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Gear Matters: How to Clean Hiking Boots

Do you know the best ways to make your walking shoes winter-ready? Our resident guide John gives you 7 tips on how to clean hiking boots. Whether you have new shoes or have been using them for years, whether you wear synthetic or leather hiking boots, John knows what to do - and so will you in 5 minutes.

 

Walking in winter time puts some of our frontline gear – hiking boots particularly – to the test. Especially after hiking in muddy, wet environments you may want to know about the best way to clean your shoes. For best results to keep your walking gear in tip-top condition for their next use, a degree of care is needed.

 

Cleaning hiking boots or shoes can be a reflective and therapeutic exercise, but it is one that many walkers have been neglecting for too long, so see below tips on how to clean hiking boots and start today. 

 

1.      Cleaning Mud Off Your Shoes

Peaty soils in particular contain acids that can attack stitching and caked mud can affect leather or fabric. After a muddy walk, the best way to clean shoes is to wipe your boots with a wet cloth or sponge and use a soft nylon brush to remove stubborn soils. A hard brush can damage stitching so is not advised. Your walking boots might already be soaked; in that case, it is a good idea to rinse your boots briefly under a tap. I don’t think it is advisable to soak them until they are supersaturated as that will take some time to dry out.

Cleaning Hiking Boots is important for walking holidays

How to Clean Hiking Boots: Maintain the soles of your shoes

 

2.      Remove Oily Dirt from Your Shoes

To remove oil-based dirt from your hiking boots, for example excess wax and stubborn grime that will not be cleaned by plain water, use something like Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel and a nylon brush. Be sure to clean the linings of your boots with a warm damp cloth after each use as well. Salt from perspiration can pass into the lining rapidly destroying the leather of your shoes and making it dry and cracked.

>> Read more practical gear tips here

 

3.      Drying Your Hiking Boots

Once the boots have been cleaned to the best of your ability let them dry out naturally – in an airing cupboard, or a bedroom. Take insoles out, remove the shoe laces etc. Whatever you do, don’t force-dry your footwear with localised heat, such as an open fire, because that can cause the leather to dry and crack.

Cleaning Hiking Boots - England

Clean Hiking Boots in the Italian Dolomites on a walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions

 

4.      Walking Shoes Maintenance

If your walking boots or shoes are quite worn, now is a good time to do some shoe maintenance. Check whether the soles of your shoes need gluing. If rands are peeling, use shoe glue or superglue to seal them. Deep cracks in leather or damaged stitching can also be strengthened with a conservative use of superglue.

 

5.      Maintaining Synthetic Shoes

If your footwear is synthetic, I have other tips on how to clean your hiking boots. You can now apply various products, usually sprays which embed the fabrics of your shoes with waterproofing chemicals which help to bead water droplets. Often these can be applied on wet shoes so that the chemicals are drawn into the fabric or suede leather. I like to use for example Nikwax Sprayon Waterproofing for Nubuck and Suede.

 

6.      Maintaining Leather Boots

With leather boots if you have worn areas, it might be an idea to use polish to restore the colour. Otherwise now is the time to start to apply the shoe creams and pastes rubbing into the leather to make it suppler and apply water resistance. Grangers and Nikwax make different grades of product for this cleaning purpose. Especially massage into leather that is creasing (usually on the sides or around the ‘hardware’ like the lace eyelets etc.) as the creases can dry out into cracks.

 

7.      Making Your Hiking Boots Waterproof

Once you have applied lighter creams and pastes to your walking boots and left to dry a bit, it is time to smear on the heavier-duty waterproofing, once referred to as dubbing. This part of the cleaning process you can build up in layers and there is no need to try to remove it the next time you clean the boots. In fact, with several layers the boots become easier to clean at least to a point, when soil and grit becomes ingrained. Pastes and waxes will change the colour appearance of your boot.

 

Now that you know how to clean hiking boots and of course are done with your own shoes, you can forget about them until your next active holiday!

 

Like to get more tips on walking and cycling gear from John? Read about all his tips and advice on active adventure holidays in his Gear Matters blog series. If you feel that with your clean hiking boots, you’re ready for a new adventure, have a look at these walking holidays in the UK and Europe for inspiration. 

Travel Novels for Holiday Inspiration

Travel Novels - Walkers' Britain

 

Looking for inspiration for new trails to walk on your time off? Reading a novel that is set in a destination can really help create an image of the region and bring it to life. Whether it is about a famous or iconic person from the area, a route or pilgrimage that is being followed or highlights a specific town, travel novels can be great holiday inspiration.

 

To help you find your way around in the large offer available, we have listed below a small selection of travel novels that relate to destinations in Scotland, England,  France, Cyprus and Austria.

 

The John Muir Way

There are plenty of books about John Muir and to get a glimpse of the man himself, we suggest the publications ‘Wilderness Essays’ (John Muir, 2015), or ‘Journeys in the Wilderness’ (2009). If you like reading, a terrific book that you can still find second-hand is ‘John Muir Eight Wilderness Discovery Books’ (1992).

For those that like graphic novels, there is a superb one available free to download as a PDF called ‘John Muir, Earth, Planet, Universe’ by Julie Bartagna and William Goldsmith.

 

               Discover John Muir’s native Scotland on the 12-day John Muir Way.

 

Cyprus

Although strictly set in the northern and now Turkish part of Cyprus, we did want to include Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons of Cyprus in this list of travel books. The work was awarded the Duff Cooper Prize in 1957 and probably belongs to the most famous write ups on Cyprus. If you like to get an idea of what the island was like in the 1950s, how Durrell loved living there and how it changed in the few decades during the Enosis movement for independence of Britain, add the autobiography to your reading list.

 

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Lawrence Durrell (Faber and Faber Ltd) 

Retrace the steps of author Lawrence Durrell on the 8-day Winter Walking in Cyprus holiday.  

 

The Way of St James

The origins of the Camino de Santiago trail rest with the supposed remains of St. James who is enshrined at the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. There were four major routes to Santiago, of which the first recorded was the route commencing in Le Puy, France. This route is today known as the Way of St James. In his book Clear Waters Rising, Nicholas Crane summarises the history of St James and how Santiago developed into a famous pilgrimage site.

 

Clear Waters Rising, Nicholas Crane (Penguin) 

               Walk the Way of St James in France from Le Puy to Conques.

 

read novels about hiking - Walkers' Britain

 

travel novels for holiday inspiration - Walkers' Britain

 

Cornish Coastal Path

When picking up one of the novels in the Poldark series by Winston Graham, you’ll travel in a time machine to step out into 18th century Cornwall. Author Graham spent more than three decades of his life in Cornwall where he spoke with local fishermen, farmers and miners, walked the coasts and explored the towns. His first-hand knowledge of Cornwall really gives an accurate and lively image of the region and can be a real motivation to go hiking in Cornwall. The first book, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945 and is still a novel that inspires to travel to this southern England county. In 2016, a BBC One series was produced based on the books.

 

Ross Poldark, Winston Graham (Pan Macmillan)

 

A more recent release is "The Salt Path" written by Raynor Winn, published in 2019.  This biography walks you through all 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. Raynor and her husband through unfortunate circumstances impulsively decide to walk the path. We follow their journey as they navigate through with little money and carrying their essentials as they live wild in the weathered landscapes of this beautiful part of the UK.

 

The Salt Path, Raynor WInn (Penguin Books)

               Experience for yourself on one of the 6 walking & cycling holidays in Cornwall.

 

Austria & the Dachstein Alps

We all have heard of the story of Maria von Trapp who left Austria during the First World War with her husband and family. What you may not be aware of is that the world-famous musical The Sound of Music is based on the memoirs that Maria von Trapp wrote after some gentle but necessary pressure of a friend. Initially she didn’t feel a need nor confident for the story to be told, but she appeared to have a natural talent to write and produced the best-seller The Story of the Trapp Family Singers in 1949. Today a version of the book is available with pictures of the original version.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria A. von Trapp (Doubleday) 

               Has this novel inspired you to go hiking region Austria? You may be interested in the 8-day Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps walking holiday.

 

Cevennes

In the autumn of 1878, the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (famous for his travel novels ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Kidnapped’), found himself spending a few weeks in Le Monastier, in France’s Auvergne. It is from here that he set off to walk a trail south across the Cevennes accompanied by ‘a small grey donkey called Modestine, the colour of a mouse with a kindly eye’. It took this pleasing pair eleven days to complete the trip, and the book that Stevenson wrote about their journey, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes has since become a travel classic.

 

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, Robert L. Stevenson (Penguin) 

               Follow in the footsteps of R.L. Stevenson and choose from an 8 or 10-day walking holiday on the Stevenson’s Trail: The Cevennes.

 

Want to learn more about Walkers' Britain cycling and walking holidays? Feel free to contact our team of travel experts with any queries you may have.

 

 

7 Tips for Looking After Your Feet on a Walking Holiday
Some people are a bit squeamish about feet. Others think they’re the most beautiful parts of the human body. But whatever your view, there’s no denying that your feet are one (or more precisely two) of the most important bits of kit on a walking holiday.
Problems with your feet can really curtail the enjoyment of your walking trip, so it pays to do everything you can to prepare them in advance of your trip, and look after them once you’re hiking, trekking or walking.

Here are a few tips to ensure your carefully laid holiday plans aren’t trampled upon by problem feet.
 

1. WEAR THE RIGHT WALKING BOOTS

We won’t go in to too much detail here – you can read our guide to choosing walking boots that we'll publish as well. The important thing, if you’re buying new boots for your trip, is to spend enough time researching and trying on boots, and to allow enough time to wear them in before you start your holiday. If you buy some new boots a couple of days before you’re due to start, and you wear them for the first time on your first day’s hiking, you’re asking for trouble!

There’s a huge amount of choice out there these days – gone are the days when all walking boots were made of stiff, heavy leather. Waterproof materials like Gore-Tex have meant that modern walking boots can be flexible and lightweight, and more closely resemble sturdy trainers. But it’s important that your boots still give you the support you’ll need for the type of walking you’re doing. A good outdoor shop will have staff that will spend time talking to you about your needs and will help you choose the right boots. You can even get custom-moulded footbeds to go into the bottom of your boots to give you more support and comfort – any skiers out there will certainly be able to tell you about the benefits of these!

 

2. WEAR THE RIGHT SOCKS

Socks and technology aren’t often two words that go together – but as with boots, there have been great strides (no pun intended) in the technology used to make socks especially designed for walkers. Obviously your choice of socks will be influenced by the weather – an October walk in the Scottish Highlands and a walk on the Amalfi Coast in August will clearly not require the same type of socks! But the main thing to bear in mind is that friction and moisture are your two worst enemies when it comes to blister prevention. Merino wool is particularly good for keeping feet warm without being too thick, and is great for drawing moisture away from the skin. It also has natural anti-bacterial properties.

Some keen walkers swear by wearing a thin pair of socks next to the skin, and a thicker pair on top for warmth, which can help to reduce friction.

As with your boots, the important thing is to find the best option for you, as there is a huge amount of choice out there. Once again, the staff at a good outdoor shop will be able to give you some good advice and talk you through the options.

Finally, if you’re on a trip where your luggage is being transferred for you, as with all Walkers' Britain holidays, it’s worth taking a clean pair of socks for each day’s walking. If this isn’t possible, then try to ensure that your socks get properly dried out each night.

 

3. USE TAPE ON PRESSURE POINTS

There are many types of blister tapes out there, but the best ones these days are made from the same material you sometimes see sports stars wearing on various parts of their body to help protect and stretch muscles. The trick is that this type of tape is moisture (i.e. sweat) resistant, so the tape won’t come away from your skin if your feet get a bit damp. Leukotape is a well-known brand, but there are plenty of others available.

You can use the tape as prevention for blisters on the areas of the feet that receive the most pressure – the ball, the heel, the bottom of the big toe. But really, as everyone’s feet are different, you can put tape on any parts of your feet that you know are susceptible to rubbing against the inside of your boots. 

 

4. CLIP YOUR TOENAILS

This is a simple one – keep your toenails short! If they’re too long they’ll rub against the front of your boots and this will cause damage and pain to your toes. It’s amazing how quickly your toenails can grow as well – so if your trip is a week or more long, it’s worth packing some nail clippers so you can keep them trimmed throughout your walk. Experts recommend cutting straight across the top of the nail rather than a rounded shape, as this stops the corners of the nails digging into your toes, and reduces the risk of ingrowing toenails. Filing your toenails also helps to ensure you don’t have any rough or sharp edges that can do damage to your toes.
 

5. MOISTURISE

It’s a really good idea to keep your feet moisturised to stop skin drying out ,which in turn causes friction and makes blisters more likely. You can use a standard skin moisturiser or specialist foot cream – rub it all over your feet, and especially in between your toes before you go to bed each night, and again before putting your socks and boots on in the morning. Some people like to use petroleum-based products such as Vaseline if their skin is particularly dry, but many experts say that this traps in moisturiser and makes you more prone to developing athlete’s foot.  

There are also some really good foot balms on the market that you can use after a day’s walking, that use natural ingredients to soothe your feet and can even help to strengthen the skin, which protects against blisters.

 

6. TREAT BLISTERS BEFORE THEY GET TOO BAD

This cannot be stressed to much. People often start to feel pain when out walking, but decide to carry on until the end of the day – sometimes because they don’t want to feel like they’re holding up their fellow walkers. But blisters can develop very quickly, and a few minutes treating the early signs of a blister, or ‘hot-spot’ can save a hug amount of time, and pain, in the long run.

If you feel a hot-spot start to develop, take off your boots and socks and try and dry your feet as much as you can. Apply some foot cream and blister tape to the affected area. If you’re carrying a spare pair of clean, dry socks in your bag, now is the time to use them – if not, try and dry your socks out as much as possible in the time you have available before you put them back on. We can’t guarantee that this will stop a full-blown blister developing, but it’ll give you the best chance of getting through to the point when you can give your feet a proper clean and rest.
 

7. REST YOUR FEET WHEN YOU CAN

We’re guessing that most walkers won’t need too much persuasion with this one after a long day’s walking! But it’s worth mentioning because of its importance. If you’re walking somewhere dry and warm, take your boots and socks off when you stop for lunch or a break – even just a few minutes in the fresh air will be enough to dry away any moisture. Try to wash, dry and moisturise your feet as soon as you can after you’ve finished your day’s walking. If you’re heading back out, hopefully to a nice pub for some dinner and a well-earned drink, put clean socks on and some fresh shoes if you’ve packed them (and if you’re using Walkers' Britain’s luggage transfer, why wouldn’t you?!). But as soon as you’re back in your hotel room or tent, let those feet breathe and repair themselves ready for the next day.

 

Follow these tips and you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of keeping your feet happy. And happy feet make happy walkers!

Coast to Coast Guided Walk in Pictures
Want to know what it is like to walk The Coast to Coast as part of a Guided Group? We took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk in the month of June. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
 
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
 
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
East Gill Force, Keld.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
 
 
Guided Coast to Coast Walk
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Walkers' Britain.
 
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here.  Or contact our team for further information.
 
 
 
 
Top Tips for a First-time Walking Holiday
by resident guide John Millen
 
Top tips for first time walkers - UK holidays Walkers' Britain
 
If you are considering going on a multi-day walking holiday for the first time, it will often mean a total direction change from your previous vacations where you were sightseeing or relaxing on a beach break. 
There is a formality with walking tours in the sense that you will be moving to a new location and accommodation on some or most days. But this kind of holiday gives you so much time and flexibility to do what you please on the way: stopping at viewpoints or visiting gardens, homes, castles, pubs and cafes. You may decide to have a picnic wherever you please, take in the landscapes or talk to the locals. So within the framework of an itinerary there is normally plenty of scope for doing and seeing. 
 

First steps for walkers

As a first step, you may choose to go for a long weekend of walking or doing a couple of day walks in succession to see if you do actually like it! 
The key point for a first time walker is to not bite off more than you can chew; try an easy-ish straightforward itinerary which you know you can probably follow. You can then relax and take your time.  
By going on a shorter break for a first time walking holiday, you will be able to get used to the walks and whether you may have issues with feet or knees etc. Imagine what it could mean if you were to discover this in a really remote location!
 
Visit Cotswolds for a first time walking holiday
 
Dorset offers good walking for first timers
 

Guided or self guided as a first time walk?

If you are thinking about a self-guided itinerary, look for the lower graded and better waymarked options such as the more southern trails in the UK like The South Downs Way and The Thames Path – or if you want to go further afield, the pilgrim routes in Spain and France. If you have not had much walking experience then it is best to keep to the more simply navigated walks such as these. If you are considering a guided walk, then the navigation and a lot of the decisions are taken for you. In general though, guided walks are a bit harder and you will need to be mindful about your fitness and pacing within a group.
 

 

Pacing

Pacing implies getting to a certain place by a certain time. Although it is certainly good to have a challenge, an easier itinerary means that you don't have to worry too much about pacing. This ultimately means more time for stops along the way and arriving at your destination more relaxed. 
 

Do I need special gear for a walking trip?

Outdoor gear can be quite expensive. So if you are not sure about whether this type of holiday is for you, on an easier-graded trip you will not necessarily have to invest in expensive outdoor gear. 
Maybe you will have half the gear already, trainers/ old walking boots a small rucksack, and a waterproof jacket. 
You could look to borrow some gear from friends and family, and then having completed the first holiday, you can decide if you want to do another and invest in some gear. 
Perhaps use a locally sourced wooden stick instead of buying walking poles, until you decide that you want to use them or not. 
 
 

Keeping hydrated

Some first time walkers worry about water intake or toilet stops and keeping hydrated. Unless it is really hot, it is rarely worth carrying more than two litres with you, and remember each litre weighs a kilogram. Quite a good idea is to try and drink quite a bit to flush your system before you set out each morning or even the night before. Normally on the easier walks you will not be too remote to refill your bottles or to buy a drink or two somewhere. Just make sure that any tap or faucet water is drinkable. It may be worth carrying water sterilizer tablets or a small filter. Some water bottles come with this feature fitted. Normally there will be some kind of sign if the water in undrinkable. 
Walking hours without visiting a toilet may be a worrying proposition but it need not be, just discreetly make use of terrain and vegetation. If you use toilet paper, fold it up and put it in a bag until you can dispose of it in the usual way.
 

What about navigating a route? 

Get used to using a compass for general direction finding before you head off on your walking holiday. There is plenty of online guidance on map/ compass reading. Download any mapping apps and use any GPS data that the company may provide to help you along, but always carry the printed map, route notes and the name and address of your ultimate stop of the day. If using a phone or GPS, it makes sense to carry an auxiliary power bank and the appropriate leads.
 

What to pack for my first walking trip?

Don't overburden yourselves on your first walking holiday, but you may wish to carry a small umbrella (for shade as much as for rain), a Thermos flask (most UK B&Bs have tea and coffee making facilities in most rooms,) a small pen knife and maybe a piece of foam or a garden kneeler to sit on during a picnic. Plasters or compeed are useful for any abnormal hot spots developing on your feet.  
With such considerations and warm or cold weather clothing packed appropriately for the coming day, you should be able to enjoy your first walking holiday ever!

Excited to go and try out the concept of a walking holiday? At Walkers' Britain you can choose from a list of options that are great for a first-time walking trip:
England walking holidays for first timers

Scotland walking holidays for first timers

Camino walking holiday for first timers

Or contact our team of friendly travel consultants to give you personalised advice, by phone or email. 
The Coast to Coast with Cora Nelson: Travellers' Tale
Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. She decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
 

What is your walking history?

My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
 

How did you prepare?

With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
 

What was your favourite destination?

It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
 

Best food and drink?

I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
 
 

Biggest surprise?

On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
 
 
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
 


If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast, have a look at our guided and self guided options here.
 
 
Gear Matters: Waterproof Map Cases for Walkers & Cyclists

walking gear, waterproof map cases - walkers' britainWalking in the UK and Europe may bring in the occasional rain shower and also when on a cycling holiday in Europe, you may encounter some wet weather. No longer does this lead to your maps and documentation getting soaked or disintegrated. There is a new generation of waterproof map cases and in this post John brings you tips & advice.

 

It’s not long ago that most people carried just a clear polythene bag to protect their maps and documents from bad weather. Many suffered the fate of their expensive maps dissolving into a blob of papier-mâché; rain water driven by the wind having infiltrated through the opening and small holes in the bag that had not even been noticed. There were some early 'proper map cases,' which claimed to be water resistant. They were essentially a pouch having a fabric back, clear plastic front and a Velcro closure. However, in the rain the water seeped through the hairy Velcro to turn the map once again to papier-mâché, an insidious rising damp. The map cases were normally really tight and if you had to quickly put the map in it, say on the onset of a rain shower, it was easy to tear the seams of the case. The next generation barely fared better: this had a double seal closure actually in the plastic rather like a sandwich bag and would often pop open. Soon the plastic cracked along the seam around the closure rendering in useless.

 

The last 25 years however, there has been a real breakthrough with plastic design with the manufacture of Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and scratches. The resulting map case is truly waterproof - if the closure is properly fixed, and highly durable. It is made from an uncrackable slightly stretchy plastic membrane with welded seams that take a lot of stress. You need to look no further than the Ortlieb range of waterproof map cases, cycling map cases and document wallets for your active holiday.

 

avoid wet maps with waterproof cases - Walkers' Britain

 

To seal, you need to make sure the documents are totally in the pouch; then squeeze the case to purge as much air as possible from it; then tightly roll the end and engage the male and female Velcro tabs. Make sure the corners are rolled properly. The bag should now be totally waterproof and you are ready for your walking or cycling holiday

These present-day waterproof map cases are very good as well for carrying things like tablets and important documentation that could otherwise get wet in your rucksack.

Tips for using waterproof map cases

 

Fold to fit

Firstly, fold your map as best you can to fit into the waterproof map case. It is usually best to buy a larger map case than the document and then fold the case around the map area. If using a large map like a UK Ordnance Survey, you may want to prise off the cardboard cover so that you can fold it better. Try to fold the map along existing fold-creases if possible. It helps to make visible all the area that you are travelling through on the day, sometimes you can fold the map in a way that you can use it on both sides. Obviously with scales such as 1:25,000 this is hard to do as you can easily walk off your map. For cycling it is generally better to use 1:50,000- 1:100,000 scale maps. The thing you have to try to avoid as much as possible is having to remove the map to refold it which is hard to do in windy conditions and of course you will have to try to avoid doing this in the rain. If you have access to a good photocopier, why not make A4 or A3 panel copies from the map of the route you are taking? They will be the correct size for fitting into the map case neatly and you can always carry the original map in your rucksack as a backup or if you want to see the 'bigger picture.'

 

waterproof map cases for walking holidays - Walkers' Britain

Avoid the 'Flap-Case' scenario 

Managing your map case is very important. Many beginner walkers can be seen striding across the hills with their map cases flailing about them in the wind, hitting them in the face and threatening to strangle and entangle them. With an ‘Ortlieb’ type case this is quite easy to rectify; either roll or fold the case and map into a smaller area which thus becomes more wind resistant. You could use large elastic bands to keep the map compact. It is quicker and easier navigating working on a smaller area of map, using your finger or thumb to press on and trace the route as you go, so you can quickly resume navigation from feature to feature. At intervals unfold the case to check on-going progress or features to come. If you are cycling, you don't necessarily have to have a purpose built handlebar mount to put your map on, although using it may be easier. Some people like to keep their handlebars uncluttered as much as possible. You can wind a map case around the top tube of the bike frame, hold with bungees and just move it as necessary.

Negative issues of waterproof map cases

Very few! After 8 years of use, though the plastic was still in very good condition, the Velcro seals on my Ortlieb map case eventually separated from the plastic! but these can be refixed using an appropriate bonding glue. Obviously, you need to keep Velcro closures clean. The plastic also yellowed slightly. I bought a second A3-sized Ortlieb, now 4 years old, no issues as yet. I have also bought an A3 map case made by Silva. It is similar to the Ortlieb, but has sandwich bag type seal which is not as strong as a Velcro and roll seal. It can pop open if the air is not purged properly from the case and care is needed to make sure that the map does not overlap with the seal.

The other option: Waterproof maps

So, why not cut out the map case altogether and just use water proof maps? This option is fine, although there are comparatively few maps that are waterproof. Harveys Maps are mostly waterproof: they are a print-coating on a plastic sheet backing. The O.S went down the route of map lamination with their folded series. The drawbacks? After heavy rain the coatings on Harveys maps can wear or scratch off the map easier. The Laminated OS ‘Active’ maps are plastic coated weatherproof versions of paper maps, they are more durable and can still be folded. However, over time the plastic will crack and let in water, they also tend to be a little bit heavy.

 

map reading on a walking holiday - Walkers' Britain walking holidays

 
Looking for more information or have any questions on waterproof map cases? You can contact John and the Walkers' Britain team via our website, email or phone. Find the correct contact details here.
Some waterproof map case producers

  • Ortlieb A whole variety of map cases and 'safes' are made for ipads and mobile phones etc.
  • Silva the M30 from Silva is a durable and functional map case which protects your map whilst allowing you to navigate even in heavy rain. Its fully transparent design allows you to view your map from both sides of the case while the comfortable enclosed neck strap provides a secure and safe way of keeping your map on your person and ready for action.
  • Aquapac see the Stormproof and Waterproof Kaituna Map Case
  • Sea to Summit Large Map Case Made from TPU, totally welded construction and a super-strong Ziploc closure to provide fully waterproof and dust-proof performance. Designed with a detachable neck strap and corner anchor points for versatility.          

 

 

Walking in Amalfi & Cilento: A Travellers' Tale
My husband and I love a good adventure! We live in the beautiful state of Arizona with the majestic Grand Canyon just 3 hours away. We have hiked to the bottom of the Canyon over a dozen times and even completed the round trip in one day* on my 50th birthday.  
We have years of long distance cycling in our backgrounds and have toured by bicycle for over 20 thousand miles in the United States. Our favourite tours were done on our tandem bicycle with over 50 pounds of camping gear attached! We always rode long days averaging 120 miles per day. Those days are behind us and we have now taken to self-guided walking tours and have thoroughly been enjoying this type of travel.

In October 2021 Cindy and her husband were lucky to be able to travel to Italy from the USA and complete our Cilento and Amalfi Highlights self guided walking holiday. Read the interview with them about their trip.
 
 

Why did you choose Amalfi & Cilento for your walking holiday?

We chose Italy for our recent walking tour for the reasons that most people have who want to see Italy: the scenery, the culture and the FOOD! We love to travel coastlines where we can enjoy views of water and the Walkers’ Britain 10-day Cilento and Amalfi Coast tour fitted our desires perfectly. I had always wanted to swim in the Mediterranean Sea!
 
Cindy and her husband on one of their many tandem rides |  <i>Cindy S.</i> Traveller Cindy and her husband taking a selfie with the Amalfi Coast |  <i>Cindy S.</i> Acciaroli |  <i>John Millen</i>

All the villages in the Cilento area were less crowded with tourists and the people were so inviting and friendly. 

How did you prepare for your walking trip in Italy?

We keep our fitness by hiking the beautiful Sonoran Desert.  It is the only place in the world where the Saguaro Cactus grows. The winter months are best for this, but as we live local, we hike in the wee hours of the morning in summer to beat the 120-degree days. We have mountains in the desert that can challenge us and afford hours of solitude away from the noise of our city.
 

>> Find out more about the trip that Cindy & her husband did

 

Which was your favourite destination in this part of Italy?

Our favorite destination was the climb up Mt. Stella in Cilento. We enjoyed the view of the Mediterranean from such a high vantage point and the challenge of the climb [the walk follows the Alte Via, or High Way and passes chestnut woods, the historical site of Castelluccio and a chapel]. The area is so quiet and beautiful.  All the villages in the Cilento area were less crowded with tourists and the people were so inviting and friendly. 
 
Walking into one of the stunning villages along the Amalfi Coast

Do you like to say anything about your accommodation?

Our stay in Rocca Cilento at the L’Antico Convento was spectacular for many reasons. Our hosts Paulo and Connie could not have made our trip any better. We had a view from our room of the mountains and villages below. We woke up to the sound of church bells on our first night and it set a beautiful tone for our three days there. We were fed the best meals both morning and night, with the delicious olive oil and organic wine from this region. Roasted vegetables slathered in the local olive oil were my favorite.
 
Hikers in Cilento with host Connie |  <i>Cindy S.</i> One of the reasons to visit Italy is the food - buon appetito! |  <i>Cindy S.</i> The organic Italian wine served in Rocca Cilento on our walking holiday |  <i>Cindy S.</i>

What was the biggest surprise of walking along the Amalfi Coast or in Cilento?

Training for the steps along the Amalfi coast is a good idea |  <i>Cindy S.</i>
The Amalfi Coast surprised us with the sheer amount of stairs. The hike up to Ravello through the “Valle dei Mulini” was magical with the terraces of olives and lemons.  
The “pathway to the Gods” or Sentiero degli Dei was the most challenging, but the view was worth all those stairs! We enjoyed our picnic at the monastery San Domenico before the long descent into Positano.


I highly recommend this trip and look forward to our next walk with Walkers’ Britain.


*Park rangers strongly advise against completing the round trip of Grand Canyon in one day as they rescue many people who attempt this.

 
Walking in the Alps: The Alpine Pass Route vs the Tour du Mont Blanc

Travellers who are looking to go walking in the Alps often ask us, 'Which is better, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) or The Alpine Pass Route?' We believe that’s a pretty tricky question: both are 2-week, long challenging walks threading their way through some of the finest alpine scenery to be found in Europe.

A number of travellers who have walked both routes judge The Alpine Pass to be top of the list, however the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s most popular mountain walks. This spurred us on to compare the two walks in the Alps.

 

walking in the alps - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Scenic Variety of Europe’s Alps

The Alpine Pass Route is said to have more scenic variety and is claimed to be more spectacular with more sheer-sided peaks flanking the route. The Tour de Mont Blanc concentrates quite naturally on the majestic domed top of the highest mountain in Western Europe that seems to draw walkers like a magnet to the Mont Blanc Massif. Here, the impressive sideshows along the way include the Dent Blanche and Aiguille Vert. In contrast, the Alpine Pass Route has a whole procession of beautifully different mountains including the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Titlus, Wellhorn, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Breithorn, Gspaltenhorn, Blumlisalpernhorn, Doldenhorn and Wildstrubel.

 

Walking the Alpine Pass Route - Sherpa walking holidays

 

walking the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays

 

Both tours stay at mountain inns in beautifully quiet locations. Both routes involve walking up a multitude of alpine valleys and over high passes. The Fenetre d’Arpette (2665m) is the highest one on the TMB but this is trounced by the Hohturli (2778m) on the Alpine Pass, an amazing gateway into the glacial scenery suspended above Kandersteg and the magnificent Oeschinensee glacial lake. The other two big passes on the Alpine Pass Route, Sefinenfurke (2,612m) and the Bundechrinde (2380m), have very different outlooks.

 

Circuit vs Linear Walks

The TMB is a circuit, the Alpine Pass a linear route – is there a preference? Is closing the loop preferable to completing A to B? The efficiency of the Swiss rail system certainly makes starting and ending in different places insignificant.

The route that you follow on the Alpine Pass walk with us is the most spectacular half of a 4-week walk that crosses Alpine Switzerland. It’s holistic in its own right passing between the high Bernese Oberland peaks into the Valais and towards the Rhone Valley.

On the other hand, the TMB is a complete long distance walk. The Tour du Mont Blanc route certainly has more walkers, is best-known and has many articles on it appearing in magazines and books. Perhaps you can ‘dine out’ for longer with a Mont Blanc tour under your belt. The Alpine Pass Route has less press; perhaps this is one of the main reasons for the difference in popularity.

 

Alpine Highlights

There are highlights for mountain lovers on both alps walking holidays: particularly Grindelwald and Klein Scheidegg on the Alpine Pass Route, and Chamonix, Champex and Courmayeur on the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Walking in the Alps on both tours include 'rest days.' Although most people would use these for doing extra walks or variations, they are handy if you want to rest weary limbs or go sightseeing. On the 14-day Tour du Mont Blanc you have rest days in La Palud, Champex and Chamonix. On the Alpine Pass Route, you’ll have time at leisure in Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Kandersteg. From Grindelwald you can join other visitors and take the train up the Eiger, while from Chamonix you take the cable cars up the Aiguille du Midi for equally spectacular views. 

 

Viewpoint when walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions

 

TMB walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions 

Borders of the Alps

Perhaps the TMB is popular because you get the chance to walk into three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. This does mean that you have to remember changing your money into Swiss Francs and Euros. The Alpine Pass Route passes from the German speaking Oberland to the French speaking Valais, two areas with distinct cultures and traditions (and that have the Euro as their currency).

 

Getting Out of the Mountains

One concern when walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is what to do if you are unlucky and experience really bad weather or sprain an ankle or knee. Some of the sections do not have public transport to the next place, or if they do, it may take a lot of time. On the Alpine Pass Route, there are no such worries as all accommodation can be reached by rail and post bus combinations.

 

Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland walking holidays

 

Tour du Mont Blanc walking holidays in France

 

So, which is best?

We have to say it is hard to find a clear difference on these walking holidays in the Alps. Perhaps the Alpine Pass Route has the edge on scenery but the Tour De Mont Blanc has the recognition. Certainly, if you have already enjoyed a walking holiday on the TMB, we believe you should definitely consider the Alpine Pass Route for your next trip, and vice versa! Afterwards, do let us know which you preferred.

 

 

With Walkers' Britain, you can begin a self-guided Alpine Pass holiday on any day from mid July through to the end of September. 

Walk the Tour du Mont Blanc in 14-days with rest days included.

 

If you are toying with the idea of walking in the Alps around France and Switzerland, besides considering the TMB don’t overlook the Alpine Pass Route as a great alternative. To discuss your options with one of our travel experts, please contact us by email or phone

 

Flower Escapes in the UK and Beyond

Do you love being surrounded by flowers in bloom? Whether you’re thinking of a spring getaway to the English countryside or a trip to Europe later in the summer, we have a number of trips departing in the next few months that will allow you to experience nature in all its glory.

From bluebells and daffodils to orchids and edelweiss, this is where you need to head to enjoy nature’s beautiful spectacle of colours…


                                          
DAFFODILS IN NORTH YORKSHIRE | BEST TIME: MARCH-APRIL

Daffodils may be typically associated with the English countryside but for the genuine wild variety (two-tone yellow flowers, narrow trumpets and forward pointing petals) head to North Yorkshire to walk the Cleveland Way. The daffodils at Farndale Valley are reputed to have been planted by the monks of the nearby Rievaulx Abbey and there is even a dedicated mile-long ‘daffodil walk’!

Find out more about the Cleveland Way

Spectacular yellow golden Daffodils |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

Rievaulx Abbey, near Helmsley |  <i>John Millen</i>

 

BLUEBELLS IN THE COTSWOLDS | BEST TIME: APRIL-MAY

The Cotswolds are on the finest regions to enjoy these quintessentially English carpets of blue. The Cotswolds landscape features a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath through Cheltenham to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Along the way you’ll encounter villages lined with stone-built houses and unspoilt woodland, often covered with bluebells during the spring months .


Find out more about walking in the Cotswolds

Bluebells and the pikes, Great Langdale |  <i>John Millen</i>

Cycling into Guiting Power |  <i>John Millen</i>

LAVENDER IN PROVENCE | BEST TIME: JUNE-AUGUST

With colours varying from violet to indigo and everything in between, the lavender fields of Provence are guaranteed to take your breath away and awaken all your senses. The heady scent of lavender is strongest in the height of summer, when the fine stalks wave in the wind, with prairies in bloom stretching as far as the eye can see. 

Discover our Rambling in the Luberon trip

Lavender box, Les Baux, Provence |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>

Lavender fields by a Cistercian abbey in Provence |  <i>Emmanuel Valentin</i>


                                                    
SUNFLOWERS IN TUSCANY | BEST TIME: JULY-AUGUST

It’s hard not to fall in love with sunflowers: they give a sense of happiness, like a sun shining on a beautiful summer’s day. Sunflowers in bloom are a striking sight and in Tuscany they are an icon of the region. Follow the backroads in the warm summer months and spot the sun-loving ‘girasoli’ among cypresses, vineyards and traditional Tuscan architecture.

Find out more about walking in Tuscan hilltop towns and villages

Riding near Volterra, Italy |  <i>Brook Martin</i>

Bagno Vignoni

 

EDELWEISS IN THE ALPS | BEST TIME: JULY-SEPTEMBER

The national flower of Switzerland, edelweiss takes its name from the German words ‘edel’ (noble) and ‘weiß’ (white). It is probably Europe’s best known mountain flower, mostly seen between the months of July to September. It grows in rocky limestone places and its scarce, often short-lived bloom can be found in remote mountain areas of the Alps. There plenty of other wild flowers that adorn the meadows of the Swiss Alps throughout the summer.

Find out more about walking in Switzerland

Edelweiss in the Dolomites

Stunning views across alpine meadows |  <i>Jon Millen</i>

 

ORCHIDS IN MADEIRA | BEST TIME: YEAR ROUND

Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. There is a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species, while a week-long Flower Festival takes place every spring. 2022 the festival takes place from 5 - 29 May.

Find out more about walking in Madeira

Hiking in the Pico Ruivo, Madeira, Portugal

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