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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

World's best long distance walks

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here's how to use your walking shoes to take you over the horizon - and away to Rome and even Santiago de Compostela. This post is by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about books and blogs)   

My family is so very close to finishing the Capital Ring - a 70 mile (126km) route circling London. Sometimes I worry about finishing it - we'll end the joy of discovering new bits of London. Highlights include the Brent reservoir used for a long-ago Olympics, the art deco 1930s splendour of Eltham Palace, a peep into the grand schooling of Harrow School and the endless views of London from hills you didn't know existed. Honestly it's like tramping over the seven hills of Rome.

To compensate my loss there are some wonderful long-distance paths around the UK (and nearby) that could perhaps be revisited and allow me to dream up being in another place altogether.

Five best long-distance walks

  • Camino de Santiago de Compostela - the route of St James (patron saint's day 25 July). I've met people who have walked this in the sharp winds of April with a baby on their back. I've seen the film with Martin Sheen and son, The Way, and long ago I stayed in the stunning parador (hotel) at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Somewhere in the back of my mind I want to try this 780km journey too, but it's one that will have to wait for the children to leave school. Indeed if you go past the cathedral you can end at Finisterre, which Medievals thought was "the end of the world". More info at this website.
  • Walk with the Romans along Hadrian's Wall. We've nearly managed the whole 135km, just a short two, maybe three, day section left between Newcastle and Hexham. The May half term is pencilled in, but we may have to give up on this idea as Nell, 10, is very wary of cows and they will certainly be out in the fields by then. Bulls and all. See a previous entry on this blog here about the moment we reached the end (before quite completing the beginning).
  • West Highland Way - runs 152km from Glasgow to Fort William uphill. Well, as good as uphill. It's midge heaven and the few chunks I've tried out (along Loch Lomond for instance) are remarkably free of snack shops which makes walking more of a slog. Perhaps this is the one that best echoes Camino de Santiago de Compostela?

  • Coast to Coast - success! Pete and I spent three years popping up and down to the Lake District in order to walk Alfred Wainwright's fabulous 190 mile path (sorry, it has to be miles in respect to AW's memory) from St Bees Head over to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire (dreamt up in 1973, more info here). I'd never heard of Wainwright when Pete first suggested the idea. Now I am willing to watch reruns of his extremely slow TV programme, just to get back in the zen mood of walking through the Lake District with my eyes mostly on a compass rather than mountain tops...

    A tip from the cantankerous AW: "If you must take a companion, take one who is silent."

    I was quite upset when an energetic friend and her husband managed to cycle 225km on the C2C (a very similar route) in a weekend - the time it took my lumbering feet seemed to add to the magic of the journey. But if you are less hardy, but still speed-inclined try the 12-20 day holidays run by this group.

  • Across India - isn't this what Gandhi did in some form of anti-British protest involving salt? Have you seen the size of India? 

Over to you
Where have you walked in the UK that makes you think you could be somewhere else in the world?


Chrissy Brand said...

The London ring sounds wonderful- must try parts of it myself sometime...

I don't know about a walke which leaves me feeling elsewhere in the world, but the 97 miles Cheshire Canal ring I am doing bit by bit is certainly a wonderful break away from the city. I blog about it often.

Chrissy at Manchester: a photo a day at Mancunian Wave

nicolabairduk said...

Good tip Chrissy - and you have fab pix on your blog too. Thanks. Nicola

nicolabairduk said...

From Roger (via Facebook):
Roger wrote: "When I walked, I wasn't trying to find places that felt like they were abroad, but to reconnect with the countryside I remember from my childhood. But the following spring to mind:

1. Walk out of London or wherever you live. I walked out of London twice - once to the West on my way to the Ridgeway and Devizes and once via Wooing Forest on my way to East Anglia. Both times I felt an extraordinary sense of secret empowerment;

2. Oxford to Plymouth. This encompassed the Thames Valley, the Marlborough Downs, Salisbury Plain, swathed of Dorset and the edge of Dartmoor.

3. Oxford to Aberystwyth, which took me through the Cotswolds, over the Malverns, through Herefordshire, up the Wye Valley and across the Cambrian Mountains.

And then there are the walks I've never done."

Karin said...

We're lucky here with lots of places to walk. I enjoy looking at the plants and birds etc around me on a walk. I'm not so enthusiastic about walking long distances. I blame the shortness of my legs, which makes it harder to keep up.

Satish Kumar has done a lot of walking. Have you heard of him?

Btw, I've just nominated you for an award http://notesonagarden-karin.blogspot.com/2012/01/blog-award-for-me-and-my-favourite.html

Pete May said...

When are you getting your pipe and grey anorak Nicola? Wainwright chic is this season's look...