Sunday, 27 November 2011

Strolling through the cliffs and ancient sites of Cornwall

120km in 4 days walking on the extreme southern coastal paths of Cornwall and exploring the numerous archaeological sites of the Iron and Bronze age. 

Day 1 – Penzance to Porthcurno

We took the South Costal Path - Penzance to Mousehole: the worst part of the entire journey. Mousehole to Lamorna: great views-you walk through a colourful natural reserve and stunning cliffs. Lamorna has a beautiful and rich flora that hides ancient mills and 18th century country houses. Near Lamorna we saw the very popular archaeological site of Merry Maidens. On the way to Porthcurno through internal paths you can see many other standing stones, the Tregiffian Barrow (about 3000 BC tomb) and then on the coast again you meet the fabulous village of Penberth. The last 3 miles of the path are quite strenuous and steep.
Dinner: Cable Station Inn Pub (the only restaurant in the area) - decent food.
Overnight: Sea View  B&B – nice and clean place and friendly owners.

Day 2 – Porthcurno to St. Just 

Some of the best views and locations of the entire walk, including: Porthgwarra bay, little sandy beaches coves and the protected local bird Red Billed Chough. From the touristy Lands End (1 hotel and 1 shopping centre) onward, the scenery is much rockier and with less interesting vegetation even you still see amazing cliffs. Sennen Cove is a surfers paradise, offering a huge and windy beach. Walking through internal paths, we explored the Iron settlement of Carn Euny, famous for its beehive shelter and its underground passage, both perfectly preserved. Beware from here to St. Just it’s very easy to get lost as many of the pathways are not very well maintained.

Dinner: The King's Arms – Good but overpriced food.
Overnight: Wellington Hotel – AVOID THIS PLACE! – Noisy, dirty, rude staff and very expensive hotel-pub.

Day 3 – St. Just to St. Ives 

We took the internal Tinners Way. Again, the path signs are very bad kept. Bring a good map and compass with you at all time. You can’t miss: Tregeseal Stone Circle, Carn (rocky hill) Kenidjack, the holed stones, Chun Quoit, Chun Castle, the infamous Men an Tol (the legend says that it’s connected to a fertility ritual), and also many 18th century mines.
Dinner - The Loft: romantic fish restaurant.
Overnight - Sea Forth B&B: luxury see view B&B, featuring extremely friendly and caring owners. Highly recommended.

Day 4 – St.Ives to Marazion

We followed the St. Michael’s Way (the route used by the Irish pilgrims to France and Santiago de Compostela). Very relaxing and easy paths. Green hills and kettles all around. At the end of the St. Michael’s Way it is possible to admire St. Michael’s Mount, a little isle with a hunting medieval castle in front of Marazion that it’s connected to the coast only during the low tide (Must see).

Dinner The Victoria Inn: great country gastro pub, serving delicious but expensive food. Reachable only via cab (ask for the funny Jolly Roger) or car.
Overnight The Old Vicarage B&B: huge and comfy 18th century style room. The owner is a grumpy old horse breeder.

Practical tips:

- Best time of the year: May to September.
- Mind the internal paths, very bad signs.
- Don’t miss: Lamorna, St. Ives and almost all the archaeological sites.
- Try the Cornish Ales.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Great Glen Way: 73 miles on foot

The Great Glen Way is a long distance walk that takes you from the East to the West coast of Scotland touching three beautiful Lochs (lakes).
This is the diary of our trail.

Day one:
Difficulty: easy
Fort Williams -  Gairlochy: 11 miles ( + extra)
A long and pleasurable walk on a flat land along the river Lochy.
We stayed at Stronaba in the beautiful Springburn B&B, 4 miles uphill on the right side of the path. The owners were extremely helpful and friendly. Lovely place.

Day two:
Difficulty: easy/medium
Gairlochy - South Laggan: 12,5 miles (+ extra)
First Loch (Lochy) of the trip. Beautiful views. Quiet and unspoilt scenery. Plenty of cows and goats all around!
We stayed in South Laggan at the basic Great Glen Hostel. Bunk beds. No breakfast available and no chance to get it anywhere around.
Nearest pub is a bunk house 1 mile away. Fun place and good ales.

Day three:
Difficulty: easy
South Laggan - Fort Augustus: 10 miles
On the trail you will find the mysterious Invergarry castle on the other side of the Loch and an haunting abandoned house from the 19th century.
We stayed at Bank House an old style B&B managed by a real cheerful Scottish man telling stories about Loch Ness.

Day four:
Difficulty: medium
Fort Augustus - Invermoriston: 9,5 miles
Less miles but a bit uphill. Beautiful wild life. Once you arrive at Invermoriston you have the chance to do fabulous walks around the area. You must see the Thomas Telford bridge, built in 1813, which crosses  the spectacular river Moriston falls.
We stayed at Bracarina House, cosy and comfortable B&B. Great breakfast and foot spa available for your tired feet!
Be aware that the village has one hotel and one newsagent. The hotel's restaurant serves good food (especially game)

Day five:
Difficulty: difficult
Invermoriston - Drumnadrochit : 14,5 miles (+ extra)
The trail at times can can be a bit steep. The last part near Drumnadrochit is characterised by plain fields.
We stayed at Knowle B&B managed by a friendly Dutch couple. Beautiful but about 2 miles away fro the main path.

Day six:
Difficulty: hard
Drumnadrochit - Inverness: 19 miles
It was the longest and hardest distance to cover and we found a blizzard of snow followed by heavy rain all day long (in April)
The only warm oasis of the day was at Abriachan Eco-Campsite & Cafe featuring the extravagant and ultra friendly Rory (...but do not expect luxury). Boring and disappointing sceneries apart for last 5 miles.
We stayed at Bazpackers hostel....devastating experience (dirty sheets, smelly room, really old structure that needs refurbishment and very rude and uncaring receptionist....avoid this place).

-always bring plenty of water and snacks with you.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The magical atmosphere of Priene

Admission TL 3
Opening hours: 8.30 - 18.30 May-Sept; 8.30 -17.30 Oct-Apr

Priene, an ancient city of Ionia in south-western modern Turkey, was one of the most important commercial and cultural centre during the Hellenistic and Roman era. It passed then into Byzantine and finally Turkish hands until it was completely abandoned around the 13th century.

The city is located on a dramatic and spectacular hill at the feet of Mykale mount. It looks like a ghost town and has a mystic and magic vibe. The silence and atmosphere that we encountered in this site is something very difficult to find in any other archaeological site in Turkey.

The Hellenistic theatre is one of the best example of its kind and very well preserved. It is characterised by 5 armchairs seats decorated with anthropomorphic figures and has beautiful back stage constructions partially intact, which is extremely rare.
Behind the theatre you will find the hidden rests of a Byzantine church with a partly damaged pulpit.

The Temple of Athena has only 5 columns still standing up but the scenic view of the valley below that you can get from it, it's astonishing.
All around there is an extended network of streets and residences surrounded by what is left of the walls of the city and the 'usual' large Agora (or market).

Once left this impressive ruins we strongly suggest to visit the village of Doganbey with its picturesque 19th century Ottoman houses.
From there within half an hour drive you will find yourself in a peaceful lagoon on the southern side of the Dilek peninsula.
Carry on until the end of the coastal road where the military zone starts and stop for a meal at the delicious Karina fish restaurant directly on the beach (but do not forget mosquito repellent).