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The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
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The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast
Get ready for a special 142 mile ride from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to the Abbey and castle at Tynemouth on the shores of the North Sea. Taking a different route to the Coast to Coast walk, it serves as a brilliant way to see northern England and how the landscape changes as you cycle along. There is so much to see, including the Cumbrian Lakes and Fells, the bleak Pennines, beautiful Dales, towns and villages of all sizes. You should also have some time to enjoy the gorgeous tea shops, traditional pubs and interesting historical and industrial sites along the way.
Find out more about The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast here
Cornish Cycle Tour
This bike tour takes you on a journey through a varying landscape of Cornwall, filled with inland heaths and downs, rolling hills and tumbling coastlines. There are also sheltered coves and beautiful rivers, castles and gardens to visit along the way. With the daily rides being around 30 miles (50km), this allows plenty of time to see Cornwall the way that you want to.
Find out more about the Cornish Cycle Tour here
Cotswolds by Bike
This trip is a great introduction to cycling in the English countryside. A week of marvellous rides will take you through one of the most beautiful and historic parts of England. Honey coloured stone villages, wooded valleys and Roman roads are the background to famous gardens, a Roman villa and welcoming inns. The tour starts and ends in elegant Cheltenham, riding through the Cotswold Water Park and past the Chedworth Roman Villa then on the final day you will visit the historic 15th century Snowshill Manor and enjoy the wonderful views from Broadway Tower.
Find out more about Cotswolds by Bike here
Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany
Prepare yourself for a thrilling ride through the landscapes of the Val d’Orcia in southern Tuscany. Pedal through vibrant fields of sunflowers and past rolling hills covered with vineyards to the heart of the Brunello wine district and cheer with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile when you arrive at Montepulciano. Joining in the serene medieval town of Buonconvento and from the hot spring hamlet of Bagno Vignoni to the heavenly Renaissance city of Pienza, the itinerary is dotted with captivating palaces, Romanesque churches and, of course, prestigious wineries!
Find out more about Cycling the Wine Regions of Tuscany here
Lochs and Bens Cycle
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for those keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths, visiting charming historic towns with ancient castles and monuments such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin.
Find out more about the Lochs and Bens Cycle here
Scottish Highlands Cycle
This is a truly stunning cycle route from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. En route, you may be lucky enough to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. It also wouldn’t be a trip to the highlands without a day in Fort William to rest or ascend Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain!
Find out more about the Scottish Highlands Cycle here
Isle of Wight Cycle
This is a lovely short break for cyclists who want a beautiful sightseeing tour, in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty no less, with a good mixture of town and country. The ride starts in the old seaside town of Ryde, passes through Cowes, famous for its regattas then tracks inland through the estuary around Newport to the old town of Yarmouth. And, if the weather is on your side, you can follow the Tennyson Trail to Brighstone, then onto the ship wreck capital of the island, Chale. Followed by the scenic coastal stretch back into Ryde.
Find out more about the Isle of Wight Cycle here
Exploring Tuscan Hilltop Towns
The Tuscan landscape of the Val d’Orcia will open your eyes to its natural beauty. This walk takes you along steep valleys, dense forests, rivers and the legendary “badlands” eroded clay slopes. Walk by quintessential farmhouses nestled amidst olive groves, vineyards and fig trees on your way to the hot spring hamlet of Bagno Vignoni and the Renaissance city of Pienza. On this week long exploration, you will visit palaces, Romanesque churches, thermal baths, and wineries serving the divine local red “Brunello”.
Find out more about Exploring Tuscan Hilltop Towns here
Walk from Chipping Campden to Bath through a patchwork of rolling hills dotted with picture-postcard villages. The Cotswolds is one of the most quintessentially English parts of the country, with a wealth of castles, manor houses, abbeys and Roman villas.
Find out more about the Cotswolds Way here
Highlights of the Dolomites
The Dolomites are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Although not exceptionally high – the highest peak is Marmolada at 3,342m – they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Panoramas unfold with each turn of the paths and crossing of the passes and there are also opportunities (for the not-so-faint-hearted!) to stand on a couple of summits and peer down almost vertical rock faces to the valleys far below.
Find out more about Highlights of the Dolomites here
Thames Path East
This is the shorter 'Half' of the Thames Path National Trail and the transition between fresh water and tidal sections of the Thames from Teddington Lock. There is an amazing amount of history and mixed scenery along this walk such as Hampton Court Palace and Syon Park, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, plus many wildlife reserves. If you want to see England’s capital from a different perspective, this is a great one for you!
Find out more about Thames Path East here
Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany
A brand new itinerary dotted with prestigious wineries! Pedal through fields of sunflowers and past rolling hills covered with vineyards to the heart of the Brunello wine district and cheer with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile at Montepulciano.
Find out more about Cycling the Wine Regions of Tuscany here
The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District
From the historic town of Ulverston to the ‘Great Border City’ of Carlisle: cross through the heart of the Lake District as you walk the full 74-mile length of the well-established path, providing a complete south-to-north crossing of the county.
Find out more about The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District here
To celebrate the start of a new decade, we have put together the ultimate list of the best trips to go on over the coming year; from catching some winter rays in the Canaries, to beating the crowds on the Amalfi Coast and bringing out your inner foodie in Burgundy.
JANUARY - Beat the winter blues in the Canary Islands
Even during the winter months, La Gomera gets 9 hours of sunshine daily, with the average day temperature close to 22°C. Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), the surprisingly lush green island remains largely untouched by mass tourism.
Find out more about our Exploring La Gomera trip here
FEBRUARY - See the orchids in bloom in Madeira
In the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate. The best time to catch the orchids in bloom is in February and you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species.
Find out more about our Madeira Island Walking trip here
MARCH - Have the Amalfi Coast for yourself before the crowds arrive
Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months... but come in March and you will have the Amalfi Coast just to yourself.
Find out more about our Amalfi Coast trips here
APRIL - Walk through bluebells in the Cotswolds
April marks the beginning of the bluebell season across the country. If you are looking to admire these quintessentially English carpets of blue, you do not have to travel far, head to the Cotswolds countryside and get inspired by this spectacle of nature.
Find out more about our Cotswolds trips here
MAY - Cycle through the Scottish Highlands at their sunniest (and driest!)
May is not only the driest month in Scotland (less than 80mm of rain) but with approximately 170 hours of sunshine it is also the sunniest. Although the Scottish weather is notoriously changeable and often localised, this is when you are least likely to avoid a downpour.
Find out more about our Scottish Highlands Cycle trip here
JUNE - Explore England before schools break up for summer
If your plans are not determined by the school summer holidays, travel in June for a quieter countryside and a less busy coast. June sees the longest day of the year (an average of 16 hours of daylight) so you can maximise your time outdoors on the most classic of all UK hiking trails, like the Coast to Coast.
Find out more about our Coast to Coast trips here
JULY - Visit the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the TV remake of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’
Channel 5 is reviving in 2020 the much-loved TV series about a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales, which was based on James Herriot’s real-life memoirs. The remake is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of James Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.
Find out more about our James Herriot Way trip here
AUGUST - Cycle your own Tour of Britain in Cornwall
Cornwall will host the Tour of Britain for the first time ever in September 2020, which will see riders travel over 100 miles through the Cornish countryside. It will be the biggest ever sporting event to take place in the county, so if you want to avoid the (extra) crowds travel a few weeks earlier.
Find out more about our Cornish Cycle Tour here
SEPTEMBER - Swim through rock arches in Sardinia
The weather in Sardinia in September is still warm and pleasant, with the lower humidity making outdoor activities much more enjoyable. Explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers, swim through rock arches and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.
Find out more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here
OCTOBER - Plan a grape escape in Tuscany
October is grape harvest time in Tuscany. Pedal past rolling vine-covered hills to the heart of the Brunello wine district, meet local winemakers and wander through ochre-coloured vineyards. When you get to Montepulciano, cheers with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile.
Find out more about our Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany trip here
NOVEMBER - Experience the ‘real’ Burgundy
By late autumn the crowds in Burgundy have thinned, the weather has cooled and the autumn temperatures will not let you get overly warm while pedalling. Do not miss the major International Gastronomy Fair in Dijon – it takes place every November and the foodie inside you will thank you!
Find out more about our Burgundy Vineyard Trails here
DECEMBER - Follow in the footsteps of smugglers in Andalusia
Today the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park is a walker’s paradise – but during ‘el hambre’ (the hunger) after the Spanish Civil War many of the locals became ‘Mochileros’ (packmen) smuggling goods using remote high paths, many of which are still in use.
Find out more about our Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena here
From film releases to sporting events and notable anniversaries, there are so many reasons why you should holiday in the UK in 2020…
Travel to the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the TV remake of All Creatures Great and Small
Channel 5 is reviving in 2020 the much-loved TV series about a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales, which was based on James Herriot’s real-life memoirs. Starring Samuel West, Anna Madeley and Dame Diana Rigg, the remake is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.
The James Herriot Way
takes in some of the countryside that James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot, was so fond of; departs March-October. Find out more here
Follow in Kate Winslet’s footsteps along the Jurassic Coast
Ammonite, the latest project by acclaimed writer-director Francis Lee, sees Kate Winslet starring as Mary Anning, the ‘unsung hero of fossil discovery’, whose worked concentrated on Britain’s rugged southern coastline. Shot extensively on location in Dorset and Surrey and co-starring Saoirse Ronan, the film is set to be released in the UK in early 2020.
As you walk along the Jurassic Coast on the Dorset and Wessex Trails
find yourself immersed in the world of Mary Anning; departs March-October. Find out more here
Celebrate the ‘Year of Coasts and Waters’ in Scotland
With a coastline that extends to well over 10,000 miles, nearly 800 islands and more than 30,000 lakes of all sizes, water is the life-blood of Scotland. 2020 is celebrated as the ‘Year of Coasts and Waters’ across the country, making it the ideal time to explore the magnificent coastline, uncover the secrets of its coastal fortresses and enjoy some delicious, freshly caught seafood.
Head ‘north of the border’, hike through the Scottish Highlands and find your favourite loch along the Great Glen Way
; departs April-October. Find out more here
Relive the legend of a notorious outlaw
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Rob Roy film, which recounts the battles of notorious outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy against a duplicitous aristocrat. Starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, the film was shot entirely on location in Scotland. Today there is a dedicated Rob Roy Way that goes through classic Highland scenery and areas that were his old haunts.
The Rob Roy Way
begins at Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister; departs April-October. Find out more here
Immerse yourself in the timeless landscapes of the Lake District
The Lake District has been celebrated by the poetry of Wordsworth and the stories of Beatrix Potter for centuries. With next April marking the 250th birthday of the founder of English Romanticism (and author of the well-known Guide through the District of the Lakes) and a widely-anticipated new Peter Rabbit film, 2020 is a great time to revisit these timeless landscapes.
Take in the celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, on the The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District
; departs March-October. Find out more here
Cycle your own Tour of Britain in Cornwall
Cornwall will host the OVO Energy Tour of Britain for the first time ever in September 2020, with the Grand Depart seeing riders travel more than 100 miles through the Cornish countryside. The biggest-ever sporting event to take place in the county, the route will start in Penzance and will visit St Ives, Falmouth, Truro, Newquay and the award-winning Eden Project.
Ride your own Cornish Cycle Tour
from Padstow to Lands End through Lizard Point, the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain; departs March-October. Find out more here
Find the ‘new’ Secret Garden
The English children’s classic is getting the big screen treatment in 2020 in a new film starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The scenes at the secret garden – which, according to the story, is locked by Mr Craven after his wife’s accidental death – were shot at the five-acre Helmsley Walled Garden at Helmsley close to the North York Moors, where the Cleveland Way National Trail starts.
The Cleveland Way
begins at Helmsley, so you can start your trip by taking a peek at the ‘new’ secret garden; departs March-October. Find out more here
With the night’s drawing in and the cold and wet weather affecting large parts of the British Isles already this autumn, our attention is directed towards cold and wet weather outdoor gear to cope with it all. Read on to find out about our top suggestions.
There’s great popularity at the moment for cosy puffer and duvet jackets, which can either be quite cheap with synthetic fill insulation, or quite expensive with various degrees of down or a down and synthetic mix. Most of these are great in really cold weather, but a lot of the time people will quickly overheat wearing them if they are undertaking any activity. They are also not particularly water resistant and down jackets become like wet tea bags when they are soaked - with lack of insulation to match.
There are some very compact ones on the market however, made by companies like Montane and Mountain Equipment which offer real warmth, but are very compact and can be conveniently pushed into rucksacks for easy packing if you don't need to wear them. A compromise would be a down gillet; which is a jacket without the arms. This keeps your core warm and your arms can remain very active.
Most people will rely on the tried and tested layering method to maintain adjustable warmth as you just remove or put on layers depending on how you feel. The best thing to start with is a base layer, perhaps with smart wool which is significantly odour free after even a couple of days of activity. Over this you can then have a fleece, hooded ones are quite popular, but you can always put a beanie in your pocket.
Over the top of the fleece (which will morph into something like a wet flannel if allowed to soak) you need a shell which is waterproof and windproof. There is a lot of choice for these again such as, Berghaus, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab etc. The waterproofness depends upon the price between chemically coated fabrics and those which are layered such as Gore Tex. The trend is for lighter and lighter fabrics.
Although some of the older waterproofs had the consistency of cardboard, some of lighter weight fabrics today are not that durable and most of us can't afford or even want to replace our gear every year or two especially as we think about our footprint on the planet. Even though they are a little more expensive, we have been very impressed with the quality of Paramo jackets, a British company who have their designs made up in Colombia, part of an on-going project to help local women find gainful employment. The result is something which is quite different to the norm. There are many walkers who swear by them, and a number of mountain rescue teams use them too. Their jackets have loads of features including hand warmers, ventilation zippers and a comfortable inner lining, this makes them heavier than some, but they offer great comfort and proper waterproofing and temperature control. A great innovation is a lightweight mountain smock (and over the head jacket) with warmers, pockets, ventilators a hood and a drop down tail for mountain bikers. We would highly recommend.
We also can't forget about our legs which need protection especially when the temperature drops and the rain starts. All the major manufacturers offer waterproof trousers, although they often don't seem to last long, perhaps because the seams get quite stressed over time. However, they are essential to prevent wind chill and the best ones to look out for would be those with good venting and long leg zips to enable you to get into them with boots or shoes on if needed.
SOCKS AND GLOVES
In terms of hands and feet you can get totally waterproof socks and gloves from manufacturers like Seal-skinz, but we have found that they do take a long time to dry when they are washed and some may still prefer a traditional wool and synthetic mix of sock. It's up to you as both will do the job.
When it comes to gloves, the famous climbing mitten of the 1950s-70s: 'The Dachstein mitt,' is being manufactured again from pre-shrunk wool and it's definitely worth a try if you want the best of both worlds, with a modern take on the traditional. Note that although you are obviously more dextrous wearing a glove, mittens keep your hands warmer which is why we would rate these for colder conditions.
We have mentioned beanies, which are obviously super easy to carry around. However, perhaps the most effective and stylish winter hat that we have seen is the Tilley woollen hat. This is largely waterproof and has an inner lining for more comfort which includes drop down ear warmers, so if you're in the market for a new hat, this is the one we would choose.
Don't forget to carry a lightweight head torch, Black Diamond or Petzl have good ones, as the days are shorter and you can easily get caught out if your walk takes longer than expected. Alternatively, if you just keep a torch in your pocket it will always be waiting for you, just remember to check the batteries regularly!
You may well believe it would be hard to stay sustainable whilst on holiday, but it might be easier than you think! We have put together 5 easy tips on how to be more sustainable when travelling and whilst out on your walking or cycling trips. Read on to find out more.
1. Be conscious of litter along the route
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t see any litter lining our walking trails, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case and often people throw food wrappers on the ground or leave there takeaway coffee cups along the way. So, if you see something, don’t just walk past it, pick it up. Let’s do our bit and make sure there’s nothing lying around that could damage the environment or the habitats of surrounding wildlife.
2. Drink from a reusable water bottle and other reusable items where possible
While this may not be anything new, it’s always good to remember your reusable water bottle. There are many great ones out there, that can keep your water nice and cold until you get thirsty! Also, if you are bringing food out with you, make sure to bring it in a reusable lunch box with reusable cutlery...every little helps!
3. Use biodegradable and eco-friendly products
There are so many products around now that are much kinder to the environment in the ways that they are produced and the way that they can be disposed of. Some examples are bamboo toothbrushes, green cosmetics using renewable raw materials and ethically sourced and sustainable clothing, to name just a few. Why not swap out a few of your every day essentials before your next trip?
4. Eat locally
When you are staying in various towns and villages along the way, try either buying fresh from local markets if you are cooking for yourself or eating in restaurants using ingredients sourced from local suppliers so they have not had to travel far to get to your plate. This way you will be feeding back into the local community and helping boost their economy by keeping smaller companies in business…win-win!
5. Pack lightly to reduce CO2 emissions
Whether you’re travelling to your destination by plane, car or train, it’s always worth trying to pack as lightly as you can and only bring exactly what you need with you. You may wonder why this would make a difference, but the lighter your luggage is, the lighter the vehicle or plane will be, meaning it will use less fuel to transport your belongings and therefore reducing the effect it has on the environment via CO2 emissions. Something to think about next time, you want to bring something with you ‘just in case’.
Who doesn’t love a cup of tea with a traditional Scottish all-butter shortbread, especially after a long walk or cycle. And it’s even better still you're actually in Scotland, right? In celebration of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we thought now was the perfect time to shine a light on Scotland’s best walking and cycling routes. Plus, if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy some of the countries specialities along the way, such as haggis, fresh Scottish lobster and Cullen skink, all washed down with a wee dram of the finest whisky around!
THE GREAT GLEN WAY
This iconic tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day) and follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland – depths of up to 750 feet. The walk finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the highlands”. Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths plenty of elegant bridges and locks as well as forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.
Find out more about The Great Glen Way here
JOHN MUIR WAY
Completed in 2014, the John Muir Way is a 134 mile route that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and with Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast to coast path. It provides an accessible and varied route across the Scottish low lands, following a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure. This route links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest.
Find out more about the John Muir Way here
ROB ROY WAY
The Rob Roy Way is a 124km walk linking Drymen with Pitlochry in Perthshire. The route joins paths and tracks through highland scenery, taking advantage of attractive villages and small towns. The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! It then passes through the forests of the Trossachs, crossing the River Forth at Aberfoyle and down beside Loch Venachar to Callander, before leading out through fine glens by Loch Lubnaig and Glen Oich to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills on the remotest stretch of the walk, before descending to follow the quiet path along the southern shores of Loch Tay. Descend to Aberfeldy via the famous Birks, and the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.
Find out more about the Rob Roy Way here
THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY - 10 DAY
This 10 Day tour follows the 96 mile national long-distance trail of the same name through the south-western part of the Scottish Highlands. It is claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles. Starting at the village of Milngavie just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, famed for its massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day. The West Highland Way is a well-established and popular route, containing some landscapes of great beauty. The altitude range is from sea level to 1850 ft (4408 ft if Ben Nevis is climbed). An 8 Day route is also available.
Find out more about The West Highland Way - 10 Days here and 8 Days here.
LOCHS AND BENS
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths where cycle touring is pleasurable. En route you will visit charming historic towns such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin. A rest day at Killin is included to allow you time to visit the Falls of Dochart, sail the Loch or walk up Ben Lawers. There are also opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments found along the way.
Find out more about Lochs and Bens here.
SCOTTISH HIGHLAND’S CYCLE
Cycle from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. During this week long trip we cycle along scenic paths and quiet forest trails with opportunities enroute to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. A day in Fort William is set aside to rest or ascend Ben Nevis. A train journey takes you across desolate Rannoch Moor to Loch Rannoch, where you continue on bike to the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, nestled in the Perthshire hills.
Find out more about the Scottish Highland's Cycle here
It’s often said that if you do enough exercise, you can eat virtually anything you like. And after a couple of hours of hard walking or cycling, it’s very hard (in Britain, especially) not to pass up the opportunity of having a piece of cake or a cream tea of scones and jam in a local café... it can be all too easy in fact, to eat too much!
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a balanced and slowly continuous food intake, where possible; little and often being the key. You don’t need to eat a whole energy bar in one go for example, have a little bit and often. Endurance athletes know the problem, the best of them have a highly trained musculature that takes a long time to suffer from the glycogen exhaustion that a lot of beginners are effected with when blood and muscle glycogen levels fall. It is said that, at least for running, you only have enough glycogen storage for a 90 minute sustained effort, walking perhaps 3 or 4 hours, so you need to be replenishing long before you anticipate an energy crash coming.
With this in mind, we have put together some simple nutrition tips for the best things to eat and drink to provide you with sustained energy whilst staying active and training for a big walking or cycling trip.
STARTING THE DAY
The first, and one of the most important things, is starting the day right. A cooked breakfast might seem like the way to go, but with a very high concentration of fats, protein and salts it can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning as you set out, whilst your body tries to digest everything. A better, and just as filling alternative, would be a nice bowl of porridge, perhaps with banana and honey or yoghurt stirred in. If you’re extra hungry, some toast with marmalade on the side wouldn’t go amiss. This will set you up with slow release carbohydrates as well as a good supply of initial sugars to get you going.
A very popular breakfast hailing from Switzerland is Bircher muesli, a creation of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. He developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium in the late 1800s with the aim of making his patients eat more raw fruit. The rolled oat based muesli is often soaked overnight in Swiss yoghurt making it easily digestible and then lots of mixed fresh and dried fruits are added. Within this you will get a mixture of complex carbohydrates, fruits, salts, sugars and fats. Fruits are an excellent source of elements, such as potassium in banana and vitamin c in berries and citrus fruits. It is also thought that vitamins help with energy processing, as well as promoting general wellbeing.
DURING THE DAY
Once you are out and about what should you take with you? Of course there are an array of different sports bars, sports drinks and energy gels, which can be confusing. These vary in quality, some are nutritionally balanced and some are little more than sugar. Either way, they are not always necessarily the best option, and there are good alternatives that can be found in most supermarkets, usually in multiple packs.
If you want to keep things more affordable, go for items such as Snickers bars or peanut M&Ms which have a good slow and fast energy release ingredients – glucose and protein. Nuts are more expensive, but if you add a few to some some dried fruit (such as raisins) and M&Ms, you have a reasonable trail mix that you can graze on throughout the day. Also, it’s always recommended to have a packet of Jelly Babies to hand as they are pure glucose, which gives us a hit of energy and are much more palatable than energy gels. A couple of apples are also handy. However, too much fruit and vitamin c can lead to RBM (rapid bowel movement), so don’t overdo it!
If you’d rather have a convenient bar to suit all needs, energy bars which have a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as the Clif Bar are great. They generally aren’t chocolate covered so won’t melt easily, but can crumble. Anything labelled as a 'nutrition bar' is intended as a meal replacement, providing vitamins and minerals and often having more calories and protein.
Rehydration is also very important, as you need to get a balance of liquid and salts without flushing the salts out of your system (hypernatremia). The easiest way to do this is to buy a tub of rehydration powders to fill your water bottles with in the morning and then take a trusted brand of soluble rehydration tablet to put in your bottle for further refills during the day.
ENDING THE DAY
When it comes to any strenuous exercise, the way you end your day is just as vital as the way you start. So once you’ve finished a long days walk or cycle, a lot of people feel either too tired to physically consume anything, or eat far too much without thinking about it. In Britain, it also seems to be customary to end your walk at a pub with a cold beer. This is definitely not to be sniffed at, as beer drinking is sociable, contains over 300 calories a pint (plus vitamins) and is easily consumed. The thing to remember is not to drink too much and remain hydrated, so a couple of pints is fine. Alongside your drink of choice, you should ideally eat something easily consumed straight after the exercise and then a little later have some protein to help with muscle repair.
Don't forget, it was only a couple of generations ago, that good hikers were completing extraordinary walks relying on jam sandwiches, homemade cake and a thermos of sweet tea (and some still do!) Food to is meant to be enjoyable and walking sociable, so the key is to listen to your body and perhaps don’t turn up that chance for a cream tea!
My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!
One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.
You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.
Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.
Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.
There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).
No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.
The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.
Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.
The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.
Some More Thoughts
Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!
Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!
For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.
If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.
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.