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Entries about boats

Hotel

sunny 14 °C
View Forres on IainT's travel map.

Knockomie

Knockomie

I have have been to a hotel. Can you imagine?

On Friday afternoon I decided enough was enough, and I had to get away from home. It was just for one night (Saturday) but then it was all very last minute.

The hotel is in Forres, which is 3 hours drive north. It is also where my father was from, so my memories of the place go back as far as I do. Grandmother. Uncle and aunt. Cousins. Summer holidays. Easter visits.

Findhorn Village

Findhorn Village

I have been driving past that hotel as long as it has been there (33 years), and never gone in. To be honest, I never saw it as my kind of place. Full of old people. Old people who think they are a bit posh because they can afford it.

I suppose I am one of them now, but without the posh bit. And the money obviously - a cheap last minute deal.

I enjoyed the drive to get there - the pure novelty of driving for 3 hours after weeks of living under restrictions.

I was perfectly happy with the hotel’s hygiene arrangements. My room was pleasant and quiet. I slept well. They provided an excellent dinner and breakfast.

Aside from the sheer liberation of the escape and staying somewhere which is away from home, I can pick out several highlights. First, an afternoon walk beside the River Findhorn. No sound except the roar of the water.

River Findhorn at Logie

River Findhorn at Logie

Next, an evening walk in Findhorn village. It had a real “end of summer” feel. The village was its usual mixture of busy but quiet, locals and visitors. I chose to go at that time hoping for a typical Findhorn sunset. I chose well.

Findhorn Sunset

Findhorn Sunset

Then my Couch to 5k session at 6am on Sunday. Session 17. I went to the town’s Grant Park, where my father played cricket as a youngster. His old school - Forres Academy - is across the street.

Grant Park, Forres

Grant Park, Forres

Finally, a Sunday morning 3 hour hike in Culbin Forest. For the first 2 hours of my hike I saw no-one. I had geese, butterflies and a seal for company.

Culbin Shore

Culbin Shore

The Forest is fascinating. It was planted to fix the sand dunes now beneath it, to stop them moving. Some are over 20m high. I loved being able to walk in solitude for 2 hours, surrounded by trees, with no noise apart from the geese, the sea occasionally, and my footsteps.

Culbin Forest

Culbin Forest

I wonder if the geese are resident or migrating.

Posted by IainT 23:13 Archived in Scotland Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches skylines trees sky boats scotland life transport Comments (0)

Scottish Islands

all seasons in one day 13 °C

Lockdown Reading

Lockdown Reading

Earlier this month I was looking for books to buy and found Scottish Island Bagging. Click, click, click and it was on its way to me from the publisher (in Sheffield, oddly enough).

Apart from a summer job in an Arran hotel in 1972, for most of my life the Scottish islands were a blank spot on my travel map. I remember a couple of day trips to Stornoway for work, and an overnight business trip to Shetland when we worked for 16 hours out of 24.

I woke up to this a few years ago and started to put things right.

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

In the space of 5-6 years I have visited Gigha, Islay, Tiree, Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Ulva, Lismore, Seil, Kerrera, Luing, Easdale, Eigg, Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay, Lewis and Harris.

I have been back to Arran a few times in that period, and to Orkney (which I first visited about 10 years ago).

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

From my home in Fife, just across the water from Edinburgh, all these places make for quite a long trip and careful planning is needed. If a ferry is involved, often it means getting to Oban first and that is a 3 hour drive. Mallaig - for Eigg - is a good bit further. Tayinloan or Kennacraig, for Gigha and Islay respectively are also a 3 hour drive.

Usually you have to be at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before departure, and with building in a bit of time for toilet stops and contingencies, you have to leave the house at least 4 hours before the ferry time. You will have to make a reservation if you want to take your car on the more popular routes, and well in advance in the summer months. On the smaller ferries you just drive up and get on the next one.

Gigha Ferry

Gigha Ferry

I flew to Barra, Lewis, Tiree and Colonsay. Loganair was the carrier for most of those short hops, but I used Hebridean Air from Oban to get to Colonsay. All those flights are on small planes and lots of fun.

Waiting

Waiting

During the peak season accommodation is at a premium in these small places, so that has to form part of the advance planning. I think I have only once been disappointed by accommodation on the islands, but remember that it is a short season with relatively high demand (in normal times) so what you get may not always seem like value for money if compared with other parts of the country.

Where would be top of my list to return to? Iona. It is special. It has so much of the country’s history as well as being remote and slightly spiritual. I am not “spiritual” but on Iona I got it.

Jura Ferry

Jura Ferry

Where is top of my list to go to for the first time? Well, I will finish my book before I make up my mind, but at the moment Coll, Raasay or Canna.

Coll is a strong possibility because I loved nearby Tiree, and it is on Hebridean Air’s route map as well as Calmac's.

Raasay is easily accessible from Skye, which is a long drive from home but no ferries are involved. My late father had a long involvement with the buyout of the island from its absentee landlord during the 1970s, so I would love to see how it is now.

I loved my time on Eigg, and getting there and back by car, train and ship, so another of the Small Isles beckons. Canna seems right.

My View, Eigg

My View, Eigg

Meantime, I am staying at home and trying to stay safe. A good book helps.

Posted by IainT 23:31 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches planes boats scotland ferries transport flights lewis airlines orkney barra lismore islay stornoway eigg calmac islandlife colonsay steòrnabhagh leòdhas na_hearadh barraigh vatersay bhatarsaigh eiriosgaigh eriskay Comments (0)

Best of 2019 (2)


View Athens & Krefeld & Sheffield & Nottingham & Tbilisi 2 & Belfast & Faroes & Iceland & Orkney & Tbilisi & Sheffield 2 & Sheffield & Dublin & Belfast & Barcelona & Manchester & Dundee & Vilnius 3 on IainT's travel map.

The Ternan

The Ternan

This category is for any kind of transport other than flights, as they come into the airline category.

I used a good variety of train services during 2019. The one from Dublin to Belfast in March was a “first”. It is a joint venture between Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnròd Èireann. It was comfortable, but slow. That route cries out for a high speed rail service.

I got my high speed service in October, between Brussels and Köln. A German ICE in one direction and Thalys in the other. Both were delayed…

Köln Hbf

Köln Hbf

The service I used in January between Arlanda Airport and Uppsala is quick enough, although not high speed like the service into Stockholm. That made it affordable, of course.

In Britain, I used several train companies on my trips to Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham. I had mixed experiences.

I did not have as many boats trips as usual during the year. I took short ferry sailings in the Faroes (Tórshavn to Nólsoy) and Istanbul (Europe to Asia). The vapur in Istanbul was wonderful.

Vapur

Vapur

I took a couple of long distance (as opposed to local or airport) bus rides, which is unusual for me. One was a 2 hour journey from Klaksvík to Tórshavn. It was spectacular.

So was the 5 hour marshrutka trip from Tbilisi to Yerevan. It was uncomfortable, however.

Minibus Recovery Mode

Minibus Recovery Mode

I had rented cars in Georgia and Iceland, and they were definitely a good decision for getting around to see the places on my itineraries. I had a bike while I was in Reykjavík - it came with my Airbnb. I really enjoyed using it to get in and out of the city centre.

Sadcars' Sadcar

Sadcars' Sadcar

I used trams in Dublin and in Sheffield - they are still a novelty to Scots. We tore up our tram lines in the 50s and 60s to make more space for cars. Yes, quite.

I got back on the metro in Barcelona after an absence of 45 years. I got on the metro in Tbilisi for the first time. At £0.13 per journey, the Tbilisi metro has a lot going for it.

Metro

Metro

I also took a cablecar and a funicular in Tbilisi. Ideal for getting up those hills in warm weather.

Cablecar

Cablecar

Last, but most definitely not least, I took a scheduled helicopter service in the Faroes. Atlantic Airways operates inter island services and I flew from Tórshavn to Klaksvík. It was a 12 minute flight and going back on the bus took 2 hours.

Klaksvík Helipad

Klaksvík Helipad

A decision has not been easy. It came down to a choice between the minibus trip to Yerevan, or Atlantic Airways’ helicopter flight. Eventually I went for the helicopter experience for this year’s winner.

Posted by IainT 13:08 Tagged boats trains scotland ferries ireland turkey istanbul sweden transport georgia köln iceland tbilisi yerevan armenia reykjavik faroes torshavn klaksvík nólsoy Comments (0)

Vapur

Plain Sailing

semi-overcast 18 °C

Love at Eminönü

Love at Eminönü

So what do you do when you have a day in Istanbul, but in the past you’ve already had many days sightseeing in the city?

When I made my travel bookings so as to have a day in Istanbul, I had no real plan for what to do. Of course I knew it would be easy to fill a day in the city. In the end, I decided against any real sightseeing. I’d just relax and take it easy. Hang out. Chill out.

Coffee at Galata

Coffee at Galata

I enjoyed my Turkish breakfast, followed by a gossip with friend and guesthouse owner Doǧan. Then I walked from the guesthouse in Sultanahmet (very close to the Blue Mosque) to Taksim Square via the Galata Bridge and Istaklal Cadessi, stopping for a very welcome coffee and cake about halfway.

Galata

Galata

It’s a 2.7 mile (4.3 km) walk and I enjoyed it after a day on my travels. I walked all the way back too!

Taksim

Taksim

For the afternoon I decided on a short ferry trip up the Bosphorus. Şehir Hatları - one of the ferry companies - offers a 6 hour trip (almost as far as the Black Sea) or a 2 hour one - as far as Istinye. The short one sets you back a whopping 12TL (just over £2).

Vapur

Vapur

Of course you can pay much more on a tourist boat.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d done the longer version many years ago, so I half remembered what to expect. Going out on the water really is a good way to see the city especially when you’ve had enough of walking.

Ortaköy

Ortaköy

The ship has comfortable seating inside, and plenty of open deck area too. It has a snack bar, but if you want more than crisps, chocolate or simit, bring it with you.

Posted by IainT 12:46 Archived in Turkey Tagged boats ferries turkey istanbul transport Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (5)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

2 Minutes

2 Minutes

Sports travel is my last category.

2017 wasn’t a big year for sports travel. I’d given up my involvement with ice hockey’s governing body, so that cut out the trips to Newcastle.
I did go to Belfast for ice hockey in April to see a Team GB game in an IIHF World Championship tournament there. I’d been party to the decision - a bit controversial - to bid to take the tournament to Belfast. I was curious to see how it turned out.

Team GB v Lithuania

Team GB v Lithuania

Team GB won it and were promoted, so it was a real success on the ice. I’d love to know how the financial side worked out, but I don’t have access to the information any more.

In October I went as far as Glasgow (aye “wow!”) to watch rugby - Warriors against Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Again I was driven partly by curiosity. It’s the first season in the Pro 14 competition for the two South African teams. Glasgow won a slightly one sided game on a very cold evening. I was glad I’d gone for a curry at Mother India’s before the game. Inner heat.

Mother India's

Mother India's

I tried to set up horse racing trips occasionally, but life seemed to get in the way. I’ll have to try harder in 2018. Paris and Dublin are definitely on the wish list.

I had a several days trips around Scotland to go hiking and hill walking, mostly in Perthshire which is easily accessible for me by train. I enjoyed them all.

Ben y Vrackie

Ben y Vrackie

Probably the most memorable (not in Perthshire, of course) was hiking up Coire Ardair to view the magnificent cliffs of Creag Meagaidh. It was spectacular in late March with plenty snow still lying.

Coire Ardair

Coire Ardair

I also tackled Goat Fell on Arran, but had to turn back close to the summit. My rickety old knees were causing me problems and I didn’t want to be phoning for mountain rescue to get me down. A day out on Arran is always wonderful however, even if it’s just for the ferry trips.

Goat Fell

Goat Fell

Time to choose a winner. I’m going to go for the hike to Coire Ardair. I was so lucky with the weather.

Coire Ardair

Coire Ardair

Between that, the spectacular scenery, the hard exercise and the clear mountain air, it’s a winning combination!

Reward!

Reward!

Posted by IainT 13:26 Archived in Scotland Tagged landscapes mountains lakes snow boats scotland ferries hockey belfast calmac islandlife best_of_2017 Comments (0)

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