Santorini on a Shoestring

The name Santorini is likely to have captured your imagination long before you even set eyes on the islands that make up this tiny archipelago at the southern end of the Cyclades chain. Famed for the spectacular sunsets that wash over whitewashed villages perched on precipitous clifftops, turning them rose and gold in the gloaming, it is very much on the tourist trail through the Greek islands.IMG_3809v2head

Chances are your impression is also that Santorini has an air of exclusivity around it, somewhere only for the rich and famous, or a romantic destination just for honeymoon couples, with a price tag to match. If you must watch the sunset from a private balcony, cocktail in hand, or dip in an infinity pool on the caldera rim to make your stay special, that’s certainly true. However, it is possible to visit Santorini on a shoestring budget, and have an unforgettable experience. Continue reading

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Seas of Red at the Tower of London (Photo Gallery)

On 17th July 2014, a Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London (also known as a Beefeater) planted a single red porcelain poppy in the grass of the moat surrounding the Tower. Other poppies followed, and the installation named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was first revealed to the public on 5th August, the centenary of the United Kingdom’s entry into the conflict that became known as WWI.

Ceramic poppies spill from a window high on the Tower wall, pooling in the moat below, washing the base of the stone walls. As more poppies were added to the display by volunteers working on the project, they surge up in a wave over the causeway leading to the entrance to the Tower.

Created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, the installation will be completed with the planting of the final poppy on Armistice Day on 11th November. This will bring the total number of poppies flooding the moat to 888,246, each representing a British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the conflict.

The installation has been criticised in some quarters as a sanitised interpretation of the grotesque and bloody events of WWI, however the sheer scale of the work has captured the imagination of the British people and the many visitors to London. Those attending at sunset everyday for the sounding of the Last Post and the reading of the Role of Honour, can’t fail to be moved viscerally by the thought of a name, and a family, attached to each and every one of the fragile flowers blooming brightly for a few short months.

Peel Castle, Isle of Man

Towards the centre of the Irish Sea, like a ship ploughing though the water, lies the Isle of Man. Tall cliffs and rocky shores at the southern end of the island lead into upland heaths and hills, dropping away to a flat plain in the north before sliding into the sea.

Surrounded by Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man is at the heart of the British Isles, but not a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; of which the Manx are fiercely proud. The island has its own parliament, the Tynwald, claimed to be the oldest continuous parliament the world, celebrating its millennium in 1979.

Peel, on the rugged west coast, is the island’s only “city” (on account of the Cathedral), and was the arrival point for many raiders, invaders and settlers, including the Norse who brought their system of laws with them.

The harbour is dominated by the imposing Peel Castle, piled on top of rocky St Patrick’s Isle. Celtic Christian monastic buildings were built on by the Norse, under command of King Magnus Barelegs, and the castle took shape. Centuries of Manx history lie within the castle walls; defences against raids from the sea; pagan Vikings buried in Christian graveyards; the first cathedral; the artillery positions and garrisons from the Napoleonic wars.

 

The best views of the castle are from the outer harbour at water level, ideally towards the bottom of a spring tide, when the high arched window of the chancel looms above the bay. But if you haven’t arrived in Peel on a Viking longship, then the view from the carpark at the end of the causeway is just as impressive, especially with waves washing up Fenella Beach.

Entry into the Castle is £5 for an adult, or there is a combination ticket with entry to the House of Manannan, including an audio guide to the history of the site. There is also a walk around the outside of the Castle walls, accessible through an archway at the top of the breakwater.

After walking round the Castle walls, I hiked up Peel Hill to a strange tower on the heath high over the cliffs. Nothing whatsoever to do with the Castle, it was a built as a folly by a local eccentric, in a spot where he enjoyed the view. The castle was completely hidden by the hill, however, the clear skies meant I could see the coasts of Ireland and Scotland off in the distance.

A Visit to the British Museum

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The British Musuem. Photo by John Creasey.

The British Museum is a rich treasure trove, filled with artefacts of cultures and civilisations from across the globe and throughout history. The collection is vast and diverse, with more than 8 million relics – from the prehistoric body of Pete Marsh and the treasures of Sutton Hoo to Egyptian sarcophagi and the Elgin Marbles to Samurai armour and Inuit anoraks – some of the greatest artefacts of human life.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite

The theme of the weekly photo challenge is Infinite.

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The Standing Stones o’ Stenness in the gloaming.

At the heart of Orkney’s mainland, the Stones o’ Stenness are one of the oldest stone circles in Britain, dating from at least 3100BCE.  The stones, some almost 5 metres in height, dominate the flat, treeless landscape of mainland, bearing witness to infinite sunsets.