News & Inspiration

Inspiration and Advice for Walking in Europe Information, reviews and advice on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England. Amalfi, Cilento, Tuscany, food and more Sherpa travellers share their reviews and experiences. Information, reviews and advice on Madeira walking holidays Information, reviews and advice on walks in the Cotswolds
rss

UK & European Holiday News

The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>

 

Travellers' Tales: The Great Glen Way with Becky Witt

 
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!
 
 
Becky Witt and her travelling companion on the Great Glen Way
 

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. 
 
 
Becky Witt on the Great Glen Way
 

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.
 
 
The Great Glen Way
 
 
Great Glen Way waterfall
 
 

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!
 
 
Kippers on the Great Glen Way
 
 

Biggest surprise?

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!
 
 
Walking in the rain on the Great Glen Way

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!
 
 
Great Glen Way tattoo
 

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!
 
 
The end of the Great Glen Way
 
 
 

Traveller's Tale: The Coast to Coast with Cora Nelson

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.
 
 
 

Biggest surprise?

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.
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Walking the Amalfi Coast

Amy and John from Minnesota are regular visitors to Europe's walking trails. This spring they decided to walk along Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions. Here, Amy tells us a little about their trip.

 

What is your walking history?

My husband and I have been hikers and campers  in the mountains of the western US for many years, but after completing our first Sherpa Expeditions self-guided Tour of Mont Blanc in 2014, we have become ‘addicted’ to self-guided exploration in Europe . We return each year, this year twice, to travel in this fashion . When not traveling, I can be found regularly with our dog Lila on the trails of Minnesota’s county and state parks, and my husband can be found running them.

 

 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

We chose to sign up for the 11-day Amalfi Coast trip for a variety of reasons. We love the sea and the mountains, it’s in a part of Italy to which we had never been, and we’re used to mountain hiking so we like to challenge ourselves. Also, spring options are somewhat limited for hiking where it is green and lush. 

 

 

How did you prepare?

We didn’t prepare specifically as we tend to work out on regular basis throughout the year - Nordic skiing in the winter, bicycling in warmer weather, hiking or running (ever so slowly) throughout the year. I have found regular yoga practice to be a great addition in helping my body to be ready. 

 

 

Your favourite destination?

I am not so sure I had a favourite destination, as I truly loved it all. Each town had its own personality, and each day of hiking offered different sights and sounds . We never tired of the ongoing sweeping views of the sea and of the towns nestled in the mountain-sides. From walking through, and by, the terraces of lemon groves on our first day, to finding our way through the forest above Praino to Boomerano and Path of the Gods, to our final day of hiking on Capri up to the villa where Emperor Tiberius indulged in his lascivious lifestyle, was all a delight. 

 

 

Best food and drink?

The best food was the incredibly tasty tomatoes, accompanied by what seemed to be freshly made mozzarella cheese. The swordfish I had three times was delicious, as was the lasagne in a bustling but casual small restaurant on a side street in Sorrento. I also can’t forget about the slice of cake from the coffee bakery / restaurant in Ravello that I carried in my pack for 3 days. 

 

 

Biggest surprise?

The biggest surprise to me is always the people I encounter along the way and the joy and pleasure these encounters bring me. I hope to again see Joan and Bob from Vermont who we initially met while hiking in the pouring rain, and will always remember the so very happy and friendly waitress at the restaurant adjacent to one of the hiking paths. 

 

Unique to this trip, my biggest surprise was just how many steps there could be to navigate, the incredible beauty of the area, and my amazement, given the terrain, that this area was settled in and developed in ancient times. 

 

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

My biggest challenge was my ‘failed’ rain jacket and getting soaking wet, mainly on day 3 of the hike. But of course, the day will always be remembered, especially the restaurant owner who gave us hair dryers with which to dry our boots.  Although this was a ‘really good’ jacket, I hadn’t re-tested it to see whether it was still water proof . 

 

 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

Test your rain gear, even the previously reliable apparel! 

 

Find out more about walking holidays along the Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions.

 

If you’ve been on a holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and would like to share your experience in a Traveller’s Tale, please email us. Or if you prefer, you can also leave a review of your trip on Google or Facebook.

 

 

Travelled with Sherpa? We want to hear from you!

Travellers' Tales

 

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.

 

write a review

The easiest way to give feedback on your trip is to write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.

 

Travellers' Tales

If you'd like to write about your trip in a little more detail, you could write a short account of your holiday - we call them Travellers' Tales. 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.

 

Travellers' Tales

 

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.

 

Travellers' Tales

 

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.

Guernsey Islands - The View from Down Under

Looking across to Little Sark


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, Guernsey

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

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.

Travellers' Tales: The Best of 2018



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!

Traveller's Tale - Bernese Oberland Guided Walk

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.

Travellers' Tales - Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne with Marie-Claire

Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne


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!

Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne

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!

Marie-Claire andher daughter Nathalie in the Dordogne
 

 

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!

Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne

 

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.

 

Collonges la Rouge

 

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.

 

Curemont

 

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?

 

Shop at Curemont

 

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!

 

Dordogne Cuisine

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.

 

Grapevines

 

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.

 

The caves at Padirac

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


Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne has daily departures from 1 April 2019, and is also available as a 10-day trip.

Travellers' Tales - Coast to Coast Guided Walk by Jan Clarke

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!

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - lunch overlooking the valley

 

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.

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - wheat field

 

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.

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - descent to Patterdale

 

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! 

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - St Sunday Crag

 

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! 

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - woodland path

 

Biggest surprise?

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.

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - the group

 

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.

Traveller’s Tales – The Alsace Vineyard Trails by Charles Hawes

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). 

 

hiking in Alsace_Sherpa Expeditions

 

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.

 

hiking in Alsace with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Alsace holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

 

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.

 

Chateaux on Alsace tours with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Walking in Alsace with Sherpa Expeditions

 

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.

 

>> View Trip