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As we approach St George’s Day on 23 April, it’s time to roll up your trousers and get out and about to explore England’s most beautiful corners.
For a small country, England offers a huge amount of variety when it comes to walking and cycling. Mountains, great lakes, dramatic coastlines and picture-perfect villages are all on offer as you choose your ideal way to explore the countryside.
Here are a just a few of our favourite holidays in England, now booking for 2019.
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the iconic Coast to Coast is widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails. Nearly 200 miles and traversing three National Parks, this is the quintessential English hill-walking and long-distance trail experience. Typically taking two weeks to complete, the walk starts near the red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head in Cumbria, and finishes at the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North York Moors coast.
We offer self-guided and guided Coast to Coast trips, with itineraries lasting 15, 16, 17 and 18 days, as well as shorter sections of the trail, and the Cyclist’s Coast to Coast.
Known for its beaches, pirates and Cornish pasties, Cornwall is very much a holiday county, enjoying the mildest climate in the UK. From Padstow to Land’s End through Lizard Point, the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain, this cycling journey takes you through a patchwork of landscapes, from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves. The daily rides are not that long, allowing plenty of time to see Cornwall the way you want to!
We also offer several self-guided walking holidays along the Cornish coast.
There is no dedicated way-marking throughout this route but that is part of its appeal. Covering 69 miles, The Richmond Way is a picturesque, yet unofficial, long distance trail along ancient trading routes that crossed the Pennines. From the medieval Lancaster Castle, passing through quaint villages, the trail traces the Lower Lune Valley before entering the Georgian town of Richmond, ending below the keep of Richmond Castle, one of the greatest Norman fortresses to be found in Britain.
Find out more about walking the Richmond Way
From Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, Dorset has inspired generations of authors. Crossing unspoilt rural villages, this trip follows the coast as it stretches eastwards, along fossil-encrusted cliffs and the famed Golden Gap, a 190-metre headland of orange sandstone. Explore a timeless landscape of hidden valleys and hill forts before dropping down to the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!
Find out more about walking our Dorset & Wessex Trail.
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. 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. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall – with a largely a rural feel!
We offer 8-day and 10-day itineraries along the Hadrian’s Wall Trail.
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 our Isle of Wight Cycle trip. We also offer a coastal walking tour of the island.
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
write a review
The easiest way to give feedback on your trip is to write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
If you'd like to write about your trip in a little more detail, you could write a short account of your holiday - we call them Travellers' Tales. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
In the southwest of England, you can find the longest and, perhaps, the finest trail of the country: the 630-mile long South West Coastal Path. Almost half of which covers the stunning county of Cornwall. Made famous through the Doc Martin TV series and the Poldark books & TV series, there is a plethora of interesting places to visit in Cornwall.
White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rugged cliffs and even palm trees dot the long coastline that also has kept enough space for cute fishing villages to try a famous Cornish pasty. With a mild climate (that is classed as oceanic according to the Köppen classification), Cornwall is a holiday region that comes with many things to do for the active visitor.
If you are searching for holiday inspiration, we believe that the below ten places to visit in Cornwall will certainly trigger your interest.
Bustling with people aspiring for St Michael's Mount, Marazion has some claim to be the oldest town in Britain. At least it was mentioned by Siculus in the 1st Century BC as the port from which tin was shipped to Brittany in France. The monastery sits on the civil parish of St Michael’s Mount and can only be reached via man-made causeway during low tide. It was probably built sometime between the 8th-11th Centuries under the rule of Edward the Confessor. Not surprisingly, it was a dependence of Mont St Michel in France that you can visit on one of UTracks’ cycling trips in Brittany.
Porthleven is a pleasant harbour town that mainly developed during the last century. Today it is still a working port and one of the great places to visit in Cornwall. It houses a fascinating three-section harbour that gets closed off with wooden baubles in stormy weather, usually out of season. Loe Bar, Loe Pool and Penrose Estate are all worth to explore on foot if you arrive early.
If you are looking for some charming places to go on your visit to Cornwall, may we suggest to consider Gunwalloe to the west of Lizard peninsula? It is here that the first transatlantic radio signals were transmitted by Marconi, the inventor of the radio. Visit Poldhu Point Monument and the Marconi Centre for more information on this achievement.
The Church Cove right between Gunwalloe and Poldhu is where the Church of St Winwalloe squats beside the beach. The church has a separate bell tower, which is dug into the cliff wall and also well worth a visit.
Portloe: Step Back in Time
A very popular place is Portloe, which, thankfully, due to the lack of horizontal space has changed little over the years. It is said that only one new house has been built since the Second World War, leaving the layout and feel of the town virtually as it was over 200 years ago. This harbour of an inlet sits in a 'cramped and dramatic situation' where smuggling, fishing and drinking used to go hand in hand. You can almost still smell the rum when you navigate its picturesque old streets.
Relax in Falmouth
Falmouth is a leading resort on the south west coast and allegedly the third largest natural harbour in the world. The Cornish town has many things to do and you can for example wander its bustling waterfront, relax at one of its four bathing beaches, or visit for example Pendennis Castle, constructed by Henry VIII. Other things to do in Falmouth are sailing, golfing on the golf course, visiting a former post office packet station, gardens, or the maritime museum to learn more about the strong maritime tradition of the town.
Well worth visiting in Veryan are its round houses: 19th Century circular buildings with thatched roofs and a cross. Besides that, there are an interesting church, an art gallery and a tumulus at Carne, which is the supposed burial mound of King Geraint. Nearby Caerhays Castle is designed by John Nash and has famous gardens which are open between mid-February and June.
Learn about Porthallow & Porthoustock
The secluded coves on the east of Lizard Peninsula between Porthallow and Porthoustock are notable for angling. Closeby St Keverne is a pleasant village that you may like to make a detour for. It has a pleasant village square and is known for its remarkable churchyard in which 400 shipwreck victims of the nearby Manacle Reef are buried. Check out the beaches at Porthallow, Porthoustock, Housel Bay and Kennack Sands.
Still very much a fishing port, Mevagissey is the largest city in St Austell Bay. Cob cottages spill down to the harbour walls from the steep sided valley and you can visit the beaches at Portmellon and Gorran Haven. Mevagissey also houses an interesting model railway exhibition.
Travel to St Mawes
If you are keen about sailing, one of the places to visit in Cornwall is St Mawes. It is a popular sailing centre on Roseland and overlooks Falmouth. The port is quite sheltered and is relatively remote. Spend some time at the small beach and fine cloverleaf St Mawes Castle that dates back to 1542 and is open year-round.
The picture postcard village on Helford River is not to be missed on your walking holiday in Cornwall. It is a yachtsman’s haven full of activity and you can take it all in during a lunch at the pub near Frenchman’s Creek made famous by author Daphne du Maurier.
On the Cornwall Coastal Path you can really escape the crowds, dipping in and out of coves and harbours and ascending beside dramatic cliffs, up to high viewpoints, along promontories and back down to expansive beaches.
Experience Cornwall for yourself on any of the below trips:
- Cornish Coastal Path (North): Padstow to St. Ives - 8 days
A beautiful part of the South West Coastal Path, this northern section undulates along the coast between the popular resorts of Padstow and St. Ives, visiting the surfer’s paradise of Newquay.
- Cornish Coastal Path (West): St. Ives to Penzance - 8 days
This section of the Cornwall Coast path contains generally shorter days than either our Cornwall North and South tours, allowing you more time to spend in coves, on beaches, or up on the cliff moorlands.
- Cornish Coastal Path (South): Marazion to Mevagissey - 8 days
Explore the most scenic and varied part of the Cornish coast, on either side of Lizard Head, the southern-most tip of mainland Britain.
- Cornish Coastal Path: Padstow to Penzance - 13 days
Enjoy a stunning 106 miles/170 km walk along the Cornish Coastal Path. Dip in and out of coves and harbours, ascend beside dramatic cliffs to panoramic viewpoints, idle along promontories and explore the expansive beaches, which out of the high season, can be all but deserted.
- Cornish Coastal Path: St Ives to Mevagissey - 14 days
This section of the South West Coast Path encompasses a vast array of coastal landscapes from the dramatic cliffs of Lands End, the impressive coves of Mullion and Kynance, famous resort towns such as St Ives & Penzance and smaller fishing villages.
Besides walking the Cotswold Way, a famous national trail in the UK, another option to explore this most charming English region is at handlebar level. Go cycling in the Cotswolds and you’ll be able to cover more of the quintessential English towns and picturesque countryside in the same amount of time.
From some of the best places to take a break from your cycling to essential bike tips, read on to find out our top tips to commence cycling in the Cotswolds.
This village along the River Servern has two Saxon churches and is a pleasure to discover. The Priory Church of St. Mary was built before 804AD and much of the church dates from then. It has areas of Saxon herringbone work and a 19th Century font. The other church, Odda's Chapel, is one of the most complete Saxon churches in the UK. It has a simple rectangular nave and a smaller rectangular chancel. It was discovered in 1885 during repairs to the half-timbered farmhouse to which it is attached. There are some timber framed cottages in the village that make it even more charming.
You will find so many beautiful picnic spots when cycling in the Cotswolds, that we certainly advice to make use of the opportunity to quietly take in the countryside. Picnic materials can readily be obtained from bakeries and groceries in each of the towns and villages where you stay, and very often even en-route.
Indicate clearly to the road users what you intend to do, particularly when turning right. Look behind you, wait for a gap in the traffic, indicate, then turn. If you have to turn right off a busy road or on a difficult bend, pull in and wait for a gap in the traffic or go past the turning to a point where you have a clear view of the traffic in both directions, then cross and return to the turning. Use lights and wear reflective clothing at night and in poor light. Do not ride two-abreast if there is a vehicle behind you. Let it pass. If it cannot easily overtake you because the road is narrow, look for a passing place or a gate entrance and pull in to let it pass.
England happens to be blessed with public houses that often offer a full bar menu from lunch time until the late afternoon. These are sometimes priced so competitively that you will be hard pressed providing a similar type of meal for yourself. Especially on Sundays the traditional Sunday Roast is a good reason to start your day early and finish off in the local pub with roasted meat, roast potato, vegetable trimmings, Yorkshire pudding and sauce.
Stroud is a working town that is centred on five valleys and hills. It was a very important Cotswold cloth town and still produces green snooker baize, the cloth for Wimbledon tennis balls and red guardsman coats. When you cycle through the village, you’ll notice there is a Victorian parish church in the shambles and you can visit former working mills at certain times of year (please ask our team). Designer Jasper Conran described Stroud as ‘the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds’. https://www.cotswolds.com/plan-your-trip/towns-and-villages/stroud-p670813
Travelling with Sherpa Expeditions means you will spend a minimal amount of time on the busiest roads, but you will inevitably encounter some traffic. Be very careful cycling fast on the narrow, twisting country roads as you can suddenly come face to face with a tractor or a fuel supply lorry coming the other way. Be highly aware of what is going on around you and ensure that other road users are aware of you.
Guiting Power is a quintessential Cotswold village situated in the Heart of England, between Winchcombe and Stow on the Wold. It has an ancient Stone Cross on the village green, mossy roofs, roses and wisteria clambering up the mellow walls, much of it just the same as four centuries ago. There are two pubs in the village, both within a short walk from the Guest House. The Hollow Bottom pub and restaurant is well known for its racing connections and you are guaranteed a hearty meal and good pint. The village (recently featured in the TV series Father Brown) also boasts a local shop which offers all the essentials, as well as baking its own bread on the premises. There is a small gift shop which serves teas, coffees and a selection of homemade cakes. All in all, a fantastic town to overnight during your Cotswold cycling adventure.
Where you park your bike, what you lock it with and what you lock it to are important in protecting it from being stolen. Lock your bike to something immovable in a well-lit public place. Locking two bikes together is better than locking them individually. Use a chain with a lock to secure the wheels and saddle to the frame.
Want to explore the Cotswolds on a cycling holiday yourself? With Sherpa Expeditions you can go on a self guided Cotswold by Bike holiday between March and October. Learn more about the trip here, or contact our team of travel experts.
With Newport Jazz Weekend, Isle of Wight Festival, Jack Up The 80’s, and Eklectica all taking place this summer, could this be the year that you will discover The Isle of Wight? There are so many more things to do in the Isle of Wight than visiting one of these music festivals and a great idea is to combine a festival with a walking or cycling holiday to the Isle of Wight.
A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, the Isle of Wight is ideal for an active break: half of the island is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, there are more than 200 miles of cycle routes, it is easy (and cheap!) to reach and enjoys a milder-than-most-parts-of-the-UK climate.
Half of the Isle of Wight is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’
Sherpa Expeditions Manager Tali Emdin explains about some of the things to do in the Isle of Wight:
“Everything on the Isle of Wight is on a manageable scale – there are no huge towns or big industrial blights but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. You will find plenty of seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips, but also great traditional pubs, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of villages.
Any given day along the famous ‘Coastal Path’ will take you through some wonderful areas...
For those that are considering what to do on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria’s Osborne House is quite a sight (you can even walk down to her private beach for a peek of her original ‘swimming machine’). At The Needles Park, the backbone of the island dives into the sea like a dragon’s tail with chalky sea-stack scales, while
seeing the sunset from the only surviving medieval lighthouse in Britain at St Catherine’s Oratory is definitely worth the steep walk up!”
Whether you are looking for an Isle of Wight holiday on foot or by bike, you can choose one of the following two trips with Sherpa Expeditions:
ON TWO WHEELS | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the island.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 5-day Isle of Wight Cycle >>
ON FOOT | Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
Spend a week circumnavigating the island and taking in its great natural beauty, enjoying glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel, its well-known white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles and of course miles of beaches. Following mostly public footpaths and minor lanes, there are several attractions to break down each walking day, including a visit to the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Osborne House; the thatched church at Freshwater Bay; timeless seaside resorts such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown; and the great Palmerston fortresses.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 8-day Isle of Wight Coastal Walking >>
Isle of Wight music festival dates
Newport Jazz Weekend: 30 May – 3 June 2018
Isle of Wight Festival: 21 – 24 June 2018
Jack Up The 80’s: 10 – 12 August 2018
Eklectica: 7 – 9 September 2018
Both holidays join in Ryde, Isle of Wight. For more information on these trips and for bookings please contact our team of travel experts by email or phone or click through to the trips:
>> Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
>> Isle of Wight Cycle
Tour de France 2018 dates are slowly approaching and before you know, the official start from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile (just off the coast of the Vendee) on July 7th will be here! It’s a unique opportunity to watch the Tour de France live in one of France’s charming towns. Spending some time with similar tour enthusiasts in high anticipation of the cyclists and then witnessing their speed and recognising famous participants will make for a lifetime memory.
This year, why not plan your summer holiday around the Tour de France dates and combine an active holiday in France with witnessing Le Tour for real? Whether you want to walk between vineyards in the Loire Valley, get lost in the Pyrenees – once a hideout for the Cathars, outperform yourself on Mont Blanc or traverse the remote countryside of Cevennes, below are six of the very best trips to combine with the Tour de France this year.
10 July: La Baule – Sarzeau >> Loire Valley
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pick a nice terrace in the shade and with a cool glass of white in your hand, watch the Tour de France cyclists pass by on one of the first stages between La Baule and Sarzeau.
Travel on the Vineyard Trails of the Loire and watch the Tour de France live >>
17-19 July: Annecy – Alp d’Huez >> Mont Blanc Region
This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region. Faced with picture postcard vistas from every vantage point, this trek affords unsurpassed views of the different faces of the Mont Blanc massif, as well as the highest point on the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m. Take in glittering glaciers and spectacular mountainscapes – your bags and supplies will be transported for you, allowing for plenty of time to explore en route. Add some extra days to see the Tour cyclists climb some of France’s highest mountains.
Travel on the Tour de Mont Blanc and watch the Tour de France live >>
21 July: Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux – Mende >> Cevennes
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this trip follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt. Ahead or after your walking holiday, visit Mende to watch the tour de France live.
Follow Louis Stevenson’s Trail and watch the Tour de France in Cevennes >>
24 July: Carcassonne – Bagneres-de-Luchon >> Crusaders Cathar Castles
Joining in Toulouse, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of the Foix, Aude Valley and Corbières areas of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose parfaits or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers and fine local dishes and will make for a mountainous stage 16 of this year’s Tour.
Trace the footsteps of the Crusaders’ Cathar Castles and watch the Tour de France >>
24-26 July: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau >> Tarn & Aveyron
Our walking route winds between the ‘Bastides’ (fortified towns) that sprung up during the Wars of Religion: rich in history and situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories, here every stop has a tangle of narrow medieval streets to wander and sweeping views from the rocky hilltops or ancient walls. The start and end point of this circular walking tour, through the departments of Tarn and Aveyron, is Cordes-sur-Ciel, the first and most important of the ‘Bastides’, founded in 1222.
Travel on the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip and watch the Tour de France >>
27 July: Lourdes – Laruns >> Pyrenees
When the Greenwich Meridian was agreed upon as the international standard, the fact that it was passing through some of the most spectacular corners of the High Pyrénées was probably not a major consideration. Trip highlights on include the dramatic, natural ‘amphitheatre’ of Cirque de Gavarnie and the famous Brêche de Roland, a natural rock doorway into Spain. The latter location is closer to the 25 July stage of the Tour de France that finishes in Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Travel on The Meridian Way: Heart of the Pyrenees and watch the Tour de France >>
If you are curious to find the exact schedule and Tour de France dates for 2018, below map may give you some support:
For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts via email, phone or drop into our office in London.
©Le Tour de France
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at 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 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.
For cyclists, the equivalent to a hiking gaiter is an over shoe 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 over shoe. 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 really fully water tight 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.
Read more Gear Matters blog articles >>
(Winter) walking in 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.
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.'
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.
Looking for more information or have any questions on waterproof map cases? You can contact John and the other Sherpa Expeditions staffers 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.
Septuagenarians Arnold and Margaret Horner each year embark on a walking or cycling holiday. After having walked among others Hadrian’s Wall, covered parts of Offa’s Dyke on foot, cycled from Passau to Vienna along the Danube and completed the Stevenson Trail in France, this year they decided to cycle the famous Coast to Coast route.
“We chose to cycle the Coast-2-Coast route because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace.”
Why did you choose to cycle where you did?
We chose the C2C route in the UK as offered by Sherpa Expeditions because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target (going coast to coast) and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace in fairly easy stages.
How did you prepare?
We periodically do a bit of casual cycling in a part of County Kerry where there can be quite steep hills (some of which we just walk up). Otherwise we did no very particular physical preparation. What we did do however, was to look carefully at the gradients along the whole route. We decided that, at least in reasonable weather, we could manage most of the stages but that it might be prudent to break the longest day, the 36 miles and five big hills between Langwathby and Rookhope, into two stages. Trina at the Sherpa Expeditions office in London organised for us to stop off at Alston, and this worked very well for us.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Some of the hills were pretty steep. For example, it was a long haul up to Hartside summit. For us Crawleyside Bank on the way from Stanhope to Parkhead was, at a 17% gradient, daunting. We walked up anything steep. Other challenges might have been posed had we had either poor or really warm weather, or problems with tyres and chains. But the bicycles we were given at the beginning of the trip in Ulverston were good and we had no significant problems.
Which was your favourite destination along the Coast to Coast route?
The various stopover points were varied enough in their features, and each had its pluses. Keswick offered us a very active place that was both a strong local town and a tourist centre. We stayed at Beckside Guesthouse which had just reopened after the floods of December 2015. Owners Andrew and Tracey were very welcoming. So too were Colin and Pauline at the Old Vicarage in Rookhope, a small village high in the north Pennine moors.
“From the restaurant we visited on our last night we could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished the C2C.”
Best food and drink?
Most places along the route offered good food, but the place we will probably most remember was the Marina Vista at Roker, Sunderland, which we visited on our last night. We could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished cycling the C2C.
What surprised you most on your C2C cycling holiday?
The biggest surprise was probably that we did complete the whole route, which we saw as something of a challenge given that we are aged around 70 and that we are very definitely only casual cyclists.
If you like to share your travel stories on our website as well, you can let us know by filling out our contact form. If the story of Arnold and Margaret inspired you to set off on a similar cycling holiday, please have a look at our cycling holidays or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
All images are copyright of ©Arnold Horner
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at rental bicycles: what to pay attention to when you first receive them, what to bring along on a cycling holiday and what to wear.
Unless you are signed up on a dedicated road biking or mountain biking holiday, nearly all cycling tour operators like Sherpa offer hybrid bikes as their usual bicycle rental provision. These humble steeds have coalesced from the mountain bike evolution as the industry standard. They may share multiple gears, disc or cantilever breaks, and maybe some degree of suspension similar to mountain bikes. They also may have panniers or connections at least for racks and comfy touring seats. The wheels and tyres are narrower which make them more efficient on the road like the older-fashioned touring bikes. Hybrid bicycles get used on gravel tracks and dirt roads as well.
Ready? Get Set. Go!
Normally when you hire your bicycle with us and give us your dimensions, we can source a more or less correctly sized bike for you. When you receive your rental bicycle and before your first ride, make sure the brakes are progressive and the wheels don’t lock on braking too easily. Check if your wheels aren’t buckled, a slight movement is however quite normal. Check that you can get into all the gears without a fight, and that the front derailleur doesn’t rub too much on the chain. At extreme gear ranges this does happen - but it means that you shouldn’t be cycling in extreme gear ranges…!
Nuts & Bolts of Cycling Gear
To get more out of rental bicycles a lot of people elect to bring their own clip-in pedals such as SPDs and a 15mm wrench for changing the existing pedals. Sometimes the operator can do this for you, which saves you worrying about stripping the crank via cross-threading. Clip-on pedals can offer you more direct power transfer during pedalling when they are used well, but take a bit of getting used to.
Although your bicycle will be cleaned and serviced for you and include some basic tools, sometimes stuff gets missed. It is important to bring a quality multi-tool yourself to do on-road adjustments: you don’t want to have to waste holiday time calling someone out for a minor adjustment. Never over tighten bolts and Allen screws (they are usually aluminium and can shear), gentle hand tightness is usually just fine. A very small bottle of oil for chain lubrication is also recommended to bring along on your cycling holiday. Apply sparingly to all links and wipe off surplus with a cloth. It is amazing how quickly your chain will start squeaking in a very irritating way if you had a run of wet weather!
Such is the versatility of pocket tools these days. I have had the pleasure of reconnecting a mountain biker’s snapped chain within five minutes in the watery wastes of the Pennines. He would have had a long lonely walk out without that…
The main dread for many is the hissing deflated ego caused by a puncture. Once you get the hang of fixing a flat tyre, it only takes about 12 minutes to be on the road once again. Normally you are given a spare tube at the start of your cycling holiday and it is prudent to partially inflate this before you leave. Just in case it has perished or the valve has unexpectedly failed. I normally carry two inner tyres plus patches, three nylon tyre levers and a high capacity mini pump. There is no room here to talk about the most efficient way of changing an inner-tube, I suffice to say that after a puncture often people forget to pull out of the tyre what caused the puncture in the first place resulting in puncture number two. An extra note on tyres: running the bicycle tyres at correct pressure is important especially on the road. In wet conditions it may be worth reducing pressure by 5-10% to allow for better grip and in sand or gravel maybe by 20%.
Besides spare tyres, you may also receive helmets and water-bottles to get you on your way. For hygiene reasons you ought to bring your own bottle and for safety and hygiene reasons you should bring your own helmet. Even if they look fine, it is hard to know the impact history of a helmet, unless you have bought it yourself. If you are wearing a helmet make sure that it sits correctly on your head! I have seen people wear them too high or even round the wrong way.
Talking about what to wear, Lycra: let’s face it, it is not flattering on 85% of people. If you are just on a cycling tour you can get nice shell shorts with many pockets and still have a discreet padded seat with Lycra inserts for comfort. You will feel more at ease walking into that coffee shop.
Cycling tops are useful and they have handy pockets and pouches like a hamster. The advantage of baggy shirts however, is that they’re nice and airy. Some of the fabrics today quickly dry overnight if you rinse them through. A lightweight water resistant garment is worth stuffing somewhere and nowadays you can buy neoprene overshoes really cheaply to keep your feet dry and warm.
Don’t forget those energy bars, drink powders and potions to keep you on the road!
Find the full offer of Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays here.