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The North West Coast

Caithness, Sutherland & Wester Ross - Highlands

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Although it was now our third day up in Caithness, we had yet to really explore the area. And so after checking out of our hotel in Wick, we drove back up to John O'Groats to start exploring the nearby area.

We began by heading east to Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point of Great Britain, and from where there were beautiful views of the Duncansby Stacks. The short walk between the two, through the field of sheep, took us past beautiful coves, and cliffs full of birds including puffins.

Duncansby Stacks

Duncansby Stacks

Having already seen John O'Groats the previous day, we drove through the small settlement and made our way to the Castle of Mey, which was bought and restored by the Queen Mother.

Castle of Mey

Castle of Mey

Sadly, the Castle was closed, but we gained a vantage point of it from a nearby road before we continued our drive further west towards Dunnet Head - the northernmost point of Great Britain.

The top and bottom ends of the country are uniquely similar despite having no reason to be so alike.
Land's End is neither the most southern or western point of Great Britain, the former being Lizard Point not far away, whilst the eastern point is actually on the west coast of Scotland. And to top it off, there are parts of England further beyond (the Isles of Scilly).
Meanwhile John O'Groats also has islands further off the coast (Orkney, and Shetland), and it's also neither the most northern or eastern point of Great Britain, the latter being in Norfolk, England, and the former being Dunnet Head, again not a far distance away, where we were driving to.

Dunnet Head is a clifftop peninsular jutting into the North Sea and marking the western end of the Pentland Firth, where it's cliffs are, like Duncansby Head, home to many different species of bird.

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Having now seen all the sights in Caithness we began our two hour drive along the northern coast. Passing the beautiful Dunnet Beach that could easily have been Cornwall in this sunshine, we drove through the only significant town on this coast Thurso.

Being home to just 7,500 people it wasn't long before we were again on the rural coastal road, entering Sutherland and passing by more beautiful beaches before the hills arrived. It was also not long before we reached the first stretch of single track road that would be a regular staple of the next few day's driving.

Some of the beaches en route

Some of the beaches en route

After a quick comfort break, we continued our drive past miles of Gorse before making it to the beautiful, but inconvenient Loch Eriboll. After a half hour detour around this beautiful loch, we were soon at the Smoo Cave.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave

The cave was formed both by the tidal gorge just north of the cave, as well as the stream that feeds the internal waterfall. Sadly the stream was pretty dry due to the lovely weather that the area had recently had, and so the waterfall was not flowing. However it still looked pretty inside.

After a strenuous (or was it just post-Covid laziness?) walk back up to the road, we continued our drive along the coast heading south.

Once again, the landscape was beautiful, but pretty barren with just a few scattered small settlements, including the beautiful Scourie, where we (and everyone else taking this beautiful coastal drive) was alerted to the fact it was Donna's 50th birthday. Hope she had a nice day ūüôÉ

Wildlife en route

Wildlife en route

We were blessed with great weather, which enhanced the beautiful scenery. We stopped at a viewpoint at the top of the hills looking over the lakes of lochs of Assynt, before crossing over the Kylesku Bridge en route to our final pit stop of the day, Ardvreck Castle on the edges of Loch Assynt.

Scenery overlooking Assynt

Scenery overlooking Assynt

From here it was just half an hour to our stop for tonight, in the largest town for miles around - Ullapool, which has a population of just 1,500!

Even in June the town gets a rain day half the time, and so we were blessed with beautiful sunshine that made the views down Loch Broom some of the most beautiful we'd seen in a long time.

Ullapool

Ullapool

Being such a small town there weren't a lot of choices for accommodation or food - we grabbed a fish and chips by the harbour before settling in to our room for the night.

The following morning after trying some haggis for breakfast, we set off on our journey further south. After around 20 minutes we arrived at our first sight for the day - the Corrieshalloch Gorge.

Corrieshalloch Gorge

Corrieshalloch Gorge

This already deep gorge contains the Falls of Measach, a 46m waterfall, which can be seen from the slightly wobbly bridge that crosses to the other side. From here a small footpath leads down to a viewing platform, where the real scale of the waterfall and gorge can be seen.

Our next destination was a 90 minute drive further south to the Eilean Donan Castle, which sits at an imposing postion on a tidal island at the junction of three lochs. Sadly due to Covid, entry was only permitted by prebooking in advance, which we hadn't done as we didn't know when we would actually get here.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Nevertheless the views we got on this comfort break were still impressive, and after buying some souvenirs we continued our journey on to our next destination of the trip - The Isle of Skye, which will be covered in the next blog post.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 18:06 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged waterfalls castles cliffs wildlife cave port highlands&islands Comments (0)

Cooler in Cappadocia

Turkey - Capadoccia

overcast 18 °C
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After last night's storm we had started to become a little paranoid. As we were flying into Kayseri airport, Chris asked if that was lightning he had seen outside. It was just the lights on the wing I replied - before looking out the window to find fork lightning! Going round and round in circles before eventually coming in to land, there were many more flashes and I just wanted to get on the ground sooner rather than later.

Having avoiding being hit, we arrived at the airport just minutes after another internal flight and so the tiny baggage hall was packed full of people. Eventually collecting our baggage after what felt like hours, we headed outside and met our transfer to Cappadocia.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

An hour or so later and we made it to the hotel, where we were staying in a cave room built into the hills surrounding the small tourist town of Göreme. By now it was pitch black and so we took a quick walk around the corner to see night time views of the town lit up.

Nighttime views

Nighttime views

Originally we were supposed to arrive mid afternoon, but a few weeks ago our flight had been rescheduled, meaning we now only had one morning to explore the town. Therefore we got up early the following morning and headed up the hill again for views over the area.

Normally the sky would be full of hot air balloons, but unfortunately the weather was still not great, with risks of thunderstorms and so these had all been cancelled. It was also a lot colder than it had been elsewhere up until now, with us needing jackets all day long. In fact with a heatwave at home this weekend, it was actually hotter there! Nevertheless there were still nice views over the town, where we could see all the buildings built into the cliffs.

Views of the town

Views of the town

After heading back for breakfast before checking out of the hotel, we left the bags at the hotel and headed towards the Open Air Museum, where there were many churches carved into the rock. Upon arrival, even early in the morning it was full of tourists, and it was difficult to explore without people being in the way.

Open Air Museum

Open Air Museum

After an hour or so we had seen many of these amazing chapels, which from the inside looked like they had been constructed normally, rather than carved out from the rocks.

Inside one of the chapels

Inside one of the chapels

We then headed back into the town, which had now woken up and was full of many little souvenir shops. After buying a keyring, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a last rest this holiday. The weather then perked up slightly and we enjoyed some final views of the town in the sun.

Göreme town

Göreme town

We were then picked up for our trip back to the airport and our final flights back to London via Istanbul Airport.

Although the holiday had been cut short by a week, we still had a nice break and got to explore new areas, as well as relax and spend time with friends, and would recommend it as somewhere interesting to visit.

Posted by kmmk17 11:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged churches hotel church cave plane turkey2019 Comments (0)

Road Trip

Bristol, et al.

semi-overcast 22 °C
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Having spent the last few years jetting off abroad for weekends away to new cities and countries, it made me realise there were still patches missing that I had never visited in my own country.

Despite having seen mouse statues in Lithuanian sea side towns, and art villages in rural Germany, I had still never seen Stonehenge, Cardiff or Bath. Therefore whilst I was in the midst of visa approvals I had decided that I would take a visit to the West country on a nice weekend during the summer, similar to my trip to North Wales a few years back, stopping in a few places for a few hours before heading to the next. Keeping in mind the school holidays as well as the weather forecast the weekend chosen was the last in July, and together with Chris we set off early on Saturday morning towards Stonehenge.

Hearing it was best to prebook our tickets in advance we looked to be arriving on time. However despite the satnav telling us that we were only two minutes away, with a dual carriageway merging into single lanes, and everyone wanting to slow down for a photoshoot of the rocks themselves it ended up taking us 45 minutes to finally arrive!

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Once parked up at the new visitor centre we then took a short bus ride to the rocks themselves for some photos, surrounded by half of China. After taking in the sophisticated neolithic structure and grabbing a bite to eat we then continued our journey on to Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole

The caves at Wookey Hole included a guided tour, and after raving it up with our glow sticks we entered to observe the stalagmites and -tites as well as the erosive features.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Our next and final destination of the day was Cheddar Gorge, where we walked up the side of the gorge to gain views over it as well as of the Bristol Channel and South Wales, before heading back down and stopping for a coffee inside the Gorge.

Inside Cheddar Gorge

Inside Cheddar Gorge

After resting up we then drove up the Gorge itself for some stunning views before heading to our hotel in Portishead for the evening.

Portishead

Portishead

Arriving at the hotel we checked in, had dinner and then took a quick drive to the coast before heading back and chilling with a bottle of wine after a long day.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

After some rural attractions, the following morning we headed towards Cardiff, stopping at Cardiff Bay and viewing the waterside regeneration before driving through the city centre and then into the valleys, stopping by the house of my great grandmother.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle


Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Heading back to England we then took a brief visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol before our final destination on this busy weekend - Bath.

Us at the Roman Baths

Us at the Roman Baths

After taking a look around the Roman Baths we then headed for a walk around the city looking at the architecture before our final drive back home.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

A long and tiresome weekend but a great one - helped by the weather, but also by being able to drive around to enjoy the sights without getting bored!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes bridges history cave roman capital ancient Comments (0)

Anti-Mexican Reunion

Kyiv

all seasons in one day 18 °C
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After a little over two weeks, it was once again time for the next holiday. And this time I was headed to Ukraine's capital Kyiv for a reunion with some of my Erasmus friends from three years previously.

After chatting with Halina, my Ukrainian friend I decided that we needed a reunion and as she couldn't come to me I would go to her and we would have a reunion in Kyiv - the last city we spent time together back in March 2012. After chatting some more, our Russian and Greek friends were also up for the reunion, and they joined us in the Ukrainian capital, the only place easy to get to for us all that we could all go visa free.

Although I had all visited each of them independently after the Erasmus experience had ended, this would be the first time in over two years, as well as the first time in over three since we were all together.

I started the trip by taking a BA flight from T5 (the first time I'd flown with British Airways) to Kyiv's Boryspil airport. After a three hour flight I arrived and jumped on the airport bus to make my way into the city centre for a reunion with the bestie. And instantly it was as if nothing had changed and we carried on the fun from where we had left off.

Maidan

Maidan

The first day was only going to be Halina and myself, as the other two were arriving the following morning, and so we spent it in the Maidan - the scene of the revolution since my last visit, and then by walking around the government areas, where just the week previously there had been some protests and subsequent casualties. We finished the day by getting some booze at the supermarket - a small bottle of vodka for just 75p! And spent the evening getting drunkat our self styled 'Anti-Mexican-Greek-Russian party'.

Memorials since the revolution

Memorials since the revolution

The following morning the girls arrived and we spent the morning walking around the city, starting with the Maidan (avoiding the bird men), before heading around the hills and towards the Golden Domed cathedrals.

Golden Domed Cathedrals

Golden Domed Cathedrals

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

Taking a look inside some of them and then stopping for lunch with a well earned catch up on all the action of the previous few years, we headed towards St. Andrew's and the Chernobyl Museum.

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

On Halina and I's previous visit, we had visited the actual reactor building, and therefore to keep with continuity we had to visit something depressing! The museum had a completely different presentation, as this was located within the city of Kyiv, and told more of the story around the incident with videos, photos and objects. Chernobyl itself just shows the effects of it. Although it was slightly worrying at parts, as we were told some of these objects were slightly radioactive. As Halina said to me, it was almost scarier than the real thing - at least you were prepared for that. The museum was definitely worth visiting as it was pretty cheap to get in, gives a different perspective on the event, and is themed very very well. Even with the dark reactor floor styled seating area and mutated puppy on show.

Mutated Puppy

Mutated Puppy

On our way back we took the funicular to the top of the hill, before it started raining and we headed back for a relaxed evening of fun, games and booze. Including a hilarious game of Truth or Dare that resulted in our Russian friend screaming at the loss of the Lenin statue that faced our apartment the previous year.

On the metro

On the metro

On the final full day for us all Marianna's Ukrainian friend Alyssa joined us, and we made our way to the south of the city centre. Unfortunately it was raining, and as we walked along the hilltop there wasn't much of the view of the city to be seen.

In rainy Kyiv

In rainy Kyiv

We reached the Holodomor museum, and took a look at the exhibits on the Ukrainian Genocide in the 30s, before making our way to the Lavra - a large UNESCO protected collection of churches and caves.

The Lavra

The Lavra


At Mother Motherland

At Mother Motherland

Our final stop for the day was at the Mother Motherland statue, where despite the rain we took some group photos before heading back for another evening of stupid games which ended up with an explicit and hilarious game of charades. The following day began with Lisa making her way back to the airport, before we checked out of the apartment, dropped bits off at the Hotel Ukraina overlooking the Maidan, and took a look at the final few sites in the city before I left the group for the airport.

Back in the Maidan

Back in the Maidan

Kyiv is still one of my favourite cities in the world, with its unique mix of beautiful Orthodox buildings, communist architecture, modern history and super cheap prices. Despite the struggle with the lack of English and clear direction I had an amazing time having a catch up with my favourite East Europeans and look forward to our next reunion - wherever that may be!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Ukraine Tagged city friends cave cathedral erasmus chernobyl radiation macabre Comments (0)

Espanish Culture

Espain - Guadix


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The next day we took the trip to the northern slopes of Sierra Nevada to the mining village of Alquife, to see the remnants of the industry that had previously employed much of the village. It was whilst walking around the village that Saman decided she would great the locals by saying "¬°Hola!". It was however when the lady then greeted back by replying "¬°Hola!, ¬ŅBuenos Dias?" that Saman's proudest achievement in the Spanish language came - when she exclaimed "Ah! I don't speak Spanish!", leaving a bewildered old Spanish lady.

La Calahorra

La Calahorra

Leaving Alquife, we visited the town of La Calahorra, which is home to the huge Castle, one of the first Italian Renaissance pieces outside Italy - where stunning views of the local countryside can be seen backdropped by the Sierra Nevada. After this we went to Guadix, where we again visited cave homes, before walking past a shop named "Kevin" and grabbing some food.

Alhambra by night

Alhambra by night

In the evening we were taken by minibus to Flamenco. However we were led to believe that we would be the only ones on the minibus - so when we clambered aboard, every one of us was shocked to discover two Chinese sitting in the front seat. This minibus would then take us to the Albayzín area that we had visited on the second day - however we were to discover that the windy hilly streets that we had believed were pedestrian only, were infact open to local vehicles - despite there being as little as 10cm leeway either side of the road with the minibus in the middle. Eventually making it we were entertained to some stunning Flamenco performances!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged culture cave castle uni flamenco espain Comments (0)

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