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KE traveller Bill tackles his first Mickledore holiday

Bill Heath has been to Everest Base Camp – the Hard Way, summited Kilimanjaro and conquered the Complete GR20 with KE. So what would he make of hi... Read more
KE traveller Bill tackles his first Mickledore holiday

Bill Heath has been to Everest Base Camp – the Hard Way, summited Kilimanjaro and conquered the Complete GR20 with KE. So what would he make of his first UK self-guided walking holiday with Mickledore, walking the wall that Hadrian built?

Alex from the KE office, headed over to Hadrian’s Wall to spend a day walking with Bill, talking about all things KE and Mickledore with enjoyable asides about Trump (Bill is a native New Yorker), Johnson and Brexit (Bill has lived in the UK for many years).

Firstly we chatted about Bill’s impressive history of KE trips. He’s tackled some of our most committing ones all round the world – from Nepal, to Tanzania and Peru. Here’s what Bill had to say:


Which KE trips have you done?

I trekked to Annapurna Base Camp in 2017. Then I returned to Nepal in 2018 to trek Around Manaslu. Finally I did 3 trips in 2019 – Choquequirao to Machu Picchu, Kilimanjaro – the Rongai Route and Everest Base Camp – the Hard Way, which was a very good trip. I’d done Kili with my friend and came straight back and booked Everest Base Camp – the Hard Way because I knew I was fit enough. I’m glad I did 3 trips in 2019 because I haven’t been able to travel overseas since.


Which was your favourite KE trip?

It’s too difficult to choose a favourite trip. They are all so different.

If I picked the most physically challenging it would be the complete GR20 – this was day after day of tough hiking carrying quite a load in your pack.

Kilimanjaro was the most mentally challenging – it was so cold on the summit, my fingers were numb for 3 weeks after.

Choquequirao was a tough trip, lots of ups and down at altitude. But there was hardly anyone else there along the whole route as it’s so hard to get to, so it was great. It was a bit of a shock getting to Machu Picchu and suddenly there’s people, even though we chose an optimum time to visit! First picture below show our campsite in the circle, so you can see how remote the whole route is!

Nepal is just stunning – the mountains are out of this world. For me it’s about the challenge. I chose Annapurna to do as my first Nepal trip as the altitude was just over 5000m, which seemed a good place to start. Then I did Manaslu which was different as started much lower and just constantly went up and up. Then finally I felt able to tackle Everest – The Hard Way. I’m relatively new to backpacking so it’s all about the challenge.

Why did you choose KE?

Quite simply because KE can take me into remote areas of the world that I wouldn’t be able to manage to arrange the logistics of hiking independently. They also are proper adventures – you’re trekking through areas that only local knowledge and support can take you through safely.  Yes, you have support teams, but you’re still camping in the wilderness for weeks on end. Things can go wrong in remote areas – that’s why going with a group is advantageous. You have back up.

Like Mickledore, KE aren’t expensive trips either– you’re staying in tents and lodges, not 5-star hotels - and all your meals are included. US travel companies charge 3 times the price for the same trips.  

Any tips for future travellers who haven’t taken the plunge yet?

I read the KE reviews before I book because it’s very important. Don’t be surprised by cold water showers in remote parts of the world or that the diet is a bit monotonous. My best tip – always take sachets of oatmeal and seeds with you. You can beef up your breakfast or if you get sick you can eat something simple until your stomach recovers.

Most of all, just go and do it as soon as you can. Don’t postpone because you never know what life will bring you – look at the pandemic!

Which KE trips are next?

Definitely Tour du Mont Blanc and the Snowman Trek in Bhutan which I haven’t been able to do this year but am transferring to 2022. I’m taking a look at Trekking Across the Atlas for this September as it summits the 3 highest mountains in in Morocco so should give me enough of a challenge.

On my list to book next is getting to the Karakoram and K2 Base Camp and you’ve suggested I take a look at Bolivia and your trip to summit Mount Khuiten in Mongolia. Just give me a challenge big enough and I’ll go for it!

How was your first UK self-guided holiday?

Firstly I couldn’t fault the logistics. I’ve looked at doing Hadrian’s Wall for years, so I know how difficult it would be to organise it on your own. The places I stayed at weren’t on, they’ve just worked with Mickledore for years, so I wouldn’t have been able to find them online plus there’s very limited accommodation generally available on the wall.

I didn’t want to walk with a full pack on every day and organising my own luggage transfers would just be a huge amount of work. At first, I was worried about the bag but by the end, I was just leaving it without any thought at all because I knew it would be waiting for me at the end of each day. For a whole 10 days luggage transfer, the supplement was just £40. I would have spent that much on just one transfer if I’d been doing this independently.

Sorry to talk about logistics first but it was the most important factor for me choosing to walk with a holiday company rather than go it alone. The walk instructions were meticulous too!

Why did you choose Mickledore?

 Like a lot of people, I’ve been at a loose end at times during the pandemic and I’m used to being on the road most of the year.

I’ve always wanted to do Hadrian’s Wall and I saw the list of Last Minute Ready-Made dates on the KE website and I thought – now’s the moment to finally get that ambition ticked off.

As mentioned before, like KE, Mickledore trips are not expensive and it’s not something I believe you can organise on your own without huge bother. Mickledore is the sister company of KE so I was pretty sure I could trust them, plus their customer reviews are very impressive. I was not disappointed.

Onto the walk itself! What was your favourite part?

My favourite part of the walk was the section that goes past Housesteads to Once Brewed because you start seeing more of the wall and it’s full of iconic views. Housesteads fort is just amazing. It’s also the busiest section of the wall, but if you stick to the wall instead of the military road you’ll see fewer people. I also really enjoyed Once Brewed to Gilsland – it was a very nice section and quieter.

Overall, I didn’t see that many people doing the walk – expected a lot more but on the last day only saw 12 people heading in the same direction.

Did you visit any of the Roman museums?

 Yes, every one of them! They were all excellent. The Roman Baths down by the river at Chesters Roman Museum are fascinating as is the museum of all the artefacts found along the wall. John Clayton preserved this momentous piece of history for us in an age when this wasn’t common. Housesteads fort is stunning for its location, of course. I went to Vindolanda on my day off – it’s definitely a good idea to have a day off in Once Brewed so you can properly visit Vindolanda. The ticket was £8 and for £12 you also get a ticket for Roman Army Museum. The latter was actually my favourite museum. I just visited for an hour and the exhibits were incredibly informative and there’s a great film which brings to life what it was like living on the wall. It’s worthwhile to pop into all of them, but this was the one where I picked up most titbits.

What was the best place you stayed?

Vallun Lodge in Twice Brewed for sheer roominess and location was my favourite plus I was there 2 nights. It was only a 10 minute walk from the Twice Brewed pub, it was close to Vindolanda, there was an ensuite drinks fridge and a separate lounge room to look at maps. They did my laundry for £7 for my whole load – half way along the wall that was very welcome. Also a special mention for Hollies on the Wall in Gilsland which was exceptional in terms of standards - incredibly clean and modern with an amazing bathroom. I couldn’t fault it.

How about eating?

I probably ate out 3 times and other times I would grab things from the supermarket and have a simple supper. I always got something along the way for lunch. I can recommend the bakery in Corbridge wholeheartedly for this. If you like dinner at 7pm every night, then you probably want to make reservations, but I enjoyed eating earlier along the wall because all the cafes are open including at the museums.

Any final thoughts?

This is a national trail so don’t be nervous about navigating or worry about doing it on your own. Look for the white acorn and you are on your way. Walking along something that’s 1900 years old – you do come across the milecastles, turrets and gates – it gives you time as you walk to think about what it was like 1900 years ago and what life was like during the Roman occupation and what happened to England after the Romans left. Plus it’s coast to coast so you’ve walked across the whole of England.

On the final day the walk from Carlisle to the coast was my least favourite but the coast was great when I got to it. If you’re going to do it, you have to do the whole walk. That’s the walk. It definitely compares to the Camino which I’ve walked several times and it’s all part of it.

As for Hadrian's Wall, if it was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for me!


Many thanks to Bill!

Finally, a huge thank you to Bill for his generosity with his time, his great company on the day I joined him and his patience with me pestering him to be a poster boy for the day. I look forward to our next walk together and as promised, I hope to show you some walks on my local fells soon!


For more details about any of the  KE trips mentioned by Bill, or for the list of Mickledore trips this September, please give our friendly team a ring on 017687 73966 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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