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Saturday, December 27, 2014

From Milbrook to St Martin by Looe and Looe along the Cornish Coast

Wonderful Looe, one of the most beatiful jewels of Cornwall, in England along the Cornish Way



The path from Milbrook to St Martin by Looe runs mostly along the coast from Milbrook to St Martin by Looe and although it is certainly not the most famous section of the Cornish Path, I think it is worth the effort.

What I like of this section is the fact that although it is quite long (around 12 miles), it is reasonably easy, flat and most important the landscape is very varied. Some more famous sections of the Cornish Way are more scenic, but they are also more tiring and less varied.  

Milbrook is a very pretty village, just few miles away from Plymouth, in Cornwall, South West of England.

Here the walk from Milbrook to St Martin by Looe:

After walking through the village of Milbrook (here how to get to Milbrook) take the road to the left from the center of town (Radford Lane) and keep walking along the fields, turn left on Donkey Lane and you will finally reach the sea, appearing on the West side of the Rame Peninisula.

The Rame Peninsula is a not very popular and busy part of the Cornish Way, but I believe it is also one of the less spoiled areas by the touristic invasion and the frenetic invasion of walkers and trekkers along the English Coast.

From the end of Donkey Lane walk following the road along the sea (Military Road) keeping the sea at your left. Keep following the road until you will see a wonderful golden sandy beach on your left: this is Tintagel Beach. Here a military area with restrict access spoils totally your walk and forces you to a long diversion along the tarmac and busy road: you would hope that some illuminated mind would think to reduce the extension of the military area and allow the tourists to enjoy this section of the Cornish Coast!

Where the military area finishes, the golf club starts but thankfully here the path crosses the green and makes actually this part of the walk more enjoyable.The path leads to Whitsand Bay, a small village that makes a wonderful spot for your lunch. Just few quite cottages, benches and a wonderful blue sea.

From Whitsand Beach to Downderry the walk is quite enjoyable. Downderry doesn't have much to offer but from here starts probably the best part to the walk. First you will get to Seaton, with a beautiful and quiet beach and a nice bar to sit in the sun for a while.From Seaton is quite a climb all the way to the Monkey Sanctuary.

The shade of blue at Looe beach is simly amazing and the bench at the top of the harbour entering at Looe makes a great stop along the Cornish Way


The Monkey Sanctuary deserves a visit and a special mention in my blog. It is not a zoo or a safari park, at the opposite The Monkey Sanctuary in St Martin by Looe is a wonderful enviromental project that goes well further just protecting monkeys but it represent a fantastic mission in enviromental research and protection. It is absolutely worth a visit and even just reading The Monkey Sanctuary's website you will have an understanding of their wonderful work (to The Monkey Sanctuary: please know that I will delighted to further write on your projects!)

And near the Monkey Sanctuary along the path a beautiful Celtic labyrinth is waiting the walker along its way. It is part of a private estate I had the pleasure to visit thanks to the hospitality of Caroline Petherick. Caroline is one of the most interesting and cultured person I ever met in my travels and she has created a wonderful place along the Cornish Coast! I loved to visit her Labyrinth at sunset and most of all I was impressed for the Old Coach House she built. It is a fantatsic day to spend a week, it is not just eco-living, it is a unique feature of architrecture and design and in front of a unique and fantatstic view: what an amazing place!

The Labyrinth along the Cornish Way at St Martin by Looe


From the Monkey Sanctuary and the Celtic Layrinth the walk continues for another 4 miles toward Looe.

Looe is a picturesque Cornish village.  It has a beautiful estuary at the mouth of the river Looe. Looe has also a train station (just walk along the river and you will easily find it) and could be a nice starting point to walk the Cornish way if you want to skip the first section Plymouth - Milbrook - Looe.

Spend at least half a day in Looe. Apart a beautiful beach and a nice walk along the river, Looe offers a beautiful and old town center with narrow lanes populated in these days by many (probably too many) touristic shops.

The best way would be to arrive in Looe in the evening at the end of your walk from Milbrook, this will give you sufficient time to rest and enjoy the picturesque town. In the morning you can walk to Polperro for the next section of the Cornish Way.

This post has been made possible thanks to the generous hospitality and friendship of Caroline Petherick of St Martin by Looe, thank you very much Caroline.










  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Estancia Cristina - A wonderful day trip in Patagonia - Viedma and Uppsala Glaciers

The Estancia Cristina surrounded by the lonely peaks of Patagonia (a day trip from El Calafate)


From my travel diary:

The Estancia Cristina is located in a secluded corner of the Parque National de Los Glacieres in Patagonia Argentina. The Estancia (meaning "farm", "estate") is a large estate totally isolated from the main roads and towns. It is a day trip from El Calafate and it represents in my opinion one of the best places to enjoy the beauty and the wilderness of Patagonia without too many hassle and difficulties. People in this day travel to the Estancia as the easier access to enjoy the beauty of two of the most famous glaciers in Patagonia: the Viedma Glacier and the Uppsala Glacier.

Despite the fact that I am against every kind of organized tour in principle, as I believe that organized tours kill the spirit of travel and adventure, I didn't have much choice but to enroll from this well organized tour from El Calafate to see the Viedma Glacier and the Uppsala Glacier.

The organized tour starts early in the morning from El Calafate. After two hours travelling by bus along the light blue water of the Lake Argentino you get to Punta Bandera. From there via a wonderful boat trip through fantastic icebergs (what a great experience is this!) and a short ride on 4x4 you will get to the Estancia Cristina.

I read about Estancia Cristina before to travel there and I was very impressed by its history. I was charmed by the loneliness of the place. I was envious of the courage of a British man, Joseph Percival Master who came here to settle his business in 1914, importing Shetland sheep  and trading wool back to the Old Continent, fighting against odds, loneliness and the wild nature. Joseph Percival Master built the Estancia Cristina practically in the middle of nowhere buying cheaply a huge estate wild, isolated and apparently without much potentiality. He turned it in a business in few year. 

He couldn't have done all this by himself and - as they say - next to a great man is always a great woman (sometimes the other way round may be also true!). Percival's wife was a Scottish woman, so I find quite natural for her to have the skills to run so well the house and the estate, but still I was impressed by her character as well.


To live in this corner of Patagonia you need to be resourceful and you need to keep yourself busy and interested in the rainy and cold days, when the icy winter wind blows. These people were able to do so. Jessie, in particular, doing the housework and painting and writing. 

Jessie came to the Estancia Cristina to work as Percival's servant but soon the two fell in love for one another. They realized the urgent need to make their minds busy and not just their bodies. Talking by radio to people around the world was maybe the best way to make that possible. They lived their lives fully in the Estancia and they were never defeated by the loneliness of the place, always in contact by people from all over the world via radio waves, you can easily imagine how comforting this should have been for the brave couple in the long and cold winter. 

Despite the fact that the Estate is now just one more touristy business and you don't see any more sheep grazing in the vast land surrounding the farm (you still see the horses inside a large white fence at least), there is something yet unspoiled. It is maybe the little chapel, beautiful but modern, the only bit out of touch".

What is great about visiting the Estancia Cristina is the fact that you can enjoy breathtaking views over two of the most amazing Glaciers in Patagonia: the Viedma Glacier and the Uppsala Glacier.

 If the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous glacier in Patagonia, the Viedma Glacier and the Uppsala Glacier are the two more amazing. They are amazing not just for their size but also for the unspoil panorama and the loneliness surrounding this two giants of ice. You get to see them on a 4x4 trip from the Estancia and although it may sound totally an adventurous it is the only way to get there unless you have weeks to spend, money to organize a trip and a lot of experience in this kind of thing.

The views are so rewarding that I made a video of the Estancia and
the Viedma Glacier and the Uppsala Glacier, words would have not been enough to explain this beauty. Hope you enjoy!


 
Read more posts about Patagonia and Argentina: click here

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Black Prince Festival in Millbrook - How to get rid of the winter

The Black Prince's Boat along the street of Cawsand



How to get rid of the winter?

There are hundreds of ways to get rid of winter. Few miles from Plymouth there is a very interesting way and a very interesting area that makes a perfect destination for a way away from Plymouth or for part your long walk along the Cornish Way...And if you visit the first week of May you will see a great popular festival to celebrate the end of the winter! (see below).

In Millbrook the found a way to get rid of the winter!

Millbrook is a very small village situated in front of Plymouth along the mouth of the river Tamar.

If you are coming from Plymouth, the nicest way is to take a five minutes and super cheap ferry ride from Plymouth to Cremyll (If you want to read more about Plymouth,  read my post on Plymouth).

Practically at the harbour at Cremyll is a magnificent palace that welcomes you on this side of the river Tamar: Mount Edgecumbe. Few miles from Edgecumbe the little village of Millbrook is a place to visit.

Start your visit at Mount Edgecumbe.

The name of this palace is Mount Edgcumbe.  Mount Edgcumbe is an 18th century manor with a wonderful garden and it is a fantastic place for a walk away from the noise and the traffic of Plymouth.

Mount Edgcumbe  has wonderful gardens. Seating on one of the many benches infront of the old manor you will enjoy great views along the mouth of the river Tamar. You can walk in the quiet lanes, visit the manor or just enjoy a walk around it.

Mount Edgecumbe


The Black Prince Festival in Millbrook, sending away the winter on a floral boat!

Around four miles from Cremyll and Mount Edgecumbe is the little village of Millbrock. The day of May bankholiday, usually the first Monday in May, starts here a procession that will give you the chance to get to know the most interesting traditions of the area.

Followed by a large group of Morris Garden, the Boat of the Black Prince is paraded around the street of Millbrook.

The Morris Dancers are probably the most interesting piece of folklore of the area.

It is an old English tradition, particularly of the South. Dressed with colourful clothes and armed by sticks and handkerchiefs they dance in group in a traditional and very coreographic dance.

It is said that the tradition of the Morris Dancers was imported from Spain by British soldiers who witnessed the dangerous and quick dances with long sabres of the Moorish soldiers (from them the name "Morris") and they replicated a more safe version with wooden sticks when they came back home.

The Morris Men and the Criers keep the public entertained and they lead the procession of a black wooden boat adorned by flowers from Millbrook to the sea: the Black Prince Flowers Boat.

The Morris Dancers at Cawsand


Cawsand, where the Black Prince boat takes the sea and a nice destination for a day at the sea.

The most scenic part of this special day is certainly when the procession reaches the beautiful beach at Cawsand.

Cawsand is a very picturesque fishermen village that is certainly worth a visit at all times of the year.

Cawsand, overlooked by its fortress, is probably the prettiest village of the Rame Pensinsula.

With its narrow lanes running along the beach, Cawsand conserves the feeling of an old village, where now beautiful pubs and restaurants make a special place for a day along the Cornish coast.

It is a nice walk from Millbrook to Cawsand and the best is approching the village from the top of the hill along the road that run down to the sea and to the beach.


The beach at Cawsand


At the end of the procession, the boat reaches finally the beautiful bay of Cawsand in front of the old harbour. 

The criers sing the launching song and the Black Prince's Boat is finally launched in to the sea (and collected few meters after, behind the rock, to be preserved so that the same ritual could be performed the following year).

People exhausted after a day of dances and music cheer at the boat floating on the waves of the English Channel.

So, in the end, what you can visit in Millbrook and why should you visit?

1. Millbrook and Cremyll are two beautiful villages in the Rame peninsula, the first Peninsula you are going to walk along its coast if you are walking the Cornish Way all the way from Plymouth to Landsend in the region of Cornwall, South - West of England.

2. If you are visit for Spring Day (May Day) you will have the chance to assist to the amazing procession of the Black Prince Floreal Boat in Milbrook.

3. Milbrook and Cawsand make for a wonderful base for visiting Plymouth and the River Tamar Mouth. Read my post about Plymouth

4. Cawsand is a very nice place for a Sunday at the beach near nice pubs, restaurants and in a picturesque fishermen village.

This post has being made thanks for the help and support of Jo Tatam of Millbrook! Many thanks for you hospitality and your kindness Jo!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Plymouth is a city to visit.

The wonderful panorama along the gulf of Plymouth, at the border between Cornwall and Devon.

When you are planning your next travel and you are looking to the map of a country you are always obliged to make choices:
which places I should visit and which I should skip?

If you are planning to visit Devon or Cornwall the name of Plymouth will most certainly catch your eyes, written in big capital letters exactly at the border within the two English regions, and you will certainly ask yourself: is Plymouth worth a visit?

My opinion is yes: Plymouth is a city to visit if you are travelling in the South of England and United Kingdom.

Why  Plymouth is a city to visit?

Plymouth's atmosphere makes first of all Plymouth a city to visit.
It is a young city with a young population and many University stundents, the faculty of Art seems to be the most popular here.

Although partly modern, having being heavily damaged by the war, Plymouth is still have some very interesting parts to visit and it has an important role in history.

Plymouth's history makes Plymouth a city to visit.

The United States of America are born in Plymouth.

If you walk along the Barbican in Plymouth you will immediately notice a Stars and Stripes flag next to the water and some steps, do you know why there is a U.S.A. flag there?

Those steps are named the Mayflower Steps.
From the Mayflower steps the Pilgrim Fathers are believed to have left England aboard the Mayflower, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to settle in North America on 6 September 1620. Those were the pilgrims that, after a miserable passage in the high waters of the Ocean founded the first settlements that would become a day part of the United States of America.

What is to see in Plymouth?

The best way to visit Plymouth if you are going to visit Plymouth in one day is to always walk along the sea coast and you will manage to see the most interesting parts of the city.

Start your walk at the Old Harbour called the Barbican. This old harbour is famous because from here the vessel Mayflower started his long journey to the U.S.A., it is one of the oldest areas of the city.

Plymouth was heavily bombed during the Second World War and many beautiful buildings were destroyed, but the Barbican is one of the best preserved areas.

Apart for the National Marine Museum the Barbican in Plymouth offers a wonderful series of bars, pubs and fish and ship and makes for a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the sun and the breeze air.


The entrance of the Royal Citadel in Plymouth.

If you keep the sea at your left and you start walking along the coast you will walk along the walls of an old fortress this is the Royal Citadel. The Royal Citadel in Plymouth was built in the late 1660s to protect Plymouth's harbour.



The Royal Citadel was the most important English defence for over 100 years and it is still be used as barracks today by the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery. It is possible to visit part of it and it is worth walking around its wall to see the entrance gate with the impressive monument to the English Commandos in front of the entrance.

The Hoe is certainly the most famous sight in Plymouth.

With his red and white lighthouse and with is beautiful views over the large bay the Hoe is unmissable, particularly at sunset and you will have the chance to see huge civil and military boats coming and going along the large harbour.

This is all there is to see in Plymouth?
Absolutely not!

Keep walking along the sea (sea at your left) pass some modern bits of the town and finally head to the Royal William Yard Harbour.

Definitely of the best kept secrets in Plymouth!


What an amazing place is the Royal William Yard Harbour in Plymouth and what a wonderful example of intelligent refurbishment of a disused area!

This one time military area is now one of the best places to go for a wonderful dinner al fresco, a drink in front of the sea and in the first Sunday of the Month for a wonderful Farmer Market of local products and particularly of local and traditional food (from the local honey wines to the Sicilian Cannoli!).


The Royal William Yard Harbour was the major victualing depot of the Royal Navy in United Kingdom.

The Yard was closed in 1992 and fall in ruin for years behind a house for squatters and homeless people.

In 2006 The Royal William Yard Harbour became the object of a wonderful conservation and restoration work carried out by Gilmore Hankey Kirke Architects.

Today you are still able to enjoy your visit to this huge military complex in front of the sea, admire its Georgian architecture, enjoy the sea breeze and have a wonderful time particularly at weekends.

Is this all?

No again! this is only the beginning.

When you are in Plymouth you can also:

- take a very cheap 5 minute ride by boat and cross to beautiful Cremyll
- keep walking along the coastal path and start one of the most amazing coastal paths of the world all the way to Cornwall and Land's End and beautiful St Ives
- take a boat to France and visit Brest the city that is the exact copy of Plymouth in French style (no wonder the two cities are twinned!): click here to read about Brest.
















Saturday, May 17, 2014

THE SCOTTISH CINQUE TERRE - FIVE LANDS OR FIFE LANDS?



Fife is one of the most beautiful areas in East Scotland along the sea and it is little more than an hour driving from Edinburgh.  It is a perfect destination for a weekend or for a longer break.

The five lands of Scotland expect the traveler linked one to another one by paths and cliffs. The air is cold, but when finally the sun is shining and the sky is clear the colours in Fife are inspiring.

Have you ever visited the Italian Cinque Terre? 

I think the similarities between the five villages of Fife and Cinque Terre in Italy are enormous (read the dedicated post about The Cinque Terre):

In Scotland and Italy you have five wonderful fishermen villages.
One connected to the other by a beautiful coastal path, offering breathtaking views along the way and surrounded by wonderful landscapes.

Both Fife and Cinque Terre offer inspiration to artists and travellers from centuries: certainly two places to visit before to die.

Your best place to make base to visit Fife will be Crail, with its houses that run downhill to the squared breakwater at the bottom of this picturesque fishermen's village. 

The heart of Crail is certainly its harbour, but Crail hides also a beautiful main street, tree lined and quiet, along which to walk. 

And if you walk up to the top of the village you will enjoy a fantastic panorama, above the red roofs of Crail you can enjoy the sun rising behind the little Isle of May in front of Crail's Harbour.

If you love birdwatching or you just have time for a extra trip, the Isle of May, today a bird sanctuary, makes for a wonderful day trip.




The area of Fife where these beautiful Scottish five villages are located is called East Neuk.

Neuk is the Scots word for nook or corner, and the East Neuk is generally accepted to comprise the fishing villages of the most northerly part of the Firth of Forth: Crail, Anstruther (and Cellardyke), Pittenweem, St Monans, Elie.

Theoretically you can walk all the way from Crail to Elie, the two furthest villages in one day, but if you don't want to walk so much here is the best part of the walk I absolutely recommend you doing.

Start your walk from the old harbor of Cellardyke, beaten by a timid sun, the village is to the immediate east of Anstruther (the two effectively being conjoined). 

Cellardyke is just a line of old and beautiful cottages surrounded by a large harbour once busy with fishermen boats.

Following the main street lined by cottages you arrive to Anstruther in less then fifteen minutes. 

Here there is a beautiful beach to enjoy, surrounded by stone cottages and overlooked by the bell tower of the church.

At Anstruther the trail continues along the beach and then on the hills overlooking the sea towards Pittenweem. 

Before to get to the old mill and then the wide bay just outside Pittenweem, near the fish market, walk on the breakwater and enjoy the view of the most beautiful and ancient cottages. 

Pittenweem is the home of many skilled artists. Small houses have been turned into beautiful and small art galleries with lot of character. 

Many artists meet in Pittenweem in the summer for a great art festival, and  when the festival ends many leave, but a few remain here for the following years and for the rest of their lives. 

If you continue walking along the coastal path towards the ancient fishermen's village of St Monans, you will notice more houses turned in small art galleries. 



After the rocky beach, it is the old mill, well preserved, almost intact , reminiscent of bygone days. In front stands a long row of white fishermen cottages and this is St. Monans. 

Here the path opens into the harbor's horseshoe. The cottages are small and colorful, on narrow lanes battered by the strong wind.

Then just outside the village, along the sea, there is St Monans' church, alone in a large green in front of the sea. 

St moinans Church is surrounded by a bed of men and women who rest forever listening to the sound of the waves. The church inside is bare, but a nice cup of hot coffee after Sunday mass warms the heart more than many frescoes. And along with the cup so many smiles , so many words , so much interest for the traveler who has left his country to visit the church of St Monans and this seems incredible to many.

Shortly after St Monans' Church are the ruins of an ancient castle overlooking the sea. TIf you are sufficiently tired of you walk you can return to Pittenweem among the many art galleries. 

In Pittenweem the art galleries are homes, in some cases, livingrooms, kitchens , bedrooms and even toilets. Here the artist presents his art at his home. And  this art is sincere, done with the heart.  Not everything is for sale , because from some creations the artist can no longer separate , they are now his daughters. 






If you have another beautiful sunny day to spend in Fife, .this time you should start your walk from Pittenweem. 

The path to St Monans is so beautiful and scenic that you would not mind doing it again but today you can keep going and set off to Elie. 

Back in front of the church and then to the ruins of the castle yesterday , along with the dark and the rain, you will keep going along the coast and cross a long sandy beach, but then the Lady 's Tower in the distance marks that Elie is near. 

Elie is amazing if you're lucky enough to see it at low tide . The beach under the sun in the winter assumes a beautiful amber color and the light is reflected on the stone wall that prevents the sea to reach the beautiful white cottages . 

Elie in reality is made of two villages: Elie and Earlsferry. 

Earlsferry, the older of the two villages, was first settled in time immemorial. It is said that MacDuff, the Earl of Fife, crossed the Forth here in 1054 while fleeing from King Macbeth.

Today Elie is a very charming village with beautiful cottages and a wonderful beach. At low tide in a sunny day the panorama is absolutely fantastic (see the photo at the top of this post).

The sand has a special red colour and the beautiful white cottages all around make a wonderful contrast.

...and if you still have energies, finish your walk at Elie lighthouse, more great views to enjoy on the way.






The last day in the land of Fife is dedicated to St. Andrews but this is another post...

Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.


Want to read about the Italian Cinqueterre after having discovered the Scottish ones?
Click here to read about Cinque Terre - The five most inspiring fishermen villages in Italy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

SKYE - PROBABLY THE MOST SCENIC OF THE SCOTTISH ISLES

The entrance to the beautiful Armadale Castle in the Isle of Skye, Scotland.


In the morning, the Island of Skye in Scotland is covered with clouds. And from the sky two mounds of smoke merge with the clouds.

Like old friends, the chimneys of the Talisker distillery smoke their pipes in Portnalong.

You should get tour accommodation in this small village on the West coast of the Island of Skye, overlooking Loch Harport, I stayed in a caravan cold and run down but I didn't have reason to complain too much about it.

If you get a rainy day and the rain continues to come down and the visibility is extremely low you can only do so much in Skye.

You can at least reach the top of a hill around Portnalong and  from there you can enjoy beautiful views of the coast. The wind would almost push you down from the cliffs and therefore you may have to sit on the lawn of heather to avoid falling and admire the sea during a storm .

Then, already soaked with rain, you would probably descend from the cliffs and move near the beach to brave a little walk along the sea, hoping that the sky would become clear for a while.

The sea calm and the boats would color the beach that stretches up to an isolated cottage at the end.

All this, my dears, is Scotland at its best!

At Mallaig you can clearly see the other side of the channel.
Caledonian Mark Brayne  connects quickly by ferry the Isle of Skye from Armadale to Mallaig.


In the small Village of Caroy,  not far from Portnalong, the whiskey shop makes the morning more cheerful. The whiskey warms the body ...better than the sun of Scotland, you might think.

Then if the sun comes out really from the grey clouds, the brown turns into bright yellow and the white lighthouse at Caroy shines on the islands on the horizon.

You should walk along the coast, facing the sea that turns pink, and you can enjoy the breeze which finally moves the clouds away.

At Mallaig you can clearly see the other side of the channel. Caledonian Mark Brayne  connects quickly by ferry Armadale to Mallaig.

Entering the garden of the castle of Armadale is experiencing the joy of discovery , like finding a little treasure.


An ancient Viking boat is hidden under the trees
at Armadale Castle, as if it was stranded there.
There are no ticket and there are no doors , only a small gate to find yourself in a park of old trees. Trees trunks that four people would barely be able to embrace. The gate and its strange tower are dyed red at sunset.

In the evening, the best time to visit Armadale park, there would be probably no one in the park. You can climbs the tower and enjoy the view from up there.

In the large garden, the grass is perfectly cut. Only squirrels though are around.
The castle seems empty, but it is not. Someone still lives in this old manor house.

An ancient Viking boat is hidden under the trees, as if it was stranded there.A bed of leaves apparently is the sea. 

When I visited I jumped on the boat and lied down on the bottom, closed my eyes and thanked heaven for a sunset so beautiful over Armadale's Bay in the Island of Skye.

Portree is a pretty town in the Isle of Skye. But those who live there do not seem to think so apparently.
The traveler knows that sometimes the appearance of a place is deceiving. 

Portree, however, makes a good impression. When you will finally snap your fish & chips at the harbor, Portree will enter in your heart.

You will enjoy to sit there on the bay to see the fishing boats sway on the waves. Portree, according to some means the King's Port, it is definitely the Queen of Skye. 

Four large cottages in pastel colors give grace to the beautiful bay. 

You will see the white , pink and blue of the cottages facades mirrored in the water.

From Portree you should absolutely rent a car and drive along a panormaic road to visit the Old Man of Storr nearby.

From there you can have great views all over the island. You can see those great views leaving and arriving in the island of Skye .

The beautiful typical landscape of Scotland in the Isle of Skye.


The Old Man of Storr saw Prince Charlie escape over the Sound of Ramsay, it saw hunger , misery and despair. But it also saw beautiful thousand sunsets , rain and rainbows .

The trail up to the Old Man of Storr is usually muddy , but the closer and closer you get to the great man of stone and the more you will want to resist the strong winds.

From Loch Leathan the trail plunges into a dense forest of conifers that does not seem to have end. Then finally the trees thin out and the view opens up, looking barren almost like the moon. Among the large stone pinnacles the silhouetted profile of the Old Man of Storr stands up.

The largest natural menhir stone will leave you breathless. The clouds rise and the panorama opens up on the big Sound of Raasay and the neighboring islands.

When you will finally sit at the feet of the Old Man of Storr in the Isle of Skye you will enjoy a unique panorama overlooking the Sound of Raasay.

Here how to visit the Old Man of Storr (from Wikipedia.com): 
"A well constructed path, used by many sightseers, leaves the A855 just north of Loch Leathan. It heads up through an area of forestry, with glimpses of the scenery beyond. After about 1.6 kilometres (1.0 mi) the walker emerges from the trees, into a spectacular, almost lunar, landscape.

Most day-trippers are content simply to wander around the Sanctuary, admiring the pinnacles and gazing up at The Storr's eastern cliffs. Walkers can easily ascend to the summit, however, by skirting below the cliffs whilst heading north from the north end of the Sanctuary".

Stories of men and women who were able to live happily in the simplicity of this island are well known. Men and women who have lost everything but their honor and their faith. Men and women that poverty and deprivation have made the most noble and brave. Men and women who are survivors motivated only by the beauty of the landscapes and the smell of the sea.

You will feel that you now reached the edge of the Great North , the next move will take you over the choppy sea in the Hebrides . Solitary islands and wild are the Hebrides. Islands that still remain ancient and glorious. But this is another post...

The white lighthouse at Caroy shines on the islands on the horizon.
Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE AMAZING MOUNTAINS OF THE CAIRNGORMS: THE BEST OF SCOTLAND

The Cairngorms are presented as cold and inhospitable as they were at the time of Queen Victoria.


If you are visiting the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland you are a traveler who reached one of the  biggest goals of his life.

If you wished to meet the great North at its best you should be very satisfied now!

Probably not even a whole year could be enough to visit these enchanted lands.

The Cairngorms will fascinate you immediately. A cold and wild land apparently, but incredibly beautiful and inspiring .

Even Queen Victoria was impressed by the Cairngorms Mountains : " They have a sublime and solemn effect , so wild and lonely , there was no one else besides our little party ... I drank a bit ' of water with whiskey why people affirmed that the pure water was too cold . "

The Cairngorms are presented as cold and inhospitable as they were at the time of Queen Victoria. It often rains incessantly and the traveler finds difficult to explore the dark and narrow paths of the Cairngorms National Park .

You are advised to stay in Newtonmore during your visit to the Cairngorms National Park. Quieter and quieter than neighboring Aviemore, now overrun by tourists all over the year.

Newtonmore still retains an old style village with its stone cottages surrounded by the forest.
A beautiful village at the feet of the mountains in the valley of the River Spey .

From Newtonmore you will enjoy great views over the snow-capped mountains that surround the village and a sense of profound stillness . Find accommodation in a comfortable hostel, cosy and warm up and you will enjoy the best of the Cairngorms National Park.

Visit Loch Eirin and its castle and you will se the Cairngorms National Park at its best. 

The best time to walk in the Cairngorms National Park is probably the autumn.


The avid traveler observes every detail, every branch, every ray of the moon, because he knows to be in front of a unique spectacle that is unlikely to recur. He knows he is unlikely to see again the Nature speak with such force . 

Visit Loch Eirin and its castle and you will see the Cairngorms National Park at its best. 

In a small clearing of the Scottish forest is indeed an enchanted lake that surrounds an ancient castle now inaccessible . The water is still, placid , but the castle seems inhabited by fairies .

You would not hear any noise around the lake and Eirin Castle, not even that of your feet hitting the ground soaked by rain . When there is no wind , the branches of the trees are still. 

You can sit on a branch and look to the castle in the middle of the lake . When I visited the Cairngorms National Park I remember sitting there for over an hour to watch the castle and the reflections of the moon. I had my hands red for the cold, but it felt I lived in that castle for centuries.

The scenic area of Rothermurcius it is another lovely place you should absolutely visit.

Rothermurcius is at the feet of the Cairngorms, where it is worth walking even when the temperature is close to zero. 

Get lost among the paths that cut through the woods to reach Loch Morlich with its sandy shores.

Admire the calm lake and the reflection of the great mountain and you would immediately want to reach the Cairngorm. By car climbing the steep and winding road up to the large parking is an enjoyable experience. From the car parking, take the cable car up to the top. It is amazing!

By car climbing the steep and winding road up to the large parking is an enjoyable experience. 

When there is no wind , the branches of the trees are still. 

The scenic area of Rothermurcius it is another lovely place you should absolutely visit.


Everything is covered with white snow  in winter, white solitude and purity. 

Queen Victoria made ​​her way walking up in the freezing cold and the snow to get up there. 
It was worth it and it is worth it today . From the top of the Cairngorm the eye goes away on the lakes between the mountains of the same color of the sky. A throne for every king .

The tartan carpet , the flames of the fireplace, violin music , a single malt whiskey and a good plate of venison. They are the best refreshment after a day of cold. This is your home up here in the mountains . Your home is in Aviemore at the Cairngorm Hotel. They know how to treat a traveler there. 

When late at night, after having enjoyed a well earned venison dish and a glass of local whisky, you will leave the Cairngorm Hotel look to the moon just above the big mountain. The snow up there shines like pure gold.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

ISLE OF ISLAY #2 - THE ISLAND OF THE WHISKY AND OF THE MOST FAMOUS DISTILLERIES OF THE WORLD

There is a lighthouse at Portnahaven in the Scottish Island of Islay . 


In the morning you may wake up and it's raining again in the Isle of Islay.

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as "The Queen of the Hebrides".

Today, Islay has over 3,000 inhabitants and the main commercial activities are agriculture, malt whisky distillation and tourism.

Islay is an unmissable place to visit if you are travelling in Scotland.

There is a lighthouse at Portnahaven and you can continue our tour around this beautiful Scottish Isle from here (click here to read the first part of your tour). 

The war memorial here is simple, only a cross, but it is worth a visit

A little farther on, near Port Charlotte, another distillery (after Bowmore - read previous post about Islay), this time is Bruichladdich with its huge copper ampules . 

Bruichladdich distillery produces mainly single malt Scotch whisky, but it has also to offer artisanal gin. It is owned by Rémy Cointreau (the company producing the famous French Cognac) and it is one of the eight working distilleries currently working on the island of Islay.


Bruichladdich distillery produces mainly single malt Scotch whisky in the Scottish Island of Islay.


In 2001 the Bruichladdich distillery was dismantled and reassembled, with the original Victorian equipment retained. 

Having escaped modernisation, most of the original Harvey machinery is still in use today. No computers are used in production with all processes controlled by a pool of skilled artisans who pass on information orally and largely measure progress using dipsticks and simple flotation devices.

After having visited Bruichladdich distillery you should move to Bridge End.

In Bridge End you can discover a small fortress hidden among the vegetation . An old stone tower , ancient cannon barrels abandoned between the branches.


Ancient cannon barrels abandoned between the branches.


These ancient cannon barrels should be collected and taken to a museum. 

Maybe not: in a museum these ancient cannon barrels would receive only a distracted look, here in the leaves they must remain as part of this beautiful island .

The tide has retreated on the beach in front of Bridge End.

If you are visiting when the tide is out you should sit down and wait until you see the moon .

It is an unforgettable experience!

In the morning, go back to Port Ellen and from there walk up to Ardberg . You will enjoy magnificent views of the cliffs and the sea. Then dozens of islets will appear on the horizon as the boats in the harbour surrounded by the fog will slowly appear just in front of the Ardberg distillery, also with its large ampule of course.

The Ardbeg distillery has been producing whisky since 1798.

Ardbeg whisky is considered one of the peatiest in the world, using malt with a phenol content of 55ppm. Absolutely taste it!

The tide goes out and you can reach those strips of rocks that look like whales in front of Ardberg. 


The Ardbeg distillery has been producing whisky since 1798 in the Isle of Islay, Western Hebrides, Scotland.


When the fog disappear from in front of the cliffs, from the sea may appear a dog's head, in reality a small seal. 
It will probably stare at you and then quietly dive under the water . 

The beach at Ardberg is a mirror to the pink of the sky in the morning, the birds arrive in groups to find out what the tide has left today for them. 

Hundreds, thousands of birds come to celebrate the end of the rain. Then the curtain may fall and it may start to rain again. But you will be grateful to the sky if you have managed to see Islay under the rays of the sun.

If you want to read more about Islay read also Isle of Islay - Where the Devil has nowhere to hide.

Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ISLE OF ISLAY - THE ISLAND WHERE THE DEVIL HAS NOWHERE TO HIDE

The round church of Bowmore where the devil has nowhere to hide. 



Travelling by ferry from Mainland Scotland the Island of Islay is fast approached.

Whitewashed cottages illuminate the landscape, grey of the mist and rain. Then the orange Coast Guard boat and the dock. 

Three rams with long and curled horns will probably observe you dragging your luggage up to your B & B.

After getting rid of your burden, you should walk along the beautiful beach near Bridge End and walk along the road until you reach a church in which the devil just can not hide. You will be in Bowmore.


Arriving at Islay by ferry.
The Harbour at Ardberg

Why the Devil cannot hide in Bowmore Church?

Very simple: because there is nowhere to hide!

At the village of Bowmore on the Iland of Islay the church is round and someone has thought of this trick of building a round  church so to deprive the devil of every corner or crevice for refuge. 

At Bowmore on the Isle of Islay, however, perhaps a round church was not needed, the devil, if really had to get here, definitely would go to hole himself up at the famous Bowmore Whisky Distillery. 

The Bowmore Distillery was established in 1779 by a local merchant, John P. Simpson, before passing into the ownership of the Mutter family, a family of German descent.

Today  there are twenty Japanese hidden in the famous Bowmore Distillery.

The distillery is owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, a holding company owned by Japanese drinks company Suntory. Morrison Bowmore also own the Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries and produce the McClelland's Single Malt range of bottlings.

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as "The Queen of the Hebrides".

Today, Islay has over 3,000 inhabitants and the main commercial activities are agriculture, malt whisky distillation and tourism.

Islay has eight Malt Whisky Distilleries, most of them located close to Islay's seashore, and they produce some of the finest Malt Whiskies in the world.
If you leave the church on the hill overlooking the main street of Bowmore that descends to the sea and walk for a while you can reach Port Ellen and it's worth it. 


Port Ellen on the Island of Islay
The large Bay at port Ellen
The beautiful coast of Islay

Of course with a little 'bit of sunshine all would look even better, but those colored cottages of the little village of Port Ellen on the Island of Islay have their own charm and the White Hart Hotel looks like a nice place to rest for the visitors of this hidden corner of the world. 

The bay narrows along an imaginary horseshoe. 

On top of the bay a man of stone, with the Scottish kilt and bonnet, bows his head on his rifle and remember those young men who have left the island and in the battlefields of France and have reached prematurely the immense glory of God.

It is the monument dedicated to the young men of the island who fought and died during I World War. 

It stands in front of the open sea.

No more tears to cry, thirty years later, when even the children of those men have left and have not returned fighting the II World War.


Port Ellen could not build another stone man. So someone added another list of names at his feet and asked the sea to bring to the dead soldiers a little 'flavor of the Islay whiskeys, which may cancel the war and alleviate his pain! 

...click here to continue reading about the Isle of Islay.

Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ST CROSS - A HIDDEN JEWEL NEAR WINCHESTER

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester, most amazingly still working today with the exact of organization and in the same way than centuries ago.


There is one last place that you should not miss if you are visiting Winchester (read the other two posts about the main attractions of Winchester: Visiting Winchester #1 - Visiting Winchester #2).

St Cross, or using its full name The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester.

St Cross is for me one of the most inspiring in Winchester.

It obviously depends a lot for what you are looking for in Winchester.

Winchester is a beautiful town in the South of England, an hour South of London and , although sometimes forgot, the town of Winchester is so important in the history of England to rightly deserve to be the town of King Arthur's Round Table.

Winchester was also for a short time the capital of England, during the black death in London.

If you are looking for the great monuments your first place to would be Winchester Cathedral and after King Arthur's Round Table.


The Almshouse is a charitable  housing provided to elderly and poor people.

If instead you are looking for a less famous corner of Winchester, but extremely inspiring and charming the right place is St Cross.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is a medieval almshouse founded between 1133 and 1136. It is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester is the oldest and largest almshouse in England and certainly one of the best preserved.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester, most amazingly still working today with the exact of organization and in the same way than centuries ago.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester provides today accommodation for a total of 25 elderly men, called "The Brothers", under the care of "The Master".

St Cross is just outside Winchester Old Town. One time it could have been easily said it was outside Winchester in the countryside.


The Almshouse is a charitable  housing provided to elderly and poor people.

Practically today The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty  is little more than two miles from Winchester city center, walking South.

The best you can do if you are visiting Winchester in South of England is to finish your two days tour at The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty

If after you have visited the Cathedral you walk at the back of this wonderful church passing near Dean Garnier Gardens you will easily find college street.-

Walk along College Street and if you have time visit Winchester College and have a look of what is left of Winchester Castle.

After you have seen the few remaining ruins of the castle take College Walk, keep coming straight in front of you an in twenty minutes you will be at St Cross.

The building is constructed of stone and surrounds two quadrangles. The smaller Outer Quadrangle to the north consists of: the outer gate (16th century); brew house (14th century).

The 12th- and 13th-century church in the south-east corner is more like a miniature cathedral than a typical almshouse chapel. The building is stone-vaulted throughout, with transepts and a central tower.


St Cross, or using its full name The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester.

What is an almshouse?

An Almshouse is a typical British institution, at least originally.

The Almshouse is a charitable  housing provided to elderly and poor people.

Alms are, in the Christian tradition, money or services donated to support the poor and indigent. Almshouses were established from the 10th century in Britain, to provide a place of residence for poor, old and distressed people.

If you are so lucky yo be able to visit The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester in a spring sunny day you could enjoy all the quiet of the large courtyard.

The gardens of the Hospital of St Cross when in bloom are a magnificent sight and you would feel back in time in the quiet of these gardens.



Do you want to read more about Winchester?

Read The hero of Winchester Cathedral and King Arthur Round Table in Winchester.

Do you want to read more about England?

Browse on my page Visit England for many more destinations


If you are visiting Winchester please leave a comment below about your  visit or some suggestions you would like to make for other visitors.