LEBANON lies at the far end of the Mediterranean - barely 150 miles long and 30 miles wide. Hills and mountains, up to 10,000ft high, rise almost directly from the coastline, and run down the entire length of the country.

In 2008 the Lebanon Mountain Trail was opened, consisting of 27 sections, waymarked and with B&B facilities at the end of each. Intrepid hikers can walk from near the Syrian border in the north, almost to the Israeli border in the south.

It can be done inside a month; and by then end you will have taken at least a million steps.

In May this year, my brother Nicholas and I hiked four sections of this trail, spending three nights in a Monastery cut into the rock. The scenery is absolutely stunning. Limestone rock lends itself to numerous caves, dramatic cliffs and waterfalls The hillsides are covered in multi-coloured wild meadow flowers; and terracing built for fruit crops; though many are now abandoned as populations migrate to the coastal cities.The whole landscape is redolent with culture and history.

The wonderfully precipitous Qadisha valley is a World Heritage Site, not least for the Maronite Christian monasteries, hermitages and shrines it contains. But also for the ‘Cedars of the Lord’; a small group of these iconic trees protected by a wall ordered and paid for by Queen Victoria when visiting in 1876. Cedars thrive at higher altitudes than most trees, and they once covered the entire Lebanese mountainsides. They were cut down by Phoenicians and others to build the ships that dominated trade in the eastern Mediterranean for centuries. Our first two hikes both finished in Bcharreh, at the head of the valley: first along the valley side, and then from the other direction, above the tree-line to the Cedars at over 6,000 ft.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: One of the Cedars of the Lord, with mountains behind One of the Cedars of the Lord, with mountains behind (Image: John and Nicholas Waller)

There’s modern history too. Our third hike set off from Baskinta, where our guide Paul’s family still lived, to walk to Mtein. Two hours descent to the bridge over a meltwater torrent, then another two hours up the other side. As we paused to look back over Baskinta, Paul explained that this had been the front line in the civil war, from which Muslim forces had shelled his Christian village. Fifteen years, that war lasted; starting when he was two-years-old.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Pipe hiking on the way to MtienPipe hiking on the way to Mtien (Image: John and Nicholas Waller)

Our fourth hike took us through another Cedar reserve, where new trees were being planted and nurtured.

Each hike is about 12 miles long, taking between five and seven hours depending on how often you stop. They are challenging: mostly because there’s so much ascent and descent during each one. The terrain is variable: sometimes farm tracks and recognisable paths, but sometimes across open country. At one point we had to walk along the tops of waterpipes, with cliffs above and below; and chains set into the rock to hold onto.

We were grateful to have Paul, not just to show us the way, but for his wealth of local knowledge. We did meet an Australian couple doing it ‘properly’: 15 sections in sequence, armed with a GPS tracker, staying in local accommodation, and carrying all they needed for 15 days on their backs. Good for them...

We only did four sections, as we also wanted some time in Beirut. Our family was based there from 1956 to 1970, and we grew up there. We wanted to see how much had changed in the intervening 50 years. We visited the two flats we’d lived in, wandered streets we remembered, and checked that landmarks like Pigeon Rocks and the Corniche were still there. We revisited the historical town of Byblos (continuously inhabited since neolithic times), and even had a wine-tasting session in the hills above Jounieh.

Lebanon is often associated with political violence, so is it safe to visit? Yes, it is, certainly at present. The last civil war ended 33 years ago; and much that was damaged has been rebuilt. There’s always potential for instability: its five million population is divided between at least six religious identities, who are frequently at odds. Plus a million Syrian, and half a million Palestinian refugees. Both Israel and Syria, at odds with each other, intervene, and even invade, whenever it suits them. But things are currently peaceful.

It was wonderful to go out into the evening streets of Beirut with the Muezzin calling Muslims to prayer even as non-Muslims crowded into the bars. Despite all its past troubles, Beirut retains its wonderful, open, carefree character.

The Lebanon Mountain Trail offers a tremendous experience, however many sections you do. The whole country is absolutely fascinating in so many ways. You don’t need a visa, there are two flights a day from Heathrow, and you’ll received a warm and genuine welcome. And yes, it is safe.