Category Archives: Slow Travel

Discovering the Semois

Winding its way lazily for 210 kilometres, starting in Arlon in Belgium, arriving in France and changing its name to the Semoy before joining the Meuse at Monthermé , the Semois can charm most lovers of the great outdoors. Usually, the river has an optimal flow of water for safe canoeing and kayaking in early summer, but following substantial rain it is also becomes navigable in August and September. The area was more popular in the 60’s and 70’s before European visitors jetted off in search of more far flung pleasures. To me this is a benefit as the crowds have gone elsewhere, making the trip down the Semois very civilised indeed. There is still plenty of accommodation from hostels and camping sites to luxury hotels but on this trip we stayed with friends at their house.

The Semois
The Semois

Canoe and kayak hire locations can be found at numerous points along the course of the river. The operators will collect you and your boat at the end of your voyage or even take you upstream to commence your journey. The river is perfect for first time kayakers as there are no dangerous rapids and generally the water is slow moving. There are a number of weirs which can be avoided by beaching beforehand and carrying your boat past. We went over the weirs and had no adverse effects other than a bow wave that washed over the kayak’s prow soaking our legs. My camera, watch, phone, spare clothing, lunch, etc. were stowed in a waterproof barrel secured to the kayak.

Kayak on the Semois
Kayak on the Semois
Dragon flies and flowers
Dragon flies and flowers

Paddling downriver is not the only means of slow travel to explore the Semois. GR16 is a long distance trail that follows the river valley from Arlon to Monthermé, where it connects with GR12.
We hiked a section by Cugnon and made a deviation to visit the caves where Saint Remacle lived for a while in the seventh century while converting the Ardennes to Christianity.

Caves of St Remacle
Caves of St Remacle

GR 16 looks like an appealing project when we have finished our flirtation with GR 579 (Brussels – Liege) and GR 12 (Brussels – French Border), but there is still a lot of Semois river to paddle! That is the primary benefit of slow travel; there is always so much more to experience.

Rock stairs on GR 16
Rock stairs on GR 16

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Slow Scottish travel

This summer I found some Bargain Berths for the Caledonion Sleeper Train. Staying at family run B&B’s and hostels and hiking to Inverness seemed like a low carbon, ethical way to travel. It was certainly enjoyable. I guess Sleeper Trains are higher carbon than normal trains and that passenger trains are higher carbon than full buses; so we could have done better. Passenger trains are less efficient than buses due to the weight built into the trains to ensure safety. I’d hate to be the engineer that has to justify the designs for an efficient passenger train, if it means that more passengers would be injured or killed in a crash.Sustainable Scottish travel via the Great Glen Way The Great Glen Way uses a lot of Forestry Commission roads. Views of the various lochs were not that frequent and depended upon where the trees had been felled recently. Plesiosaurus The Loch Ness monster still draws the visitors to the loch and especially Drumnadrochit. Fort Augustus Fort Augustus has the biggest choice of accommodation between Inverness and Fort William. There is also a good choice of shops, restaurants and Takeaways. When staying at the various B&B’s and hostels, the question went through my mind that how ethical did the various family source their supplies? The hotel chains are now looking at this issue. In the old days it didn’t matter so much as most produce was local, but now it is easy for a B&B owner to pop into a supermarket and source some goods with a high carbon footprint or buy linen produced in a sweat shop somewhere. All questions that got me thinking. How do you address these subjects? Caledonian Canal The Caledonian canal is now busy with holiday traffic. It never really fullfilled its expectations for commercial traffic. Caledonian canal The views improve as you hike towards Fort William. General Wade's Military Road Originally built to subjugate the Scots. General Wade’s Military roads were used effectively by the Jacobites in the uprisings at the start of the 18 th century. This is just the type of path that the Scottish midges love. Fortunately I had a net over my cowboy hat and furthermore the weather was either too windy, too sunny or too wet to suit the midges. I was using a Deet based repellent purely because we have a supply to use up. Future expeditions will probably use Mozzy Off made from bog myrtle or will research the Avon Skin So soft that also receives a lot of praise. Other options include visiting in May or September. At least by visiting Scotland twice in August we know that we can get by comfortably. Invergarry Castle After hiking down the paths on the far side of Loch Oich we back tracked up to Invergarry to stay at the Invergarry Lodge, easily the best hostel we stayed at on our week hiking the Great Glen Way. Hand operated swing bridge   Most of my photographs have rain clouds and we had a fair share of rain on our journey.  Not sure who said it originally, but the saying “No such thing as bad weather; only inappropriate clothing” held true.

Further information for Slow Scottish Travel

Look up the website of the Great Glen Way or the Wikipedia page.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.