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Grey Skye's Ahead

Isle of Skye - Highlands

rain 16 °C
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After a brief stop of the Eilean Donan Castle, we made our way further west, crossing the bridge over to the Isle of Skye where we were instantly struck by beautiful mountain views.

This afternoon was the only time it was going to be dry during our stay on the island, and so with plenty of time, we made our way up to The Storr. This is the iconic view of Skye and one of the best of Scotland, but it was not without a struggle. Barely leaving the house these days, the strenuous 45 minute climb was hard going. It was very steep and only I made it to the top.

The Storr

The Storr

However it was definitely worth it. The views were incredible and lived up to their hype, despite the biting wind at the top.

After strolling back down the hillside it was now almost time to check into our hotel. Having driven across much of Skye to get to the Storr, it was only a short drive south back to Portree where we would stay for the next two nights.

Like Ullapool, this was the most important town for miles, and still had a population below 2,500. Therefore there were limited options for accommodation and food. We stayed in a hotel on the central square and parked around the corner, whilst after gong for a little wander over towards the port we grabbed dinner at an Indian restaurant. It seems every British town - even in the middle of nowhere - will have a Chippie and an Indian.

Portree Port

Portree Port

The following morning, as expected, it was wet and miserable. We drove north, past The Storr and on to Kilt Rock. Here, Loch Mealt drains into the sea over beautiful cliffs. However despite the rain, the dry weather until now meant ironically, that there wasn't a huge amount of water actually falling.

Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock

Getting soaked, we didn't hang about long, and continued our way north to the Quiraing, a landslip in the middle of the Trotternish peninsula. To get here was a steep windy drive. After driving through what felt like an amphitheatre, before a steep hairpin bend, we made it to the top.

From here there are supposed to be amazing views of spectacular scenery and on to the sea. But as we were in the clouds, sadly we'd have to imagine it.

Quiraing

Quiraing

We continued crossing the peninsula, and arrived on the other side above the town of Uig, which even in miserable weather looked beautiful.

Uig Bay

Uig Bay

Just around the corner from here is The Fairy Glen, an unusual landscape created by a landslip, that could easily have been home to the Teletubbies. Home to ponds and small mounds it was a very strange place, but due to the weather we didn't fancy walking around it and so after driving through it we turned around and returned back towards Uig.

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen

We had originally also included visits to Neist Point and the Fairy Pools on the west and south sides of the island. However with terrible weather and both being over an hour away on low quality roads in opposite directions, we decided to give them both a miss and instead enjoy a relaxed afternoon.

After arriving back to the hotel, we chilled for a few hours before having dinner in the restaurant downstairs after a quick stroll to the watchtower that overlooks Loch Portree.

Watchtower

Watchtower

After two nights on Skye, the next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back towards the mainland. The weather was abysmal - it was hammering down and the wind had really picked up. Then, as a lorry drove past - Smash! - a stone had smashed into the windscreen and caused a massive dent in the windscreen.

How annoying. In all the driving I'd done over the years this had never happened until now when I was in a hire car. But worse things were to come. As we crossed back across the Skye Bridge, and for no apparent reason, a massive crack started to form across the windscreen right in front of my face....

Posted by kmmk17 13:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scenery bridge hill waterfall highlands&islands Comments (0)

Touring Tyne & Wear

Northumbria - Newcastle, Gateshead & Durham

semi-overcast 19 °C
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After two busy days, we decided to take our time a bit more today, and would spend it seeing the sights in Tyne & Wear without too much driving.
We began by heading to the centre of Gateshead, parking at the SAGE Centre, and going for a walk around the Tyne, crossing into Newcastle over the Millennium Bridge.

Tyneside

Tyneside

We then continued walking along the riverside under the Tyne Bridge before heading up to the Castle, which has been cut in half by a railway viaduct, somewhat ruining the image of how it would have been every few minutes!.

Newcastle Castle

Newcastle Castle

After heading back towards the car park we drove out of the city, stopping at the Angel of the North, which unlike most places was still full of tourists.

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

After a short stop, we headed to the furthest place on today's trip - Durham.

Covid had really affected Durham, and it felt particularly empty - especially around the old city. Much of the peninsular is taken up by the University - various halls and colleges, which were all empty. Even the souvenir shop was closed.

Durham

Durham

However as luck would have it, the cathedral had not been closed, and opened for the day just as we arrived. We had a quick look around, and then headed for a walk around the riverside.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Our last stop for the day was to the Penshaw Monument, just outside Sunderland, where after climbing the steep hill to the top, there were scenic views to be had across the local area.

Penshaw Monument

Penshaw Monument

Normally we don't tend to spend an awful lot of time in each place anyway, but with a lot of places closed it meant we had whizzed around even quicker than normal, and after just a few hours we were already back!

We were however not done for the day. Being opposite a TGIs we decided to book ourselves a table, and so instead of grabbing a quick meal we went out to eat - the first time post lockdown. In a way it was nice to feel like getting back to normal, however at the same time we were constantly reminded due to the empty and roped off tables and one way system in place. Something to tell the kids in 20 years!

Posted by kmmk17 08:16 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged monument river bridge city hill Comments (0)

Pretty but Painful Pamukkale

Turkey - Pamukkale

sunny 24 °C
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After taking an internal flight from Istanbul we arrived at Denizli Airport for our transfer to Pamukkale. Pamukkale is an interesting village, thriving off tourism to it's two famous sites - the natural white travertine hillslopes caused by cooling salt water, which lead to ruins of an ancient spa city.

After an hour we arrived at our hotel, but by now it was already evening and so after a quick walk in the village to see it by night we settled in for the night.

We got up early the following morning to give us plenty of time to explore the sights, as we were only here one night. Heading down for breakfast, we were served a plethora of Turkish breakfast bites.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

As we were eating, a hot air balloon landed in the fields behind us, whilst we were being being surrounded by all the stray cats of the neighbourhood.

One of the stray cats

One of the stray cats

Not long later we checked out, leaving our suitcase at the hotel before heading towards the travertines. Whilst researching I had wondered whether being white, the ground would be burning hot after being in the sun. This was concerning, as all visitors need to walk on it barefeet to protect it from erosion - however no one had complained about it at all! After putting my feet on it, I was surprised however to find that it was not hot at all, but was in fact quite a painful experience - as parts of the white salt floor were quite sharp! And yet not one had mentioned this anywhere I had read!? I was expecting to have my feet burned or catch a verruca, not have my feet stabbed.

Entering the Travertines

Entering the Travertines

Being early it was still quite quiet, as a lot of visitors arrive on day trips from the resorts on the coast. This meant we were able to explore the pools without too many people in the way. It was an interesting experience as this is quite a unique attraction.

The reflective pools

The reflective pools

Arriving at the top there were beautiful views of Pamukkale village and salt water pools down the hill slope.

Pools down the hill slope

Pools down the hill slope

We were now able to put our shoes back on and let our feet recover a little, as we moved to start exploring the historic Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis. It wasn't the best of ancient cities, but it was certainly one of the more interesting given its setting.

We headed up to the amphitheatre, where there were views over the entire area, although as it was built into the hill it turned out to be harder work than expected.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

By now we had seen quite a lot, and yet it was not even 9:30am and so we were doing excellent for time. We headed back down towards the main thoroughfare and went in to see the hot pools.

The pool itself is quite unique as an earthquake in the 7th century caused a lot of the marble columns to fall into the pool itself which remain in situ to this day. Whilst this seemed really cool, it was somewhat impractical as you couldn't really see where they were as you moved around, causing you to knock your bare toes into them several times! Although sometimes they were useful to sit on!

The Pool

The Pool

After spending a little while in the pool feeling nice and relaxed we headed out and could already see just how busy it had become as there was now a queue back at the changing rooms. And as we headed back to the travertines it was difficult to get past all the people stood in the way whilst our feet were being stabbed again!

After getting back down to the bottom we headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our onward journey. We needed to get to the bus station in Denizli which was about a 15 minute drive away. Although having read there were buses, we hadn't seen one and with our suitcases in tow, we decided to just take a taxi and get there easier. After hailing one down we were on our way and upon arriving at the bus station and purchasing our tickets we boarded a bus headed for Antalya.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 03:37 Archived in Turkey Tagged landscapes architecture water hill old pool roman spa relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Castles & Towers

Lithuania & Belarus - Trakai & Vilnius

semi-overcast 27 °C
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After a busy day in Belarus, and with a flight home in the evening, we had the day to explore Vilnius properly, as well as the local area. One place I had missed on my first visit to Lithuania was Trakai, and this time I definitely wanted to visit the small town.

Still having stomach discomfort I ended up skipping most of the breakfast but was definitely on the mend a lot quicker. By the time we had checked out and headed to the bus station, I was already starting to feel a bit better and the half hour bus ride was fine.

Trakai Castle

Trakai Castle

Trakai is located just outside Vilnius, and is a small town located on a thin strip of land between two lakes. At the northern end of the town on a small island just into the lake is a large castle. This castle has now become one of the icons of Lithuania and the whole area is surrounded by gift shops, cafés and boats for hire.

Little shops on the waterfront

Little shops on the waterfront


Castle Walls

Castle Walls

We weren't bothered about visiting the insides of the castle, but we did take a walk around the island outside the walls, and edge of the lake. If we had more time this would have been a nice place to spend the day. Having taken the mini tourist bus up there from the bus station, we walked back through the pretty village on foot, and caught the next bus back to Vilnius.

We had taken a short walk around the southern part of the city centre when we had arrived on Saturday, and today we went to explore the northern part, walking back past the Town Square, before the Presidential Palace and arriving at the Cathedral Square.

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

After sitting and enjoying the summer sunshine in this beautiful square, we then headed towards the Gediminas Tower, and luckily found the funicular was working, saving our already aching feet from a steep walk up the hillside.

Gediminas Tower

Gediminas Tower

At the top, a lot of the castle hill was undergoing renovation which meant we couldn't see the views of the south side of the city, but the views from the north and the tower were still nice.

We then headed back down, and walked passed the St. Anne's Church and through the bohemian Užupis area before finally heading back to our hotel to collect our luggage

St. Anne's Church

St. Anne's Church

Eventually after a busy trip we made it to the airport and without any delays headed home. Unfortunately due to our long delay on the way out it meant the holiday was a little more rushed than we would have liked, but nevertheless it was still an enjoyable trip.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:13 Archived in Lithuania Tagged tower church lake city island hill castle lithuaniabelarus Comments (2)

Beginning in Beijing

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Beijing

semi-overcast 25 °C
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After six months without travel, it was finally time for our two week 2018 holiday to East Asia. Beginning with the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The trip had been planned for over a year, in order to not only make Cherry Blossom season, but also to take advantage of the Easter Bank Holiday. It had been difficult to get all the dates to fit, and this first stopover was worked to take advantage of the 72 hour visa policy.

Annoyingly after booking, flights were cancelled and earlier flights were required in order to fit the visa policy. Only to find a few weeks later that the 72 hour visa was extended to 144 hours, making a lot of the stress unnecessary. Nevertheless, after a 10 hour overnight flight, with morning views of desolate Siberia and Mongolia, we finally arrived in a surprisingly modern looking Beijing.

Anticipating lots of smog, we were pleasantly surprised at the midday sky, being beautiful and blue. Getting to our courtyard hotel, we checked in and headed back out to make the most of the nice weather, heading first to Tiananmen Square, where the scale of the security checks throughout the city would become evident. It took us ten minutes to get into the square itself, by which time the Forbidden City had already been closed.

Tiananmen Gate

Tiananmen Gate

We enjoyed views of the Tiananmen Gate, before walking south into the huge square itself. A local guy asked to take a photo with us for his own photo collection, before we headed past Mao's mausoleum and exited the square heading into the souvenir shop we found.

Afterwards, and now by early evening, we headed north to the Olympic Park site, to see the Bird's Nest Stadium before ending our first day with food and bed.

Bird's Nest Stadium

Bird's Nest Stadium

With limited jetlag having travelled eastwards, the following morning we awoke early in plenty of time for our excursion to the Great Wall of China. Meeting our guide who wondered if we were brothers or friends (we went for friends), we jumped in the car for our private excursion, an hour or so north of the city. Although more expensive than a group tour, it meant our day would be much shorter, and thus more time to explore the rest of the city in our limited stay. We also got to arrive nice and early, beating the crowd.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Taking the cable car up, we quickly arrived at a relatively quiet section of the open wall, more extreme in steepness than expected. Our guide 'Jenny' was quite good, not too chatty, and also allowing us to explore it by ourselves, as well as giving us tips for the rest of our stay in the city. After lots of photos and walks (or climbs) across a short section we headed back down via toboggan, and back to Beijing.

Arriving back at lunchtime we headed out to the Temple of Heaven, one of the city's imperial temples which was used by Ming and Qing Emperors to pray a good Harvest.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

With time left today, our last sight was the Summer Palace, located out in the north of the city. By this stage we were quite tired and achy, so we only took a look around the palace buildings to the north of the huge complex, before heading back to the hotel for a well earned sleep.

Inside the Summer Palace

Inside the Summer Palace

Our final day was to spend time at the Forbidden City. Originally we had planned to visit the mausoleum and National People's Congress first. However getting to Tiananmen at 8am, it was already packed and took an hour to get through the security. This was before the queues for these sights too, and thus we decided to give these a miss, and headed straight for the Forbidden City, where we toured the complex for few hours before exiting to the north and heading towards the Jingshan Hill for views over the complex.

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

Before climbing up the hill, we popped in the toilets. Chris went inside a cubical, before quickly running back out, I wondered what was going on as the attendant directed him to the one at the far end. Having noticed Chris's panicked face, he clearly knew that this panicked westerner would prefer a sit down toilet instead of a squat one and directed him accordingly!

Squat Toilets

Squat Toilets

Up on Jingshan Hill

Up on Jingshan Hill

After walking up the hill for limited views through the smog, we walked through some hutongs to the nearest metro station and headed to our last sight in the city, Beijing Zoo. After having seen panda merchandise all over the city (even though pandas don't even live in this part of China) we decided to pay a visit to the few in Beijing.

Pandas

Pandas

After three busy days it was time to rest up for our early start the following morning, heading to the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Beijing was much more modern and less smoggy than expected. However it was shabby in a lot of places and the locals were not ones to be very courteous of tourists nor each other. Nevertheless an interesting place to visit!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:43 Archived in China Tagged architecture culture temple history palace zoo city hill capital eastasia Comments (0)

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