Adding to their successful UK programme, self-guided walking holiday experts, Load Off Your Back (01707 386726 www.loadoffyourback.co.uk), have launched a new European portfolio featuring a selection of six hand-picked trails in Greece, Spain and Italy.
Commenting, Helen Nelson, Product Manager, LOYB, says ‘We are delighted to launch our new European programme and have selected six routes that offer some superb walking in each country. Each offers a unique insight into their destination, from the spectacular Corfu Trail to the iconic St Francis Way in Italy. We have carefully researched each itinerary to showcase the natural beauty of the regions, as well as giving clients the chance to immerse themselves in the local culture. What better way to really get under the skin of a destination than by following its traditional walking trails with many historic sites en route, staying in small inns and hotels and sampling the delicious local food. With all their luggage and accommodation taken care of, clients can relax, enjoy the fabulous views and get the satisfaction that comes from the end of great day’s walking.’
Sister company to the much-loved Ramblers Walking Holidays, Load Off Your Back is for those who prefer to walk independently rather than as part of a group. The holidays quite literally take the load off clients’ backs, by transporting luggage from one overnight stop to the next. The holidays are ideal for those looking for a more independent type of walking holiday, yet safe in the knowledge that the route has been carefully planned, accommodation booked and their luggage will be waiting on arrival at their next destination.
Highlights include the following holidays, which are ideal for experiencing each country’s unique fauna as the pastures, mountain hillsides and local gardens come alive with blossom and brightly coloured flowers:
Greece: Walk the Ionian Jewels of Corfu & Paxos
Encompassing 72 kilometres and designed to offer a real taste of Greece away from the resorts, Walk the Ionian Jewels of Corfu and Paxos combines sections of the spectacular 220 kilometre Corfu Trail with time-worn mule paths or ‘kalderimi’, offering a tranquil introduction to some of the most picturesque and untouched sections of the island. The walking on Corfu is interspersed with two nights on the peaceful island of Paxos, including a day enjoying a circular route around the island, dotted with olive groves and pretty coves.
Flanked by azure sea with a landscape of high wooded hillsides, ancient olive groves, rocky cliffs, hidden coves and inviting beaches, walking on Corfu is surprisingly varied. Highlights include hikes through the juniper bush laden windswept dunes surrounding the island's largest lake, Korisson Lagoon – an important stop for migrating birds with pockets of ancient rare cedar forest and a wonderful array of sand orchids in spring. The route encompasses Central Corfu’s highest peak Agii Deka; and walks through the sleepy foothills of Mount Pantokrator, before crossing its saddle and descending through the almost deserted heritage village of Old Perithia, to the wild coastal headland at the very end of the Corfu Trail. There is also time to enjoy the Venetian architecture of UNESCO World Heritage Corfu town. On the neighbouring, much smaller island of Paxos, the day’s walk starts in the charming port of Gaios, from where winding paths take hikers on a route of rural discovery through tiny villages and across the island to Tripitos Arch, a spectacular natural formation which plunges into the sea. There is also a visit to the old capital of Ozia.
Walk the Ionian Jewels of Corfu & Paxos 8 day journey starts from £759/person and includes B&B accommodation and includes luggage transfers, transport where noted in the itinerary, ferry crossings, maps, route notes and 24 hour contact for emergencies.
Italy: Walking St Francis Way: A Pilgrimage Route from Assisi to Spoleto
A continuous walk covering 64 kilometres from Assisi to Spoleto, Walking St Francis Way follows in the footsteps of the humble 12th century friar St Francis, who spent his youth wandering the hills waiting for a sign from God on how best to live his life. Rich in the fruits of nature and history, the route takes in some of the most spectacular Umbrian countryside – a region aptly coined “the green heart of Italy”. Orchards, vineyards, olive groves and wheat fields provide an enchanting backdrop to the many hermitages, chapels and beautifully preserved medieval towns scattered across the landscape.
From Assisi itself, the route starts with a beautiful uphill trail through the slopes of Monte Subasio to “Eremo delle Carceri” hermitage, built around the cave where St Francis regularly retreated for prayer and miraculously made the well water flow. Other highlights en route include the pink stoned medieval town of Spello with its flower-filled balconies and the former Roman enclave and olive oil capital of Trevi with its mighty 1st century BC walls and magnificent 800 metre panoramic avenue. From here, you follow the official “via Francesca” – the original path walked by St Francis with beautiful views of the valley of Spoleto. The final day, from Poreta to Spoleto, takes in the hamlet of Santa Maria di Reggiano, with its beautiful XII and XIV century frescoes, before finishing in Spoleto. And what better way to reward yourself after a good day’s walking than on the delicious regional cuisine such as the sweets of Assisi, extra-virgin olive oil of Trivia, home made pasta with boar ragù and the black truffle of Spoleto.
Walking St Francis Way 7 day journey starts from £559/person and includes B&B accommodation and includes luggage transfers, transport where noted in the itinerary, maps, route notes and 24 hour contact for emergencies.
Spain: Walking the Sierra de Grazelema
Linking traditional whitewashed villages (Pueblos Blancos) through an inspiring Andalucian landscape of limestone peaks, ancient oak forests and the verdant mountain valleys of the Grazalema Natural Park, Walking the Sierra de Grazelema combines linear and circular trails to reveal a fertile region steeped in fascinating Moorish history and Spanish tradition.
Starting in Grazelema, one of the prettiest Pueblos Blancos in the region, the eight day journey to Ronda follows a mixture of walks through lush rolling pastures dotted with traditional farmhouses – cortijos, small Pueblos Blancos surrounded by woodland and olive orchards and along steep valley ridges. Panoramic lookouts afford dramatic views with the opportunity to spot soaring eagles and vultures. Some of the many highlights on the walk include the accent over the Puerto Boyar pass with spectacular views back to Grazelema; the trail into the impressive Llanos de Republicano valley with its deep walls and limestone cave into which the river miraculously disappears and the circular route via El Hacho Peak along Campobuche valley through fragrant woodlands and orchards. There is also the chance to see the prehistoric cave paintings “la Cueva de la Pileta” and the enchanting hillside town of Ronda with its remarkable 18th century Puente Nuevo, which spans the Tajo gorge and connects the two sides of the city. Of course, the fine Andalucian Tapas, local wines and sherries are another highlight and the perfect way to relax in true Spanish style at the end of the day.
Walking the Sierra de Grazelema 8 day journey starts from £419/person and includes B&B accommodation and includes luggage transfers, transport where noted in the itinerary, maps, route notes and 24 hour contact for emergencies
For further information, contact 01707 386726 or visit www.loadoffyourback.co.uk
Load Off Your Back (LOYB) is a self-guided walking holiday programme, and is part of RWH Travel (formerly known as Ramblers Worldwide Holidays).
Alongside LOYB, the company also offers two group holiday brands, Ramblers Walking Holidays and Chapters Experience Holidays. Ramblers Walking Holidays encapsulate the essence of a Ramblers holiday: small group holidays, great destinations, brilliant walks and trusted Leaders, whilst Chapters Experience Holidays are experience-rich adventures from walking, cycling or sailing to painting, photography… or even mindfulness.
With over 70 years of heritage, other brands within the RWH Travel group include Adagio – leisurely walking and cultural holidays at a gentle pace and Cruise & Walk – cruise ship based walking holidays in association with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines.
For its walking holidays the company is the proud holder of Which? Recommended Provider status – ie companies which are highly rated by Which? Members and reach the exacting standards of Which? Researchers.
The company’s mission is to generate funds for walking charities by the provision of outstanding outdoor activity holidays worldwide.
With its not-for-profit philosophy, the company contributes monies to the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust which supports walking related and environmental projects in the UK. The company also funds Heart & Sole - an initiative managed by company staff, with the aim of reaching into the heart of the communities visited both in the UK and overseas.
RWH Travel also runs The Walking Partnership - an initiative which champions walking at the 'grass roots' level by providing funding and support to walking groups and clubs throughout the UK.
Ramblers Walking Holidays is the Walking Holiday Partner of the Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity, which has been championing walking and ‘rights of way’ for over 70 years across England, Scotland and Wales.
Customers travelling on all holidays operated by RWH Travel are fully protected via the company’s membership of ABTA and as holders of an ATOL licence. RWH Travel is also a member of AITO and ETOA.