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
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.