Book Review: Big Trails Bundle. Great Britain & Ireland 1 & 2 and Heart of Europe.

by Kathy Rogers and Stephen Ross

I have been given all these guidebooks by the publisher and the review below is my own uninfluenced thoughts.

Amazon link

Volume 1 –  Perfect book for someone new to or wanting to start walking big trails. 4/5

This is a lovely book to use for inspiration to start panning a holiday or adventure and to decide if it is the right route for you. I would buy this for a friend who had started or was looking to start long distance walking trips, rather than a really experienced walker. The book is not enough detail alone to walk one of these trails, but a companion footprint map is referenced for each trail for more detailed planning and for navigational use on the walk.

At a glance, this book provides an overview of 25 walking trails across Great Britain and Ireland varying in length from 100km to 1000km. Each trail has an overview, written in a way that makes you want to get right out there walking, a very concise and easy to understand summary containing the need to know information for making a quick analysis if this is a route for you, a couple of colour photos and a map of the entire route scaled to fit one page.

The popular trails such as the Pennine Way, South West Coast Path and West Highland Way are included, as are some lesser known trails such as younger Cambrian Way (for which I was intrigued to read that the Brecon Beacon’s National Park banned sales of the guide book). All the information you expect from a guidebook is present – start and end points, travel and logistics, when to go and what to take. I would have preferred that the trails were in geographical order rather than alphabetical, however, the contents include a map with all the trails.

The part of this book that has intrigued me the most, is the section on how to estimate how long each trail will take to complete. A scale is used with estimated times for a walker, trekker, runner and even a fast packer (someone running carrying all their camping kit). Though, looking at the numbers provided in the introduction, personally I would give the trail runners and fast packers a bit longer to descend hills (I for one, cannot descend hills twice the speed I can ascend them). The estimated running time for the West Highland Way for example is 20hours over three days, which for the average runner seems quite ambitious considering that’s is nearly 5mph pace for 31miles a day, three days in a row and across quite technical underfoot terrain in sections.

I have really enjoyed reading this book and have several new walks I want to visit now!

Volume 2 – Just want to go walking after reading this! 3/5

Another fantastic guide book from Rogers and Ross and more trails to make me want to quit my job and go exploring! Big Trails Volume 1 is one of my favourite guide books so I was really excited to read volume 2.

What I like most about these guide books are the simple clear maps and route data tables with estimated timescales to complete the walks (though not sure I agree with some of the times for fast packing – their runners must have much lighter tents than me!). These books make it easy to find a multi day trail to go walk. What is great about Volume 2 is the number ion island based long distance trails and lesser known trails.

One addition that would help the reader would be a rough percentage of the trail is on tarmac or road, having walked the Hebridean Way I found this route to have too much path along the road verge and took the bus when possible to skip these sections.

Would say you will need more than this guide book alone to plan a walk on these routes.

Big Trails Heart of Europe

The Best Long Distance Trails in Western Europe and the Alps

By Kathy Rogers and Stephen Ross

Published by Vertebrate Publishing

The guide book contains 25 routes across France, Belgium, Netherlands, Routes along the Italian/Swiss/French Alps, Various locations in Germany, the Dolomites and Austria. Most these routes range from 5-10days, with a couple taking 3-4weeks. The routes include circular and point to point trails.

First impression Really love this Big Trails Series, always full of ideas for grand adventures!

The Content includes an introduction to all the tables and symbols used in the book and an overview of the rotes included and how best to use the book.

Each route is accompanied by a description, professional photography, bespoke route map, information boxes containing route essentials suchs as start and end points, pros and cons and good to know information. There is also route a profile, best months to visit and symbols for available facilities. 

I would highly recommend this guidebook as a starting point for anyone wanting inspiration or to start planning a big European hike. It is the perfect book for the long-distance hiker wanting to take their boots and backpack abroad for some bigger adventures!

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