Having already had chance to review Big Trails : GB & Ireland I was very excited to be asked to review Big Trails: Heart of Europe too. What a great opportunity to be inspired for new adventures, (when overseas travel is once again allowed.)
Big Trails: Heart of Europe follows the same format of the GB & Ireland book, covering 25 long distance trails in Western Europe and the Alps. These include some of the really famous and well-walked routes such as the Haute Route, Tour du Mont Blanc and Tour of Monte Rosa. It also includes a lot of routes I’d never heard of before which was quite exciting.
Even some of these lesser known routes which cross flatter terrain sound interesting – such as the Brabantse Heuvelroute in Belgium and the Heidschnuckenweg in Germany, both of which meander along rivers, through farmland, heath and natural woodlands.
Having completed the Tour du Mont Blanc and done part of the Alterweg route in Austria, I felt I had a good basis on which to judge if the route descriptions were going to be both useful and accurate.
As with the GB & Ireland book, for each route there are beautiful images of the landscape you’ll see along the trail. These are accompanied with a summary of the route, covering highlights, key locations and things to think about while planning. This is useful on the mountainous routes where it includes information on refuges to stay at, if wild camping is not tolerated and when drinking water might be a consideration.
The descriptions of the routes provide both inspiration and allows you to learn about the history of the area and the trail. It also has enough information to help start to plan your adventure.
The overview maps show the whole trail so you can see at a glance where the route goes. These are not useful for navigating but the accompanying text provides key information about where you can get further details to plan your trip, from guidebooks to websites.
The essential details page covers distance, key features, a profile of the route height along the trail, and pros and cons of the routes – everything from how busy the routes are to transport connections at either end.
Whilst I’m super keen to do some of the mountainous routes in the book, learning about trails I might not have come across otherwise sparked my interest in visiting other areas of Europe. Who knew there was a trail in Luxembourg which was also an annual ultra event?!
It’s definitely worth doing a fair bit of research though after deciding on your route – the description of the TMB for example only really covers doing it in one direction and doesn’t mention the multitude of campsites available if the refuges are full.
The only downside to this book is that it only covers the central areas of Europe, missing out trails in the East, Spain and some of the long distance trails on European islands. (Shame as the GR20 is still my favourite route).
I can only hope this means that this is the start of a collection of European Big Trails books, which will eventually cover the entire area, providing inspiration for more long distance adventures.