I’m all at sea this month, quite literally, as I sail from Bermuda back to Britain on the STS Lord Nelson. On board we keep a watch system, with four teams working a rota to keep the ship sailing and carry out the tasks essential for everyone to live together in such close confines. Our down time, plus the lack of distractions, gives plenty of time to get lost in a good book. So, here are my recommendations for seafaring tales to take on a sailing trip. Continue reading
At the heart of the British Isles, surrounded by Ireland and the United Kingdom, lies the Isle of Man. A dependency of the British Crown, the island is not part of the UK or the European Union, and has its own unique story. Here are 5 things you should know about this quirky island:
1. It has its own language, Manx. Closely related to Scots Gaelic and Irish, and known just as Gaelg by speakers, it’s an important part of the island’s cultural heritage. The last original native speaker, fisherman Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, but in recent years there’s been a language revival and use of Manx has become more evident, especially on signs and in print. Now, almost 2000 people (from a total population of around 80,000) speak the language to various extent.
2. It is home to the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The Manx people celebrated the millennium of the Tynwald assembly in 1979, its origins from the time the island was under the rule of the Viking kings of Dublin. The Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi, founded in 930, is older, but was suspended for 45 years around 1800. The original ceremony is preserved with an outdoor meeting every year on the fields below Tynwald Hill.
3. Whichever way you throw me, I will stand. The Three Legs of Mann (Tree Cassyn Vannin in Manx), a triskelion of three armoured legs joined together at the thigh, is the symbol of the Isle of Man, and appears everywhere. On flags and coats of arms, on banknotes and street signs, on car registration plates and on the front of the huge waterwheel at Laxey.
4. From the summit of Snaefell, the highest mountain at 620m (2034ft), it’s said that you can see seven kingdoms. That’s not the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Game of Thrones fans, but England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Mann. The final two kingdoms are said to be those of heaven and the sea, home of Manannán mac Lir, the mythical first King of Mann. That’s provided you have a clear day on this famously misty mountain.
5. The Isle of Man is a surprising centre of space travel research and development. Although the vehicle most associated with the island is a motorbike, a number of companies involved in building robots lunar rovers are based in on the island. And according to some sources, it’s 5th in the list of nations most likely to make the next moon landing.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. A quote that can be variously attributed to Sir Ranulph Finnes, Alfred Wainwright, Roald Amundsen*, and my Granny Mac. That the worst the elements can throw at you can be repelled with a good waterproof layer on the outside and some warm, cosy underlayers. And it’s true, mostly, except when the weather actually is bad.
As we left Peel on the Isle of Man, skies were clear, the sun shining and the wind was just right to take us north. Meanwhile, out in the Atlantic Ocean a weather front was moving eastward towards the British Isles, strengthened what was left of Hurricane Bertha after the storm battered into the islands of the Caribbean. A wave of strong wind and heavy rain were forecast to sweep over the UK and Ireland, with several weather warnings issued across the country. Continue reading
What a difference a week can make. Two weeks ago, Draken Harald Hårfargre was tied up to the quayside in Lerwick, sail and sheets piled on the foredeck, the yard lashed along the starboard rail, after we lost our mast crossing the North Sea. The crew were camped out in tents on the edge of the high school playing field, just opposite the Coastguard station. And after initial relief at our safe arrival subsided, it was replaced with an empty uncertainty, as we waited to find out what would happen to the expedition. Continue reading
Sometimes things just don’t go they way they’re planned. In my imagination, I see Draken bearing down toward Bressay lighthouse, flying before the wind, red sail glowing in the golden sunset, arriving in Shetland like the Viking ships of old. We make a tack to round South Ness and enter Bressay Sound. Approaching Lerwick we start to lower the sail and kai in the rå, drawing one end of the massive yard holding the top of the sail under the shrouds. As we come alongside the quay, we pack up the sail and coil sheets and lines, making ready to put up the foredeck tent. We step ashore in the simmer dim, the twilight of a northern summer.
At least we got the sunset. Continue reading
The winners of the World Nomads Travel Scholarship competition were announced the other day; with three writers selected to take part in a writers workshop in Berlin, before each setting out on a 10-day roadtrip through part of Europe in August. Winning would have been an amazing opportunity, but I’m not too disappointed as I was one of 30 writers shortlisted from many that entered, and I’m rather proud of that achievement.
I’m looking forward to reading the other entries on the shortlist, especially the winners; Rachel Ecklund, Amanda Richardson and Jarryd Salem and keeping up with the winners journals over their trips. Hopefully I’ll glean some writing tips from them as they travel.
And the reason I’m not too disappointed about missing out on a European roadtrip is that I’ve made some plans for the summer too. I’m going to rejoin the crew of Draken Harald Hårfarge at the end of June, for a sailing voyage that will take us from Norway, across the North Sea to Shetland and Orkney, through the Hebrides and down the west coast of Scotland, to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and finally into Liverpool, before returning. So here’s to blue seas, fair winds and beautiful sunsets.
Any seasickness remedies you can recommend are much appreciated!
Last month I entered a competition hosted by WorldNomads.com, aiming to win a travel writing workshop with an expert. The prize includes a 10-day road trip through Europe, and a commission to write a journal of the trip and follow-up articles. Results are announced later today, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
This is my entry:
We’re a couple of weeks into 2014 now, and chances are you’ve made a few resolutions. I’ll even go as far as to wager that you’ve been considering ways to improve your health and fitness over the coming year. But the gym can get boring after a while and classes become repetitive, so why not combine the desire to get fit with your love of travel with my second travel resolution suggestion?
#2. Add an active challenge to your travel bucket list.
Some of the best adventures require more than a little bit of exertion, but once you’ve reached your goal you find that the rewards greatly outweigh the effort put in. So whether your thing is running, hiking, biking or swimming, here are 5 ideas to get out and get fit. Continue reading
The sun creeps up over the horizon, marking the beginning of a new day. This picture was taken from the cliffs behind Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, on the east coast of Scotland.
The theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge is beginning.
The Weekly Photo challenge theme this week is Joy.
For me, the things that bring me joy are the things that really make me feel alive, that keep me connected to the natural world around me; often the experiences you only get by getting outdoors and leaving the city behind, finding a wild place and all that it offers.
These are some of the things that I’ve captured on instagram over this year that have made me feel joyful. If I have any resolutions for next year, it’s to get out and do more with my time, enjoy the little things, and make better connections with the people around me.
Have a happy Hogmanay, and I wish you all the best for 2014. May your year be filled with travels, adventures and joy.