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Lisa and Bill Cumming from Bay Village, Ohio, are avid walkers with a great love for the outdoors. Having walked many trails in America, Canada, Europe and more, they chose to visit somewhere they hadn't yet ventured...Scotland! Read on to find out all about their adventure, some of their favourite stops on route and where they are planning on heading to next.
What is your walking history?
We both grew up as very active children and into adulthood. Bill was a multisport athlete throughout school, and Lisa an avid hiker and naturalist. Together we have hiked extensively throughout the United States (Acadia National Park, Glacier National Park, Edisto Beach State Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Picture Rocks National Lake Shore, and many more), Canada (Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise and many more), Europe (Italy, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, and more), and Central America (Belize, Baja California and more). Every moment that we can we are on the move – exploring, taking photos, and just enjoying the stroll.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
There were several reasons that we chose to walk the John Muir Way through Scotland: neither of us had ever been to Scotland, John Muir was instrumental in setting up the national parks in the United States, and Bill’s family immigrated from Scotland in the 1800’s to Canada.
How did you prepare?
We live in a very walkable community located on the shores of Lake Erie, and our county has an incredible park system nicknamed the Emerald Necklace as it forms a green half circle through the county. We made every effort to get out and walk in both of these areas as much as possible – from 1-mile walks to 15-mile hikes. Walking is just a normal part of life for us so we just kept walking!
What was your favourite destination?
There were several favorite stops on this trip. Dunbar, which was the terminus of the trail, was this incredible coastal and historical town with such great pubs and restaurants. Linlithgow was a friendly little town with a fantastic B&B, great places to eat, and interesting period architecture. South Berwick, which was a coastal town, had interesting rock formations. We went to a pub here and so felt a part of the town as we interacted with locals during a football game.
Best food & drink?
Oh the food! We had great food in almost every town and village but 4 really stood out. In Strathblane we had a locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared dinner at the Kirkwood Inn, where we were staying. A steak and pork dinner with sides that were just out of this world! The second dinner was in Glasgow, a stop we made after we finished our walk. We ate at the Ox and Finch – a small plate restaurant. We chose 4 different small plates for sharing: the most tender and flavorful squid; a salad with fennel, pomegranate, pecorino, and truffle; a curried duck leg confit; and a dessert with apricots, yogurt, almonds, and lemon thyme. It was literally other-worldly! In Edinburgh we visited a Nepalese restaurant close to the B&B on the recommendation of the B&B host – what incredible flavors! We had the best Indian food in Falkirk – the nuances in the flavors of the food were amazing – no one flavor overpowered the other!
We’re not sure that we were surprised by any aspect of this trip. Instead we were glad that the route was well-marked, the accommodations were fantastic, the food was great, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were so hospitable.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Honestly, no aspect of the trip was particularly challenging. We were definitely prepared for it physically, we love travelling and are quite adept at it, and we love an adventure! We have already started to plan the next one – perhaps in Ireland or Tuscany!
Who doesn’t love a cup of tea with a traditional Scottish all-butter shortbread, especially after a long walk or cycle. And it’s even better still you're actually in Scotland, right? In celebration of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we thought now was the perfect time to shine a light on Scotland’s best walking and cycling routes. Plus, if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy some of the countries specialities along the way, such as haggis, fresh Scottish lobster and Cullen skink, all washed down with a wee dram of the finest whisky around!
THE GREAT GLEN WAY
This iconic tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day) and follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland – depths of up to 750 feet. The walk finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the highlands”. Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths plenty of elegant bridges and locks as well as forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.
Find out more about The Great Glen Way here
JOHN MUIR WAY
Completed in 2014, the John Muir Way is a 134 mile route that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and with Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast to coast path. It provides an accessible and varied route across the Scottish low lands, following a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure. This route links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest.
Find out more about the John Muir Way here
ROB ROY WAY
The Rob Roy Way is a 124km walk linking Drymen with Pitlochry in Perthshire. The route joins paths and tracks through highland scenery, taking advantage of attractive villages and small towns. The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! It then passes through the forests of the Trossachs, crossing the River Forth at Aberfoyle and down beside Loch Venachar to Callander, before leading out through fine glens by Loch Lubnaig and Glen Oich to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills on the remotest stretch of the walk, before descending to follow the quiet path along the southern shores of Loch Tay. Descend to Aberfeldy via the famous Birks, and the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.
Find out more about the Rob Roy Way here
THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY - 10 DAY
This 10 Day tour follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day. The West Highland Way is a well-established and popular route, containing some landscapes of great beauty. The altitude range is from sea level to 1850 ft (4408 ft if Ben Nevis is climbed). An 8 Day route is also available.
Find out more about The West Highland Way - 10 Days here and 8 Days here.
LOCHS AND BENS
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths where cycle touring is pleasurable. En route you will visit charming historic towns such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin. A rest day at Killin is included to allow you time to visit the Falls of Dochart, sail the Loch or walk up Ben Lawers. There are also opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments found along the way.
Find out more about Lochs and Bens here.
SCOTTISH HIGHLAND’S CYCLE
Cycle from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. During this week long trip we cycle along scenic paths and quiet forest trails with opportunities enroute to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. A day in Fort William is set aside to rest or ascend Ben Nevis. A train journey takes you across desolate Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch, where you continue on bike to the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, nestled in the Perthshire hills.
Find out more about the Scottish Highland's Cycle here
It’s often said that if you do enough exercise, you can eat virtually anything you like. And after a couple of hours of hard walking or cycling, it’s very hard (in Britain, especially) not to pass up the opportunity of having a piece of cake or a cream tea of scones and jam in a local café... it can be all too easy in fact, to eat too much!
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a balanced and slowly continuous food intake, where possible; little and often being the key. You don’t need to eat a whole energy bar in one go for example, have a little bit and often. Endurance athletes know the problem, the best of them have a highly trained musculature that takes a long time to suffer from the glycogen exhaustion that a lot of beginners are effected with when blood and muscle glycogen levels fall. It is said that, at least for running, you only have enough glycogen storage for a 90 minute sustained effort, walking perhaps 3 or 4 hours, so you need to be replenishing long before you anticipate an energy crash coming.
With this in mind, we have put together some simple nutrition tips for the best things to eat and drink to provide you with sustained energy whilst staying active and training for a big walking or cycling trip.
STARTING THE DAY
The first, and one of the most important things, is starting the day right. A cooked breakfast might seem like the way to go, but with a very high concentration of fats, protein and salts it can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning as you set out, whilst your body tries to digest everything. A better, and just as filling alternative, would be a nice bowl of porridge, perhaps with banana and honey or yoghurt stirred in. If you’re extra hungry, some toast with marmalade on the side wouldn’t go amiss. This will set you up with slow release carbohydrates as well as a good supply of initial sugars to get you going.
A very popular breakfast hailing from Switzerland is Bircher muesli, a creation of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. He developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium in the late 1800s with the aim of making his patients eat more raw fruit. The rolled oat based muesli is often soaked overnight in Swiss yoghurt making it easily digestible and then lots of mixed fresh and dried fruits are added. Within this you will get a mixture of complex carbohydrates, fruits, salts, sugars and fats. Fruits are an excellent source of elements, such as potassium in banana and vitamin c in berries and citrus fruits. It is also thought that vitamins help with energy processing, as well as promoting general wellbeing.
DURING THE DAY
Once you are out and about what should you take with you? Of course there are an array of different sports bars, sports drinks and energy gels, which can be confusing. These vary in quality, some are nutritionally balanced and some are little more than sugar. Either way, they are not always necessarily the best option, and there are good alternatives that can be found in most supermarkets, usually in multiple packs.
If you want to keep things more affordable, go for items such as Snickers bars or peanut M&Ms which have a good slow and fast energy release ingredients – glucose and protein. Nuts are more expensive, but if you add a few to some some dried fruit (such as raisins) and M&Ms, you have a reasonable trail mix that you can graze on throughout the day. Also, it’s always recommended to have a packet of Jelly Babies to hand as they are pure glucose, which gives us a hit of energy and are much more palatable than energy gels. A couple of apples are also handy. However, too much fruit and vitamin c can lead to RBM (rapid bowel movement), so don’t overdo it!
If you’d rather have a convenient bar to suit all needs, energy bars which have a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as the Clif Bar are great. They generally aren’t chocolate covered so won’t melt easily, but can crumble. Anything labelled as a 'nutrition bar' is intended as a meal replacement, providing vitamins and minerals and often having more calories and protein.
Rehydration is also very important, as you need to get a balance of liquid and salts without flushing the salts out of your system (hypernatremia). The easiest way to do this is to buy a tub of rehydration powders to fill your water bottles with in the morning and then take a trusted brand of soluble rehydration tablet to put in your bottle for further refills during the day.
ENDING THE DAY
When it comes to any strenuous exercise, the way you end your day is just as vital as the way you start. So once you’ve finished a long days walk or cycle, a lot of people feel either too tired to physically consume anything, or eat far too much without thinking about it. In Britain, it also seems to be customary to end your walk at a pub with a cold beer. This is definitely not to be sniffed at, as beer drinking is sociable, contains over 300 calories a pint (plus vitamins) and is easily consumed. The thing to remember is not to drink too much and remain hydrated, so a couple of pints is fine. Alongside your drink of choice, you should ideally eat something easily consumed straight after the exercise and then a little later have some protein to help with muscle repair.
Don't forget, it was only a couple of generations ago, that good hikers were completing extraordinary walks relying on jam sandwiches, homemade cake and a thermos of sweet tea (and some still do!) Food to is meant to be enjoyable and walking sociable, so the key is to listen to your body and perhaps don’t turn up that chance for a cream tea!
We are celebrating International Beer Day by paying homage to and highlighting some of the best trips to go on if you (like us) enjoy a nice glass of that liquid gold after a long days walking!
Austria | Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
Austria is an obvious choice if you’re after a pint as they have a big beer culture there, with the average Austrian guzzling around 105 litres of it every year! Some of the most popular beers are Fohrenburger Premium Weizen, Gösser Export and Stiegl Pils, which is known for its slightly sour taste. So, after a long walk in the Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps, why not head for a pretzel washed down with a beer?
Find out more about Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps here
France | Provence and Dordogne
Provence is famed for its lavender fields and rosé wine, but what you may not know is that there are some very interesting micro-breweries in the area as well. Petite Aixoise is definitely one that has been receiving high praise of late. Based in Aix-en-Provence, they have a delightful Ambrée pale ale (ideal with charcuterie and cheese) an IPA for bitter lovers, Blanche beer (perfect during the summer months), a Blonde lager, plus the dark and creamy Triple. There’s something for everyone.
Find out more about Walking in Haute Provence here
The Dordogne is always a go-to for it’s amazing food and drink, and is fast becoming well-known for it’s craft beers too. One of which is a beer named Ratz that is based near Cahors. They do a great range of drafts, blond, amber and dark ales, all with very unique flavours. So, if you find yourself in the area it’s well worth a try!
Find out more about Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 8 Days
and Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 10 Days
Germany | Bavaria
Germany is famous for their steins of beer, so what better place to visit for a beer fix. In Bavaria during the middle ages, they referred to beer as ‘liquid bread’ because of its calorific qualities, and it is still a staple in many Bavarians diets today. A must-try is the König Ludwig whose slogan translates to "beer of royal highness". They have a royal heritage and the current owner, Prince Luitpold of the House of Wittelsbach, is the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, Ludwig III, and a descendant of the original signatories of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, and Ludwig I, whose wedding celebration marked the first Oktoberfest! With all that history, it’s definitely one to seek out to reward yourself after a days walk.
Find out more about Bavaria: King Ludwigs Way here
Greece | Exploring Crete and Zagorian Villages
Greece probably isn’t the first place you would think about for it’s beer, however it has some really promising local brands in Crete called Brink’s and Charma lager. Solo beer, which is based in Heraklion, Crete is also won a gold medal from Barcelona Beer Festival in 2017. Mythos is a very popular Greek beer too that has won many awards, so you certainly won’t be going thirsty here!
Find out more about Exploring Crete here
Find out more about Zagoria The Secret Villages here
Ireland | Wicklow Way
You can’t go to Ireland without having a pint of Guinness or ‘the black stuff’ as it is lovingly referred, and we would always recommend that you do so, as it really doesn’t taste better than in the country it’s brewed after a long day of exerting yourself along The Wicklow Way! However, we mustn’t forget that there are other really delicious stouts and ales, such as Murphy's and Smithwick's which definitely give Guinness a run for it’s money.
Find out more about The Wicklow Way – 7 Days
and The Wicklow Way – 9 Days
Italy | Amalfi Coast
Everyone always talks about Italy’s famous food, and quite rightly so, but you also need something to pair it with, right? That’s where beer comes in! Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of the classic Italian Moretti beer, but when walking along the coastline of southern Italy you will also come across some smaller craft creations, such as the local Amalfi Coast beer. It was started by two beer-loving friends and there are interesting stories behind each of their four beers - Amalphia, Regina Major, Veteri, Pithekusa - inspired by aspects the coast.
Find out more about the Classic Amalfi Coast – 8 Days
and Classic Amalfi Coast – 11 Days
UK | Cornwall and Coast to Coast
It’s no secret that the UK has a large beer offering, with breweries cropping up all over the place, so it’s hard to choose our favourites. However, we thought we’d try to whittle it down using some of your most-loved walking trails. Firstly, along the South West Coast Path, when you get to Cornwall we would recommend a cold pint from Skinner’s Brewery, especially Cornish Knocker and Hops ‘n’ Honey. Doom Bar is also a favoured beer all across the country, but it’s extra nice to have it in the place it’s made.
Find out more about the South West Coast Path here
When walking the Coast to Coast, it’s almost impossible to come across a pub not serving Wainwrights Beer and there’s no wonder as it’s won multiple awards. So, the question is, what are you waiting for? If the sun’s out, find the nearest beer garden and put your feet up – you deserve it!
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
Planning a last minute vacation (or 'staycation' for those in the UK)? From the emerald Yorkshire Dales and all the way to the French flair of the Channel Islands. Whether you prefer on foot or by bike, here is how you can make the most of your time off – without having to break the bank…
COAST TO COAST | The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast
Biking through hills and dales, The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast stretches for 142 miles from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea on to the shores of the North Sea. Following a different path from the Coast to Coast Walk – and through a landscape that can often change abruptly – the itinerary explores Cumbria’s lakes and fells, the bleak Pennines and the beautiful Dales, as well as towns and villages of all sizes, allowing for plenty of time to visit tea shops and local pubs.
Find out more about cycling the Coast to Coast here.
CHANNEL ISLANDS | Jersey: The Channel Island Way
This weeklong centre-based walking tour around the ‘Bailiwick’ of Jersey is the shorter half (49 miles) of the recently introduced Channel Island Way. Independent in many ways, today the Channel Islands have a special relationship with the UK whilst maintaining a French flair. With long sandy beaches and undulating cliff paths, forts dating back to the 1400s and huge constructions created during the Nazi occupation, Jersey has long been a favourite place for discerning travellers.
Find out more about walking in Jersey here.
ISLE OF WIGHT | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal 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; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
Find out more about cycling the Isle of Wight here.
NORTHERN ENGLAND | Hadrian’s Wall Trail
Follow the Hadrian’s Wall Path and trace the history of England’s North. A British icon protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world – it dates back to 122AD! A must-see for history aficionados, it can also be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path, taking hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.
Find out more about the Hadrian's Wall Trail here.
YORKSHIRE DALES | James Herriot Way
Considered by many as ‘the best short long-distance walk in the UK’, the six-day James Herriot Way is designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot. The beautiful 50-mile circular walk threads its way around the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale and over the mountains and moorlands between these two emerald dales.
Find out more about walking the James Herriot Way here.
THE COTSWOLDS | Exploring the Cotswolds
Also known as the ‘Heart of England’, visitors to the Cotswolds will find a mix of rolling hills, picture postcard villages and rustic old pubs for leisurely lunches. This new itinerary is specially crafted for anyone who wants 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 by Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.
Find out more about Exploring the Cotswolds here.
Becky Witt from Colorado walked Scotland's Great Glen Way in May this year. She shared the story of her walk with us, including a rather surprising method of permanently marking her achievement!
What is your walking history?
I am from Colorado and love hiking in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. I also enjoy walking in my suburban neighborhood. I have done one long-distance hike several years ago on the Colorado Trail. The hike was a guided hike which consisted of ascending and descending mountain passes for six days which was about 90 miles. We camped at the end of each day and I had to carry a day-pack. Our tent/luggage was transported for us.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
My hairstylist walked The Great Glen Way a couple of years ago and loved the walk. She told me about how beautiful the highlands are, the flavourful food and the friendly Scots. Also, she said if I didn’t find anyone to walk it with me, then she would. This didn’t make sense to me because there are so many countries to explore. But now, I get it. I, too, would walk it again!
How did you prepare?
I started physically preparing for the hike five months in advance. I started walking about four miles a day, five days a week. I did one long walk on the weekend. I started at four miles and worked up to 14 miles, which was about two weeks before the walk. I started upper body weights five months in advance, once a week. On occasion I missed daily walks, the long weekly walk and lifting weights. I also started carrying my backpack on my last four long walks. I felt physically prepared for the walk and I was able to complete each day, feeling tired, but not exhausted. I did not have any blisters or injuries during the walk. At the end of each day, I did stretch. Mentally, I prepared by reading literature on The Great Glen Way, listening to podcasts about travel in Scotland and watching a couple of documentaries on Scotland.
What was your favorite destination?
Truly, I had several favourite destinations. I loved walking in the big northern woods. The elms, oaks, maples and pines were majestic. I loved walking through the meadows seeing sheep and so many wildflowers blooming: foxgloves, thistles, bluebells, broom, gorse and poppies were a feast for the eyes. Also, there are so many unbelievable waterfalls and all different types of bridges. Of course, coming into Inverness and seeing the end trail marker was bittersweet, but a favourite.
Best food & drink?
I had a variety of fish twice a day and sometimes three times a day. Whether it was salmon, haddock, or herring, and whether it was smoked, poached, fried or fresh, it was delicious. The salmon was so flavourful, creamy and rich tasting. I never tired of eating fish. Cullen Skink chowder was phenomenal. Also, I had the sticky toffee pudding close to every night, which was amazingly rich and sweet.
I was not a Scotch drinker before I went, and actually did not like it at all. We went to the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, where The Great Glen Way begins, and I learned how to drink it with one to two drops of water in the Scotch. I can now say, I like Scotch.
Also, every morning we asked our hosts to fill our thermos with hot tea and then we added Ben Nevis whisky honey, and that tasted wonderful during our mid-morning break!
I had a couple of surprises. First, I had no idea how much self-care long distance walking gave me. I did not have headphones in for the walk and I was not on my phone at night. I truly was present in each and every moment. I read Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfections every night which gave me food for thought the next day. I had time to self-reflect about my career, family, friends and future travel for my wanderlust! I definitely had some insights which led to personal intentions.
The second surprise was that you can walk in Scottish rain. It did rain most days, but a gentle rain and not for long. We were able to do whatever that day’s walk held in the rain and we did not get one midgie bite!
Another surprise was that I tried haggis, kippers with eggs, bircher muesli and Scotch and that I loved them all. I wasn’t brave enough to try blood pudding - perhaps next time!
The last surprise was getting The Great Glen Way trail marker tattoo on my forearm!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The day we were walking into Spean Bridge during a heavy downpour, we missed the path and ended up walking on the paved road, which was a challenge. We did not read our route notes carefully the night before and took a wrong turn. We looked at the route notes later that night and yes, there it was very clearly spelled out, how to take the path and not the road. So, definitely read the route notes every night!
In June 2019 we took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there with no complaining, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they finally made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
East Gill Force, Keld.
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions.
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. In May 2019 she decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
What is your walking history?
My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
How did you prepare?
With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
What was your favourite destination?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
Best food and drink?
I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast
, have a look at our guided and self guided options here
There are few counties in England with as much history, natural beauty and sheer romance as Yorkshire. The county, the largest in the UK, includes the National Parks of the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, and offers some of the most rewarding walking to be found anywhere in the UK.
Whether you’re a resident of the UK looking to explore this famous region of your own country, or a visitor from overseas after a taste of true English countryside, Yorkshire has it all. Dramatic, windswept moorland, dramatic North Sea coastlines, rolling hills and picturesque villages are all on offer when you visit the region that’s so special, it’s known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
Here we take a look at some of the best walks for discovering Yorkshire.
The Dales Way
There’s no doubt about it – the Yorkshire dales are downright beautiful. Ask many people to paint a picture of the quintessential English countryside, and they’ll present you with a scene of the Yorkshire Dales. Soft rolling hills, limestone edges, green valleys, waterfalls, Roman roads, interesting old churches, an abbey and some lovely pubs all feature here - as well as villages proud of their heritage.
The Dales Way runs for 78 miles from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. We offer both 8-day and 10-day self-guided itineraries.
The Cleveland Way
The Cleveland Way was the second of the UK’s National Trails to be established, in 1969. What makes it so special is the contrast between the stretches along the hilly Yorkshire coastline, and the inland stages across the rolling moors. Along the Cleveland Way you’ll experience walking across field-quilted farmlands, forests, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the rugged coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs.
Castle to Castle: The Richmond Way
The Richmond Way starts at Lancaster Castle, and finishes 69 miles later at Richmond Castle – visiting Bolton Castle along the way. As such, it is a walk that’s rich in fascinating history – the ancient trading routes that the route follows have existed at least since Roman times. It is a beautiful walk, visiting riverside footpaths, pretty little villages and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, whilst offering stunning views over the Wensleydale and Swaledale valleys.
James Herriot Way
This 50 mile, circular walk, has been designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wright, who, under the name of James Herriot, wrote a series of books about his life as a vet. The books were turned into a hugely popular BBC TV series – All Creatures Great and Small. As well passing through some of the finest villages and countryside that Yorkshire has to offer, the walk is a little shorter than some of the others in Yorkshire, and therefore slightly more manageable if walking for 8 days or more is a challenge.
You can also try these classic walks that include long stretches within Yorkshire, as well as other counties:
The Coast to Coast
The iconic Coast to Coast starts in Cumbria, and then heads through the Yorkshire Dales, and on to the North York Moors National Park, where it finishes on the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. Find out more here
The Pennine Way
The UK’s first, and longest National Trail, passes through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on its way from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. Find out more here
The Americans call it leaf peeping, the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves in Europe.
PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER
Surround yourself with colour as 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.
Departure dates until 15 October - click here for details and booking.
SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era.
Departure dates until 20 November - click here for details and booking.
GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way
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.
Departure dates until 22 October - click here for details and booking.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps
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.
Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.
UK | Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon - the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. In autumn the trees turn into a beautiful myriad of colours - there is nowhere better to experience the splendour of the English countryside as summer slowly fades away. Our walking tours of the Cotswolds are available as 5-day