In his latest book Epic Continent, award-winning travel writer Nicholas Jubber takes us on a fascinating adventure through our continent’s most enduring epic poems to learn how they were shaped by their times, and how they have since shaped us. Here he gives us an example of how there are echoes of these tales today:Read More Europe’s Epic Legacy by Nicolas Jubber
Heading off with a tent and a stove strapped to your bike is very much in fashion at the moment. Some people insist on calling it ‘bikepacking’ if any of your ride is off-road but really it’s just cycling and you don’t need any fancy kit or a special bike. Nor do you have to go to the Alps or Patagonia. Most of us have a canal or a riverbank or a stretch of coastline near us just crying out to be explored and camped on. Here are some things to take into account before you set off:
1. If it’s your first time, go in summer. The idea is to have fun and there are no prizes for suffering or survival. In fact there are no prizes
2. You can use any bike, but do get it serviced. Nobody wants to be fixing their bike in the middle of nowhere or worse, pushing it home in the middle of nowhere.
3. The one thing you might want to think about changing on your bike is a set of chunky tyres. Road tyres can struggle with a loaded bike on loose ground. If chunky tyres don’t fit on your bike it’s maybe not the best for bikepacking.
4. Pick a destination and route you like. There are no rules – you don’t have to ride a hundred miles or break any speed records.
5. Make sure you’re allowed to ride and camp where you plan to go. That’s easy in Scotland because you can go on pretty much any open ground and track but in the rest of the UK you’ll want to check the rights of way and the attitude of land owners.
6. Take a map. Maps aren’t just for navigation they’re for browsing before and during your trip to give you ideas and to understand the place you’re in.
7. Take your time. The joy of bikepacking is to spin along in a low gear and to stop whenever the fancy takes you. Smell the flowers and hug the trees. Chat to everyone you meet.
8. Eat. Eat plenty and eat well. You are burning calories quicker than you think. If you’re only out for one night you don’t need to just survive on NATO ration packs you can do some proper cooking in advance and take it with you to heat up on a stove. Wilderness gastronomy is the next big thing and you heard it here first.
9. Take your time pitching your tent. Good sleep is invaluable so have a lie down on the ground first to find any lumps and bumps hidden in the grass. Think about where the sun will be in the morning and what view you want when you open the tent flap in the morning.
10. Unless you’re into the whole sobriety thing take a couple of beers or some wine or whatever mood enhancer works for you. There are few things more satisfying than being slightly tipsy while you watch the moon come up with a wee campfire on the go somewhere wild.
And there we have it. Cycling on rough paths is for everyone. You don’t need body armour or a hipster beard. And don’t worry about how old you are: this is for folks from eight to eighty eight (apart from the not being sober thing, obviously). It’s cheap, it’s fun and it can transform your life. Just respect the land you’re riding and camping on and don’t worry about getting lost or doing it ‘wrong’.
Have fun out there.
Overlander: Bikepacking coast to coast across the heart of the Highlands by Alan Brown is available to buy now for £9.99.
Whether you’re a young person setting off on your first overseas adventure, a career breaker, or a silver traveller heading out to discover a new destination; we all need to look after our personal safety and security. After all, we want our travel experience to be memorable for all the right reasons. No matter how experienced you are, Lloyd Figgins, travel risk expert and author of The Travel Survival Guide provides practical and cost effective advice on how to stay safeRead More How to Stay Safe On Your Gap Year
In his book Into The Peatlands, Robin A. Crawford explores the peatlands of the Outer Hebrides over the course of the year, explaining how they have come to be and examining how peat has been used from the Bronze Age onwards. In describing the seasonal processes of cutting, drying, stacking, storing and burning he reveals one of the key rhythms of island life, but his study goes well beyond this to include many other aspects, including the wildlife and folklore associated with these lonely, watery places. Read More Robin A. Crawford’s guide to mapping the peatlands
There is more to Pisa than its leaning tower and its easy travel connection to the UK. There are some really nice parts of the historic centre and the sweep of the river through the town is pretty spectacular. Also, through June each year there are a series of public parades and spectacles. Passing through Pisa airport on our way to the coast we saw the posters promoting “Il Gioco del Ponte” – the game of the bridge – held on the last Saturday of June and we decided to go.
Annabel Barber, Editor of the Blue Guides tells us about Miksa Schiffer and urges us all to add the Schiffer Villa to our places to visit in Budapest: Read More Going to Budapest? Make sure you visit the Schiffer Villa
Here at Stanfords we sell maps and books from all over the world, but sometimes there is no place like home. We currently have a buy one get one half price offer on a selection of our favourite London books, gifts and guides. To give you a real taste of this wonderful city, here is some of our favourite London fiction: Read More Stanfords Staff Selects: London Fiction
Huts are more than just shelters. They can be meeting places for climbers. They can be staging posts for trekkers on a multi-day tour. Or they can be somewhere to visit on a there-and-back day’s hike from a valley base; somewhere to stop for lunch perhaps, to sit outside in the sunshine, enjoy the view, and then move on. In The Mountain Hut Book, author Kev Reynolds draws on his vast experience of mountain exploration, giving examples of huts throughout the Alps, outlining his favourites and suggesting hut-to-hut routes. Here he tells us why mountain huts are so special: Read More 5 Reasons Why Mountain Huts Are Special
We asked Robert Fleming, the Templer Study Centre Manager at the National Army Museum to give us a few tasters of some of the fascinating collections related to survey and cartography held at the museum. Read More A cartographic taster from the National Army Museum
Wild Guide Wales is Daniel Start’s new compendium of adventures, from the best-selling Wild Guide series. The guide contains over 1000 hidden places to explore. Here he highlights five reasons to explore Wales this summer, and five iconic adventures that few people know about. Read More 5 mind-blowing places in Wales that you’ve probably never heard of