I am pleased to confirm that I have now moved north of the border to Scotland. I am hoping that this will inspire some good walking and trips to explore new areas.
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.
This post is intended to be an occasional feature showcasing some of the websites which I have enjoyed recently. I would welcome your suggestions about good sites.
Chris Townsend Outdoors Blog by a very experienced backpacker with an impressive outdoor CV. Unparalleled knowledge of gear and environmental issues.
Grough Magazine An independently owned site featuring news and features about the outdoors and outdoor activities.
Hiking in Finland A European backpacking blog in English written by the multi skilled Hendrick Morkel
Homemade Wanderlust Blog and Vlog following trailhiker Dixie’s interesting and involving attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and become a hiking triple crowner.
John Muir Trust Founded in 1983 with the aim of conserving and protecting wild places for the benefit of present and future generations
Northumberland National Park This site is growing into a well researched and interesting website about the area. They are quite responsive to comments and criticisms from users.
The Outdoors Station Podcast A professionally produced podcast covering many aspects of the outdoors from the Cartwrights at Backpacking Light UK
Scotland Outdoors Podcast A wide ranging, well informed and entertaining podcast about outdoor life in Scotland.
Tramplite Ultralight long distance hiker who designs and makes his own line of hiking equipment when he isn’t hiking trails around the world
Walk Highlands All aspects of walking in Scotland are covered in this engaging blog which has a good mix of trail data, downloads and long form posts. It is supported by accommodation providers who want to appeal to the outdoor market.
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.
3 years ago I moved from the borders back to Newcastle. Because I wasn’t sure whether there would be demand for urban walks on my site, I made a YouTube playlist of my Tyne and Wear walks but didn’t create GPX files as I do for most of my trips. I have now uploaded these walks onto ViewRanger, as well as YouTube.
Sometimes life limits the options we have open to us for outdoor pursuits. I hope you will enjoy these Tyne and Wear walks. They are all accessible by public transport – one advantage of city walking.
The arrival of the Summer Solstice always reminds me not to take for granted my favourite season. This is a reminder of why I love late spring as it unfolds into summer and is intended as a response to Ben Dolphin’s regular vlogs in praise of winter.
Like many followers, I measure the year by the appearance of certain sights and sounds such as Primroses, wild Garlic, Bluebells, Cuckoos, Larks, dawn choruses, Hawthorn blossom, Swallows, Buttercups and so on. I sometimes wonder whether this is tied to my birthday, which often coincides with the arrival of the bluebells.
From the Primroses to the Brambles the summer creeps in and builds to a magnificent climax if we are there to witness it. I have lost the last vestiges of school taught religion as an explanation for it all now. However I remain unfailingly impressed by the show which is put on if we care to get out into the outdoors.
Wishing you a happy Solstice and outdoor year.
The hard winter seems to have brought about a bumper spring with an abundance of wild flowers and sunny days up here. I have spent most of the first part of this fruitful year exploring and revisiting the southern part of Northumberland, including Amble and Rothbury. This part of the county is less familiar to me than North Northumberland where I lived for about nine years. However it has been interesting to get to know the area more, revisit older walks and create new ones.
Amble is a bit further up the coast on the main bus route from Newcastle to Berwick. It has a reasonable selection of shops, cafes, and facilities, as well as a busy harbour from which there are boat trips to Coquet Island. Amble Ambles features long and short walks and a trip out to Coquet Island.
Amble isn’t very familiar to me so I felt like an explorer trying to create walks with only the maps and local chat to go on. I am not able to write about this area as intimately as a local person can but I have enjoyed learning more about it.
Rothbury is the site of some of my earliest walks as a teenager and one of my early Rucksack Rose trips in 2012. I have a soft spot for the town which benefits from good facilities, a regular bus service and a great path network radiating from the town centre. My aims here were to add a new walk to my Rothbury Rambles page, and to improve the existing photos and videos on a better camera. It has been a pleasure to revisit these walks and I am quite pleased with how much better the page looks.
Hopefully it won’t be long before I can get further afield to bring you more walking from this season.
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 from the top of the cupboard and dusting it off to receive this very exciting ViewRanger award, alongside 9 other distinguished recipients.
Craig Wareham, Co-Founder and CEO at 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 ViewRanger outdoor community’
By way of acknowledgement, ViewRanger has dragged my blog out of the dusty filing cabinets and card indexes where it was created, and into the digital present. The ViewRanger 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 Rose sites.
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 🏕⛰🏕👣💚 🌹