Travelling overland from London to Istanbul

In Partnership With Lupine Travel

Race Across Europe

We’re excited to announce that this summer, we’re partnering up with Lupine Travel to support the great Trans-European Race, and we’re buzzing to tell you all about it!

The concept is simple: participants have one week to race from London to Istanbul, using only overland public transport. That means no flights, no cabs, no hire cars. But you can’t just hop on a train and be done with it, where would be the fun in that?

Each racer will be given a pack at the starting line, containing information about Lupine-themed checkpoints they need to hit along the way. That could be taking a selfie at a famous landmark, or saying hello to a member of the Lupine team manning the stop. Either way, there’s no cheating!

The race will start at 10am on 5th August in central London and finish at 7pm on 12th August in central Istanbul.

Of course, the speediest of racers going after the £2,000 Lupine Travel voucher will likely have arrived in Istanbul days earlier. But if you just want an excuse to go checkpoint-hopping through Europe without the rush, there are also awards for travelling on the lowest budget and visiting the most countries en route before your 7 days are up.

Sound like your kind of summer adventure? You can sign up here via the race website. Entry costs £99, which covers your entrance fee, access to the starting event and end party, and emergency support from the Lupine team in case you get stuck. You’ll even get to meet some of the JFC team, because we got so excited about it that we’ve decided to take part!

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Making the journey part of your adventure

The Trans-European Race will no doubt be a good laugh (and probably test a few of our colleague relationships…), but what’s really interesting is how this kind of overland trip can fit into a normal summer holiday.

The importance of reducing our carbon footprint is not lost on us, but we understand how hard it can be hard to prioritise sustainability when you’re dealing with limited annual leave. That said, even just halving the number of flights you take by travelling overland to your destination, then flying home, already makes a significant difference.

It may sound like you’ll then be spending days on a train or bus, just twiddling your thumbs, and sure, you could look at it that way. Or you could look at it as maximising your trip.

This way, your holiday starts as soon as you step out your door and head to the train station, instead of having to wait until you step off the plane. Every stop along the way offers new experiences, a slice of local culture, the chance to sample local foods, much more so than if you were to fly into a typical tourist destination and head straight to your hotel.

Take London to Istanbul as an example: there are so many routes you can take over the space of a few days or a few weeks, visiting countries like Germany, Bosnia and Greece along the way. And then once you get to Istanbul, you can still catch one more train to the Turquoise Coast for a few days of beachside chill time.

The joys of this kind of sustainable, slow travel don’t end with the mountains you see out the window or the unfamiliar snack you pick up in the station café. It’s also about the people you’ll meet, and knowing that your trip has positively impacted their community, as we mention in our Beginner’s Guide to Slow Travel.

But hold up! This all sounds a bit pricey, don’t you think? We’re in a cost-of-living crisis, and cheap flights are the only way many of us can afford or justify travelling.

Well, sure, this type of trip can be expensive if you buy every train, bus or ferry ticket separately. A little planning will go a long way here.

Within Europe, an Interrail pass is your best choice. As well as covering train travel, it includes certain ferries within Italy and Greece, and gets you discounts on coach travel, attractions, hostels, tours and more across the continent. Even Eurostar connections between London and continental Europe are covered, you just need to pay a reservation fee for your chosen trip.

In North America, Amtrak offers a $499 USA Rail Pass, which gets you 10 train journeys across the country within 30 days. Each connection is considered a separate journey, so it’s great for spending a day or two in several cities during a cross-country trip, but not so ideal for shorter stops along the way.

Reframe the journey as part of the adventure, and you’ll immediately see more of the world. In fact, it’s better for your brain, too: turning off autopilot and immersing yourself in new environments has been proven to sharpen the mind. So really, you’re doing yourself a favour.

But just in case you do get bored on those long trips, there’s always Netflix and napping.

What else would you like us to cover in The Detour? Let us know!

Ask us for a travel tip! 🌴

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Destination Inspiration

Caledonia is calling me

When one of our JFC teammates announced that they were planning to visit Scotland for the first time this summer, there was no way they were just getting bullet points in a Slack thread telling them where to go. Especially when a certain Detour Editor (hello!) used to work for the country’s national tourism board. So here’s our clockwise Caledonian tour!

Starting with the expected, Edinburgh is the most famous and popular destination with international visitors. But please go beyond the tourist shops of The Royal Mile and the (admittedly pretty impressive) views from Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat!

Sunny days are not a given in Scotland at any time of year, and as such must be celebrated with homemade gelato from Mary’s Milk Bar in the Grassmarket and a visit to Greyfriar’s Bobby. You can also get away from the main glut of tourists in the Dean Village. The tranquil, cobblestone streets along the river are only tainted by the recent influx of influencers who have cottoned on.

On dreich days, go underground into the Edinburgh Vaults or Mary King’s Close and explore the labyrinth of subterranean alleyways where people used to live. Or even better, make like the locals, put on your raincoat, and head south to see the historic abbeys of the Scottish Borders.

Less than an hour west of Edinburgh, Glasgow is Scotland’s under-rated largest city. The impressive architecture of its many museums, bridges and cathedrals have a unique character, and the legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh runs deep in the city’s blood. Quirky features like Duke of Wellington’s perpetual cone hat and the old, circular subway system only add to Glasgow’s personality.

It’s also a haven for foodies. You’ll never find yourself far from an amazing meal, be it traditional fish and chips (deep-fried Mars bar optional), a fancy brunch, or Scotland’s Best Kebab. As the home of the Chicken Tikka Masala ( probably), every Glaswegian is fond of an Indian meal. And one thing they can all agree on, is that you can’t go wrong at Mother India.

From street art walking trails, to parks where you can spot highland cows grazing, there’s plenty to do outdoors within the city. But it’s also a great base to start a journey to the islands off the West Coast.

Day trippers can reach the Isle of Cumbrae and the Isle of Arran via train and a short ferry. Cumbrae is ideal for a leisurely walk or cycle once you arrive, while Arran’s castles, waterfalls, and beaches offer more than enough to keep you occupied, and that’s before you reach the whisky distilleries or cheese shop.

The ferry to Cumbrae leaves from Largs, which is well worth a trip in its own right—especially if you’re travelling with kids, like our JFC colleague. You can make a detour to Kelburn Castle on the way, known for its graffitied exterior, secret forest, and annual Garden Party music festival. Then, once you reach Largs, it’s time for Scotland’s most famous ice cream before meeting some Vikings!

A longer island-hopping adventure is best with the help of the CalMac Ferries itinerary builder. There’s really no wrong answer when it comes to Scotland’s Inner and Outer Hebrides: Islay and Jura for the whisky, Harris for its spectacular beaches, Iona for its deep religious history… we could go on. Just watch you don’t get sucked into the Corryvreckan Whirlpool as you’re passing by.

You can still see breathtaking scenery without exercising those sea legs, though, especially along the banks of the West Coast’s sea lochs. For views accompanied by famous oysters, bird spotting, and more castles (they’re everywhere!), Loch Fyne has you covered. Then the next loch over, you’ve got the ruins of Kilchurn Castle and the eclectic St Conan’s Kirk, both perched on the banks of Loch Awe.

The area around Glencoe is where you really get a view to kill. Passing through on the road north is spectacular enough, but get out of your car, and you can be immersed in a world of woodland trails, waterfalls and unbelievable mountain vistas.

Carrying on north, you’ll encounter charming fishing towns and deserted beaches at every turn. It’s little wonder that the North Coast 500 has become one of the country’s most popular road trip itineraries in recent years, providing a guided tour of the area’s natural and man-made wonders.

Of course, the most likely starting point on the route is Inverness—the capital of the Highlands and home to Nessie. Aside from monster hunting, you need to make time to get lost in Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, go dolphin spotting at nearby Chanonry Point, and tap your toes along to some traditional folk music at Hootenanny. That last one is obligatory!

From Inverness, we look towards Northeast Scotland. Despite being jam-packed full of Scotland’s most appealing features—castles and whisky—the area is often overlooked by visitors. Aberdeen is a good city base, though prepare yourself for everything to be shades of grey. Literally. The whole place is made of granite, which is especially pretty when the sun shines and the buildings sparkle.

Being right on the coast, the sea is as much a part of any Aberdonian’s identity as the dog-sized seagulls that’ll poach the sandwich from your hands. Remember that as you take a gentle stroll along the beach esplanade with an ice cream in hand. If you make it to the end of the path unscathed, you absolutely must meander through the rows of tiny old houses in Footdee.

Outside the city, the glorious beaches continue. To the north, the sand dunes of Balmedie Country Park provide kids (and big kids) with hours of hill-rolling fun and play areas. To the south, towns like Stonehaven offer sandy beaches within a stone’s throw of an award-winning fish supper.

Just a mile or so north of Stonehaven is one of the country’s most iconic ruined castles. Dunnottar lies on a rocky peninsula and is steeped in centuries of history. The clifftop vantage point is ideal for spotting seabirds, including puffins from April-July, but you’ll want to strap your youngsters in tightly, as it can get more than a little windy.

On the home stretch back towards Edinburgh and Glasgow, you have decisions to make. The fishing villages of Fife, and the famous golf course, ruined abbey and university at St Andrews? Or will it be the ancient castles, battlefields and monuments of Stirling, accompanied by the gorges and waterfalls of the Ochil Hills?

Admittedly, there’s so much more we haven’t even touched on here. Like getting outdoorsy in the Cairngorms and the joy of simple pleasures in Scotland’s bothies. Or the whole of the Isle of Skye, which is already so popular for its ethereal Fairy Pools and otherworldly landscapes that there’s hardly space for any more visitors.

That said, if you have a wee trip to Caledonia planned for this summer, we hope you now have a few more spots bookmarked than before. And if you need any extra tips, JFC’s Scottish teammates will be more than happy to help you out—just drop us an email.

We know Scotland is a favourite among our members, so please share your favourite experiences with us! Where did you love? What would you have skipped, if you could do it all over again? Let us know via [email protected]!

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Around the US In 50 Editions

This Week, We're In Hawaii!

We all know the score with Hawaii—stunning beaches, volcanoes, dark skies. Paradise, really. But in recent years, locals have asked travellers to think twice before coming, or at the very least to change their holiday habits while there. We’ve got some tips on how to do it right.

Book accommodation with locally-owned businesses so that your money stays within the community, preventing tourism leakage. This handy guide gives some great recommendations across the islands.

Pick your island carefully—while Oahu and Maui are set up for tourism, that’s where the bulk of overcrowding comes in. Then again, go smaller to Molokai, and you’ll find less infrastructure and a more hesitant attitude towards visitors.

Learning about Hawaii's unique history and culture is a must when visiting. And thankfully there are a ton of tour companies that give back to the community and respect the environment while showing you the ropes. This tool is super helpful for finding the right sustainable tour for you.

Or you might consider volunteering. Through the country's Malama program, visitors get the chance to pay it forward and gain a deeper insight into Hawaiian customs by offering a hand at local businesses in exchange for a discounted stay. From planting native trees, to helping out at a cat sanctuary, there are numerous ways to do your part.

Malama i ka ‘āina is a significant part of Hawaiian culture, and honouring the deep connection that Islanders have with the land is vital. This is especially important when visiting any wahi pana (sacred sites). If you come across any signs that say "Kapu," it means it’s off limits and should be avoided.

Don't worry, you'll still find endless gorgeous hikes on each island that welcome tourists. You shouldn't miss the chance to snorkel in some of the world's best spots, either, just be mindful of not walking on the coral (it's a living organism) and make sure to pack reef-safe sunblock.

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Travel News

Pick Of The Clicks

All the important (or silly, or strange) travel news from across the web this week.

  • Another week, more industrial action from airport staff in a dispute over pay. This time, you should prepare for delays going through security at London Heathrow, especially if you’re travelling over the holiday weekend.
  • A Delta passenger’s poor flight etiquette has gone viral, after she was spotted resting her feet on the headrest of the chair in front of her. To add insult to injury, her feet were propped right under an air vent, allegedly wafting the pong throughout the plane.
  • Not for the first time in recent months, a wheelchair user has failed to receive the necessary assistance to disembark his flight. After being told he’d have to wait at least an hour for the lift, the passenger decided he’d rather shuffle his way off.
  • And finally, residents of Newfoundland have been treated to a giggle this week, as a photographer caught a glimpse of a particularly risqué iceberg off the coast.

    In a story you really couldn’t make up if you tried, Ken Pretty from the town of Dildo spotted the “dickie berg” passing through Conception Bay. Unfortunately, it lacked staying power, and collapsed the following day.