The “Lac Blanc”, at an altitude of 2500m, is at the heart of the National Park La Vanoise and is situated near Pralognan. Leave your car at “Pont de la Pêche”. The climb to the lake takes up to 3 hours and you’ll need a further 2h30 for the return journey. While walking, enjoy the beautiful mountains around you and the colourful flora. If you’re lucky, you might see marmots, ibexes and chamois. The “Lac Blanc” is quite a sight: a deposit of minerals gives it a strange milky colour. The slopes down the lake are an ideal setting for a picnic.
This is a new 17.5 mile walk that joins up the magnificent gardens created by the Aislabies 250 years ago. It starts at the glorious Studley Royal water gardens, passes Fountains Abbey, Aldfield Spa and through Galphay. Next it heads North to the beautiful Braithwaite Hall and Grewelthorpe before passing through Hackfall. Hackfall is a fantastic woodland garden with follies and a gravity fed fountain that has recently undergone a £1 million renovation. The views here are magnificent. After Hackfall you take the Ripon Rowell walk through Mickley Barras before heading off towards Azerley. The walk finishes with a stroll through the Deer Park at Studley Royal.
The route is not particularly challenging (compared with hill walking for example) but there are gates and styles to negotiate and 17.5 miles is a pretty long walk for one day. It is possible to take shorter routes by using the described cross paths.
Starting in the carpark at the top of Rhossili and taking the long stroll either over or along the Downs is one of my favourite days out. It's perfect for all age groups, and can be done in any weather. If you're looking for something a bit more strenuous, then head over the top and take in the breathtaking views of the Gower. Or if you like something a bit easier, then the stroll along the bottom will take you past the most haunted building in Wales - also the setting of Torchwood.
Then it's an easy walk back across the beach, back to the cafe and pub. Perfect for any one looking for a walk in the country.
Rhossili Activity Centre
+44(0)1792 390567 ()
Google map: bit.ly/I6vdcV
Most people will argue that, while in Turkey, you should eat kebabs in all their different incarnations (İskender, döner, şiş, etc) or the pide, or baklava or any of the other amazing foods that Turkey has to offer.
However, if you truly want to get to the heart of Turkey’s crowning glory, Istanbul, there is no better nor faster way than the midye.
Midye, the little stuffed mussels with rice and lemon juice, are ubiquitous in most Turkish cities. But to walk across the Galata Bridge, eating midye, watching the sunrise, is another experience in itself. The rice in the overstuffed morsel, absorbs the saltiness of the sea and the sourness of the lemon, producing a combination much like Istanbul itself, that in the overcrowding of 11 million people and four empires, you can find peace in the calm waters of the Bosphorus, highlighted by the sharpness of the sun.
On this bridge, at this time, with this food, you can feel the overwhelming sense of beauty of the Queen of Cities.
Sold everywhere near the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge.
Google map: bit.ly/GACD81
The National Protectorate closest to Cairo is on the fringes of the southern city suburb of Maadi, built during the 1920s and now home to a large number of expats. Wadi Degla is an ancient river bed that was gouged out of the rock 60 million years ago, leaving marine fossils and dried waterfalls behind in this desert landscape.
Walk between the high cliffs along the flat valley bed, or take a quick scramble up the right-hand side of the Wadi just after the gate. From the top of the cliffs you get views over the southern and eastern parts of the city, stretching over to the pyramids. At the weekend you’ll share Egypt’s ‘Grand Canyon’ with walkers, joggers and picnicking families.
Get the Metro to El Maadi station and then take a taxi. Ask for Wadi Degla in Zahraa el Maadi. You may need to specify you want the Protectorate, as there is a sporting club housing an Egyptian premiership football team called Wadi Degla as well! Look out for the brown signs to follow when you are on the Autostraad.
Wadi Degla costs 5LE to enter and is open from sunrise to sunset. Bring plenty of bottled water, and don’t forget your binoculars.
Ranging between 20 and 200 feet in diameter, these Orwellian sentinels tower eerily over the shingle peninsular of the Dungeness National Nature Reserve. Erected between 1928 and 1930 the three concrete 'listening ears' detected the approach of enemy aircraft, but when radar was invented before WW2 they became redundant.
You can get up close to these impressive feats of engineering is by joining one of Dr Richard Scarth's walks organised by the Romney Marsh Countryside Project. Check the noticeboard on the Project's website for dates.
Sigga’s father takes visitors by boat to Drangey island, a 500 foot high extinct volcano rising like a top hat off Iceland’s north coast, and Sigga guides small groups to the top. Is it a walk or climb? Certainly it involves a ladder, and a ledge along a sheer cliff drop, which I wouldn’t have made without Sigga’s determined encouragement. On the flat top we visit the puffin-hunters’ summer hut, marvel at the thick mane of grass and flowers blowing under the 9pm Icelandic sun, and admire the hollow where an eleventh century fugitive was said to have survived for three years until mainlanders murdered him. The beauty and remoteness compensate for the climb, with only zipping puffins and nesting kittiwakes to distract me on the vertiginous return.
Film-lovers cannot miss ‘The Third Man’ Guided Walk in Vienna. This unique tour will trace the steps of Orson Welles (as Harry Lime) and Joseph Cotten (as Holly Martins) and will take you to most of the film locations in central Vienna, put the movie in a historical context and tell you curiosities about the filming, Orson Welles and the locations themselves. It will even take you to a special location where the film’s famous soundtrack is played by a scitar player, creating a truly special atmosphere. ‘The Third Man’ was shot on location all over the Austrian capital and this walk will give you a great insight of the locations of this classic film and what it was like to live in post-war Vienna. This guided walk was created by Dr. Brigitte Timmermann, the founder of Vienna Walks & Talks and it runs Mondays and Fridays at 4:00.
Mondays and Fridays at 4:00pm.
The tour starts at: U4 Station Stadtpark, Exit Johannesgasse.
Time: 2 to 2.5 hours
Magistrat der Stadt Wien, Wien Kanal
+43 1 4000 3033
Google map: bit.ly/GT8Jg8
Peace and quiet, some great views, the Romanesque Church. An old man fishing under some ancient trees, reflections of the arched bridges in the clear blue water, spotting some big fish under the bridge, an ancient pigeonnier, a beer in the market square, a meal in the riverside restaurant, stroking a friendly cat that follows you along the bank.
If you want a break from the relentless manicured (for India) tourism of Fort Cochin, hop on a ferry across the estuary. Ernakalum District, of which Fort Cochin is only one small part, is Kerala's commercial hub. To get an idea of ordinary life for your average Kochiite put on your walking boots and refuse every offer from rickshaw drivers (not that you'll get hassled here, they are not so used to tourists).
Walk the length of Market Street, from Hospital Street to Banerji Road, and explore the lanes that run off this busy market area. There are no touts, and you won't be hassled to buy a carpet or 'antique'. The fella coming up and asking your name simply wants to welcome you to Kerala and talk to a foreigner, especially an English speaker. You'll find Jew Street, Muslim Street and Convent Road within a prayer of each other, illustrating the easy religious integration which characterises this enlightened state.
Turn right at the end of Market Street on to Banerji Road and pop into the Hotel Saravana Bhavan for the best vegetable thali in Kochi. (Like many restaurants in India it is called a 'hotel' when all it does is serve food, which can be a bit misleading as the hotels are usually called hotels too.) The non A/C section is packed with local workers every day. For less than a £1 they'll keep filling your plate or 'ela' (Malayalam for banana leaf) until you burst. There's an A/C section for posh people.
After lunch head a little further up Banerji Road and turn onto MG Road. Seemati has a fantastic textile section full of silks, satins and cottons for a tenth of the price you would pay in the UK. Chennai silks is great for sarees, salwaars and mens' clothes, they even have on-site tailors.
If you fancy a beer the best local bar is the Bar Oberoi on MG Road. It's not as dark and desperate as most of the diamond-signed bars all over town, and cleaner than most. You'll be the only non-Indian in there, and if you're a woman you'll definitely be the only one. Between 5 and 6 most days the proprietor lights a series of incense sticks, each more smoky than the last, finishing with full-on frankincense bowls.
Hotel Saravana Bhavan
Banerji Road, Ernakulam Bazar, Near Sritha Theatre, Kochi, Kerala 682031, India
+91 484 237 0153
"Crash, clang, ding-ding, BANG!"
The incessant din, hurtling up from the road below our mountainside homestay, bounced off the eaves into the bedroom, waking me from a deep sleep. Jamie and I dragged our sluggish bodies downstairs for breakfast.
Darjeeling, like most places in the Himalaya, is a Buddhist community. And like the rest of India there is a parade, festival or celebration nearly every week. Today a colourful banner declared, “2600 years of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha".
We gobbled up our toast and drained cups of sweet masala tea before heading out to join the procession.
Orchestral manoeuvres in the alleys
Maroon and orange-clad monks banged drums and cymbals with devoted concentration, or blew as hard as possible on a variety of horns, without varying the note. One instrument was around ten feet long: the business end held by the 'blower' (to call him a musician would be a stretch too far), while at the other end a second man supported two of these gigantic musical pipes under his arms.
As one band receded with its crowd of followers, the next little group arrived. The percussion sections beat out an impressive rhythm, but I tried in vain to identify a melody among the single-layered notes blasting out from the wind sections. To add to the cacophony a few high-spirited young men set off deafening fire crackers down dark, side alleys.
Not all blessings are disguised
Some of the monks carried ornate and colourful statues of Buddha in palanquins. Arranged across two parallel bars they held Him on their shoulders. Devotees, with serious expressions or a surreptitious smile, lowered their heads and threaded their way underneath the icons between the monks.
Towards the end we broke through the throng and joined the worshippers. It was a happy occasion, and away from the bands people walked in silence or chatted quietly as they slowly followed behind the monks. We walked side by side with tiny, ancient crones in tribal dress; young mothers in tight western clothes, holding babies; groups of schoolgirls; bent grandfathers; brightly coloured, swaddled toddlers; and wiry mountain men.
Some devotees carried rectangular prayer boxes brought from the temples. with which they blessed the crowd by touching the boxes to bowed heads. I was blessed, but to the amusement of my neighbours the sharp wooden corners crashing onto my crown made me yelp. Someone was listening because my prayers to not end up bleeding and bruised were answered.
Sweet smelling smoke
The procession lasted until lunchtime and took us on a thorough tour of the eastern 'Queen of Hills'. At small stations along the route we were offered water and orange juice to keep up our strength.
We passed quietly along steep, narrow passages in the town centre where women in open windows, or standing on balconies, gently fanned plumes of incense through clothes lines strung with washing. Snatches of music drifted towards us.
The fragrant smoke filtered downwards in the chilly mountain air, mingling with the damp, earthy smell of this magical autumnal day.
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Darjeeling. Take a jeep from New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal. Expect to pay around 150 to 200 INR per seat, but the space allocated for a 'seat' is tiny. Buy two seats per person, better still rent the whole bench seat behind the driver (the equivalent of four seats).
You could take Unesco World Heritage 'Toy' Train all the way, but it's a long, slow boot. Better to take an excursion on the train from Darjeeling to Ghoom for a morning.
Beirut is an amazing city but after a few days there I kept wondering about certain things like how the civil war affected the city, why there were parts you couldn't go through and why some buildings were still in a state of ruin. All those questions and more were answered when on the penultimate day of our stay we did the Walk Beirut tour. I only wish we had done it on our first day instead.
Cumbrian folklore says that Long Meg and her daughters were witches turned to stone as a punishment for dancing here on the Sabbath. Take care. If you count the same number of stones twice, they will come back to life.
But Long Meg and her daughters are not related. Long Meg, at twelve feet high, is made of local red sandstone. She stands back from the main circle to catch the dying winter solstice sun. The other 50 stones are granite.
Together, they make one of the largest stone circles in Britain, dating back to 1500 BC. Yet so few people have heard of them. The mysterious cup and ring marks, like carved tattoos on Long Meg’s shoulders, face all four corners of the compass.
Wordsworth wrote a poem about the “sisterhood” of the stones urging their “giant mother” to speak.
We found them after an autumn walk along the river Eden, near Little Salkeld. Just before we emerged from a wood to the stone circle, our children spotted a red squirrel, which brought a different kind of magic to our day.
Out running on Ilkley Moor recently, I bumped into two walkers searching for the 12 Apostles Stone Circle. Although drawn to the stones by their spirituality, a simple map reading error was taking them in completely the wrong direction. Storm clouds were gathering and Ilkley Moor's famous song was plainly not known to them as neither wore hats. I suggested that they abandon their search. This is my bid for their forgiveness. The 12 Apostles sit high on the summit plateau of Ilkley Moor with magnificent views in all directions. Take a hat, a good map and a flask of coffee (bible optional).
The North Yorks Moors are awash with standing stones, circles, burial mounds and markers from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. New ones come to light from time to time that have been covered by heather and bracken for hundreds of years, and a walk on these glorious moors reveals a surprise cross or stone at almost every turn.
Some served as markers on the pannier tracks that connected Yorkshire's monasteries, and some are boundary stones - such as the aptly named Fat Betty on the road between Castleton and Rosedale. Two miles inland from Robin Hood’s Bay are the three Bronze Age stones of the Ramsdale Circle. This is an unsurpassable site for a picnic, with a wonderful view of the coast across rolling moorland, which has probably changed little since the stones were erected.
Google map: bit.ly/qO90XR
The walk John Keats took when he was inspired to write his ode "To Autumn".
What better time than now to follow the route Keats took one autumn Sunday in 1819? You start out in the High Street where he lodged and end up at the Hospital of St. Cross which still doles out alms to the needy. It not only takes in many of Winchester's places of interest: the Cathedral (burial place of Jane Austen), Wolvesey Palace, Winchester College - but also passes along the beautiful banks of the River Itchen, which Keats described as "most beautifully clear". He also described the air as "worth sixpence a pint" - not sure how that rates after inflation!
The Bone Caves in Sutherland, Scotland.
Between Ullapool and Lochinver, just before arriving art Loch Assynt, is a signposted car park and walk to the Bone Caves, so called because the remains of now extinct bear, lynx wolf and arctic fox have been found there. A wonderful walk on a good path then a final scramble takes you back 7,000 years to one of the earliest signs of habitation in Scotland. In this primeval landscape it is easy to sit there and imagine how it must have been to live there. This is limestone country and on the way there you pass by springs welling up from under the ground and entrances to the passages they have carved through the rock. Here is the longest underground cave system in Scotland and over two kilometres have been explored so far but they are for experienced cavers only so stick to the ones above ground.
Start at the Linen Hall Library to travel in time from the Enlightenment’s United Irishmen to today’s award winning poet Sinead Morrissey; travel in place from Louis McNeice’s drawing room on the Malone Road to C S Lewis’s East Belfast (wardrobe optional) via Van the Man’s Cyprus Avenue. Poets and writers abound, stories still being told and written.
Dunbeath Heritage Centre sits just off the A9, from Inverness to Wick and on the top edge of the UK. Here you can learn the history of Neil M Gunn (1891-1973), and immerse yourself in his books. Read the heartbreaking account of Scottish fishing folk devastated by the Highland Clearances in The Silver Darlings (1941). Or, while staying in Dunbeath, read Gunn’s Highland River (1937), climbing from childhood to manhood as he wanders further up Dunbeath River to its source, and then follow the path of the atmospheric novel at your leisure. This is not a well-trodden tourist track, with plenty of ancient sites, ensuring your time spent in Gunn’s company becomes a gentle and spiritual experience. Gunn's story can be found in the centre.
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Tel: +90 532 608 1470
Fax: +90 212 244 0649
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