Category Archives: Daytour

Delphi and Meteora

With the time off I get in Athens, it gives me a lot of chances to see more of Greece, so I decided to do an actual tour. I wanted to see some of the real history of the country, so Delphi and Meteora were a must do. Epic scenery and some great stories as well

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I booked through a website called GetYourGuide.com which was pretty good, their price was about 30EUR less than if I’d booked direct, and the company I went with was called Key Tours. It’s a two day tour, and the price included a stay in Kalambaka at the base of the Meteora cliffs.

img_20160816_093201012I was picked up, transferred, fussed around and faffed about until eventually I was on a coach heading up to Delphi for our first stop. The guide was an impressively knowledgable lady called Anastasia, talking almost constantly all the way out of Athens, and then from Athens the whole way to Delphi. Honestly it was very hard to listen to her talk for such a long time, there was just too much chatter that didn’t interest me, so I fell asleep. The service breaks were depressing tourist traps full of over-priced tat and rubbish food, but we didn’t get much choice.

img_20160815_122408611_hdrOnce we got to Delphi there was a little more fussing, then the group followed our guide on a rather uninspiring tour of a hugely inspiring location. The site itself is incredible, ruins of treasuries, a huge temple, a stadium and so much more, all built around the Oracle, on the side of a mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful, the valley spreading below us and the mountain peaks above, while the ruins showed how the ancient holy location functioned. The story goes that Zeus released two crows who would meet at the centre of the world, then hurled a rock down in that location to mark it for mankind. There is a fissure in the rock there, where sulphuric gasses rise from the depths of the planet, and they found that breathing this gas caused strong hallucinations. They would use a virgin, who sit atop the fissure, breathing the air and explaining what she saw (or just mumbling nonsense) and priests would translate this into advise and prophesy for the leaders of the various city-states. The most well known of the prophecies is the story of Croesus who was told that he would destroy an army if he went to war. He went to war, and his own army was destroyed.

img_20160815_123438774It was a holy location, so nobody lived there, meaning there are no remains of homes, just the main temple of Apollo and various treasuries, or gold supplies for the city-states. The location at Delphi meant it was close to the coast and accessible relatively easily by all. The formed a council of elders, and it was at this location they could make decisions for the entire nation. The Oracle features in several movies, including 300, which depict it as a truly mystical place – It’s unlikely to have been quite to fantastical, but the Ancient Greeks certainly believed in the power of Oracle.

img_20160815_162113848We missed the museum, which contained many of the statues and more delicate artefacts in order to get going towards Meteora. We did get a brief stop at the monument to the Spartans who died Thermopylae. A mighty spartan warrior stands atop a wall, with a carved depiction of the battle of the 300 against the immense Persian army. Since the water level has lowered the narrow passage shown in the movie is now much much wider, and would be impossible to defend with so few men.

img_20160816_085842672We switched out guide when we left Delphi, and I had been hoping that our new guy would make the journey a little better, with shorter talks about the most important sights, however he also decided to expel every nugget of information he could about the regions we travelled through, including a wonderful 20 minutes on a special cheese, 40 minutes of the plains of mid-greece and plenty more that I was more than happy to sleep through. I expect I missed a lot of the interesting and relevant information, but trying to concentrate was just impossible. We arrived at Kalambaka tired and drowse, but a reasonable feed and a stroll around cleared my head before bed.

img_20160816_090721228An early start meant we were on the cliffs before most of the tourists, and actually had a chance to view some of the very impressive sights of Meteora. The place is famous not only for the high cliffs rising out of the plains below, but also the monasteries and nunneries built upon them. Built by religious hermits who had been residing in the caves, the cliffs gave the monks the solitude to worship and act according to Gods will. Nowadays there are roads up there, and tourist crawling all over the churches and holy areas, so I imagine the solitude is less effective, but the idea of constructing entire buildings on rock outcrops and effectively inaccessible cliffs, back in the 11th Century is just unimaginable.

img_20160816_114643010_hdrWe visited two of the main complexes, and viewed one from the outside (it’s closed on Tuesdays) and each had it’s own charm, and was an impressive structure when you consider the challenge of building on the pure rocks. The views were possibly the most spectacular, although our guide insisted on teaching us about every mural in each chapel, which took up most of the time inside. I decided to skip out of tour to enjoy the location without being surrounded by other tourists, and there’s something about musty church air that makes me feel pretty bad (I must be a sinner).

img_20160816_094120506The trip home was long an uneventful, I tried to sleep as much as I could, I had certainly had enough of the guide. At least the ride was smooth and there was minimal faffing around.

I’d absolutely recommend the sites, they’re excellent, and good value for entry, but if you can find a way to see them without doing a tour do so. Greek guides have to go to school to qualify, and the school teaches them to talk as much as they can, for as long as they can, and it’s exhausting to listen to. I’m surprised they can still talk at all.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Aegina – Quiet Greek Island

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This island sits only a short ferry from Athens, and if you’re looking for a break from the big city, you’ll struggle to find a better destination for a couple days.

IMG_20160802_142624229IMG_20160802_144524691I decided to explore the island after a shining recommendation from a friend, and I’m grateful for it. It’s easy to get to from Piraeus (Athens main port) with the fast hydrofoil ferry (16EUR each way, 20mins) or the slow one (12EUR return, 1hr30mins) leaving approximately hourly. Once on the island I found myself a nice lunch – there’s some great places just one street back from the seafront that are excellent value. You must try a Aegina Salad, similar to a Greek one, but with pistachios, the islands speciality crop.

With a full belly I set out to explore, renting a moped from one of the only two places in town I took the coastal road around to the north side, dipping through pretty little harbour towns, past stunning quiet beaches and over gorgeous headlands. The breeze thanks to the bike kept me cool, although I was on and off the bike plenty of times, grabbing some snaps or just having a quick stroll through a village.IMG_20160803_120258065There are a few points well worth investigating while on Aegina, a collection of old churches scattered on a hillside overlooking the main valley in the centre of the island, but when scaled to the top offers views down to the northern shores as well. Despite the heat the climb wasn’t hard, and gave me the adventurous kick I love so much. Each church had recent dedications, although as I reached higher it was clear that people preferred the lower ones for their visits, not wanting to over exert themselves.

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Next on the list, and only a minute down the hill is the Monastery and Cathedral, while the monastery is a rather sensible settlement, the cathedral is quite impressive, with a large dome framed on either side by impressive towers. The eastern influence is truly apparent with the architecture in these holy buildings XXXX. My last stop before I found my accommodation was the ancient site of the Temple of Apollo. A decent amount still remains, with enough ruined that it looks well used as well. The majority of the coloumbs are still standing, along with much of the roof structure. You can see where much of the base structure was built, and the useful signage means it’s possible to build up a pretty decent picture of what it would looked like when still functional

IMG_20160802_202921184_HDRI was staying in the town of Aegina Marina, on the eastern side of the island. Usually I don’t name the hostel/hotel I stay in, but the lady that runs the Flora Rooms was so lovely they deserve a mention. A top floor room with good views of the bay, plus homemade lemonade and cookies on arrival made me feel very welcome indeed. The village is rather basic, mostly tourist restaurants and shops, but nothing here was overly expensive. The vibe was more family friendly than the better known islands further south, no late bars, and certainly no clubs in that part of the island. I asked about a good place to watch the sun set, but the only option was to drive back to the main town (the big city as the Marina locals call it). But after some research I found that the highest mountain on the island was climbable, and would take about a half hour from the base, which was a half hour drive away. I had nearly two hours until sunset, so after a quick shower I got a shuffle on and headed south.

IMG_20160802_200355822Google estimated a 30min drive, but I feel Googles vehicle is not an underpowered, elderly moped, so I arrived with barely 25mins to make the climb. The way was rocky for sure, loose pebbles, shingle but nothing too steep. I hustled up as fast as I could, soon making my shower somewhat redundant thanks to the sheer amount of sweat I shed. I climbed, constantly watching the worlds finest countdown over my shoulder, hoping that I would make it to the top in time. 14 minutes after I started on the trail, I reached the summit.IMG_20160802_144524691That gave me nearly 10 mins to grab as many snaps as I could, and enjoy the view in all directions. It was a glorious sunset, made so much better by my solitary climb, I savoured it as long as I could, but knew it would start getting dark soon, so had to make my way back down again. Biking back home with two headlights pointing way out to the sides is definitely not recommended, but finding an appropriate challenge and completing it is the most rewarded experience I know.

IMG_20160802_160553183I congratulated myself with fresh swordfish steak at one of the restaurants opposite my hotel, not worrying about eating alone, surrounded by families and couples. Retiring to my room, I slept very soundly that night.

IMG_20160803_121847563The next day I set off to explore the little island off the southwestern corner, Moni. Checking out early I said goodbye and hit the road over to Aegina town, before cutting off down to Perika. I found a nice spot for breakfast as I’d heard the beach bar on Moni was somewhat overpriced – although this isn’t surprising as the island is totally uninhabited. The beach you arrive into is busy with tourists, with plenty boats in the bay, but it’s not hard to get away from them all. 5 minutes away is beach after beach, untouched and unpopulated, perfect for a truly relaxing experience on the island.IMG_20160803_122944581Moni is an uninhabited island, but there are some local residents worth finding. Peacocks and deer both thrive, but the peacocks are certainly much easier to find. The slopes near the main beach is full of them, scratching and pecking at the dirt to find food. It seemed likely that they’d be having a feast once the last of the people had left, hoovering up all the leftovers and dropped crumbs. I didn’t see any deer, but I hope to head back one night and camp out, hopefully then we can see a little more, and maybe climb the mountain there as well.

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Back from Moni it was a simple case of finding some lunch, returning the ped and jumping back on the ferry home. Two islands, well explored and I was ready to face the city again.

Monaco – making a day of it

Recently I had a little time off in Nice on the Cote D’Azur in the south of France. While Nice is a beautiful town with lots to do, I was drawn away to explore Monaco the tiny country only a short bus ride away

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Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, only 2 square Km, ruled by the longest standing monarchal house in Europe, the Grimaldi family, and is home to some of the richest people in the world. It has an impressive residency policy, with applications costing $100 million US dollars, and the final vote coming direct from King Albert himself. Many celebs have tried and failed to gain citizenship including 1/2 of U2, Tina Turner and many more. Successful candidates included James Bond actor Roger Moore, British F1 driver Jenson Button (along with plenty other drivers) and various Tennis stars notably Rafael Nadal.

Getting to the country is as easy as going to the shops, simple hop on the train or the bus. The bus 100 heads all the way to Menton via Monaco, and is just 1.50EUR for a single ticket. Take the bus through Monaco, past all the sights until place de le Moulin (just remember where the castle stop is) and then you can head back through town to catch the bus back without doubling up.

IMG_20160620_161846564The city is not as expensive as is thought, it was only 1.20EUR for a croissant in the little bakery we found, and although there’s plenty of opportunities to spend, it’s easy enough to avoid. So grab a bite and wander along and down towards the sea. There’s a good few car showrooms around, so depending on your route you may find Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and more. At the bottom you’ll find the Grimaldi Forum, and next to it the Promenade of Champions, and the beautiful Japanese Gardens, along from here you can walk up to the famous Monte Carlo casino, or through the tunnel, well known to fans of the Formula 1. If you want to see both, it’s definitely better to go through the tunnel, then take the subway near the far end which has elevators up to the Casino above.

The square in front of the Casino is grand enough itself, with enough fancy cars and luxury suits to satisfy most playboy fantasies, but when you step inside the casino foyer itself you’ll understand what the fuss is all about. While it is banned for the citizens of Monaco (known as Monegasque) to gamble, the casino pulls in thousands of visitors a day, many of whom are the high rollers we all wish we were too. The country actually built much of its success on the strength of the casino, and it’s used to raise funds for the government in place of taxes. You can enter the lobby for free with no clothing restrictions, however if you wish to gamble, you’ll need a collared shirt and to pay the 10EUR entry. This is just the common people area though, and to get through to the real luxury you’ll need to be dolling out a lot of cash.

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There are a few shops nearby to nose through, all of the high end fashion labels, and a few high street stores have set up camp, but don’t worry about those, as the view as you continue along the main strip is far more impressive than any handbag. Overlooking the marina you can spot those poor people who can only afford a super yacht. These days mega (over 65m) and giga (over 100m) yachts are the real deal and have pride of place in the central port. Walking around the marina will lead you to the path up the hill to the palace, where you’ll find the traditional guard standing to attention and another epic view. Also at the top is the marine biology centre, which features an impressive public aquarium and the church where Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer III. It also happens to be where they are buried, and often mourned by the locals.

If you fancied extending your day, heading down the Menton, or jumping off at Eze en route would be good options. Otherwise, enjoy the oppulence and relax.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cornwall – Treen to Penberth to Porthcurno ft: The Minack Theatre

A somewhat more challenging walk than the previous excursion is the loop from the hamlet of Treen on the hill between two valleys and the beaches at the bottom of those valleys: Penberth and Porthcurno

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IMG_20150208_120602The walk starts off across typical hilly Cornish countryside down into the valley, then alongside the stream that leads out to the small fishing town of Penberth. A pretty town, where the newer houses have been kept in keeping with the style of the older original buildings. The beach is pretty but somewhat rocky, not good for a swim, but the slipway opens the transition between land a sea, with an old winch still used to pull the fishing boats ashore. There’s still a healthy trade going from this village, with line caught mackerel being the most popular catch, and fetching a good price for it’s ecological benefits along with the prestige of Cornish fishing.
IMG_20150208_124650The walk up the cliffs from here is a bit steep, but is the hardest section of the day, and looking back into the cove offers some lovely views of the uniquely rocky cliffs and the town nestled between them. Along the top of the cliffs the views out to sea are impressive. In places along this route there are areas grazed by dartmoor wild ponies which can be fun to spot. It’s important not to feed these animals as they’ve been introduced to help the environment recover. They are friendly creatures, but try not to pet them, as they are wild and may not be completely safe.

IMG_20150208_121215As you work towards Porthcurno you’ll pass the headland which is home to Logan Rock. The story is that two sailors decided to push this loose rock off the cliff, only to be caught and forced to take it back up. If you climb up to where the rock is sat you can see the holes they made to insert wooden bars to help them lift the stone back into position. The climb up there is not part of the walk, but is a great little detour that doesn’t take too long although the rocky bit can be a challenge to climb up.

IMG_20150208_122942From the headland you can see down into Pedn Vounder, a stunning bay with huge stretches of sand. The way the cliffs and sand banks lie mean that at high-tide the water is still very shallow, turning the deep blue ocean to a gorgeous turquoise to rival the Mediterranean. This beach is usually quite quiet for a couple reasons, the walk to it is fairly steep and tricky, certainly not suitable for young kids and due to the lie of the sand it’s easy to get trapped by an incoming tide. Thanks to this it’s made the beach a bit of an unofficial nudist hotspot. While it’s easy to see down into the bay access is tricky enough to put off most, and the distance between the cliff tops and the beach is enough to prevent any embarrassment. There weren’t any naked people out when I walked past, but given the cold February air, I wasn’t surprised. it also meant my photos were unspoilt by anyone in the bay at all.

IMG_20150208_125134From there it’s a short walk around the next head and down into Porthcurno. Another small town, but one with a lot more significance than most in Cornwall for two reasons. Porthcurno is the beach where the telegraph cables arrived in the UK. The telegraph network allowed messages to be sent trans-continentally within just a few days, rather than the weeks it took previously. The old method was simple mail, sent across on ships, but these cables stretched across the atlantic to improve communication between the colonies and London. There is a Museum a little further up the valley, but by the beach is the hut into which the cables ran, you can still look inside and see the various sources of the communications, some direct, and others via relay stations in friendly nations.

IMG_20150208_140322The second is the world famous Minack Theatre, a spectacular stage and auditorium built into the cliffs, just visible from the beach. With the Atlantic as it’s backdrop, plays held here are impressive affairs, and while there are risks of numb bums and some rather damp shows (weather depending) the show will go on. The season starts in mid-Spring, through into Autumn, to make the most use of the daylight hours. With the brisk air, you’d have to be a very enthusiastic fan to want to sit in the freezing cold of winter with the wind across those cliffs. It’s an amazing place, even just for a visit, and the matinee shows are as popular as the evening as fans enjoy the summer sun.

IMG_20150208_141205The town has a bit more to offer than just the Museum and Theatre, with a few good restaurants, boasting some excellent local fish dishes. It’s a pretty village as well, and a walk through is not unpleasant, however it does get rather busy in summer as the holiday lets and hotels fill up, and even more people come down to check out the sand.

Our walk took us up the cliffs beside the Minack and onto the headland, from where we walked inland and across the flatter land. Farmers fields and backcountry roads led the way back to Treen and home.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Cornwall Adventure Part1: Truro & St Mawes

Yesterday was the first of my Cornwall exploratory trips, I had some shopping to do as well, so Truro was the obvious stop, and I followed this with a sunset down at St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula.

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TruroTruro is the only ‘city’ in Cornwall, but it’s really no bigger than most towns, but it is central has more shops than most of the villages around. It maintains a friendly vibe and generally easy going atmosphere, it’s really far too small to have stressed out businessmen running about, so the streets tend to be calm and easy. The cobbled centre and Cathedral really make it a pleasant town to be in. There’s a few too many new coffee chains popping up, and it is tiny so don’t expect the choice of any major city here.

St Mawes CastleThe drive down to St Mawes through the Roseland Peninsula is typical Cornish roads, plenty of narrow bits and high hedges, but the occasional wonderful vista out the window. St Mawes is a well maintained traditional village, clearly with a good bit of money behind it. The pubs and hotels are a bit at the pricey end, but it’s a very attractive town overlooking the estuary with a couple hundred boats moored up.St MawesThe walk along to the castle is short, and the castle isn’t huge, but the historic building with the impressive views over towards Falmouth make for a very pleasant view. It’s not the excitement you might want, but for a quiet evening, or a nice place to take a date, I can think of much worse.

Truro CathedralBack to Truro again to enjoy a quick drink; tonight was the turn of the Old Grammer School, a Tapas bar, serving decent food and fancy drinks. Truro has a great selection of nice pubs and new trendy bars, which is always surprising, as the city is a ghost town on the weekday nights. It’s a wonder they survive, but we’re happy they do as they provide a nice range of places to grab a drink and a bite in style and comfort.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Where Does The DART Go? Blog for Jacobsinn.com

Seconds away from Jacobs Inn is Connolly Station, with the DART line – but where does the DART go?

Well simply enough, it heads along the east coast, both north and south of the city.

SOUTH

Heading South on the DART - Versestravel.wordpress.comHeading out of Dublin south will treat you some incredible coastal views. Once you get through the sprawl of the city, the railway follows the line of the coasts, cutting it’s way through headlands and over cliffs. The views are simply amazing as you head along

Bray - Versestravel.wordpress.comHeading down to Bray or Greystones is a good recommendation, both are pleasant little towns that will give you a nice walk and a great bite to eat. In fact Bray is home to the Harbour Bar, voted the best pub in the world in 2010 by the Lonely Planet guidebooks. It may have lost the title, but it hasn’t lost the charm or the quality. Heading in here will never be a mistake, the delightful decor and friendly staff will welcome you like it’s their home, and if the weather has turned less pleasant this is a wonderfully homely place to call home for a couple hours.

NORTH

Malahide - Versestravel.wordpress.comTo the north is the terminus of Malahide, another seaside town. While the ride up isn’t so impressive the town makes up for it. You can buy yourself a nice picnic lunch and go sit on the grass down by the pontoons. Watching the boats and birds bobbing in the bay with some good food will put you in an excellent mood for a stroll.

Malahide Castle - Versestravel.wordpress.comIf you head back past the station you can find the lovely Malahide castle, set in the large grounds and gardens. There’s a small charge to see the inner gardens, but the castle and grounds are free to explore. Wandering through here is a peaceful and easy way to spend a sunny afternoon. Away from the bustle of the city, it’s possible to lose the sound of all traffic and hide away somewhere quiet, until you lose track of all time and the sun has set.

The last location is the sweet little peninsular of Howth a small peninsular perfectly suited for a good stroll. Up across the centre will take you to the top of the hill, known as the Summit, where a pub awaits your arrival to fuel you on the rest of the walk. On the far side the lighthouse is sitting pretty, the focal point of many a photograph. Following the cliff walk back around will offer a variety of great views over the sea that divides Ireland from the United Kingdom. Back in the town, there’s some excellent pubs many of which offer live music, and best of all – cheap beer! At least a lot cheaper than Dublin.

Dublin sunset from the DART - Versestravel.wordpress.comSo now you know where the DART goes – time to go have a look!

Benjamin Duff – Versestravel

Powerscourt – Green Paradise – Blog for Jacobsinn.com

For those that don’t know Powerscourt Estate and Gardens is a stunning manor house set in the lush Irish country.

Powerscourt Gardens - Versestravel.wordpress.com

At the base of the Wicklow mountains, the setting is stunning. The house itself is grand, and has some excellent facilities, including the Avoca clothing and food ranges and a couple delightful cafes, but the real treat are the Powerscourt gardens.

 

Japanese Garden at Powerscourt - Versestravel.wordpress.com

The main  lawn sprawls down the hill, with perfectly landscaped slopes and lawns down to a very impressive fountain. Ornate statues decorate the area adding further interest. Huge trees frame the gardens and divide each area from the next.

The Japanese garden transports you to a different country on the other side of the world. Delicately carved structures add a centre while the seemingly ancient arches create tiny paths that weave through the outskirts.

Roses at Powerscourt - Versestravel.wordpress.com

The Pepperpot Tower allows for excellent views over the rest of the Powerscourt gardens. If flowers are your thing then the bedded garden area impresses with a large range of roses and other bright flowering blooms. There’s also plenty of woodland walks between that allow you to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet.

 

Church Ruins Powerscourt - Versestravel.wordpress.com

The Waterfall is a little further along, and is well known as a summer picnic spot. The impressive waterfall has a wonderful walk around and is great for a family day-out along with the Estate.

For those on a budget the Dublinsightseeing.ie south coast tour visits the Estate along with Glendalough (no waterfall stop) Or the DART will take you to Bray, from where you can get a bus to Powerscourt.

Benjamin Duff

Versestravel

Dublin Zoo – An Alternative day out in Dublin – Blog for Isaacshostel.ie

Dublin Zoo provides entertainment for all, and makes a great break from big old stone buildings and pints of Guinness.

A Wold Waits - Versestravel.worpress.com

Using the mini-card discounts available in the hostel reception, the entry price is very reasonable, and getting there is easier enough. Once inside, the layout excellently guides you through and past the animal enclosures, giving you an opportunity to see Tigers, Wolves, Snow Leopards and Orang Utans on one side, with lemurs and other monkeys jumping around on the lakes small islands on the other.

 

An Orang Utan Thinks - Versestravel.wordpress.com

The African Safari area is very impressive with a great viewing pathway along the edge of a large plain. Giraffes and Zebra impress with their diversity, while the Rhinos dose near the far wall. It sucessfully recreates that African feel, but one better, all the animals are right in front of you. A Hippo Swims - Versestravel.wordpress.comThe Hippo is another good spot, although getting a photo is tricky as he surfaces for only a few seconds at a time as he circles his shady pool.

The Gorillas and Chimpanzees are great fun to watch, climbing and swinging around their enclosures, hunting out food and grooming while the younger apes play fight and chase each other about. There’s also some aquatic animals to check out in Dublin Zoo, sealions and penguins both pulling in crowds as they cruise happily around their pools. Catching a feeding is highly recommended as you’ll get to see them more active.

The Baby Elephant Snoozes - Versestravel.wordpress.com

 

Finally, the highlight of the tour is the new born Elephant. Bigger than you might expect for less than a month old this baby is still very young and doesn’t do too much. If you’re lucky you’ll see him testing out his legs and taking a little stroll. Imagine new born Bambi, but much heavier!

 

A Heron Watches - Versestravel.wordpress.com

While the park is very family orientated there is still plenty for those that are young at heart to enjoy. The animals at Dublin Zoo are spectacular regardless of age, although heading over on a week day will help reduce the crowds and give a better view for the feedings.

Benjamin Duff

Versestravel

Wicklow and Beyond – a blog for Jacobsinn.com

A trip out to the Wicklow mountains is an absolute must if you’re in Dublin for more than a few days – stunning views, lakes, mountains, quaint villages, castles and churches galore. This is a chance to see what real rural Ireland is all about.

Glendalough Lake - Versestravel
Glendalough Lake – Versestravel

The Sunday tour is the reverse of the usual Wild Rover Tours route, but all the stops are the same. So we started with Glendalough a wonderful valley with a couple majestic lakes, wonderful for the photo ops. You’re given the choice between a guided tour of the monastic city or to let off the lease to explore at your own pace. The tour provides you with bucket loads of information on the history of the area, while going free allows you to see as little or as much as you like.

Monastic city at Glendalough - Versestravel
Monastic city at Glendalough – Versestravel

The next stop is the terrifically exposed to elements Wicklow pass, the highest road through the mountains offering spectacular views in all directions – just be prepared for the wind and the rain.

Overlooking Kilkenny - Versestravel
Overlooking Kilkenny – Versestravel

On down the road is the small city of Kilkenny, overwhelmed with ancient churches and castles this is a very picturesque town. Again you have a choice, a tour of the nearby caves of Dunmore (price included) or longer to spend in Kilkenny itself. We opted to fully explore the city and were rewarded with a climb to the highest structure, which doubles as the oldest building. The views from the top are magnificent 360 degrees over the city, and only 3Euro. The Black Abbey was another highlight of our improvised tour, which features hugely impressive stained-glass windows and some medieval coffins for those with a historical/archaeological streak.

Stained glass window in Black Abbey - Versestravel
Stained glass window in Black Abbey – Versestravel

Finally the castle is an obvious stop, especially as it’s the bus drop-off point. A tidy and well maintained example of an Irish castle, this one looks and feels a little more like a manor house than a castle, but is still a good photo spot and site to explore.

Kilkenny castle - versestravel
Kilkenny castle – versestravel

From there it’s a short ride home (perfect for a nap) and you’re back in Dublin city centre.

Click here for all the photos