Adventurers have long been drawn to geographical extremes. Reaching the highest, northernmost or southernmost points on any given bit of land makes for a prized accomplishment. But surly once you’re there you may want a pint to celebrate your achievement. These are the pubs located on the extremities of the United Kingdom, and perhaps a worthy challenge to try and visit as many as you can.
The world is full of well-known and amazing buildings which attract hordes of visitors, but, for a small community it’s the decaying, abandoned, and unknown which lure their fascination; This is the world of Urbex, or urban exploration. It’s a world that I, along with Dan and Macca will be delving into over a weekend in Belgium.
Occasionally in life I’ve been told to go to Hell. I’m sure they all meant I should visit a small town of Hel which lies at the end of a 35km peninsular in the Baltic Sea. Taking their suggestion to heart, I’ve booked a cheap flight for Friday 13th with the intention of walking the entire length of the peninsula, to Hel; but will I make it back?
While the three peak challenge makes for popular discussion amongst British hikers, often forgotten is that in fact there is a fourth peak. At 850 meters Slieve Donard marks the highest point of Northern Ireland, and although Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scarfell Pike get all the attention, we head over Irish Sea to acquaint ourselves with this often overlooked mountain.
New Orleans or NOLA as it’s also known, needs little introduction. Recently celebrating 300 years since its founding by the French in 1718, but this is only one party amongst many. The city’s vibrant atmosphere is well documented so whilst I may have missed Mardi Gras, does that mean I’ve missed the party?
It’s a late evening and the TV is on in the background, mostly serving as background noise; at least up until ‘Abandoned Engineering’ peaks my interest. The show starts with a typical narrator enthusiastically introducing The 52 Tunnel Road. I’ve never heard of if but with a name like that, and after watching a couple of minutes of dramatic footage, I’m hooked. It’s not long before I’m online trying to work out how I can explore this for myself.
Up until very recently it was unbeknown to me that Northern Spain is home to a spectacular mountain range, The Picos de Europa, or the Peaks of Europe. What have I been missing? The range is largely made up of limestone stretching for about 20km with the highest peak being Torre Cerredo (2650m) all within a national park of the same name.
Forming a natural border between the countries of Poland and Slovakia is the magnificent Tatra mountain range and Poland’s highest peak, Mt Rysy at 2,503 meters. The peak is right on the boundary of these two nations with hiking trails leading to its summit from either country.
The Curonian Spit is a 98km long thin stretch of land separating the Baltic Sea and Curonian Lagoon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site which covers the Russia exclave of the Kaliningrad Oblast to the south and Lithuania to the north. The narrowness of this massive geological phenomenon hasn’t gone un-noticed by ‘Team Doinit’ so after trying and failing to find any documented accounts of someone walking the Curonian Spit we assembled an eight person team to see if we could do it.
For almost half a century Myanmar remained largely closed of to the outside world thanks to a despotic military regime. But since 2011 things have started to change. The country that goes by two names is now opening up, finally giving visitors a chance to explore this magical land, filled with mystical architecture, breathtaking scenery and embrace relaxed atmosphere. This is my attempt to sum up our 11 day adventure…
If you find yourself walking along the coastline of the Thames Estuary you may on a clear day, far on the horizon, just about see some unusual structures. These are the Maunsell Forts; abandoned military defences which once protected London from enemy aircraft, and later became home to a community of radio pirates. That’s all I need to hear to get me out on a boat to take a look for myself.
I have always been fascinated by the world’s smaller, lesser known islands and the communities that inhabit these specks of land amidst vast oceans. The geo-political history of these outposts of human endurance makes for an intriguing read but for me there’s more to it.
Halfway between Norway and the North Pole is the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. A remote wilderness; a land of ice, islands and mountains. It’s as far north as most people can get using commercial means, and with the summer temperatures reaching ‘tolerable’, 24 hours sunshine and low taxes I think this could be my kind of summer holiday.
For anyone who has approached England by sea, over the English Channel (or la Manche, depending on your point of view), across the Strait of Dover you can’t help but be mesmerised by the magnificent wall of white which greets you. Another way to experience these iconic cliffs is from above and thats exactly what I’m going to do.
etween the well-worn tourist destinations of Morocco and Tunisia lies Africa’s largest country, Algeria; and whilst it may be unmissable on any map of Africa it appears that most western tourists are blind to the prospect of a visit. It’s true the countries reputation doesn’t do it any favours but reputations have a tendency to unjustifiably linger on longer then they deserve. So with the capital city of Algiers being a little over two hours away I decided to step out of my comfort zone and discover for myself what we may be missing.
Realistically I know I can’t explore all of Central America in one trip, although many do by devoting months of travel; I simply can’t afford that luxury. However, I’ve hatched a plan to give me my first taste of Central America by visiting Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. Partly dictated by flight prices and partly by my assumption that the area I’ll be travelling though is relatively compact, I plan a two week backpack over Easter to see what Central America has to offer.
Everyone’s heard of the Canary Islands, but run your finger North West across the map and you will notice another archipelago in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean. These are the Azores; nine islands over a thousand miles away from anywhere else, an autonomous region of Portugal and a real hidden gem. These ‘secret islands’ have been described as Europe’s Eden; and I have only a week to discover if this reputation is just.
As one of Europe’s least visited countries I think we can all be forgiven for not really knowing much about Moldova, but that shouldn’t put you of visiting. Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova can make for an interesting long weekend. There’s the countries rich wine heritage, ex Soviet charm and a rather interesting geo-political situation which has resulted in the defacto independent state of Transnitstria. More than enough to wet my appetite for a mini adventure.
We’d driven 10,000 miles to Mongolia. Now what? With the Mongolian government being very clear that we are not to abandon, sell or ‘lose’ our car we’ve two options. One, drive it back; two, get it shipped back to as close to home as possible, which turns out to be Lithuania. We opted for the latter.
I’ve always wanted to try snowboarding, but it can be quite a daunting prospect. You need the right gear, you need to know what you’re doing and above all you need to know where to go. The Alps are the obvious choice but they come at a price and presumably with loads of crowds. With my nature of trying to stay away from the obvious it is the ‘Principality of the Valleys of Andorra’ which captures my attention.
For over a decade the Mongol Rally has attracted adventurous souls to make their way across one third of our Planet in a wholly unsuitable vehicle. After planning and even hoping for a number of years that I would be one of those souls, testing my determination on such a journey, it was not until the 10th anniversary of the rally that I would finally become part of this Mongol Rally fraternity.
In the south of Europe, on the Island of Sicily stands one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Almost in a constant state of activity Mt Etna dominates much of the Island, its eruptions are so frequent they’re seldom consider breaking news… it’s just the norm. With that in mind I thought a visit might be a blast.
Perhaps Great Britain’s most popular mountain to climb, Mount Snowdon stands at an elevation of 1,085 meters above sea level and provides an exhilarating as well as challenging climb, particularly for first timers. Located in the beautifully scenic Snowdonia National Park, there are a plethora of walking and climbing routes throughout the park.
There are no set rules, no black or white answers which define what an adventure or a challenge is. For me it’s all about the grey areas. Trying something new, making something my own. So inspired by the British three peak challenge I have gone about creating my own ‘different kind of three peak’ challenge, summiting not Britain’s peaks but some of Europe’s highest.
“I’m going ice climbing” I tell my friends, to which I receive a rather perplexed look as they ask “Where?” “Covent Garden” I reply. This only raises more questions…. Covent Garden has been home to a vibrant scene of bars and restaurants for a long time so one can be forgiven for not instantly associating the area with ice climbing.
Morocco has a lot to offer a traveller, particularly if they’ve a head for heights. Jbel Toubkal, the highpoint of the Atlas Mountain Range, is one of the top destinations for many. More often than not ascents are undertaken with organised trekking companies and while this can be a good option for some, what if you want to go it alone?
The Balkans are still thought of by many travellers as Europe’s last wilderness. Others will think of Yugoslavia and more recently the wars and ethnic cleansing of the 1990’s. It’s true much darkness has befallen the region but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom as Marek Nusl found out on an intense two week trip crammed with as much as he could fit in.
Chernobyl, even just the word brings to mind illusions of catastrophic nuclear meltdown, massive mushroom clouds and zombies. Loaded with these illusions I felt it would be a great idea to round up some mates and visit this soviet era time capsule over a long weekend away.
Surprise, we’re going to Paris” I explained to my better half on her birthday. I’ve not actually planned the trip, only booked the Eurostar and a hotel, but the rest I’m sure we’ll work out en-route… We barely opened our guide book, and we still had a great time in one of Europe’s finest cities. Opting for the Eurostar rather than plane made our journey effortless, quick and above all, comfortable.
It’s hard to imagine that an icy, dark, wet November evening could potentially provide such a unique and fun experience. Throw a canoe and the Thames River into the equation and you’ll soon forget all about this miserable winter, get active and start enjoying the sights of London in a way experienced by only a few.
In a far corner of the United Kingdom, forty miles from the Western Isles, lies a speck of land that has caught the imagination of many. St Kilda supported a modest population, adapted to survive in such harsh and isolated conditions, for two millennia, but with the influx of modern world influence the population began to dwindle as religion, tourism, emigration and disease eventually eroded the sustainability of this fragile society.
There’s a lot more to Bavaria than beer, bratwurst and the local population sporting their traditional lederhosen (for men) and dirndl (for women) dress. For history buffs there are castles, for skiers there are plenty of slopes and for hikers or climbers, well, you have the Zugspitze which, at 2,962 metres, marks Germany’s highest point.
Mount Olympus, home to Zeus and the Olympians is truly a remarkable sight. Here anyone can immerse themselves in Greek mythology, the magnificent natural scenery and maybe even a cheeky sip of Ouzo while exploring the network of trails in what feels like the heavens.
The Island of Tenerife attracts hordes of tourists looking for an inexpensive sunny getaway. The package holiday machine ensures that by day the sun is soaked in by the pool and by night the inexpensive nightlife is taken full advantage of. However for a hiker Tenerife can to be a true gem of a destination as the island is home to some of the most beautiful and natural scenery around, all available on a tidy budget.
With a population of a little over half a million, Vilnius is not a large city; however it does have one of the largest old towns in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many visitors tour the Baltic states in a single trip but now affordable low cost airlines mean a weekend visit is well on the cards. While Prague has its castle, Paris its tower, Vilnius seems to have a more subdued appeal, perhaps even less spectacular, but the charm of the Old Town is undeniable, preserved in time and free from the touristy tat and whore houses found in many of its counterpart cities.
Standing in downtown Minsk there is little to suggest that you are standing in the capital of Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. No huge banners line the Stalinist architecture portraying the president sternly looking down upon you, no pictures hang of him in the shop windows, scrutinising your purchases, and while you can buy souvenirs with images of past famous socialist figures, Mr Lukashenko is nowhere to be seen. Instead you’ll see a McDonald’s, TGI Friday or even a Lamborghini parked outside a trendy cafe. On first impressions it would seem that someone has told Belarus that the Iron Curtain has in fact been drawn.
As if straight out of a Robinson Crusoe novel, Boa Vista really is a splendid example of a desert island. 570km off the West African coast, Boa Vista is the closest of the 10 islands to mainland Africa that make up the archipelago country of Cape Verde. It’s due to this proximity to the mainland and relative proximity to the Tropic of Cancer that this volcanic island owes its Sahara-like conditions. Tourism here is still very much in its infancy, making this the ideal time to come and soak up the sun, sea, and atmosphere before the rest of the world does.
‘The Ben’ as it’s so often called, holds the title as Britain’s highest mountain. Whist this might be the sole reason many flock to its peak (1344m), the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands is reason enough to venture upon this stunning landscape. Close to the town of Fort William, the route starts not far of sea level meaning hikers ascend the full elevation on offer, no mean feat.
Pristina’s emergence as a capital city arose from Kosovo’s self proclaimed independence from Serbia back in 2008. To date, it remains under international scrutiny about its status as a full on ‘country’ with Serbia leading forward the argument it still remains under its governing rule. It is for this reason that Kosovo remains far from peoples minds as a tourist destination. However, upon a visit, ones perceptions of a war torn city needs to be re-evaluated as you’ll soon come to realise that this is a functioning, bustling, living city home to some 200,000 people.
Almost every guide book to Macedonia’s capital city will start by explaining that 80% of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963. It will continue to explain that this paved the way for the great socialist rebuild resulting in today’s grey and concrete façade dominating the skyline. However, spend some time here and you’ll see there’s more than meets the eye.
Scattered along Syria’s North West region are the remains of a past civilization, long dead and forgotten. It’s claimed that 40 ancient Christian Byzantine settlements dating back to between the first and the seventh centuries make up Syria’s mysterious Dead Cities. Surprisingly, yet somehow quite fitting, the modern world has forgotten about these incredible and well-preserved ruins. Even UNESCO, it would seem, has overlooked these sites up until 2011, when they were finally recognised as a world heritage site.
Thrust into the lime light by Indiana Jones (of Last Crusade fame), Petra will undoubtedly always make it on to any must see, visit, or bucket list out there. The accessibility, preservation, and grandeur of this “rose-red city” provide any visitor with an up-close and personal experience with the ancient Nabataeans as they walk through history
Atop a large hill some 700 meters above sea level and overlooking a lush green valley in Western Syria, stands the magnificent ‘Castle of the Kurds’. Once described by Lawrence of Arabia as “…perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world…”, it leaves modern day visitors as impressed now as it had T.E. Lawrence himself a century ago. Built between 1142 and 1271 the Krak, or Castle, now a UNESCO world heritage site is still recognised as one of the best specimens of a Crusader Castles in the world.
Nestled within the southern part of the Sinai Peninsular, Mount Sinai offers an exhilarating climb which rewards you at the summit with some truly amazing views of the mountainous desert region of Egypt. Moses’ Mountain, as it’s called in Arabic, stands at 2,285 meters and is said to be the place where God passed to Moses The Ten Commandments.
Well on Iceland’s tourist trail is the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa which is perhaps one of country’s most popular attractions, and rightly so. The steamy blue waters project a bizarre sense of tranquillity as they rest, encapsulated by the surrounding lava formations make this an experience not to pass on.
Just 28 miles of the English coastline in the Celtic Sea, five inhabited islands are home to some wonderfully quaint English settlements. Many more uninhabited islands are left for nature and the local wildlife to shape as they please. Together, these form the picturesque archipelago of the Isles of Scilly, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which will leave any visitor astonished that they’ve not come across this gem of a destination before.
High up in Norway’s polar region lies Nordkapp. Translated to ‘North Cape’ it’s often yet inaccurately credited as Europe’s most northern point. In fact if you are up for a moderate hike you can get a little further north where much fewer visitors venture.
Exploring our arctic regions can evoke assumptions of expense, precision preparation, and lengthy expeditions through snow-torn landscape utilising equipment reserved for the specialist. The reality is that Europe’s share of the Arctic Circle is quite accessible throughout the summer months.
The world is amazing, there is so much to explore but like most of us I am somewhat burdened with a full time nine to five job. However over time I’ve developed a strategy. When I’m not in the office I travel, plan adventures and try to explore as much as I can.. In the UK we are fortunate enough (in most cases) for full time workers to be entitled to 28 odd days of PAID annual leave. You can increase how far this goes by being crafty when you take this time off i.e incorporate bank holidays.
For years, taking part in something like the Paris – Dakar Rally was for the uber rich and well-funded, unfairly out of reach for the average person; but then came along the Plymouth Banjul Rally and changed everything. Bangers destined for the scrap yard are now given one last adventure. Paired up with new owners, man and machine bond over the 4000 mile road trip from the UK to the small West African nation of The Gambia