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VK op travelling to Europe in June/July

Hi guys, I am heading over to Europe in June/July this year. The main purpose is a family trip rather than a SOTA sprint to activate every summit in sight, but I would like to be able to activate at least one per association. Planning on taking my FT-817 and a dual band 2/70cm handheld, but these should suffice.

I will be spending about 5 days on a Canal boat in the Burgundy area of France for about 5 days followed by maybe 4 days in Paris. I doubt I will have the opportunity to activate any summits whilst on the Canal boat leg, but a cursory look at summits around Paris indicates that the summits F/NO-111/112/117/120 are possible contenders. Can anyone advise if these summits are an easy option or if there are any complications with them or any recommendations for better summits? Looking for quick and easily accessed summits rather than the difficult ones – preferably those not requiring a vehicle to get to (so
bus/train access definitely preferred).

Then heading to the UK for about 4 weeks. Will be spending a little over a week in London, then getting a car and heading around to the Lakes District (as a kid I really enjoyed the “Swallows and Amazons” books which is largely set in that area), then to Glasgow, the island of Barra and then across to Edinburgh and then back to London.

I have no specific plans for English summits other than at least one around the Lakes District, but would welcome any suggestions which do not involve too much travel. Also toying with cutting across into Wales on the way to the Lakes and hitting one of the summits there – again, any suggestions?

Looking at the summit listing, there are three summits on Barra (GM/SI-137, GM/SI-120 and GM/SI-199). Not being familiar with the area and there being no notes on these summits, can anyone offer any suggestions or hints?

In Edinburgh I would like to do Arthurs Seat – I recall Mike 2E0YYY mentioning that I needed to gain approval from some organisation as it is in a royal park – any other gotchas like that would definitely be appreciated!

Final question is on getting a UK licence – is this a relatively easy thing to achieve or is it a major bureaucratic nightmare? I do have a UK mailing address (UK relative) but would appreciate any pointers on the subject, specifically if there are any entitlement or timing issues.


  • Australians can operate under CEPT rules in Europe for up to 90days without needing reciprocal licenses. Sign as M/VK1MA, MW/VK1MA, MM/VK1MA, F/VK1MA

  • Arthur’s Seat is in the Queen’s garden so you need permission.

Holyrood Park Ranger Service, Holyrood Park Education Centre, 1 Queens Drive, Edinburgh EH8 8HG,
Tel: +44 131 652 8150, emaill: hs.rangers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

  • 2m FM will be fine from many Lake District summits, it’s where SOTA started as the LD summits overlook the main NW England populations (Manchester,Liverpool etc.) You may be successful on 2m FM from Arthur’s Seat but it can very lonely here. I’d be surprised if you got 4 contacts on the Barra hills on 2m FM

  • Barra hills are quite small. You’ll want some strong footwear though. Probably waterproof would be good. Heabhal (He-val) summit is only 700m from the road but a 250m ascent. There are no paths marked.

If you want to do some walking, rather than transport large, heavy boots from VK, you can buy a pair of sacrifice boots here cheaply. A cheap pair may not have great endurance or being brilliantly waterproof, but can offer you enough for say 4-5 summits to be worthwhile. There are plenty of outdoor shops where you should find something for less than $50AU.

Hi Matt, as Australia and the UK both signed up to the CEPT and you have an advanced licence, you do not need to apply for an extra licence (same in France) just prefix your VK1MA call with M in England, MM in Scotland and F in France, So you will be F/VK1MA/P in France and M/VK1MA/P in England and MM/VK1MA in Scotland.

I take it you do know that the biggest Amateur Radio event outside of Dayton happens in Germany at Friedrichshafen from 26-28th June? HAM Radio is located on Lake Constance meaning from there out you can “bag” DM, DL, HB and OE associations (in a day if you really try). Plus the AR event is one that every radio amateur should visit one time in their life! The whole area is stunningly beautiful for the family to enjoy.

73 Ed DD5LP / VK2JI / G8GLM

Another quick point on the licence. Reciprocal licencing under CEPT with the UK is only for Advanced licences at present. Australian Intermediate and Foundation are out of luck. In some European countries, under an EU rule it is possible for Australian Intermediate calls to get a restricted, Novice reciprocal licence. As more and more European countries look at moving to a three level amateur licence (Germany is now looking at the possibilty of an entry level licence), if these can be standardised, perhaps in the future all three licence levels could get the equivalent reciprocal rights across Europe? This will not happen (if it does) for a few years though.

In Matt’s case he has an Australian Advanced licence, which can be seen by the fact he has two letters only after the number (there are also Advanced licences with three letters to work these out you need to look at a list of letters used for Intemediates and the rest are Advanced).

73 again Ed.

Matt, which canal are you doing, which boat company and what are your start & finish points? Did the Nivernais canal last year. Some easy ones near Dijon -need car. Just ran a mag oop on the boat but watch out for the bridges. Also used a simple wire only doublet using a coil of wire from jaycar. Used it to work tk on 30 cw. See my wordpress blog vk3cat.wordpress.com

Hi Matt,

If you are travelling north on the motorway system, you could leave the M6 onto the M54, and make a detour through Shrewsbury, north to Chester, and re-join the M6 north towards the lakes. This will take you close to a number of summits in England and Wales.

One possibility would be to stay over here: http://www.ponderosacafe.co.uk/ which is positioned between
GW/NW-042 and GW/NW-043, both easily walkable from the Ponderosa, and would normally be easy to qualify on VHF.
I have often eaten in the Cafe, but never stayed there, so it is just a suggestion rather than a recommendation. There are plenty of overnight options on this route.

Note that the International Eisteddfod takes place in Llangollen (located in the valley below the Ponderosa) from 6th to 12th July. It might be of interest to you, but it will also mean that accommodation gets booked up in that area.



Hi Matt,

Many thanks for our QSO last month, I did try to contact you via QRZ, however, this was not possible.

Take a look at this link where you’ll find all the details needed to get permision to activate Arthurs Seat and a very useful map.


Normally, there’s no charge for the permit and the service Historic Scotland provide is brilliant.

73 Mike

Thanks Andy, was aware of the CEPT arrangement and intended to sign F/ for France, but was thinking about a UK licence for a bit of a memory of the UK visit – and potential future trips.
With Arthurs seat, what level if information do I need to give to the rangers – presumably they are well aware of SOTA given the number of previous activatons. Is it just a simple courtesy email/call advising that I intend to set up the radio gear there or do they want more information?

Thanks for the tips on the boots – I was planning on throwing in a lightweight pair, but they would not be waterproof. Might need to rethink and go down the path of the sacrificial pair instead.

Barra is my ancestral homeland, so keen to activate a peak whilst I am there. It will only be a single night there (ferry timings and the like), so limited in time to activate given the need to spend more time doing more family / historical things there. I think Heabhal is probably the most likely contender – looks to be a bit of a scrabble to get up there, but the best option noting time limitations for me.


Thanks Ed – I am only going to be in France and the UK for just short of 6 weeks – as to the rest of Europe, well that will be for another trip. Europe is much like Australia in that you just cannot see all of it in such a short time.


Thanks Tony – I had previously read your blog with interest – I had also thought about picking up an Alex loop, but kind of let time get away from me so it is too late to order one and be confident that it would arrive in time. Will take my 40m OCF and pick up a squid pole from over there.

The boat company is Le Boat which seems to be active in quite a few European countries – and the river is marked on the map as L’Yonne (sounds similar to Aussie slang for a rock?) which I noticed you had also spent part of your time on. Whilst the parents along with my Uncle and Aunt are starting from Migennes, I will be joining them probably around Corbigny for the last couple of days.


Thanks Adrian, Ponderosa looks to be almost perfect for me. I can park the parents at the café and quickly bolt up and activate both summits within a couple of hours. Parents are quite keen walkers and despite their age, quite capable as well, so might even drag them onto one of the summits. Will have my 817 as well as a handheld (with a reasonable antenna), so might do the quick 2m activation on one with a bit more time on the second one. Looks like one of the summits if not both are drivable?


Thanks Mike - that looks like Arthurs Seat is all good then. Anticipate that I will work you and all the usual culprits when I get over there.


Hi Matt,

I my case back in 2013 it was more than just a courtesy mail. They asked for details of my planned activation, type of antenna I wanted to set up and advised me not to put any poles into the ground (historical significant site). Mails went back and forth 3 times until I had my permit. The final difficulty was that they wanted a defined date/time. I wanted to leave this open, because I stayed four days in Edinburgh and wanted to pick the best possible weather. Flexibility to pick a dry day is an important aspect for any activation in Scotland.

If you limit yourself to a handheld this should proceed smoothly. On the other hand, as Andy already pointed out, there is always the risk of not catching chasers in reasonable time.

If you go for shortwave look for a chain fence just a little down from the summit. I tied my pole to one of the fence posts and stretched a dipole to the ends of said fence. Worked fine without harming her majesty ground and was a little out of the totally overcrowded summit area.

Have fun, 73 Heinz OE5EEP

Matt, no, there is a vehicle track up to the commercial radio mast on Cyrn-y-Brain, but there is no public access for vehicles. It is less than a 30 minute walk, from memory. The trig point is further along the ridge, but most people activate from near the TV transmitter, which is well inside the activation zone.
A bit steep towards the top, but not too challenging.

Moel y Gamelin is a longer walk, from memory less than one hour, though (some keep records of these things, but I don’t!).


Matt I gained permission last year to operate from Hollyrood Park, I can send you the email exchange if you like and think it might help. I didnt actually operate from there, but did manage to operate from 3 of the 5 associations I passed through while there (missed out on France and Wales).
send me an email at vk3xl at yahoo dot com dot au if you want some pointers.

Matt, we did Joigny to Corbigny in about 12 days. Ours was Locaboat who have a depot on the canal which is a few kms out of Corbigny. We walked in from down stream for lunch with the others and then, as we could not get a taxi back, walked into the depot.
Taxis out of the main cities were scarce, as was the train back to Paris.
Also, out of Paris, everything seemed to close down after lunch on a Sunday.
The Nivernais Canal departs from L’Yonne (don’t pronounce the E) not far from the junction of the Burgundy Canal and follows L’Yonne river where the river is too small to be navigable. In one place, the river and canal intersect at a cross road - beware of strong river currents. All mentioned in the optional navigation book - good investment!
The canal gets quite narrow approaching Corbigny and the locks more frequent, some were double with lifts over 3 metres.
In many places, you will not have any issues setting up on the side of the canal as I also did. Remember on 40metres to stick below 7.200 LSB
Not really any summits within east access of the canal but you may have an option of picking one up if time allows either heading into Corbigny or back to Paris.
From my enquiries, there seemed to be little point attempting anything on 2 or 70 so I left the Hand Held at home.
Enjoy the food and wine fest - all good.

Thanks guys for the additional information - will bear it all in mind for the trip.

Adrian, I think the Wales activation will probably be a single summit due time limitations, but will be HF to maximise contacts - although will have the HT as a backup in the event of battery failure on the FT-817.

Mike, email sent direct for a copy of your email exchange/additional pointers.

Heinz, definitely appreciate the pointer on the chain link fence - will plan on that location for the activation.

Tony, sounds like I will be covering similar ground to your trip last year - only planning on one of the summits around Paris as I think we will be training it back to Paris on completion of the waterborne side of the trip.

Hopefully I will have no issues with getting the LiPo batteries in through security at the various airports, but the backup plan would be to use AA batteries in the internal tray - however poor an option this would be.


Hi Matt,

I’ve had no issues (touch wood) getting through security with LiFePO4s, beyond a few rescreens and/or explosive tests on the batteries. Keep them in a ziplock bag, take them out of your bags and put them in the same tray as the laptop, in the ziplock bag, with the bit that says “High Discharge Lithium Battery” on top, and when they ask you what it is, simply say “a spare lithium battery”. Watch the limits on the Wh you can carry: it’s usually 100Wh, but some airlines may have different limits. Carry your documentation for each airline stating their limits, just in case.

Transited through all major Aussie airports (and Canberra too :wink: ) plus Singapore, Tokyo, LAX, Dubai, Dulles, Boston, DFW, Heathrow, Hong Kong and now Seoul Incheon. Still have the batteries, but I’ll never get the hours in airport lounges back! :smile:


I’ve traveled enough to have earned 1st class lounge privileges over the years. Even so, I was always ‘delighted’ to find the people who arranged my travel managed to pick flights so that I would end up in the lounges at a time that having a large vodka martini or three would be considered a bit infra dig, looking like you were desperate for a free drink! By the time I worked for someone that let me arrange my own flights etc. I traveled less frequently such that my lounge perks had all lapsed. Always the way isn’t it. :frowning:

One of the drawbacks of living in Australia is all the funky places you travel are usually at least 10 hours away. A trip to the US is 25 odd hours of hell. One of the advantages is that after 20 something hours in an aeroplane, and just before your third leg (ahem) to the middle of Nowhere, Idaho, it’s ALWAYS martini time (or scotch in my case) :smile: