Story trails: 8 tracks with a tale

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The stories behind Europe’s legendary walking trails

Our friends at UTracks and Sherpa Expeditions have chosen their favourite routes in Europe with a story or two behind them…

Levadas, Madeira
Levadas do norte: Encumeada. Photo: José Antonio Cartelle

1. Levadas, Madeira

What’s the story? Dating back to the 16th century, levadas are irrigation channels or aqueducts specific to Madeira, built to carry water to the agricultural regions. Today there are more than 1,350 miles of levadas across the mountainous island, providing a remarkable network of walking paths. (Mountains of Madeira departs daily year-round, from £670 per person.)

Picos de Aroche, Spain
Picos de Aroche. Photo: Fr Antunes

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2. La Ruta de los Mochileros – The Smugglers’ Route, Andalusia

What’s the story? Today the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park is a walker’s paradise – but during “el hambre” (the hunger) after the Spanish Civil War many of the locals became “Mochileros” (packmen) smuggling goods across the Sierra from the Portuguese border using remote high paths, many of which are still in use. (Sierra De Arancena – In the footsteps of Mochileros departs daily until December, from £580 per person.)

Via Ferrate, Dolomites, Italy
Via Ferrate. Photo: Jon Shave

3. Via Ferrate, Dolomites

What’s the story? The original Via Ferrate were routes across the Alps which were used by the Italian army to carry munitions and supplies to their allies during World War I. Back then they made difficult ascents across steep terrain achievable in relative safety; today they provide the most dramatic viewpoints across the Dolomites. (Dolomites Hut to Hut departs daily until October 10, from £850 per person.)

Canal du Midi, France
Canal du Midi. Photo: Sébastien Launay

4. Canal du Midi, southern France

What’s the story? This 220-mile network of navigable waterways links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures, from bridges and tunnels to locks and aqueducts. Built in the 1600s, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution and is one of the most remarkable feats of modern civil engineering. (Canal du Midi Cycle departs daily until the end of October, from £860 per person, including bike rental.)

Cévennes, France
Cévennes, south-central France. Photo: Conor Lawless

5. Stevenson’s Trail, Cévennes

What’s the story? In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. Starting in the Auvergne, his journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. (The Cévennes – Walking Stevenson’s Trail departs daily until the end of September, from £740 per person.)

Francigena Way, Italy
Tuscany, along the Francigena Way. Photo: Giulio Bernardi

6. Via Romea Francigena – The Francigena Way, Umbria/Lazio

What’s the story? From Canterbury in England to the Eternal City in Italy, the 1,900km “Francigena Way” (“Via Romea” for those headed south, “Via Francigena” for those headed north) dates back to the 11th century, when pilgrims travelled across Europe on foot to visit the site of Martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul in Rome. (The Road to Rome departs daily from September 10 to November 30, from £850 per person.)

Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como. Photo: David Spender

7. Roman Passes, Lake Como

What’s the story? Via dei Monti Lariani, Antica Strada Regina, Il Sentiero del Viandante… Built by the Romans, these way-marked trails along Lake Como go back centuries but they are still in use today by the locals. Follow them to reach the alpine pastures (“monti”) and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views. (Lake Como Rambling departs daily until November (except the first weekend of September), from £730 per person.)

Camino De Santiago, Spain
Camino De Santiago. Photo: aherrero

8. Camino De Santiago – The Way Of St James, northern Spain

What’s the story? The ‘Camino de Santiago’ has represented the adventure of a lifetime for pilgrims and history buffs alike for more than 1,000 years. Through the centuries, the 783km route from Roncesvalles to the Cathedral of Santiago has been well trodden by hiking boots, horse hooves and more recently bike tyres. (Highlights of the Camino by Bike departs every Saturday until October 31 (other days available on request), from £990 per person, including bike rental.)

(Our featured image is by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts)

Story trails: 8 tracks with a tale was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Oonagh Shiel
Author: Oonagh Shiel (3252 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!