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New Zealand is the place to admire unspoiled natural wonders, explore adventure-filled cities and soak up the relaxed culture and slow pace of life. Travelling that far afield a trip to NZ is often part of a much larger trip.  There is a lot to fit into 2-3 weeks so it can be over-whelming. Here’s a few of our top travel tips which we hope will add to an awesome adventure. 

Allow plenty time if you’re travelling by car

Hiring a car to drive around New Zealand is a great way to fit in as much as possible to your itinerary, while taking it at your own pace. Bear in mind that you will want to pull over frequently as the scenery is outstanding. The roads are also extremely windy, narrow and cover hilly terrain so what seems like a short distance on a map will take a lot longer than you think. Allow extra time, sit back and enjoy those incredible views!

Make use of the local i-sites

Every single town and city have an i-site which is basically a visitor centre. You can find maps, brochures or ask questions about what to see/do. They can be useful if you’re looking for some local advice or a friendly face to point you in the right direction. If you are travelling by bus they’ll often stop right outside here, ideal place for buying your next ticket too.

Rise & shine – start your day early and watch the sunrise

It’s a great feeling to claim you’re the first to see the sun in the world that day.  Gisbore and Wainui beach offer a great vantage point to soak up the first rays, but to be honest no matter where you are in New Zealand the sunrise will take your breath away.

Plan according to the seasons

The summer months are perfect for exploring the coastlines such as Abel Tasman, and escaping the British winter. The winter months are great for skiing and exploring the glaciers and Autumn is wonderful for avoiding the crowds and capturing the best photographs. Check our blog to find out more about the seasons.

Book accommodation well in advance

New Zealand is a popular tourist destination, and accommodation during high season often books up 12 months in advance. Whether you’re planning on ticking off one of the great walks or relaxing by a beach lodge our advice is book up now!

Hikers – be prepared for all kinds of weather

If you’ve hiked in Scotland, you’ll know exactly what we mean. It can go from blistering sunshine to hail downpours within minutes. Be especially prepared on trails such as Milford track where there is a lot of exposed terrain and alpine conditions. Pack for all types of weather, have plenty layers and make sure to bring a packed lunch and plenty water.

I hope these tips are helpful, but if you need to know anything else about travelling in New Zealand, don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our dedicated specialists at info@macsadventure.com

The post New Zealand Travel Tips appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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For the most part, we can get any of our trips for you, whenever it suits you to go. Flexibility and making the trips completely your own are part of our company makeup, something we are very happy to be able to do. However, there are a couple of trips with extremely limited availability, small group departures that go like hot-cakes and we have just released dates for 2020 on a couple of these amazing trips. So, to give you the bigger picture on one of these limited availability tours, we present France Bike & Boat: Paris to Champagne.

Cycling through Champagne Vineyards

In a Nutshell:

Where: This trip sees you cycling predominantly down the Marne River, from Paris to the 'Champagne Capital' Epernay. Paris is the cultural centre of French life and the most visited city in the world and for good reason. The fact that the Champagne region is so close to the capital city is something that not many people know and of course, for us, it is a complete bonus as you get to experience two amazing facets of French life, with some beautiful cycling in between.

Your home for the week will be the beautiful MS Zwaantje, a 40m barge with capacity for 24 guests, making this an intimate, small-group experience. Every room is en-suite and there are a couple of bars and a delightful restaurant where you will eat every night before retiring to the ample sundeck.

MS Zwaantje, your home for the week

Distance: The distances on this trip can be variable, depending on whether you want to head out on your bike, or spend the day on deck, watching France glide by you as you sample some local wine and read your book. However, we would say that the distance you can expect to ride would be around 180-200km.

Grade:  This tour is graded Moderate as you will cycle a combination of flat easy riverside cycling mixed with some hillier stretches. There is a good mix of dedicated cycle paths, quiet country lanes and riverside paths. It is recommended that you are cycle fit for this trip, but again, if you feel that one of the days was too punishing for you, take the next day off and relax.

Why Walk Here?

This trip is packed with so much wonderfulness, that it is going to be tough to fit it in. What it offers, in a nutshell, is a way to experience a big slice of French life. It is bookended with a couple of major French highlights, but also you get all that joyful French wonder in the middle, the little towns and villages, bread and pastries fresh from the boulangerie, interesting local wines and well thought out, local gastronomy.

Paris. The most romantic city in the world. Streets lined with monuments, bursting with museums and dotted with chic little bistros. Paris should be experienced at least once in everyone's life. While we suggest booking a couple of extra nights before the boat heads off, we also include a guided tour of the city on your arrival day so you will get some intimate, local knowledge about the city too.

Paris. Not a bad place to start a trip

Heading away from Paris you will spend your first night in Lagny sur Marne, which I suppose is technically 'the suburbs' of Paris, but not as you or I would imagine it. A typical French town, with small winding streets, a beautiful open town square and replete with bistros and boulangeries to replenish yourself after a day in the saddle. Further down the route, you will stay on the banks of Chateau Thierry, site of the first and second Battles of the Marne and now home to an impressive and moving American war memorial.

When you think of France, many things will come to mind, but one of those will more than likely involve cheese. French cheese is world-renowned and you will spend a couple of days moored in Meaux, home of some of the greatest Brie in all of France. To make sure that you get the most from this, we have arranged a tasting of the local Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses, letting you know all about this sumptuous cheese (and the best wines to accompany it!) You will also get a full day to explore the well-preserved heritage town of Meaux including its 12th Century Cathedral and 16th Century Château de Montceaux. It really is a stunning town.

Dom Perignon, the man who brought us Champagne

Then there is the Champagne. While many people have been taken by Prosecco over the last decade (and fair enough) there really is no substitute for the real thing. Champagne production is an art form. The bubbles are naturally formed in the bottle as opposed to artificially pumped in, giving them a smoother, creamier feel. Combine this with lovingly tended grapes and hundreds of years of experience and you have a wine that is almost certain to please.

One of my favourite memories is after the tour of Moet et Chandon, the tour guide opening double doors to a room filled with glasses of champagne, saying 'you have 30 minutes. Help yourself.' Perhaps things have changed a little since then, but we have arranged a tasting class at one of the big champagne houses in Epernay. Here you will learn all about champagne, what to look for in a good one and will try a good few, just to make sure. You will also have some time cycling to and around Epernay where you can just cycle up to the Champagne house and take your own tastings. It is highly recommended to visit some of the smaller houses, you will be amazed at the quality of these champagnes that you likely have never heard of.

One of the 110km of Champagne Cellars underneath Epernay

Planning and Preparation

One of the easiest trips to get to that we sell. France Bike & Boat: Paris to Champagne, starts in Paris and just about every carrier in the world will fly here in one form or another. To get back from Epernay to Champagne is simple, with trains running back to the capital which take around 1.5 hours.

If you
have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists,
who will be more than happy to help.

The post Adventure of the Week: France Bike & Boat: Paris to Champagne appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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When you are undertaking a walking holiday in Scotland, or indeed anywhere, one of the main attractions is the wildlife that may be encountered en route. The West Highland Way offers great scope to view and experience wildlife along its entire length and a little knowledge of what to expect can add an extra dimension to the walk. Here is an overview of some of the key species:

Milngavie – Drymen

You are welcomed with wildlife almost immediately on your first day. If you happen to be walking in spring, then as you walk through Mugdock park you will be able to see plenty of bluebells which attract woodland butterflies. Throughout spring and summer listen for Chiffchaff's and Willow Warblers.

If you are lucky, you may even see some birds of prey. Once you come through Mugdock Country park and just before you reach Craigallian Loch you will be greeted with your first view of Dumgoyne and the Campsie Fells. Keep your eyes peeled from here until you are walking in shadows of Dumgoyne as Kestrels and Buzzards are often in this area.

Drymen to Balmaha

As you cross the moor approaching Conic Hill, keep a look out for the - hard to spot - Red Grouse amongst the heather. Also often found along the trail and near the tracks around here are common lizards.

Once you are upon Conic hill you will have another chance to spot some Buzzards and likely some Ravens too. On the way down the hill keep your eyes towards the woods as amongst the conifers you should be able to see Siskins and if you are particularly lucky perhaps an elusive Crossbill. As you are passing through the woods it is worth looking out for the little ponds which often contain palmate newts.

In the UK we only have 160,000 red squirrels left, with around 120,000 of them calling Scotland home. It is becoming harder and harder to spot our endangered little friends but within the woods and trees surrounding Balmaha and Conic hill you will have your first chance of the trek to spot them.

Balmaha to Rowardennan

As this area is a favourite feeding spot for Ospreys, this small section offers you the best chance to spot these majestic birds of prey fishing.

Within the surrounding woodland, migrant spring and summer birds such as Chiffchaff's, Redstarts and Wood warblers, who have made the journey from Africa, fill the trees. Redstarts are often seen "pumping" their rusty red tails as they flit amongst the greenery.

On the tracks themselves, you may also be lucky enough to see the distinctive green Garden Tiger Beetle

Rowardennan to Inversnaid

In the trees today, look out for pied flycatchers, tree pipits joining the same species you were looking for around Rowardennan yesterday. Very occasionally Golden Eagles grace the sky’s flying around the peaks. Take the occasional glance upwards to see if their 2.3m wingspan makes an appearance.

While walking through the forest today if you are quiet and hear some light rustling in the leaves you may be lucky enough to spot some red deer.

Inversnaid to Inverarnan

There are often feral goats resting on the beaches at the end of the loch. If you are lucky enough to be here at the same time as these agile creatures it makes a wonderful photo with the Loch as the backdrop. The feral goats are a somewhat contentious issue. Not native to Scotland they are believed to have arrived from mainland Europe many decades ago. They are popular with tourists and are interesting animals to see but they have been quite destructive, so much so that the International Union for Nature Conservation lists feral goats as one of the 100 worst invasive non-native species globally. Every few years the controversy arises again as culls of the population are required. They are lovely to see as they hop around the mountains and Loch enjoying life completely oblivious to the controversy around them.

There is a good chance of seeing birds of prey today with this area being popular for Buzzards, Peregrine Falcons and Golden Eagles.

Hiding in the woodland surrounding the loch Britain’s smallest deer, the little Roe Deer forage for food, while the larger Red Deer graze the peaks to avoid being disturbed.

Inverarnan to Crianlarich

Walking through Glen Falloch today offers a different landscape and different opportunities for wildlife. Again, you will be able to look out for Roe Deer and Red Deer along with Buzzard's Peregrine's and Golden Eagles. However, what will be more prevalent will be Glen Falloch's bats. Flying through the glen these brown furry little bats are popular for a very good reason. The Daubenton Bat's main source of food is the pesky little midge. You are likely to spot them when the sun is lower, so early morning or in the evening.

Crianlarich to Tyndrum

In this section of walking your chances of spotting Red Deer greatly increase. If you are lucky you may even see a stag with their large fierce antlers. Depending on your approach, the deer may stand and stare back at you or turn and sprint away. As they are running off you will see their cream white rumps bounding away.

Much of the same wildlife you have seen in previous sections can be seen but you will also be given the opportunity to see a very uniquely talented little bird called the Dipper. If you wish to spot these little birds, then as you near Tyndrum and are walking close to the river, keep your eyes on fast moving rapid water. The Dippers with their distinctive white breast dive under the water in search of their prey.

Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

To add to your ever-growing list of wildlife, from Tyndrum on you will start to see a change in the Crows. Instead of the plain black Carrion Crows, you will now see the grey body and black head of the Hooded Crow. Tyndrum is almost on the line where these two birds’ territories meet. For a short section, you will see the results of interbreeding with some crows sporting mixed grey and black body plumage.

Bridge of Orchy to Inveroran

As you are now entering the Highlands proper, you will notice a change in the landscape as you delve deeper into the hills, heather and bogs of the upcoming Rannoch Moor. You should have clearer chances of spotting birds of prey as you come over the small hill after Bridge of Orchy. Hopefully, you will also spot some Red Deer, particularly around Inveroran Hotel.

Inveroran to Kingshouse

Crossing Rannoch Moor today you will have plenty of chances to once spot many of Scotland's bird of prey. Across Rannoch Moor sparrow hawks, hen harriers, hobbys (small falcons) and kestrels can be seen along with the usual suspects golden eagles, buzzards, ospreys and peregrines.

There is an abundance of Red Deer in the area and you may be lucky enough to see the "Monarch of The Glen" a proud red stag.

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

You will likely have seen them this morning, and don’t need us to point them out, but around Kingshouse is by far your best opportunity to see Red Deer, including stags. These deer have become a little too used to humans being in their environment so can come very close. A photo of "the Monarch of the Glen" (a stag) with the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor mountain as the backdrop makes an excellent memento of your trip.

Shortly after leaving Kingshouse, you will have a great chance of spotting both the "famous" red grouse and also the black grouse usually found within the heather. From here you will also start spotting the largest of the Crow family, the Ravens, who act like our vultures are scavengers who will strip the meat off any carcasses lying around. They usually travel in pairs and you will hear their guttural "kronk" when they fly by.

Kinlochleven to Fort William

You will have the chance to spot more birds of prey today but also keep your ears open for the high-pitched calls of the coal tit and Europe's smallest bird, the Goldcrest within the woodland. The tiny little Goldcrest weighs only 4-6 grams (0.15-0.22 Ounces) and measures only 8.5cm (3.3 inches) tall. Unbelievably the tiny Goldcrest incubates up to 12 eggs at once and females can have 2 broods in a season. They have green/brown bodies with, hence the name, a golden crest on their head.

The post Wildlife on the West Highland Way appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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Every country has opportunities to hike. From the rugged highlands of Scotland to the wizened deserts of Australia, there is always somewhere to head out and experience the wilds on foot. In some places it is all about maps and compasses, navigating your way along the path and in others, it is so incredibly well laid out, made for all levels of walker to experience. The country that exemplifies this ideal the most is Switzerland and we have put together the very best walking, views and cultural experiences to bring you the Ultimate Swiss Alps tour.

In a Nutshell:

Where: This trip takes you through the south of Switzerland, visiting the very best regions of the Swiss Alps, showcasing vistas of some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. You will start off in Murren and Grindelwald, before heading south to Zermatt and then finish off the trip by taking the Glacier Express over to the glorious St Moritz and Pontresina.

Distance: This trip has a variety of options on it, so you can choose to take rest days and cut out some walking, or choose to shorten or lengthen your days walks. Generally, you will be walking around 66 - 125 km during the whole trip. You will cover a greater distance, however, using Switzerland's outstanding rail network.

Grade: We have graded this trip Moderate. Our routes follow wide tracks, paths and sometimes narrower mountain paths occasionally with steep slopes above and below—as with most Alpine walking a good head for heights and sure-footedness is required. The incorporation of cable cars avoids most steep ascents and descents, but some steep sections are unavoidable—walking poles are highly recommended.

Why Walk Here?

Let's start here with the scenery. Picture postcard is the order of the day in Switzerland. Everything in Switzerland looks perfect, like the rocks have been washed and the trees brushed straight every day. Their mountains have perfect looking triangular shapes (see Toblerone) and the air is as clean and fresh as you are ever going to get. This trip is built around stunning views of the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and of course, the Matterhorn.

While the Alps might scream out, tall, snow-capped mountains, there is so much diversity of scenery on this trip. There are the fairytale forests of the Bernese Oberland, the lush green Engadine Valley, as well as balcony walks amongst the high mountain peaks. The panoramas are dotted with traditional Swiss wooden houses and the gentle clanging of cowbells accompanies you wherever you go. At times, walking out here genuinely feels too good to be true.

Murren is where the fairytale dream begins. Only accessible by train, you glide through mountains that seem too big and close to be real, arriving at a cute little wooden town nestled in the foothills. This is the Swiss stereotype village, the dream village, but it is a fully functioning, place full of friendly locals and delicious local restaurants. On, then to Grindelwald, which does nothing to wake you from the fairytale. Flower-laden wooden cabins, framed my such dramatic peaks and glaciers that you will already be worried about filling the memory card in your camera.

Kandersteg is for true hikers, everything about it dedicated to walking in the mountains, which is then followed by Leukerbad, replete with thermal spas to soothe the exertions of the last couple of days. Both towns ringed by towering peaks and verdant alpine meadows. Zermatt is more cosmopolitan, the big smoke around here, but still, sitting in the shadow of the mighty Matterhorn, you couldn't ask for a more relaxing and beautiful city to spend some time in.

Next up is a trip on the Glacier Express, a misnomer if ever there was one. An eight-hour train journey designed to be the most relaxing journey in the world. The scenery is spectacular, the food is outstanding and it really gives you the chance to watch Switzerland roll by at a 'glacial' pace. There are a few rail journeys dotted throughout the trip, with this being the highlight, but it is worth mentioning that Swiss rail travel is by far the best I have ever experienced. Silent, super clean trains that are never late, glide you to your next destination. A real highlight.

Finish off your exploration of Switzerland in the luxurious town of Pontresina, ten minutes away from St Moritz. Take the UNESCO listed Bernina Bahn, a train line which equals the Glacier Express for stunning views, which opens up the lush Engadine Valley for you to discover on the usual perfectly marked trails.

Planning and Preparation

Getting to and from the Ultimate Swiss Alps trip is really straight forward and there are several different options. Flying into Zurich is probably your best all-round airport, with Murren and Pontresina a 3.5-hour train journey away.

If you
have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists,
who will be more than happy to help.

The post Adventure of the Week: Ultimate Swiss Alps appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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Did you know there is more than one trail to reach Machu Pichu? The most popular route is the Inca Trail which allows you to walk in the steps of the ancient Incas. There is also the Salkantay Trek which has its own spectacles, the main one being the solitude and closeness to nature, since the trail takes you far away from the crowds. Both trails are incredibly historic, beautiful and lead to one of the most amazing wonders of the world. It’s just a matter of deciding which trail is best for you.

Deciding on a Peru Trip

Inca Trail

Distance: 45km

Average duration: 4-5 days

Grading: Moderate to Strenuous

Highest point: 4215 m

Availability: Tourist
permits capped at 200 per day, must book far in advance. 

Facilities: mid-range camping, porters available to carry
bags. 

Best suited for: Hikers that want to walk in the trails of the Inca’s.
Seeing the ruins for the first time after a four-day hike in the ancient Incan highlands is as close as you can get to imagining how the original explorers felt. Many people dream of this, and for them the Inca trail is the only way to do it.

Salkantay Trek

Distance: 55km

Average duration: 5 days

Grading: Moderate to Strenuous

Highest point: 4600m

Availability: No
permit restrictions, average of 50 hikers per day. More last-minute booking
flexibility for group tours than Inca Trail.

Facilities: There are options from camping to luxury lodges.
Porters are available to carry bags.

Best suited for: Experienced hikers that want to get off the beaten path. There are hundreds of hikers on the Inca trail each day, and even if you hire a private guide, you'll still be surrounded by others. Many consider this to be part of the fun and community spirit of an Inca Trail holiday, but if this really isn't your thing, you might prefer the Salkantay Trek.

Scenery

Inca Ruins

Inca Trail

You will spend 2 days exploring the colorful markets and impressive ruins of Cusco, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Your four-day hike on the Inca Trail will lead you through cloud forests, past soaring peaks and colorful village communities to the sacred site of Machu Picchu. It's a well-earned prize for those that follow its ancient paths!

Salkantay Trek

You’ll follow an ancient Inca trading route through the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. Trek under the shadow of Humantay Peak, past the glaciated peak of Salkantay (6270m) and through 9 different eco-zones that include the lush coffee and banana plantations of the Santa Theresa Valley. Note that you do not arrive directly at Macchu Picchu on the Salkantay Trek. On your final day of the trip you'll have an early rise and travel to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.

Difficulty

You will be walking through the Andes – therefore no matter what trip you chose you should be in good physical shape with plenty walking experience before-hand. It’s also important that you spend a few days acclimatizing since you’ll reach over 13,000 feet on both trips.

Salkantay Trails

Inca Trail

It’s a moderate walking trip, you cover 45km in just 4-5 days, walking up to 9 hours most days at high altitude. It is accessible to most walkers since you are in good hands with the incredible porters however it is important to build up your walking experience in the months prior to the trip. You'll be camping for three or four nights in basic conditions, and you'll have a limit on your luggage - so you must be prepared to rough it.

Salkantay Trek

The walking itself is known to be slightly more strenuous since the trails are steeper, wilder and rougher in certain parts. It can often be colder terrain. The great thing about our luxury trip is your rewarded with lodges at the end of each day where you can relax in the hot-tub.

We hope this helps with your decision but remember no matter which route you chose, your going to meet amazing people, learn new things and finish at the most spectacular wonder of the world Machu Pichu!

Here at Macs, we have quite a selection of trips in Peru, from the
classic Inca Trail to Salkantay in Luxury. If you have any questions about the
trips give us a shout, our Destination Specialists would love to help!

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The creation of wine is nothing short of magic. Taking the humble grape in all its various guises, which tastes like various forms of grape, and transforming it into a complex, multi-layered drink that changes flavour with time. It is wizardry of the highest form and there is arguably nowhere in the world where this form of wizardry is practised more intensely than on the Burgundy Vineyard Trails.

In a Nutshell:

Where: Burgundy is located in East-Central France, around an hour and a half south-east of Paris. It takes its name from the Burgundians, who moved in from Germany, so the colour is named after the wine, not vice-versa. The region is split into several sub-regions, best known for their various wines and even if you are no wine buff, you will recognise the famous names like Mersault, Nuit-Saint-Georges and Chablis.

Distance: While there is much wine involved in this trip, there is also some walking, but the total distance is variable as some days you can cut down, or cut out your days walking and just enjoy being in this wondrous region. The walking distance is between 50 and 72km, split over four days of walking.

Grade: This trip is graded as Easy to Moderate, which means that you can have a couple of wine tastings and still make it to your accommodation every night (though please drink responsibly and all that!) The walking is mainly flat and there is a rest day included in your itinerary, and when you encounter a hill, it is nothing too dramatic. The paths are a combination of tarmac country roads, dirt trails and woodland trails and the walking is delightful.

Why Walk Here?

Wine! As I alluded to in the introduction, Burgundy is a pretty special place and in my opinion, it completely exemplifies the idea that winemaking is a form of magic. The whole region and massive industry are mainly based on two grapes, Chardonnay for the white wine and Pinot Noir for the red. This may be offputting for some people. Chardonnay has fallen from grace and is seen very much as an 80s wine, with Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino taking the spotlight instead, but I promise you, Chardonnay is still the queen.

Typical Burgundy Scenery

The joy of Burgundy wines is that on the face of it they are so simple, two types of grape. However if you were to stand at a crossroads in Burgundy, with a different vineyard on each corner, each growing the same grape, with the same soil and weather conditions, still, each wine would taste entirely different. On this trip, you are right in the heart of this exciting wine country, with opportunities to visit vineyards and explore wine tasting in every town and city you stay in. It genuinely is a wine lover's dream come true.

The walks are predominantly through vineyards and link some of the most delightful towns in France. Dijon, where you start the trip is one of France's most appealing cities. Its mix of renaissance and medieval buildings, crown its compact, pedestrianised centre allowing you to wander freely, marvelling at the architecture and sampling some outstanding cuisine. And of course, if mustard is your thing, Dijon is the spot for you!

Wander the streets of Dijon

Further down the trail, Gevry Chambertin and Nuits St George are towns that are so steeped in viticulture that wine practically flows from the taps. Similarly, Beaune, where you will have your rest day, is all about wine. It has some of the greatest cellars in the world under its streets and while tasting at a vineyard is a lovely experience, if you want to taste a wide variety and find the perfect Burgundy for you, then Beaune is where to do it. You can also visit the stunning Hotel-Dieu, a former hospital from the medieval period with the most stunning tarnished roof tiles. It now houses a fine arts museum and is Beaune's premier attraction. 

The beautiful Hotel-Dieu in Beaune

The food in the region is almost a match with the wine. It goes from hearty fare, the traditional Beef Bourguignon, Pôchouse (fish stew) and Coq au Vin to the divine. There are over 30 restaurants in Burgundy with Michelin stars and with their dedication to using local produce and taking traditional French cuisine to the next level, it is well worth seeking out one of them for a treat.

Planning and Preparation

Getting to Dijon at the start of the Burgundy Vineyard Trails is pretty straight forward. The TGV train takes 1Hour 40 mins from Paris to Dijon and you can connect back to Dijon from Beaune in 30 mins. Easy! The tough bit will be trying to pack all those bottles of wine.

If you
have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists,
who will be more than happy to help.

The post Adventure of the Week: Burgundy Vineyard Trails appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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The Isle of Skye is bursting with beauty. So much so that film crews have been flocking there for the last few years to use its stunning vistas as backdrops to their stories. This has encouraged more people to go and visit the island and consequently, means that it is tough to get beds on the island. Luckily, Macs Adventure has been working there for years, we have good friends who own accommodation and we have great allocation throughout the summer.

So, why not head up to this enchanted isle and explore off the beaten track to see what has made this Hollywood's favourite isle.

Across the Isle of Skye

In a Nutshell: This trip follows the Skye Trail, taking you from Ardvassar in the South, up through the backroads and classic hiking trails of Skye, finishing up in Portree. It is a less strenuous version of the Skye Trail that will take you to parts of the island so quiet, you will think it has been created just for you.

Grade and Terrain: This trip has been rated Moderate to Strenuous. While it does have some long days and tough terrain, a lot of the difficulty came from the navigation. However, with Macs App this takes the edge off the navigation side. Although some of the route is on good paths and minor roads much of the route is on rough ground which can be wet underfoot and completely trackless in places.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip on a Monday start date.

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye

In a Nutshell: This is the longer and more strenuous version of the above, which takes you right to the north of the glorious Trotternish Peninsula, walking the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing. Well worth the extra effort to walk in one of the most dramatic regions of Scotland.

Grade and Terrain: This trip has been rated Strenuous. While most of it is identical to the trip above, with long days and tough terrain, the extra strain comes from walking in the Trotternish Peninsula. However, with the App to guide you, exploring this region comes highly recommended.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip departing on a Monday or Tuesday.

Skye Highs Short Break

In a Nutshell: Escape to the Isle of Skye on the perfect 4-night short break, including a magical steam train ride on the ’Hogwarts Express’, an expertly guided day trip taking in Skye’s mountains, rocky peninsulas, remote lochs and wild beaches, topped off with some great walking. The perfect way to explore the island in a short space of time.

Grade and Terrain: This trip is graded easy to moderate overall, although you will find some suggested walks more on the moderate end of the scale. The terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills but not too strenuous. Perfect for those with a relatively good level of fitness.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip starting on a Thursday, giving you the perfect long weekend.

The Highlands, Isle of Skye & Edinburgh 

In a Nutshell: This is a Drive and Hike tour, taking in the best of the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. If you are looking to see a ton of natural Scottish beauty, get a little off the beaten track and enjoy some spectacular walks, this is the trip for you.

Grade and Terrain: This route is graded easy to moderate. Daily walks are between 3 and 7 hours and you have a choice of easier and harder walks on most days so you can do as much or as little as you please. Most of the walks follow good footpaths or tracks but occasionally the paths in more remote areas can be very boggy and indistinct.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip starting on a Tuesday or Wednesday, giving you the weekend in Portree in Skye.

Skye & The Outer Hebrides 

In a Nutshell: A mixture of rail travel and private transfers gets you out exploring Skye and then takes you beyond, into the rugged tranquillity of the Outer Hebrides. This trip gives you an insight into Scottish Island life as well as showcasing some of the finest scenery in the country.

Grade and Terrain: The walks on this trip are graded moderate. Some of the trails will be rough and potentially rather boggy underfoot, so you should be prepared for this.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip starting every Wednesday and Thursday.

The Highlands & Isle of Skye: Rail & Hike

In a Nutshell: Ride the iconic West Highland Line on the Jacobite steam train, the ’Hogwarts Express’, as well as the as North Highland Line, one of Britain’s most remote and spectacular, between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh, the gateway to Skye. What’s more, you’ve some rewarding hikes included, as well as time to explore castles, ancient battlefields, Loch Ness, distilleries and centuries-old Highland estates. 

Grade and Terrain: This trip is graded easy to moderate and includes daily walks of up to 12 miles. The terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills but not too strenuous. You should enjoy a good level of fitness to make the most of this trip.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip starting every Tuesday and Wednesday.

Isle of Skye Cycle Tour

In a Nutshell: If you have the legs for it, this is an incredible way to see the Isle of Skye. Dipping in and out of quiet backroads, you will experience the entirety of the island, stopping off in villages where not many tourists venture, but that are beautiful and rewarding.  

Grade and Terrain: This cycling holiday is graded moderate to strenuous because a couple of the longer days involve plenty of climbing so the trip is slightly more demanding than the relatively modest distances might indicate. Most of the route is on fairly quiet roads, the exception being the section between Broadford and Portree which can be busy in the summer.

Availability: From 5 July - 1 Sep 2019 we can guarantee this trip starting every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you have any questions about exploring Skye, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.

The post Adventure of the Week: Walking in the Isle of Skye appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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Time spent in nature is considered to be extremely important in Norway. This becomes apparent when walking on a Norwegian trail where you will regularly receive a cheerful 'hei-hei' from a diverse range of people; from city dwellers to locals both young and old. This ingrained appreciation of, and curiosity in the outdoors is encouraged from an early age and cited as a contributing factor in Norway consistently placing towards the top of the UN's World Happiness Report.

Friluftsliv, a word coined by Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen, literally translating to 'free air life' is the word used to broadly describe the connection to nature that is so strong in Norway. This article explores how a respect and love of the outdoors is developed. 

Friluftsliv

The word first appeared in Ibsen's poem, 'On The Heights' which describes a man who ventures out into the wilderness in search of solitude as to clear his mind and plan for the future - "filuftsliv for my thoughts." Ibsen alludes to fresh air and serenity leading to clarity of thought, however in the years since the first use of the term it has been taken on to broadly describe being outdoors and connecting with nature through any form of outdoor activity. Google 'Friluftsliv' or ask a Norwegian what it means to them and you will receive multiple answers and meanings;

"the great outdoors" - "patriotism" - "friends, good times & equal parts relaxation and physical exertion" - "childish adventurism, exploration and serenity" - "to get away from reality" - "being outside in a simple way" - "being present in nature"

Friluftsliv could be described as a philosophy but for Norwegians it is simply a way of life.

Powered by Nature

Although cross-country skiing and walking are the most popular, a range of outdoor activities are enjoyed in Norway from trail running to dog-sledging - there are a few obvious reasons. At 385,178km² Norway is a reasonably sized country that is completely covered in awe-inspiring scenery. Norway has been shaped and sculpted extensively by forces of nature, glacial and tectonic activity has led to a landmass that comprises a stunning mix of coastline, fjords, glaciers and mountains within which the small population of just over 5 million is sparsely distributed. This means there are plenty of opportunities to get outside as the nature is, quite literally, on the doorstep. The country benefits from the effects of the Gulf Stream and flows of warm air which give Norway a friendlier climate than other regions at the same latitude, allowing Norwegians to enjoy both summer and winter activities.

Start Them Young

Norwegian children are instilled with a sense of pride in the natural environment and encouraged to develop this further by playing and exploring. A popular form of child care is known as 'frilufts barnehage' or forest kindergarten where the learning is structured around time spent outside. As a result, societal attitudes differ from other European countries. Whereas some parents may discourage their children from climbing trees or walking to school on their own, in Norway these type of activities are generally encouraged as experts on early childhood believe such activities are crucial in developing independence. Although a wealthy country, Norwegians place great value on maintaining a modest and simple lifestyle. Most Norwegians own simple cabins along with the main family home, at weekends and during holidays the busiest roads are those that lead to the middle of nowhere as people head off to their base in the wilderness. As-well-as spending weekends in rural places many Norwegians choose to holiday in Norway too.

Nature is for Everyone

Legislation also plays a part in teaching respect for nature and encouraging outdoor pursuits. Up until 60 years ago there were no recognised statutes to make it easier for citizens to enjoy the outdoors. 'Allemansrätten' or 'All Man's Right' was a traditional idea carried on through the ages that granted access to wild places, however it wasn't until 1957 that a 'Right to Roam' was set out in law with the passing of the Outdoor Recreation Act. The act introduced a number of guidelines designed to grant equal access to nature for all citizens and tourists with the basic premise being respect for nature.

"The purpose of this Act is to protect the natural basis for outdoor recreation and to safeguard the public right of access to and passage through the countryside and the right to spend time there, etc, so that opportunities for outdoor recreation as a leisure activity that is healthy, environmentally sound and gives a sense of well-being are maintained and promoted."

Many factors contribute to building a healthy and happy society, but encouraging awareness and interest in the outdoors appears to be central in achieving this end. Romantic notions aside, ultimately frilufstliv is about the Norwegian people recognising and taking advantage of the fact that they live in a country of outstanding natural beauty with great opportunities for outdoor activities. Norwegians are very happy to share what they have in abundance, allowing us all to experience friluftsliv.

If you have any queries about the Norway walking tours or any of the other tours we offer, don't hesitate to get in contact with a member of the team on info@macsadventure.com

This is an updated post from 2016

The post Friluftsliv: A Norwegian Philosophy appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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In April 2017 my wife, Laura and I walked the Glen Affric Trail from the vibrant city of Inverness to the peaceful village of Glenelg. Essentially this was a Scottish coast to coast adventure, having traditionally picked up our pebbles from the Moray Firth in the northeast and skimmed them it into the sea whilst looking out across Kyle Rhea to the cloud-shrouded peaks on Skye. It was a spectacular walk, with views reserved only for those who walk the trail, hiking through Scotland’s native Caledonian pine forest, across heather clad moors, the path winding beneath sky scraping peaks. But, for all the splendid scenery, when I am office bound and need a ‘natural fix’ I tap into my ‘natural memory bank’ and bring forth images of the wildlife we saw...the birds…the birds of prey…and, in particular, the eagle!

I am a very lucky man, as I live in Scotland, which is
fortunately also the preferred home of many birds of prey, or raptors, call
them what you will. Think hawks and falcons, those dashing denizens of the sky.
The fish targeting, depth charging ospreys. The wing cantered, ground
quartering harriers. The soaring, broad winged buzzards, and acrobatic tail
twisting kites. We have all of these. But the pièce de résistance? The eagles!

The Majestic White Tailed Sea Eagle

Oh, yes, we have eagles in Scotland and not just one
species, but two. One is the sea eagle, or white-tailed eagle, or even the white-tailed
sea eagle! A veritable flying bedstead, huge broad wings that you CANNOT miss
as it soars along coastal ridges or sits out in full view on a rock in the
middle of an island bay! Reintroduced into Scotland since the 1970’s after
being persecuted to extinction in the 1800’s, this is our largest bird of prey,
and indeed the fourth largest in the world. My top tip to see one of these
gigantic raptors is to head to the Isle of Mull, where special viewing areas
have been created for tremendous views. There have also been introductions in
Fife and Angus, so keep your eyes peeled when exploring the east coast also.

The true top avian predator of the mountain regions is the golden eagle, the National Bird of Scotland, a huge bird and when you have seen one you will not forget it in a hurry. Folks who have crossed the border into Scotland and are driving on the major artery roads to the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh will often cry out ‘Eagle!!’ as they whizz past a brooding sentinel sitting atop a fence post.

A Buzzard - Not an Eagle I am afraid. :(

Starting out on the West Highland Way, the cry from intrepid walkers comes again, ‘Eagle!’, fingers pointed at a lazy soaring bird that is coasting along above the Glengoyne distillery.  Well, the chances are that these are actually buzzards, the ‘tourist eagle’ of the unkind. A fine bird of prey in its own right and increasing its range across the whole of the UK. But the cries come because people want to see the National Bird of Scotland, they want to be members of this unique Scottish wildlife experience. And indeed, you can, but you may have to work for it!

So, where does one have to go to get the best golden eagle sighting? Well, these are birds of the mountains. Hang on, Scotland is full of mountains! Okay, let’s drill down a bit to assist. Imagine that you are on the West Highland Way with the Highlands ahead of you as you walk northward. When you have explored the wonderful forests of Inversnaid, the ‘bonny banks of Loch Lomond’ to your left, scan the ridges to your right and you may be rewarded with a view of our special bird as it breaks the skyline. In my experience, golden eagles do not often give themselves away by soaring above you as you gaze up in wonder. They often keep to the slopes and ridges, always on the lookout for an unwary mountain hare, or carrion from a deceased stag. They are also fast! Indeed, the second fastest bird in the world when they are in full speed stoop.

Golden Eagle in full flight

If you do have the opportunity to get off the beaten track and head further up into the Highland areas, be it in the regions of Torridon in the north west, Kintyre in the west or Cairngorm in the north east you once again in for a good chance to view the bird. Let’s head across to the islands of Skye and Mull and beyond to the Outer Hebrides. Here, the populations are relatively healthy, and you have a fantastic chance of viewing if you scan the mountain areas. Every time I pop across to the Isle of Arran, I see golden eagles in the north of the island. If you can tear your eyes away from the loafing common seals, or roadside red deer, look skyward towards the peaks and wait. Nothing yet? Keep walking onward and look again! When you see it, you will know! Imagine a buzzard on steroids, huge outstretched wings over two metres wide that dwarf those of a buzzard.

So, back to my original story. When my wife and I were
walking on the final stretch of the Glen Affric Trail, ascending through the
valley out of Sheil Bridge, Laura shouted ‘Eagle!’ and as my eyes followed her
frantically pointing fingers, I saw the never-ending wings stretched wide and
huge dark streamlined body as it passed over our heads flying between the
ridges on either side.  It was one of
those extremely special wildlife moments, reserved for us alone. Laura swore
that the bird was watching us, so that we were part of its existence! You too
can have one these special experiences, so get out there into the wilds of
Scotland and look skyward!

The post National Bird of Scotland – The Golden Eagle appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route which, since medieval times, has connected Canterbury in the southeast of England to Rome. Macs Adventure's take on the Via Francigena begins in the heart of the Alps on the Swiss border before taking pilgrims on an exhilarating tour through the unique Italian regions. With BBC2 currently showing The Road To Rome, we thought that we should highlight our expertise on this glorious route. 

The full Italian Via Francigena is an epic 50-day trip that although not as well known as the Camino de Santiago in Spain is considered by some to be Europe's best pilgrimage route due to the variety of scenery and regions visited along the route. In addition to the full pilgrimage, we have split the Via Francigena into 8 sections which can be combined or completed individually. Read on to discover how each stage offers a different and beautiful experience of the Via Francigena Pilgrimage.

Stage 1: Bourg St Pierre to St Martin

Crossing from Switzerland into Italy via the Great St Bernard Pass stage 1 of the Via Francigena involves walking through superb alpine landscapes. The Great St Bernard Pass is said to have been named after either; Bernard De Menthon, monk who set up a hospice high in the mountains, or the St Bernard dogs that were brought to the area to rescue travellers in distress. Whatever the story, at an altitude of 2,473m walking over the pass surrounded by the dramatic mountain peaks is an incredible experience. Descending into the Aosta Valley you have the chance to explore the many Roman remains that litter the area such as the Pretorian Arch and theatre in Aosta. The route proceeds to take you along ancient channels known as “rus” which over the centuries have been used to keep the crops on the dry, south-facing slopes irrigated. This initial section of the Via Francigena finishes with a couple of days walking along the 'Chemins de Vignobles' a vineyard trail which passes by ancient castles and neat vineyards and orchards.

Stage 2: Pont St Martin to Garlasco

Stage 2 of the Via Francigena is full of contrasts, from the snow-capped Alps, to the cultivated hills around Vercelli, and beyond to the vast wide plains of the Po River Valley. Walking through three different regions of Italy; Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont and Lombardy, you visit medieval towns and their ancient towers and churches before skirting around a shimmering Lake Viverone. Whilst walking in the Lomellina area of Lombardy be sure to try Salame d'Orca. The raising of geese is an tradition here and was inspired by the numerous Jewish communities in the area, resulting in the specialty of goose salami. This section finishes in Garlasco, a small town surrounded by rice paddies and cornfields.

Stage 3: Garlasco to Fidenza

Stage 3 will take you through the regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. The initial stages see you crossing the fertile plains of Lombardy before reaching the vineyard-covered hills of the Apennine Mountains in Emilia Romagna. Whilst in Lombardy you will walk alongside four rivers; the Sesia, the Ticino, the Trebbia and finally the Po River before reaching Ticino National Park which is home to a large diversity of flora and fauna. The highlight of this section for many is exploring the traditional towns of Pavia and Piacenza, both of which are home to a number of artistic and cultural gems, amassed over the centuries. The tour finishes in Fidenza, in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains in the glorious Emilia Romagna region, a contrast to the expanse of fertile plains at the beginning of the stage.

Stage 4: Fidenza to Aulla

Stage 4 sees you journey through the Apennine Mountains. Known as the “backbone of Italy” these mountains are home to unusual and rare rock formations such as the Salti del Diavolo in the Baganza Valley. Originating in Fidenza, known for its duomo of pink stone, cross the Cisa Pass and finish in Aulla, an important pilgrimage stop at the confluence of the Aulella and Magra River. En route you will see numerous signs of the vital importance of the Via Francigena to people of faith: Small alters, chapels, crosses, churches and buildings that gave shelter to the thousands of pilgrims that have walked along the Via Francigena in their quest to reach Rome. At the beginning of your tour you will explore areas near Parma, famous for its cured meats and parmesan cheeses - more culinary highlights to add to the list of foods to try whilst walking the Via Francigena.

Stage 5: Aulla to San Miniato

Originating in the historical region of Lunigiana, an area of great gastronomy and lush, green meadows and waterfalls that belongs in part to Tuscany and in part to Liguriayour stage 5 of the Via Francigena takes you from Aulla at the foot of the Apennines, along the coast into northern Tuscany and the medieval village of San Miniato. From the glorious views over the Apuane Alps to the imposing and majestic structure of the Brunella Fortress, the majestic hills and valleys and ancient and strategic strongholds mean this section of  the Via Francigena does not disappoint. Lucca is a beautiful city that was once a Roman town, today the Piazza San Michele occupies the old site of the Roman Forum however the renaissance-era walls that encircle the city centre are well preserved and make for a popular evening stroll. Finish in the medieval village of San Miniato which sits atop three small hills in the very centre of Tuscany, at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and Lucca-Siena roads making San Miniato a strategically important settlement.

Stage 6: San Miniato to San Quirico

This journey encompasses all the highlights of central Tuscany and offers fascinating insights into the culture, history, art and architecture of the many towns and villages that you pass through. Stage 6 of the Via Francigena takes you from the charming village of San Miniato to San Quirico on the northern edge of the Valley d’Orcia. On the way to San Quirico you will walk through the famous Chianti vineyards and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Gimignano also known as the 'Manhattan of Tuscany' because of the impressive towers that date back to the 12th century. Monteriggioni is your next destination which, like many of the Italian towns you walk through, is enclosed by still intact, medieval walls. With its medieval buildings and the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, Siena is unquestionably one of the highlights of this stage. Walking through quintessential Tuscan landscapes, beside beautiful vineyards and staying in the famed hill top towns of Siena and San Gimignano makes this stage of the Via Francigena a firm favourite among many.

Stage 7: San Quirico to Montefiascone

Following in the footsteps of pilgrims from the Middle Ages this section of the Via Francigena begins in the heart of the Tuscan countryside and finishes in the medieval town of Montefiascone. For the most part this section of the Via Francigena takes you through the glorious landscapes of Tuscany, carpeted with cypress-studded hills and where the birth of the Renaissance began. One of the highlights of this stage is passing through the geologically unique and ochre-coloured landscapes of the Crete Senesi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town of Radicofani was an important stronghold in Italy for centuries and you can see its citadel from 10km away! Enjoy a night beside Lago di Bolsena with its crystal clear waters before finishing in the pretty hill-top town of Montefiascone.

Stage 8: Montefiascone to Rome

The final stage of the Via Francigena takes you from the hill top town of Montefiascone to the eternal city, Rome. Begin in Montefiascone, a town from which there are great views over Lago di Bolsena and continue on through rural and pristine areas of Italy that many tourists do not visit. As you walk you become immersed in the true culture of these historical areas passing many hill-top villages, Etruscan and Roman remains, papal palaces and thermal pools. Highlights include the Bagnaccio thermal pools where you can enjoy a soak in the milky green and steaming waters and Viterbo which, despite suffering heavy bombing in WWII is the best preserved medieval town in the Lazio region. Wander through Sutri's enchanting old quarter discovering the Roman amphitheatre and the place of worship, the Mithraem. Pass rivers, streams and waterfalls and marvel at the stunning and serene green valley of Sorbo where you will see grazing wild horses. As you descend into Rome through the parks of Insugherata and Mt Mario reflect on what has been an epic journey through rural Italy.

If you have any questions about the Via Francigena or Macs Adventure's range of walking and cycling tours in Italy get in touch with the team on info@macsadventure.com or give us a call on 0141 530 8886.

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The post Adventure of the Week – Via Francigena appeared first on Blog - Macs Adventure.

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