One of the best way to see Corsica, l’Ile de Beauté (The Isle of Beauty) is to ride your bike along its 600km of coastal roads. Every night you can put your tent up in one campsite and leave the following morning for a new destination. Leave early to avoid the midday sun and you’ll have the afternoon to rest by the turquoise sea. Plan more time for the winding and hilly roads on the Western coast. It can be done in two to three weeks at an easy pace.
It's nice to see a better standard of self catering cottages being built in the North West of Scotland. Locholly which is a 5 start cottage has fantastic views over the Summer Isles.
Achiltibuie is a mecca for walkers, the surrounding area is fantastic. Once discovered people come back year on year. Ullapool is only about 10 miles if you are a crow, however it's 40 minutes by car which is what makes it such a great destination, not much traffic.
Near Summer Isles hotel
In a grand situation below the spiky rock of the Black Cullin, Britain’s most fearful mountains, Glenbrittle provides well-spaced grassy pitches at the edge of a bay looking across to the Small Isles. It's wild and peaceful.
I wouldn’t say it has frills but there's plenty of hot water, and you’ll get to test your tent against the wind which often funnels on or off shore.
A 15 minute drive up the road, the Old Inn at Carbost has a proper pub atmosphere (not always easy to find in Highland) and wild swimming can be had within minutes at the Fairy Pools or round the corner in Talisker bay. Yes, that Talisker; keep a dram for after.
Camping is a fair one person one fee charge of £7.00 per night. Campervans come and go, too. Downsides: two showers will sometimes be too few; whenever the wind drops after early June there’ll be midge; and it’s so temptingly close, you might feel the need to scare yourself on the Cullin ridge. (Open April to Sept incl.)
From Sligachan take the road to Uig, turn off left to Carbost, then take the Glenbrittle Road. IV47 8TA.
Google map: bit.ly/19ZJRzD
This is a beautiful campsite nestled between the edge of Exmoor and Ilfracombe. It sits right on the cliff on the edge of Watermouth Cove with amazing sea and sunset views from every pitch. It has a private sandy beach which is sheltered from the sea breeze with beautiful clear water. With the South West Coast Path running right through the site, it's a great base for walking, with a pub just round the corner for when you get back!
Facilities are thorough and clean, and there's a play park and games room for children.
A delightfully small five-room lodge on a riverside farm just outside Wanaka resort town. The lodge is set high on an escarpment and enjoys fabulous views across the valley towards the Southern Alps. Good food, wine and architecture, professional service, free wifi and comfortable rooms. You can choose from a selection of walks and running trails on the property, bike along the river and lakeside tracks into town, embark on a more adventurous day hike into Mt Aspiring National Park or book a guided excursion from one of the many activity operators available.
You can either walk or cycle the 300 miles from the French border to Santiago de Compostela by staying in the hostels every 10-15 miles which are mostly free of charge. The trip will mostly only cost you for food and drink. I have spent nearly three months in Spain on the Camino sight seeing, learning more of the language and making life long friends all for around £200 plus travel there to and back either cycling or walking.
All you need do is start your holiday in Pamplona at the Tourist Office and ask for directions and further information from there. It's easy, I've done it six times and I'm in my mid seventies!
Flee the tourist hurly-burly, coach party crush and cultural overload and head for the hills. Not the well-known wine rich Chianti Hills to the south, but to the altogether wilder, more rugged deeply forested Apennines to the east. The Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna straddling the Tuscany / Emilia-Romagna border is just 40km from central Florence and easily reached by bus although a car would provide more flexibility for a day trip.
These majestic ancient forests in one of Europe’s oldest continuously wooded areas create a place of great natural beauty and profound meditative stillness. Chestnut woods on the lower slopes where old and dead trees have been kept seem magical and enchanted. Statuesque stands of dark fir are carefully managed while the higher ground is clothed in cathedral-like beech, sometimes serried ranks leaning at improbable angles, pushed over by a winter avalanche sometime in their past. Timber from here was used in the construction of the magnificent dome of Florence’s Duomo and was especially prized for shipbuilding.
The main ridge is traversed by the Grande Excursione Appenninica (GEA), a 375 km hiking trail extending from the Umbria / Marche border near Sansepolcro to Montelungo in Liguria. Marked and unmarked paths are plentiful in the national park though a good map is essential if your day communing with nature isn’t to become something much more unsettling or potentially life-threatening. Out of peak season and avoiding weekends the chances are you and your companion(s) won’t see another soul.
The mood of contemplation and reflection is sustained by an overnight stay at the Foresteria attached to the Monastero di Camaldoli (advance booking is advised to guarantee a bed for the night). Delicious fresh food, comfortable uncluttered rooms and an atmosphere of quiet dedication to work and prayer deep in the forest nourish body and spirit, perhaps almost ready for the return to the fray in Florence.
Tune in to to the animated chit-chat of day-tripping Madrillenos for an hour or so while you ride the local C8 train from Achota or Chamartin stations to the idyllic Sierra region of Cercedilla, an ideal spot for a couple of hours walk away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Madrid.
You can either walk the 3km from the station to Desehenas, where the trails start or take a bus (every 75 mins or so). I'd recommend the bus as it's an uphill walk along a pretty unattractive main road and you'll want to save your legs for the climb ahead.
There's an excellent information centre where you can get a map that shows you the three or four trails you can follow, depending on how far you want to walk and what kind of challenge you're up for. You don't really need the map because these are some of the best marked routes you'll find in Europe. So long as you can see 30 yards ahead of you all you have to do is follow the circles painted on the trees and you won't go wrong.
These routes take you through some of Spain's most spectacular views of the snow brushed mountains, along shady forest paths that open up on splendid views down the valleys below. Breathtaking in every sense.
From Buttermere to the Kirkstile Inn return, around Crummock Water.
This will take you about five hours including an hour’s stop for lunch at the Inn.
Begin in the small village of Buttermere, following the path to Crummock Water. This skirts the lake on its western shore. The path is clear and hugs the water’s edge.
Spring is coming, heralded at last by the sound of water as the frozen waterfalls melt, there is the gold of gorse, birds nesting and the bleat of lambs.
We recite lines from Innesfree:
‘I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore’ and sing snatches of song as our spirits soar as we tramp along.
Mellbreak soon flanks us as we tramp the mile or so along the path to Dropping Crag’s sheer face, on to High park and then by road to the Kirkstile Inn.
I sampled delicious home made bread and soup and a wonderful plum and cinnamon crumble washed down with half of the local ale before setting off to Lanthwaite wood.
This takes us back towards the lake and her Eastern margins. A path again follows the water’s edge, light glittering on rock and water, milder air.
The last bit is along the road into Buttermere but can be avoided with some careful map reading.
The Sky Tea Rooms are still open for home made ice cream or cream tea to round off a perfect day out.
Stairway to Heaven is good mood music for a romantic journey to Castell y Bere - a cottage not far away was where Led Zeppelin started writing the song. The castle stands proud on a rock outcrop in the gorgeously peaceful and very remote Dysynni Valley. Visitors are infrequent - climb a wooden stairway and you may be alone to tour the extensive home of Llewellyn, the last prince of independent Wales, and Lady Eleanor, first Princess of Wales.
Once there, nearby for experienced walkers, is the start of the easiest route to ascend the 2930ft of Cadair Idris. Or the tiny chapel houses a scale model of the Dysynni Valley and the castle, and, from earlier times, has the poignant reminder of a leper hole. The small village, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, was also made famous by the Bible Society as the place from where, in 1800, 15 year-old Mary Jones walked 25 miles barefoot to buy a bible.
To find it, head first for Machynlleth (‘Mach’ has a train station), pausing for sustenance perhaps, and check out the blue plaque marking the site of Laura Ashley’s first shop. Bron-yr-Aur, an unremarkable cottage unless you’re a Zeppelin fan, is up on the hillside (out of sight) as you head off towards Abergynolyn. The iconic Centre for Alternative Technology is a little further on. Satnavs or apps are said to function only erratically or not at all in the hills so a map is recommended to find Castell y Bere along a winding and narrow road.
Tbe meadows and woods around Kempley and Dymock offer spring country walks among wild daffodils. The most prolific meadows and woods in the UK displaying carpets of wild daffodils are accessed in a series of circular and waymarked walks that make up the Daffodil Way. All walks are easy and cross ancient woods and farmland where historic churches and old orchards with rare varieties of apple and pear are also home to the wild daffodil. Cultural interest along the walks include a church with 10th and 12th century frescoes and wall paintings and another decorated and furnished with works of the arts and crafts movement. April is the best time to visit the daffodils when local guides and excellent teas are offered in village church halls at weekends.
Location:On the border of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. Best approached by car via Ledbury or Newent to reach the villages of Kempley and Dymock ,or from exit 3 of the M50. Parking available in Queens Wood near Kempley Green, or carefully, where convenient , around the various woods, farms, and villages.
Google map: bit.ly/YHLLAq
Set off from the top of the Dale on the A623 near Wardlow. For the first mile or so, the valley sides are carpeted with cowslips and early purple orchids. Easy stroll for all ages and abilities but can be extended into a circular walk through Miller's Dale, Tideswell Dale and Litton.
Wardlow Mires on A623
Google map: bit.ly/ZejuhA
Perched on the Worcestershire/Shropshire border, less than an hour from central Birmingham, is the Wyre Forest. One of England's largest remaining ancient woodlands, it's beautiful in spring with bluebells, daffodils and celandines in the clearings and the smell of wild garlic wafting in the air. There are trails for all abilities leading you through the bright oak forest. If you're lucky you'll catch a glimpse of fallow deer or kingfishers along the brook. If you want something more adrenalin-packed than walking or mountain biking through the forest, there is always 'Go Ape'. And round it all off with a cuppa and slab of cake on the sofas by the fire in the Forest Cafe.
Callow Hill, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY14 9XQ
Google map: bit.ly/12y2Wrk
Three miles west of Bewdley on the A456. Follow brown Forestry Commission signs from Kidderminster, to arrive at the Visitor Centre.
Parking charge: £3 for all day.
The nearest train station is Kidderminster. Bus routes 192/292 operate between Birmingham and Ludlow.
Farndale, in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, is famed for its wonderful daffodils, believed to have been first planted there by medieval monks from Rievaulx. The carpet of spring flowers attracts some 40,000 visitors annually, but this year they are late to bloom, and won’t be at their peak until the middle of April. The Daffodil Walk runs alongside the River Dove for around 2 1/2 kms, and refreshments can be found the Daffy Caffy, or at the Feversham Arms at Church Houses, which does a marvellous Sunday lunch.
England's oldest road, the Ridgeway track descends from the Chilterns to the Thames Valley, skirting Salisbury Plain and following downlands towards Avebury. It is easily walked in day sections, my favourite starting just past Wendover,where I can shoulder my pack and stride up into the beech woods at Coombe Hill, following the undulating hills and valleys to Princess Risborough, before striking out across fields and then following the downland marked by their distinctive chalk carvings, the Whiteleaf and Bledlow Crosses and the white triangle south of Watlington cut at the orders of the vicar to cover the ignomy of the lack of spire on his church.
This is my favourite day on the Ridgeway, as I feast on my packed lunch overlooking Chequers, and end the day walking down into the evening welcome of the lights of Watlington.
A very English spring walk in which a flock of lapwings can wheel above the downland and the sound of woodpeckers drumming can echo through the woodland. Pure joy that could be the same as that experienced by the young Rupert Brooke, striding out in search of laughter and inn fires 'as a free man may do.'
The view of Ashness Bridge with Derwent Water and Skiddaw Fell beyond has been seen on a gazillion postcards. Standing white, on the fellside behind you, is Ashness Farm. Between school runs the farmer, Anne Cornthwaite, runs hardy Belted Galloway cattle, local Herdwick sheep and rare-breed pigs, while welcoming guests to this friendliest of farm B&Bs. The location is a walker’s paradise. Anne makes mouth-watering Cumberland rum butter to a family recipe. Layer lavishly on fresh bread for a slice of heaven in heaven.
Walks (approximate times, one way):
Surprise View 30 minutes
Watendlath Tarn one hour
Lodore Falls and Bowder Stone (2000 tons!) 1.5 hours
High Seat (608m) and Thirlmere (its water reaches Manchester via a 96 mile aqueduct a day after leaving the lake/reservoir) three hours
Watendlath Tarn, Dock Tarn, Greenup Gill, Langstrathdale, Borrowdale (Royal Oak pub), Bowder Stone, Lodore Falls (six hours, circular)
We - my wife and I and our then 15-year-old youngest daughter - were walking Hadrian's Wall a few years ago, with pre-booked accommodation. The rain set in as we left Birdoswald Roman fort; we crossed the River Irthing on a new bridge and walked alongside the ancient Roman bridge; and there, built in the remains of a milecastle, was our next bed for the night: Willowford Farm, run by a couple from Manchester, Liam and Lauren, who breed sheep. Our rooms, with a view over the farmyard, had footbaths - very welcome after a long day's walk - and their home cooked evening meal, for meat-eaters and vegetarians, was superb: they're part of a consortium of farmers who produce locally sourced food. The next morning, as we put our damp boots on for the next bit of the walk, we were entertained by Milly the dog in the farmyard. Willowford had the best food and the nicest people of our whole walk along Hadrian's Wall.
Famous for it's surfing credentials, but also a great family beach, with brilliant walks via the South West Coast Path. Smallish and pebbly on high tide, but huge and two miles wide on low tide. Blue bar is great for food and drink deep into the night, or take a stroll up the sand (keep an eye on the tides) for a clotted cream infused snack at the National Trust caff on Chapel Porth. there's a great little guide here
I found it possible to organise my own walking holiday. Our first family trip began at Ortisei with the first ascent via cable car, giving everyone a boost. Another glorious walk finished at the Lago di Braies Hotel on that beautiful lake. Get the books, write yourself a booking script in Italian (or German) and you will be rewarded by stunning scenery and a variety of welcoming refugi. Our (big) boys love it!
The Sibillini mountains in Umbria lack the scale and severity of the Italian Alps and the Dolomites, but that only means walkers are less numerous, and all the tops are accessible to the merely fit and well shod. The scenery is unique and spectacular, particularly the vast utterly flat lentil fields of the Piano Grande, ringed by mountains. Our hotel in Norcia arranged a reasonably priced post-breakfast transfer to the largely deserted village of Castellucio, on the edge of the Piano Grande, from where it is a long-ish but straightforward walk to the summit of Monte Patino (1883m). This is the highest point for some distance and there are huge views over the rest of the Sibillini mountains, the rolling hills of Umbria and down to Norcia immediately below. By the time you get back to town you will be ready for a beer, and if you pick your spot carefully you will be able to look up at the big cross on the summit of Monte Patino and feel, well, smug. Norcia is famous for its salami and truffles and Umbrian wine is a match for its more expensive Tuscan neighbours. Add pasta, lentils and risotto and you get perfect hearty walkers fare.
Norcia - just Google it! It's an adventure!! (OK we booked it all through Inntravel. But still an adventure to get there.)
Strada Statale Picena, ., 62026 San Ginesio Macerata, Italy
+39 0737 97271
Google map: bit.ly/16U78kY
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