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Accommodation for Walkers


Bill Orme - from Striders 113

One of the most common questions we get asked by new walkers wanting to walk long distances, particularly in countries other than their own, is, ‘Where do you stay at night?’

The answer depends on many factors, such as whether you carry a tent, in which country/ies you will be walking, the degree of comfort you want, whether you want to cook for yourself (eating the local food with local families we think is part of the charm) and the depth of your pocket.

One factor is whether you are carrying a tent (see The Practicals 9 - Pack Weights Strider December 2008). Through many countries a light tent for emergencies gives flexibility, but through heavily populated areas i.e. LEJOG or E5 across France it can be done without. On remote or bad weather walks i.e. GR10 Pyrenees it is essential.

We find that in walking areas there always seems to be someone, farmer, local or policeman, who will find a bed in an emergency. Some years ago we asked French friends in Paris why the French were reputed to be so rude while we found them so helpful. They said, ‘Tourists come and observe us as if we are a strange race. We resent that, but that it is not just French, it’s human nature. You and other walkers come to experience our countryside and culture, often speaking woeful French, but trying. We treat you as guest, but again that it is not just French, it’s human nature.’

We have on occasions had to catch a bus or train from our route to a nearby centre, and back again the next morning. See Fred van Amelsvoort’s experience on walking to Rome on the via Francigena (Strider December 2008).

A number of people have added to this Practicals and their ready help is greatly appreciated. In the space available, the list cannot be complete, but I hope this will help both new and some more experienced walkers attempting an area unknown to them.

For those day-walking from a central place, there are many self-catering and other options, but this will be a future Practicals.

1. Great Britain

[Note paragraph is now superceded.] Britain is the home of the B&Bs both in towns and country areas. LDWA members will already be using the accommodation section of the webpage and its links. B&B’s particularly helpful to walkers are noted in www.ramblers.org.uk/accommodation [listings no longer maintained, but LDWA lists include and identify some accredited bookable Walkers Welcome accommodation]. Many of them will provide evening meals if pre-booked, and some will deliver your overnight gear to the next B&B. [See also Support Services.] [All this information, with map references, is on The Ramblers website.] See also the Youth Hostels, Independent Hostels, Bothies, Barns etc also on their web. [Links now in the accommodation section.] The UK Trailwalkers’ Handbook (replacing The LDWA Long Distance Walkers’ Handbook) gives information under each listed walk of supporting information and where to obtain it. Alan Castle has told me in1986 it listed 335 walks but had increased to 793 in the 2002 seventh edition. [Replaced by 8th Edition.]

2. France

With its France-wide federation of walkers, Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre, website www.ffrandonnee.fr, creating, marking, maintaining and writing the guidebooks, its ever-growing uniformly marked network of marked paths is one of the best and most comprehensive in the world.

Most Topo Guides (searchable by route, department, region etc) not only contain excellent 1:50,000 maps, track notes, background information and planning data, but also give detailed accommodation information. All information is regularly updated on its website.

Gites (d’Etape) are walkers’ refuges, not unlike youth hostels, providing bed, blankets and pillows, cooking facilities etc. You must have your own sheets or sleeping bags though in the main they can be hired. Some have 6-12 place dormitories, but increasingly they have 2 and 4 bed rooms. Outside the main season (mid July to end August) they are usually uncrowded, but it is wise to reserve, as a school party might have a block booking. Also see such publications as ‘Gites d’étape et Refuges, France et Frontières’ www.gites-refuges.com

Chambres d’Hotes (B&Bs): Some (Tables d’Hotes) also provide evening meals www.chambresdhotes.fr

Hotels Unfortunately many small hotels in villages are closing, but many remain. Bars often rent a room. The family-run chain Logis de France has over 3,000 members, mainly in the country. They are excellent for walkers, see. www.logis-de-france.fr. In some areas hotels will, if asked, give single walkers the demi-pension (dinner, bed and breakfast), which means you receive the room at half price. Others laugh if you ask, but I always ask.

Alpine Huts See below.

3. Alpine Huts (Club & Private)

These are divided roughly into three categories, ‘I’ unmanned simple refuges more than an hour from mechanical transport (10 Euros), ‘II’ manned most of the year (13 Euros) and ‘III’ accessible by road, mainly day visitors (16 Euros). Rates shown are for members using mattress accommodation, with beds (where available) are more expensive and a mattress on the floor is cheaper. Payment is only in cash.

Most clubs in the Alps (not Scandinavian or Pyrenees) give equal reciprocal rights to all club members, with spaces allocated on arrival, and a 20% reduction for the ‘mountaineers’ meal’ which is excellent value. Non-members must wait until about 1700 for a space. Bookings cannot be guaranteed, but members will be put up if the hut is more than 1½ hours walk from a road.

When huts are guarded, meals are provided and some allow self-catering for members only. The 9th edition of the Hut Book for the Eastern Alps contains details of over 1000 huts, and is available through e.g. the Austrian Alpine Club (British Section) www.aacuk.org.uk

The website provides links to huts in other areas. Some huts are only manned at peak times, and sometimes close before the indicated time if business is slow. Most provide basic unmanned facilities out of season, (called winter rooms - some with hired key entrance) providing shelter and sometimes emergency supplies. Alpine Clubs build and own huts in other countries, so German clubs might have a hut in Austria. One great advantage of the Euro is that it is almost universally accepted.

Beware of alpine weather at all times, verify information, carry emergency gear and supplies. Deaths by accident can occur at any time, but if prepared, risk is minimised.

4. Accommodation for specific walks

There are many of them, and can be found on the walk website or by googling the walk. Some excellent examples are:

Macmillan Way (Britain): Boston to Abbotsbury, 290 miles. Planner & accommodation listed in order with cost and map reference www.macmillanway.org

Tour du Velay (France): GR40, 160 km. The Comité Départmental de la Randonnée Pédestre de la Haute-Loire produces a free ‘Guide d’informations pratiques’ which includes, amongst other helpful data, almost all accommodation options on the Tour in the order a walker would pass them. This is the best I have ever seen, website: www.lacroiseedeschemins.com, email: randohauteloire@wanadoo.fr.

Pilgrim Route to Santiago: Spanish Section, 709 km : Annual Guide & Accommodation www.csj.org.uk

5. Australia

Since I am Australian, and the major long distance paths having conditions quite different from Europe, I am including some notes about it.

While winters can be very cold, summer heat and lack of water are the main problems. Note that the Central Australian Larapinta Track is best walked in winter, but is above 1,000m and is freezing at night.

The 985km Bibbulmun Track from Perth to Albany (see April 2008 Strider) through the springtime wildflowers has 48 free huts which have drinking/cooking water and pit toilets. Most other tracks have free camping areas, but little accommodation. In many areas the lighting of fires is prohibited either at all times or at certain times, so stoves and fuel must be carried.

The Federation Track (7,000km from Brisbane via Sydney, Melbourne to central Australia) passes through the Alpine Way which uses free historic cattlemen’s huts in the Kosciuszko region.

On some tracks B&Bs or farmers will provide accommodation, transport from and to the track, and sometimes transport gear. Many places will receive food supplies usually posted to them in advance.

6. Best Wishes

Hopefully these notes will give comfort to new walkers. The camaraderie of the walking fraternity is one of the great joys of walking, and walkers going in the opposite direction provide invaluable, up to date, information about the paths, sights and problems ahead.

This article was written by Bill Orme, Walking Volunteers, and first appeared in Strider.
Anyone is free to copy it with this acknowledgement.

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