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Lifestyle

Company Ethos

November 26, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Company ethics

At El Camino, we care about working with good people, creating good products and being good to the planet. Here are just a few of the ways we put this at the centre of everything we do.

El Camino Bracelets team on the beach.

Products that last

Our products are made from durable materials, carefully chosen to ensure they’ll be around as long as you and the memories you make. Strong, resistant to corrosion and made to last, your El Camino bracelet is in it for the long term.

El Camino Bracelets only use the highest quality materials.

All our bracelets are handmade in the UK, constructed from four woven cords, each with a breaking strain of over 34kgs. From engraving the surgical grade stainless steel Steps and clasp to making and kiln firing the glass beads, your bracelet is made with love and the strength to endure everything you have to throw at it on your travels.

An El Camino Bracelet on the beach.

All our materials are responsibly sourced. We build relationships that last too; many of our suppliers have been with us since the start.

Plastic-free packaging

Since 2019, all our packaging is 100% plastic-free, from the envelopes the orders are sent in, to the wrapping containing the Steps and bracelets. It took us a while to find the perfect solution, but it was worth the wait to get it right.

El Camino Bracelets Plastic Free Packaging.

Caring for the planet

We believe in living our lives in the most environmentally responsible way. For the El Camino team, this means keeping our impact on the planet as light as possible, both at home and work.

Our HQ is made from recycled shipping containers, fitted out with large windows. Not only does this make for a bright workspace, but it reduces the need for too much artificial electric light. When we do need to plug in, we use e-on as our electricity provider, which is powered by 100% renewable energy sources.

We recycle as much as possible, keeping things digital wherever we can to avoid unnecessary paper waste. All packaging cycles through the business time and time again: finished bracelets arrive in a bag, which then is sent back to the makers to re-fill.

If we can, we walk to work. And canine companions are positively encouraged, which makes for a very happy working environment for all.

The El Camino Bracelets team.

People first

All our good intentions wouldn’t mean a jot if it wasn’t for our amazing people.

From the very first person we showed how to make an El Camino bracelet (Angie) to the team she’s now trained to do the job, to the lady who makes our glass beads (Julie) and then taught her son the same craft, through to our original Step engravers (Brian and Richard) and their merry band… the success of El Camino relies on all the individuals whose commitment and graft pours into every piece.

Our Cornwall HQ is the beating heart of the El Camino family, bringing together a group of like-minded people united by a love of the coastal lifestyle we’re lucky to enjoy here. From taking surf breaks and cold water dips to a relaxed barefoot vibe in the office, it’s all about work-life balance and putting health and wellbeing above all else. Coupled with flexible hours and a shared wanderlust, this makes for a really happy environment. And that translates into our work.

The El Camino Bracelets team at the beach.

Lifestyle

Our favourite Sustainable Gifts for Travel Lovers

November 20, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Christmas is just around the corner and here at El Camino we’ve been seeking out some thoughtful gifts to share with our nearest and dearest. Whether that’s to simply send a little cheer, or splash out on a grander gesture, we’ve chosen our favourite sustainable gifts for travel lovers that we wanted to share with you too.

Giving one of these eco-friendly gifts is sure to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. As well as being great, sustainable products, each has an inspirational story behind the brand. They’re British made or designed and set a lot of store on their people and production process.

Beeswax Wraps from The Beeswax Wrap Co

Beeswax Wraps from The Beeswax Wrap Co, from £10

Launched in 2017, we love the whole ethos of The Beeswax Wrap Co. Their wax wraps were created in a bid to help cut as much plastic as possible from our day to day lives. The long-lasting, eco-friendly wraps keep food fresh and can even be used in the fridge and freezer. They’re made with natural materials and are compostable and biodegradable at the end of their life. Uses range from covering leftovers and wrapping sarnies to packing a soap bar for travelling. Wraps come in a range of fun patterns and cost from just £10 for two. The team have helpfully curated a range of gift bundles too, which can be posted straight to the recipient.

Reusable Travel Cups from Circular & Co

Reusable Travel Cups from Circular & Co, from £11

The world’s first reusable coffee cup made from single-use paper cups, the Circular & Co travel mug is robust and versatile too. It’s 100 per cent leakproof (trust us, we’ve accidentally tipped a full vessel up inside a bag) and insulated to protect hands and keep drinks warm. The company guarantees that after 10 years of use, cups can be returned to be recycled and regenerated into another Circular Cup. Cafes and take away establishments may have struggled to accept reusable cups since the start of Covid-19, but we’re beginning to see more and more places able to safely do so. During the life of one Circular Cup, 17 billion single-use cups will have been saved from use: by buying a Circular & Co cup you’re gifting a promise of a more sustainable future at the very least.

Perpetual Calendars from Once Upon a Tuesday

Perpetual Calendars from Once Upon a Tuesday, from £12.95

As well as having an intriguing name, Once Upon a Tuesday has hit upon a great idea for thoughtful gifting. Perpetual celebration calendars are for marking special dates on the wall, year after year after year. Undated and beautifully designed, this sustainable stationery is for keeps, a great way to see what birthdays and events are coming up, and dream about how to celebrate them. The calendars are printed using 80% renewable energy and vegetable-based inks and come in 10 different designs.

Travel Bracelets from El Camino

Travel Bracelets from El Camino, from £21.99

Of course, we couldn’t write a list of our favourite travel gifts without including the El Camino original, customisable travel bracelet! Since launching we have stayed true to our roots and our philosophy has remained the same: Every single bracelet and necklace is still handmade in the UK with quality products, and lots of love. What better way to gift someone a promise of future travels or celebrate those special places already visited? Plus, you’ll be giving a gift with no end. The wearer can add Country Steps, Small Steps (like Barcelona or Brecon Beacons) or a Custom Step to say absolutely anything you want. There are also Ocean, Sea and Region Steps to collect.

Travel Packs from Millican

Travel Packs from Millican, from £22

In a world of fast fashion, Millican was founded on the idea of making a better choice for the bag on your back, creating sustainable lifelong companions for conscious travellers. We love their range of daypacks and rucksacks, but if you’re looking for an entry-level investment in this excellent brand then put one of their wash bags or set of handy packing cubes on your wish list. The Core collection is created from 100% recycled PET fabric and includes a practical, lined and easily cleaned travel wash bag in a choice of four colours. Meanwhile, the Maverick packing cubes are waterproof, made from 100% recycled polyester and come in three sizes, perfect for keeping order amongst your gear whilst on the road.

Fingerless Gloves from Turtle Doves

Fingerless Gloves from Turtle Doves, from £26

If like us, you get chilly paws in winter when tapping away at the laptop, these recycled cashmere gloves are simply the best. Made from pre-loved cashmere knitwear, these super soft and cosy companions are versatile fingerless gloves and wrist warmers rolled into one, ideal for musicians, photographers, artists and craftspeople. The company claims that every pair is unique, and they come in a rainbow of colours. Their lovely range also includes neck warmers, bed socks, ankle warmers and beanie hats as well as throws and booties, hats, mitts and blankets for new-borns, making sure the whole family is covered.

Wooden Bellyboards from Dick Pearce Bellyboards

Wooden Bellyboards from Dick Pearce Bellyboards, from £50

“Wood is good” is the mantra of the guys at Dick Pearce Bellyboards. The original way of wave riding, bellyboarding is the oldest form of surfing, originating from Hawaii and the Polynesian islands. The father of British bellyboarding, Dick Pearce, launched his company in the 1960s in South Molton, Devon. For fifty years he stuck to the family’s time-honoured production methods and materials and refused to compromise on quality, making boards to last a lifetime. Since acquiring the company in 2010, current World Bellyboard Champion Jamie Johnstone has stuck to the same ethos, leading a strong revival with a modern audience. Easier than surfing, bellyboarding can be enjoyed by people of any age, in most conditions. Better still, these brightly coloured wooden boards are way better for the planet than their polystyrene counterparts (flatter to pack, they’re also great travel companions).

We’d love to hear of any other great travel gifting ideas you’ve come across.

Lifestyle

El Camino X Macramé

October 9, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Whilst this year has no doubt been an unpredictable whirlwind, we’ve been so grateful to see so much positivity from the El Camino community. From customers submitting the most wonderful reviews to sharing their ultimate travel wishlist, we’ve been afforded the time to reminisce about our favourite adventures.

One way we have been able to keep our wanderlust burning bright is by brushing up on some of our crafting skills, and trying out the techniques we have seen during our travels. During lockdown we decided to try our hand at the decorative art of macramé. Though our bracelets are made using macramé, we were ready to advance our skills. Like most people, we searched Youtube for some inspiring tutorials to help us get to grips with the meticulous arrangements of knots and weaving techniques – and tried our best!

El Camino Macramé

Our lovely team member Zoe thought it would be a great idea to use our El Camino Steps to personalise a macramé piece to tell the story of her and her fiancé – including the Steps that represent their family origins, followed by all the destinations they’ve travelled and made memories together.

Now, we consider ourselves to be pretty proficient in all things travelling – but to create a macramé piece of art, we knew we needed to reach out to the experts!

We were delighted that Jotopie, a macramé master from Germany, fell in love with our Ocean Step Collection which lead to her creating an ocean-inspired wall hanging.

We love how Jotopie artfully created elegant wave-like detailing within her wall hanging! She chose to incorporate our Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean Steps within her macramé work, to reflect her personal travel story. Jotopie also opted for a Custom Step reading “let the sea set you free” which we love!

In addition to Jotopie’s stunning wall hanging, we were fortunate enough to work with the super-talented Rachel, who is based in America.

Rachel’s inspiration came from her love of scuba diving and travelling, and created a fantastic wall-hanging using driftwood and natural rope. Flexing her creative muscles, Rachel also produced an intricate keychain featuring Custom Steps detailing her wedding date and children’s birthdates, for that extra personal touch.

We are so grateful to have worked with two macramé artists, who share our love of travel and have channelled their creativity into producing these tutorials – with fantastic results! We have loved working with both Rachel and Jotopie, being able to share ideas and learn from them has been such a fun experience that we couldn’t wait to share with you all.

Are you feeling inspired? Don’t forget to share your El Camino macramé creations with us.

Lifestyle

Hopping around our favourite Greek Islands

September 11, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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From James Bond to Shirley Valentine and Mamma Mia, a Greek island-hopping holiday channels a Technicolor vibe that sings out to the traveller in all of us. Legend has it that dreaming of Greece is supposed to signify new journeys and adventures; and who doesn’t fancy a dream vacation right now?

View from hilltop on Corfu

With cerulean seas, gorgeous weather, charming local culture, ancient history, delicious food and over 200 islands to explore, Greece is top of our wish list for an island-hopping odyssey. Here are five of our favourite Greek islands to tick off.

Corfu

Corfu is arguably one of the most beautiful of the Greek islands, a gem in the Ionian Sea sitting just west of mainland Greece. The atoll’s lush green landscape and Italian heritage make for a truly singular experience.

Corfu beach

The coast may be dotted with busy resorts, but the pretty seaside village of Paleokastritsa is the place to head for an authentic taste of Corfu. Here you’ll find off-the-beaten-track beaches, secret caves and an array of small tavernas serving flavoursome Greek food. Lovers of Greek mythology take note: If Corfu is the mythical island of Phaeacian, then Paleokastritsa is said to be the bay where Odysseus was shipwrecked following a terrible storm.

This pretty island is perfect for hiking enthusiasts. Tackle the Corfu Trail, a 137-mile waymarked route extending from Arkoudilas in the south to Cape Agia Ekaterini in the north.

You can find the Corfu Small Step here.

Zakynthos (Zante)

Further south and the third largest in the Ionian archipelago, the island of Zakynthos – also known by its Italian name, Zante – is famed for its nightlife and natural beauty, with unbelievably turquoise seas and powder-white sand beaches. Wherever you head, you’re guaranteed picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy photos.

Zakynthos beach

The most southern beaches on the island are home to protected nesting sites for loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) turtles. The endangered reptiles return to the same spot to spawn year after year. Zakynthos Marine Park – set up to protect the turtles, seals and fauna – stretches along the southern coast from Marathia Cape to Gerakas beach.

Leave the busier south behind to encounter traditional villages, forested wilderness and the rugged West Coast.

You can find the Zakynthos Small Step here.

Santorini

Located in the Aegean Sea roughly halfway between Athens and Crete, Santorini is the southernmost of the Cyclades islands. Immediately recognisable thanks to its iconic whitewashed buildings with blue-capped domes clinging to the cliffs, Santorini’s volcanic past has shaped its rugged landscape. The beaches are beautifully adorned with white, pink and black volcanic sand.

Santorini

This gorgeous island has an origin story to match the hype: Greek mythology has it that whilst searching for the Golden Fleece, one of the Argonauts dreamed of making love to a nymph, who told him to throw a chunk of earth into the sea near the island of Anafi. When he awoke, he followed her instructions and witnessed a miracle as the island of Santorini rose from the water.

Visit one of the dozen or so vineyards; take the cable-car ride off the edge of the volcano to the old port in the capital, Fira; go on a sunset sailing cruise; and visit Akrotiri, a city destroyed by the volcanic eruption in the 17th century, whose buildings and contents remain eerily preserved like Pompeii.

You can find the Santorini Small Step here.

Rhodes

The fourth largest Greek island, Rhodes sits closer to Turkey, part of the Dodecanese island chain. Here ancient history meets active adventure and relaxing beach life in equal measure.

The island’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed capital is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited medieval town, its focal point being the Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights. Continuing on the history trail, pay a visit to the ruins of an ancient citadel at the Acropolis of Lindos. Built on a cliff, the site is worth the trip for the views alone.

Rhodes

For aquatic exploits head to Anthony Quinn Bay. Widely regarded to be one of the most beautiful beaches on Rhodes, the cove was named after the actor, who fell in love with the place when filming The Guns of Navarone in 1961. The crystal-clear waters make this one of the top spots for snorkelling on the island. Elsewhere, there’s ample opportunity for kitesurfing and windsurfing on the Aegean Sea as well as hiking and biking.

You can find the Rhodes Small Step here.

Kos

Another of the Dodecanese islands, smaller Kos draws visitors to its long, sandy beaches, hot water springs and ancient monuments. It’s also the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of medicine.

Kos

One of the island’s charms is the ease of getting about by bike. The ‘cycling isle’ has plentiful places to hire bikes and over 50 routes, many of them flat. Anyone seeking a challenge should tackle the 14-mile round-trip from Kos Town to Tingaki via the uphill leg to the village of Zipari.

Top beaches include Lambi, family friendly Kardamena, Kefalos and the aptly named Paradise. Or check out the Therma Hot Springs where volcanic heated springs meet and mingle with seawater, providing a pool rich in therapeutic potassium, calcium and magnesium.

You can find the Kos Small Step here.

In addition to the above Greek islands, you can also find the Crete Small Step here.

Which is your favourite Greek island?

Lifestyle

Life in Lockdown

August 5, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets2

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There’s no denying that 2020 has turned out to be a momentous year for everyone the world over, but not for the reasons any of us thought. From epic travels to big birthdays, celebrations, and festivals, we’ve all found ourselves putting plans on ice and having to adapt to a new way of life.

There have been dark and anxious times for many in this year that saw the world press pause. But there have been moments of pure and brilliant shining hope and optimism too. We wanted to share our lockdown story with you, the El Camino community, who’ve kept us going through thick and thin. Thank you for keeping us constantly inspired and motivated.

The El Camino Community

Heading into lockdown, apart but together

When the lockdown was first announced in the UK on 23rd March, Candace was in Morzine in France and Tom found himself between house moves living in a caravan in Porth in Cornwall, UK.

Those early days were uncertain and scary. It wasn’t long before the first glimmer of hope, however, as we realised that our customers were continuing to support El Camino, buying Home Steps to reflect life in lockdown. So much so, that we completely sold out by the end of March.

What followed was an outpouring of love and hope as people began buying Steps as gifts for friends and family, promises of trips that would still take place one day, and reminiscing about past travels. “It was only as our community started tagging us on social media that we realised what was happening,” explains Candace, “that these gifts were helping to keep spirits up”.

Packing El Camino orders

Small steps, big impact

As the weeks wore on, customers started asking for a dedicated Step to commemorate the lockdown. So, at the end of April we released two new special Steps:

Lockdown 2020

Memories have been created for all of us during this period and it’s a time we will never forget. This Small Step is a way for everyone to show how we continue to be strong together and help each other out.

Covid-19 Hero 2020

This Small Step commemorates all the awesome people that have helped and are helping others during these tough times. From the key workers to anyone who’s done the smallest thing to help, a way to say “thank you” to these heroes.

El Camino Charity Steps

We decided the best way for us to make something positive out of the last few months was to donate 20% of each of these Small Step sales to NHS Charities.

“It was chaos, in the best way, after the weekend we released these Steps,” says Candace. “We raised thousands of pounds for the NHS.”

Lockdown 2020 is still our highest selling Step, followed by Home Small Step.

El Camino Home Small Step

The next steps

Touched by all the support, and firmly rooted as we all remained at home, we decided to launch a series of 10 UK Small Steps. Starting on 25th May, one Step was released each day for 10 days, celebrating the best of Britain.

In order of most to least popular by sales to date, these are:

Lake District Small Step, Snowdonia National Park Small Step, Devon Small Step, Scottish Highlands Small Step, Ben Nevis Small Step, Stonehenge Small Step, Cotswolds Small Step, Belfast Small Step, Cardiff Small Step, and Giant’s Causeway Small Step.

Windermere, Lake District
Beautiful sunset over Windermere in the Lake District

The amazing El Camino team and community

The last three months would have been very different if it weren’t for our wonderful team and community. From the outset, half our team had to self-isolate, with the remainder covering more roles, working alone in the office (to dispatch orders) or from home. Sometimes we had both a day and night shift to stay on top of orders, but everyone was committed to keeping at it. We feel extremely lucky to work with such a great bunch.

From helping to spread the El Camino word via social media, to sending lovely messages and emails to us, we couldn’t have done it without our very special community. We have always said that we’re lucky to have such an amazing community and it really showed through lockdown. Even when some orders were taking longer than normal to fulfil, everyone was so understanding and kind. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

We hope you’re keeping safe and well wherever you are. We love reading your comments on social media and would love to hear your lockdown stories.

The El Camino Bracelets office

Lifestyle

Meet our customer services superstar – Jenny

June 26, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Jen working at El Camino Bracelets

What’s your role at El Camino? 

I wear lots of different hats at El Camino! Anything from helping to prepare your EC orders, customer service, to managing the day-to-day of the EC office. Sometimes it can just be about having a chat with our posties so we can sneak a few more of your orders out as quickly as we can!

What’s it like working in the El Camino office? Do you have a favourite part of the job?

Dreamy! We’re a smooth running machine; business and team wise. Candace and Tom are so hands on, it’s incredible to be involved with a company that cares. Which leads me onto my favourite part of working here – getting to speak to our awesome EC Family. Each El Camino has such a special and different meaning to their owners, I feel privileged having the chance to hear some of your EC stories.

Jen is El Camino bracelets customer services manager

Are you from Cornwall? If not, why did you move here?

No, but it’s certainly home now. I’d visited so many times; I knew it was a beautiful place to be. The decision to make the move followed shortly after I discovered surfing.

How does working with the EC team compare with previous jobs you’ve had?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some inspirational people on some amazing teams in the past. However, what Candace and Tom have created at EC is so special. Together everyone achieves more. 🙂

The El Camino team

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

If I’m not helping in the EC office, you can probably find me in the sea. I’m really lucky to live in a place I love with one of my biggest passions (surfing) on my doorstep. I try not to take that for granted!

Jen surfing

If money was no object, where would you spend a month and what would you do?

I think a polar expedition. Probably the South Pole for the penguins. I might need a little more than a month too!

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Getting dropped part way along a flooded road in the Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan, with two friends and only the belongings on our backs. And just a scraped together idea that there was a valley nearby we wanted to explore! I can’t advocate enough for putting yourself outside your comfort zone – especially when travelling.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten whilst travelling?

Tajikistan actually has a couple of special mentions here too. Thinking you’ve ordered the safe option at road side cafes, only to be served mystery meat! I also got to churn my own butter for supper with a family than manned a weather station in the Pamir Mountains. That was pretty surreal. However the most unusual I would definitely award to durian fruit which I had the pleasure to sample in Malaysia. If you’ve ever tried it – or been anywhere near it – you’ll understand why. I’ll try anything once…but I won’t be trying durian fruit again!

What is your favourite travel memory? 

So very, very many, it’s impossible to single just one out. A few from near the top of the list (if I really had to pick!) are seeing giraffes fighting in the wild in Namibia, baby turtles flapping towards me while snorkelling in Borneo, and probably sleeping opposite Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala. I couldn’t even choose a favourite from those!

Jen in Guatemala

What’s the most interesting accommodation you’ve stayed in whilst travelling?

This has to be a homestay in a Longhouse in Borneo. It’s such a unique memory, especially since I got to share this one with my Dad. I think we learnt as much about the culture in one night as we did the rest of the trip.

Jen in Borneo

There’s a distant memory of a night in an Uzbekistan truck stop that left much to be desired too!

Where did your latest adventure take you and do you have a favourite memory from it?

Myanmar (Burma). This beautiful country had been a wish for so many years, and it certainly wasn’t a disappointment. I had my best travel buddy with me too – my Dad! He usually lets me take the reins, so I had the chance to create a very special memory on this trip. One morning, we packed our bags and got ready for what my Dad believed would be a 10km hike through the rainforest. Instead, we went to get up close and personal with his favourite animals at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp!

I think I’m still allowed to take the reins on our next trip. 🙂

Jen at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp

Lifestyle

An insider’s guide to the best of Cornwall

June 9, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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We’re justifiably proud to call Cornwall home, and at a time when we’re not able to explore beyond our own shores, now’s the perfect time to share a love letter to our favourite English county. (Due to Covid-19 some restrictions are currently in place. We recommend checking with venues and destinations direct to confirm access and opening times.)

Covering an area of 1,376 square miles, with the longest coastline in Britain, over 300 beaches, rugged moorland, tranquil estuaries and pristine wilderness, Cornwall has it all for lovers of the great outdoors. Its rich farming and fishing heritage, coupled with a bounty of talented chefs, means it has an enviable reputation for its exciting food scene too.

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall
Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

Candace and Tom decided to heed the call of the ocean soon after starting El Camino and moved to Newquay on the north Cornish coast in 2015. We’re glad they did! After much debate amongst the team, friends and family, here’s our pick of the top, knock yourself out, very best of Cornwall.

Best beach – Watergate Bay

This was never going to be an easy topic to resolve. Ask any Cornish local and chances are they’ll each have their own idea as to the merits of their favourite beach. South Coast? North Coast? Surfing? SUPing, swimming? Or maybe rock pooling and dog walking. With so many to choose from, we’re undeniably a little spoilt and have a beach for every activity and season.

Newquay takes some beating when it comes to superlative seaside, however, with seven miles of golden sand making up twelve glorious beaches. One all-rounder that draws us time and again, makes our jaws drop and hearts swell, is Watergate Bay. No matter if it’s a sunny bank holiday in peak season, get your tide times right and you’ll have plenty of sandy beach to explore. Dogs, surfers, adrenalin junkies and families are all welcome.

Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Best walk – Constantine Bay to Trevone

Stop off anywhere along the winding coast road between Watergate Bay and Padstow, pick up the South West Coast Path and you’ll be met by captivating clifftop vistas and unspoilt beaches. Pretty cove after cove after bay, welcoming picnic spots and soaring seabirds. Depending on the time of year, the sea can change from the most alluring aquamarine to a wild and frothing tempest crashing against the shore. One thing’s for sure, the scenery is never dull.

We particularly love the stretch between Constantine Bay and Trevone via Trevose Head, Mother Ivey’s Bay and Harlyn Bay. Stop at Trevone for a picnic or ice cream and marvel at the Round Hole, an 80ft blowhole (but take care not to get too close to this treacherous cavity). This walk can easily be extended to take in Treyarnon to the west or Padstow via Stepper Point to the east for a longer hike.

Trevone Bay, Cornwall
Trevone Bay, Cornwall

Best coffee stop – Jam Jar, Newquay

The Jam Jar café is something of a Newquay institution, a cute little pitstop at the harbour end of town. Owner Jess is famed for her healthy smoothies and heavenly home baking as well as her coffee. Nowadays Newquay is blessed with a growing number of amazing independent coffee shops, including Basket, another firm favourite and must-visit.

Jam Jar, Newquay
Jam Jar, Newquay. (Thanks to www.melonmade.co.uk for the lovely photo).

For somewhere a little different and with striking views out over the famous Fistral Beach, Sea Spray is another great shout. You’ll often find one of the El Camino team here with a laptop and oat latte in hand.

Best lunch spot – Potager Garden, Constantine

This secret garden gets our vote for the most magical venue and foodie idyll. We’d been hearing tales about Potager Garden and its delicious café a while before we paid our first visit. A former nursery, market garden and abandoned garden centre, Potager is tucked away in a secluded spot in the parish of Constantine within striking distance of Falmouth and the beautiful Helford River. The wholesome, seasonal menu is served in a converted greenhouse at the heart of this restored wilderness, the vegetarian dishes changing according to what’s come out of the ground. Grab a table outside, lounge in a hammock and don’t leave without trying the homemade cake.

Potager Garden, Constantine
Potager Garden, Constantine

Best view – Kynance Cove

Looking down over Kynance Cove on a sunny day you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the Mediterranean. Located on the southwestern tip of the Lizard peninsula, this sandy bay is instantly recognisable for its turquoise sea and striking rock stacks. The steep scramble down to the beach is worth the effort, or just settle down with a blanket and a cold beer to watch the sun dip down over the Atlantic Ocean.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Another of our favourite coastal viewpoints is Bedruthan Steps on the North Coast. Local legend tells of a giant named Bedruthan using the beach stacks as stepping-stones. (We think he’d definitely approve of the cream teas served in the National Trust café at the top.)

Hidden gem – Nanjizal

With no signposts how to get here and no car park when you do, Nanjizal or Mill Bay is a truly hidden cove. Situated a mile from Land’s End, those who come here are most often hiking the coast path, drawn by the crystal-clear waters to linger a while. The cove is home to large stone structures including the Song of the Sea, a tall slit in the cliffs, and is a great place to sit and seal watch while communing with the countless seabirds.

Nanjizal, Cornwall
Nanjizal, Cornwall

Got your own favourites? We make no excuses for this being North Coast heavy (we’re a little biased towards our own backyard) but we’d love to hear your suggestions for the best of Cornwall.

El Camino Bracelets. Cornwall Small Step.

You can find the Cornwall Small Step here.

Lifestyle

An epic West Coast & Western USA road trip

May 12, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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An epic West Coast & Western USA road trip

As lockdown continues around the world, this road trip is high on our list of recommendations for when we can all be travelling again. Get the map out and plot your next adventure…

We’ve enjoyed a long love affair with the west coast and western United States of America. From the first glimpse of the wild Pacific Ocean to strolling the sunny streets of San Francisco or heading into the ochre-hued Nevada desert. Through numerous adventures, from coastal Oregon and California to the mountains and national parks of Utah. A relationship that has been fed by countless movies and TV shows.

There’s nowhere more appealing than the lure of the open road. The wide, open highways, the vast vistas, endless horizons… even the everyday truck stops and diners are a reminder of a scene straight from the silver screen.

Here’s our guide to the ultimate west coast and western USA road trip. This epic adventure can be tackled in one go or, like us, in a few bitesize chunks. Who’s with us?

San Francisco and Highway 1

El Camino Bracelets road trip - Highway 1

If you have the time and inclination for a road trip along one of the most scenic coastal routes in the world, then San Francisco to San Diego in a Mustang convertible along California Highway 1 has to go top of the pile.

Starting with the best clam chowder ever at Boudin Bakery at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf – whose sensational sourdough provides the bowl – through to hiking at Big Sur, this route is packed with memories to last a lifetime.

Our favourite stretch was along 17 Mile Drive, the main route through the gated community of Pebble Beach. With pristine, powder-white beaches, mystical forests and exotically named stopping off points like Spanish Bay and Fanshell Overlook, it’s little wonder that this attractive loop is one of the most famous scenic drives in the world.

El Camino Bracelets USA road trip

Continue all the way down to LA and San Diego or take a little detour… Los Angeles is the gateway to plenty of alternative adventures, including a trip inland to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, Brian Head and Zion National Park

Vegas may not be immediately to everyone’s taste, but we loved the downright unexpected randomness of it all. Yes, of course, people come here to party but that’s just the tip of the flamboyant iceberg. Where else can you walk cobbled streets indoors below a perfect blue sky, see a Venetian gondola and the Eiffel Tower, watch a magic show, and select from some of the world’s best cuisine, all in one day?

El Camino Bracelets road trip Las Vegas sign

Visiting the week leading up to the Christmas holidays meant discovering a slightly softer underbelly to the beast. Morning dips in the hotel pool were fresh and solitary, afternoons and evenings exploring the Strip and malls were leisurely. Once we’d had our fill, we packed up the car and headed northeast on Interstate 15 towards the Utah border.

Stopping only for a stack of pancakes and coffee, we were at Brian Head early afternoon and ready to hit the slopes. This chilled resort boasts Utah’s highest base elevation (2,926m), covering over 650 acres and featuring 71 runs across two connected mountains, Giant Steps and Navajo. And it was blissfully quiet in the lull before the holidays.

Following a couple of days playing here, we headed back down the 15 and then travelled east towards Zion National Park and the little town of Springdale. The timing of our trip meant that once again we avoided the usual seasonal crowds and instead encountered a surprisingly tranquil winter landscape. Rather than dusty, sun-baked cliffs and canyons, we were met with snow-capped vistas and frozen waterways. There was something secretive and mystical about the transformed setting.

El Camino Bracelets road trip Zion National Park

From here we headed back south towards Las Vegas, before striking out west for Los Angeles and Christmas in San Clemente, Orange County.

San Clemente and Catalina Island, Orange County

We couldn’t tell you where the idea of spending Christmas in San Clemente originated from, we have no friends or family here and it’s not the most obvious spot, overshadowed by the more famous resorts of Huntington and Newport Beaches as well as Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort. But here the west coast surf vibe blends with Spanish Colonial-style architecture and Mediterranean climate for the perfect ‘So Cal’ experience.

El Camino Bracelets Western USA road trip

Aside from heading to the beach and enjoying the local dining scene, one thing high on the agenda was catching the ferry from Dana Point to Santa Catalina island. Dubbed “one of California’s Channel Islands”, Catalina has welcomed everyone from presidents to film stars to its picturesque shores. And who wouldn’t want to arrive by boat into somewhere named Avalon Bay? This is the perfect seaside spot to enjoy a leisurely amble and then while away an afternoon with a seafood lunch and cocktail or two.

From San Clemente, it’s a short hop down to San Diego. We recommend making a stop at the funky beachside community of Leucadia (ranking as one of Candace’s top surfs of all time). Then finish the trip at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park for a final bit of ocean gazing, before packing up the truck and heading home.

El Camino Bracelets road trip surf break

Lifestyle

Escaping winter on the coolest Canary Island

April 3, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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At a time when the world is in lockdown, we’re busy reminiscing about recent travels and daydreaming about future trips. Here’s a postcard from Lanzarote to help share some sunshine and inspiration.

We love winter. We love the snow and winter sports and cosying up inside a British pub (or French chalet). But sometimes you just can’t beat some warmth and sunshine in the depths of the darkest days. Make a break for the little Spanish island of Lanzarote for the perfect antidote to a European winter.

Located 125km off the Saharan coast of Africa, Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the Spanish Canary Islands. Average winter temperatures hover around 20 degrees centigrade, with the sea a similar story (which makes taking a dip here far more appealing than in Cornwall!).

Tourism to the island took off in the 1970s but despite the over-development of much of the Spanish coastline, Lanzarote has managed to retain its pristine natural appeal. Surfers love it thanks to the quality and variety – Lanzarote has been dubbed the Hawaii of Europe – but there’s far more to this surprising island.

El Camino Bracelets blog - Charco de los Clicos in Yaiza.
Charco de los Clicos (Green Lagoon) in Yaiza.

Where to stay

We recommend staying in a couple of spots to sample different sides to the island, ideally splitting time between the sleepy fishing village of Arrieta and busier, bustling Costa Teguise.

Set towards the north eastern tip of Lanzarote, Arrieta is where the locals hang out. There’s a pretty beach with two chiringuitos or beach cafes, and a truck serving mean mojitos of an evening. Spend your days lingering over the freshest seafood lunches, swimming and body boarding in the waves.

Costa Teguise is further south, to the east of the capital, Arrecife. The main sandy beach of Las Cucharas is fronted by a promenade with lively restaurants and bars. Step a few hundred yards back to Las Maretas, a cute square away from the main drag and Avenida de las Islas Canarias. Follow the locals and try out the bars packed with friends gathered over drinks and snacks late into the night.

El Camino Bracelets blog - Marina in Arrecife, Lanzarote.
Marina in the city of Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote.

What to eat

Fish and seafood are plentiful. Tuck into dishes of garlicky grilled lobster and calamari, mopped up with fresh bread dipped in the local mojo sauce. Most dishes come with papas arrugadas, Canarian potatoes boiled in their skins in plenty of salt.

El Camino Bracelets blog - Tapas in Lanzarote.
Papas arrugadas, Canarian potatoes, with mojo sauce.

A trip to Spain wouldn’t be complete without eating tapas. As well as the unfailingly delicious tortilla and Padron peppers, the churros de pescado, white fish coated in saffron flavoured batter and deep-fried, are not to be missed.

Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape is also ripe for vineyards (the island is home to nearly 5,000 acres) and there are a handful of micro-breweries too. Don’t leave without sampling the wares.

Another pleasant surprise is the availability of dairy-free and vegan options across the island. Ask for café con leche de soja (soya milk latte) and stock up on a variety of alternative milk when out shopping.

What to do

There is plenty to explore away from the beach, much of it based around the quirky, eye-catching work of artist and architect, Cesar Manrique. It’s thanks to his intervention that Lanzarote avoided the same fate as other Spanish tourist destinations. The island’s iconic, attractive white buildings are at one with the landscape, unlike the high-rise blocks you can expect to see elsewhere.

El Camino Bracelets blog - Cesar Manrique House Museum.
Entrance to the Cesar Manrique House Museum.

The Municipal Council of Lanzarote’s Centre for Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT) produce a map and app highlighting the main attractions. We loved the Jardín de Cactus, home to hundreds of spiky species of all shapes and sizes, some towering high as trees with textured, chunky trunks. And the Mirador del Río, a clifftop lair looking out over El Río, the narrow stretch of sea separating Lanzarote from the tiny island of La Graciosa.

Las Montañas del Fuego at Timanfaya National Park is also worth a visit, offering a fascinating insight into the violent volcanic eruption that swept across the south of the island in the 18th century. It’s worth getting there early to avoid the coachloads of tourists that accumulate here from across the island. Then make a detour to the little fishing village of El Golfo for lunch.

El Camino Bracelets blog - Timanfaya National Park.
Las Montañas del Fuego at Timanfaya National Park.

As with so many trips, sometimes the highlights are those unexpected, stumbled upon moments…stepping inside the unassuming-looking Centro Sociocultural La Tegala in Haría during a downpour to enjoy the best tapas, yoga in a yurt at an eco-village in Arrieta and meeting other travellers over a paella supper. All topped off by simply bobbing in the sea on a sunny December day.

You can find the Canary Islands Small Step here.

Lifestyle

Top things to do on a short break in Marrakech

February 21, 2020 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Marrakech had long been on our travel wish list before a recent flying visit. The combination of sights, sounds and smells, colourful souks and spice markets, flavoursome food, ornate palaces and mosques all jostling together in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains makes it hard to beat for an out of the ordinary city break.

But where to start in such a jam-packed, exotic destination? We did our research and asked for tips and recommendations from the El Camino community, cramming as much into our short visit as possible. We wandered the surprisingly deserted streets of the old town at dawn, devoured delicious flatbread and vegetable tagine and refrained from filling our limited luggage with all the gorgeous rugs for sale. Here’s our edit of the top places to visit and mustn’t-miss experiences.

Soak up the atmosphere in Jemaa el Fna Square

Marrakech is a crazy cacophony of people, sounds and scents. We recommend diving right into the old town medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The maze of streets is teeming with stalls of people hawking their wares, carts, motorbikes and donkeys. There’s nowhere better to soak all this up than the iconic Jemaa el Fna Square. Here you can enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice, marvel at music and street theatre and wander amongst the multitude of yummy food vendors. Visit at sunset to see it all come to life.

Jemaa El Fna_Canva - photo by Jonny_Joka

Pick up some spices in the old Jewish quarter

The range of spices for sale in Marrakech is something else. We stumbled into the old Jewish quarter or Mellah and found ourselves in spice heaven. If you come away with just one, then it should be ’35 spice’. Also known as Ras el Hanout, the blend includes ginger, turmeric, sweet paprika and cumin and features heavily in Moroccan cooking.

El Camino Blog Moroccan Spices

Drink fresh pomegranate juice

One of the highlights of the trip were the stalls selling incredible freshly squeezed juice. For colour and flavour, our favourite was pomegranate. If you’re visiting Marrakech between November and March, then be sure to look out for this readily available treat. Mint tea is another Marrakech staple, surprisingly strong and refreshing and best taken like the locals with plenty of sugar.

Take in the view from a rooftop café

It’s easy to get lost in the Marrakech medina. The best way to get your bearings and take a breather is to take time out at one of the many rooftop cafes. Atay Café would be high on our list for its atmospheric terrace and views out towards the Atlas Mountains. Come for sunset and to hear the muezzin call to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque.

El Camino Blog Moroccan Rooftops

Retreat to Le Jardin Marjorelle

Possibly one of the most photographed places in Marrakech, Le Jardin Marjorelle is a luxuriant oasis of colour with a striking blue, art deco studio at its heart. French painter Jacques Marjorelle spent forty years creating this botanical sanctuary, collecting exotic plant specimens from all over the world. It was then saved by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who bought the gardens in the ‘80s. Our top tip for enjoying this tranquil retreat at its best is to get there as soon as it opens (8am or 9am during the month of Ramadan).

El Camino Blog Moroccan Activities

 

Pay homage to Yves Saint Laurent

The recently opened Musée Yves Saint Laurent is right next door and it’s worth buying a combined ticket. As well as showcasing his haute couture clothing, the museum is home to personal artefacts and a series of the love posters he created for his friends and clients every year from 1970 until 2007.

Be inspired by the Saadian Tombs

The final resting place for the Saadi dynasty, the tombs were sealed off following the fall of the dynasty and were only rediscovered in 1917. The lavish mausoleums with their Italian marble, intricate plasterwork and colourful tiles can be seen in all their former glory. This is another site where we recommend arriving early to beat the queues. Further interiors inspiration can be enjoyed at the Bahia Palace. It’s worth paying a visit for the ceiling tiles alone!

Discover the Photography Museum

Small, understated but very cute, the Photography Museum or Maison de la Photographie is a private foundation set up to showcase the exceptional diversity of Morocco through the eyes of those who’ve visited. There is also a lovely café on the roof terrace, the perfect spot for relaxing with a mint tea.

Stay in a riad

The word riad means garden, describing the traditional merchant houses that open inward to a courtyard. These offer a great way of staying right in the heart of the action and meeting other travellers and locals too. Each one is different but one thing they tend to have in common is the shady courtyard and dipping pool, a welcome respite on the hottest days.

El Camino Bracelets Blog Moroccan Riad

Escape to the mountains

Much as we loved Marrakech, we couldn’t wait to get out into the mountain range that had been teasing us from a distance since our arrival in Morocco. Hiking Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, had been a big part of what drew us here in the first place. It didn’t disappoint. Trekking for 27 hours (up and back) and catching sunrise from what felt like the top of the world added yet another dimension to our amazing adventure.

El Camino Blog Moroccan Mountains

You can find the Morocco Country Step here.

 

Lifestyle

Exploring Sri Lanka

May 8, 2019 — by elcaminobracelets0

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Capturing travel memories and letting them live on is so important. For me, Sri Lanka will always hold a piece of my heart for being such an incredibly authentic travelling experience. Unlike the more overdeveloped parts of Asia, it still retained it’s innocent charm and had yet for the wave of tourism to take over. Traveling Sri Lanka gave a peek into what it would have been like to travel places like Thailand 20 years ago, before the hoards of backpackers and holidaymakers descended. It had a purity to it, a feeling that you were seeing the country, and the people, as they really should be seen.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Exploring railways in Sri Lanka

There was something magical about visiting untouched beaches without endless hotels leering over the sands. Driving through the mountains and exploring tiny villages and towns, I went a week without seeing anyone but the locals. I stayed with them in their homes, ate dinner made with freshly prepared ingredients grown on their land and drank tea from the nearby plantations. In the mornings, we visited the markets where a rainbow of tropical vegetables and fruits, spices and fabrics awakened our senses. Loudly the sellers cried out as they tried to sell their wares and our noses were filled with the sweet and spicy aromas. Traveling Sri Lanka was an assault on the senses, a whole body experience.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - A tea plantation in Sri Lanka

Along the way, I passed through several national parks and saw how beautifully they had preserved the landscape in all it’s wildest glory. With leopards casually strolling through the undergrowth and wild elephants grazing in the distance as their babies peeked shyly from between their legs. One of my favourite experiences while traveling there was in Yala National Park when we visited the coastline and I went for a walk along the beach to visit a tiny fishing village. The locals were so welcoming and invited me into one of their huts to chat and offered me a taste of their salted fish which was drying in the sun. For me, this experience was one of those that defines my reason for traveling. It’s not just to see beautiful places, but it’s to feel them, to let them change you.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - A fisherman in Sri Lanka

Meeting these amazing people who live in a tiny village in the back end of a national park, it showed me a way of life so far removed from anything I knew. One of the things that amazed me the most – the fact that all these people in the village not only spoke perfect English, but started to speak German, Swedish, French and even Italian to me. Their corner of the world may have been small, but they were fascinated by what was beyond it, they were full of questions about my life and wanted to learn. I was away from the group for less than an hour while they all ate lunch and took a nap in the shade, but in that time I experienced a part of Sri Lanka I never dreamed existed. The mutual fascination I shared with these villagers bonded us in that moment, on that beach, in Sri Lanka, and created a moment I will never forget.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - A railway bridge in Sri Lanka

You can find the Sri Lanka Country Step here.

Thanks so much to our guest blogger, Absolutely Lucy, for this awesome post.

Lifestyle

Winter climbing in the Lake District

March 21, 2019 — by elcaminobracelets0

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As we journey from the bright lights of Newcastle (following a somewhat raucous birthday celebration) towards the bustling market town of Keswick, we marvel at the sheer beauty of the English Lake District and the amount of snow cover on the surrounding peaks. It’s Easter weekend and this trip is as spontaneous as it is unplanned. Our next destination is decided as we pull away from the car park near the Gateshead Bridge on Good Friday.

Here at El Camino, hiking always features very high up on the weekly agenda. With no set schedule or any pre-booked accommodation, we journey to the Lake District in search of challenging hikes, sweeping views, and rewarding post-walk pints.

January to March is by far the quietest time to visit The Lakes, but the winter weather dramatically affects the conditions in the mountains and the terrain underfoot. Understanding weather patterns is an essential part of winter climbing coupled with appropriate equipment and mountaineering experience. With a desire to conquer one of England’s highest peaks, we decide to spend the weekend attempting to summit the spectacular and awe-inspiring Helvellyn.

Standing at 3117 feet, Helvellyn is the third highest mountain in England and can be approached by a number of different routes. Keen to navigate the mountain via the steep ascent of Swirral Edge, we call upon the skills and know-how of Lakeland Mountain Guides. At this point, Easter Sunday gives out the best weather conditions with a forecast of good visibility, bright sunny spells, light wind, and no snowfall. We plan a 9am start the following day but in a bid to get our legs warmed up, we decide to spend the afternoon exploring a little closer to home.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Winter climbing in the Lake District

Situated just 3.5 miles from Keswick, Cat Bells offers panoramic views of glistening lakes, rolling hills, tree-lined valleys, and local villages. Notably one of the most popular fell walks in the area, we find it to be the perfect introduction to hiking the Lakes. Walking from the centre of Keswick, the short yet rewarding hike takes us along winding country lanes and across cattle grids before scrambling up a short, steep rocky pathway to the summit. It’s easy to see why this route is so popular with families, groups of friends and couples. The hike is easily accessible and we are swiftly rewarded with unrestricted views over Keswick and Derwentwater.

Making our way back, we follow a different route back to Keswick and this time, we hug the edge of the lake. Arriving back to the bustling town filled with fellow walkers and their fluffy friends, we find ourselves stopping off for a couple of well-deserved local ales at The Wainwright Pub. That evening we also eat at The Square Orange Cafe and enjoy a fusion of European-inspired tapas and freshly stone baked pizza. In a bid to conserve our energy, we have an early night to get some much-needed rest before the next day’s adventure.

The following morning we meet our course leader Matt of Lakeland Mountain Guides in the small village of Glenridding nestled on the shores of Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District. We park in the tourist information centre car park and pack our rucksacks with all the necessary winter climbing equipment including crampons, helmet, ice axe, warm layers, gloves, food, and drink. Joined by Matt’s trusty Labrador, the four of us set off on the 6-7 hour expedition.

Passing the Travellers Rest Inn and a series of cottages, we cross sheep filled fields and stone pathways. As we learn of Matt’s climbing experience and his recent ventures in Nepal, we reach the icy shores of Red Tarn lying at an altitude of 718 metres. Formed by a melted glacier, it’s located on the eastern flank of Helvellyn and is one of the highest lakes in the Lake District. Red Tarn is also overlooked by two iconic ridges, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, the latter being our chosen route to summit the mighty Helvellyn. It’s here we meet other climbers and those touring with skis. The favourable weather conditions and spells of bright sunshine have attracted locals and visitors alike. We admire the crags on Helvellyn’s walls and spot a group to our left climbing Gully 2.

We make our way over to the bottom of the col between Swirral Edge and Catstycam, taking a quick break on a rock to fix the crampons to our hiking boots. It’s here we learn more about the kit and begin the winter skills training sessions. Matt talks us through the equipment, teaches us movement skills on snow, ice and rock, and briefs us on basic navigation techniques. It’s at this point we begin to understand the importance of ice axe self-arrest and how to put the life-saving skill into practice.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Winter climbing in the Lake District

Continuing our ascent, we zigzag our way up the col with striking views of Helvellyn to the left. Slowly becoming more comfortable in our crampons, we begin to get to grips with the notion and our climbing becomes a little more fluid. The path we take gradually weaves off to the left and we start to carefully pick our route across the snowy ridge of Swirral Edge. We suddenly become aware of how important each step is that we take, and just how fundamental our ice axes are. Navigating the ridge is exhilarating, and the grandeur of the winter landscape is simply spectacular. We question why we have never done this before. We pass others hiking the ridge from the opposite direction and Matt bumps into an old friend. It’s at this very point we realise you need a good head for heights. The climb to the summit via Swirral Edge is certainly not suitable for those who suffer from vertigo. The friendly chatter does, however, ease any anxiety and we soon forget about the drop beneath us.

As we near the final steps of our climb, the broad and flat summit plateau of Helvellyn awaits us. We stand up tall, drink in the incredible views and feel an overwhelming sense of achievement following our first winter mountaineering experience. Looking over to the west, Matt points out the view of the Pennines and Scotland. We stop for lunch in the stone shelter which protects us from the wind. It’s here Matt decides we should take an easier route down. Initially, we spoke about ascending via Striding Edge but the icy conditions underfoot would make it more challenging than he feels we would be comfortable with.

Having refuelled for the hike back to Glenridding, we set off and take the route via Lower Man and White Side. The track takes a broad path over rolling peaks and it gives us the opportunity to really soak up the fine vistas on offer. The descent then turns back towards Glenridding and we amble our way down the zigzags of Keppel Cove. Before long we’re passing the remains of Greenside Mine, one of the largest mines in the world, and have just one mile to go. A final 15-minute walk down a broken track throws us back into Glenridding where we shed the heavy rucksacks and stiff winter walking boots. We bid farewell to Matt and drive back to Keswick extremely satisfied with our achievement.

We can confidently say, we have a fair amount of hiking adventures under our belt, but winter mountaineering is far more demanding than summer hillwalking. The whole experience was challenging, rewarding and memorable. It is undeniably one of the most unforgettable experiences and we cannot recommend it enough!

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Winter climbing in the Lake District

Why not purchase a Lake District themed Custom Step here?

Lifestyle

Get to know Tom

October 26, 2018 — by elcaminobracelets3

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1. How did you meet Candace?

I met Candace when we were working in Meribel, France. It’s a small ski resort in the French Alps. We were both working in different bars in the evenings and snowboarding every day. It was awesome.

2. What is it like to work with your best friend?

It’s great! Who wouldn’t want to work with their best friend?!

3. How do you and Candace brainstorm new business ideas?

We don’t really brainstorm, we’ve always found that the best ideas come to us when we’re not trying to find them. We weren’t trying to think of a business idea when we started El Camino so we’ve just carried on that ethos.

4. What does your average day look like?

I like waking up early and before I do any work, I like to take my dogs to the beach. If we get there early enough we often have the beach to ourselves which is the perfect start to any day. After that I’ll work through the day, sometimes in the office, sometimes at home, or sometimes where I’m travelling. After that I’ll take the dogs to the beach again and see some friends, it’s a good life.

5. What has El Camino taught you about yourself?

It has taught how to problem solve. I’ve picked up many new skills in this department along the way. When we started El Camino we faced issues that I’d never even thought existed before, but luckily we’ve managed to overcome them all and learnt something from all of them.

6. What is the biggest business challenge you have faced so far?

The biggest challenge for me was giving responsibility to other people as we grew the business. El Camino is our baby. Collectively, we have built it from the ground up.

I have always found it hard to hand over certain tasks to other people. Fortunately, we’ve built a great team who all care about the brand.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Get to know Tom

7. Business highlight since launching the brand?

The first time we saw someone we didn’t know wearing an El Camino in the street. That was a great feeling.

8. If you were not running El Camino, what would you be doing?

I’d still be travelling!

Before we launched El Camino I was travelling and working around Europe, those were wonderful times but I wouldn’t change anything now, I love being a part of El Camino.

9. What brands do you take influence from?

We don’t really take influence from other brands. We steer El Camino in the direction of what we like in life. We’ve built El Camino in a way that represents what we’d like to see from a brand.

10. Who is your biggest inspiration?

I wouldn’t say I have a single big inspiration. I think it’s possible to learn something and be inspired by everyone I meet in one way or another.

11. Where do you see yourself in five years?

We’ll be continuing to grow El Camino in a way that is true to our roots, and in a way that ensures our staff, our lovely customers and ourselves all get a fair deal and are enjoying the brand.

12. What colour El Camino do you wear?

I wear a black El Camino, I’ve had it since we first started back in 2013. I don’t think I could be parted with it now.

13. How many friends and family members wear El Camino?

All of them! Before we officially launched El Camino we gave them all products to test out so we could get honest feedback. Friends and family are our best critics.

14. Lastly, what is the most memorable story you have been told by an El Camino customer?

I love it when people propose using an El Camino Custom Step. That has happened a few times since we launched the brand.

It’s amazing to see how the product we have created impacts someone else’s life in such a big way.

Lifestyle

Talking with Candace

October 26, 2018 — by elcaminobracelets1

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1. How many countries have you visited?

Iceland was number 30 for me in September (2018). The more I travel, the more I learn of other places. This fuels my passion for exploring.

2. Most memorable country you have visited so far?

Guatemala, it was action packed! We hiked through the jungle, floated down rivers in tubes, played on rope swings, went cliff jumping and explored caves by candle light. The country is stunning, the people are kind, and we loved eating fresh guacamole at every opportunity.

3. What’s your favourite city?

Barcelona. I lived there for two years, so I really got to know the city well. It has so much to offer for everyone, from its culture, art and history, to it’s delicious restaurants, quirky bars, and famous night life. And to top it off, it’s a city with a beach on the Mediterranean. What’s not to love?!

4. How many languages do you speak?

Two, English and Spanish. I used to speak French pretty well growing up but unfortunately, I completely stopped speaking it when I was twelve. It’s true what they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’d love to pick it up again though.

5. What Steps are you wearing on your El Camino?

I have divided the countries that I have visited between four different El Camino bracelets. There is one however that I never take off. This has the places that are especially meaningful to me.

It includes the following Steps:

Canada – This is where I was born and raised.

Spain – I spent the majority of my twenties exploring Spain, and it’s also where the idea of El Camino was born.

Meribel – This is where I did my first snow season and of course, met Tom.

Cornwall – The place I feel so privileged to call home.

Central America Region Step – I fall in love with every country I visit in that region.

Atlantic Ocean Step – The ocean that joins the two places I call home.

6. What is your favourite thing about traveling?

Meeting new people, experiencing different food and cultures, learning languages, finding new adventures, pushing my limits, I could go on forever.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - Talking with Candace

7. What is your favourite travel memory?

It would have to be the time I travelled to Laax, Switzerland. I was living in Barcelona at the time and I remember really missing the snow. So I googled ‘best place to snowboard in Europe with hostel.’ Laax repeatedly showed up in the results.

At the time, I was working in a youth hostel on a fairly low wage. With a bit of saving, I was able to get there. I went alone and had the time of my life. The snow was amazing and I ended up making friends from all over the world. One I’m still very close with today. It’s my favourite memory because even though snowboarding in the Swiss Alps sounds like the most expensive thing in the world, I was able to do it on my own and on a budget.

8. Toughest moment? Toughest travel moment?

When returning from the Philippines back to the UK last year, I got food poisoning just before I reached the airport. I had four flights following that and it felt like the longest day of my life!

9. What can’t you travel without?

My El Camino of course! I feel naked without it.

10. What are your top five items to take on a trip?

Head torch – Always very useful. Made for moments rummaging through my backpack in the dark.

Water bottle – I’m always looking for water refills to avoid buying plastic bottles.

Coconut oil – It has so many uses so I never travel without it.

Camera – To capture all those amazing moments on my trip.

My laptop – El Camino allows me to work around the world so it comes everywhere with me.

11. What’s the best piece of travel advice you have received?

Go with the flow. And I completely agree, it’s how I’ll always travel. It’s nice not to have any plans sometimes and to just see what happens. It allows for freedom and flexibility. Also, there’s a lot of stuff you can’t control when travelling (like the weather or promises of 3 hour bus journeys that take 12), so I think it’s always better not to get stressed out and just go with it.

12. What is the worse?

Plan every detail of your trip.

Sure planning is necessary to some extent and it does ensure you don’t miss out on certain things such as staying in your favourite accommodation, or eating in a particular restaurant, but I feel that planning every aspect of your travels can be restricting.

Amazing opportunities often arise unplanned.

13. What country is top of your bucket list?

New Zealand. I love adventure and NZ has that written all over it. I’d love to jump in a campervan and tour around. Wild camping, hiking, canoeing, climbing, sky-diving, and whatever other activities I come across.

Lifestyle

The El Camino Bio

October 22, 2018 — by elcaminobracelets4

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El Camino launched in the Autumn of 2013. Developed by Canadian born Candace Kellough, and Oxford raised Tom Lane, the buzz for the travel jewellery brand began shortly after this. Hitting headlines across the Canadian print press and among popular travel bloggers, El Camino quickly became a much desired accessory for travel enthusiasts.

The El Camino journey began one sunny May afternoon following a 10km hike across arid land and the rugged coastal paths. Candace and Tom were on an adventure with a loose aim to reach Monaco before the end of the summer. They departed their journey in April from Barcelona with no set route or itinerary. This is how the pair liked to travel. It allowed for flexibility and spontaneity.

Carrying a small tent and only the bare essentials, they set up camp that evening in an area known as Sa Tuna. The pair went about their usual routine – Candace would pitch the tent while Tom collected wood for the fire. Settling down to cook some much needed food to refuel for the next day’s adventure, the pair began to reminisce about previous travel experiences. They were enjoying the complete lack of electricity and modern technology. It allowed time for talking, thinking and creativity.

“We came up with the El Camino concept when hiking the beautiful coastal route between Barcelona and Monaco,” says Candace. “We were sitting outside our tent one evening in June struggling to remember the countries we had visited. As we began to list the places we had travelled, we would find ourselves forgetting exactly where we had been.”

It was at that very point that the travel loving duo decided they would do something about it. Picking up their travel journal, Candace and Tom began to brainstorm ideas. They wanted to create a product that would help document travel experiences.

“We knew that bracelets were a popular purchase for travellers, so it made sense to create a product around this trend,” mentioned Candace. “We wanted to help people remember the amazing countries they have visited.”

The pair worked into the night, jotting down thoughts and potential concepts. They sketched a series of bracelet designs and made notes on how it could represent travel memories from around the world. At that stage Candace and Tom never imagined it could become a lucrative business.

“We had visions of our friends and family comparing travel bracelets and sharing stories of past adventures.” reports Tom. “We imagined the great conversations that would come from it.”

That summer passed by in a flash. Memories of days spent hiking, swimming, cooking and camping filled their minds. Their travel journal was bursting with stories, and the rough drawings of a potential bracelet project were still evident.

Candace and Tom returned to the UK in early June of that same year. The pair started to experiment with bracelet designs, making one-off samples and exploring different weaving techniques.

“The original batch of bracelets were given to close friends and family,” says Tom. “Each bracelet carried a selection of beads, individually engraved with the names of different countries, islands, cities and landmarks.”

Word of the bracelets quickly spread. Friends were telling friends, and excited family members were shouting it from the roof tops. It was at this point that Candace and Tom decided to name the project. With a nod to its Spanish roots, the pair settled on the name El Camino, meaning route, bypath, road, track or trail.

“We felt El Camino was the perfect name for the brand. It captured everything the bracelet project stood for,” says Candace. “The support we received in the first few months of launching was overwhelming. It’s something myself and Tom will always be so grateful for.”

In the early days of El Camino, Candace and Tom covered all aspects of the business themselves. It wasn’t unusual for the pair to be working a minimum of 14-16 hours each day.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - The El Camino Bio

“When we officially launched El Camino, we were based at Tom’s parent’s house in Oxfordshire,” mentions Candace. “The business operated from a spare room above the garage. It was surrounded by trees so we called it our treehouse. We both handmade the bracelet cords for the first 18 months but we soon realised we needed help. It’s such a time-consuming process and once El Camino started to take off, there just wasn’t enough hours in the day for us to be running the business and making the bracelets.”

Candace and Tom took on their first employee in November 2014. Relieving the pair from hours of bracelet weaving, they finally found extra time to focus their attention on other parts of the business.

“It was such a relief to find our first helper,” Tom states. “It gave myself and Candace the time to develop other aspects of El Camino. We are pleased to say that she is still working with us today, and she loves the travel lifestyle that bracelet weaving allows her to have.”

In 2015, Candace and Tom decided that it was time to move the business from leafy Oxfordshire and lay down roots in Cornwall. Missing the ocean, they decided they wanted to spend any free time they had on the beach. El Camino HQ can now be found minutes from the rugged Cornish coastline in Newquay.

Since those humble beginnings, El Camino has developed into a much-loved travel bracelet brand that provides for customisation and storytelling. The brand may have grown in size since 2013, but it goes without saying that the core factors of the business still remain the same – the bracelet cords are lovingly handmade by men and women across the UK, the stainless steel Steps are engraved by the same gentleman who lives just minutes away from Tom’s parent’s house, and the glass Region Steps are handmade in the English countryside.

Travelling brought Candace and Tom together. It shapes how they live their lives, and inspires them to build the El Camino brand. The plan moving forward? To continue making memories across the globe and sharing their inspiration with other travel enthusiasts.

El Camino Bracelets, Stories - The El Camino Bio

Check out the El Camino website here.