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Britain’s best long-distance footpaths

Britain’s best long-distance footpaths provide excellent access to the UK’s outdoors while showcasing the finest scenery our isles have to offer. 

When you think of the best long-distance hiking trails from around the world, little old Britain probably wouldn’t top of your list. Hikers will more likely be drawn to the Triple Crown of the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails in the US, New Zealand’s Great Walks or the famous Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks in Nepal.

However, the UK does have an extensive network of long-distance footpaths. Managed by the National Trails in England and Wales and Scotland’s Great Trails north of the border, the UK has thousands of miles of tramping to be discovered – and the network continues to expand. Continue reading

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In photos: the best views in the Yorkshire Dales

We’ve put together a selection of the best views in Yorkshire Dales National Park, home to some of England’s prettiest landscapes. 

Having just moved to the area and started our exploration of the Yorkshire Dales in earnest, we thought it appropriate to share some of the wider scenery the Dales have to offer.

Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) was designated in 1954 and extended by 24% in 2016 to cover 2,178 km2 in total. YDNP is famed for having some of the finest limestone landscapes in the UK with crags, pavements and caves set amid an expansive heather moorland of rolling hills and dramatic waterfalls, all criss-crossed with miles of dry stonewalls and picturesque villages. Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about Ireland

We share the most interesting facts about Ireland, gathered on a short hop to the country’s Reeks District.  

My latest trip to Ireland took me to an area of the country I had never visited: the newly renamed Reeks District. I spent my time hiking, kayaking, surfing and learning that there’s much more to Ireland than wild waters and high hills.

The island has a reputation rich in history, tradition, literature and music, not to mention its charismatic and friendly people. Over the years, I’ve picked up numerous interesting facts about Ireland. Here, I share my favourites. Continue reading

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Exploring Cooktown, Captain Cook’s historic landing site

We visit Cooktown in the far north of Queensland where Captain James Cook beached his crippled ship and helped found a giant country.

If you’ve seen a map of Australia, you’ve seen the huge, remote Cape York Peninsula, an area bigger than the UK, but with a population of just 18,000. Home to Australia’s northernmost point, Cape York Peninsula points upwards towards the Torres Strait and New Guinea in the northeastern corner of the continent-sized island of Australia.

On the southeastern edge of the peninsula with a population of around 2,600 lies Cooktown, a small town with a big history. We stopped off for a morning during our small-ship expedition around the Great Barrier Reef with Coral Expeditions. Continue reading

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Flinders Chase National Park: what not to miss

Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s finest parks. We take a look at seven sights not to be missed.

Sprawled across the western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is home to wild coastline, diverse wildlife and some truly extraordinary landmarks. The park has steadily recovered from bushfires that destroyed over 400 sq km of land in 2007, and today offers a uniquely Australian landscape of sugar-gum canopies and mallee scrub.  Continue reading

Uluru Rock Tour: that time we camped in the outback

A 1,500km detour and two nights’ camping with spiders, snakes and dingoes – would the Uluru Rock Tour prove worth the pain?

Uluru, that iconic behemoth, that clay-red monolith, that sun-scorched sentry… that epic pain in the backside.

Yes, it’s big and, yes, it’s special, but bloody hell it’s far away. Almost right in the middle of Australia, Uluru is a major endeavour. Nearly every other sight in the country is scattered along the coast, which means planning a trip to Uluru involves a hefty detour from the rest of your route. Continue reading

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World firsts: exploring UNESCO’s original World Heritage sites

At last count, UNESCO’s World Heritage List included 1,073 locations across 167 countries or states. Here, we explore the 12 original World Heritage sites first listed in 1978.

The aim of UNESCO’s list is to identify, protect and preserve sites of cultural and natural heritage considered to be of exceptional value to humanity. These sites include a range of locations such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, east Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and Machu Picchu in Peru. Continue reading

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Things to do in Djibouti City

We take a look at the best things to do in Djibouti City – the country’s sole metropolis.

Let’s face it: you don’t come to Djibouti, a tiny speck of a country in the Horn of Africa, to visit its city. You come to Djibouti to swim with the whale sharks, see the belching chimneys at Lac Abbé and frolic in the gin clear waters of Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa.

That said, if you have a few hours spare, wandering the capital is worth the time. As you will no doubt be told during your stay, Djibouti City is virtually crime-free given the heavy military presence and is therefore largely safe to explore on foot – which is exactly what we did. Continue reading

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In search of the source: visiting the Blue Nile Falls

The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia may not be a match for its grander neighbours, but following the footsteps of famous explorers still makes for a fine day out.

The Blue Nile Falls – or Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “great smoke” – is a somewhat poor relation to the famous waterfalls found in listicles. It’s no Angel, Iguazu, Victoria or Niagara, but the 42m-high (138ft) Blue Nile Falls still offers a dramatic display. 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

Mont Saint-Michel: 10 dos and don’ts

Essential tips for visiting the most fantastical building in France.

When it comes to French architecture, there are myriad contenders for the throne. The most notable is the Eiffel Tower, a world-famous symbol of Gallic ingenuity.

Then there’s the Louvre, possibly the most famous museum in the world. After that we have the Notre Dame and, in any chosen order, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Palace de Versailles and the Pantheon.

Less famous but more impressive is Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy’s abbey on a rock in a bay. Continue reading

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Cycling Bagan: highlights and route map

We spent our final day in Myanmar cycling around Bagan, the world’s largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins. 

After cycling over 250km (155mi) across Myanmar including a 83km (52mi) slog up to Mount Popa, the final day of our cycling tour of Myanmar – a mere 25km (15mi) around the temples of Bagan – was going to a be cinch.

Despite the short distances, the Burmese sun was shining strongly and with it came the vaporous Burmese heat. Thankfully, with over 2,000 Buddhist structures spread across 104 sq km (40 sq mi) there was regular relief in the cool and airy stone temples. Continue reading

A break from Buddhism on Inle Lake, Myanmar

The variety of things to do on Inle Lake provides a different look at life in Myanmar.

Burma without Buddhism would be like Rome without religion: a land shorn of identity, bereaved of its most vivid colours. There’s no question that Buddhism with its extraordinary monuments and monasteries makes the country what it is: spiritual, mystical and all those other adjectives western writers apply to eastern exoticism.

Burma, now known as Myanmar, is the East of the brochures: of mists rising on tranquil lakes and berobed monks in echoing chambers. Myanmar does not disappoint. But, much like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it can wear out all but the most avid temple goers. With this in mind, I was pleased to have a day on Inle Lake with plenty of variety. There were stupas and monasteries (naturally), but also extraordinary locals that provided a tiny slice of life on the lake. Continue reading

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The bizarre Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Myanmar

We visited Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda of Pindaya, one of the most bizarre experiences of our trip to Myanmar

After a long, hot morning in the saddle, our group of nine cyclists arrived in the town of Pindaya. We’d covered around 40km (25mi) through Myanmar’s Shan State and were looking forward to some respite from the intense sun. I knew nothing of the Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda but the idea of descending below ground and escaping the devilish heat sounded very appealing. Continue reading

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10 things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

We explore the best things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka’s historic port city that is once again beginning to flourish.

Trincomalee, or Trinco as it’s more commonly known, in northeastern Sri Lanka is a perfect spot in which to while away a few days on the beach. We ended our Sri Lankan odyssey in nearby Uppuveli on a powdery stretch by Trinco Blu.

Like us, most tourists will bypass Trincomalee for the neighbouring beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli – and who can blame them? The coast here is golden and palm-fringed with a mellow ambience making for a perfect place to unwind before heading home. Continue reading

Cycling Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital

We very nearly didn’t make it to Anuradhapura. Our schedule in Sri Lanka was pretty packed and even though we had a whole month in the country, our itinerary of Colombo, BentotaGalle, Yala, Udawalawe, Ella, Adam’s Peak, Sigiriya, Kandy and Trincomalee and  meant that we had no more than three days in each place.

It was by chance that I saw a tweet picturing Jetavanaramaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura along with a caption explaining that it was once the tallest building in world after the Egyptian pyramids. Given my part-time passion for architecture, there was no way I was visiting Sri Lanka without seeing this storied structure in Anuradhapura. Continue reading

10 things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We take a look at the best things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second city and cultural capital.

History and culture are on tap in the lively city of Kandy. Known as Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, Kandy withstood the Portuguese and Dutch for three centuries and was the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, which finally fell to the British in 1815.

The city is wedged among mist-laden hills that often leave the skies overcast. The breeze, however, usually parts the mist to reveal Sri Lanka’s famous second city, known for the great Kandy Esala Perahera festival. One of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, the event is held over 10 days leading up to the Nikini poya (full moon) at the end of the month of Esala (equivalent to the end of July and beginning of August). Continue reading