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10 of the Best Walks and Hikes in the Cotswolds

Lockdown has meant that everyone has been walking more than usual lately, and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the big outdoors during the past year. Living in Oxfordshire means I am very close to lots of beautiful countryside and the surrounding Cotswolds, and I’m very lucky to be able to take lots of regular walks in my local area. If you’re planning a summer staycation or a Cotswolds Road Trip later on in the year you can be sure to find plenty of exciting local walks to enjoy. Whether you’re just looking for a gentle stroll with the kids or are up for a bit more of a challenging hike with friends, I’ve put together 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds in this handy blog post. So grab your snacks, rucksacks and walking boots, fill up your water bottles and get out into the beautiful Cotswolds countryside for a whole lot of exploring…

Asthall Leigh to Swinbrook

 

 

First up on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds starts in the tiny village of Asthall-Leigh, where you can park for free along any of the roads surrounding the Maytime Inn. This scenic 5 mile walk is perfect for all ages and abilities. There are some steep hills and inclines but most of the walk is on flat grassy/stony paths. There are some stunning views across the Windrush Valley as you pass through the tiny hamlet of Widford and this walk is particularly beautiful during April and May when the bluebells are out in full swing. This walk doesn’t get too muddy so waterproofs aren’t essential but that does depend on the unpredictable Great British weather! Finish up at either The Swan at Swinbrook or the Maytime at Asthall-Leigh for a delightful post walk dinner and drink.

 

Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower

 

I couldn’t write about 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds without giving a special mention to the Cotswold Way, one of the most popular walking routes in England. Spanning 100 miles of quintessentially British countryside, the Cotswold Way is completed by thousands of keen walkers every year and offers truly stunning views from all angles. The starting point of the Cotswold Way is this walk from Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower, a steady six mile route which takes you between an ancient market town and a classic Cotswolds tower. Starting at Chipping Campden’s market square, where a plaque officially marks the start of the Cotswolds Way, this walk takes you to the top of Dover’s Hill, through enchanting woodland (which is covered in bluebells if you’re visiting in May) and then into the thriving village of Broadway. Finish up at Broadway Tower, where you’ll spot Bambi in the deer park and can admire magnificent countryside views from the top of the 65ft high tower.

 

Minster Lovell to Crawley

 


This gentle 3.5 mile walk starts at the wash meadow in Minster Lovell (free parking) and continues on to the next village of Crawley. Cut through the wash meadow or walk along the road past a row of the prettiest thatched cottages where you’ll cross farmland and follow a footpath which takes you all the way to Crawley. Be sure to take wellies or waterproof boots on this one if it’s recently rained as the river levels can get quite high and the pathways are extremely muddy after a lot of rainfall. After crossing the main road in Crawley (by the traffic lights) make your way back towards Minster Lovell by following the river Windrush as it runs alongside you. You’ll soon arrive at the Minster Lovell Hall and Ruins, an English Heritage site which dates back to the 12th century, and has its original Dovecot in tact. The Ruins sit right next to the river Windrush and are a lovely place to visit with a picnic at any time of year, making this walk perfect for families and children.

 

Leckhampton Loop

 

 

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Back to the Cotswold Way now which features twice on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds, but this time its all about the Leckhampton Loop, a four mile circular walk which is moderately easy but offers stunning countryside views along the way. Starting and finishing at the layby opposite the Seven Springs pub just outside Cheltenham, this diverse walk passes through endless green fields, beautiful nature reserves and tranquil woodlands. Clamber up an Iron-Age hill fort to reach the top of Leckhampton Hill and take a moment to breathe in the far-reaching countryside views. If you want to tick off another classic Cotswolds landmark, follow the waymarkers and you’ll end up at Devil’s Chimney, a limestone rock formation which stands above a disused quarry. This walk is great for all ages with only a few steep sections and no annoying stiles to navigate – download this free map route for specific directions to make the walk even easier.

 

Charlbury to Finstock

 

 

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Starting and ending in Charlbury’s village centre, this pleasant five mile walk crosses two pretty Cotswold villages and is easily accessible for all ages. Park the car down Church Street in Charlbury and walk through the village towards Cornbury Park, a stunning Cotswold country estate encompassing farmland, forest and a deer park. Follow the tree lined Cornbury Park all the way until you reach the village of Finstock, where you’ll need to take care whilst crossing a major B road. As you make your way back towards Charlbury from Finstock you’ll pass by rolling hills and glorious countryside views, the river Evenlode and the Cotswold Line railway. There are four excellent pubs dotted along this route – the only question is which one (or four) will you choose to stop off at during your walk?!

 

 

Shilton to Burford circular

 

 

Up next on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds is one of my personal favourites and the walk that I do most often as it is closest to my home! Most of the time I start this one from my house and leave the car at home but to save a bit of time you can start from the tiny village of Shilton and park in the centre of the village right next to the ford. Take the footpath that runs alongside one of the houses opposite the war memorial and cut through the fields over towards Burford. You’ll be treated to rolling hills and miles of green countryside before reaching Burford Golf Club which you can walk behind to reach the A40. Cross the road carefully (the A40 is notoriously busy) and follow the hill down towards Burford high street where you can stop off in some of the shops or enjoy a pub lunch before heading back to your start point in Shilton. This walk is  moderately easy and fairly flat until you get to Burford hill, but it is quite a long one (7-8 miles in total) so just be prepared for that.

 

 

Bourton on the Water and The Slaughters

 

 

Another of my favourite local walks, this 7.5 mile loop starts and ends in pretty Bourton on the Water, also known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, and passes through the tiny  villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter too. Park in the chargeable public car park next to Birdland and from the village green in Bourton make your way towards the parish Church where you’ll walk alongside a clearly marked footpath. You’ll soon reach the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter, which is home to a 19th century mill with original water wheel, and two bridges criss-crossing their way over the little Eye stream. Continue on the footpath that runs alongside the mill and, after crossing three fields, you’ll find yourself in Upper Slaughter which is just a mile away. Residing on a grassy slope above the little Eye stream which connects the two villages, Upper Slaughter features the ruins of a Norman motte and bailey castle and a 15th century manor house which is now a hotel. After leaving Upper Slaughter you can make your way back to Bourton on the Water to end up right where you started.

 

 

Badbury Clump 

 

 

 

This walk is a new one for me as I only recently discovered it after meeting my friend Flo here for a New Year’s Eve stroll last December but I absolutely loved it! Start at the National Trust car park on the B4019 (£2 for 3 hours) and make your way around the pink route, which is a gentle 1.2 mile stroll covering endless woodland and taking in some stunning countryside views. Directly opposite the car park you’ll see the ancient Iron Age hillfort which is said to have been a battle site between the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons back in the Dark Ages. Badbury Clump does get extremely busy with hikers and dog walkers during peak times, and even more so in the month of May when the bluebells are out in full bloom and the hillfort is painted a gorgeous shade of purple.

 

 

Uffington White Horse Hill 

 

 

Another National Trust site nearby (£2 car parking for 3 hours) is Uffington White Horse Hill, an Iron Age hillfort which stands 860 feet above sea level and is the highest point in the whole of Oxfordshire. I have been visiting White Horse Hill for walks and picnics since I was a toddler but it’s only in my adult life that I’ve learnt to appreciate its sheer beauty. A series of burial mounds dating back to the Neolithic period can be found on White Horse Hill, and legend has it that nearby Dragon Hill was the site where St George slayed his famous dragon. White Horse Hill boasts my favourite view across the whole of Oxfordshire and, on a clear day, these stunning views even reach as far as six counties! There are a number of walking trails you can follow around the site all varying in length but I usually just walk a couple of miles and spend the rest of the time drinking in the scenery.

 

 

Blenheim Palace circulars

 

 

Last but not least on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds is beautiful Blenheim Palace. If you haven’t got a Blenheim Palace annual pass you can only do part of this walk by using the side gate at Woodstock and entering part of the grounds, but please be aware that you can only get so far by using the public footpath. If you try to make your way towards the palace you’ll run into staff members who stop and search at certain parts throughout the grounds so if you haven’t got a pass be prepared to be asked to leave! If however you have got an annual pass you can enjoy several wonderful circular walks around the palace grounds and in the formal gardens themselves. I usually walk around the top and bottom lakes which each take a couple of hours in total to complete. Look out for lots of  birds and wildlife within the palace grounds and pass by the ‘finest view in England’ as described by Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim and is buried at St Martin’s Church in nearby Bladon.

 

I hope some of these routes have given you some serious walking inspo that you can look forward to planning on your next visit to the glorious Cotswolds countryside. These are just a tiny handful of some of my favourite local walks and there are soooo many more that I could have picked but there is definitely not enough room for all of them on one single blog post! I could write for hours and hours about all of my favourite local walks but my pick of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds will have to do for now. Have you ever been walking in the Cotswolds before? I’d love to hear where your favourite place was!

 

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A Little Life Update: My 2021 UK Travel Plans

 

The days are getting longer, the sun is setting later and spring is well and truly on its way. After last month’s announcement from the UK Government and our roadmap out of lockdown, I’ve finally started to feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not going to lie, I have found the last few weeks extremely difficult, and have struggled for most of this third lockdown. However, with the vaccine rollout going incredibly well and new timescales to work towards, I can actually see a way out of this darkness and am finally starting to feel a bit more positive! I took a little break from blogging, and from social media, for most of January and February and it’s helped me to reset and start making new plans for the year ahead. I am now looking forward to spring and summer and already have a few loose 2021 UK travel plans lined up for the rest of this year. Here’s what I’ll (hopefully) be getting up to over the next few months, and what I think travel will look like this year…

With overnight stays in self contained accommodation permitted from 12th April here in the UK, I think we’ll see huge numbers of bookings for cottages, caravans and Airbnbs over the next few weeks and staycations will be booming this year. Although you can only stay with people in your household, I still reckon people will make bookings just to get away and to enjoy a change of scenery after months of being stuck at home during lockdown. Since I moved out last summer I now live with my sister, but I don’t think we’ll book to go away together just the two of us in April as places will be so busy and prices will be ridiculous! I do hope that tourism for these overnight stays brings a much needed boost to the travel industry though and it’ll be interesting to see how many people book to go away after 12th April.

 

 

17th May is the date that I am working towards as we will hopefully be able to meet up with friends and family indoors and I can’t wait to go for dinner with my mum and dad or out for drinks with my pals! In terms of travel plans, we have two bank holidays in May so I may take advantage of those and book an overnight stay somewhere by the sea with friends if I can, although I haven’t confirmed anything yet. I’ve got my eye on Southampton as I’ve never been there before and it’s only an hour and a half away so it’ll make the perfect place for a short one nighter! Looking ahead to June I’ve got my cousin Amy’s hen do pencilled in for the end of the month, with an overnight spa break in Cheshire planned – we have had to postpone it twice already because her wedding has been delayed so fingers crossed it’s third time lucky and we can actually go this time.

In July I’ve booked a week by the sea for my dad’s 60th birthday celebrations and this is the trip I am most looking forward to this year! I’m going with my mum, dad and sisters and we’ll be spending the first few nights in a secret location – I can’t tell you exactly where it is because he reads my blog and it’s a surprise! – but the second half of the week will be spent in Tintagel in Cornwall which I am super excited about because I’ve never been there before. I’m hoping to enjoy long walks along the South West Coast path, plenty of beach trips and will try to squeeze in a visit to King Arthur’s Castle too. At some point this summer I also hope to be reunited with my friend and fellow blogger Rachel, I have been planning to visit her in Scarborough for the past two years now and have day trips to Whitby and York on the cards too – if I ever get up there!

 

 

I’ll (hopefully) be heading back to Liverpool at the end of July for my cousins wedding and then in August I’m due to climb Pen y Fan as my latest charity challenge with The Pituitary Foundation. I hiked the Four Falls Trek with them last year and climbed Mount Snowdon a couple of years before that, so I’m looking forward to heading back to Wales again for another weekend break, and another exciting challenge! I’m also due to visit my best friend in Brighton at some point in August and have booked a couple of days annual leave at the end of the month so I can take full advantage of the last summer bank holiday of the year. I have no idea what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be going yet but I thought it would be good to take some time off so I can getaway if I fancy it closer to the time.

I haven’t really thought further ahead than August to be honest as I’m not sure how things will be here in the UK in a few months time. I’m very hopeful that the roadmap is still realistic in terms of dates and fingers crossed that we can aim for some normality to return by the summer! Some of the places that are high up on my UK wish-list for this year are Dorset, Devon, Whitby and Cambridge so I’m hopeful that I can make some loose plans to visit them later on in 2021.

 

 

One thing I do know for sure though is that I WILL be going abroad next year as I have just booked a summer holiday for 2022 – another Mediterranean cruise with my family. Last time we went from on the Marella Celebration’s Sail the Three Seas itinerary from Dubrovnik – Dubrovnik taking in the likes of Kotor, Messina, Kefalonia and Valletta, but next year we are visiting Rijeka, Split, Koper and Venice on the Marella Explorer 2’s Adriatic Affair cruise. I am sooo excited to have a proper holiday to look forward to and cannot wait to make more memories with my amazing family!

So those are my 2021 UK travel plans. Have you booked any trips for this year yet, or are you waiting until closer to the time? I’d love to hear what your travel plans are for 2021!

Love Jess x

 

 

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My 2020 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again, and what a year it’s been… It barely seems 5 minutes since the start of 2020, and yet at the same time it feels like its been the longest year ever. I’m sure we can all agree that this year has been truly awful. Coronavirus has taken over the world, countless countries have experienced large lockdowns, and hundreds of thousands of people have sadly died from this horrific virus. What started off as a new year and a new decade filled with hope and excitement in January quickly turned in to a nightmare by the time March rolled around. The world changed before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do about it but stay at home and watch events unfold around us. Here in the UK, the entire country went into lockdown on 23rd March and has never really recovered since then. We had a couple of months during summer where restrictions were lifted, but now we are stuck in a never ending tier system of differing rules and regulations where nobody knows what they are doing.

 

 

It’s been a tough old year, hasn’t it? A couple of months ago I was hopeful that, by the end of the year, most of this would be over and we could enter 2021 with optimism and hope, but now I’m not sure I feel that way. Despite the good news of a vaccine being rolled out quickly, I still think we are going to be stuck in lockdown for most of January and February, but I hope that things will start to lift by the spring. I have tried so hard to remain positive but lately I am really struggling, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I miss seeing my friends and going out for dinner, I miss my old job and the buzz of working in the travel industry, and most of all I miss my family who I’ve barely been able to see this year.

Despite all of this doom and gloom though, there have been some positives that have come out of 2020. I bought my first house, I became a qualified TEFL teacher and I still managed to visit London, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Norfolk and the Brecon Beacons this year. I learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life and I found a new love for my local area here in Oxfordshire, enjoying my daily walks and exploring the Cotswolds as much as I could. Although when I look back at my 2019 Year in Review it makes me want to cry (!!) I am still excited to be sharing my 2020 round up with you. Let’s start right at the beginning, before Covid-19 spread across the world, before Zoom quizzes were a regular occurrence, and before the words unprecedented, furloughed and social distancing were floating around…

 

January & February

 

Back in January I celebrated my 27th birthday by taking a trip to London with my sisters. We had the loveliest day wandering around the city and heading to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery which was amazing! We stopped for lunch in Chelsea and then headed to a secret Harry Potter bar for cocktails in the Dungeon which was amazing. It was my sister Sophie’s 21st birthday at the end of the month so the Harry Potter treat was a double celebration, but we also enjoyed a spa weekend in Cheltenham and a trip to Liverpool to see our family at the end of January. Little did we know that would be the last time we had the majority of our family in one room together before the world would change forever!

 

March & April

 

 

As we all know, March was the month where the world totally changed and the country went into its first full lockdown. I was told to work from home from mid March anyway, but on 1st April I was put on furlough for three months. At first it was lovely to have some time off work and be paid 80% of my salary, but the novelty soon faded and before long I was feeling stupidly bored! I kept myself busy by enjoying my 1 hour of daily exercise, found a new love for reading books (I’ve read 35 this year!), and started a TEFL course to teach English as a foreign language, something I had thought about doing for ages but never found the time until I was furloughed. I think being in lockdown really taught me to appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have, and it made me stop and think about life for the first time in a long time. I was so used to going on trips left, right and centre, and going through life at a million miles an hour, but being forced to stop and stay at home made me appreciate the smaller things in life.

 

May & June 

 

 

May was probably the most exciting month of 2020 as my sister Hannah and I bought our first house!! We completed and got our keys on 1st May, after our offer had been accepted back in November, so our purchase took a whopping six months to go through but we were in the middle of a pandemic so can’t complain too much! We spent the majority of May & June doing up our new house whilst we still lived at home, painting every room, ripping out and laying new carpets, re-landscaping the garden and fitting new front and back doors. Being on furlough was the perfect time to do up my house without having to take any annual leave so the timing actually turned out brilliantly and it gave me so much to focus on at a time where I was feeling lost without my job. May also saw us celebrate Hannah’s birthday (lockdown style) as well as VE Day where we enjoyed an afternoon tea with our neighbour over the fence and listened to Vera Lynn on repeat. I also spent time going for long walks around the Cotswolds, where I live, and enjoying the amazing mini heatwave the UK experienced in the early part of this summer.

 

July & August

 

 

July brought my dad’s birthday and our first meal out as a family at a local pub once they finally re-opened as lockdown ended. At the end of the month Hannah and I finally moved out of our family home and into our brand new house which we love! I also spent the majority of July volunteering in my local community, collecting prescriptions and shopping for vulnerable/elderly people in my town, as well as doing over 1000 hours on-call for the NHS volunteer responders which I signed up for at the start of the pandemic. Volunteering gave me a real purpose at a time when I needed it, and I still volunteer today helping out as much as I can. Unfortunately July was also the month that I was made redundant from my job in the travel industry after three months on furlough. I was absolutely gutted to have lost a job I loved so much, but I was so lucky that I found a new job just a week after being made redundant, at the estate agents where I worked for five years between the age of 18 and 23! In July & August two of my cousins, Amy & Emma, also came down to stay at our new house and it was so lovely to finally see our family after a rubbish few months. My lovely friend Rachel also came down to visit and I took her on a mini tour around a few of my fave places here in the Cotswolds which was super fun!

September & October

 

The only time I managed to squeeze in a couple of day trips and overnight stays was in these two months, and I certainly made the most of being away from home for the first time since January! In September I visited the Brecon Beacons with my parents as we took part in the Four Falls Trek for the Pituitary Foundation, and the weekend after I went down to Norfolk for a mini break with my family and was reunited with my lovely nan which was amazing. My other nan and grandad also came down to stay with us in September for my mum’s birthday, and my aunty and uncle stayed in a hotel in nearby Burford, so it was nice to spend some more time with our wonderful family. In October I took a day trip to Bournemouth with two of my closest friends and their little girls. It was super quiet as it was after the school half term and we had the best day wandering along the beach, having fish & chips at Harry Ramsden’s and running in and out of the sea.

 

November & December 

 

November saw us enter another national lockdown here in England, with all pubs, restaurants, shops and leisure closed again for four weeks. I spent November doing nothing but reading books and enjoying my daily walks again, as well as finishing my TEFL course and gaining my teaching qualification. I went to a couple of our local garden centres and we put our Christmas decorations up early to try and cheer us up a bit. My sisters and I were due to go to Edinburgh in November but our trip got cancelled so we are hoping to visit next year instead. In December we had a wonderful Christmas together just the five of us, and even enjoyed some beautiful snow here in Oxfordshire which made our tier 4 restrictions a bit easier to cope with!

 

My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions 

 

As you can probably imagine, half of my 2020 new year’s resolutions were no where near close to being completed this year with everything that has happened because of the pandemic! But let’s take a look at the resolutions I set myself at the start of January to see what I acheieved and what I missed out on this year.

I want to buy a house – SUCCESS – I am so happy I managed to achieve this and finally get on the property ladder! My sister and I absolutely love our little 2bed semi in Oxfordshire and it’s been the highlight of our 2020.

I want to focus on my new job – FAIL – Sadly being made redundant from my dream travel job has meant I have failed at this one!

I want to travel to 5 countries – FAIL – I made it to Wales, so that counts as one country, right?! After visiting 7 countries in 2019 and 9 countries in 2018 I didn’t think 5 countries would be that hard this year, but that was before a global pandemic occurred!

 

 

I want to start working out 3 times a week – SUCCESS – Hooray, something I have actually manage to stick at this year. Lockdown really helped me to focus on my fitness, with my one hour daily walks and three 30min workouts a week helping me to gain some routine and structure to my day whilst I was on furlough, and I continued it for the rest of the year too.

I want to start dating again – FAIL – lol, we are in a pandemic, it’s hard enough to meet people at the best of times without the shops/bars/gyms being shut too. Maybe next year I’ll get better at this one but I’m not holding my breath 😉

 

I hope that 2021 brings hope and optimism for us all and that we are able to enter this new year feeling excited for the future once Covid disappears (if it ever does!). I’ve decided not to write any new year’s resolutions for 2021 because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself and I think I did well this year to hit 2 out of 5 of my goals all things considered. It feels very weird not setting myself any goals/resolutions or even having any travel plans set in stone as I usually do at this time of year. I simply wish that, by this time next year, all of my family and friends will still be here with us, and that they will be healthy and happy. I hope that we don’t have another year where this horrible virus rules every aspect of our lives, and I hope that we all get through it as best as we can.

So I’ll sign off now and wish you a happy new year. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021 for us all!

Love Jess x

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Climbing Mount Snowdon: The Highest Mountain in Wales

Perfectly positioned in the north of Snowdonia National Park, Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, and the third highest in the UK. Standing 3560 feet tall, Snowdon towers above the village of Llanberis and, on a clear day, commands views over Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and Snowdonia. Of course many people choose to hop on the very convenient tourist train and enjoy the stunning scenery from the comfort of their train window, but by far the best way to get to know Mount Snowdon is to climb it, so that’s exactly what I did. Back in June 2018 I joined a team of 55 walkers and spent the day climbing Mount Snowdon for charity. Along with my parents, their friends and one of my best friends, we joined The Pituitary Foundation on their annual fundraising event and were looking forward to climbing Mount Snowdon for the first time. If you’ve read my previous post about hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales you’ll know that I have taken part in many fundraising events for the Foundation over the past few years, and climbing Mount Snowdon was one of the first ones I ever did.

Me and my team mates were staying in nearby Betsw-Y-Coed which is a gorgeous Welsh village approximately 20 minutes away by car from one of the starting points for Mount Snowdon. We parked the car near the Electric Mountain Visitors Centre (postcode LL55 4UR) and met up with everyone in our group for our safety briefing before setting off on our climb. There are six different paths to take when climbing Mount Snowdon, some of which are detailed on the image below.  We took the Llanberis Path which is the easiest one as it catered for our large group of mixed ages and abilities. We were split into two groups and each assigned team leaders who would be able to keep an eye on everyone in the group and offer help to those who needed it.

 

Image credit: https://www.visitsnowdonia.info/snowdon-walking-routes

 

After a difficult ascent from the village of Llanberis – arguably one of the hardest parts of the entire climb as that first part of the terrain is incredibly steep! – we were well and truly on our way to climbing Mount Snowdon. We split off into smaller groups during the climb but were all within easy reach of the guides who were checking on us every 10mins or so. It was a boiling hot summers day and the Llanberis path was extremely busy with other climbers, so it was difficult to gain momentum and we had to keep stopping every few hundred metres for water/to remove layers/to let people pass. The scenery whilst climbing Mount Snowdon is lovely at any time of year but even more so on a clear sunny day, with green grass and blue skies as far as the eye can see.

When we reached the Halfway House, which is indeed the halfway point for the climb, we all had an hours break to eat our packed lunches, use the toilet facilities and stop and chat to our fellow walkers. I really enjoyed being able to climb at my own pace and take it slowly as this really helped me to catch my breath and refuel whilst remaining on the go. I met so many like minded people who had similar pituitary conditions to me and it was so lovely to hear their stories too. After our lunch stop, and several stops for various people to take wild wees – sorry kids, there are no toilets between the halfway point and the summit – we slowly made our way to the top.

 

 

The train passed us several times back and forth during our ascent, and at times I was really struggling with the climb. The change in altitude and temperature made it hard for me to continue as I had at the start, and the onset of one of my pituitary related headaches was causing me a considerable amount of pain. After some painkillers and a motivational heart to heart with my mum, dad and friend Tiff, I decided to carry on and get the climb done. One of our guides kindly let me borrow his walking poles and these were an absolute godsend when I needed a bit of a push to get me up that mountain! Finally, after what seemed like forever, both of our groups reached the summit and were treated to spectacular panoramic views over Snowdonia below.

We all stopped for group pictures, hugs and snacks as we congratulated each other on reaching the summit, and made use of the excellent toilet and cafe facilities!  After around 30 minutes, we made our descent down the Llanberis path and the walking began once more. I found the descent much easier than the ascent, although I was beginning to tire again by the time I reached the halfway point. An ice cream and yet more photo opportunities soon cheered me up though and I was well on my way to reaching the end and touching down on flat ground again with the rest of the group within a couple of hours or so.

 

 

 

I think it usually takes around six hours there and back to climb Mount Snowdon, but I would say our group did it in around 8-9 hours because a) there were so many of us, b) it was a boiling hot day, and c) the path was extremely busy with other walkers. I absolutely loved climbing Mount Snowdon and it is definitely one of the hardest treks I have ever done. Our group of 55 walkers raised over £25,000 collectively for The Pituitary Foundation which was absolutely phenomenal and made everything so worthwhile.

I would highly recommend climbing Mount Snowdon who anyone who enjoys walking, hiking and climbing, or those who want to explore more of beautiful Snowdonia, one of the most visited areas in Wales. We were extremely lucky to have such good weather and a clear sunny day but the conditions can change quickly on Mount Snowdon, and cloud and fog can descend fast. To ensure you are fully prepared for your climb, be sure to take equipment for all weathers, such as thick fleeces, thermal vests, waterproof jackets and trousers etc. Tough walking boots are essential, as is a sturdy backpack to carry all your equipment. Walking poles are optional, but I found them super useful and have used them in all of my mountain treks since climbing Mount Snowdon.

Some of you may know that I attempted to climb Ben Nevis the year after climbing Mount Snowdon, but it didn’t go quite to plan! Unfortunately I didn’t take the right waterproof equipment so was struggling massively and at a very real risk of developing hypothermia, so we decided to turn back at the halfway point. The weather was torrential, with rain and wind which was getting worse by the minute, and after four hours of getting soaked to my skin I didn’t fancy another four in even worse weather. On the descent, my dad slipped and hurt his wrist and little finger, so we headed straight to Fort William A&E where he was very well looked after and diagnosed with a broken wrist and a fractured pinky. We were due to attempt Ben Nevis again this year, but of course Covid-19 put a stop to that when the world shut down and the UK went into lockdown for three months.

At some point in my life I would like to attempt Ben Nevis again, but I am not sure when that may be. Have you ever climbed climbed Mount Snowdon or Ben Nevis before? I’d love to hear your experiences too!

 

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Hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales: Exploring the Brecon Beacons

Back in September, I went on my first post-lockdown stay right here in the UK, where I visited the Brecon Beacons for the very first time. I have wanted to visit the Beacons for ages, and even included them on my recent UK staycation wishlist, so I’m really glad I got to experience a weekend there whilst the weather was good this summer. I was in Wales to take part in my 5th fundraising challenge for The Pituitary Foundation, a charity extremely close to my heart who I am proud to be an ambassador for. After all their fundraising challenges got cancelled due to Covid this year, I was determined to help them raise some vital funds and was excited to take part in this group event, which was to hike the Four Falls Trail in Wales. I have previously climbed Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis with the Foundation, both of which left me totally exhausted, so when they were hosting a walking challenge instead of a climbing one I was desperate to sign up as I am so much better at hiking than I am at climbing! Here’s how our day went…

 

 

I travelled up to Wales from home with my mum and dad and we stayed in the pretty Nant Ddu Lodge Hotel & Spa, which is perfectly positioned right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Located just a 10 minute drive from Pen Y Fan, the hotel enjoys a spectacular location from which to explore the surrounding Welsh countryside. I was gutted that we only had 1 night as I really wanted to climb Pen Y Fan whilst we were there, but we didn’t want to tire ourselves out ahead of the Four Falls Trail the next day so opted for a relaxing stroll around the grounds and a hearty lunch and dinner at the hotel instead.

The next morning we drove 20 minutes to one of the start points of the Four Falls Trail, The Angel Inn in  Pontneddfechan, just west of Merthyr Tydfil. We didn’t park in the pub as this is not encouraged but there is plenty of on-road parking directly opposite on the main road. The other starting point, should you wish to go from there instead, is the Four Falls car park Gwaun Hepste, which is about halfway from the Angel Inn start point.

 

 

After our safety introduction and Covid-19 briefing about social distancing during the walk we met with our guides and Jay, the fundraising manager for the Foundation, as well as all the other walkers who had decided to join the event. We set off at around 9am and were immediately greeted by small waterfalls and pretty streams as we meandered our way through the first leg of the Four Falls Trail in Wales. I couldn’t believe how beautiful some of the scenery was already; they don’t call this place Waterfall Country for nothing! We were taking this route as pictured below, which is approximately 15km in total:

 

 

Comprising of, yep you guessed it, a series of four waterfalls, this trail is located within the Fforest Fawr, right at the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Passing four rivers along the way (the Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Neath Fechan), the rivers meander downwards towards the waterfalls which can be seen from the pathways, although they of course look much more impressive the closer you get to them.

After a couple of hours we had a toilet stop and enjoyed our packed lunches next to the pretty green countryside. I hadn’t realised just how many hills we would pass during our walk, I knew the Brecon Beacons were mountainous, but I thought we would just be following the waterfalls and that the scenery between them wouldn’t be that special – how wrong I was! I loved every minute of the Four Falls Trail, from seeking out the waterfalls and following the rivers to being immersed in the surrounding countryside and seeing beautiful trees and hills at every turn.

 

 

The four waterfalls that we passed on the Four Falls Trail in Wales were called Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gqyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and the mighty Sgwd-yr-Eira which was by far the most powerful and certainly the most impressive. Although it was super busy with other walkers at Sgwd-yr-Eira, we waited our turn and were able to step behind the cascading waterfall to take some fantastic photos with the water tumbling in front of us. It was truly magical and I have never seen a waterfall as beautiful as this one.

The walk usually takes around  3-4 hours to complete, but we took just over 6 hours mainly because we were in a group of about 15-20 with people of all ages and abilities so we had to make sure everyone could keep up and no one got left behind. It was also stupidly hot for late September with the sun beaming down on us, so it took a little longer as it’s seriously hard work lugging your backpack around in the heat whilst trying not to slip by the waterfalls! By the end of the walk we were relieved to make it back to the car park in one piece, despite having huge blisters, and I really wanted to stop for a pub meal at the end but unfortunately we had to jump in the car and drive straight home as it was nearly 5pm by the time we had finished.

 

 

I would highly recommend the Four Falls Trail to anyone looking for a low impact hike in the stunning Welsh countryside. Despite the paths around the waterfalls being a little rocky and slippy, this route is not particularly challenging and is suitable for all ages and abilities. The 15km length can be a little strenuous at times, but if you take it at your own pace and enjoy plenty of stops and food breaks along the way, the walk is easily achievable within a few hours. In terms of kit to take, I would make sure you wear waterproof walking boots with good ankle support, a waterproof jacket as you will definitely get wet at the Sgwd-yr-Eira waterfall, and take a rucksack which can hold plenty of snacks and at least 2litres of water.

I thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales and I hope these photos and handy insights give you an idea of what the walk is like. Have you ever hiked it before? I’d love to hear how your experience was! I’m proud to say that our team raised over £5000 for The Pituitary Foundation which is absolutely AMAZING and will really help to boost funds that were lost this year due to every other event being cancelled during lockdown. To find out more about why I am a proud ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, please read one of my previous pituitary related blog posts.