I looked at the weather report. Summer temperatures were forecast, with clear skies, no rain and only a bit of wind, despite it being mid-October. Sure, Hurricane Ophelia was on its way, but it wasn't due to arrive for at least 48 hours. How often do you get no rain and warm temperatures in October in Yorkshire? Never. So there was only one thing for it: a wild camp.
Having done it once before, on my own, I decided that this time I'd take a friend but would use a bivvy bag instead of a tent. After all, it was going to be dry.
My lovely friend Sarah said yes, and then wanted to say no, but I dragged her along assuring her that we wouldn't get murdered or fall off a cliff. I didn't tell her that I was slightly apprehensive in case the hurricane did arrive early and we'd get blown into the sea. And having never bivvied before, this was a new experience for me too.....
Parking at the Robin Hood's Bay car park, we followed the Cleveland Way signs north towards Whitby. The sun was already beginning to set behind thinning cloud, casting a pinky-grey softness across the gorgeous coastline. There were plenty of places you could simply unroll a sleeping bag, but we wanted to head slightly off the path. Of course, you can't head far off the path or you will end up in the sea. Some of the cliffs are very unstable so it's important to find a patch of ground that isn't likely to crumble beneath you.
We managed to find a spot roughly a mile or so from Robin Hood's Bay. An outcrop of land jutted away from the path out towards the sea and off to each side of it, were handy little ridges the perfect size for lying on (although it didn't allow for much rolling over in your sleep). Had we rolled off, we would have simply rolled down a gentle bank to a slightly boggy trough, not to our deaths. Always a good thing. But by lying just below the lip of earth, we were protected from the breeze and gave Sarah comfort that we were more hidden from view of potential murderers.
With no tent to pitch, we could immediately get to the important task of having a glass of wine, eating a hearty dinner of roasted nuts and talking shite. We'd brought a game along with us but couldn't quite muster up the energy to play.
By 8pm it was pitch black and our wine was gone. We decided it was time to snuggle into our bivvies. Despite it being an exceptionally warm night for the time of year, it was still getting chilly. Storing our boots in a dry bag to keep any dew off them, we got into our beds fully clothed.
If you haven't bivvied before, it is in essence a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. Depending on the size bivvy you get, you can fit your sleeping mat into your bivvy along with your sleeping bag. For a pillow, just use a rolled up coat or spare jumper. A hat is a good idea to keep your head warm or a buff that you can pull down over your eyes and top of nose so just your nostrils and mouth are free. Sleeping with socks on will keep your feet warm. Other tips: sleep with a head torch on or near you should you need to get up in the night. Also keep your mobile phone wrapped up somewhere warm to save the battery as it gets drained in the cold.
Without a tent, you lie staring straight up at the stars. We were very lucky to have clear skies for most of it, without the typical accompanying plummeting temperatures. As we lay looking up at the Plough constellation, a shooting star whizzed overhead, so bright and close you could see the orange tail of burning dust glowing brightly. Magical!
Just as we were getting ready to nod off, we noticed a light flashing on the rocks on the nearby cliff. Sarah immediately went into 'we're going to be murdered mode!" It was a bit odd and slightly scary, but I assumed it was probably just cockle pickers or someone down on the beach below. The thing to remember about wild camping is that most people are tucked up in their beds. They don't know you're there and won't be able to see you in the dark anyway. So there really isn't anything to worry about.
After watching the stars for hours, I finally nodded off only to be woken about an hour later to a loud screeching. My guess is a bird of prey had caught something. More star watching ensued as I tried to drift off again. I must have fallen asleep at last as I woke just as the very first glimmer of morning light was starting to leak some colour into the blackness. I watched as the lighthouse in the far distance flashed every five seconds and listened to the waves crash on the rocks far below, while seabirds began their morning chorus. What a wonderful way to wake up.
Sadly, we had to get back to York and real life, so after a quick cup of coffee, we packed up and were ready to go before the sun had even fully risen. Waving good morning to the curious sheep along our path, we made our way back to the car. We were tired, looking a bit scruffy but we'd had a brilliant microadventure. From door to door, we were gone 17 hours, yet we'd made wonderful memories.
Anyone can squeeze a bit of adventure into their life. And you should. Because when you look back on your life, you won't remember those evenings sitting on the sofa watching reality shows on TV. You will remember lying on a cliff watching the stars with a friend.
If you are women - particularly if you are a women who has forgotten how to have adventures because you never have time for yourself - join the free Glamoraks group on Facebook. We will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and into your potential. You just have to love walking and the outdoors and want to rediscover yourself again.
Here's a little video to inspire you.
Want to try wild camping with a bivvy? Here's what you need to pack
I would never consider myself a brave person. I'm scared of heights and cows and caterpillars. I don't do scary rollercoasters, go in confined spaces or jump off high things.
But I have decided that I want to take on a challenge that scares me. Many people will think I am insane for considering it. Others might shrug and think it's not that scary. I'm not doing this to compare my adventure ability with anyone else. I'm doing it to prove to myself that I can. (And to give me the content for a book, which I want to write.)
I have set myself a goal to not only do this adventure, but have written the book and become a speaker about how to challenge yourself by the end of of next year. And unless you set big, scary audacious goals and tell people about them, life will just stay the same. I'm tired of waiting for a magic wand. I'm making my own magic.
To walk the Cape Wrath Trail. On my own. April/May 2018.
The Cape Wrath Trail is considered the UK's toughest long distance walk. It's not the longest. In fact it's only 200 - 250 miles. The reason the mileage is approximate is because there is not an actual trail. There is no lovely way marked footpath. You have to find your own way from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point in the UK.
The way goes through some of Scotland's wildest terrain, boggiest ground and most remote areas. It is tough walking where every mile feels double that.
Not only will I have to navigate my way using a map and compass, I will have to carry everything I need on my back. My accommodation will be a tent, wild camping anywhere I can find a not boggy piece of ground. Or staying in very, very remote bothies (little stone huts that provide four walls, a roof and a fireplace, with little more.) I will have to carry my own food - there are not many places to restock en route. Access to water will be less of an issue, but will require purifying. Staying dry will be a major challenge. In fact, I can expect to have wet feet for the 20 (to 30) days it will take me (depending on how lost I get).
If I go too early, there will be too much snow/cold. If I go too late, there will be too many midges. If I go from August onwards, I'll come across deer stalkers doing a deer cull. And when I get to Cape Wrath I will need to ring the MOD to find out if they are practicing live drills or dropping real bombs. They typically do this in April.
Upon reaching Cape Wrath, when you are supposedly done, there is a long slog over bogs to reach a tiny ferry, which may or may not be running depending on the weather and the sobriety of the skipper. Once across the Kyle of Durness, I will need to get back home. There is a very limited bus service.
I have walked 192 miles during the coast to coast. But I have never carried my kit on my back (except for one 1 mile walk to a wild camp). I have wild camped on my own once, close to home in sight of humanity.
This walk will require massive physical, mental and emotional endurance. Getting lost, running out of food and crossing rivers are the three big challenges (the rivers can be particularly dangerous if in spate). I expect to cry a lot.
But I want to know that I can find my way in the wilderness. And I want to embrace the solitude and amazing views. I think everyone needs to test their endurance at some point in their life. I've done other challenges, but nothing on my own. And frankly, why start small? If you're going to go solo, go REALLY solo to one of the last remaining wild spaces in the UK. In the words of Rafiki from Lion King, 'It is time.'
My husband has kindly agreed to me doing this and some how I'll sort out childcare cover. I will take a satellite emergency tracker so that should I get into real trouble I can call the rescue team and so that my path can be plotted at all times.
I have booked myself into a Mountain Navigation Skills course for November and will have my silver certificate by the time I go, with possible additional training should I feel I need it. Plus I will be doing practice walks in boggy ground carrying a heavy pack. I do not want to have to call the emergency services unless absolutely necessary so I won't be going into this ill prepared.
I know that for many women, the thought of being alone in a bothy with strange men who happen to also be there may seem dangerous. But it is highly unlikely that people walking that trail are the type to go raping and murdering. I doubt they'd have the energy!
I have applied for an adventure grant (fingers crossed) to cover the costs and have got in touch with a mad man who has run it in 8 days, getting tips and advice from him. I have the maps and guide book.
I AM GOING TO DO THIS EVEN IF IT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
There. I said it. No turning back now.
So why should a mother in her forties choose this over having a comfortable bed and a nice holiday with her children in the sun? I do question my own sanity. But I also know that inside me is a secret adventurer. Not a very brave adventurer, but an adventurer all the same.
Every single time I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I come back feeling a little more confident, a little more capable and a little more comfortable in my own skin. As they say, it's only when you get lost that you truly find yourself.
What's your challenge for 2018?
Please join me in the Glamoraks group on Facebook to share any adventures you may have planned. They don't have to be a multi-day hike through the wilds of Scotland. Just tackling whatever is out of your own comfort zone is enough. Seriously. If you have never put on a pair of hiking boots and even walked a mile, make that your challenge. This is not a competitor sport. It's not about who has gone the furthest or done the toughest thing, it's about pushing your own personal levels of comfort so that you can discover just how remarkable you are. And trust me, you are remarkable. You just need to realise it.
Lynda Gouveia, a South African now living in Sweden, chose to explore the Amalfi Coast on foot with her husband and three teenagers in the height of summer. She shares four of the day walks they undertook. Perhaps they'll whet your appetite to explore this gorgeous region.
Distance: Each walk was between 10 – 14km’s - over four days
Difficulty: Moderately difficult – loads of stair climbing and steep descents
Type of terrain: Mountainside villages, forests, roads, paved paths and stairs
Starting point: All of these walks start from Amalfi, either by taking the local bus to a nearby village high on the hilltop, or the route starts in Amalfi
Approaching the area of Amalfi on the Italian coast just south of Naples, the mountain pass twists and turns far up the side of the mountain before starting to make its descent. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars and a sheer drop awaits on the other side of the barrier. As we descended into the town of Amalfi, nestled next to Atrani, I really began to wonder how we were possibly going to walk here. You certainly couldn't walk on the main mountain roads - you would take your life in your hands! Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about - this area is geared for walkers!
We booked through Country Walks who provided excellent detailed maps and directions, as well as a contour map which was rather complicated. The local tourist office also has maps, and there are a number of books available online on walking in Amalfi. The routes are generally well signposted and some are colour coded red and white (CAI Club Alpino Italiano).
Having read the maps and instructions we'd received, we opted for four walks with both moderate and easy options. There are loads to choose from though. Travelling with my husband and three teenagers, I wasn't sure what they'd be able to manage. The reviews had warned about stairs and knee problems and my husband's creaky knees were about to get the workout of a lifetime. They were not joking!
Also as a result of our differing ability levels, we opted to stay in Amalfi in a lovely 4-star hotel and use that as our base. This was a really good call as we didn't have the stress of moving bags and when my teenage girls opted for a day on the beach instead of walking, it was not an issue.
We found all the walks were about 3km’s longer than the distance guides gave, but I suppose that depends on your exact starting point and any wrong turns! If you’re planning on walking in Amalfi in summer (we were there for the last week in July), be prepared for heat and carry lots of water. We were lucky the week we were there as the temperatures hovered at around 26C, with a few thunderstorms forecast. The week after we left, the temperatures were all forecast to be in the mid 30’s! My apprehension about the kids not managing was unfounded. They coped really well and enjoyed it as much as we did. All in all, a fabulous family holiday.
Day 1: Amalfi and Vallee dei Mulini with the additional part to Torre dello Ziro and returning via Atrani
The walk on day 1 started with exploring the village of Amalfi and then climbing up through the terraces of lemon groves. I’ve never seen such large lemons! This is a steep start with stairs, but mostly paved.
At the top of the hill when you’re in need to refreshments, there is the little town of Pontone, which has a shop and a toilet. From there we did a detour to the Torre dello Ziro, a tower which dates back to the 13th century, and climbed to the top to enjoy the most magnificent views over Amalfi and Atrani, before retracing our steps to the main path.
The descent was long and steep with many stairs but this brought us into the winding tunnels and passages of Atrani and down to a delightful village square. From there the return to Amalfi has two options – a pedestrian walkway through a tunnel into Amalfi, or another climb through a tunnel and narrow passages to a high paved path between the two villages that again held beautiful sweeping views across the coast. This was a fantastic walk that we all loved. It gave a good overview of the area and had a little of everything.
Day 2: Ravello & Scala
This walk starts in Ravello so you need to catch the local bus from the Piazzo Flavio Gioia in Amalfi. Tickets are available to the tobacconist across the road from the square and when we were there in mid summer, the buses left every 30 minutes.
We were cautioned to be early as the busses get very full and you don’t want to be standing as the bus winds its way up the treacherous roads. Note that the bus stops at Scala first, before going on to Ravello. After visiting the famous town of Ravello, the path leads along the contour of the hill to Scala. There are toilets near the main square in Scala but are very well hidden, so you’ll need to ask.
From there, the path follows the road until Minuta and Pontone, both little villages perched on the top of the hill. Thereafter it is a steep, but easy to follow downhill walk on terraced paths between the lemon groves with hundreds of stairs. The route ends in the village of Amalfi. The kids were less keen on this walk – it wasn’t as varied as the day before and none of it was off road.
Day 3: Valle del Ferreire
This walk starts in Scala, so again you need to take the Ravello/Scala bus and then walk on to Minuta. From there, you climb about 450 stairs onto a mountainside path that follows the contours of the mountain. We overshot the intersecting pathway and continued to follow the stairs way beyond where we should have, but were lucky to meet other walkers who redirected us.
This walk is probably the most challenging and a couple of kilometres longer than the others we did, but is not difficult to follow. The high level path follows the contour of the mountain from one side of the mountain and around the valley, past a waterfall and on to the other side of the mountain.
Probably the best aspects of walking in Amalfi, but this walk in particular, is that you can see at all times where you’ve walked from so you have a real sense of achievement – imagine walking semi-circles along the sides of a mountain from one peninsula to another. At points, this walk can be scary for those fearful of heights though. It is narrow and rocky in places, requiring some climbing, and has no railing. There is however vegetation on the narrowest, steepest part of the route which gives you a false sense of security.
Walking poles were a real help in all the walks, but this one in particular. The valley walk ends in the little hilltop town of Pongerola where there is a toilet at the bar/café. The café also serves the best lemon granite I’ve ever tasted! From there, the descent wound through houses and apartments on a steep paved path with, again, lots of stairs until emerging above the sea in Amalfi. A bus from Pongerola to Amalfi is an option too. A stunning walk!
Day 4: Positano and the Path of the Gods
The well known Path of the Gods or Sentiero degli Dei starts in the neighbouring town of Bomerano (you need to take the Agerola/Bomerano bus). The walk starts from the town square a block or two away from the bus stop.
This was definitely the busiest walk – a walk done not only by serious walkers but people in swimming costumes and sandals. This walk was relatively easy, with the exception of the gruelling descent into Positano.
The path winds its way along the side of the mountain towards Nocelle, Montefaruso and then Positano and on a clear day, you can apparently see all the way to Capri. After passing through the delightful little village of Nocelle, you reach Montefaruso high above Positano, where you can decide whether to walk down or catch a bus. There are toilets at the bus stop.
We split up and two of the children and I walked down approximately 1300 steps to reach Positano, a bustlingly busy tourist destination. Apparently standing in the bus on the way down the hill was less than comfortable, so I think the walk was the better choice. We returned to Amalfi by boat which gives you the perfect opportunity to see where you’ve walked from.
About the Author: Lynda Gouveia
I am South African, but my family and I moved to Stockholm, Sweden 6 months ago and we are really enjoying being close to Europe and all it has to offer. I have three teenagers – identical twin girls and a son who is one year younger, and I’ve been married for 18 years. I am self-employed and work as a business and executive coach and people development consultant. In between, I make time for my passions which are walking, preferably long distance, photography and painting. I grab any opportunity to walk with both hands, and if I can take a few photos along the way, all the better.
As much as I love sleeping in a tent alone on the side of a hill, there is something to be said for a little bit of pampering while walking too. With National Spa Week taking place this month, I thought it would be a good idea to do a round up of walks that have a spa en route. Whether you want to break your walk up and spend a day at the spa or simply book in for a foot treatment or massage after a long day on the trail, here are some destinations to tempt you:
Carbis Bay Hotel - St Ives, Cornwall, England
Situated on the South West Coastal Path, this luxury spa hotel looks incredible! Whether you're tackling a good stretch of the coastal path or just doing a day walk, this is the perfect stopover. For £60, you can book the private hot tub on the beach for two of you. Add champagne and strawberries for an extra £20. What a perfect way to rest weary feet and bodies after a walk along some of Britain's most stunning coastline.
The Malvern Spa - Malvern, Worcestershire, England
This spa hotel features hydrotherapy pools, a crystal steam room, salt grotto, herb sauna, kelo sauna, ice fountain, drench shower and personal foot spas (hoorah for tired feet!) You can spend your days exploring the gorgeous Malvern Hills, tackling any of the walks listed here.
Appleby Manor, Appleby-in-West Morland, Cumbria, England
This hotel and spa, situated in the Eden Valley, is close to the Lady Anne's Way , but is also perfectly placed for the Dales Highway, The Westmorland Way and The Pennine Way. Alternatively use it as a base for day walks in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines. The spa offers an Aqua Thermal journey including different heat experiences, hydrotherapy pool with massage loungers, bench, volcano pads and shoulder cannons, just what you need after lugging a heavy pack.
The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, England
This is the kind of place you want to head to for a weekend of long lazy breakfasts and short strolls, with a good side dose of spa pampering. But from the hotel you can take in 2 mile, 4.5 mile or 8.25 mile walks over some idyllic Yorkshire Dales scenery or use it as a stopping point if you're doing the Dales Way.
Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Scotland
For anyone doing the West Highland Way in style, this is the place to go. You will walk along the banks of Loch Lomond on the opposite side to the hotel. After an exhausting day scrambling up and down the loch banks you'll make your way to Balmaha on the loch shore to get a ferry over to the hotel. Here luxury awaits. The spa (which is a short distance from the hotel but has a shuttle bus to get you there) is the perfect place to rest your weary legs before continuing on your journey into the highlands.
Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
The Kerry Way is one of the longest signposted walking trails in Ireland and takes in some of its most stunning scenery. At 135 miles its a challenging walk, that starts and finishes in Killarney, which is why this hotel with its spa is the perfect place to recover after your epic trek. Revel in your achievement in the outdoor hot tub or simply relax in the pool, steam room or bubble pool.
The Snowdon Cafe, Llanberis, Wales
A cafe?! Ok so this is not a spa. It is a tiny tea garden/pub in an old Welsh stone cottage on the lower slopes of Snowden on the Llanberis track. I discovered it after walking up Snowden via the Pyg track and then coming back down Llanberis. Our feet were tired and as it is the first sign of life you come to, we felt a little sit down and something to drink was just what we needed. Unbeknownst to us, the place is famed for its almost ridiculous generosity. First a free glass of home made lemonade. Then some free bara brith, spread thickly with butter. But it was when I took my boots off and massaged my feet, that the owner, came rushing out with a foot spa complete with essential oils. So not a luxury spa, and I can't guarantee the foot spa will always be available, but a lovely treat all the same.
Are there any other spas that you can recommend that add a bit of pampering on a long walk? Tell me in the comments below. If you're the kind of woman who loves to get outdoors hiking, but is just as partial to a bit of pampering, you're a Glamorak. Join the group on Facebook.