Category: Hiking

A Very Long Walk

Last weekend I walked 106km around the Isle of Wight. Yup, you read it right: 106km. In the interests of full disclosure, I did the hike over two days, unlike many people who walked straight through the night. If you read my 2018 Goals post at the beginning of this year, you’ll know that this was one of my four big goals for this year, so I’m really chuffed to have completed it.

So, why did I sign up for this crazy challenge? Well, firstly I’m blaming (in the nicest possible way) the lovely Joanna Penn who first put the idea into my head that signing up for a double ultramarathon would a) be fun, and b) help me become a healthier writer.

But really, I’m just a sucker for a challenge. Plus, I figured it was a good way of getting some external accountability to MAKE me get away from my desk and out walking. I love being outdoors, but I also love my work and being self-employed, there’s always more work to do than hours to do it in! From experience, I know that I’m much more likely to do something if I feel an obligation to someone else. Being part of a team (Team Creatives!) AND raising money for Mind provided the accountability I needed to get out training.

And talking about training…

The Preparation

I think I can safely sum up the weather in Yorkshire for the first part of this year in one word: miserable. Most of my training walks for the Isle of Wight Challenge took place in rain/hail/snow/gales or a combination of all four. I became adept at negotiating muddy coastal paths in force nine gales and jumping from tussock to tussock across moorland bogs.

Most of all, I became good at SUFFERING.

This, I do believe, is an essential skill any budding ultramarathoner should develop.

What I did not train for was walking on hard surfaces (I avoid road walking like the proverbial plague) or in blinding sunshine. And my ‘hot temperature’ training consisted of taking every opportunity I could to spend time in a sauna. (It’s good for recovery, honest…)

And this was where I fell down.

I always tend to opt on the side of pessimism when it comes to weather forecasts (I live in Yorkshire remember), so carefully packed long trousers, fleeces and full waterproofs. Fortunately, my husband loves the sun and added sunglasses and a lightweight baseball cap to my pack. On arrival into Southampton the day before the walk, I was beginning to think I’d overpacked…

Day 1: Chale to Cowes

Isle of Wight ultra

My alarm went off at 5.20am. But it was okay, because I was already awake, checking Jo’s “WAKE UP” message on the team’s WhatsApp group. Bleary-eyed, I got dressed, shovelled some breakfast into my body and tried to remember what I’d forgotten to pack.

Most of the team were staying in Cowes, so we shared a taxi down to the start line at Chale. The sky was completely clear of cloud and even pessimistic me knew we were in for a hot day.

We registered, took a few team selfies and downed a few coffees, then hovered between the start pen and the toilets debating how late to leave the final pee. Finally, we were called to the starting line for the obligatory warmup and then we were off!

It was warm enough at 8am that I started in a t-shirt and the weather only got hotter. (All that cold-weather training went to good use then…) The first 10km passed in a flash with good company and beautiful views along the coast. At the first rest stop, I was amazed to find an array of breakfast pastries and buns on offer, along with bananas, pineapple and melon.

I took a quick break to top up water and give my feet some air while simultaneously eating my bodyweight in cinnamon buns. Feeling refreshed (and slightly heavier) I said goodbye to my fellow Creatives, for the time being at least, and headed out on the next stage of the walk.

It’s probably worth saying that with around 1,700 people taking part in the challenge, the footpaths weren’t exactly quiet. But it was a lovely walk along the coast to a final climb up Tennyson Down. The reward? Beautiful views back across the island and sight of the lunch stop!

I met up with fellow Creative, Guy Windsor at the 21km stop, but after eating his ketogenic lunch (which I’m sure tasted better than it looked *ahem*) he headed off leaving me munching my monster baguette and rubbing some life into my feet.

At this point, my feet were already feeling a little hot and sore – more so that they had done in training at this distance. But I shrugged it off, plugged in my headphones and headed off listening to The Windup Girl. This was a much-needed distraction as the next section of the walk involved a lot of road walking.


And mud. Did I mention the mud?

We’d all had a message the previous evening warning us that part of the walk was muddy and recommending that we wore hiking boots as opposed to shiny white trainers. When I go to the 30km mark, I saw what they meant. But it was okay because I had trained for mud! With the aid of my walking poles, a few handy trees and a minor detour into a neighbouring field, I managed to make it through the mud unscathed and on to the 35km checkpoint.

At which point, I discovered I had a blister.

Just one? Yes, just one (at this point). But I hadn’t prepared for blisters. I have done a lot of walking in my time, including long, multi-day walks in the boots I was wearing and had NEVER had a blister from walking. I knew the arches of my feet would be sore, I thought I might have hip pain, but I honestly didn’t think I would suffer from blisters.

But I dug some three-year-old Compeed out of my first aid kit and tried to mould it around my big toe. Then, after checking that I was past the worst of the mud, I changed into the trainers that my husband had kindly brought out to me, swallowed some painkillers and set out on the final leg of the day.

In front of me at this point was Guy and, in front of him, super-speedy Nicole Burnham, who was running and was therefore waaaay ahead of me at this point. Which was lucky, as she messaged back to say the worst of the mud was still to come.

I looked down at my nice clean trainers and sent a message to my husband asking if he’d be able to bring my boots back…

Unfortunately, he’d just cycled back to our B&B, but he agreed to turn around and come back out to meet me further along the route. (As an aside, my husband cycled 70-80km each of the two days I was walking to support me and bring me changes of footwear and socks. Yes, he is a legend. That’s why I married him.) It turned out that the boots were a life-saver. Because the mud wasn’t just mud, it was a swamp.

And there was no way around it.

I slithered along with my walking poles in the manner of a confused baby giraffe, trying my best to both stay upright and not let the mud creep over the top of my boots. Somehow, I managed to achieve both, unlike the unlucky person whose shoe was sucked down into a swampy grave. And after that, it was just a case of hobbling on toward the finish line.

Or rather, the halfway stop.

It was at this point I was VERY glad I wasn’t doing the full distance in one go. My feet were sore, I could feel more blisters developing and my hips were protesting. It was getting dark by the time I arrived at Cowes, twelve and a half hours after setting out, and I was grateful to eat a good meal of cottage pie and pasta and hobble slowly back to my B&B for the night.

Day 2: Cowes to Chale

Final view to finish

My alarm went off at 4.30am. Despite being strongly tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, the thought of another day of pain was just too tempting to resist and I got up and hobbled down the stairs to force some breakfast down.

Some of the team had finished their intended distances the day before and a few others had to cut their walk short due to injury, so it was just Nicole and me who made our way to the Day 2 start line.

A few hours of sleep and some feet-up time meant I was feeling a lot better than the night before. My legs ached a bit and my feet were sore, but I’d taped my blisters up as well as I could and was pretty resolved to do whatever it took to keep walking.

I managed to walk fast enough over the first kilometre to make the first ferry across the Medina to East Cowes. That was the last I saw of Nicole who had her running shoes on and finished hours ahead of me. (Well done, Nicole!) I knew the first part of the day would be road walking and was prepared for it. I actually quite enjoyed this section of the walk: the fresh, early morning air, quiet road and solitude provided a nice opportunity for reflection.

What I wasn’t expecting was that almost the entire day would be spent walking on roads or hard-surfaced paths. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing, as I almost certainly wouldn’t have signed up if I’d known this before the start. There were some interesting detours down private roads and past big houses (there are some VERY nice houses on the Isle of Wight), but my feet were definitely feeling it by the time I climbed the hill up to Bembridge Down and reached the lunch rest stop.

By this point, I was hobbling despite the painkillers and just about managed to load up my plate with pizza and fajitas (yum!) before collapsing into a chair. I was hot, most of me hurt and I had more blisters. Fortunately, my husband wasn’t expecting much in the way of conversation and dutifully re-filled my water bottles and scavenged me Haribo while I ate and tried to massage life back into my feet. I thought about how nice it would be to stop walking at this point and go for a swim in the sea…

But I didn’t seriously consider stopping.

I knew I could keep going. After all, I was good at suffering.

By this point in the event, there were a handful of other walkers who I kept bumping into. Typically, I’d overtake them, then they’d get ahead of me when I stopped to rest or rub my feet, and we’d play this leapfrog game, smiling and exchanging the same comments. It went something like this:

“How you doing?”

“Oh, not too bad. You?”

“Yeah, great. Not too far now.”

“No, keep going. We’re getting there!”

Liars, the lot of us.

Or perhaps we’re just British…

It’s well known that during ultramarathons and long-distance walks, you’ll have a personal low point. Mine occurred on the next stage of the walk, along the long (concrete) path through Sandown and Shanklin. There were so many PEOPLE for one thing. And NOISE. And the smell of greasy fish and chips and public toilets.

I hobbled into the final rest stop and just wanted it to be over.

And then, I got my second wind.

I’m not sure whether it was the transition from road to winding footpath, the solitude and views, or the Fleetwood Mac album my husband had downloaded onto my phone, but I was ON FIRE!

(I actually think it was the music. The power of Go Your Own Way to keep me going was literally incredible. Please don’t judge me for my taste in music.)

I stormed along the path, apologising as I overtook fellow walkers and trying my best not to sing out loud when other people were in the vicinity. As I overtook one of my fellow leap-froggers for the final time, I heard him mutter to his friend, “that girl is on a mission!”.

And I was. I had the finish line in my sights and nothing was going to stop me. Apart from the views. I had to stop and admire the views. The organisers had definitely saved the best part of the walk to last. But as I topped the final hill and looked down on the flags fluttering by the finish tent, I knew I would make it.

The last few kilometres passed in a blur. I nearly ran up the finish funnel, but I figured that might be a bit too enthusiastic. Kudos to the finish team, who somehow managed to retain formidable levels of enthusiasm and excitement as every finisher approached the 106km mark.

And then, I was there. I stepped over the finish line, got handed my finisher’s medal and a cup of champagne (well, cava), and followed my nose to the lasagne stand.

106km. Done.

Never again.

(Well, until the next challenge comes along…)

Congratulations to all my fellow Creatives – Joanna Penn, Nicole Burnham, Guy Windsor, Jane Steen and DJ MacKinnon – on your amazing achievements. And thank you for all your support, particularly on the second day. May we meet again in less blister-filled times. Thanks especially to Jo for bringing us all together, to my husband for patiently looking after me, and to all my friends and family who sponsored me and gave me the motivation to walk on through the pain.

The 7 Podcasts That’ll Make You Love Long Runs


Your choice of listening material when running is a very personal thing. Some people prefer to leave the headphones at home and embrace the sounds of nature during their runs. Others need a good fast beat to help them keep their pace up. And some people look to podcasts to provide a distraction from the pain and hard work of running.

I fall somewhere between the first and third camps. On some days, particularly when it’s sunny outside and the birds are singing, I just feel like running in silence. But when the weather is a bit grim and I’ve got a long run ahead, I generally turn to podcasts to help keep my spirits up and make the miles go past faster.

I’ve got a half marathon coming up this weekend (the Northumberland Endurancelife if anyone’s interested) and my husband is already prepping his podcast list for his ultra run. If you’re looking for some new inspiration, here are some of my favourite podcasts to help make long runs fun. But a word of warning: you may find some of them so addictive that you won’t want to stop…

If You’ve Got an Ultra Coming Up: Limetown

I was struggling to find a podcast that was as gripping, well-produced and addictive as Serial. Then I found Limetown. Although it’s a fictional story, the investigative journalism style makes it feel more like a true-crime podcast.

The story itself – the disappearance of 300 people from a model town in Tennessee – is intriguing and each plot twist pulls you deeper into the story. Once you’ve started, you won’t want to stop listening so download all the episodes and plan a three-hour run.

For Binge Listening: Serial

If you haven’t listened to the award-winning podcast, Serial, then you’ve probably been hiding under a rock for the past few years. But if that’s the case then great! You’ve got all the fun to look forward to.

Serial is a non-fiction podcast that investigates the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. It’s easy to forget when you listen to the serialised narrative that this is a real story, with real people involved, and that there may not be a happy ending.

It’s a gripping show and the best news is, once you finished season one you can move onto season two which is a whole different story. Hours of entertainment to keep your legs moving.

To Get You Through Long Runs: The Tim Ferris Show

Tim Ferris interviews the great and good from all walks of life in a show that was seemingly devised for long runs. Episodes frequently exceed two hours in length making it a great choice for long workouts. Although it’s branded as a business podcast, the interviews are wide-ranging and cover many aspects of lifestyle, productivity and work.

For Inspiration: The Tough Girl Podcast

If your legs need some inspiration to keep running, then the Tough Girl Podcast will provide. Host Sarah Williams interviews women who are pushing the boundaries in their outdoor adventure challenges. From epic adventurers to Olympic athletes, this show will make you realise how many endurance challenges there are in the world and what it takes to complete them.

Be warned: if you listen to too many episodes then you may find yourself dreaming up your own challenge to escape the regularity of day-to-day life.

To Learn Something New: Crypto News Podcast

Okay, this is a bit of a cheeky entry as I co-host the podcast! (But hey, it’s my blog, so I can give it a shout-out, right?) If you’re bamboozled by bitcoin and confused about cryptocurrency, but feel like it’s something you should know more about, then join two crypto newbies as we navigate our way through the world of cryptocurrency.

Each week we talk through some of the top crypto news stories to find out what’s hot (or not) in the crypto world. Download the 12 boot camp episodes to get a simple overview of what Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the blockchain are all about and finish your run better informed than when you started.

For a Quick Fix: The Other Stories

If you’re looking for a short fiction podcast with a nod to the dark side, then check out this podcast from the team at Hawk and Cleaver. The stories cover the genres of horror, sci-fi and thrillers, and will leave you with a definite chill down your spine. The episodes are generally between 10 and 20 minutes long so enjoy them on a quick lunchtime run or stack up a few for a longer session.

If You Enjoyed Limetown: Rabbits

Like Limetown, Rabbits is a fictional podcast presented in a true-crime style. And if you thought the events narrated in Limetown were weird, then Rabbits takes things to a whole new level.

Rabbits is the story of the search by the podcast host, Carly, for her missing friend, Yumiko, who she believes disappeared because of her participation in a mysterious alternate reality game known only as “Rabbits”.

The first couple of episodes are a little slow going, with a lot of backstory and information on video game culture and alternate reality. But after that, the story quickly picks up pace and the plot twists come thick and fast as the suspense builds. The ending is as weird as weird can be, and personally, I found it not quite satisfying, but don’t let me put you off. Rabbits will make you forget your tired legs and burning lungs while you listen to find out what happens next.

What are your favourite podcasts? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch on Twitter – I’m looking for some new shows to listen to!

Five Reasons to Love Walking in the Rain (+ 5 Top Tips)

Hiking in the rain

I love the lush, green British landscape and welcome the change of seasons and the variety this brings to my life. But sometimes, I wish it didn’t rain quite so much! Since the start of the new year, rain has been the dominant theme of our weather here in Yorkshire. But has that stopped me getting outside? Has it hell! Given the choice between a dry, bright day and a rainy one, most of us would choose to walk in the former. But there are reasons to enjoy walking in the rain, and at least one of them should make you force yourself outdoors whatever the weather.

Here are a few of the reasons why I love walking in the rain, plus my top five tips to make hiking in bad weather less of a chore.

1. Bad Weather Walks Can Be the Most Memorable

Now, I have plenty of memories of beautiful walks throughout my life. But some of the experiences that really stick in my mind have been the wet weather walks. A hike up the Merrick, when I was probably about seven years old, has gone down in family history as the day the rain never stopped. During the walk, we could rarely see more than 20m ahead and let’s just say that the view from the top was shades of grey…

Another one that sticks in my memory is a hike we did on a holiday to America. We’d been walking for hours, zig-zagging up through beautiful forests and lush meadows, but just as we reached the crest of the summit ridge, a thunderstorm drew in. Rather than turning around and hiking back down, we retreated a hundred metres down the path and huddled miserably in the rain while the path below our feet turned into a stream and lightning flashed overhead. But the thunderstorm passed and, in its wake, we submitted the peak and were rewarded with beautiful views.

There can be a fine balance between going out in weather that is safe but a bit miserable and weather that’s downright dangerous. Where you draw that line will depend on your level of outdoor experience, the type of activity you’re doing and the weather forecast, and is up to you to decide. Err on the side of caution, but don’t be put off by a bit of rain.

2. It’s Good Training

When I used to train with a search and rescue team, one of our training officers had the motto, “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training”. There is truth to this, in that training in bad weather is good preparation for races or other adventures when you’re not sure what the weather conditions will be like. (And let’s face it, if that event is in the UK, even in summer you can’t guarantee sunshine.)

If you train in bad conditions, then if the weather isn’t ideal on the day of the event, you won’t be thrown by this because you’ve prepared and trained for that eventuality. And if you do get a good weather day, then you’ll appreciate it all the more!

3. You Get to Properly Test Your Kit

There was a reason you bought that £300 waterproof, right? And if you never go out in the rain, how will you know if it was worth the money?

In all seriousness, and going back to the point above, if you’re training for an event that could be affected by wet weather, you MUST test out how your kit will work under those weather conditions. Midnight on the overnight camp of your first mountain marathon isn’t the time you want to find out that your tent leaks!

You also need to work out how your body responds to different weather conditions, particularly wind and cold, so you can make sure you wear the right kit and have spare layers packed.

4. You’ll Feel Better for Having Done It

When the rain’s lashing on the windows, it can be really tempting to scrap your outdoor plans in favour of curling up inside with a nice cup of tea. And if you can do this without feeling the teeniest bit guilty, then good on you. But for most people, you’ll feel better for getting out, if only for a quick breath of fresh air. There’s nothing more rewarding than a long hot shower and a mug of hot chocolate after a long hike in the rain. And you’ll sleep better for it too.

5. Rainy Days Can Be the Most Beautiful

There’s a reason photographers love mixed weather days. Unexpected rainbows, shafts of sunlight through dark clouds and dramatic, moody lighting can transform even the plainest landscape into something quite beautiful. Many of these moments come and go within minutes or even seconds, and if you hadn’t have been outside, you’d never have seen them. So, if the forecast is for rain or showers and you’re not sure whether to go out or stay at home, then go. Nature herself may reward you.

Five tips for walking in the rain

Here are my top tips for hiking, running or biking in bad weather:

  1. Invest in good waterproofs. If it’s torrential rain, nothing will keep you totally dry, but a decent pair of waterproofs will mean the difference between an enjoyable day out and a miserable, soggy experience.
  2. Choose the right route. Today may not be the best day to tackle that exposed ridge scramble or do a long circuit of high peaks. Going out in bad weather doesn’t mean ignoring the forecast and you may need to adjust your original plans to take into account the weather conditions. A low-level, straightforward route will probably be a more enjoyable experience and avoid potential epics. Also, pick a route that’s easy to navigate, so you don’t have to faff around with maps or GPS units in the rain.
  3. Plan a cafe stop (or keep moving). Standing eating soggy butties in the rain isn’t much fun. So if you’re going for a long walk, see if you can plan in a stop for food at a cafe or pub. If there’s nothing on route, then consider taking lots of snacks that you can eat quickly, and keep moving so you don’t get cold.
  4. Take a friend for motivation. If you’ve got someone to chat to, this will take your mind off the weather and make the miles fly by. You can keep each other’s spirits up if things start getting a bit damp and motivate each other to keep going.
  5. Stock up on podcasts. This may be a controversial one, and for many people (myself included a lot of the time), getting outside is about getting away from everything else and just enjoying being in nature. But as I found this weekend, if you’ve got your hood up against the driving rain and you’re plodding along a familiar route, listening to something fun and entertaining is a great way to both take your mind off the weather and make you walk a little faster. I selected a variety of podcasts, including my current addiction, Limetown, and tucked my phone into my trouser pocket under my waterproof overtrousers to keep it dry. My 16 km canal walk flew by.

I hope that’s encouraged you to get out and enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather! If you’re going backpacking, then check out my tips on camping in the rain. And if you’ve got more tips for getting outside in wet weather, please post them in the comments below.

5 of the Best Mountain Challenges in the UK

Best mountain challenges in UK

The Cuillin Ridge – one of the UK’s toughest mountain challenges

If the grey days and dark nights are draining your motivation for getting outside, then you need a challenge! While we may not have the towering snow-capped peaks of the Alps, the UK has a surprising range of mountain challenges for everyone from casual weekend walkers to skilled mountaineers and fleet-of-foot fell runners.

This isn’t a comprehensive list but if you’re after for some inspiration or itching for a new challenge, why not book in one of the UK’s best mountain challenges for 2018…

Yorkshire Three Peaks

The route linking the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks‘ of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough is an ideal first mountain challenge for fit walkers. The route starts and ends in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and is 24 miles with 1,585m of ascent. To complete the ‘challenge’ you need to walk it in under 12 hours.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is very popular with charity groups and can get busy in the summer, so a good-weather day out of season is your best bet for avoiding the crowds in the car parks as well as on the hills. There are no technical difficulties, but it’s a long day and if the weather’s bad, you’ll need to be confident navigating in low visibility.

The Welsh 3000s

If you want to step up from the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the Welsh 3000s, also known as the “14 Peaks” will challenge the fittest hill walker. The official challenge requires an ascent of the 15 (yes, 15 not 14…) Welsh peaks over 3,000ft in 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

The traditional route starts on the summit of Snowdon (sometimes with a bivvy) and finishes on Foel-fras. It’s around 24 miles long but the approach walk and final descent take the total up to 30 miles. There aren’t many technical challenges, but you’ll need to be comfortable with the scrambling on Crib Goch and Tryfan and a very long day in the hills.

The Bob Graham Round

The Bob Graham is to fell runners what the Cuillin Ridge is to mountaineers. The 66-mile circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the Lake District includes 8,200m of ascent and, to officially complete the Bob Graham Round, the circuit has to be done in 24 hours.

For many fell runners, completing the Bob Graham is a lifetime achievement requiring years of preparation. Only around 1 in 3 attempts are successful and most take place in the summer, to make best use of daylight. I’ve spent long days in the Lakes hiking just a handful of the 42 peaks and I actually struggle to comprehend HOW people can be fit enough to complete the challenge within the 24-hour time limit.

For those who’ve completed the Bob Graham Round, more challenges lie ahead in the Welsh and Scottish equivalents: the Paddy Buckley Round and the Ramsay Round.

The Cuillin Ridge

The Cuillin Ridge is the most prized of all British ridge climbs and arguably one of the best mountaineering challenges in Europe. It requires stamina, excellent navigation skills and the ability to move quickly and safely on complex terrain.

The ridge itself is 12km, but including the walk in and walk out you’re looking at a 25km route with 4,000m of ascent and descent. Although none of the climbing is harder than ‘Very Difficult’, there are large sections of exposed scrambling and easier climbing and to have any chance of success at the traverse, you’ll need to be comfortable soloing most of the ridge.

If you’re super fit then it’s possible to do the Cuillin Ridge in a day but many parties take two days and bivvy overnight, either at the start of the ridge or part-way along. On many British ridge climbs, route-finding is fairly straightforward — you just keep to the crest of the ridge. On my one excursion into the Cuillin (to date) I was surprised at the level of technical route finding required. For this reason, if you’re looking to attempt the ridge it’s worth reccying different sections of the route in advance.

The Munros

This one may take you more than a year! The record for completing all 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000ft is an impressive 39 days and 9 hours (set by Stephen Pike in 2010) and the women’s record of 77 days was set in 2017 by Lisa and Libby from Beauties and the Bog. For most people, bagging all the Munros is a lifetime achievement, but if you have a lot of time on your hands or easy access to the Scottish Highlands, it’s possible to tick them all in a year.

While most Munros aren’t technical climbs (only one — the Inaccessible Pinnacle — involves a graded rock climb), many involve long days in the remotest parts of the UK and mountain skills are a must. Find out more about the Munros in our guide to Scotland’s ultimate ticklist.

How to Escape the Crowds by Hiking the Cinque Terre

The village of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre

The five tiny villages that make up the Cinque Terre are for many the crowning highlight of the Italian Riviera. Jumbles of coloured buildings cling to the rocky coastline that plunge into the clear blue sea, perfect for bathing. The breathtaking views and old-fashioned charm are enough to melt the hardest photographer’s heart. But the Cinque Terre is far from a secret destination and the solitude that once distinguished these villages is almost totally absent.

All is not lost. If you’re happy to do a bit of leg-work then there’s the opportunity to get stunning views of the villages and coastline and enjoy some solitude on the network of paths in the mountains behind the Cinque Terre. Even better, you’ll have every excuse for sampling the delicious Ligurian cuisine at every village you stop by. Here are some tips on hiking the Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre coastline

The beautiful coastline of the Cinque Terre

The Five Villages of the Cinque Terre

From west to east, the five villages are:


The largest of the towns and the only one with a proper beach, making it a great place to stay to get an early start to your hike.


A stunning village from every viewpoint, Vernazza is characterised by its small harbour and steep, winding streets.


The only one of the five without direct access to the sea, Corniglia is perched on the cliffs surrounded by vineyards.


Manarola doesn’t have much of a harbour, but the boats that line the main street down to the water would make you think otherwise. A beautiful village and a popular place for swimming.


The easternmost of the villages and often the most crowded, Riomaggiore is connected to Manarola by the well-known Lovers’ Lane.

Hiking Paths in the Cinque Terre

The most popular (i.e. busy) way to walk between the five villages is via the Sentiero Azzurro, also known as Trail #2 or the Blue Trail. This is about 12 kilometres in total, though it’s a full day trip if you want to stop in each village. At the time of writing (September 2017) the only part of this trail which is open is the section between Vernazza and Corniglia. Huge landslides devastated the area some years ago and the footpaths are still being repaired.

Running the Sentierro Azzurro path

Running the Sentierro Azzurro path between Vernazza and Corniglia

This does give you the excuse to go higher into the mountains and explore some of the hamlets and churches perched above the villages.

View from the Sanctuary of Soviore

Looking back down on Monterosso from the Sanctuary of Soviore

If you want to avoid the villages completely, the 35-kilometer High Path runs along the crest of the hills between Portovenere and Levanto.

Alternative Transport Options for Getting Around the Cinque Terre

If you’re short of time or don’t fancy hiking the full length of the coast, you can mix and match your transport options. If you only have a day and want to steer clear of the Sentiero Azzurro Trail, you’re best off picking a few sections of the higher paths to hike and using the train to get between the other villages.

Another option is to join one of the boat tours, giving you a very different view of the coastline from the sea.

When to Hike the Cinque Terre

The best time for hiking is spring and autumn. The months of April, May, September and October have pleasant temperatures and if you go towards the beginning or end of the season then you’ll miss the worst of the crowds in the villages. Winter is a lot quieter, but you risk bad weather which can close the trails.


The picturesque village of Manarola

Hiking in the Wider Ligurian Region

If you really want to escape the crowds, why not leave the Cinque Terre to the tourists and explore some of the other footpaths along the Italian Riviera? Beautiful scenery AND solitude. Bliss.