• Food specialities in Britain

    31st May, 2019

    Britain is known for its amazing variety - all within our small island. This is no less true of its food than of its landscapes and dialects. Many of these foods are associated with specific regions of Britain, some have a unique history and others are eccentrically British. Here is a selection from some of the regions where we offer walking, touring and cycling holidays. Your Adventure Handbook and route directions will highlight where you can find and eat these delicious specialities.

    Scotland's haggis

    The main ingredients of haggis are probably enough for you to never want to sample it! Having said that, it is delicious - sheep's heart, liver and lungs, and stomach (or sausage casing); onion, oatmeal, suet and spices. It comes presented as a large oval shaped sausage and is often served on Burns night around January 25th which is the birthday of poet Robert Burns, whom the event celebrates. It's an ancient recipe - dating back to the 17th Century and is thought to have been an easy food to prepare and eat after a day's hunting. We can offer the haggis but not traditional hunting whilst on our cycling or walking trips in Scotland.

    Welsh cakes

    Pice ar y maen, are a Welsh teatime treat passed on through generations and still as popular as ever. The cakes have been popular since the late 19th century with the addition of fat, sugar and dried fruit to a longer standing recipe for flat-bread, baked on a griddle. They are roughly circular, a few inches in diameter and about half an inch thick and are served hot or cold - so great for a snack whilst walking in Wales

    Yorkshire pudding

    As the main photo above shows, this is a savoury baked pudding made from batter consisting of eggs, flour, and milk. The secret to getting gloriously puffed-up Yorkshires is to have the fat sizzling hot before you put the batter into the oven. They are so good that they are cooked throughout Britain and are traditionally served with roast beef. They originated when shrewd cooks in Yorkshire devised a method of using the fat that dripped from meat to make puddings with wheat flour when it first became available. Preferably best eaten after, rather than during, one of our day's walking there!

    Kendal Mint cake

    One of the Lake District's most famous food and exports is its mint cake. It originates from Kendal, one of the Lake District's biggest towns, where 4 generations of the Romney family have been making it for a hundred years. The cake is a glucose-based confection flavoured with peppermint and is high energy so popular among climbers, mountaineers and cyclists. It famously comes wrapped in grease proof paper in a distinctive blue tin, a nice memorabilia of your trip in itself. Include it in your day pack when taking our walking or cycling tour in the Lake District

    Cotswold cheese

    Stinking Bishop is an unlikely name for a soft cheese but it is produced on one farm in the Cotswolds and is made from the milk of Gloucester cattle. It's strong flavour is a favourite of mine - or perhaps I just love its characterful name! Single Gloucester cheese also emanates from this area. It was sometimes known as the haymaker's cheese as it was matured for a short time and ready for eating by farm labourers during the haymaking season. It can only be sold under this name if it is produced on farms in Gloucestershire with pedigree Gloucester cattle.

    Devon clotted cream

    Clotted cream is a must try experience when you stop for a break whilst walking or cycling in Devon - perhaps less justifiable if you are on one of our touring itineraries! The thick cream is made by heating full-cream cow's milk and then leaving it to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and produces "clots" or "clouts". It forms an essential part of a cream tea when you pile the clotted cream onto a scone and add strawberry jam. Some say you add the cream below the jam; you can argue that one either way!

    Cornish pasty

    Although widely available throughout Britain these days, the pasty is thought to have originated in Cornwall for consumption by tin miners there at lunch time. Its shortcrust pastry, crimped on one side means its easy to hold and OK to eat with dirty hands. Filled with meat, potatoes, swede and onion, it's a substantial food. Traditionally it was made with the addition of a sweet filling at one end making a complete meal. Go underground in the tin mines on our Captivating Cornwall bike holiday.

  • Islands that inspire

    30th April, 2019

    We include such a wonderful array of islands on our cycling, walking and touring trips that we thought we would share a selection with you.

    13th Century split

    Marken was separated from North Holland by a storm 8 centuries ago and remained an island until a causeway was built in 1957. Its isolated history remains evident in its wooden housing. To keep their feet dry, inhabitants built their houses originally on artificial knolls and later on stilts. Cycle this tour to enjoy.

    A river folly

    As you cycle, walk or float along the Thames river, you pass many islands but none as high profile as Temple Island. It marks the start of the Henley Royal Rowing Regatta and its fishing folly, designed as a Temple is a gorgeous landmark in one of the prettiest stretches of the river.

    Narrow sand dunes

    The Curonian spit is joined at its southern end to mainland Russia; its northern end has a narrow opening into the Baltic at Klaipeda in Lithuania, so strictly it isn't an island. Formed of sand dunes, it's 61 miles have been moulded by sea currents to form a spit, barely 400 m wide at its narrowest. It was the loved summer retreat of Thomas Mann and the playground of military officers during the war. Its peace and extraordinary being are beyond measure. Enjoy it on our Curonian lagoon cycling holiday

    The Long Island

    Scotland has its own Long Island, otherwise known as the Outer Hebrides. They are a collection of islands off the west coast including Lewis and Harris which are hilly and the Uists and Benbecula which are flat. Wind and history play a part. Barra on the other hand hosts the only airport that has a runway where tides are relevant - you land on the beach. How romantic is that? Cycle our Highlands and Hebrides trip

    Inishbofin

    Just 7 miles off the coast of Connemara in Galway, Ireland, the small island of Inishbofin has 180 inhabitants, white sandy beaches and magnificent scenery. Its name, meaning island of the white cow is these days more linked with traditional Irish music and a half marathon every May. Visit on our walking holiday or cycling holiday of Connemara.

    A mountain in the Mediterranean sea

    An island of contrasts, Corsica is French whilst retaining a distinct Italian culture. It has craggy peaks alongside dense forest and stylish coastal towns and beaches that range from the absurdly busy to frankly, remote. It's good local produce and wine and its size - smaller than Sicily or Sardinia but the 4th largest in the Med, make it a fascinating visit. Check it out on our walking trip

    Fossils and Needles

    The Isle of Wight sits off the south coast of England and several of our New Forest and Dorset cycling holidays take you there for a day. There is great fossil hunting and the famous 3 stacks or huge chalk rocks known as the Needles lie adjacent to its coast as shown in the photo above.

  • The Five Best Walks in the UK

    9th April, 2019

    We have been walking in the UK for many decades so as you might imagine we've learnt a thing or two. Below we give our pick of the 5 best walking routes. They may tell you something about the amazing choices available in these varied and historic lands. What you may not know, is that all our walking holidays based on these routes are completely unique to The Carter Company and cannot be found anywhere else.

    Our Celtic Caper in Europe's 50 Best walks

    No surprises our gentle walk along the south coast of Wales was listed in the Telegraph's top 50 walks. The scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife is second to none. Add luxury boutique hotels, a puffin spotting boat ride and a drink in the favourite watering hole of Wales' most famous poet.

    Hadrian's Wall

    As the UK is big on history, there are no surprises that a walk along Europe's largest surviving Roman monument, Hadrian's Wall features in our list. This ever popular tour is a fantastic walk through history as you follow the Roman fortification through a wild and utterly wonderful landscape. As you walk from coast to coast, you stay in luxury boutique hotels be it a castle or family run pile. And once completed, you get the certificate!

    Hand Picked Cotswolds

    We are incredibly proud of our own crafted walk through the beautiful Cotswolds. We designed this walk to include our favourite gems of the Cotswolds - huge views from an aristocrat's folly, timeless hamlets hidden in tiny valleys, an extraordinary castle, the arts and crafts of Chipping Campden and a choice of luxury boutique hotels or the inns we love.

    Scotland's West Highland Way

    The West Highland Way in Scotland coupled with boutique luxury hotels gives drama by day and elegance by night. Nothing can be more impressive than pulling on your boots and heading along the shores of Loch Lomond, up the Devil's staircase, past Rob Roy's cave and across Rannoch Moor to Glencoe. Add simply the best hotels in Scotland with private transfers and you have a walk with it all.

    Coast to Coast

    Legend Alfred Wainwright created this iconic route as he walked coast to coast picking the best paths through the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales and wolds and we can help you pick the section most suited to you. Choose luxury boutique hotels or handpicked inns. It'll be a winner!

  • Notes from Connemara

    20th March, 2019

    ‘There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet’

    William Butler Yeats

    As we recently took a trip to Connemara we thought we would share some of our thoughts and highlights -

    Connemara is a region on the west coast of Ireland, with coastline that is part of The Wild Atlantic Way. The closest airport is at Westport, or alternatively Shannon. Dublin is approximately 3 ½ hours to the east. When we were there in February the weather was sunny and glorious and the climate is generally mild and breezy but a little prone to rain – it is not called the Emerald Isle for nothing! The landscape is stunning – rugged with the lowland areas criss crossed with streams, and mountains that rise up from the landscape almost as if they had been strategically placed! The roads are quiet and perfect for a cycling holiday – very few cars but a lot of sheep!

    Killary Fjord

    In the heart of the region is Killary Fjord (the only fjord in Ireland), which forms a natural border between Counties Galway and Mayo. Here you will find some of the most dramatic scenery in Ireland as Mweelrea the highest mountain in Connacht (one of the five ancient kingdoms of Ireland) rises from the north shore, and on the south side you can see the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens.

    The Famine Trail

    Take an exciting RHIB ride along the fjord past mussel beds and salmon farms, then walk back along the south shore ‘Famine Trail’. The first part of the trail is rocky but then opens to some easier walking past abandoned homesteads and on towards a sheep farm where you may be lucky enough to see a sheepdog demonstration or feed some lambs before continuing on to the village of Leenaune at the head of the fjord.

    Connemara National Park

    Connemara National Park is a protected area with four trails up Diamond Hill – depending on how energetic you feel! The hill gets its name from the resistant quartzite which forms the top of the mountain and sparkles in the right light. The park also contains evidence of human settlement 4000 years ago as well as ruined houses, old sheep pens and other evidence of a greater population and more extensive use of these lands in times past before the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s. On the way back down you can reward yourself with a stop in the Tea Rooms or in Letterfrack perhaps a pint of Guinness in Veldons Bar.

    Kylemore Abbey

    One of the most lovely spots in the area is Kylemore Abbey. Originally the site of a hunting lodge, the 15,000 acre estate was bought by English Doctor and Industrialist Mitchell Henry as a gift for his beloved wife and he began to build the beautiful fairytale castle. At this time over one third of the population of Connemara was lost due to starvation, fever and emigration and the remaining tenants were concerned about their futures following a long and troubled history with England. However Mitchell Henry created much needed employment, paying high wages and improving housing for his tenants and other facilities including a school for local children. Sadly Margaret Henry died in 1874 on a holiday to Egypt and the property had a chequered history until it became the monastic home of the Benedictine nuns in 1920.

    Glassilaun

    A visit to the coast would not be complete without a trip to the beach and there are some breathtaking beaches along this stretch possibly the most lovely of which is Glassilaun. Reached by a narrow road which keeps it a hidden gem, the huge horseshoe of sand is bounded by rock pools with views of the mountains in the distance.

    Ballynahinch Castle

    We feature some very special hotels on our Jolly Around Connemara cycling holiday and one of our favourites is Ballynahinch Castle with the Owenmore River on one side and the Twelve Bens on the other. Built in 1754 on the site of a former castle, Ballynahinch has had several famous owners including Richard Martin (Humanity Dick) founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and His Highness Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, otherwise known as the famous cricketer Ranji – much loved in the local area and commemorated in the Ranji Bar at the Hotel.

    We are also planning a walking holiday as this area has so much to offer, and if you would like us to tailormake an itinerary for you – let us know hello@the-carter-company.com

  • Travel Photography Tips Part 2

    12th February, 2019

    Here is the second installment of local Photographer Rachel Piper’s tips on taking great photos.

    Framing and Composition

    There are ‘rules’ when it comes to framing and composition, which I will explain, but I believe that rules are made to be broken! My personal view is that you should look at everything in your frame, not just the subject but the clutter as well, and decide if you like what you see. Move if you need to. I love taking photographs from unconventional angles, so try lying on the ground, pointing your camera up to the sky or just showing a hint of your subject. And now for those rules…!

    The Rule of Thirds is perhaps the most well-known ‘rule’ when it comes to composing a photograph, so imagine an image broken down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that it consists of nine parts. The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines your photo will become more balanced and encourage more interaction with the subject. Here is an example of where I have used the rule of thirds and one where I haven’t!

    Close-up photo of frog with grid overlay

    Landscape photo looking out to sea at sunset

    My main rule is to enjoy taking your photographs!

    Lighting

    Before you take your image do stop and think about the lighting and ask yourself how it will affect the outcome. In many cases you can use natural light to your advantage. I love the softness of morning and evening light, but the shadows produced by the midday sun can be very dramatic. Don’t avoid going out when the weather is overcast or you might miss out on some dramatic images, and it is usually easier to take photographs when the sun isn’t shining brightly. You can, if required, change the exposure settings on your camera, but my first piece of advice would be to move if the lighting conditions aren’t right, particularly if you can shoot without strong sunlight. Here, I am pointing my camera towards the sun, so my image is underexposed. This is because my camera is metering the overall light and thinks it’s a lot brighter than it is. If you have no choice then manually change your exposure to allow more or less light into the camera.

    Ring-tailed lemur stuffed toy placed on a garden fence

    In this photo, as the sun is behind me, there is a lot of contrast. The camera is struggling to cope with the range from light to dark, so detail in the face is lost. In advanced photography there are ways of dealing with these issues, but my suggestion would once again be move to the shade if you can. Also, don’t be afraid to get up close and personal. One common ‘error’ is to stand too far away from your subject. If you are taking a portrait it’s better to zoom in (if you have an optical zoom) rather than go right up to people, as this minimises the distortion (and they feel more relaxed!).

    Ring-tailed lemur stuffed toy placed in a leafy bush

    Post-Production

    Some people think that you should be able to do everything in the camera, but I didn’t in my darkroom days and I don’t now! I use Photoshop, mostly to adjust the brightness, contrast, tonal range of an image, and to crop if required. You don’t need Photoshop, but you might want to invest in something if you want to improve your photographs. Cameras often come with a basic editor, but if not, you can purchase something like Photoshop Elements very cheaply or download a freebie, such as the Gimp.

    Happy Shooting!

    To view Rachel Piper’s photographs please visit her website

    As lovers of the great outdoors both Rachel and the team here at The Carter Company, would like to support the Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland charity, and we have therefore made a donation on Rachel’s behalf to thank her for her time and advice.