Review: Big Trails – Heart of Europe by Kathy Rogers and Stephen Ross. Published by Vertebrate £17.99

IN the UK we have a number of well-known long distance walks or trails. The longest of these is the South West Coastal Path at 630 miles followed by the Pennine Way (268 miles), Pennine Journey (247 miles), Wainwrights’ Coast to Coast (192 miles), The Thames Path (184 miles) and The West Highland Way in Scotland (96 miles).

Similarly, in Europe there are many long distance trails and this new book from Vertebrate features 25 of the best walks in Western Europe.

The routes are located in eight different countries, the most being in Germany with seven walks, followed by five in France, three in The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, two in Italy and one each in Belgium and Luxembourg.

There are 10 circular walks with all the rest being linear. Two of the walks are coastal, Alabaster Coast and The Holland Coastal Path. Two walks are along the side of rivers – The Rhine Castles Trail and the Altmühital-Panoramaweg in the Bavaria region of Germany. Three walks encircle capital cities – Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris and one of the walks, The Pieterpad covers the whole of The Netherlands, a 310 mile walk from the Northern Coast to the southern border at Maastricht.

The Tour de Paris is the longest of the walks at 335 miles and the Meraner Hőbenwag in Italy is the shortest at 57 miles. The time periods for walking the routes range from 26 days for the Alderweg in Austria with its 272 miles of walking and 82,840 feet of ascent to five days for King Ludwig’s Way (71 miles and 4,950 feet of ascent) in Germany and the Stelling van Amsterdam (82 miles and 885 feet of ascent).

In my opinion, the King Ludwig’s Way looks an ideal walk for an initial foray into European Trail Walking with the start at Starn being on the Munich S-Bahn train system and the finish at Füssen being a two-hour return train journey to Munich station. The walk passes Neuschwanstein Castle which was featured as the Baron’s Castle in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Being in Bavaria there are many Gasthauses on the route and of course this area is famous for its food and beer.

Each of the walks has eight pages devoted to it with an outline description of the route, several coloured photos, a map of the route and a page of essential information including start and finish points, distance, ascent, how to get to the start and back from the finish for linear routes, and anticipated time to complete the walk whether walking, trekking, fast packing or trail running. At the end of the book there is an overall summary of the 25 routes, details of types of accommodation available, trail characteristics, types of paths and waymarking available. It also details what are the best months to attempt the route and which months to avoid particularly for the alpine walks where snow and ice might be prevalent.

For anyone with a penchant for long distance walking this is a great guide to see what is available in Europe.

Individual guides would have to be bought for each route to be attempted and details of these and relevant websites are to be found at the end of each chapter.

by John Burland