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Kim Schmelz from Wisconsin walked The Wicklow Way with her husband, Joe, in July. Read more to find out all about their trip, including their favourite and most challenging aspects of the route.
What is your walking history?
Joe and I are pretty active runners but I wouldn’t call us experienced when it comes to trail walking. This was our first walking trip.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We had a friend who walked the Wicklow Way a couple of years ago and it sounded fantastic. Ireland had always been on our bucket list as we knew we would enjoy the scenery as well as the beer. We wanted a special way to celebrate turning 40 in 2019 as well as our upcoming 15-year wedding anniversary and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our good health by staying active during the day and having no guilt enjoying a Guinness or Jameson in the evening.
How did you prepare?
Aside from our normal routine of running, cardio and weight training we didn’t do a lot differently. Joe ran 5 miles most days and I usually alternated running and strength training. We live in southwest Wisconsin so running up and down hills is a very standard practice, however the hills we saw in Ireland were much steeper than our normal running hills!
What was your favourite destination?
Our favourite day by far was the day we discovered Glendalough. Our notes told us that if the weather was good we should take the ‘Spinc’ route. Luckily for us the sky was picture perfect and the weather was beautiful. We were able to walk through the glacial trough and see the views across the lake of Glendalough. We walked uphill for about two and a half hours that day but when we saw the view it was well worth it. It was absolutely breathtaking. After taking some photos and letting the view really sink in, we started our descent down the path and took in the waterfall on the way down as well as the Miner’s Road and then finally the lakes at the bottom.
Best food & drink?
The day we finished our walk and ended in Dublin was a full day of hiking. Finding the end point wasn’t possible because Marlay Park, the point that marked the end or beginning of the trail, had huge barricades in it for a concert that had been held the weekend before and unfortunately those barricades made it so difficult to find the end point that we just finally gave up. We got outside the park, found the restaurant that we were supposed to call our cab from and took off for our hotel. We were hot, tired and hungry by the time we settled into our room so we knew we wouldn’t be going far to enjoy our dinner that night. We found a pizza place close by that served the most amazing garlic bread and pizza, our first big carb meal of the whole trip. It was delicious! The drink we grew most fond during our time in Ireland was Jameson. We usually ended each night with a bit of Jameson and a side of Ginger Ale.
I think one of my biggest surprises was how few people we would see on the trail. The first two days on the trail we only saw about a dozen people. It wasn’t until we started walking towards Glendalough that we started to see groups of walkers and crowds of people. The people that we did see on those quiet days were so nice though and usually stopped to chat for a short time, tell us where they had come from and how far away it was and we would do the same. It was interesting to learn where they were from and what brought them to the Wicklow Way.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hills! We had a bit an idea of what to expect on our hike but we didn’t realize that we would likely either be climbing up a hill or a down a hill for the majority of the walk. Our legs were sore every morning and every night but it was so worth it! Our trip was so amazing from the beauty of the country to the kind people we met along the way to the feeling of accomplishment we had at the top of each big hill and at the end of each day. Our muscles were sore but we were still excited to put on our pack each morning and start again.
I can’t say enough good things about each B&B we stayed at. They each had their own charm and wonderful hosts. We were introduced to our first Irish Breakfast at Madeline’s in Tinahely, we met our first Irish farmers at Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne and we met the friendliest dogs at the Coolalingo B&B in Glenmalure. In Laragh we had the best breakfast conversation with a couple from Norway and a mother and son from Denmark. Our favorite B&B though was the Coolakay House in Enniskerry. The grounds were beautiful and relaxing with beautiful flowers, great seating outside and inside and ponies walking the field. Yvonne, the owner had so much Irish charm. We could have stayed there for a week!
We are celebrating International Beer Day by paying homage to and highlighting some of the best trips to go on if you (like us) enjoy a nice glass of that liquid gold after a long days walking!
Austria | Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
Austria is an obvious choice if you’re after a pint as they have a big beer culture there, with the average Austrian guzzling around 105 litres of it every year! Some of the most popular beers are Fohrenburger Premium Weizen, Gösser Export and Stiegl Pils, which is known for its slightly sour taste. So, after a long walk in the Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps, why not head for a pretzel washed down with a beer?
Find out more about Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps here
France | Provence and Dordogne
Provence is famed for its lavender fields and rosé wine, but what you may not know is that there are some very interesting micro-breweries in the area as well. Petite Aixoise is definitely one that has been receiving high praise of late. Based in Aix-en-Provence, they have a delightful Ambrée pale ale (ideal with charcuterie and cheese) an IPA for bitter lovers, Blanche beer (perfect during the summer months), a Blonde lager, plus the dark and creamy Triple. There’s something for everyone.
Find out more about Walking in Haute Provence here
The Dordogne is always a go-to for it’s amazing food and drink, and is fast becoming well-known for it’s craft beers too. One of which is a beer named Ratz that is based near Cahors. They do a great range of drafts, blond, amber and dark ales, all with very unique flavours. So, if you find yourself in the area it’s well worth a try!
Find out more about Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 8 Days
and Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne - 10 Days
Germany | Bavaria
Germany is famous for their steins of beer, so what better place to visit for a beer fix. In Bavaria during the middle ages, they referred to beer as ‘liquid bread’ because of its calorific qualities, and it is still a staple in many Bavarians diets today. A must-try is the König Ludwig whose slogan translates to "beer of royal highness". They have a royal heritage and the current owner, Prince Luitpold of the House of Wittelsbach, is the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, Ludwig III, and a descendant of the original signatories of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, and Ludwig I, whose wedding celebration marked the first Oktoberfest! With all that history, it’s definitely one to seek out to reward yourself after a days walk.
Find out more about Bavaria: King Ludwigs Way here
Greece | Exploring Crete and Zagorian Villages
Greece probably isn’t the first place you would think about for it’s beer, however it has some really promising local brands in Crete called Brink’s and Charma lager. Solo beer, which is based in Heraklion, Crete is also won a gold medal from Barcelona Beer Festival in 2017. Mythos is a very popular Greek beer too that has won many awards, so you certainly won’t be going thirsty here!
Find out more about Exploring Crete here
Find out more about Zagoria The Secret Villages here
Ireland | Wicklow Way
You can’t go to Ireland without having a pint of Guinness or ‘the black stuff’ as it is lovingly referred, and we would always recommend that you do so, as it really doesn’t taste better than in the country it’s brewed after a long day of exerting yourself along The Wicklow Way! However, we mustn’t forget that there are other really delicious stouts and ales, such as Murphy's and Smithwick's which definitely give Guinness a run for it’s money.
Find out more about The Wicklow Way – 7 Days
and The Wicklow Way – 9 Days
Italy | Amalfi Coast
Everyone always talks about Italy’s famous food, and quite rightly so, but you also need something to pair it with, right? That’s where beer comes in! Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of the classic Italian Moretti beer, but when walking along the coastline of southern Italy you will also come across some smaller craft creations, such as the local Amalfi Coast beer. It was started by two beer-loving friends and there are interesting stories behind each of their four beers - Amalphia, Regina Major, Veteri, Pithekusa - inspired by aspects the coast.
Find out more about the Classic Amalfi Coast – 8 Days
and Classic Amalfi Coast – 11 Days
UK | Cornwall and Coast to Coast
It’s no secret that the UK has a large beer offering, with breweries cropping up all over the place, so it’s hard to choose our favourites. However, we thought we’d try to whittle it down using some of your most-loved walking trails. Firstly, along the South West Coast Path, when you get to Cornwall we would recommend a cold pint from Skinner’s Brewery, especially Cornish Knocker and Hops ‘n’ Honey. Doom Bar is also a favoured beer all across the country, but it’s extra nice to have it in the place it’s made.
Find out more about the South West Coast Path here
When walking the Coast to Coast, it’s almost impossible to come across a pub not serving Wainwrights Beer and there’s no wonder as it’s won multiple awards. So, the question is, what are you waiting for? If the sun’s out, find the nearest beer garden and put your feet up – you deserve it!
Find out more about the Coast to Coast here
There’s something very calming about walking beside a lake. The stillness of the water, and the views to the hills or mountains rising up from the far side of the lake can give a wonderful sense of space. And whether in the UK or Europe, lakeside towns and villages are often some of the most picturesque you’ll come across.
We offer a number of walks that include significant stretches of beautiful lakeside walking – here are a few of our favourites.
The Italian lakes are stunning – beautiful blue ribbons of water carving their way through majestic mountains, with classic coastal towns and villas dotted along the shores. Lake Como is one of the most famous, and has been a popular destination since the days of the Romans. As well as ancient Roman villas, the lake boasts grand hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era.
Our trip starts in Como, and includes several walks that take you to some of the most attractive towns and villages on the lake’s shores, offering plenty of opportunities to drink in the magnificent views and sample the delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Lake Como Rambling here.
Undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Cumbria’s breath-taking natural beauty and refreshingly clear air is at a leisurely pace walking the Cumbria Way.
This tour provides an excellent introduction to the charms of English Lakeland, England’s most mountainous area, and one if its most beautiful regions. Walking is unquestionably the best way to see this celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by the likes of poets, authors and painters. Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arthur Ramson, Beatrix Potter and Wainwright have all left their mark.
Starting in Ulverston and finishing in Keswick, the walk takes in views of Lakes Coniston and Derwentwater, as well as Langdale and Borrowdale, two of the area’s prettiest valleys.
Find out more about walking the Cumbria Way here.
Welcome to beautiful Upper Austria in the hinterland of Mozart’s city of Salzburg. The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best ‘typical’ alpine hiking in Europe.
After a few days in the mountains you’ll descend to the waters of Lake Hallstattersee, and the ancient, picture-perfect lakeside town of Hallstatt. From here you’ll be able to explore the fascinating local area, and swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough.
Find out more about the trip here.
The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest waymarked trail, pioneered by a famous hill walker, J.B Malone over 40 years ago and reveals some of Irelands finest views - Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Loch Dan, Glenmalure and historical Glendalough.
The Wicklow Way explores unspoilt trails, remote scenery, lakes, glacial valleys, forests and gentle farmland – before finishing in the famous city of Dublin. Along the way, you’ll pass through the spectacular Glendalough valley, with views of the two lakes that sit at the bottom of the valley.
Photo: Magdalena Smolnicka
We offer 7-day and 9-day versions of the Wicklow Way.
Loch Ness hardly needs an introduction – Scotland’s second largest loch stretches for 23 miles along the Great Glen, which links Fort William in the south to Inverness in the north, and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Whilst walking the great Glen Way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Loch Ness, as well the other lochs, and the majestic surrounding mountains, including, of course, Ben Nevis itself, the UK’s highest peak. Along the way, you’ll be treated by famous Scottish hospitality, and traditional food.
Read more about walking the Great Glen Way here.
Not technically lakes, the Fjords are great coastal grooves, gouged out by retreating glaciers from the last ice-age. What they definitely are though, is spectacular – providing a breath-taking walking experience that will live with you forever. There are a wide range of walks to take in the highlands, which lead you right up onto the glaciers edge; it is even possible to go out onto the ice to take an excursion. There are also the lusher walks down into the pastoral settings of the Flam and Aurland Valleys. These are furnished with forests, farmsteads, cascades and churches.
You’ll also visit Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the world.
Find out more about walking in the Fjordland here.
One of our self-guided cycling holidays, this trip takes you through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. Along the way, you’ll visit beautiful lochs Tay and Earn, as well as the River Tay and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead and Killin.
En route there are opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments to be found along the way.
Find out more about cycling the Lochs and Bens.
Dublin City Tour
Most people that take a walking holiday on the Wicklow Way or Dingle Peninsula in Ireland will arrive in Dublin. Even if your time is limited, it is recommended to see the wide array of sites in the Irish capital. There are so many things to do in Dublin.
If you for example have a late afternoon or evening flight and have just a half day to spend in the city, there is plenty to explore. Your Dublin hotel may have baggage storage available so leave your main bag, take your valuables and head off on a walk around the city.
Let us take you on a short walking tour that includes nine things to see on your visit to Dublin. For starters, head up Talbot Street, where at the ‘Spire’ you join O’Connell Street, turn left here for the post office and the River Liffy.
The Spire is the tallest sculpture in the world, built of stainless steel in 2002-3 at the site of the previous Nelson Monument that was blown up by the IRA in 1966. The steel is ‘tuned’ so that it does not sway, it is 121.2m (397.6ft).
General Post Office
Walk over to the GPO (General Post Office) with its famous Ionic columned portico. This was the site of the start of the 1916 Rebellion, where Patrick H. Pearse read out the declaration of the Irish Republic. It was largely rebuilt, but much of the façade survived and when there, you could look out for the bullet damage still visible in some of the columns. Go inside to see the huge Lego model of the 1916 shootout (last seen in September'16). The building remains a very elegant functioning post office but there is also a new museum
(entry fee) which is about the Easter Rising and its aftermath.
The Custom House
Reaching the River Liffy from the post office, turn left to dodge over bridges to visit the elegant Custom House. It was designed by James Gandon (from the 1790s) and was the seat of customs activities; from ships unloading on the River Liffy, to taxation, revenue and Poor Law administration by the British during the Great Famine. It was severely damaged when it was burnt down by the IRA in 1921 during the War of Independence, then restored in the 1920s to fulfil more or less the same functions, with health care rather than poor law!
Close by, along the River Liffy, are two stark reminders of what the famine meant. The first is a collection of ragged bronze figures and their dog called 'Famine' (1997). The sculpture is a commemorative work dedicated to those Irish people forced to emigrate during the 19th century Irish Famine. The bronze sculptures were designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie.
This location is a particularly appropriate and historic as one of the first voyages of the Famine period was on the 'Perseverance’, which sailed from Custom House Quay on St Patrick's Day 1846.
Jeanie Johnston Ship
Just downstream from the statues there is an authentic replica famine ship called the Jeanie Johnston built in Tralee. If you have time to spare, it’s worth a visit
. The original Jeanie Johnston made 16 emigrant journeys to North America between 1847 and 1855, carrying over 2,500 people with no loss of life.
Walk back along the river and cross over the famous iron ‘Ha’penny Bridge’ built in 1816 in England and shipped over for construction to replace some rather poor ferries. A half penny was originally charged for pedestrians, hence the bridge’s nickname. Officially this is the Liffy Bridge.
Temple Bar Area
Once you have walked across the bridge, walk up into Temple Bar, an area full of bars, restaurants and tourists. Pop into one of the traditional Irish pubs for a pint of Guinness or a glass of Baileys Irish Cream or go for one of the other things to do in Dublin’s bar area like having a black - or white pudding, boxty, local stew, or colcannon.
Next it is up to Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule for 700 odd years. The castle is built in different styles from the Normans, through the Tudors and on to the Victorians. The castle was not taken in the 1916 rebellion, although the first fatal casualty of it was the poor policeman who was shot shutting the gates. It was only however defended by about seven soldiers. The Viceroy of Ireland handed the country over to Michael Collins here in 1922.
Christ Church Cathedral
Further up the road from the castle you can visit the Norman Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral was founded probably sometime after 1028 when King Sitric Silkenbeard, the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin made a pilgrimage to Rome. Henry II attended the Christmas service at the cathedral in 1171, the first time Henry received Holy Communion following the murder of Thomas Beckett by his knights in Canterbury. In the 1180s, Strongbow and other Norman magnates helped to fund a complete rebuilding of Christ Church (initially a wooden building) in stone. This rebuilding comprised the construction of a choir, choir aisles and transepts. It was redeveloped during the Tudor reformation and extensively remodelled in Victorian times. If you go in, visit the crypt which is the largest in the British Isles.
There are many other things to do in Dublin if you have time, some of the more potent attractions would be the infamous Kilmainham Gaol Museum, or a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Distillery (reopens March 2017). All these attractions of course take a bit more time than just walking past.
For more information on visiting Dublin, assistance with booking pre- or post-walking tour accommodation, or more information about our walking holidays in Ireland, please contact our team of travel experts in London.
Rural & Unspoilt Destinations Great for Walking
Even though Europe is a highly developed continent, there still are plenty of destinations that are fantastic backdrops country walking holidays. For those of you who like to spend some time in rural communities and like to take in the unspoilt countryside, here are country walking destinations in France, Ireland and England.
Tarn & Aveyron, France
Picture a spectacular setting of rocky promontories or broad hills, like the Tuscan hill towns, rich in history with an intervening countryside that is a beautiful mixture of forests, fields and river valleys. This is the Tarn & Aveyron, about two hours driving north from Toulouse in southeastern France. Going on a country walking holiday in this region, you will notice a distinct lack of tourists. The route that we offer here has become one of our most venerated walks and one of our most popular tours in France. It’s a little different from our other hotel-based treks as you overnight in Chambres d’Hotes - literally ‘a room with your hosts’, and Table d’Hotes – ‘dinner with your hosts.’ Sit and eat with your hosts, enjoying a regional wine and try to engage in conversation to learn about their daily life.
Our beautiful country walk winds between the bastides, or fortified towns, that sprung up between the Cathar Crusades of the 1200s and the Wars of Religion in the 1500s, as well as vineyards, gorges, forests and rivers in rural France.
Want to visit Tarn & Aveyron yourself? You can, between May and September, on our 8-day self guided walking holiday in Tarn & Aveyron.
Lake District, England
Travel through England’s most rugged and mountainous landscape: the Lake District National Park. This part of the English country walking destination brings sensational woodlands and forests that provide a habitat for native English wildlife. Spot for example the red squirrel, one of the UK’s best-loved species. The countryside is celebrated not only by Beatrix Potter but also poets, authors and painters such as Wordsworth, Tennyson, Ransome and Wainwright. In between quaint market towns, the walking trails lead past the peaceful depths of Coniston Water and Derwentwater lakes, as well as the superb Tarn Hows, set in the wooded hills between the picturesque villages of Coniston and Langdale. Anybody looking for one of England’s best country walking holiday destinations, the Lake District in Cumbria should be high on your list.
Besides our 8-day Cumbrian Way: Crossing the Lake District walking holiday
, also our Coast to Coast walking holidays
cross the English Lake District.
Wicklow Way, Ireland
Starting in southwest County Wicklow, the route that we’ve set out in this southeastern part of Ireland passes through rural communities, old market towns and grand estates. The region has proved itself as one of the best country walking holiday destinations as it attracts walkers from across the world eager to explore one of the greenest parts of the ‘Emerald Isle’. The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest waymarked trail through which you can experience a patchwork of landscapes. If you’re keen to cross country estates, heather-covered granite mountains, rolling green hills and tranquil forests this is a country walking holiday for you! You will also pass ‘the valley of two lakes’ and monastic settlements that date back to the 6th century on your way to the bright lights of Dublin…
Discover The Wicklow Way on a 7-day country walking holiday between March and October.
From Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, the richly varied landscape and the historical treasures of Dorset have inspired generations of authors. On this country walking holiday, you cross unspoilt and peaceful rural villages. The route 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 you drop down to the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!
Follow the Dorset-Wessex Trails in the period from May until October on an 8-day self guided country walking holiday from Lyme Regis to West Lulworth.
Start in the French Cevennes at the extinct volcanoes to the north of the Massif Central and follow a winding route southwards across the more mountainous Cevennes on the eastern flank of the Massif Central. It is one of the remotest country walking holiday experiences you can get in France as this is the only French national park that is inhabited. We follow the route that in the autumn of 1878 was taken by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island) with his donkey Modestine. Their journey inspired ‘Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes’, which has since become a travel classic. Stevenson’s route can still be followed today without drastic modification: inns where Stevenson stopped still exist and at Notre Dame des Neiges, the monks from the book are still praying and brewing! Follow a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt.
You can choose between an eight or ten-day trip with excellent country walking following Stevenson’s Trail.
For more information on each of the regions and detailed information on these country walking holidays, please download the trip notes on each trip's webpage. If you like to speak to one of our travel consultants, please send us an email or contact us by phone and we’d be happy to discuss your requirements.