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For years I swore I would never write a blog because no-one would be interested in what I had to say. But I've been to a lot of interesting places over the years and now many of my photographs are available for licensing on Alamy, so the time seems right for a travel-oriented blog.



Sunday, 14 June 2009

Devizes and the surrounding area


The town of Devizes in Wiltshire sounds Roman, but in fact it was not founded until the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the Latin phrase "ad divisas" meaning "at the boundaries", a reference to the fact that it was situated at the boundary of three manors. The town originally grew up around the imposing medieval castle which was an important stronghold until it was destroyed during the Civil War. The present-day castle is a Victorian construction that has no connection with its medieval predecessor.


Devizes is a treasure trove of historic buildings. Many are immediately visible, lining the streets in the centre of the town. Others are tucked away in delightful little courtyards and alleyways, some dating back to Elizabethan times. St Johns Church is considered to be one of the finest Norman churches in the country, and is surrounded by a courtyard flanked with historic buildings and almshouses.


One thing that immediately strikes you about the shops in Devizes is that there is a wealth of independent retailers. Unlike many British towns these days, the streets are not filled with branches of large chains. It's a refreshing experience if you enjoy your shopping.


Devizes is also home to one of the wonders of the English canal system - the Caen Hill flight of locks. This spectacular feat of early 19th-century engineering comprises 29 locks of which 16 rise majestically in a straight line up the hillside into Devizes. In the town centre the wharf provides a well-earned resting place for boats and their crews after the climb.


There are so many historic treasures in Devizes that it is impossible to do them all justice in a short article. But this is not all; in the area surrounding the town there are numerous lovely little villages set amongst some of the finest unspoilt English scenery. For me, this area epitomises all that the English countryside should be, and I hope it stays that way.







Tuesday, 09 June 2009

The Beara Peninsula


Straddling the counties of Kerry and Cork in the south-west of Ireland, the Beara Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like a giant elongated hand with fingers pointing towards the New World. It offers a perfect encapsulation of the wildness, the romance and the sheer beauty that we associate with the more remote parts of Ireland.


The peninsula can easily be toured in a day. A good place to start is the charming little town of Kenmare which is situated at the head of the Kenmare River estuary that borders the north side of the Beara.


Most visitors to this part of Ireland head straight for the better-known Ring of Kerry, which makes the sparsely-populated Beara the ideal place for those who like to head away from the pack. It is a stunningly beautiful landscape, from the gentle tranquility of Kilmakilloge Harbour in the north, to the rugged rocky coastline around Allihies in the west, to the palm trees of Castletownbere in the south. In the centre, the mountainous spine of the peninsula is traversed by the magnificent Healy Pass which snakes across the mountain between Cork and Kerry at 1300 feet.


Other highlights include magnificent views of Bantry Bay which borders the south side of the peninsula, with a lighthouse sitting on a rocky islet in the middle of the bay near Adrigole, the lush valley of Inchiquin hidden amongst the hills, Glanmore Lake, and the wonderful views across the Kenmare River towards the heart of County Kerry and its eponymous Ring.


Beara is a magical place and a must for anyone wishing to sample the unspoilt beauty of Ireland.








Blog posts


Devizes and the surrounding area


The Beara Peninsula