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UK's National Parks: A short historic film

How did the UK’s National Parks come to be?

UK's National Parks are the country's most iconic and awe-inspiring landscapes – a source of wellbeing, adventure, community and connection with nature for millions of people.

Take a step back through history and watch a short film, which was shown in the UK cinemas during the 1930s.

The film captures the battle to preserve the UK's landscapes and natural treasures. It reflects a pivotal time when public pressure reached a breaking point amidst conflicts between landowners and people demanding greater access to the countryside. 

Momentum was built and eventually led to the landmark year of 1949, when the groundbreaking National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed. The law gave way to better protecting the UK's natural landscapes and providing recreational opportunities and accessibility for the public to explore and appreciate UK's outdoors.

 

Today, the UK is home to 15 magnificent National Parks, each offering diverse wildlife and beauty:

England (10 National Parks)

Wales (3 National Parks)

  • Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)
  • Pembrokeshire Coast
  • Eryri (Snowdonia)

Scotland (2 National Parks)

See the stunning National Parks of the UK as they are today by exploring their trails on foot or by bike – find your active holiday.

First Spring Departures For The UK’s Top Walking and Cycling Breaks

Hit the trails as early as the first week of March, which is when many of our UK walking and cycling breaks have their first departures. 

March marks the beginning of the UK’s walking season, with many trips offering departures as early as the first day of the month.

If you would like to be among the first to get back hiking on the trails as they reopen after the winter, below are ten of the best options in Britain to consider when exploring the UK over spring.

Dorset & the Jurassic Coast from the first day of March

Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and St. Oswalds Bay - Jurassic Coast, Dorset
 

The popular Dorset Coast Path largely follows the Dorset coastline, an area of outstanding geological importance: over 200 million years of rocks have been laid down, bent and twisted before being eroded by the sea to expose rock profiles on beaches, accessible to fossil hunters and scientists. Away from the crowds and with some of the warmest weather in all of the UK, you will never be too far away from attractive villages and towns. There will be several opportunities to explore ancient hill forts and visit Roman and Saxon remains.

Keswick & Lake District from the first day of March

The lane into Great Langdale |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

The so-called ‘Adventure Capital of the UK’, in the north of the English Lake District, Keswick is a bustling market town established in 1276. It is here, right at the heart of Cumbria, that we have found you the perfect guesthouse to use as a base for a series of scenic spring walks. On your first walking break of the year, take in classic English landscapes, unforgettable viewpoints, waterfalls and scenic woodlands covered in bluebells at this time of year.

Cornwall’s South West Coastal Path from the first day of March

Walking the Salt Path, or South West Coast Path, in England |  <i>Roy Curtis</i>
 

Cornwall is one of British holidaymakers’ favourite active holiday destinations. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, a vast network of trails and rugged cliffs dot Cornwall’s long coastline. It has also kept enough space for traditional fishing villages to try its famous pasty or Cornish ice cream. Walkers will rejoice as they follow the iconic South West Coastal Path, with four week-long, self-guided walking breaks with daily departures from March so you can choose the best one for you.

Rob Roy MacGregor’s Scotland from the end of February / early March

Taking a break at Rob Roy's cave in Scotland
 

Scotland is a land of spectacular scenery that gets lots of colour returning in spring. It is also rich in legends and folk tales. Scottish Rob Roy MacGregor was a notorious outlaw and a hero for many (he escaped capture several times!) and today you can follow in his footsteps through classic Highland scenery and areas that were his old haunts on the Rob Roy Way. The hiking break 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!

Cotswolds, the ‘Heart of England’ from mid-March

Wisteria on Broadway High Street |  <i>Trevor Rickard</i>
 

The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon, the ‘Heart of England’. An ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, the Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of idyllic villages, serene rolling hills, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. On your walks here, you’ll be surrounded by lots of spring flowers in the woods and gardens. Alternatively, you can cycle your way through the quaint villages for a scenic ride through one of the most beautiful and historic parts of England. The Cotswolds is the perfect introduction to the English countryside with our first departures of the season in mid-March.

St Cuthbert's from mid-March

Our hikers enjoying the St Cuthbert's Way |  <i>Alan Hunt</i>
 

St Cuthbert’s Way stands out among UK walks, taking you through two countries and concluding on an island. Originating in Melrose, Scotland, where the saint was born, this pilgrimage mirrors the life of St Cuthbert, culminating on Holy Island in Northumberland, where he served as Bishop of Lindisfarne. The trail traverses remote grassy hills, showcasing Northumberland's prime hiking terrain, including The Eldons, Wideopen, and Cheviot's side, leading to the coast and caves where the bishop's remains were sheltered from Viking raiders. Amid sheep and livestock grazing areas, visitors may encounter moorland birds like the golden plover and the haunting call of the curlew. The trail's lesser foot traffic adds allure, revealing charming market towns, villages, and landmarks associated with Sir Walter Scott along the way.Walk through the scenic Cheviot Hills from mid-March.

Hadrian’s Wall from mid-March

 

Embark on an inspiring journey along the 84-mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path, tracing the footsteps of the Romans from Wallsend in Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. This incredible hike unfolds the rich history and cultural significance of the world’s largest Roman artefact, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hiking Hadrian’s Wall is not just a walk; it's an exploration of a British cultural icon that invites you to connect with the past while savouring the present. You can also cross England by bike through the rugged Northern English countryside, immersing yourself in the tales of ancient forts and small villages. Experience the scenic diversity, from quaint towns to bustling cities, and relish traditional British fare in charming country B&Bs.

Offa's Dyke Path from mid-March

Descending to Lower Redbrook |  <i>John Millen</i>


The Offa's Dyke National Trail is a renowned path crossing the England-Wales border. The 80-mile embankment covers the southern half, from Chepstow to Knighton, offering a captivating exploration of diverse landscapes – from fields and ridges to rivers and ancient castles. Witnessing unchanged farming practices, flourishing wildlife in hedgerows and oak woods, and the occasional Red Kite, this trek unveils the historic charm of border market towns, making it a memorable adventure. The historical trail originates back in the 8th century when King Offa of Mercia faced challenges from Welsh marauders encroaching on his kingdom. Determined to mark his territory decisively, he constructed a massive earthwork along high vantage points, creating Britain's longest archaeological monument. 

West Highland Way from the end of March

Walking beside Buachaille Etive Mor, Scotland
 

Take in the majesty of Scotland’s great outdoors as you follow this famous footpath on its course from the south of Loch Lomond. The West Highland Way walking route continues to Fort William and Ben Nevis, linking Britain’s largest lake with its highest mountain. The exhilarating long-distance trail is a step back into history, with stages that follow military roads that link the highlands to the lowlands and hotels that originated from droving inns operated for centuries. You can choose from daily departures to start your West Highland Way break falling over the first weeks of spring.

British Isles from March

Watch the sun set over the famous Needles, Isle of Wight |  <i>visitisleofwight.co.uk</i>
 

Surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, the British Isles offers unique opportunities to go for a splendid walking or cycling holiday in the United Kingdom. Two of the main islands –  Isle of Wight and Isle of Man offer spring departures for an island life escape that is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, and hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect active holiday on the British Isles

The Isle of Man Coastal Path passes around the southern point of the island following dramatic high cliffs and the 'Calf of Man' a small island where tidal races whip around the rocks and seals play. From cultural heritage towns to wildlife spotting opportunities as seascapes embracing views to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, The Way of The Seagull path is a must-experience.

You can cycle right the way around the island of Wight for a lovely short break that offers an attractive sightseeing tour, with a mixture of town and country. The route is undulating and there are a few hills but nothing particularly difficult making cycling in the Isle of Wight achievable with plenty of time to stop and take in the beautiful villages, forest and farmlands, and views of the estuary.

View all spring walking and cycling holidays >

 
 
If you would like support from our experienced team in planning your next spring walking break in the UK, you can contact us directly or request a callback at your convenient time.
 
Changes to Europe's ETIAS Travel Authorisation for 2025

Changes are on the horizon for travellers planning a European getaway in 2025. The European Union (EU) is set to implement a new travel authorisation system, similar to the American ESTA, affecting visitors from non-EU countries. 

If you're from Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, or the UK, here's what you need to know before embarking on your European adventure

What you need to know about the new ETIAS Travel Authorisation

What is an ETIAS Travel Authorisation?

Proposed by the European Commission in November 2016, ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Its purpose is to establish a digital vetting system designed to identify security threats, irregular migration, and high epidemic risks presented by visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen states.

What's changing?

From 2025, travellers from non-EU countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK, will be required to obtain a valid ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) to enter 30 countries within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. 

An ETIAS authorisation is valid for up to three years or until your passport expires, whichever occurs first. However, it's essential to be aware that this authorisation can be revoked at any time.

Unlike traditional visa applications, you won't need to visit an embassy or provide extensive biometric data. Instead, you can fill out an online form before your travel, pay a fee, and receive your travel authorisation.

It's important to note that ETIAS is not classified as a visa by the EU. An ETIAS is not required if you are only transiting.

When do these changes commence?

The exact launch date of this new travel authorisation scheme is still pending official confirmation, and we advise travellers to stay updated with the latest news. However, for UK residents, once it is live, applications can be submitted through the gov.uk website or a dedicated app. 

Subsequently, more countries will be gradually incorporated into the system. The digital platform is anticipated to be fully operational by mid-2025.

How to apply for the ETIAS Travel Authorisation 

To obtain an ETIAS, head to the official EU website to learn more about the new ETIAS scheme and submit your application. Remember, early preparation is the key to a stress-free active holiday.

Viewing Tre Cime in The Dolomites Walking in the Dordogne |  <i>Nathalie Thomson</i> Walking towards Nocelle on the Amalfi coastline |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

Important considerations for long stays of over 90 days 

For travellers planning extended stays (for example when combining your walking or cycling holiday with a family visit in Europe) or from other nationalities not covered by the ETIAS, such as Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, and US passport holders, it's essential to reach out to the respective embassy. 

Stays exceeding 90 days within the Schengen Area require a long-stay visa from the country where you intend to spend most of your time. Keep in mind that these visas are typically granted for specific reasons (e.g. studying abroad).

Due to individual country visa requirements and each country having its own unique criteria, make sure you have the latest information from your respective embassies for comprehensive and accurate information and to ensure you have the necessary documents and permissions.

What countries are part of the Schengen Area?

The Schengen states, comprising 27 European countries, have an agreement allowing open borders between them. It allows for seamless travel without internal borders. To ensure a hassle-free experience, it's crucial to have your passport stamped upon arrival in the Schengen Area. 

These countries include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Additionally, ETIAS applications will also be mandatory for visits to Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The following European Union countries do not mandate ETIAS for entry: Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Russia, San Marino, Serbia and Ukraine.

Looking to travel to Europe soon? Browse our wide range of affordable guided and self-guided holidays across the continent.

 

Page last updated 6 November 2023.

How I got hooked on self-guided walking holidays

I wish I could remember how I first learned about self-guided walking holidays. The year was 2000. I was 26 years old, and my fiancé was 27. We had recently moved from Chicago to New York City for him to start his ER medical residency and for me to work as a strategy manager at a fashion dot-com start-up within a larger company. 

We were working gruelling hours. Our first chance to take a vacation was in the early fall of that year. Since both of us were avid hikers – and I was a Francophile planning the trip – I somehow stumbled upon a self-guided walking holiday through Haute Provence with Sherpa Expeditions, now known as Walkers' Britain

Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

So, given the trip fulfilled both my requirements – hiking and France, I naturally booked it and bought our plane tickets for Paris that continued to Nice. 

Little did I know then, and as an avid traveller who would eventually spend a year backpacking around the world, that this inn-to-inn walking trip style would become my favourite. And a type of trip that my now husband and I would come back to repeatedly. 

In front of GR4 signage in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Why did I love self-guided holidays? 

From the moment we left Nice, taking a bus out of the city (the trains were on strike) and winding through the pretty rolling hills in the late afternoon light to our destination at St. Andre-les-Alpes, we could feel the stress and the noise of work and the city fall away. 

The proprietors of our first inn were welcoming and fed us a satisfying meal of steak and mushrooms paired with a cheese plate and wine. We fell asleep that evening full, with quiet country night sounds to lull us. 

In the morning, after an ample breakfast, we followed our route notes and hit the trail. 

We loved the feeling of only having to shoulder our day packs and puzzle out the path ahead, knowing our luggage would continue to the next inn without us. 

Eating a snack in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>
 

Over our week, as we repeated each day – a new lovely quaint inn, a vigorous beautiful walk to a pretty village, delicious meals of high-quality locally-sourced ingredients, and the freedom to enjoy, explore, and fully absorb our surroundings – I not only fell in love with the beauty of Haute Provence but the sense of quiet discovery to be found on self-guided holiday walking trips as well. 

Haute Provence scenery |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence scenery |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Janice's husband on the Jordan Trail in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Pear tree in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>
 

Although it was years ago, and the highlights of this trip were many, I remember a few standing out. Like the beautiful views from Chapelle St. Jean near Castellane, hiking through the narrow paths of the Gorges du Verdon, or our unexpected candlelight dinner in an old and since-closed chateau near Riez that happened due to a waterlogged tree falling and damaging the electric wire. 

Beautiful picnic spot in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Through the years, we have repeated this walking trip style in the Alpujarras in Spain, the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, along the dramatic coastlines in Gozo, Malta, and the Green Mountains in Vermont. 

And as our kids, who are now teens, get older, it is a rewarding, slow travel way to explore the world that we plan to return to again and again. 

Words by Janice Moskoff. Janice is a travel writer, book lover, and blogger at Gather and Go Travel, a blog inspiring families, adult friends, and couples to explore US and international destinations, emphasizing hiking, beautiful places, and discovery through learning.

Image credits: gatherandgotravel.com


5 reasons to walk Ireland's Wicklow Way: Traveller Tale

I, who had never been to Ireland before, was travelling with my partner, Josh, who had been to certain areas of Ireland with friends in the past. We enjoyed our time in Dublin very much, but our experience hiking in Wicklow County in September is a memory we will hold very dear. 

Here are some reasons to walk the Wicklow Way.

1. Photos don’t do it justice 

Before going to Ireland, I often thought people exaggerated how green Ireland truly is. Within minutes, I began to understand that photos barely do the beautiful landscapes any justice. 

Walking the Wicklow Way, every day was filled with rolling hills of various shades of green with other contrasting colours. We walked the trail in September, so some of the local flora had reached the end of their cycle, while the majority maintained their vibrant greens, creating a stunning contrast along the Irish countryside. 

The forested areas, such as Drumgoff, felt magical as small streams and waterfalls seemingly appeared out of nowhere! 

Glendalough Valley view from the Spinc Trail |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i> Streams and waterfall along the Wicklow Way |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i> Glendalough Valley view from the beach  |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>
 

The grandiosity of the glacial valley of Glendalough is difficult to describe as it left me in awe. The photos that I have taken only show a glimpse of how grand the scenery was laid before me. 

2. Sheep and other companions 

We love animals! Who doesn’t? While admiring the many sheep and cows grazing and roaming lazily along the mountainsides, you did not need to worry about wolves or bears like you do in Canada. This brought us some peace of mind as we did not need to be on alert 24/7. 

The green vastness in Moyne |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

On some rare occasions, we saw some animals we do not see in Canada; sika deer and red squirrels (ours are not as red)! They were so quick and vanished in an instant. 

For a country full of lush vegetation, I did expect to see more local wildlife, however, we were still ecstatic to see the occasional squirrel. 

Near the stream leading to Poulanass Waterfall, we had the chance to witness some black Irish Stoats swimming from shore to shore. It was adorable and left us feeling refreshed for the remainder of our walk. 

3. A hearty meal and a pint of beer after a day’s hike 

While these may not be our main highlights of the Wicklow Way, the food was still one of the things we really looked forward to after a long day of hiking. 

Every night, we would head out to town, with the exception of Glenmalure where the pub was a part of the accommodation, and find a local pub or restaurant to eat a delicious hearty meal and enjoy a pint of beer (often Guinness, of course). 

Some dishes that stood out to us were the lamb dishes, such as the traditional stew and a rump of lamb, our occasional fish and chips, seafood chowder and more. There were also some delicious fish appetisers and chocolatey desserts. 

The rump of lamb for the restaurant in Laragh |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

Josh’s most memorable dish was the rump of lamb he had at the restaurant in Laragh. This was by far his favourite and he would love the opportunity to eat it again someday. Josh had also tried some of the local Glendalough whiskey at the restaurant in Laragh, the town neighbouring the monastic city of Glendalough. 

Ruins in the Monastic Village in Glendalough |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

At the end of each hiking day, the foods we ate at the local restaurants would heal our weary souls and give us time for our (other) weary soles to rest. 

4. The warmth and hospitality 

We experienced Irish hospitality everywhere we went. The locals were always willing to give us a hand or give us more information about the area and how things worked. It was really enjoyable. On the first day of our tour (The Wicklow Way - 7 Days), we were picked up and brought to our hotel. 

The driver gave us a lot of valuable information about the area and some recommended walks in Tinahely, which we decided to check out once we had settled into our accommodation. We struggled to find the start of the Railway Trail and asked a local. She was really helpful and even gave us more recommendations on particular sites to check out depending on the route we took. We had similar experiences in our accommodations. Everyone was willing to help and share about the local culture. 

The last bit of ascent on the Dublin Mountain |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i> Large clovers in Enniskerry  |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i> Glimpse of the contrasting colours and flowers on the Wicklow Way |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>
 

We learned about how prevalent the film industry is in Enniskerry and the Wicklow area and discovered that many popular films and shows are filmed there, like; The Vikings, PS: I love you, and Cocaine Bear! 

On the last night of our tour, we were fortunate to be in a pub on a night when Ireland was playing in the Rugby World Cup. We were happy to share the evening with the locals cheering for Ireland’s victory against South Africa. 

5. The sense of accomplishment 

I had done some research on the trail before heading to the Wicklow Way and made sure to read a few blogs to know more about other people’s experiences. I felt ready for the rain, the wind, the cold air (our toques and gloves came in handy more than once and we recommend bringing some along) and the challenge! We even brought umbrellas with us and we were very happy to have them, especially on some of the rainier days. 

Beginning the walk on Ireland's Wicklow Way from Tinahely |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

Of course, even with all this preparation, there’s nothing quite like experiencing it directly. This trip is graded as moderate and gave me the right level of challenge. We usually walked for about 7 hours a day, including our breaks to eat and change our layers, through rolling hills and steep ascents. We also experienced rain, which also meant muddy trails and a few sections where water covered the trail past the sole of our boots. 

The path on Djouce Mountain was exposed and windy. On average, be prepared to walk about 20-30 kilometres a day, depending on the starting point and which accommodations you are staying at. 

Hiking on Djouce Mountain |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

Arriving at the accommodation at the end of each day felt very rewarding. Some good food and good rest helped us prepare for the next hiking day! 

I will never forget the moment we arrived at the end of the trail at Marlay Park. I couldn’t believe I had actually done it! 

Arrival at Marlay Park |  <i>Mélodie Théberge</i>

Words by Mélodie Théberge who travelled on The Wicklow Way - 7 Days. You can experience the trail in a shorter highlights tour through a patchwork of landscapes between County Dublin to Glendalough, on a week-long walk near Dublin on the Emerald Isle's oldest waymarked hiking trail or hike the full trail over 9 days.

Discovering 'All Creatures' on the enchanting James Herriot Way

As the beloved British TV series "All Creatures Great and Small" graces screens across the world, including Australia and the USA, now is the ideal time to experience the magic that inspired it. 

The James Herriot Way, a 50-mile (80km) circular trail winding through the enchanting Yorkshire Dales, invites you to a world beyond your screen. This picturesque route, affectionately known as 'the best short long-distance walk in the UK,' unveils the English countryside that once captivated the real-life rural vet, James Herriot. 

Born in Sunderland in 1916, James Herriot's books featured stories about animals and their owners and became extremely popular in the 1970s-80s, spawning TV and film adaptations; the latest revival premiered in 2020.

 

Reinvigorated from his memoirs, this scenic trail offers more than just a walk. It's a pilgrimage through emerald valleys, over mountains, and across moorlands.

Imagine strolling along sleepy rivers, encountering jolly cascades, and passing fields where sheep and cows graze. The path meanders through classic English countryside, adorned with vibrant heather, sedge, bracken, and bilberry-covered moors. 

Historic Grinton Church, Yorkshire Dales Stepping stones across the Ure Views towards the village of Muker
 

You can also explore charming villages like Reeth, where historic tea shops and pubs echo a time when lead mining shaped the area's identity. 

The six-day adventure with Walkers' Britain offers hikers to delight in the ease of well-marked trails, occasionally overlapping with the renowned 'Pennine Way' and 'Coast to Coast' routes. 

Your walk is complemented by cosy accommodations, ranging from B&Bs and traditional inns to rural guesthouses and small hotels. 

Don't miss this opportunity to walk in the footsteps of literary history while immersing yourself in the slow-paced, beautiful, and historic series that has captured hearts for generations.

View the full James Herriot Way itinerary >

Why booking in advance can help you save

Already planning on where to go next? We love that!

We always say you need to get in early to avoid missing out. And this rings especially true when staying in the remote and secluded places we take you, where accommodation options can often be limited. 

Combine that with an opportunity to save and a better chance of securing your desired dates, it'll make you want to get organised – fast.

6 reasons why you should book early

1. Get the dates you want

We had to turn many people away last season because trips were at capacity. By booking your walking or cycling holiday now, your trip is more likely to be confirmed around your preferred day.

2. Greater flexibility

Without worrying about availability, booking in advance offers greater flexibility when it comes to choosing the type of accommodation you wish to stay in. So if you wanted to spoil yourself by getting that room upgrade but know there's limited availability, you get first dibs!

Our 4* accommodation in Argentiere on the Tour du Mont Blanc

3. Lock in a better flight deal

Once your holiday is locked in, you'll be able to find better flight deals at convenient times for you. So the idea of travelling over the peak season won't daunt you with a hefty price tag. 

4. Save with 'Early Bird' prices

As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm, so getting ahead and booking in advance can save you big! Plus, if there is a price increase for next season, you'll be able to put those savings towards another incredible adventure.

5. Budgeting made easy

Being organised far in advance will make your dream adventure much easier to budget for. By having things like your accommodation, luggage transfers, certain meals and transportation booked ahead, when your trip day finally arrives, you'll have a better idea of how much to save when it comes to the other smaller incidentals. Plus, the more quality inclusions accounted for earlier in your holiday, the fewer things you need to worry about when out on your trip.

6. Give yourself something to look forward to

Did you know looking forward to something can be almost as good as experiencing it? With numerous studies indicating that having something to look forward to can significantly enhance your mood, boost your wellbeing and reduce stress levels, it’s worth putting something on your calendar! In fact, one study found that when we visualise a positive upcoming activity, it can bring instant happiness.

2024 departure dates: where to go?

There is currently a high demand for popular trips such as England's epic Coast to Coast, experiencing Mont Blanc in Comfort, hiking in the famous English Lake District of Cumbria or taking an incredible long-distance trail across Scotland. To avoid disappointment in 2024, be sure to book ahead.

All of our self-guided holidays in the UK and Europe are offered on an individual basis, so most tours will depart daily. You also have the option to add any extra days you wish. You can find a date range above the calendar on each trip page.

For guided trips, places are often on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you have a specific time frame in mind, getting in early will give you a better chance of travelling exactly when you want to. We’ve released some new guided options on more UK trails for next year, like the 17-day Coast to Coast Guided Walk (Richmond Rest).

Give yourself something to countdown to and put something fun on your calendar!

 

Which destination is on your radar for next year? Let us know in the comments below.

Page last updated 4 November 2023.


England's Coast to Coast Walking Trail: All you need to know

Dubbed 'One of the World’s Great Walks', the fame of England's Coast to Coast is simply a testament to the unequivocal character of the UK’s natural wonders, quaint towns, historic sites and, of course, its people.

While this wilder side of England with its hills – small in stature as they are when compared to the likes of the Himalayas or the Swiss Alps, it still offers endless spades of beauty and charm along its 190-plus miles trail.

Ascending from Ennerdale |  <i>John Millen</i>

Exploring three of the UK’s national parks, the route boasts spectacular mountain scenes, rugged moors, rolling hills and captivating coastal scenes, all whilst taking a deep dive into quintessential English culture. From climbing iconic fells to wandering down maze-like country lanes, resting weary feet in cosy bed and breakfasts to sampling authentic pubs and pints, the Coast to Coast route delivers on every account.

The beauty of the C2C trail is that you can experience it in bite-sized glory or go all-out on an epic holiday between 15 to 18 days. There are plenty of added values when travelling with Walkers' Britain, like going pack-free on a range of affordable self-guided holidays and guided small group trips.

Read on for our ultimate guide to one of Britain's most iconic national trails, answering the most frequently asked questions about the walk.

History of the Coast to Coast Trail

Across the 20th century, as outdoor pursuits into nature suddenly became sought out in the face of war and constant industrialisation, few embraced this new escape as much as Alfred Wainwright. Walker, author and illustrator, his name is now synonymous with English hillwalking, and his seven pictorial guides to the Lake District are a must for any curious walker. 

 
Walking from Keld on the Coast to Coast Trail |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Using a tree stump as a seat |  <i>John Millen</i> Our group crosses a stream on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk |  <i>John Millen</i>

Endlessly curious, whilst he spent much of his time walking and drawing the Lakeland fells, the day came when he set out east, drawn by the allure of walking from sea to sea. By 1973, he had created and published a brand new guide, detailing the now famous Coast to Coast route in a suggested 12 stages.

Known as a profound soul who cared deeply about the places he described, as well as one who found solace in the company of the hills, Wainwright was in many ways ahead of his time. This is only shown further by the fact the Coast to Coast route he proposed was technically illegal when he first suggested it, as it had to cross through private property. Uproar ensued until the right to roam was established in 2000, confirming the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreational purposes. 

 
Early morning, starting a day of walking |  <i>John Millen</i>

Wainwright saw something that most at the time didn’t - that the UK’s natural journeys should be open to all. It took 25 years, but his Coast to Coast route was now officially possible. Fast forward again to 2022, when the route became one of the recognised national trails of the UK, and it’s clear to see this iconic journey is something truly worth seeing. 

What does the Coast to Coast route entail?

The Coast to Coast starts from St Bees in Cumbria on the west coast and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay on the Heritage Coast of the North Walk Moors. The walk is a good distance at 192.2 miles (309.3km) long – and offers a serious challenge with 6,077, (19,933ft) of ascent. 

Typically it’s completed over roughly 2 weeks (self-guided or with a guide and small group), though there are variations possible where you can complete it in segments or 18-day ramblers too. 

Whilst there’s something special about completing the entire route, crossing the width of an entire country on foot, there are definitely highlights, which means it’s more than possible to enjoy some of the best bits by completing just a portion of the route from the west coast too. 

 

Walkers can choose either direction to complete the journey in, but we recommend west to east. Not only will you be following in Wainwright’s footsteps, who intended the route to be walked this way, but you’ll get the serious ascent and descent of the Lakeland fells out of the way early on while you’re fresh too. You might even take advantage of the weather, as prevailing winds from the Atlantic give you a helping hand on your way east.  

Where do you stop along the Coast to Coast?

The journey begins in St Bees, a stunning little coastal gem on the northwest coast. To commemorate the beginning of this epic journey, walkers dip their hands or wet their boots in the Irish Sea, pick up a stone to drop in Robin Hood's Bay and stop by the famous C to C monument found by the lifeboat station. 

Setting off on the Coast to Coast from St Bees |  <i>John Millen</i>

From there, cliffside tracks and paths through fields ease you in before you the fells start in earnest. Travelling through green foothills, the path heads through Ennerdale, one of the UK’s most beautiful and quiet valleys, before crossing over Wainwright’s favourite hill, Haystacks. This section in the Lake District is definitely the hardest of the trek, but it’s also one of the most beautiful too. The route takes low-level paths through the region’s most iconic fells, with options to reach the summits for the keenest hillwalkers.

Through Borrowdale, Grasmere and then under Helvellyn, the route brings you to Patterdale and then to the high village of Shap via a few more steep ascents and descents - and a beautiful walk along the shores of Haweswater too. Here the landscape changes, from the peaks of the Lake District to the dramatic limestone plateau of Westmoreland. 


Walkers leaving Shap Abbey |  <i>John Millen</i>

Dramatic moors and vast landscapes now sweep you up and over to the picturesque green troughs of the Yorkshire Dales. Entering Swaledale, the ascent and descent eases off as pastoral green countryside takes over. Grazing sheep and beautiful market towns are plentiful here, as you pass through Reeth and Richmond, before heading into the North York Moors.

A final challenge of the Cleveland hills followed by a warren of woodland paths, old coach roads and moors deliver you finally to the charismatic east coast, and your final destination in Robin Hood’s Bay. Reach the sea, nod your head to the plaque that commemorates the route's end – then quickly head into the Bay Hotel pub for your well-earned finishing brew. 
 
Dip your toes in the North Sea as you celebrate the end of the Coast to Coast |  <i>John Millen</i> Group of walkers finishes the Coast to Coast at Robin Hood's Bay |  <i>John Millen</i> Happy hikers at the end of the Coast to Coast Trail in Robin Hood's Bay |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

How hard is the Coast to Coast trail? 

The Coast to Coast is a respectable challenge, with any walker attempting it needing to take into consideration the ascent and descent that comes with the Lake District hills. 

It’s full of variety however – expect a combination of stunning mountain trails, weaving up and down Lakeland fells, moorland tracks, pastoral paths through fields of rolling hills, wandering country lanes and tree-covered bridleways. This means there are paths all the way and it’s more than possible for most walkers, but the sections through both the Lake District simply mean you’ll want to be prepared for some decent ascent and descent along the way. 

The other challenging factor is the weather. Naturally, being in the UK, you can expect a chance of rain and some exposure to the elements in the higher-altitude areas. But, it’s nothing you won’t be able to deal with, especially knowing that at your accommodation you’ll be welcomed by owners used to muddy boots and soggy raincoats in desperate need of a drying room. 

What is the food and drink like on the trail?

Everything from hearty pub grub to modern fine dining can be found along the route, with plenty of choices as you go. As you’ll pass through so many unique places in the UK though, look out for the regional delicacies you’ll find along the way. Compare fish and chips from both coasts at the start and the finish; visit the famous Grasmere gingerbread shop and stock up on spiced gingerbread and Kendal Mint Cake to fuel your hikes; look out for pubs that use the famous Swaledale Butchers for some local beef, lamb or game; and of course, sample beers from independent breweries all across the north. 

 
Our guide pulling a pint |  <i>John Millen</i> Hearty breakfast to get you going on the Coast to Coast |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Enjoying a hearty roast dinner in Britain |  <i>Sebastian Coman</i>

I have extra time in England, any recommendations?

Before spending days in the rural countryside, it’s ideal to enjoy a city break first - especially one you can warm up for your walk with by exploring on foot. It’s a simple matter to get to your starting point in Cumbria via one of the west coast of England’s most fascinating cities: Liverpool. 

Thanks to a recent period of committed urban regeneration, Liverpool has fast become an iconic place to enjoy a day – and night – out in the UK. A revamped waterfront, architecture dripping with industrial chic, an astounding variety of shops and restaurants and some famously friendly locals will make sure you’ll remember your visit. 

 
Icons of England

Visit Albert Dock, and, after a coffee overlooking the water, choose from any of these iconic institutions to fill your morning: the Tate Liverpool, the Maritime Museum or the International Slavery Museum. It’s here you’ll get your first taste of Liverpool’s Beatles heritage too, learning about their humble beginnings through the award-winning museum, The Beatles Story.
 
Round your day off by a visit to Liverpool Cathedral to gain an insight even further into the past, before your evening begins. There’s plenty to choose from for your evening meal, from top-rated Turkish cuisine to trendy gastro-pubs, which thrive on local ingredients. And at the end of the day, a cocktail or two on the waterfront rounds off your Liverpool experience perfectly. 
Waterfront with wooden ship in Liverpool |  <i>Rod Edwards</i> Meet the Beatles in Liverpool |  <i>Andy Edwards</i> Find Liverpool's cosmopolitan side
 

England’s Coast to Coast has clearly earned its famed place as one of the best long-distance walks in the world. Encompassing some of the finest sights and experiences the UK has to offer, it’s a challenge that comes with a guarantee it’ll be more than worth the effort.

There are plenty of added values when travelling with Walkers' Britain, like going pack-free on a range of affordable self-guided holidays and small group guided trips.

Browse the range >

 
A Coast to Coast walk to remember: Proposal near Robin Hood's Bay

Michael and I met the old-fashioned way... Tinder. 

It was the holiday season of 2019. We spent our first few months getting to know each other and figuring out one another in the early months of 2020. Then, as we all know, COVID struck. 

Michael is an emergency room nurse, so there was a lot of uncertainty about how we were to continue dating. Getting into the outdoors and hiking in the Tahoe backyard came to be a middle ground, embarking on day hikes to accomplish the Tahoe Rim Trail and to have a strong relationship. 

Between the pandemic, wildfires in Northern California and Nevada, and life in general, we eventually finished the Tahoe Rim Trail in late July of 2022. 

While the feet were elevated, beers in hand and spirits high, the obvious question came out "What's Next?" 

We have traveled around the Western United States to various National Parks, explored our home state Nevada and in general explored every chance we can get. We knew we wanted to go somewhere internationally and hike! What better place than England to begin our international hiking adventures? 

Before we knew it, we were on a plane (a very, very delayed and chaotic plane) to England. We showed up to St Bees without any of our luggage due to the delays causing havoc on our luggage transfers. Nonetheless, spirits were high and we were ready to walk the Coast to Coast

We did the 13-day circuit. It was challenging, but so worth it. 

Our luggage reunited with us on our last day in the Lake District. By then, we had a perfect system down for washing the same pair of socks and undergarments. The Yorkshire Dales and the Moors were amazing to walk through. 

In a country with millions of people, we barely saw anyone and what a moment of solace that was. As we got closer to Robin Hood's Bay, we were excited but sad to see the journey come to an end. We hobbled down the ramp to throw our stones into the North Sea. After the stones left our hands, Michael turned around on one knee and proposed. 

Getting down on one knee on the Coast to Coast trail

Little did I know that our parents and close friends were watching our walk end in anticipation of this moment. 

It was such a beautiful moment for our relationship to have been founded on hiking, and to begin this next part of the journey. 

Getting popped the big question

I know I am so thankful for Michael – for not only is he the best hiking buddy, but he is my best friend. And I am so thankful for our Coast to Coast walk to end and the next part of our life's journey to begin.

Words and photos by Dianna King who travelled on a Coast to Coast self-guided tour.

Walking the West Highland Way: "This is why people come to Scotland"

Having to brave the cold and wet weather on many occasions, Tom learnt that happiness in Scotland is walking with wet, cold feet. And there were plenty of moments and jaw-dropping scenery that left Tom thinking: “This is why people come to Scotland." 

Starting from the north of Glasgow and into the highlands of Scotland, Tom shares his day-to-day experiences, local encounters and the history that unfolds on this iconic trail.

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen 

My main complaint about the Camino de Santiago was how difficult it was to find accommodation. So before I started walking the West Highland Way, I contacted a travel agency, Walkers' Britain, and had them arrange everything which included a luggage transfer. 

Because this is the first day, the luggage handler wanted to meet me and tell me to leave my luggage every morning exactly where I had found it the night before. I promised to follow his instructions; he then complimented me on my fine Midwestern American accent. That was nice to hear. 

The people of Scotland have their own way of speaking the English language. I can't decide if it's a lovely lilt or if it sounds like they are being strangled as they speak. Either way, it is definitely distinctive. 

The West Highland Way has brought an economic revival to some of the more remote areas of Western Scotland. 

The arch in Milngavie, a village in the suburbs of Glasgow and pronounced Mool-guy, marks the beginning of the path. To reach the trailhead I took a local train from the main station in Glasgow to Milngavie where I spent the night in a hotel. 

The start of the West Highland Way in Milngavie |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Waking up this morning, the rain was coming down in sheets, but by 8:00, the rain had eased and the trail looked fine. The trail made for easy walking all day, the challenge was that it would rain, stop raining, the sun would shine, and then it would rain again. As soon as I had taken off my rain jacket, I felt I was putting it back on. But at times I would come out of the forest and the views would be spectacular. As the day continued, I learned that neither my waterproof boots nor my waterproof jacket is actually waterproof. 

Fortunately, I have some wool socks that I hope to wear tomorrow and a long sleeve Merino wool t-shirt so even though I will probably be wet, I'm hoping that I will be reasonably warm and that hypothermia won't set in. There were very few other people on the path and I only met one other walker, Ian. 

Tonight finds me in the village of Drymen (rhymes with liven'). Drymen's claim to fame is having the oldest pub in Scotland. I looked inside – it seemed small and uncomfortable. But what do I know? It's been in business since 1734 so they must be doing something right. 

Drymen's claim to fame is having the oldest pub in Scotland |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Today was, according to the guidebook, the easiest day of the walk. But after 12 miles of walking, I was totally exhausted. Tomorrow it will rain and, the locals tell me, I will have a much more difficult walk. 

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan 

The woman who runs the Kip and the Kirk guest house, where I stayed last night, charms all her visitors. As soon as I arrived, I was given a scone and a cup of tea. 

This morning I was served a hearty breakfast of tea, toast, peanut butter, cereal, and fruit as she patiently answered all my tourist questions. The woman, Frances, ran the New York City Marathon, teaches yoga, and rounds things out by teaching driver education in Drymen. 

Leaving the Kip in the Kirk guest house, the sun was shining and everything looked good. Thirty minutes or so out of town the path took a turn up a hill and shortly thereafter I got my first good look at Loch Lomond. It is the largest inland body of water in Britain, about 37 km or 23 mi long. At its deepest point, it's 190 m or 623 ft deep. 

The West Highland Way follows the shore for 30 km or 19 mi. From here, I can see some islands, which are now uninhabited. Centuries ago people lived on them because they felt safe – sort of like they do now in gated communities. 

After another hour or so I reached the settlement of Balmaha (which rhymes with Omaha) where there is a small cafe. To my surprise, I met some hikers in the cafe who were walking in the other direction and were wild camping. The rest of the day was really difficult. On the map, it looks like the path follows the shore. In fact, the path goes up, down, and around the steep ravines that line the lake. 

I found that some of the rock stairs were much more challenging than others. Taking a short rest to drink some water, I was joined by a little Robin who seemed to think I was a pretty interesting guy. However, the rain never let up. When I arrived at my stop for the night, a youth hostel, it was 4:00 p.m. and I'd been walking for 7 hours. 

Once again I was totally exhausted. Plus my feet were wet, cold, and shriveled. Apparently, tomorrow will be the roughest day of the walk and the forecast is for rain all day. As I drank my coffee, I saw that the sky had cleared. Walking back outside, the day was ending in a flurry of colour. 

Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

This was the coldest morning yet, 43'F or 6℃. But walking quickly warmed me up enough to be comfortable in just my wool base layer and rain jacket. The path started off very nicely and soon I was in a forest, walking beside a steep hillside and passing more waterfalls than I could count. The path followed the shoreline with a very steep drop-off. Other times, the path led up through narrow, rugged stone passageways. It then took a swerve around a private dock with a coffee shop attached. 

Just as I went to open the door of the shop, out stepped Ian, the wild camper who was going to live on just peanut butter. Things weren't going well for him. 

His first night of wild camping had been reasonable, but by the second night all his clothes were wet and he couldn't find a way to dry them, his sleeping bag couldn't keep him warm, and he thought he might get hypothermia. To save himself from putting up his tent he had opted for one of the two free public huts on the West Highland Way. One of the seven people in the one-room stone huts (called bothies) was a woman who slept with her dog in her sleeping bag – the dog kept whimpering all night. Besides that, the weight of his backpack was killing him - he had pain everywhere in his body. "I am," he said in summary, "shattered, completely shattered." 

I walked with Ian for a bit before we parted ways to change my socks. As I sat there fumbling with my socks a German woman walked up, said hello, and waited for me to put my socks and boots on as if we were old friends. Lydia and I walked together for the rest of the day. She said that she actually was enjoying the walk because it made her feel like a mountain goat. 

Rest stop near Loch Lomond on the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

As we walked, she would occasionally pause to pick mushrooms and berries for her dinner. She was going to stay in a campground and cook her harvest of mushrooms and berries from the path on her camp stove. Gradually the path turned up and away from the lake where we had our last good look at Loch Lomond. 

Reaching my hotel, The Drover's Inn, I felt like I had a pretty successful day. 

The Inn is one of the oldest hotels in Scotland. It has been open since 1704 and is somewhat of a museum with a suit of armour, stuffed birds, various weapons, a standing stuffed bear, and hundreds of knick-knacks. It also features very small rooms and bathrooms down the hall. 

As I checked in, Ian showed up and told me that he had decided to take a bus home tomorrow. He just can't take it anymore. We had dinner together and later Lydia came over and joined us for a beer. Ian had totally given up on his peanut butter diet so instead, he had a giant meal of a traditional Scottish meat and potato dish. He said it was delicious. 

Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum 

Breakfast in The Drovers Inn was pleasant. All of the other guests were walkers and we congratulated each other on having survived such a rough day. 

If it's rough for us, what about the drovers? The drovers were the men who took the cattle from the highlands of Scotland to England. They must have been as hard as nails and as tough as any American plains Indians or Mongolian herders. 

Wearing only kilts and wool blankets, they led cattle through the hills by day and, after finding a place for the cattle to rest at night, frequently slept outside. When they reached England, the locals there thought they looked pretty scary - unbathed, unshaven, and undoubtedly smelling worse than the animals they guided. I can imagine that only Scotch whiskey made their lives somewhat bearable. 

To the staff of The Drover's Inn, it was, of course, just another day at work. They all, by the way, wear traditional Scottish kilts and yet almost all of them were Romanians who came here for seasonal work. 

As I started walking, it was raining and it would continue to rain all morning. In the afternoon, it eased up a bit before starting again. Never mind, the path was much easier. Most of the path would even have been very pleasant if it had not been so wet. 

After a couple of hours, my boots and body were, as usual, completely soaked. For the first hour or so the path followed a raging river and for stretches, the path seemed to be flowing water or just mud. Later, however, the path passed through thick pine forests, and carefully managed estates. 

In this area, there's a big movement towards developing a sustainable form of agriculture and forestry. This area is, as you might expect, dotted with various historical monuments--mostly ancient battle sites where nothing is left except the memory. Today the path passed by the ruins of an ancient monastery. 

Accommodation for the night was a family-run bed and breakfast, the Glengarry House. They open for guests at 3pm. 

Bed and breakfast along the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Day 5: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy 

Yesterday someone told me that happiness in Scotland is enjoying walking with wet, cold feet. As of this morning, I can add, "putting on boots that stink." 

As I was leaving my guesthouse the manager told me that for the next two days, there will be no shops or towns. He recommended that I stop in the local grocery store, Brodies Mini Market, to buy whatever supplies I needed. 

Today's path was an old military road. About 1750, the British decided that if they were going to squash the local rebellions they needed a road system that would allow them to rapidly move troops around Scotland. It was much more manageable than the path around Loch Lomond. 

Mesmerising Scottish landscape on the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

I only met one man, his wife, and their dog for the entire day. Besides their dog, I met some other animals on the path, none of whom were shy at all about having their picture taken. 

Meeting some animals on the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Spotting animals on the West Highland Way from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

I arrived at my hotel for the night, the Bridge of Orchy, an hour before check-in but the nice lady at the desk let me check in anyway. I have no complaints about the room. 

Day 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse 

Every hotel has either given me a packed lunch or breakfast. Today it was breakfast. 

From across the bridge, the path led up through hills to a summit that I arrived at just as the sun was coming over the larger ridges – giving me an incredibly wonderful view of Rannoch Moor below. "This is, "I thought, "why people come to Scotland." 

Looking upstream while standing on the Bridge of Orchy |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

River scenery along the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Beautiful landscapes along the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

From there the path led down to a paved modern road for a kilometre or so and then turned off the paved road into what looked like an unused and abandoned motorway. 

Telford's Parliamentary Roads went out of use as the main public road in 1933, but is still in good condition today as it is maintained for estate access and the West Highland Way. 

Telford's Parliamentary Roads sign along the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

The path definitely proved to be an easy path to walk on with plenty of opportunities to take photos. 

Fun fact: this Highland area is featured in many movies including Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (to name a few). I even passed the mountain that was in James Bond's Skyfall film. 

Mountain scenery walking from the Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse on the West Highland Way |  <i>Thomas Riddle</i>

My destination for the night was the Kingshouse Hotel, the fanciest place yet. There are two bars, a giant dining area, and luxurious rooms that they wouldn't let me enter until 3 PM, at which time I had been sitting in the dining room for two hours. 

Day 7: King's House to Kinlochleven 

The stark mountains that could clearly be seen the day before were now covered in clouds and mist to make everything dark, grey, and silent. There wasn't a bird or an insect to be heard. 

West Highland Way scenery |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

The path ran about 100 meters parallel to a major highway for 40 minutes or so and then turned away from the highway to begin a long series of switchbacks up the hills. It was another of these old British military roads. 

The switchbacks were cursed by the British foot soldiers who had to carry heavy artillery up them. They nicknamed them "the devil's staircase." It was quite a slog and soon it was raining heavily. 

Fortunately, by this time, I know that happiness in Scotland is walking with wet cold feet and I was getting happier by the minute. 

Up and up finally started going downhill, which revealed a more forested path. The path passed a damn that had a series of monstrous pipes leading down from it to the final stop of the day – the old aluminium processing town of Kinlochleven. 

The entire town had been built by the British Aluminium Company to house 700 workers who processed aluminium with electricity generated by the water flowing out of the giant pipes. When the factory closed in 2000 the town reinvented itself as a centre of outdoor recreation and today one of the old factory buildings has Europe's biggest ice climbing training wall. I found there was some charm to the town. 

Day 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William 

The path started off looking like the devil's staircase part two. Fortunately, it wasn't raining and after a few switchbacks, I was out of the forest. 

Day 8 on the West Highland Way from Kinlochleven to Fort William |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

In the 1700s, the British forced many of the local people out of the area to prevent any possible rebellions. It is remembered (depending on who is telling the story) as ethnic cleansing. The ruins of some of their homes can still be seen. Someone told me that the United Kingdom, UK, should be called the 'BUK': the Barely United Kingdom. Here that means that the Scots have never forgiven the British for being repressive colonials. 

A few miles west of here in the village of Glencoe is the site of a particularly brutal incident. In August of 1691, the English king told the local chiefs to take an oath of allegiance before January 1 of the following year. Unfortunately one of the chiefs, Alexander MacDonald, didn't take his oath until January 6. 

West Highland Way scenery |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

Always ones for punctuality, the English sent 100 soldiers to the MacDonalds to teach them some manners. The MacDonald clan hosted those soldiers for a week or so at which time the British massacred 38 of their hosts. Now, 330 years later the Scots haven't forgiven or forgotten what happened. I saw a sign along the path today to remind me. 

After three pleasant hours of walking, I sat down to eat my lunch, and just as I finished, it started raining again. But by then I knew that I just had two more hours of walking before I would arrive at Fort William and the end of the walk. 

Reaching Fort William, I posed with a made-for-pictures statue with a couple of hikers I met on the trail, which marked the conclusion of my walk. 

Finisher photo at the conclusion of the West Highland Way walk in Fort William |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

After a shower and changing into dry clothes, I knew that this was it and there was no going back: tonight I was going to drink Scotch whiskey. 

I asked the manager of my guesthouse if she could recommend a local bar that specialized in Scotch whiskey. She suggested that I try one or two of the thirty-five different whiskeys in her whiskey closet, just beside the lounge. That sounded much better than going back out in the rain. 

She was very enthusiastic. Whiskey in Scotland, I quickly learned, is like wine in France or beer in Milwaukee: it is a way of life and the pride of the nation. She told me that occasionally she will host German whiskey clubs who are touring Scotland and trying Scotches from some of the 130 distilleries. Before she served me she gave me precise instructions. I was first to enjoy the smell of the golden brown liquid, then I needed to swish it around my mouth, letting all of the subtle flavours sink in. Food, with whiskey, as well as ice, was forbidden. 

A person should seriously, meditatively if you will, slowly savour and enjoy every sip and then let the palate and throat savour the aftertaste. I carefully followed instructions and after two 35 ml drams, it became clear that drinking Scottish whiskey was a wonderful way to enjoy an evening. 

Words and images by Tom Riddle 

Tom walked the West Highland Way self-guided in early October over 8 days, with accommodation and luggage transfers organised by Walkers’ Britain.

Postscript: Three weeks after I finished the walk, I found myself in one of the largest camping stores on the east coast of the United States. "Show me your best raincoat for hiking," I said to the sales person. He showed it to me and then tried to guide me to one that was less expensive. I was not impressed. "I've tried the less expensive ones and barely lived to tell the story. I'll take this one."

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<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips