• Unordinary Trip of the Month

    14th November, 2017

    A warm hello to all,

    We have just been notified by InfoHub.com that one of our tours – the 8-Day Highlands Coast to Coast Tour – has been chosen as their Unordinary Trip of the Month! InfoHub.com is the number one travel portal on the Internet specialising in the out-of-ordinary, special interest vacations.

    Because we are passionate about cycling, we are delighted with the news and see this as yet another opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and see more people pedalling on their holiday. For a little something extra, those who book the above tour before November 20th, 2017 may be eligible for a very special prize from InfoHub's sister-company GPSmyCity - publisher of travel apps for Apple and Android. The GPSmyCity app features offline city maps, self-guided walking tours and travel articles for 1,000 cities worldwide, using which you can turn your mobile into a personal tour guide. With this app in hand you can explore any major urban destination in the world on your own, at your own pace. The GPSmyCity app works offline so there's no need to worry about roaming charges when travelling abroad. The winner, chosen at random, will get a one-year full membership of the GPSmyCity app including access to all the GPSmyCity content - over 6,500 self-guided city walks and travel articles – to the total value of over $8,000! (around £6,000).

    Book now and enjoy your cycling adventure with the Carter Company!

  • The Spookiest Spots in the UK

    22nd October, 2017

    With Halloween just around the corner, we thought we'd share what we believe are the UK's spookiest spots - haunted castles, witch trails and stories of Vampires are just a part of Britain's violent and intriguing past...

    Pendle Hill, Lancashire

    Pendle Hill, which rises out of the Forest of Bowland, is the site of the notorious Witch Trials. In the seventeenth century, many suspected witches were tried and executed on the hill. The hill is now a place of pilgrimage for those with a taste for the supernatural – and while it has become quite a tourist spot, after dark, Pendle Hill is said to still ring with the screams of the Pendle Witches.

    Underground London

    While we are all familiar with the London Underground, few realise that there is a lot more under London than the tube. As well as the more mundane disused stations and air raid shelters, there are also several networks of secret tunnels; these ancient passages, such as those under Buckingham Palace and Whitehall, are known to have been used by spies, assassins and smugglers. Some, such as Dead Man’s Walk beneath the Old Bailey were used to take criminals for secret executions. There are also many that are bricked up, or whose locations are lost, and thus the use and contents remain unknown. Next time you are walking in London, consider the miles of subterranean city that lie below.

    Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

    Known today due to Daphne Du Maurier’s novel and the Hitchcock film, Jamaica Inn actually predates both by some four hundred years. An Inn has stood on the Moor near Bolventor since 1547, with the current building dating back to 1750. The Inn was a smuggler’s den and a haven for pirates and criminals for hundreds of years. While the Inn itself is fascinating, it’s the landscape around that cements its spooky reputation. Surrounded by Bodmin Moor, the Inn is often shrouded in mist, and full of travellers telling tales of the terrifying Beast of Bodmin that stalks the moors all around.

    Pluckley, Kent

    This sweet little village may seem completely innocent from the outside, but the streets of Pluckley, Kent, are reportedly plagued by ghosts. The village boasts a total of sixteen separate phantoms, each with their own tragic tale. One of the most renowned is that of a highwayman, run through with a sword and pinned to a tree, who wanders the village appearing as a shadowy figure. His favourite ‘haunting’ place is Fright Corner, the tree where he met his grisly end.

    Highgate Cemetery

    This cemetery in North London is the resting place of many notable figures, including Karl Marx and Christina Rossetti, and is well known for its gothic architecture and rows of ancient tombs. Highgate was particularly infamous in the late 1800s, with multiple people claiming to have witnessed a figure rising from the grave. It has been long believed that the cemetery is home to the Highgate Vampire, an undead menace that wakes at night and feeds on mourners who stay too long after dark…

    Edinburgh Castle

    Having stood for over nine hundred years, it would be quite surprising if the ancient castle wasn’t home to at least a few ghosts. Having stood witness to Scotland’s tumultuous history, Edinburgh Castle is considered one of the UK’s most haunted buildings, with over fifty percent of modern visitors reporting some kind of supernatural activity. As well as several famous murders, the Castle also saw witch trials, the Black Plague, and attempted English invasion.

    Culloden Moor

    Site of the brutal battle in 1746, Culloden Moor is said to still be haunted by the ghosts of the highland soldiers who fought and died for the doomed Jacobite cause. The spirits of the highlanders are said to still wander the battlefield, unable to rest. Stone cairns mark the spots where some of the famous warriors fell, but most who died in the fated battle are lost to time.

  • Notes from Madeira

    14th October, 2017

    The Carter Company is always looking for new places to explore by bike and on foot, and our latest expedition has been to the beautiful (and warm!) island of Madeira. Founder and chief route creator Wendy Carter scoped out the archipelago, finding the best spots for food, drink and sunbathing, and the routes that offer the most incredible views. She has done the hard work so that you don't have to! Here are Wendy's notes from her travels...

    • As it's October here in the UK, the first thing Wendy notes is how lovely the weather was - she reports that Madeira is warm all year round, with enough light wind to keep it from ever becoming sweltering. However, winds can pick up randomly which can cause difficulties for aircraft, given that Funchal is already a tricky landing location.

    • Madeira is a 'garden paradise', with such a range of flowers and fruits growing densely up to certain heights on every hillside. Wendy notes that one of the highlights of her trip was the Palheiro Garden, which was a 'feast for the eyes' - incredibly well kept, the garden has a superb variety of plants, including an orchid nursery. Small bananas grow abundantly, but alas are too small and curvaceous to meet EU standards.

    • The landscape of Madeira is primarily hilly, with sweeping slopes and valleys and dramatic cliffs (the tallest in Europe). Walking can be tricky in places, but is the perfect challenge for the more experienced hiker. The steep terrain can allow for phenomenal views across Madeira. Those preferring gentle walks do have the opportunity to walk along the 'levades', channels built by farmers to distribute water. While the views are less impressive, the terrain is far kinder down here! However, with steep drops often to the side of the levades, these walks are not for those who suffer from vertigo.

    • Wendy also notes how friendly the islanders were; the people she met on her travels were all attentive, hard-working, smiley and optimistic. All still basking in their Island's change of fortune since the 1974 revolution and the EU investment.

    The Highlights

    • For food, Wendy recommends Kris's Downtown and Kris's Place
    • For accomodation, Wendy recommends Reid's Palace for the wonderful service, shady gardens and stylish seafront bathing.
    • For history, she suggests exploring the network of tunnels built for the levades.
    • She also loves the pastries!
  • Our Favourite Cotswolds Spots

    22nd September, 2017

    The Cotswolds typifies charming English villages – the golden stone of the chocolate box cottages mean that towns such as Chipping Campden and Cirencester are some of the most photographed in the UK. It isn’t just the towns that make it, of course, but the rolling wolds and trickling rivers that paint the perfect picture of rural England. The Cotswolds are eternally popular and have been one of our most successful destinations over the past few years. The wonderful thing about the little English villages is that theres always more to uncover, so we’ve picked out some of our favourite hidden gems – the places that aren’t in your average guidebook.

    Bantam Tea Rooms

    As one of our favourite partners, we often book our guests into the Bantam Tea Rooms for a night or two. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to stay here, the Bantam is worth visiting for their delicious homemade cakes, speciality teas and warm welcome. Bantam is one of the cutest stops on the route – encapsulating all the quaint English charm one looks for in the Cotswolds. We at the Carter Company must admit that we often indulge if we find ourselves in Chipping Campden – we highly recommend the scones… For those who prefer coffee to tea – never fear! The Cotswolds has something for you too. The Campden Coffee Company is a favourite among the locals, serving some of the best coffee in the area.

    Batsford Arboretum

    While visitors to the Cotswolds may be familiar with Westonbirt, the larger Arboretum in Tetbury, we recommend a visit to Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-in-Marsh. Batsford is smaller and quite romantic – the perfect place for a couples afternoon out. Batsford actually has a bigger collection of trees and shrubs than Westonbirt and also has a fantastic garden centre on site.

    The Fosse Way

    There is no lack of history in the Cotswolds, but few realise that some of the roads through Cirencester and Moreton-in-Marsh actually date back to Roman times. The Fosse Way was once the main thoroughfare from Lincoln to Exeter and most of this ancient track still survives. For a part, the Fosse Way runs as Moreton's high street, before becoming the main road out of Cirencester. In between, its grassy track or simply field. The Fosse Way was built to be incredibly straight, supposedly so that the Romans could not be ambushed at corners, and is thus easy to trace on OS maps and fun to follow as a walker. Bear in mind though that you are likely walking a route first laid over two thousand years ago!

    Cotswolds Lavender Farm

    Snowshill is best known for the Manor and Gardens, but they are not the little villages only claim to fame. Just outside of the sleepy village of Snowshill sits the Cotswold Lavender Farm – a sea of purple fragrant flowers. The fields of lavender are simply an incredible sight, the scent is gorgeous and the bees that waft in the breeze add to the scene. We recommend visiting before the harvest, but even if you miss this, the shop is something to behold – they sell everything possible Lavender themed! Do check the opening times as this is a working farm and isn't always open.

  • Weird and Wonderful Wildlife

    19th August, 2017

    For such a tiny island, we have some exceptional native species – we have several species unique to the Island, and many others that are rare. Our eco-system is also expected to expand, as there have been calls to reintroduce the wolves and lynx that used to live in Britain in ancient times! British wildlife is rich and varied, and fortunately not very dangerous (at the moment!). We’ve picked out some of our favourites that we suggest visitors to the UK watch out for – however, this is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are many more beautiful animals to be spotted up and down the country…

    Red Squirrels

    Some of the UK’s cutest, these little squirrel’s existence has long been threatened by the Grey Squirrel, an American invader that competes for food and habitat. Red Squirrels are smaller, and sweeter, and easily recognisable due to their russet coats and tufty ears. Red Squirrels are tree dwellers, and spend much less time on the ground than their grey cousins. Due to the influx of Grey Squirrels, Red Squirrels are now endangered, and are most likely to be spotted in Northern England and Scotland, among the fir trees and in deep forest areas. The Red Squirrels also enjoy sanctuary on the Isle of Wight, where there are no Greys. If you are on our Hadrian’s Wall Tour, or our Highlands Coast to Coast tour, keep your eyes open for these rare little rodents.

    Wild Boar

    A relatively recent re-introduction to Britain, the Wild Boar now thrives in the Forest of Dean and other wooded areas in the South of England. Wild Boar were a common site in the UK several centuries ago, although over-hunting drove them to extinction. The re-introduction was actually accidental, and it is thought that the groups of Wild Boar spotted in the South escaped from farms in the area. Wild Boar enjoy the British climate, having rough, wiry coats that can withstand our weather. Boar primarily eat roots, wild vegetables, and are good at snuffling out acorns. There are concerns that the Wild Boar may be threatening the mouse population, as the Boar are known to seek out the mice, not to eat them, but to steal their acorn hoards! Look out for the Boar if you are on our Dorset Beaches and the New Forest tour as there is a herd that calls the forest home here – be careful, and do keep your distance, as Wild Boar are actually considered to be a ‘dangerous species’.

    Red Kite

    Another re-introduction, the Red Kite has been one of the most successful in history. These majestic birds are now a common site over the Chiltern Hills, where they glide overhead watching for carrion and small rodents. Their distinctive forked tails and white markings on their wings sets them apart from the other birds of prey native to England. If you are on our Chiltern Challenge, you will undoubtedly see some of these beautiful birds, and those on our Thames tours might be lucky enough to spot them too.

    Pine Martens

    These little carnivores were once the second most common in the UK, although today they are amongst the country’s most endangered species. Deforestation devastated the Pine Marten population, driving them to the more remote edges of Britain. These days, the best places to catch a site of these elusive animals is in the Highlands or the Lake District. For those who may have no clue what a Pine Marten looks like, they are a cute compact carnivore related to the badger and otter – their colouring is a soft brown with a yellow ‘bib’ on their throats. They are very cute.

    Minke Whales

    These small baleen whales can sometimes be spotted up and down the Western coasts of the UK, and are most frequently seen off of coast of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Notable for their delicate size, and elegant movements, these little whales (typically 8 metres long give or take a few) have become a more common sighting in the North Sea, potentially due to increased food stocks brought on by climate change. If you are interested in catching a sight of these lovely visitors, consider a boat trip out to sea – they are definitely worth the effort as they are remarkably beautiful and quite friendly!