Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hiking the Cotswolds—Where Curry and Trails Collide

The Self Guided Cotswolds Way is the perfect inn-to-inn hiking tour if you like curry.

At the Noel Arms Hotel in Chipping-Campden, England (day 1 of our hiking tour), chef Indunil Upatissa serves up curry dishes with distinction. Upatissa is Britain’s only three-time winner, and the current title-holder, of the Great British Pubs Awards—Best Curry Chef.

Under Upatissa’s direction, the Noel Arms serves delicious curry, with a special “curry night” offered during the last Thursday of every month. The Noel Arms offers a choice of authentic curries from across the Far East served in the hotel’s restaurant, conservatory, and the Dover's Bar.

Can’t make curry night on the last Thursday of the month? No problem!

In the Cotswolds, virtually every pub offers a curry of the day, and every town of modest size boasts at least one Indian restaurant. As Ryder-Walker’s founder, Peter Walker, likes to say,”It is possible to eat curry twice a day, every day, and I do!”

Here’s a partial list of some of our favorite pubs and Indian restaurants along the Cotswolds Way. Tip: don’t underestimate the “take away” restaurants. Our Cotswolds hiking tour offers charming B&B accommodations every night so that you can sample the regional fare at your leisure. While upscale dining is a must-do during the course of this tour, oftentimes, it’s the casual take away curry restaurants that really hit the spot mid week (especially for lunch).

In Chipping Campden:
Noel Arms
Best Curry Chef—Three time winner.
Maharaja Restaurant
A real treasure if you like atmospheric seventeenth century English pubs.

Bengal Balti
This little gem is a take away restaurant. They don't have a website, but they don't really need one. The reviews speak for themselves.

Wotton under Edge
India Palace
Another take away restaurant that satisfies. This is a great place to refuel after a long day on the trail. Load up on curry, then grab a Guinness at the local pub. Yum!

JK's at St. Michaels
Part of St. Michaels luxury inn. This seventeenth century home overlooks the historic village square. The experience is "shear" poetry, as they like to say in this old wool town.

The Mint Room
Best Restaurant—Winner of the Best Restaurant category of the Bath Life Awards 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Desert Photos | Springtime Bloom

This is what we mean when we say that we've timed our Arches & Canyonlands hiking tour to coincide with the springtime bloom. Last year's group discovered these little treasures outside of Sedona, Arizona.

Desert wildflowers require a special combination of melting snowpack, spring rains, and sunny afternoons in order to bloom, and they don't last forever. Just like autumn colors come and go, so too, do springtime desert palettes ebb and flow.

We'll be heading back to Sedona in a little over a month. We'll spend an entire week, (in Arizona and Utah), enjoying the vibrant colors that make the Desert Southwest a beautiful place to be in spring.

Photo by Willi Glanznig.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mountain Hiking in Scotland

When you hike a mountain with Peter Walker, be prepared to climb every last inch!

In this photo, Peter stands on top of a munro in Scotland. 'Munro' is the Scottish term for any mountain with a height greater than 3,000 feet (914.4 meters).

A History

The number of 3,000 + foot peaks in Scotland remained unknown for many years until a man named Sir Hugh Munro published a comprehensive list of the peaks in 1891. Known throughout the hiking, climbing and geography communities as the 'Munro Tables,' Munro’s list opened the door to the Scottish highlands and paved the way for mountain exploration in Scotland.

Today, people from around the globe visit Scotland to hike, climb or simply photograph a munro. "Munro bagging," an activity that involves climbing as many munros as possible, has also become a popular pastime.

According to the Scottish Mountaineering Club, there are 282 munros in Scotland, with another 227 subsidary tops. A subisidary top is any summit greater than 3,000 feet that doesn’t actually qualify as a separate mountain.

Hiking in Scotland with Ryder-Walker

Our new hiking tour in Scotland crosses some of the country’s most famous munros. Beginning in the historic town of Callander, on the east side of the Trossachs National Park, we’ll spend an entire week hiking across the most interesting peaks of the Scottish Highlands. We’ll climb mountains with names like Ben Vorlich (3,232 feet), Ben Lomond (3,196 feet), Ben Alligen (3,235 feet), and Ben Eighe (3,314 feet), the last of which is actually a complex mountain massif containing a long ridge with numerous spurs and subsidary summits.

While every munro boasts something special, from sweeping views to interesting geological formations, the Munros on Scotland’s Isle of Skye are perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing. Part of a rugged mountain group called the Cuillins of Skye, the munros in this part of Scotland are black, (due to the composition of the rock), jagged and satisfyingly remote. Hiking into the Cuillins, we’ll discover a world of bare rock, steep cliffs, and deep cut gullies.

Three thousand-foot summits might not sound very high when compared with the European Alps, (Mont Blanc is over 15,000 feet, for example), but it should be remembered that many of the surrounding villages in Scotland sit at, or slightly above, sea level. With this in mind, hikers should be prepared for ascents up to 3,000 feet during this tour. Side note; the views of Scotland's inner lakes, including Loch Ness, are pretty amazing!

Check out our website to learn more about the Scotland hiking tour. While the munro hiking is certainly the haggis and tatties of this tour, it’s the castle visits, the accommodations in stately manor houses (à la Downton Abbey), the cozy peat fires and the velvety glasses of scotch that make this trip an authentic Scottish experience. This is also a great excuse to try your hand at Munro bagging. There is one caveat to munro bagging, however. You must climb to the top of each marker cairn, (Peter Walker style), or the summit doesn’t count.

Please read our itinerary for more details.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Trail Magic

Messages from our guests mean a lot to us, and this note from Blythe Fortin is no exception. She writes, "I hope you'll post this photo and story. It's an example of how friendships are formed on the trail ... and how R-W trips become an annual ritual for your repeat customers!"

Annual ritual, indeed. This group will hike your butt off! Blythe and her group of friends have more than 40 Ryder-Walker hiking tours between them, and they don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Check it out:

Great Friends

Even though we live on different continents, the Whitears and Fortins have become great friends ... and we have Ryder-Walker to thank! We met seven years ago on a R-W trek, and the trail worked its magic. Now we make a point of going on the same trips each summer. But in February 2013 we expanded our repertoire. The Fortins flew to Australia to join the Whitears for the Great Ocean Walk, a hike (of either four or seven days) along the wild and wooly coast of Victoria, ending at the iconic Twelve Apostles. With us back on our respective continents, we are already looking forward to our reunion this summer on the Heart of Austria trip.

PS: Notice Aubrey's Ryder-Walker hat ...and the tee shirts from Blythe's 60th birthday celebration on the Haute Route! Please pass along our regards to the gang.


Thank you, Blythe, Ray, Aubrey and Diane, for your awesome devotion and patronage throughout the years. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful guests, and we can't wait to hike with you again this summer! 

Do you have Ryder-Walker photos and/or stories that you'd like to share? Please send them our way. You can also post to our Facebook page. Just hit the like button (if you haven't already), and start sharing the hiking goodness online.