Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 13 places that hold this hallowed status.

They sound like something out of Star Trek, these ‘Dark Sky Reserves’ – like they may have been conjured one evening in a lively LA writers room. Unlike the ‘Delta Quadrant’ or ‘Delphic Expanse’, however, International Dark Sky Reserves actually exist.

We at Atlas & Boots hadn’t heard of them until our recent trip to New Zealand‘s Aoraki Mackenzie, one of the world’s 13 Dark Sky Reserves. Continue reading

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Climbing Carrauntoohil: Ireland’s highest mountain

Climbing Carrauntoohil is an excellent introduction to the Reeks District, Ireland’s adventure playground.

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry are Ireland’s highest mountain range and the inspiration behind the region’s newly renamed Reeks District, home to Carrauntoohil which at 1,038m (3,406ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.

High cliffs, mountain lakes and fast running rivers define the range which runs 19km along the eastern boundary of the Iveragh Peninsula. Known as the backbone of the Kingdom of Kerry, the sandstone mountains have been hewn over hundreds of thousands of years by glacial erosion and extreme weather. Continue reading

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7 adventure sailing holidays for your bucket list

Adventure sailing holidays have the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, accessing some of the most remote and magnificent scenery the world has to offer.

Having recently returned from my first tall ship sailing adventure off the west coast of Scotland, and with my interest for the high seas well and truly piqued, I take a look at some adventure sailing holidays I would love to join. Continue reading

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Learning to paddleboard in Scotland

I spent a week learning to paddleboard off the west coast of Scotland, the perfect setting for trying the world’s fastest growing water sport.

My only experience of standup paddleboarding (SUP) was the odd paddle at a beachside resort here and there. I’ve never liked surfing (I know that’s so uncool to admit) but I have always enjoyed kayaking whether it has been along the Thames in London or kayaking in more far-flung destinations.

So when I joined the Lady of Avenel for a tall ship sailing adventure recently, I was excited to learn it would be part of a wider paddleboarding trip organised by London-based SUP enthusiasts Active360.

Continue reading

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Tall ship sailing adventures off the west coast of Scotland

I joined the Lady of Avenel for a week of tall ship sailing adventures around the Inner Hebrides archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland.

This summer I joined the tall ship Lady of Avenel to sail around the Inner Hebrides archipelago. When the sails were furled we put kayaks and paddleboards overboard and headed for land, exploring wild beaches, craggy coves and traditional fishing villages en route.

Unhindered by ferry schedules, busy roads or hiking trails we could access some of the most remote scenery in Scotland; scenery that only the sea has passage to. The unique approach to tall ship sailing adventures provided by the Lady of Avenel combines traditional sailing with outdoor activities. Continue reading

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Wild continent: the best National Parks in Europe

The best national parks in Europe are home to the wildest scenery and most thrilling outdoor pursuits the continent has to offer.

Europe’s finest wilderness has quite rightly been enshrined and protected in its national parks. Great glaciers, soaring mountains and primeval forests stretch across Europe’s 50 sovereign states. We take a look at the wildest and best national parks in Europe. Continue reading

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Best viewpoints in New Forest National Park

We reveal the best viewpoints in New Forest National Park in Hampshire, perhaps the UK’s most underrated park.

We recently spent a few days exploring the New Forest and unearthing the best New Forest cycling routes in the process. Despite the poor weather during our trip (welcome to England!), we did manage to find some great views en route; views that are no doubt incredible on a summer’s day of blue skies and sunshine. Continue reading

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5 best national parks in Britain

Having visited all 15 national parks in Britain, we take a look at our favourite five.

It was tough whittling down the list to just five. I had to leave out the Broads, Britain’s largest protected wetland which also happens to be in my home county of Norfolk. Likewise, the mountains and moorland of the Brecon Beacons or the idyllic New Forest cycling routes didn’t quite make the cut.

All 10 of Britain’s national parks that I’ve excluded arguably deserve a place in this list as they all offer something unique in their outstanding natural beauty. Continue reading

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5 of the best New Forest cycling routes

We explored one of the UK’s newest national parks by bike. Here’s our pick of the best New Forest cycling routes for those of all abilities.

The UK is home to 15 national parks in total. Established in 2005, the New Forest in Hampshire is the UK’s second newest national park and one of the easiest to explore by bike. The park is just an hour and a half from London by train and is home to over 160km (100mi) of excellently maintained (mostly gently) undulating cycling paths – ideal for cyclists of all abilities. Continue reading

Tackling London’s empathy gap

As we head to London in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno, the class divide is heavy on our minds.

In Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Today, her name has come to denote anything composed of very different parts: a collection of things that don’t belong together.

It’s a fitting way to describe how I felt after graduating from university. I’ve explained in Checking my privilege and Asian girl, English boy that I had a very simple childhood. My family was poor but so was everyone else’s. My parents were immigrants but so were everyone else’s. There was a uniformity that precluded envy, tension, or confusion about my identity. I was Bangladeshi and I was poor. Hey ho. Continue reading

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Colossal coasts: 10 largest islands in the world

We take a look at the largest islands in the world, from deserted Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Circle to metropolitan Honshu in Japan.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time on islands. Not only were we born and raised on one, but island destinations appear to be a reoccurring theme on our travels.

In 2014, we started Atlas & Boots with a six-month journey across the South Pacific via Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Hawaii. Our latest extended trip has seen us spend a month in Sri Lanka shortly followed by another in Mauritius. Continue reading

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Hiking the South West Coast Path: Newquay to Penzance

The South West Coast path, Britain’s longest national trail, has long been on my hiking to-do list. It’s one of the finest long distance hiking trails in the world and showcases Britain at its best. Tent on back, I set off for a taste this summer.

I would love to spend a couple of months hiking the entire path but I didn’t have time for a thru-hike this summer, so decided to complete a section between Newquay and Penzance in Cornwall. Continue reading

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11 cool passport stamps of the world

Some unusual passport stamps to collect on your travels including microstates, geographical landmarks, inaccessible lands and a range of historical sights

It may not be fashionable but I’m a bit of a box-ticker when it comes to travel. I have a list of the countries I’ve visited and I keep track of memorable places such the highest, lowest and driest I’ve visited. I’m also rather proud of my passports (past and present) that have filled up with the stamps I’ve collected.

The standard entry and exit stamps from most countries are fairly mundane. However, beyond the typical destinations are some unusual (and brag-worthy) passport stamps to collect on your travels including microstates, geographical landmarks, inaccessible lands and a range of historical sights. Continue reading

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Clovelly village: the land that time forgot

Until recently, we hadn’t even heard of Clovelly village, a picturesque cluster of homes on the north coast of Devon. It was during our recent glamping trip that we came across Clovelly on a day trip from camp.

We were utterly charmed by the unique English village defined by the steep, cobbled streets that tumble down past traditional 16th century whitewashed cottages to a tiny harbour below. It is also one of the few car-free places remaining in the UK. Continue reading

Glamping in Devon (with a touch of the Mongolian steppe)

Glamping in Devon is the perfect compromise for a wild camper and his outdoorsy-ish girlfriend.

I’ve often said that I’m most content when wild camping with everything I need on my back. Kia asked me recently why I like it so much. I told her that I love the simple life. I love being cut off from the hectic, modern world and being close to nature. A bit of a cliché I know, but true all the same.

Unfortunately, Kia doesn’t share quite the same enthusiasm. She loves nature and dramatic landscapes, but would rather return to a warm hotel and tasty meal instead of a damp sleeping bag and freeze-dried couscous. When we first met and discussed our dreams of seeing the world together, her sole request was that I keep her fed and keep her warm. It’s a plea that’s simple enough but I have at times pushed the boundaries. Continue reading

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10 delightful words that don’t exist in English – but should

There are few nations preoccupied with social decorum as deeply as the Brits. We can have entire conversations consisting solely of the word ‘sorry’, we express our anger by apologising and when we’re really rageful we do such radical things as refusing to offer tea.

Our inability to cope with testing social situations is perfectly summed up in this delightful anecdote by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams.

English is a rich and diverse language but, alas, in some situations it leaves us lacking. Here, we describe 10 foreign words that don’t exist in English each of which perfectly describes a very real predicament. Continue reading

7 cultural faux pas in London

On every corner: the extraordinary history of London

London lacks many things: picnic weather in July, a resilience to winter snow, an effective solution to the hipster invasion. What it does have in abundance – more so than almost any other city in the world – is an inexhaustible well of intriguing history. It spills forth from domes and spires, flows amid the currents of the River Thames, and rushes through the veins of our subterranean network.

In fact, so bountiful and broad is the history of London, one could easily walk past something different every day without realising its significance. Here we list 10 extraordinary historical sites hidden beneath a banal facade. Continue reading

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Hello, London

We’re home.

We bid farewell in August last year. Seventeen countries, four continents, one international date line, and a complete circumnavigation later, we’re home.

Things are different. Boris bikes are red now. The Tories have a majority. And Robert Peston grew hair.

Men seem taller. Women are more glamorous but perhaps I only think this after a year in hiking gear. Heels. God, they feel amazing. Suddenly I’m elegant again. And then of course they hurt but, hell, they’ll get me from Charing Cross to Sagar where I’m meeting friends for dinner. Continue reading

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City life: how not to let it crush your soul

As our year of travel enters its final month, I find my nerves jangling at the thought of returning to London. My hometown is a big, rambling concrete jungle with few manners on display. Ask me to describe a scenario typical to, say, Samoa and I would tell you how Samoans constantly swap seats and rearrange themselves on buses to make sure as many people as possible have a seat, usually even offering their own laps (see #4 of 5 surprising facts about Samoa). Continue reading