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Hiking in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland: Traveller Tale

Hiking in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland: Traveller Tale

Campbell and his partner made their way to Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland in the peak of summer 2019. Advertised as “A fantastic introduction to the delights of Swiss mountain walking through two famous regions”, read here how he experienced his walking holiday in Switzerland. 
 
Review walking in Switzerland with Walkers' Britain _ Jungfrau Railway
 
My walking history is relatively pedestrian (pun intended), my partner and I have had many walking adventures including Madeira’s Pico Ruivo, Snowdonia, Amalfi’s Path of the Gods and the Peak and Lake districts in the UK. The last of these being a personal favourite. 
 

Why did you choose to walk in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland? 

Like all walks, we liked the appeal of nature above all else. The idea of walking through Swiss meadows with nothing but the blue sky, alpine peaks and cow’s bells to keep you company was appealing on every level. 
 

How did you prepare for your walking holiday in Switzerland? 

To be honest, poorly. We were walking the Capital Ring Walk in London leading into our walking holiday, but it by no means prepared us for the grinding uphill in the hot weather that we endured on the first day. 
 

>> Find out more about The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls trip that Campbell completed
 

What was your favourite destination? 

This would have to be Lauterbrunnen. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first being the accommodation had a bath looking out over the waterfall that I could sit in at the end of the day and enjoy a nice glass of port. Also great was the fact that it was nestled away in a valley downhill from Wengen. It has a nice village feel as you walk into it with the paragliders making their way up and down the valley. 
 
Lauterbrunnen on Bernese Oberland walk with Walkers' Britain
 
Reward after challenging hike in Switzerland -Walkers' Britain traveller review
 

Best food & drink? 

This would have to be at Onkel Tom’s in Grindelwald, due to the atmosphere and hygge factor. It was cold and unrelenting outside, yet here we were with a lovely pizza, wine and roaring fire. It was perfect after a hard days walking.
 
A close second would be the hut on the route out of Zermatt which serves a brilliant homemade apple cake with fruit tea. It makes for a perfect pit stop after arguably the hardest ascent of the trip. It was the only time we were swayed by a treat and I’m so glad we stopped. 
 

Biggest surprise of walking in the Bernese Oberland? 

The Marmots. They were just everywhere. I jest, I didn’t see any Marmots.
 
The main surprises for me were actually twofold. The first being just the scale and breath-taking beauty of the Alps and the valleys, it was quite humbling to be walking through and over such incredible landscapes. 
 
The second would be the wildlife. Living in London, aside from the odd squirrel, there isn’t much else. It is mainly livestock over this walk in Switzerland, but they are all equipped with bells, which lets everyone know where they are at all times. It was almost unusual to walk through a field or slope without the cacophony of dings to keep you company. 
On the higher plains outside of Zermatt keep an eye out for goats and black-faced sheep. The sheep are especially friendly and are typically found snoozing near any rocks that might heat up in the midday sun. In the summer and spring months, there will be a host of butterflies that will constantly distract you from the potentially gruelling uphill legs. 
 
Walking in Switzerland review_Walkers' Britain
 
Sheep abound around Zermatt in Switzerland_Walkers' Britain traveller review
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging? 

While the first day was physically challenging, I don’t think this was the most challenging aspect of our walking trip. I think that the most challenging aspect was dealing with the weather involved. As is the case with all mountain weather it is largely interchangeable and I was perhaps not as adequately prepared as I should have been. 
 
Also, we were very keen to do the Jungfrau railway, so choosing when to do this was a key decision, especially due to the cost. Luckily, they have a detailed weather service in the station that will give an update as to what the weather is expected to be at the summit. We ended up with a fantastic blue-sky day in the end and would definitely recommend walking out to the hut past the glaciers for soup or mulled wine.
 
Walking around from Jungfrau Railway _ Walkers' Britain traveller review
 
Review walking in Switzerland_Bernese Oberland with Walkers' Britain
 

Did Campbell inspire you to go walking in the Swiss Alps? With Walkers' Britain you have a selection of options to choose from in the Bernese Oberland, but also other highlights of Switzerland such as the Tour du Mont Blanc, Wildstrubel Circuit and Haute Route. 

 

3 Long Weekend Walking and Cycling Trip Ideas

From the best short walk in England to a short active holiday in the Swiss Alps, here are some great walking and cycling trips when you need a short break.

Exploring the Cotswolds - 5 Days (3 Days Walking)

This trip is a fantastic discovery of the English countryside, coupled with the unrivalled hospitality of traditional, family run B&B’s and guesthouses. You will take in the amazing Cotswold landscape, with it’s unique mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls of Jurassic limestone and patches of unspoilt woodland. The scenery blends with the structures creating a delightful fusion of natural and man-made beauty. With days of up to 20km, this is a relatively easy to moderate route with some hilly parts and a number of beautiful villages along the way.

Find out more about Exploring the Cotswolds here.

 

Isle of Wight Cycle – 5 Days (3 Days Cycling)

The Isle of Wight was recently crowned as Holiday Destination of the Year in the Countryfile magazine awards 2020. A destination that is often overlooked, this is a place of outstanding natural beauty, from its beaches to ‘The Needles’, as well as some historical landmarks including Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, Quarr Abbey and the piers of Old Yarmouth Town. Enjoy this lovely, short break for cyclists who want an attractive sightseeing tour, with a mixture of town, country and time to explore. Expect between 4 to 5 hours of cycling per day, with the trip starting and ending in the seaside town of Ryde.

Find out more about the Isle of Wight Cycle here.

James Herriot Way – 6 Days (4 Days Walking)

Sometimes described as ‘the best short walk in England’, this walk is designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot. It is a 80km circular route which winds its way through the contrasting dales of Swaledale, Apedale and Wensleydale which is a centre for rope and cheese-making. It is scattered with agricultural and industrial heritage, in amongst gorgeous river, waterfalls and attractive fells. It is an excellent introduction to long distance walking on longer trails such as the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast.

Find out more about the James Herriot Way here.

Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps – 5 Days (3 Days Walking)

This is a truly spectacular centre based self-guided holiday, with wonderful alpine scenery, including dramatic lakes, gorges and glaciers, as well as breath-taking views of the iconic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Meiringen is the perfect base for multiple day walks that can be made easy or hard depending on preference. It is a small market town with excellent shops and facilities, which is excellent in all seasons and remains relatively unspoiled. From the town it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using the incredible network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways. You can reach the high places quickly and easily without the necessity of long uphill climbs out of the valley.

Find out more about Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps here.

Best UK Trips For First-Time Walkers

We have picked some lovely UK based walks that are perfect for either first time walkers or easier walks for those wanting something a little more gentle to ease themselves back in after lockdown. They are all rated introductory to moderate or moderate on our grading scale, so are suitable for beginners to those with a bit more experience and a good level of fitness.

Great Glen Way (Introductory to Moderate)

This is a 73 mile walk in the true heart of Scotland, hiking through the Scottish Highlands and following the shores of the famous Loch Ness, boasting great views of Ben Nevis. You will mainly walk along canal towpaths and forest tracks starting at Fort William and ending in Inverness, which is Scotland’s north-most city and dubbed the ‘capital of the highlands’. It’s a great route for those looking for some history too, as you will find plenty of examples of elegant bridges and locks along the canals which reflect the designs of the early Industrial Revolution.

Find out more about the Great Glen Way here.

Dorset and Wessex Trails (Introductory to Moderate)

This is a walk providing you with great variety. There’s the Dorset coastline with natural rock formations including Durdle Door, which would be of particular interest to the fossil hunters amongst us. Then, further inland you will get the chance to visit a mysterious region of ancient hill forts, Roman and Saxon remains in the ancient kingdom of Wessex. You will also come across beautiful villages such as Cerne Abbas and Abbotsbury along your journey.

Find out more about the Dorset and Wessex Trails here.

Dales Way (Moderate)

This is a trip which takes you right through the Yorkshire Dales. It is a 78 mile walk crossing  the Pennines from Ilkley to Windermere., staying in traditional Inns and Farmhouses dating back to the 16th and 17th century, along the way. You will experience the English countryside at its best with soft rolling hills, pretty river valleys, an abbey and some lovely Real Ale pubs. When the weather is nice, you will be able to find the perfect place to relax whilst enjoying a shady picnic. 

Find out more about the Dales Way here.

South West Coastal Path (Moderate)

The South West Coastal Path in its entirety is England’s longest and, many would say, finest trail. It stretches 630 miles long from Poole to Minehead, of which almost half is in Cornwall. There are many different routes you can take which cover parts of the full trail, so you can choose whichever suits you, or slowly build up and do them all! Anyone who loves the English seaside will enjoy these walks as they will be sure to include Cornish pasties, shipwrecks, dramatic cliffs and the roaring sea. 

Find out more about the South West Coastal Path here.

West Highland Way (Moderate)

This is definitely a trip for your bucket list which includes a walk to the foot of Ben Nevis, following the shores of Loch Lomond, Britain’s largest lake, walking through open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area, as well as crossing through both Glencoe and Glen Nevis.  It is also claimed to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles, but we will let you decide!

Find out more about the West Highland Way here.

Hadrian’s Wall (Moderate)

This is a 83 mile route reaching across town, county, forest and moorland. During your walk you will get to experience the scenic variety of northern England from the modern, busy cityscapes of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle, to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway. Following the route of the wall, which was started as long ago as 122 AD, you will also get to explore the fabulous heights of Highshields Crags in the Northumberland National Park and the contrasting lime green pastoral scenes of the Eden valley.

Find out more about the Hadrian’s Wall Trail here.

The Best UK National Walking Trails

Scattered around England and Wales, you may have come across a so-called UK National Trail. Marked by the iconic acorn symbol, these are walking (and sometimes cycling) routes designated by the British Government. The conditions along the trail are looked after by a dedicated officer and are kept maintained to a standard that truly sets them apart. 

They are a fantastic option to discover some of the best that the UK has to offer to outdoor enthusiasts as they wind their way through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks. All being long-distance walks, allow yourself a week or two to step into the outdoors and soak up the British countryside.

With nine out of the 15 trails to choose from, let Walkers Britain be your guide when completing a UK National Trail.

Cleveland Way

The 110 mile Cleveland Way follows a walking route from Helmsley to Filey. What stands out is the experience of half a walk over hill and scarp edges and half along the hilly coastline of the Yorkshire seaside.

> Walk this UK National Trail

 

Cotswold Way

The Cotswolds is the epitome of the English countryside. It is no wonder that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as rolling hills meet with quaint villages that are all preserved in a glorious state.  

> Walk the Cotswold Way National Trail

 

Hadrian’s Wall Path

Hadrian’s Wall stretches from the aptly named Wallsend in Newcastle Upon Tyne to the quaint village of Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path takes hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, following the world’s largest Roman artefact.

> Choose your active holiday

 

Offa’s Dyke Path

Crossing the border between England and Wales more than 10 times, the Offa’s Dyke National Trail path follows some of the finest scenery in both countries for 177 miles (285 km).

> Walk this National Trail in Wales

 

Pennine Way

The Pennine Way, a mountain journey across the backbone of England, became the very first UK National Trail on April 24th 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England and down into Scotland.

> Choose your active holiday

 

South Downs Way

Exactly 100 miles of chalk downland walking separates the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne and the ancient Saxon Capital of Wessex and England – Winchester, forming the South Downs Way. Stretching over a rare large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Southern Britain, the walk generally follows the chalk (soft limestone) ridge just to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast.

> Walk the South Downs Way National Trail

 

South West Coast Path

England’s longest and, many would say, the finest trail is the 630 miles long South West Peninsula Coastal Path from Poole to Minehead, of which almost half is in Cornwall.

> Choose your active holiday in Cornwall

 

Thames Path

Following the Thames Path will help you to understand not only the Thames but also why it is the key to the history of London. There is a lot to see: the palaces such as Hampton Court and Syon Park; castles such as Windsor and the Tower of London; multiple bridges each with their own history; and wildlife reserves.  And always as the backdrop to it all is the life on the river. 

> Walk the Thames Path



Contact our team to organise your UK National Trail walking holiday. 

What To Pack For Your Coast To Coast Walk
So, you are off to walk the Coast to Coast. Whether it’s guided or self-guided you will have your main baggage being transferred for you, which saves on a lot of weight, but the big question is what essential and useful items should you take with you on the walk?

As you are staying in hotels, pubs and B&Bs, this is something that can get reviewed on a day to day basis so that you can make adjustments in regards to the weather, and depending on if you are on a higher (mountainous) or lower (farmland and road) section of the route. First, are the essentials.

 

Rucksack

A 35-50 litre rucksack (day sack) should be a sufficient size to put everything in for the day. Most of these are of course not waterproof, so you may also want to invest in a rucksack cover – although, beware that these can easily blow off and fly away if not well secured. Make sure to line the rucksack with a dry bag, or have several individual dry bags or even ordinary polythene bags without holes in.

Modern-day rucksacks have lots of utility points for attaching gels, water bottles or dormant walking poles. Elasticated webbing ties, or a large webbing fabric rear pocket of many day sacks is extremely useful for securing wet clothing between showers, so that it is readily accessible and doesn’t soak the main compartment of the rucksack.

 

Waterproofs

Always carry full waterproofs, top and trousers, even if it is unlikely to rain, they make a perfect windproof layer and you can forget they are there. The risk is not putting them in your bag on a good day and then the next day when it rains, discovering that you haven't got them! Gaiters could optionally be carried and put on during wet and boggy days, when it is likely that your feet will get pretty wet.

 

Documents and Phone

For valuable documents and your maps, notes and books that you are using for the walk, it is certainly quite a good idea to invest in waterproof map and document cases; ideally an A4 or A5 sized one for documents and an A3 sized one for maps. Ortileb makes some good ones which will be totally waterproof if sealed properly and last for years.
 
A mobile phone is more or less essential these days and can be used for contacting emergency services, the accommodation or for use as a camera or GPS. You may want to bring a 'proper ' camera as well, there is certainly a lot of subjects to take photos of during the walks, especially landscapes. It may be worth having a spare powered battery and a portable power supply for your phone, just in case.

 

Extra Layers

If you are not wearing it, bundle a fleece, jumper or gillet into your bag. Although, really it is not essential to carry a spare set of clothing with you, an extra-long sleeved shirt may be worthwhile if it is very hot or if you want to change into a drier garment when you arrive at your next destination. Some days, there is always the chance you will get in before either your baggage does or before your accommodation is actually open.

 

Food and Drink

Some people carry a plastic container for their packed lunch to stop the content getting squashed, although most people just make do with just a bag. It’s always a good idea to put some extra high energy snacks and bars in the pockets of your daysack too and have at least 2 litres of drinking water with you. In the UK you can fill up from water taps, you don’t need to buy bottled water.

We would recommend you to take a half litre vacuum flask for hot or cold drinks as well. Some walkers are very pleased to have these with them whilst they are out on a cold day, or to ‘celebrate’ the traditions of morning or afternoon tea. Unlike walking on the continent, when you walk in Britain you will nearly always find a hospitality tray in your bedroom with kettle and tea/coffee items, sufficient to fill a flask.

 

Handy Everyday Items

Most rucksacks have a top pocket where you should store quickly accessible items, such as a small head torch, whistle, penknife, lightweight gloves and a beanie-style hat. The same pocket should also be used to carry things like lip balm, sun cream, keys and a proofed wallet to contain things like your passport, money and tickets - items that should not be left in your main baggage. A squash able broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses are also recommended, but maybe leave the umbrella behind as they can easily get destroyed in the windy conditions sometimes experienced along the Coast to Coast. Finally, make sure you have at least somewhere on your person or handy in the daypack for map, compass, notes, book and information about where you are staying overnight. It is easy to forget!
 
Gear Matters: Hiking Gaiters & Cycling Overshoes


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 hiking gaiters and cycling overshoes to keep your feet dry and warm when on your trip. 

 

 

One particularly wet day crossing the Pennines on the Coast to Coast with Sherpa Expeditions a few years ago was an extreme case in the realisation of how important gaiters can be. There is a section called White Mossy Moor, which, in normal conditions, is a saturated peaty morass. I was wearing Scarpa Yeti gaiters which came up to the knee and had a rubber rand which sealed over the boot. I didn’t get wet feet at all and they were perfect for this walk. This contrasted with the fortunes of a lady in the group who insisted on wearing low cut boots for the wetter sections; they got sucked off by the mud and she was left hopping around in her socks! We had to dig a trench around the boot to liberate it from the bog.

Hiking Gaiters

Hiking gaiters have come and gone in different styles and fashions over the years. They originated from the military Puttees, which were woollen or proofed canvas bands wrapped around the top of boot and leg in spirals to stop water, dust and stones entering the boot.

Today, the simplest and cheapest gaiters (such as the Regatta Caymen pictured above) are a tube of canvas or nylon that folds around the top of the boot and either up to the knee, to the mid-calf or just to the top of the ankle (in the case of the ankle gaiters). The two edges of the fabric are usually connected via a zip or Velcro, and there is normally a tie at the top to prevent the gaiter sinking down the leg and sagging around the ankle. Hiking gaiters usually have a hook which you pull to extend the (elasticated) bottom tongue of fabric over the top of the boot which connects to the boot lacing. There is normally also a strap which goes under the sole to help prevent the gaiter riding upwards.

More expensive gaiters such as the Berghaus Yeti (pictured below) have become elaborated with for example Goretex type fabrics to make them more comfortable or rubber rands, for a better waterproof seal and with insulation for high altitude walking.  

Some trail runners now use light ankle gaiters to stop stones jump up your ankles such as the Montane Via-Sock It (pictured above).

If anything apart from for high altitude mountaineering, gaiters have gone slightly out of fashion with the range of more lightweight, sporty footwear most people are walking in these days. These are quick to take off and empty out, are freely draining, or have breathable fabrics.

Waterproof trousers have also got better so in the rain, people instead just wear these over the boot. Hiking gaiters can be a bother to put on and zips and Velcros don’t work too well when they are soiled. Besides, under-straps and rands wear out fairly quickly and gaiters are easily snagged by crampon points. However, they will help save you from frost bite in snowy conditions.

Cycling Overshoes

For cyclists, the equivalent to a hiking gaiter is an overshoe and these really do aid comfort by reducing the incidence of wet and cold numb feet. They are recommended for touring cyclists as much as for sporting riders as a great aid to all-day comfort in poor weather. Overshoes can vary in price depending on the materials used: the cheapest tend to be neoprene and the more expensive elasticated Goretex-type fabrics.

Neoprene overshoes, such as the Seal Skinz (pictured below) are fine but can result in warm sweaty feet in some conditions. This however is better than cold frozen ones.

If you want a minimalist approach to keep your toes warm, there are toe covers to wear over your shoes. These can easily be stowed in your cycling jersey pocket and can be put on quickly when you’re in need to keep toes toasty. An example for this can be the Carnac Toe Cover (pictured above).

It is important to have a good fit for your overshoe. If they are too tight, they are too hard to get on. If they are too loose, the wind can conspire to pull them off or they start to rub annoyingly against cranks or even get snagged in your bike chain.

Overshoes can never be completely watertight as rain or splash water would potentially run down the cyclist’s leg. Also, the overshoe leaves exposed the underside of the cycle shoe so that cleats can be used in the normal way. 

Best of the British Isles on a Budget

Planning a last minute vacation (or 'staycation' for those in the UK)? From the emerald Yorkshire Dales and all the way to the French flair of the Channel Islands; whether you prefer on foot or by bike, here is how you can make the most of your time off – without having to break the bank

COAST TO COAST | The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast 

  Biking through hills and dales, The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast stretches for 142 miles from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea on to the shores of the North Sea. Following a different path from the Coast to Coast Walk – and through a landscape that can often change abruptly – the itinerary explores Cumbria’s lakes and fells, the bleak Pennines and the beautiful Dales, as well as towns and villages of all sizes, allowing for plenty of time to visit tea shops and local pubs.

Find out more about cycling the Coast to Coast here.  

CHANNEL ISLANDS | Jersey: The Channel Island Way

This weeklong centre-based walking tour around the ‘Bailiwick’ of Jersey is the shorter half (49 miles) of the recently introduced Channel Island Way. Independent in many ways, today the Channel Islands have a special relationship with the UK whilst maintaining a French flair. With long sandy beaches and undulating cliff paths, forts dating back to the 1400s and huge constructions created during the Nazi occupation, Jersey has long been a favourite place for discerning travellers.

Find out more about walking in Jersey here.

ISLE OF WIGHT | Isle of Wight Cycle

Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.

Find out more about cycling the Isle of Wight here.

NORTHERN ENGLAND | Hadrian’s Wall Trail

Follow the Hadrian’s Wall Path and trace the history of England’s North. A British icon protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world – it dates back to 122AD! A must-see for history aficionados, it can also be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path, taking hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.

Find out more about the Hadrian's Wall Trail here.

YORKSHIRE DALES | James Herriot Way

Considered by many as ‘the best short long-distance walk in the UK’, the six-day James Herriot Way is designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot. The beautiful 50-mile circular walk threads its way around the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale and over the mountains and moorlands between these two emerald dales.

Find out more about walking the James Herriot Way here.

THE COTSWOLDS | Exploring the Cotswolds

Also known as the ‘Heart of England’, visitors to the Cotswolds will find a mix of rolling hills, picture postcard villages and rustic old pubs for leisurely lunches. This new itinerary is specially crafted for anyone who wants a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed by Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.

Find out more about Exploring the Cotswolds here.

Traveller Tales: The Wicklow Way

Kim Schmelz from Wisconsin walked The Wicklow Way with her husband, Joe, in July. Read more to find out all about their trip, including their favourite and most challenging aspects of the route.

What is your walking history?

Joe and I are pretty active runners but I wouldn’t call us experienced when it comes to trail walking. This was our first walking trip. 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

We had a friend who walked the Wicklow Way a couple of years ago and it sounded fantastic. Ireland had always been on our bucket list as we knew we would enjoy the scenery as well as the beer. We wanted a special way to celebrate turning 40 in 2019 as well as our upcoming 15-year wedding anniversary and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our good health by staying active during the day and having no guilt enjoying a Guinness or Jameson in the evening. 

How did you prepare?

Aside from our normal routine of running, cardio and weight training we didn’t do a lot differently. Joe ran 5 miles most days and I usually alternated running and strength training. We live in southwest Wisconsin so running up and down hills is a very standard practice, however, the hills we saw in Ireland were much steeper than our normal running hills!

What was your favourite destination?

Our favourite day by far was the day we discovered Glendalough. Our notes told us that if the weather was good we should take the ‘Spinc’ route. Luckily for us the sky was picture perfect and the weather was beautiful. We were able to walk through the glacial trough and see the views across the lake of Glendalough. We walked uphill for about two and a half hours that day but when we saw the view it was well worth it. It was absolutely breathtaking. After taking some photos and letting the view really sink in, we started our descent down the path and took in the waterfall on the way down as well as the Miner’s Road and then finally the lakes at the bottom.

Best food & drink?

The day we finished our walk and ended in Dublin was a full day of hiking. Finding the endpoint wasn’t possible because Marlay Park, the point that marked the end or beginning of the trail, had huge barricades in it for a concert that had been held the weekend before and unfortunately those barricades made it so difficult to find the endpoint that we just finally gave up. We got outside the park, found the restaurant that we were supposed to call our cab from and took off for our hotel.  We were hot, tired and hungry by the time we settled into our room so we knew we wouldn’t be going far to enjoy our dinner that night. We found a pizza place close by that served the most amazing garlic bread and pizza, our first big carb meal of the whole trip. It was delicious! The drink we grew most fond during our time in Ireland was Jameson. We usually ended each night with a bit of Jameson and a side of Ginger Ale. 

Biggest surprise?

I think one of my biggest surprises was how few people we would see on the trail. The first two days on the trail we only saw about a dozen people. It wasn’t until we started walking towards Glendalough that we started to see groups of walkers and crowds of people. The people that we did see on those quiet days were so nice though and usually stopped to chat for a short time, tell us where they had come from and how far away it was and we would do the same. It was interesting to learn where they were from and what brought them to the Wicklow Way.

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

The hills! We had a bit an idea of what to expect on our hike but we didn’t realize that we would likely either be climbing up a hill or a down a hill for the majority of the walk. Our legs were sore every morning and every night but it was so worth it! Our trip was so amazing from the beauty of the country to the kind people we met along the way to the feeling of accomplishment we had at the top of each big hill and at the end of each day. Our muscles were sore but we were still excited to put on our pack each morning and start again.

I can’t say enough good things about each B&B we stayed at. They each had their own charm and wonderful hosts. We were introduced to our first Irish Breakfast at Madeline’s in Tinahely, we met our first Irish farmers at Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne and we met the friendliest dogs at the Coolalingo B&B in Glenmalure. In Laragh we had the best breakfast conversation with a couple from Norway and a mother and son from Denmark. Our favourite B&B though was the Coolakay House in Enniskerry. The grounds were beautiful and relaxing with beautiful flowers, great seating outside and inside and ponies walking the field. Yvonne, the owner had so much Irish charm. We could have stayed there for a week!

Inspired? View our walks along The Wicklow Way and explore the superb Ireland countryside >

Cycling in the Cotswolds: How to Do It Right

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.

Deerhurst

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.

Picnics

You will find so many beautiful picnic spots when cycling in the Cotswolds, that we certainly advise 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.

Ride confidently

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.

(Sunday) Roast

England happens to be blessed with public houses that often offer a full bar menu from lunchtime 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

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

Traffic

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   

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.  

Store Safely

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.

Madeira in Spring: Flower Festival & More

Few places in Europe welcome spring in such a colourful way as Madeira.

Taking place in spring every year (usually in May), the island’s dazzling annual Flower Festival features beautiful displays of tropical flowers. Over the years it has become known for its Sunday parade, when hundreds of dancers accompanied by huge floral floats march through the main streets of capital Funchal.

Flowers of Madeira, Portugal

© cupideich

Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species! But this is not the only reason why we are such a big fan of Portugal's Madeira island. The mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of levadas together with the impressive scenery form the base for an 8-day self guided walking trip that will immerse you in the island's lush nature.

Flowers in Bloom

Coast of Madeira Island, Portugal

© Allie Caulfield

Spring is the perfect time to visit the Portuguese island when a myriad of colourful flowers and trees are in bloom – jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora.

Rugged Interior

Rugged interior of Madeira island, Portugal

© cupideich

Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (approx. 6,000 feet) with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.

16th Century Aqueducts

Levadas offer access to remote areas of Madeira Island, Portugal

© D Stanley

Follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides; dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.

Remote Trails

Pico Ruivo, Madeira Island, Portugal

© vigour

Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak; many of the levadas can be followed on foot, which together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island, such as this peak, accessible.

Charming Funchal

Little capital Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

© Artur Malinowski

Spend time in the bustling little capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants.

On our self-guided walking tour of Madeira island, you will walk 4-7 hours per day. The trip departs year round. For more information you can download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of experts in London. 

 

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