canada.
How did you prepare?
We live in a very walkable community located on the shores of Lake Erie, and our county has an incredible park system nicknamed the Emerald Necklace as it forms a green half circle through the county. We made every effort to get out and walk in both of these areas as much as possible – from 1-mile walks to 15-mile hikes. Walking is just a normal part of life for us so we just kept walking!
What was your favourite destination?
There were several favorite stops on this trip. Dunbar, which was the terminus of the trail, was this incredible coastal and historical town with such great pubs and restaurants. Linlithgow was a friendly little town with a fantastic B&B, great places to eat, and interesting period architecture. South Berwick, which was a coastal town, had interesting rock formations. We went to a pub here and so felt a part of the town as we interacted with locals during a football game.
Best food & drink?
Oh the food! We had great food in almost every town and village but 4 really stood out. In Strathblane we had a locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared dinner at the Kirkwood Inn, where we were staying. A steak and pork dinner with sides that were just out of this world! The second dinner was in Glasgow, a stop we made after we finished our walk. We ate at the Ox and Finch – a small plate restaurant. We chose 4 different small plates for sharing: the most tender and flavorful squid; a salad with fennel, pomegranate, pecorino, and truffle; a curried duck leg confit; and a dessert with apricots, yogurt, almonds, and lemon thyme. It was literally other-worldly! In Edinburgh we visited a Nepalese restaurant close to the B&B on the recommendation of the B&B host – what incredible flavors! We had the best Indian food in Falkirk – the nuances in the flavors of the food were amazing – no one flavor overpowered the other!
We’re not sure that we were surprised by any aspect of this trip. Instead we were glad that the route was well-marked, the accommodations were fantastic, the food was great, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were so hospitable.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Honestly, no aspect of the trip was particularly challenging. We were definitely prepared for it physically, we love travelling and are quite adept at it, and we love an adventure! We have already started to plan the next one – perhaps in Ireland or Tuscany!
Who doesn’t love a cup of tea with a traditional Scottish all-butter shortbread, especially after a long walk or cycle. And it’s even better still you're actually in Scotland, right? In celebration of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we thought now was the perfect time to shine a light on Scotland’s best walking and cycling routes. Plus, if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy some of the countries specialities along the way, such as haggis, fresh Scottish lobster and Cullen skink, all washed down with a wee dram of the finest whisky around!
THE GREAT GLEN WAY
This iconic tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day) and follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland – depths of up to 750 feet. The walk finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the highlands”. Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths plenty of elegant bridges and locks as well as forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.
Find out more about The Great Glen Way here
JOHN MUIR WAY
Completed in 2014, the John Muir Way is a 134 mile route that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and with Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast to coast path. It provides an accessible and varied route across the Scottish low lands, following a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure. This route links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest.
Find out more about the John Muir Way here
ROB ROY WAY
The Rob Roy Way is a 124km walk linking Drymen with Pitlochry in Perthshire. The route joins paths and tracks through highland scenery, taking advantage of attractive villages and small towns. The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! It then passes through the forests of the Trossachs, crossing the River Forth at Aberfoyle and down beside Loch Venachar to Callander, before leading out through fine glens by Loch Lubnaig and Glen Oich to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills on the remotest stretch of the walk, before descending to follow the quiet path along the southern shores of Loch Tay. Descend to Aberfeldy via the famous Birks, and the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.
Find out more about the Rob Roy Way here
THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY - 10 DAY
This 10 Day tour follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day. The West Highland Way is a well-established and popular route, containing some landscapes of great beauty. The altitude range is from sea level to 1850 ft (4408 ft if Ben Nevis is climbed). An 8 Day route is also available.
Find out more about The West Highland Way - 10 Days here and 8 Days here.
LOCHS AND BENS
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths where cycle touring is pleasurable. En route you will visit charming historic towns such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin. A rest day at Killin is included to allow you time to visit the Falls of Dochart, sail the Loch or walk up Ben Lawers. There are also opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments found along the way.
Find out more about Lochs and Bens here.
SCOTTISH HIGHLAND’S CYCLE
Cycle from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. During this week long trip we cycle along scenic paths and quiet forest trails with opportunities enroute to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. A day in Fort William is set aside to rest or ascend Ben Nevis. A train journey takes you across desolate Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch, where you continue on bike to the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, nestled in the Perthshire hills.
Find out more about the Scottish Highland's Cycle here
It’s often said that if you do enough exercise, you can eat virtually anything you like. And after a couple of hours of hard walking or cycling, it’s very hard (in Britain, especially) not to pass up the opportunity of having a piece of cake or a cream tea of scones and jam in a local café... it can be all too easy in fact, to eat too much!
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a balanced and slowly continuous food intake, where possible; little and often being the key. You don’t need to eat a whole energy bar in one go for example, have a little bit and often. Endurance athletes know the problem, the best of them have a highly trained musculature that takes a long time to suffer from the glycogen exhaustion that a lot of beginners are effected with when blood and muscle glycogen levels fall. It is said that, at least for running, you only have enough glycogen storage for a 90 minute sustained effort, walking perhaps 3 or 4 hours, so you need to be replenishing long before you anticipate an energy crash coming.
With this in mind, we have put together some simple nutrition tips for the best things to eat and drink to provide you with sustained energy whilst staying active and training for a big walking or cycling trip.
STARTING THE DAY
The first, and one of the most important things, is starting the day right. A cooked breakfast might seem like the way to go, but with a very high concentration of fats, protein and salts it can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning as you set out, whilst your body tries to digest everything. A better, and just as filling alternative, would be a nice bowl of porridge, perhaps with banana and honey or yoghurt stirred in. If you’re extra hungry, some toast with marmalade on the side wouldn’t go amiss. This will set you up with slow release carbohydrates as well as a good supply of initial sugars to get you going.
A very popular breakfast hailing from Switzerland is Bircher muesli, a creation of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. He developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium in the late 1800s with the aim of making his patients eat more raw fruit. The rolled oat based muesli is often soaked overnight in Swiss yoghurt making it easily digestible and then lots of mixed fresh and dried fruits are added. Within this you will get a mixture of complex carbohydrates, fruits, salts, sugars and fats. Fruits are an excellent source of elements, such as potassium in banana and vitamin c in berries and citrus fruits. It is also thought that vitamins help with energy processing, as well as promoting general wellbeing.
DURING THE DAY
Once you are out and about what should you take with you? Of course there are an array of different sports bars, sports drinks and energy gels, which can be confusing. These vary in quality, some are nutritionally balanced and some are little more than sugar. Either way, they are not always necessarily the best option, and there are good alternatives that can be found in most supermarkets, usually in multiple packs.
If you want to keep things more affordable, go for items such as Snickers bars or peanut M&Ms which have a good slow and fast energy release ingredients – glucose and protein. Nuts are more expensive, but if you add a few to some some dried fruit (such as raisins) and M&Ms, you have a reasonable trail mix that you can graze on throughout the day. Also, it’s always recommended to have a packet of Jelly Babies to hand as they are pure glucose, which gives us a hit of energy and are much more palatable than energy gels. A couple of apples are also handy. However, too much fruit and vitamin c can lead to RBM (rapid bowel movement), so don’t overdo it!
If you’d rather have a convenient bar to suit all needs, energy bars which have a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as the Clif Bar are great. They generally aren’t chocolate covered so won’t melt easily, but can crumble. Anything labelled as a 'nutrition bar' is intended as a meal replacement, providing vitamins and minerals and often having more calories and protein.
Rehydration is also very important, as you need to get a balance of liquid and salts without flushing the salts out of your system (hypernatremia). The easiest way to do this is to buy a tub of rehydration powders to fill your water bottles with in the morning and then take a trusted brand of soluble rehydration tablet to put in your bottle for further refills during the day.
ENDING THE DAY
When it comes to any strenuous exercise, the way you end your day is just as vital as the way you start. So once you’ve finished a long days walk or cycle, a lot of people feel either too tired to physically consume anything, or eat far too much without thinking about it. In Britain, it also seems to be customary to end your walk at a pub with a cold beer. This is definitely not to be sniffed at, as beer drinking is sociable, contains over 300 calories a pint (plus vitamins) and is easily consumed. The thing to remember is not to drink too much and remain hydrated, so a couple of pints is fine. Alongside your drink of choice, you should ideally eat something easily consumed straight after the exercise and then a little later have some protein to help with muscle repair.
Don't forget, it was only a couple of generations ago, that good hikers were completing extraordinary walks relying on jam sandwiches, homemade cake and a thermos of sweet tea (and some still do!) Food to is meant to be enjoyable and walking sociable, so the key is to listen to your body and perhaps don’t turn up that chance for a cream tea!