Walking in the Tyrol? It’s the peak of perfection with more than 15,000 miles of trails
- The Mail on Sunday’s James Innes-Smith went on a hiking trip to Tyrol in Austria
- He said his guide was ‘straight out of The Sound Of Music’, with a feathered cap
- During the trip he spotted the region’s most iconic flowers, the rare edelweiss
The mighty Stubai glacier shines down on the village of Neustift, a permanent reminder that, however balmy it gets up here (temperatures can reach 80F in the summer), you are still in one of Europe’s most popular ski regions.
Opinions are divided about the correct spelling of this little corner of paradise – locals stick with Tirol, while outsiders tend to go with Tyrol, or even Tyrole.
Either way, I’m here to enjoy some gentle hiking across some of Austria’s most celebrated peaks. There are more than 15,000 miles of trails in the Tyrol, with many of the most spectacular in the Stubaital valley.
Flower power: The pretty village of Neustift and its lush meadows
Through late spring and summer, the alpine meadows, ridges and valleys teem with hundreds of different species of wild flower. To reach them, head out of the village and take a cable car to the top of the Mieders mountain range, and enjoy magnificent views as you go.
My guide, Eustachius Ragg, is straight out of The Sound Of Music, with his feathered cap, extravagant lederhosen and eccentrically twirled moustache.
As we head up the mountain, we first spot the evocatively named devil’s hand, a flaming, red-clawed beauty more commonly found in Mexico.
Keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky enough to stumble upon one of the region’s most iconic flowers, the rare but short-lived edelweiss. This protected national symbol is the elusive celeb of the plant world, hiding out among limestone outcrops above 6,500ft.
Quick getaway: James Innes-Smith says if you’re feeling brave, grab a toboggan and hurtle down the famous Mieders run
When we chance upon a small cluster, I immediately burst into a rendition of the famous song.
Even rarer than the white-petalled edelweiss, but just as pretty, is the acorn-shaped red vanilla orchid (one of Eustachius’ favourites). In a lush meadow high above the tree line, we also happen upon a blaze of blue monkshood.
Our hike continues through a hazy, sun-dappled pine forest and on into a heavenly glade carpeted with purple rampions, made famous by the classic children’s fairytale Rapunzel. In among the sea of purple, bright yellow mountain arnica fight for our attention.
After a hearty lunch of speckknoedel (boiled bread dumplings stuffed with bacon), you can either play it safe and take the cable car back down the mountain or, if you’re feeling brave, grab a toboggan and hurtle down the famous Mieders run (don’t worry, you’re on a safety rail and have a brake).
Back at my hotel on the outskirts of Neustift, the flower theme continues. Every balcony of the Jagdhof Spa Hotel has been decked with thousands of blowsy red geraniums.
After a long day of hiking, relax in the Jagdhof’s vast spa and enjoy stunning views of the distant glacier from the heated outdoor pool. Bliss.