Thursday, 14 March 2013

What we did last Summer!

As we look forward to a gr8 summer this year, we thought to reflect on some golden moments in 2012. Which started with gr8trails filming its first video in the cold and crisp Dark Peak, Derbyshire. You can watch the fruits of our labours on our very own YouTube channel.

Pre Easter we managed to get out walking in North Wales to experience the most spectacular cloud inversion around Snowdon and the Glyders. We experience cloud inversions quite rarely, but to walk along the top of the Glyder range above the clouds and look across at Snowdon, Crib Goch & East/West Peak as if they were islands in a sea of cloud, was something special.
April, saw us return to Scotland with some beautiful  snow covered tops. Walking with stunning views over Loch Tay and down Glen Lyon. We found a great little hotel on the shores of Loch Tay, the Ben Lawers Hotel, which made some fantastic full Scottish breakfasts, gr8 for a full days hill walking.
Somehow we managed a quick bike round the North Face trail at Grizedale with its wide fireroads and tight technical singletrack and northshore, this is a mountain bikers playground, whatever your ability and experience. And from the tops of the forest you are rewarded with views across to Coniston and over Lake Windermere.

Late April, caught us walking a well known route round the valley of Nidderdale, Yorkshire Dales, which is also gr8 mountain biking territory. With some cool views of the dam at Scar House Reservoir. If you ever head that way, there’s a remote walk around both this and Angram Reservoir.

Early May saw us in the Lake District for a spot of walking and mountain biking. We know a great little route round the Elterwater and Langdale Valleys which we just thoroughly enjoy. Add to that a little wander up the ridge onto Coniston Old Man from the 3Shires Stone for some awe inspiring views over south Lakeland and the Irish Sea.

At the end of May we came back to one of our favourite haunts in the Lake District; Waterhead and Ambleside. From there we walked the Fairfield Horseshoe and got the bus back into town! (after rehydrating at a local establishment at the bottom of Heron Pike. A well earnt dinner in the Priest Hole, Ambleside was much appreciated by all.

The Island of Skye beckoned us in June, and we were blessed with the weather. To be honest, we’ve never experienced such consistently good weather on this Isle in all the years we’ve been visiting (and the midges weren’t biting too bad then either!)

We were headed Wales direction also in June, staying at the lovely hotel the Gwesty Gwernan Hotel and Fishery. We can’t recommend this little, hidden, boutique hotel enough. From its doorstep you can walk the slopes of Cader Idris or bike down the estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth.

We returned to more local hills and the Peak District in July, with an easy walk from Jane Eyres Hathersage. This is a history rich, beautiful area within easy reach of a lot of the UK’s population but sadly most people don’t make the most of what they have on their doorstep – we guess that makes it more special for the people that do visit! gr8 for walking, biking, climbing and caving.

High Summer at the end of July, we ventured back to the Lake District. This time staying in the hidden Newlands Valley at the working Littletown Farm Guest House. From here you can venture straight onto Catbells and High Spy to look down on Derwent Water & Buttermere. A days biking at Whinlatter Forest (which also has Go Ape high ropes), finished the weekend away. Don’t forget the sensational ‘thunder and lightening’ homemade ice cream you can get with their homemade chocolate brownies at Littletown Farm (which has since been renovated).

Our Autumn months had us biking back in the Lake District around Rydal & Loughrigg Terrace, the Yorkshire Dales up and down Wensleydale before turning north again to Scotland, for some early winter walking in the Cairngorms over the New Year.

We hope that a little of this has inspired you to get out there this Summer to enjoy what truly is our green and pleasant land. Or, if you don’t have the confidence as to what to do, where to stay or where to go, then join us at one of our recently announced Summer 2013 weekends, on our events blog, clickhere.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Award winning hotels in Betws-y-Coed join with gr8trails to offer quality, guided, outdoor adventure weekends in the Snowdonia National Park.

For our short breaks and outdoor activities in North Wales and Snowdonia, gr8trails can now recommend our guests stay at the AA3star former coaching Inn, the Royal Oak Hotel, and the local Waterloo Hotel and Lodge, set in the Welsh village of Betws-y-Coed.

Surrounded by the magical Gwydyr Forest at the foot of the Snowdon mountain range, this is a great base for a weekend mountain biking, hill walking, shopping and other activities.

The 2008 Routiers award winning Royal Oak Hotel has 27 well equipped, en-suite, contemporary rooms set in a traditional period design, maintaining the character of the hotels Victorian heritage. After a long day on the hill or for that special occasion you could stay in one of their deluxe 4 poster feature bedrooms or request a Jacuzzi whirlpool bath!

Once you have freshened up from your day out, you can join us in one of the three hotel restaurants. The acclaimed Llugwy River Restaurant, uses the finest Welsh ingredients in it’s extensive a la carte menu. Alternatively, locally sourced food is also available in the Grill Room and Stables Bistro.

For a more contemporary atmosphere the AA3star Waterloo Hotel and Station Leisure Spa offers good quality rooms including all modern conveniences with the added bonus of full membership to the on site Leisure facilities and Spa – great to relax in after a long day out.

Once you are sufficiently relaxed and rested we can join you for evening dinner in Bar 1815, an ideal place to eat, drink and relax.

Whichever style of accommodation suits your pocket, we can guarantee that the owners of both our preferred accommodation partners in Betws will make you feel very welcome to this stunning area and will ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay with them.

Post dinner, at either location, kick back and relax with your friends, family or group, as the sunsets in the beautiful valley around you and enjoy sharing your experiences of the day, whether that be guided mountain biking, walking or various other activities gr8trails can provide.

Both hotels are located within walking distance of the local train station (3-4 hours travel from either Manchester or London mainline stations). Alternatively, Betws is 5 hours drive from London & under 2 hours from Manchester.

On behalf of gr8trails, Royal Oak Hotel and Waterloo Hotel, we all look forward to welcoming you to the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

What to pack this Spring for your outdoor adventure?

With the vagaries of the British weather, the only thing you can guarantee is that the weather during a weekend in the great Outdoors could very well vary from wind and rain to glorious sunshine. So, for a walk in the countryside this Spring don’t forget to pack a few of those essentials.

A waterproof coat and trousers are invaluable. A good set of waterproofs will not only keep you dry but also act as a brilliant windproof, keeping you nice and warm inside.
Plenty of layers underneath will keep you warm but also allows you to remove a layer or two if you get too hot or the weather turns out for the better whilst you are out and about. Layers also trap warm air between them, acting as additional insulation.

Layers made from high wicking fabrics and fibres (wool & synthetics) are recommended, since these do not hold moisture as you perspire during activity. We wouldn’t recommend cotton tshirts or jeans, these get heavier when wet, do not dry quickly and denim also chaffs, ruining your day out.

If you’ve seen the forecast and it looks to be staying fine, new fabrics jackets made from softshell are far more breathable than your waterproof and yet insulating at the same time. They would weather well in rain showers too, but perhaps not so well in persistent rain!

Even at this time of year, the weather can be cold, especially with the effect of the wind, so don’t forget to pack your gloves and a warm hat in your pack. Most forget that you can loose up to 30% of your body heat through your head, so you can very easily control your body temperature through the use of a good warm hat.

A good pair of walking boots would be recommended. If you have ‘worn these in’, perhaps around the home before your weekend, this will ensure that you don’t develop any sore spots or blisters once out and about. A good pair of socks, or a double pair, will ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable day out.

Whether it’s forecast to be warm or not, don’t forget to pack a drink. Hydration bladders, that can be carried in your backpack are great, since they allow you to drink little and often, keeping you hydrated throughout your day. As well as your lunch, remember to pack a few extra snacks (flapjacks, raisins, nuts are good energy foods) for Justin (Case!)

The weather can be exceptionally warm here in the UK, especially in the Spring months, when the sunlight is more direct. Make sure you have extra water, sunglasses and sunscreen when the weather is forecast to be good.

gr8trails offers, all inclusive guided mountain biking and walking short breaks and weekends away, throughout the UK. Bringing ‘adventure to everyone’, no matter what your age, experience or ability.

Our short break and weekend destinations include the stunning Lake District with dramatic mountains, endless lakes and golden wooded meadows. Alternatively, history-rich North Wales and Snowdonia or hiking amongst the wide green views and rugged edges found in the Derbyshire Peak District or Yorkshire Dales. For those willing to venture a little further and wish for greater challenges we offer week long breaks to our Scottish destinations.

gr8trails founders, Rick and Adrian are passionate about the outdoors, with over 10 years of successful group guiding in the UK.

Whatever your inspiration, your ability or experience, contact us to tailor make your perfect break.

07786 343990 or complete our online choose your own adventure form.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Gregory Z35, an understated, lightweight hillwalking pack, again with cavernous versatility!

Gregory do it again!, from off the shelf, the Z35 sets out to impress. Just like the Gregory Miwok18 action pack, loading the Z35 with gear from my old hillwalking pack, it still had more than enough room to spare.

Like most good sized daywalking/guiding packs the Z35 follows the typical design, of main compartment with drawstring top access and flip over top hood. The additional feature is the front zip access to the main compartment, allowing you to retrieve/stow gear without having to release the hood buckles and drawstring. A great idea when you need something in a hurry eg waterproof top and trousers!

The main compartment is expansive, fitting at least the quoted 35litres of gear inside. The hood follows the same voluminous theme, with 1 internal and 1 externally accessed zipped pocket. We like, the under hood pocket zip, opening in such a way that all the contents don’t fall out when opened!, like in some other packs available in the market – something to look out for. Nice addition of a key loop in the top pocket too!

The main compartment also has a top tensioning webbing strap and quick release buckle, allowing quick stowage of a loose fleece or to keep the contents of a half filled pack closer to your pack and maintaining your centre of gravity.

Hydration bladder can be stowed within the main compartment in its own pocket, with a fabric port for your drinking tube on both sides of the pack, allowing you to route down either shoulder strap.

There’s also all the normal things you’d expect to see on a pack of this quality; haul loop, high vis hits back and front,  adjustable chest strap, high wicking mesh on all contact areas, mesh side bottle pockets, walking pole loop, hard wearing diamond ripstop fabrics etc, etc.

Whilst out walking, the shoulder/waist straps & unique Jetstream Dynamic Transfer System keep the pack close enough to your back, whilst not impeding movement or knocking you off balance. The Jetstream system keeps the pack off your back to allow airflow, but not too far off to unbalance you when walking. Forward pull/quick release waist straps/buckles are intuitive to use and ensure a snug comfortable fit round your waist. The integral zipped waist compartments on both! waist fins, allow easy access to snacks on the move too.

This pack also features an expandable, easy access front pocket for stowage of a map or waterproofs whilst on the move, ensuring there is no need to stop whilst out on the hill. There is also a zipped pocket for stowage of the inclusive waterproof pack cover.

Overall, again very impressed with this Gregory pack. It looks sharp, is understated in its capacity, is lightweight and offers abundant versatility.

Enjoy your walk! Don’t forget the rest of your essentials on our recommended kit list.

A broader range of Gregory packs & Source hydration bladders are available from our retail partner Ellis Brigham, Mountain Sports. Click here to find out more about the broader Gregory pack range our recommended pack brand partner and hydration partner, Source.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

2011: a year in review

gr8trails began 2011 with Rick mountain bike racing the Terra Australis ‘down under’. An amazing 7 day stage race through the Victorian Alpine region also known as the Snowy Mountains. Starting in Falls Creek and finishing in Beechworth 7days later crossing 550km of high country along the way. Rick and team mate Stuart finished 7th in category, against a very competitive and experienced field.

Whilst Rick was away, Adrian headed to Scotland for a weeks Winter mountaineering. Although the conditions weren't as good as the previous year, gr8trails still managed to bag a few snow capped Munro's, only another 224 to go! check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for some gr8 images!

gr8trails opened the UK Spring walking season with several weekends in the Lake District around Wasdale, Grasmere and the Langdales. This included kayaking on Lake Windermere and biking at Whinlatter Forest. Set in the beautiful area between Windermere and Coniston, our preferred accommodation providers in Hawkshead are The Kings Arms Hotel & the Queens Head Inn & Restaurant

May saw the gr8trails team support, guide and sponsor the Yoxall Dads 3Peaks Challenge, with a successful day walking Scafell & Wasdale in preparation for their 24hour Challenge, you can see how they got on at, Yoxall Dads.

gr8trails was also proud to support the annual Pike View Hike for young people in the Scout organisation, by participation in the events safety team. A safe and fun event marked the anniversary of the 10 years of this successful event.

Our second race of the year was in more familiar territory, Eastor Castle and the Malvern Hills for 24hours of Mountain Mayhem. gr8trails sponsored several teams in solo, 4man and 10man categories, you can see how we fared at OSMountain Mayhem.

June also saw us visit the hills and valleys of Wales for another of our short breaks. With stunning early summer weather our walk round the Snowdon horseshoe was very rewarding, followed by a days biking at the little known Penmachno trailhead. gr8trails recommends staying at a variety of accommodation in Wales including The Eagles in Penmachno.
July saw gr8trails announce their partnership with premium UK outdoor retailer Ellis Brigham, the UK’s favourite mountain, trek & travel store. With over 75years of expertise, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports are an established and trusted name when it comes to offering the very best advice and latest equipment suitable for your next gr8 adventure. Stocking innovative outdoor brands such as Gregory packs, Source hydration and Meindl footwear in their 23 stores, it was a logical step for these brands to pledge their support for gr8trails in August.
Meindl have been producing quality handmade, durable, comfortable and award winning walking boots for over 300 years. Gregory is committed to making the most comfortable outdoor backpacks available and Source’s unique, care free antimicrobial hydration products provide a clean, healthy and easily accessible solution for clean water on the move.
August saw the gr8trails crew visit the off road, manmade biking trails of the 7Stanes in the Scottish Borders. Staying at Glentrail House, with days spent at Ae, Innerleithan and Glentress, groups built upon their own existing skills reinforcing their confidence on their bikes and these fantastic trails.

Friends Plush Hill Cycles, Church Stretton celebrated their first full year of trading earlier this summer and the gr8trails team joined up with them to give our support and promote mountain biking in Church Stretton and across the UK. ‘Plush’ is a combination of enthusiasm and mountain biking experience from around the world, dedicated to all that is biking. Big on service, Al & Kate offer a wide choice of well known brands as well as fixing and upgrading your bike, they offer a bike demo and hire service too.
The onset of Autumn saw the gr8trails team walking and biking the leafy, golden valleys of the Peak District. For our short breaks and outdoor activities here, gr8trails recommends our guests stay at the award winning, 5 star B&B, Underleigh House or the only 4 star hotel within the Peak District National Park, Losehill House Hotel, both hidden along a leafy lane in the Vale of Edale. Ensuite accommodation, allows you to relax and unwind in comfortable surroundings with your group of family or friends, after your days activities with gr8trails.
Winter is now all about the planning for the exciting weekends gr8trails will be running in 2012. Short breaks to cater for you, whether you are a large group or on your own wanting to meet new people, whether you are wanting to participate in a new sport or build on previous experience, gr8trails hopes to cater for you.

Looking forward to sharing your next gr8 adventure with you.

Adrian and Rick.

Directors & Co-founders

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Durable footwear, packed with technology, delivers the ultimate in comfort!

My Meindl Vacuum GTX walking boots are still going strong after 6 rigorous years of hard mountain walking and guiding around the UK and abroad.

What originally appealed to me was the patented ‘Digafix’ lacing system, which gives what I believe the most secure lacing and fit of any mountain boot available on the UK market. With the additional advantage of being able to unlace partway down the front of your foot, for very easy removal of your feet after a long days hill walking.

The hard wearing, durable Multigrip Vibram sole shows wear after 6years of use, but remains grippy in all conditions, with the high ‘rand’ around the front of the boot, protecting against knocks and scrapes whilst out there on the hill.

Whatever the UK weather can throw at these boots, they have remained watertight with the breathable Gore-Tex lining and Nubuck leather outer finish – remember to treat with Meindl Sportwax and Wetproof every so often to prolong the life of your boots.

The high, cushioned soft & comfortable leather upper supports your ankle. Cushioned memory foam insoles and the patented MFS Vacuum footbed ensure that even on long hill days you can still walk with comfort.

We know that buying walking boots is a very personal process, since we all have different shaped feet. However, this would be the first time I would re-buy the same brand and model of walking boot, having not quite found the most comfortable & durable all round boot over the many years of mountain walking I have enjoyed, until now.

Enjoy your walk! Don’t forget the rest of your essentials on our recommended kit list.

Mens, womens & kids sizes are available from our retail partner Ellis Brigham, Mountain Sports. Click here to find out more about the broader Meindlfootwear range, our recommended walking boot brand partner.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Source Widepac hydration bladders, easy to use and easy to clean!

gr8trails have used a variety of Source hydration bladders whilst guiding, believing Source to be the most affordable and easiest to use bladder reservoirs available.

Offered in a variety of sizes, 1.5l, 2l & 3l, Source Widepac hydration bladders can be used in packs available across the UK market, whether that be hillwalking packs, daysacks or lightweight action packs.

The Widepac version offers the enhanced benefit of an easy fill, wide top opening and slide closure. This opening makes it very easy to empty, fill, clean and dry, and yet has an airtight seal when the bladder top is sealed, by use of the simple slider. Remove the slider, drain the contents and leave to dry stood open, upside down, very simple too!
 The almost glass like appearance of the bladder is also a unique self cleaning design feature, preventing the build up of any biofilm. Furthermore, the liner technology has an anti microbial grunge guard treatment to block the growth of bacteria, with no plastic after taste found in some bladders.

The same anti microbial technology is used in the durable tube that connects the reservoir to the mouthpiece. This has a lock off valve at the base of the reservoir, very convenient when you may not wish to remove the tube from your pack, simply release, refill and reconnect….with no leakage! Much better than other systems available with similar technology, which may leak whilst in your pack.

As well as having the expected bite valve mechanism, the mouthpiece also features a twist ‘on and off’. Again, better than some alternatives, preventing the valve from being accidentally opened whilst in the back of a well packed car perhaps!

Source offer a broader range of hydration reservoirs and accessories to suit any budget, available at our preferred retail partner Ellis Brigham, Mountain Sports stores.

Enjoy your walk or ride! Don’t forget the rest of your essentials on our recommended kit list.