Happy hiking to women walkers on this International Women’s Day 🌹
The Youth Hostelling Association for England and Wales, the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association for Scotland, Hostelling International NI for Northern Ireland and the many private hostels & bunkhouses springing up around Britain can be a hidden treasure.
If there are rooms available when you need them, hostelling can enable you to stay in or near places where accommodation prices are at a premium, as well as places which are only accessible on foot. In comparison to the blandness of some budget hotels, hostels embrace a cornucopia of styles and periods, from humble cottages to grand mansions.
Unfortunately there has been a recent tendency towards whole hostel letting by the YHA which has had the effect of sidelining individual and family customers like myself. In spite of the name, I am told that you do not have to be young to stay at a youth hostel. Apparently the remit of the YHA is aimed at people of all ages.
There is no such thing as a “typical” hostel which is why they can be such a pleasure to stay in.
Hiking can become an expensive hobby by the time you have spent money buying your kit, paid high season B&B prices & possibly employed a courier. I was told by many hikers that camping was the answer, and to some extent it is. Keeping open the option to camp will mean that you are never stuck for somewhere to stay.
However there will sometimes be days, even when you camp, when you need some rest and recuperation, as well as some first world facilities such as warmth, power supplies, hot showers, laundry facilities, cooking facilities, meals, a bar, wifi and even an en-suite private room. These are some of the facilities sometimes on offer when rooms are available.
Some routes and areas are more generously appointed with hostels and bunkhouses than others. The Pennine Way and the Lake District for example, because of their popularity, are very well provided with excellent places, but Northumberland has very few.
One advantage of joining one of the hosteling organisations is that you can get a discount on the cost of a room and membership of the International organisation Hostelling International.
In addition to YHA hostels, a huge range of independent hostels and bunkhouses can be found on the independenthostelguide website. They are sometimes easier to get in to than the YHA hostels.
I was quite a late starter to hostelling, so in case you are like me, here are some pointers about what to expect when you stay at a hostel:
What to expect.
- Rooms are sometimes only available at weekends or in high season for individuals and families because of block booking.
- You will usually have the choice of a shared dormitory room with bunkbeds (usually but not always single sex) or a private or family room.
- You may be expected to make your own bed up when you arrive and put your used bedding in the laundry baskets when you leave.
- Youth hostels sometimes close during the day from about 10am until 4pm for cleaning so it is unwise to arrive during these hours.
- You may have the choice to self cater or eat meals provided by the hostel. It is worth indicating your intention before you arrive
- There are usually lockers available on request for your gear.
- There is sometimes a curfew time when the doors are locked but you should be given a key or code which will enable you to get in after hours
- Three things which are often useful in shared dormitories are a little torch for creeping in after other people have gone to bed, an extension lead as there are sometimes not enough sockets for recharging if the room is full, and ear plugs if you are easily disturbed during the night.
- Staff are normally knowledgable about the local area and are happy to suggest facilities, walks or climbs nearby.
- You can wash and dry clothes and boots at most hostels and they are usually willing to hold parcels for you until you arrive.
- Wifi is available in most hostels except those in remote locations.
- Most hostels are relaxed and friendly but the ethos is fairly DIY.
This is an updated re-issue of a page originally published in 2013 following a couple of years of using hostels on long distance walks and some shorter trips.
Rucksack Readers: Coast to Coast, St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay (2018).
This new edition of the Coast to Coast walk guide is produced in line with the range of Rucksack Reader editions from this Edinburgh publisher.
This Coast to Coast Guide is printed on weatherproof, biodegradeable paper and the spiral bindings enables the user to open it out flat. It is published in high spec full colour with photographs by Karen Frenkel. It also contains introductory sections to aid planning and preparation, well researched background information and a thorough final section of further information and references.
The walk is divided into 16 daily stages with concise directions, route options, altitude profiles and 1:55,000 colour maps by Lovell Johns. At 220mm x 150mm and 295g, the guide should fit in most garment or rucksack pockets, although it is slightly on the tall side for me. There is the option to download the Daily Stages section of the guide as a pdf which could be used during the walk as an alternative to carrying the book. There is also some additional content and a downloadable GPX file available from their website.
On the whole the book has been thoughtfully produced, addressing some of the physical problems many walkers will have experienced with walking guides (rain damage and spine deterioration). I also appreciate the thoughtful extras such as the downloadable pdf guide and GPX file which allow the walker to get everything they require in a one stop shop.
Many walking books are self consciously low spec on the reasonable assumption that they will take a bit of rough handling during a walk. It is therefore quite nice to find a guide that subverts the trend by proving that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed to durability.
This was a free review copy available on request from the publisher.
Having created a long distance route from a map for a challenge event, I was reminded that following pre-existing routes with signs, guides, waymarks, apps and other hikers for company is reassuring and even soporific at times. However as you may know, once you can absorb the information contained in a map, it becomes easier to create a route of your own. If you have ever looked at Foul Weather Alternatives or taken a short cut, then you have created your own walk.
My background has involved following a lot of other people’s routes, and a helpful spell of route checking for the Ramblers. Their training covered areas such as safety, legality, accessibility, topography, themes and focal points on routes. There are then two stages involved in the process of creating a route. One involves looking at the route on your map and in satellite view (which can reveal inaccuracies in the map), and the other is to reccy the route on foot with all these issues in mind.
What should a good route involve?
The legality of a route is essential if you are offering it for other people to follow. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the symbols which denote what type of track it is; right of way, bridle way etc and any rules and exemptions which apply.
Safety is a crucial issue so it is important to be aware of any potential hazards such as river’s in spate, slippery rocks, eroded tracks or obstructions such as fallen trees. You should then try to incorporate these into your route data.
In case of access issues and the use of wheeled vehicles, it is helpful to mention any steps or stiles on the route and a note on the condition of the tracks i.e whether they are full of potholes or overgrown.
The received wisdom when I trained was that a good walk should involve a focal point/s. This could be a view, or historic, natural, sacred, architectural or topographic features in the case of a day hike. In the case of a distance hike there is the opportunity to introduce a theme or feature such as the Pennines (Pennine Way), historic landmarks (Hadrian’s Wall), Abbeys (Borders Abbeys Way) or geographical features such as a river (Speyside Way). A walk could also follow a person’s life (John Muir Trail) or encompass a pilgrimage route (Camino di Santiago).
When working from the map, the following questions could be considered when creating a day hike:
- Are the start and finish accessible?
- Is the walk is do-able?
- What are the gradients like?
- Has it got a gradual start?
- Does it have variety?
- Does it include suitable rest places and shelter?
- Are there any avoidable eyesores?
For a distance hike you could add these questions to your list:
- How far apart are the resupply points?
- Where are the water supplies?
- Is there a variety of accommodation?
- Is it possible to backpack the route?
- Are refreshments available?
This is just a sketch of some of the issues and questions to bear in mind when walking somebody else’s route or creating your own. It can be interesting to evaluate the decisions which have been made for you on pre-existing routes, and to try and improve on them on your own walk. This can become the first step towards creating your own.
With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.
I have been digging my old trumpet out and dusting it off to receive this very exciting ViewRanger (Now Outdooractive) award, alongside 9 other distinguished recipients.
Craig Wareham, Co-Founder and CEO of Viewranger, describes the annual award as follows:
‘The Top Publisher Award recognises people, organizations and publishers creating interesting, engaging, and high quality trail guide content. Each year, just ten outdoor organizations and authors receive our top award for contributing outstanding digital content, including route descriptions, turn-by-turn directions and photos to share with the growing outdoor community’
By way of acknowledgement, the ViewRanger app has dragged my blog out of the dusty filing cabinets and card indexes where it was created, and into the digital present. The app provided me with exactly the tools I needed to make my routes accessible to a wider audience and to communicate directly with users.
Thanks to my followers and all at ViewRanger for making it happen for all my Rucksack Rosie sites. Please note that ViewRanger is now assimilated with the Outdooractive app which can be downloaded from the usual places.
Or why you should walk a long distance trail.
I thought I would write a post regarding my love of walking Trails (listed under the Trails tab) to try and inspire you to walk a trail. After some cogitation I came up with the following factors which have inspired me:
- You gain a sense of progress which is rare in real life
- The world is a beautiful place
- The kindness of strangers who want you to succeed
- The unique perspective it provides on the places you walk through
- The community of other hikers
- The perspective it gives you on life’s problems
- Nature, nature and nature
- The sense of freedom and independence it can give you
But somehow this still didn’t convey my love of walking long distance paths. So, here are some pictures:
…..which is when I realised that I could fill a book.
Happy Trails 🏕⛰🏕👣💚 🌹
As the gift season is upon us again, I thought it would be a timely moment to mention a few top new and classic outdoor and adventure books for the reader in your life, or indeed for you.
Outdoor & Adventure Books
(In alphabetical order)
- Walking Home: Travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way by Simon Armitage
- Blind Descent: Surviving alone and blind on Mount Everest by Brian Dickinson.
- The Last Englishman: A 2,650 mile hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail by Keith Foskett
- Balancing on Blue by Keith Foskett
- Into Thin Air: An account of the Everest disaster by Jon Krakauer
- Mountains of the Mind by Robert MacFarlane
- The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane
- Ramble On: The story of our love for walking in Great Britain by Sinclair McKay
- Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
- Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
- Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by Chris Townsend
- Out There by Chris Townsend
I have been catching up with my writing up of two recent short backpacking trips in Scotland, which were designed to enable me to get some experience of wild camping with my newish Duomid shelter. Up to now my focus has mainly been on the hiking rather than the camping, which is why I was drawn to use existing long distance trails on both these trips.
My first four long distance trails utilised a variety of B&Bs, hostels and bunkhouses where all my needs were catered for, but the costs of these trips mounted up. Because of this I finally bought a tent for the Pennine Way in 2013 and began to use some small campsites and gardens. This experience kickstarted my journey towards wild camping.
The first trip in June was to Perthshire on part of the Cateran Trail, hiking from Blairgowrie to Kirkmichael and camping at Pitcarmick in Strathardle.
The second trip in August was to Stirlingshire and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park on part of the Rob Roy Way, hiking from Drymen to Strathyre and camping at Bealach Cumhang near the Menteith Hills. For those who don’t speak Gaelic, bealach apparently means col.
On the whole, I think my ability to chose reasonable places to pitch is improving a little bit, and I have begun to establish a camp routine which works for me, although heavy rain on both hikes affected my decisions, and I could still do with shaving some weight off my pack.
I chose the Cateran Trail, which is divided between Perthshire & Angus, for my next backpacking trip, partly because it looks to be a fine route, but also because this area was my introduction to central Scotland some years ago.
The Cateran Trail is a 65 mile / 104km circular route which includes Strathardle as well as parts of Glen Shee and Glen Isla. The route is named after the bands of cattle thieves known as Caterans who previously brought terror to these glens.
The Strathardle section I backpacked between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael contains all the different types of terrain which this area is known for; various types of woodland, untamed heather moorland, rolling farmland pastures, and many burns feeding into the Ericht and Ardle rivers. You can read the trip report at Pitcarmick under the camping section.
Unfortunately for me, a recent event on the trail had left it a bit muddy. If I had worn my boots and taken my gaiters, it would have improved things, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway here are a few photos of the varied section between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael, which included a camp at Pitcarmick, to give you an idea of the route.
These pictures give some indication of how lovely the trail is, but avoid the mud underfoot. At this point it began to rain heavily, so I pitched the tent quite early to dry out. Apologies if I should not have camped in this site but it was an unplanned decision brought about by the weather.
I continued my hike the following morning down the lovely, verdant country lanes into Kirkmichael for a much needed hot breakfast. There I decided to return to this trail when it has had the chance to recover, and I can focus more on the lovely countryside and less on where I am putting my feet.
I have just returned from the 65 mile Speyside Way walk from Aviemore in the Scottish Cairngorms to Buckie on the Moray coast, accompanied by my new tent. My write up can be found in the trails section.