A weekend escape to the quirky charms of Portmeirion village, a wonderfully odd architectural gem which is perfectly positioned on the glorious coast of Snowdonia.
I’ve been tearing around the Austrian pistes and the Welsh mountains in Odlo’s Blackcomb Evolution range of winter sport underwear, partly made from recyclable materials. I tested out the long baselayer pants (£65) and baselayer shirt (£65). Cosy, comfy and saving the planet – I’m a big fan.
Bouldering, sport climbing and general scrabbling around on rock faces is great fun, but it’s not very kind on your mitts. You’ll have to say goodbye to nice fingernails, but you can still keep your hands in reasonable shape with a bit of care.
In 2015 veterinary surgeon Sophie Wilford took on the toughest horse race in the world. Modelled on Chinggis Khaan’s postal route across the Mongolian steppes, the Mongol Derby, run by the crazy cats at The Adventurists, involves navigating 1000km of wild grassland with no set route and spending nights with local families in traditional gers. She tells me about the incredible people, epic landscapes and painful nether regions that made up her race.
If one of your New Year resolutions is to dust off your bike and go exploring country lanes, woodland trails and shining mountain roads on two wheels then Halford’s fantastic new cycling essentials guide will help you kit yourself and your trusty steed up in style with kit checklists and handy tips.
Crackling logs, the smell of canvas, charcoal-like marshmallows burning your fingers… camping is pretty great, isn’t it? If the weather’s looking on the clement side and you’re itching to run for the hills and set up a tent in the wilderness, here’s a handy camping packing list of all the essentials you need to stay warm and dry. Plus whisky. Don’t forget the whisky.
It ain’t easy looking good in a blizzard, but help is at hand! These wonder products will help you ski, surf and have slightly blue hair all winter long, without the cracked lips and chapped face. All together now: “the cold never bothered me anyway!”.
“Gower is a very beautiful peninsula, some miles from this blowsy town… As a matter of fact it is one of the loveliest sea-coast stretches in the whole of Britain.”
So wrote Dylan Thomas in letters to his first girlfriend, Pamela Hansford Johnson, and the more I visit the jewel in Wales’ coastal crown, the more I agree with the country’s best-loved poet.
It’s cold and miserable outside. It’s dark by the time you get home. You ate a whole herd of Lindt chocolate reindeers over the Christmas break. I feel your pain, but I also have five ways to help you get through the chilly winter and stay happy and healthy till spring.
Another year of travels in the outdoors, and it’s fun seeing which of my Instagram pictures you’ve liked the most – they include some of my favourite places from 2015 – snow-capped Kenyan mountains, Australian desert islands, Swiss glaciers and the beautiful Gower peninsula. And me standing on my head a lot!
Thank you so much for reading in 2015. I’ll be celebrating NYE quietly from a Cornish beach tonight and can’t wait for another year of adventures and faraway places.
It’s finally getting a bit chillier out there, isn’t it? If you’re planning to get out in all weathers and walk off all the Christmas toblerones you ate, wrap up in bright waterproofs, tough boots and cosy knitted jumpers. Squirrel approved.
Hey wonderful readers!
This post isn’t about the great outdoors or my new favourite hiking boots, but bear with me.
I recently travelled to the island of Lesvos to write an article, and whilst there I met some of the many refugees waiting to catch boats to mainland Greece, aiming eventually to get to Germany. I chatted to families and played with a little girl as she waited to board a ferry to Athens. I heard about their journeys and their hopes for a brighter future.
I also learned about the wonderful residents of Lesvos who are helping the refugees who are still arriving every day. The man who goes down to the port to cook food for people in the evenings. The local grandmothers helping to look after refugee children. The men and women leaving water bottles at strategic points for anyone thirsty to drink.
One of the scariest things we came across was a crumpled, washed-up lifeboat, which looked more like a child’s blow-up swimming pool than a vessel. It was a fragile plastic lifeline that would strike terror into the heart of anyone forced to climb aboard, or worse, put their children out to sea in it.
So. Christmas is a time to think of others, don’t you reckon? Especially in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis Europe has seen since the Second World War.
I have donated all of my fee for the article I wrote about Lesvos to Migrant Offshore Aid Station, who are dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea.
If you’d like to help too, you could donate to MOAS or one of many other fantastic organisations: Save the Children distribute essential items such as diapers, Red Cross Europe provide emergency health services, the International Rescue Committee set up camps and basic services.
If you’d like to help in other ways, the Independent has a great article on how to volunteer, fundraise or aid grassroots groups.
So why not give a little bit (a fiver, after all, is only the price of a nice cocktail, a tenner is only a lunch out) too? Think of it as one more Christmas present.
Main image via MOAS
A few weeks ago I train-hopped my way around Switzerland on assignment for Greentraveller. I took a series of incredible rail journeys, stopping to admire the Christmas markets in Zurich, ski in Les Diablerets and eat my weight in fondue in the mountains. Here’s the full diary of my travels using the Swiss Travel System.
Mistletoe, wine, last-minute gift panic… It’s that time of year again. And I’m writing this on a train trundling through the snow-clad Swiss mountains, so I am most definitely feeling the festive love. Be everyone’s favourite person by giving them one of these treats – from cosy woolly socks to wandlerlust-inspiring books and tough waterproofs, this lovely lot would be a joy to find under the Christmas tree.
Screw you, consumerist-driven, money-mad Black Friday! Avoid mental shoppers and, instead, show some love and save some dosh by making these delightful outdoorsy trinkets, the perfect Christmas presents for adventure lovers.
More of my explorations in the Kenyan highlands, including the most beautiful pool I’ve ever swam in, a climb up Hyena Rock, a flower-filled haven of a farmstay and a REALLY big dog named Colonel Lawrence.
Off on a ski season this winter? You don’t need warm pants, extra scarves or photos of your dog. Trust me, I’ve seen enough emergency care packages get delivered to Cadbury’s-starved seasonnaires to know that if you’re off to work a winter you require:
Cycling kit so lovely you’ll be desperate to head out on your bike on sub-zero mornings just so you can show it off. My picks include bargainous jerseys, lustworthy coordinated kit and a jacket that could well save your life. Take that, winter training!
Think making movies takes time, experience or fancy software? Think again. If you own a DSLR, a tripod and a couple of lenses you already have everything you need to find your inner videographer. I headed to the Forest of Dean with mountain biker Jake Ireland to create this beginner-friendly guide for Digitalcameraworld.com
Get seriously inspired by Angelica Sykes, a British pro snowboarder who is tearing up the mountains are a freerider. I first met the lovely Angelica when we were both seasonnaires in Cervinia, in Italy. She was already getting into boarding in the backcountry then, and it’s amazing to see her now, riding as a pro and shredding her way through the Freeride World Qualifiers to be the top-ranked British woman. Ever wanted to take the next step and compete in your favourite sport? This girl tells you how to get the grit.
My penchant for men’s jackets continues with this pumpkin-orange Arete waterproof jacket, £90 from Sprayway at Blacks. It’s been all the way up Mount Kenya and back with me and we’ve both lived to tell the tale.
Dublin is well known as a city of friendly folk and really great beer. But it’s also a remarkably outdoorsy place to visit, a cosmopolitan hub nestled within arm’s reach of hills and sea. From foraging in the city centre to heading out hiking and cycling in the mountains, the jewel in Ireland’s crown is the perfect place for combining a cultured city break with a dose of the great outdoors.
Before autumn arrived in all its colourful glory the Super Rad Climb Team (well, my mates) and I made a late summer trip to the Wye Valley. We spent a weekend tackling some routes and eating many packets of chocolate biscuits.
Rosehips are abundant in British hedgerows in autumn and early winter, and are easily recognisable – fat, bright red buds with spiky black ends. They are a bit of a wonder food – high in vitamins C, A and B and rich in antioxidants, they are used to make syrups, jams, jellies, even bread and pies. If you’re a bit of a beginner in the foraging stakes, start off with my healthy and delicious rosehip tea recipe, which is fantastic for beating winter colds.
Ahh, the simple pleasure of kicking through autumn leaves in welly boots! Celebrate the season by entering Joules’ lovely new competition and design your very own Joules wellies – the winner’s creation will become a beautiful boot, with all proceeds going to charity. They’ll also get to escape on a luxury Forest Holiday worth £5000.
Giddyingup on a ride across Dartmoor on a gorgeous quarter horse called Fred. I met a proper cowboy and everything. Then I wrote about it for Countryfile.com.
My wonderful and bike-mad mate Mary Spender took a five day cycle trip through Catalonia. Here’s her diary from her time exploring this beautiful part of Northern Spain on two wheels, including pristine beaches, tasty treats and, um, kissing lion bottoms.
“Growing up, my family’s favourite holiday destination was a little campsite called Mas Patoxas, a campsite north of Barcelona and south of the Pyrenees on the Costa Brava. I remember eating lorry loads of shellfish, staying in a swimming costume all day and turning a lovely shade of brown on the golden sand. When Sian invited me to go back to see the region by bicycle with the Tourist board of Catalonia, I couldn’t resist.
In my third travel column for The Independent I’ve rounded up some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual swimming spots, from Thai waterfalls (modelled here by the lovely Flo) to Melanesian forest pools and Mexican bat caves.