Packed lunches – not the best thing about walking

Published 3 July 2013

Eating a sandwich on the South Downs Way

Several years ago I did a walking holiday in the Queyras mountain range in the French Alps. It was a walking holiday put together by a company called Inntravel. Our walk took us over many of the hills and mountains of the area in a circular route which linked together a variety of established official trails, stopping off every night at a different village or small town.

Naturally our luggage was transported for us (the only time I’ve ever done a walking holiday and not carried everything on my back) and our package included full board, with a packed lunch always supplied.

The packed lunches were always a delight. Included would be a substantial amount of baguette, along with a chunk of cheese or two, some slices of cooked meat, a pot of freshly made salad, fruit and cake. Sometimes there was a boiled egg too. Lunch was a wonderful thing to tuck into. We’d sit on a slope of a hill, admire a fantastic view and have a veritable picnic feast whilst trying to avoid the burning sun.

Cracking an egg with a corkscrew in France

But sadly it’s rare for a British accommodation provider to excel on the packed lunch. Even pubs which pride themselves on their high quality produce, seem to be unable to provide anything other than ham, cheese, or egg on slightly soggy sliced white or brown bread enthusiastically wrapped in many layers of cling film. Cake and salad? No chance, although you might get a packet of Walkers crisps and banana. Unfortunately I am one of those rare people who hates bananas. Yes such people do exist.

Of course exceptions to exist. On the Dales Way I did get to enjoy a wonderful sandwich provided by the Station Inn at Ribblehead. Big fat slices of beautifully roasted beef, sandwiched in a ciabatta with horseradish. It was divine, and had envious glances from a group of teenage walkers who passed me by as I sat in a field next to a river.

If you want shelter in which to eat lunch, simply find a handy, convenient bridge.

Part of it is cultural. In France a meal is there to be lingered over and enjoyed, and in the hot and sunny slopes of the Queyras mountains this is easy to do. On the other hand, the long distance walker in Britain has to contend with the weather. Lunch is a hasty sandwich shoved in the mouth as rain batters the head whilst desperately seeking shelter. As such, thanks to the vagaries of British weather I have had my lunch in such glamorous locations as the dark and cold shelter round the back of Skiddaw House, under a bridge on the Pennine Way and, of course, in the entrance to some public toilets near Coniston Lake.

But still for those days when the weather is better – when the sun is shining and the views are great – wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to celebrate it with a hefty chunk of fresh crusty bread, a fresh
salad and a slab of cheese? And perhaps a boiled egg. Well, I guess I better head to France for it, then.



5 December 2016 at 11:23 am

I also did the Queryas tour and agree about the packed lunches, and the food in general really. I can also recommend doing the Grand paradiso circuit which also offered fab food.

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