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With new, comfortable Caledonian Sleeper trains scheduled to enter service next spring on both ‘Lowlander’ (from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow) and ‘Highlander’ routes (from London to Fort William, Inverness and on to Aberdeen), there’s now another reason to plan an active break that will take in the majesty of Scotland’s great outdoors.
Tackle the Scottish version of the Coast to Coast
Best known for encouraging the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, Scotland has been rather slow to recognise its famous son – it wasn’t until 2014 that John Muir was honoured with a trail in his native land. The John Muir Way is a path that extends from Dunbar, on the southeast coast, to the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast-to-coast route.
Relive the legend of notorious Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor
Rob Roy MacGregor was a notorious outlaw and a folk hero, who escaped capture several times. The 80-mile Rob Roy Way takes you through classic Highland scenery and areas that were his old haunts. It begins in 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!
Find your favourite loch along the Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way is an exhilarating long distance trail starting at Fort William and concluding at Inverness, Scotland’s northernmost city. Following mostly canal and loch-side footpaths, it passes by the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. Scattered along the shores of Loch Ness, the centuries-old forts and castles remain a silent witness to the country’s turbulent past.
Spot native wildlife as you cycle through the heart of the Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands Cycle is a week-long trip that will see you cycling along scenic paths and quiet forest trails where you can spot native wildlife such as red deer, stag or golden eagles. At Fort William a day is set aside to rest, (or ascend Ben Nevis!), followed by a train journey that takes you across Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch. The trip concludes at the riverside city of Perth.
Discover the diversity of Scotland’s ‘Big County’
Enjoy majestic mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. On our Lochs and Bens trip, you’ll take Scotland’s backroads and country paths, explore peaceful villages and rural towns, take a forest walk and visit castles and ancient monuments found along the way. The trip focuses on Perthshire, known as Scotland’s ‘big county’ because of the wide variety of landscapes that can be found here.
Follow the old military roads of the West Highland Way
From the south of Loch Lomond to Fort William and Ben Nevis, the famous West Highland Way connects Britain’s largest lake with its highest mountain. The route is a step back into history - many stages follow military roads that date back to the 1700s and used to link the Highlands to the Lowlands, as well as hotels that originated from droving inns that operated for centuries.
Browse all of our Scotland holidays here.
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
So before that holiday becomes a long-distant memory, we’d love you to write a short account of your trip. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
write a review
If you'd rather leave a brief review instead of a full Travellers' Tale - you can write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at choosing the best cycling sunglasses and what difference a decent pair of eyewear can make to walkers and cyclists alike.
My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!
One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.
You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.
Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.
Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.
There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).
No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.
The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.
Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.
The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.
Some More Thoughts
Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!
Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!
For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.
If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.
Besides walking the Cotswold Way, a famous national trail in the UK, another option to explore this most charming English region is at handlebar level. Go cycling in the Cotswolds and you’ll be able to cover more of the quintessential English towns and picturesque countryside in the same amount of time.
From some of the best places to take a break from your cycling to essential bike tips, read on to find out our top tips to commence cycling in the Cotswolds.
This village along the River Servern has two Saxon churches and is a pleasure to discover. The Priory Church of St. Mary was built before 804AD and much of the church dates from then. It has areas of Saxon herringbone work and a 19th Century font. The other church, Odda's Chapel, is one of the most complete Saxon churches in the UK. It has a simple rectangular nave and a smaller rectangular chancel. It was discovered in 1885 during repairs to the half-timbered farmhouse to which it is attached. There are some timber framed cottages in the village that make it even more charming.
You will find so many beautiful picnic spots when cycling in the Cotswolds, that we certainly advice to make use of the opportunity to quietly take in the countryside. Picnic materials can readily be obtained from bakeries and groceries in each of the towns and villages where you stay, and very often even en-route.
Indicate clearly to the road users what you intend to do, particularly when turning right. Look behind you, wait for a gap in the traffic, indicate, then turn. If you have to turn right off a busy road or on a difficult bend, pull in and wait for a gap in the traffic or go past the turning to a point where you have a clear view of the traffic in both directions, then cross and return to the turning. Use lights and wear reflective clothing at night and in poor light. Do not ride two-abreast if there is a vehicle behind you. Let it pass. If it cannot easily overtake you because the road is narrow, look for a passing place or a gate entrance and pull in to let it pass.
England happens to be blessed with public houses that often offer a full bar menu from lunch time until the late afternoon. These are sometimes priced so competitively that you will be hard pressed providing a similar type of meal for yourself. Especially on Sundays the traditional Sunday Roast is a good reason to start your day early and finish off in the local pub with roasted meat, roast potato, vegetable trimmings, Yorkshire pudding and sauce.
Stroud is a working town that is centred on five valleys and hills. It was a very important Cotswold cloth town and still produces green snooker baize, the cloth for Wimbledon tennis balls and red guardsman coats. When you cycle through the village, you’ll notice there is a Victorian parish church in the shambles and you can visit former working mills at certain times of year (please ask our team). Designer Jasper Conran described Stroud as ‘the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds’. https://www.cotswolds.com/plan-your-trip/towns-and-villages/stroud-p670813
Travelling with Sherpa Expeditions means you will spend a minimal amount of time on the busiest roads, but you will inevitably encounter some traffic. Be very careful cycling fast on the narrow, twisting country roads as you can suddenly come face to face with a tractor or a fuel supply lorry coming the other way. Be highly aware of what is going on around you and ensure that other road users are aware of you.
Guiting Power is a quintessential Cotswold village situated in the Heart of England, between Winchcombe and Stow on the Wold. It has an ancient Stone Cross on the village green, mossy roofs, roses and wisteria clambering up the mellow walls, much of it just the same as four centuries ago. There are two pubs in the village, both within a short walk from the Guest House. The Hollow Bottom pub and restaurant is well known for its racing connections and you are guaranteed a hearty meal and good pint. The village (recently featured in the TV series Father Brown) also boasts a local shop which offers all the essentials, as well as baking its own bread on the premises. There is a small gift shop which serves teas, coffees and a selection of homemade cakes. All in all, a fantastic town to overnight during your Cotswold cycling adventure.
Where you park your bike, what you lock it with and what you lock it to are important in protecting it from being stolen. Lock your bike to something immovable in a well-lit public place. Locking two bikes together is better than locking them individually. Use a chain with a lock to secure the wheels and saddle to the frame.
Want to explore the Cotswolds on a cycling holiday yourself? With Sherpa Expeditions you can go on a self guided Cotswold by Bike holiday between March and October. Learn more about the trip here, or contact our team of travel experts.
With Newport Jazz Weekend, Isle of Wight Festival, Jack Up The 80’s, and Eklectica all taking place this summer, could this be the year that you will discover The Isle of Wight? There are so many more things to do in the Isle of Wight than visiting one of these music festivals and a great idea is to combine a festival with a walking or cycling holiday to the Isle of Wight.
A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, the Isle of Wight is ideal for an active break: half of the island is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, there are more than 200 miles of cycle routes, it is easy (and cheap!) to reach and enjoys a milder-than-most-parts-of-the-UK climate.
Half of the Isle of Wight is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’
Sherpa Expeditions Manager Tali Emdin explains about some of the things to do in the Isle of Wight:
“Everything on the Isle of Wight is on a manageable scale – there are no huge towns or big industrial blights but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. You will find plenty of seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips, but also great traditional pubs, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of villages.
Any given day along the famous ‘Coastal Path’ will take you through some wonderful areas...
For those that are considering what to do on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria’s Osborne House is quite a sight (you can even walk down to her private beach for a peek of her original ‘swimming machine’). At The Needles Park, the backbone of the island dives into the sea like a dragon’s tail with chalky sea-stack scales, while
seeing the sunset from the only surviving medieval lighthouse in Britain at St Catherine’s Oratory is definitely worth the steep walk up!”
Whether you are looking for an Isle of Wight holiday on foot or by bike, you can choose one of the following two trips with Sherpa Expeditions:
ON TWO WHEELS | 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; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the island.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 5-day Isle of Wight Cycle >>
ON FOOT | Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
Spend a week circumnavigating the island and taking in its great natural beauty, enjoying glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel, its well-known white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles and of course miles of beaches. Following mostly public footpaths and minor lanes, there are several attractions to break down each walking day, including a visit to the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Osborne House; the thatched church at Freshwater Bay; timeless seaside resorts such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown; and the great Palmerston fortresses.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 8-day Isle of Wight Coastal Walking >>
Isle of Wight music festival dates
Newport Jazz Weekend: 30 May – 3 June 2018
Isle of Wight Festival: 21 – 24 June 2018
Jack Up The 80’s: 10 – 12 August 2018
Eklectica: 7 – 9 September 2018
Both holidays join in Ryde, Isle of Wight. For more information on these trips and for bookings please contact our team of travel experts by email or phone or click through to the trips:
>> Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
>> Isle of Wight Cycle
Tour de France 2018 dates are slowly approaching and before you know, the official start from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile (just off the coast of the Vendee) on July 7th will be here! It’s a unique opportunity to watch the Tour de France live in one of France’s charming towns. Spending some time with similar tour enthusiasts in high anticipation of the cyclists and then witnessing their speed and recognising famous participants will make for a lifetime memory.
This year, why not plan your summer holiday around the Tour de France dates and combine an active holiday in France with witnessing Le Tour for real? Whether you want to walk between vineyards in the Loire Valley, get lost in the Pyrenees – once a hideout for the Cathars, outperform yourself on Mont Blanc or traverse the remote countryside of Cevennes, below are six of the very best trips to combine with the Tour de France this year.
10 July: La Baule – Sarzeau >> Loire Valley
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pick a nice terrace in the shade and with a cool glass of white in your hand, watch the Tour de France cyclists pass by on one of the first stages between La Baule and Sarzeau.
Travel on the Vineyard Trails of the Loire and watch the Tour de France live >>
17-19 July: Annecy – Alp d’Huez >> Mont Blanc Region
This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region. Faced with picture postcard vistas from every vantage point, this trek affords unsurpassed views of the different faces of the Mont Blanc massif, as well as the highest point on the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m. Take in glittering glaciers and spectacular mountainscapes – your bags and supplies will be transported for you, allowing for plenty of time to explore en route. Add some extra days to see the Tour cyclists climb some of France’s highest mountains.
Travel on the Tour de Mont Blanc and watch the Tour de France live >>
21 July: Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux – Mende >> Cevennes
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this trip follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt. Ahead or after your walking holiday, visit Mende to watch the tour de France live.
Follow Louis Stevenson’s Trail and watch the Tour de France in Cevennes >>
24 July: Carcassonne – Bagneres-de-Luchon >> Crusaders Cathar Castles
Joining in Toulouse, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of the Foix, Aude Valley and Corbières areas of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose parfaits or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers and fine local dishes and will make for a mountainous stage 16 of this year’s Tour.
Trace the footsteps of the Crusaders’ Cathar Castles and watch the Tour de France >>
24-26 July: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau >> Tarn & Aveyron
Our walking route winds between the ‘Bastides’ (fortified towns) that sprung up during the Wars of Religion: rich in history and situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories, here every stop has a tangle of narrow medieval streets to wander and sweeping views from the rocky hilltops or ancient walls. The start and end point of this circular walking tour, through the departments of Tarn and Aveyron, is Cordes-sur-Ciel, the first and most important of the ‘Bastides’, founded in 1222.
Travel on the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip and watch the Tour de France >>
27 July: Lourdes – Laruns >> Pyrenees
When the Greenwich Meridian was agreed upon as the international standard, the fact that it was passing through some of the most spectacular corners of the High Pyrénées was probably not a major consideration. Trip highlights on include the dramatic, natural ‘amphitheatre’ of Cirque de Gavarnie and the famous Brêche de Roland, a natural rock doorway into Spain. The latter location is closer to the 25 July stage of the Tour de France that finishes in Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Travel on The Meridian Way: Heart of the Pyrenees and watch the Tour de France >>
If you are curious to find the exact schedule and Tour de France dates for 2018, below map may give you some support:
For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts via email, phone or drop into our office in London.
©Le Tour de France
From spring next year (2018), you will have even more choice to go on an active holiday in the UK as we will be launching several brand-new trips again.
Next year, we will be adding three new walking programmes spread out over England and the isles, plus a completely renewed cycling holiday that will follow one of the UK’s most popular walking trails.
Isle of Man Coastal Path >> new walking holiday
- Beautiful Coastal scenery on quiet trails
- Cultural heritage towns such as Castletown, Peel, Ramsey and Laxey
- Wildlife spotting opportunities
- Seascapes embracing views to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
- Bathing opportunities
- A network of steam, electric, mountain and horse drawn railways
- Interesting histories to discover
>> View this new self guided walking trip in England now
The Richmond Way >> new walking holiday
- Magnificent Lancaster, Bolton and Richmond castles and the 'motte' (remains) of several others
- Ingleton Village and waterfalls
- Walking on ancient Roman roads
- Beautiful 'Green' villages such as Bainbridge and Reeth
- High limestone walking with views over the Yorkshire fells
- Beautiful valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale
- Ribblehead Viaduct – a mecca for railway enthusiasts
The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast >> new cycling holiday
- Ride across England from Irish to the North Sea, crossing the Lake District and Pennines
- Biking through the hills & dales of northern England
- Attractive hamlets and traditional villages
- Industrial heritage, lead mines and the River Tyne
- A satisfying and very challenging ride
>> View this new self guided cycling trip in England now
Jersey Island – Channel Island Way >> new walking holiday
- Discover legacy of wars, occupations & pirates
- Second part of the Channel Island Way
- Magnificent rock pools & sweeping dunes
- Follow rugged cliff paths sprinkled with wildflowers
- Charming seaside pubs & fishing villages
>> View this new self guided cycling trip in England now
We are currently finalising the details for these new trips, so stay tuned on this page (perhaps you like to bookmark it) for updates and to find out when the trips are available next year.
If you like to enquire or like us to send you a message as soon as the trips are available online, please contact our team of travel experts in London.
Septuagenarians Arnold and Margaret Horner each year embark on a walking or cycling holiday. After having walked among others Hadrian’s Wall, covered parts of Offa’s Dyke on foot, cycled from Passau to Vienna along the Danube and completed the Stevenson Trail in France, this year they decided to cycle the famous Coast to Coast route.
“We chose to cycle the Coast-2-Coast route because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace.”
Why did you choose to cycle where you did?
We chose the C2C route in the UK as offered by Sherpa Expeditions because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target (going coast to coast) and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace in fairly easy stages.
How did you prepare?
We periodically do a bit of casual cycling in a part of County Kerry where there can be quite steep hills (some of which we just walk up). Otherwise we did no very particular physical preparation. What we did do however, was to look carefully at the gradients along the whole route. We decided that, at least in reasonable weather, we could manage most of the stages but that it might be prudent to break the longest day, the 36 miles and five big hills between Langwathby and Rookhope, into two stages. Trina at the Sherpa Expeditions office in London organised for us to stop off at Alston, and this worked very well for us.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Some of the hills were pretty steep. For example, it was a long haul up to Hartside summit. For us Crawleyside Bank on the way from Stanhope to Parkhead was, at a 17% gradient, daunting. We walked up anything steep. Other challenges might have been posed had we had either poor or really warm weather, or problems with tyres and chains. But the bicycles we were given at the beginning of the trip in Ulverston were good and we had no significant problems.
Which was your favourite destination along the Coast to Coast route?
The various stopover points were varied enough in their features, and each had its pluses. Keswick offered us a very active place that was both a strong local town and a tourist centre. We stayed at Beckside Guesthouse which had just reopened after the floods of December 2015. Owners Andrew and Tracey were very welcoming. So too were Colin and Pauline at the Old Vicarage in Rookhope, a small village high in the north Pennine moors.
“From the restaurant we visited on our last night we could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished the C2C.”
Best food and drink?
Most places along the route offered good food, but the place we will probably most remember was the Marina Vista at Roker, Sunderland, which we visited on our last night. We could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished cycling the C2C.
What surprised you most on your C2C cycling holiday?
The biggest surprise was probably that we did complete the whole route, which we saw as something of a challenge given that we are aged around 70 and that we are very definitely only casual cyclists.
If you like to share your travel stories on our website as well, you can let us know by filling out our contact form. If the story of Arnold and Margaret inspired you to set off on a similar cycling holiday, please have a look at our cycling holidays or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
All images are copyright of ©Arnold Horner
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at rental bicycles: what to pay attention to when you first receive them, what to bring along on a cycling holiday and what to wear.
Unless you are signed up on a dedicated road biking or mountain biking holiday, nearly all cycling tour operators like Sherpa offer hybrid bikes as their usual bicycle rental provision. These humble steeds have coalesced from the mountain bike evolution as the industry standard. They may share multiple gears, disc or cantilever breaks, and maybe some degree of suspension similar to mountain bikes. They also may have panniers or connections at least for racks and comfy touring seats. The wheels and tyres are narrower which make them more efficient on the road like the older-fashioned touring bikes. Hybrid bicycles get used on gravel tracks and dirt roads as well.
Ready? Get Set. Go!
Normally when you hire your bicycle with us and give us your dimensions, we can source a more or less correctly sized bike for you. When you receive your rental bicycle and before your first ride, make sure the brakes are progressive and the wheels don’t lock on braking too easily. Check if your wheels aren’t buckled, a slight movement is however quite normal. Check that you can get into all the gears without a fight, and that the front derailleur doesn’t rub too much on the chain. At extreme gear ranges this does happen - but it means that you shouldn’t be cycling in extreme gear ranges…!
Nuts & Bolts of Cycling Gear
To get more out of rental bicycles a lot of people elect to bring their own clip-in pedals such as SPDs and a 15mm wrench for changing the existing pedals. Sometimes the operator can do this for you, which saves you worrying about stripping the crank via cross-threading. Clip-on pedals can offer you more direct power transfer during pedalling when they are used well, but take a bit of getting used to.
Although your bicycle will be cleaned and serviced for you and include some basic tools, sometimes stuff gets missed. It is important to bring a quality multi-tool yourself to do on-road adjustments: you don’t want to have to waste holiday time calling someone out for a minor adjustment. Never over tighten bolts and Allen screws (they are usually aluminium and can shear), gentle hand tightness is usually just fine. A very small bottle of oil for chain lubrication is also recommended to bring along on your cycling holiday. Apply sparingly to all links and wipe off surplus with a cloth. It is amazing how quickly your chain will start squeaking in a very irritating way if you had a run of wet weather!
Such is the versatility of pocket tools these days. I have had the pleasure of reconnecting a mountain biker’s snapped chain within five minutes in the watery wastes of the Pennines. He would have had a long lonely walk out without that…
The main dread for many is the hissing deflated ego caused by a puncture. Once you get the hang of fixing a flat tyre, it only takes about 12 minutes to be on the road once again. Normally you are given a spare tube at the start of your cycling holiday and it is prudent to partially inflate this before you leave. Just in case it has perished or the valve has unexpectedly failed. I normally carry two inner tyres plus patches, three nylon tyre levers and a high capacity mini pump. There is no room here to talk about the most efficient way of changing an inner-tube, I suffice to say that after a puncture often people forget to pull out of the tyre what caused the puncture in the first place resulting in puncture number two. An extra note on tyres: running the bicycle tyres at correct pressure is important especially on the road. In wet conditions it may be worth reducing pressure by 5-10% to allow for better grip and in sand or gravel maybe by 20%.
Besides spare tyres, you may also receive helmets and water-bottles to get you on your way. For hygiene reasons you ought to bring your own bottle and for safety and hygiene reasons you should bring your own helmet. Even if they look fine, it is hard to know the impact history of a helmet, unless you have bought it yourself. If you are wearing a helmet make sure that it sits correctly on your head! I have seen people wear them too high or even round the wrong way.
Talking about what to wear, Lycra: let’s face it, it is not flattering on 85% of people. If you are just on a cycling tour you can get nice shell shorts with many pockets and still have a discreet padded seat with Lycra inserts for comfort. You will feel more at ease walking into that coffee shop.
Cycling tops are useful and they have handy pockets and pouches like a hamster. The advantage of baggy shirts however, is that they’re nice and airy. Some of the fabrics today quickly dry overnight if you rinse them through. A lightweight water resistant garment is worth stuffing somewhere and nowadays you can buy neoprene overshoes really cheaply to keep your feet dry and warm.
Don’t forget those energy bars, drink powders and potions to keep you on the road!
Find the full offer of Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays here.
They are becoming more and more popular: e-bikes – also known as electric bicycles or booster bikes. Although it is never a bad idea to practice a little ahead of your holiday, they can be a fantastic option if you want to go on a longer cycling holiday but are not sure if you can cover each day's distance.
With the current techniques, the bicycles look much like any other bike that you know. The battery (usually placed under the rack of your bike) makes the bike heavier than normal bicycles and in the evenings or during resting times, you do need to recharge these. With an e-bike you still need to pedal yourself and besides the occasional boost, a cycling trip won’t be much different than it was before the e-bike came to exist.
One of the biggest advantages we believe is that an electric bicycle makes it possible for two or more people with slightly different levels of fitness to still enjoy a great holiday together. Where couples, families or friends had to choose a different type of holiday before, the e-bike makes cycling trips accessible again.
In France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK the e-bikes have already found their place in the cycling culture and are therefore readily available on our cycling holidays to these countries. The below Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays have e-bikes available:
Hybrid and electric bike hire are available at an additional cost.
Besides hybrid bicycles, electric bikes are also available for hire ad an extra fee.
Hybrid bicycle hire is included. If you prefer an e-bike, these are available on request against a supplement.
A 7 speed bicyle with pannier is included in the trip price, electric bikes are available on request and a supplement applies.
Rental bicycle with panniers, a repair kit, bike computer and water bottle are included and on request e-bikes are available with an additional fee.
Hybrid e-bikes can be booked on this trip as well as mountain bikes or normal hybride bicycles.
Let us know in advance and we can provide the extra service of arranging e-bikes for you.
E-bikes can be hired against an additional fee.
For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts.