Tag Archives: roadtrip

Rhodes, Island of Castles Pt.2

So after a couple hectic days in Rhodes, I was ready for a couple more.

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img_20160829_114812380My hotel was definitely average, but nice and cheap, and provided a pretty decent breakfast. Enough to get me back on my quad and on the road again, this time heading south to the very end of the island. Prasonisi is an island connected by a huge sand bridge, which doubled as a huge beach area, popular with many water sports. The opposing directions of the two shore lines meant that one side was much choppier than the other, giving the myriad of kite surfers and windsurfers a nice progression on their door step. The island is bare except for a small lighthouse on the far side. The main path across is pretty busy with tourists, but it’s easy enough to stray around the outer paths and find some tranquility.

img_20160829_135549918_hdrAnother castle was next on the list, again free and pretty cool to explore. There’s no information, no security and no cleaning, so expect it rough and ready. Asklipeiou castle sits on a hill a few miles inland and commands an impressive view over the countryside. You can really get a feel of what it might have been like in the times it was built, with the Lords controlling the landscape from their fort, either protecting, or dominating the locals.

img_20160829_135631677_hdrRain stopped play when it came to exploring Vouno Kalathos, along with the complete lack of signs and infrastructure. It seemed like the kind of place you’d need to go with a local who can show you how to get down to the lake without too much diffeculty. Certainly google maps wasn’t going to suffice and the rain inland while riding a quad didn’t go so well. Heading back to the coast (and the sun) the southern peninsula was navigated to get around to Lindos.

img_20160829_161236896Lindos is the end of the tourist strip that stretches from Rhodes town along the south coast, and it shows. The prices for most things are almost double and every building is either a shop or a reastaurant, all cashing in on the locations popularity. A popularity derived entirely from the grand castle on the cliff. It’s an impressive building, far larger than the others but also the first to charge entry. Some serious reading up later we discovered that the inside was a recreation and had very little original on display, that along with the 12EUR price tag was enough to make it a no thanks.img_20160829_150012390The cliff path around the outside of the castle is one for those of sure footing only, and even then not recommended, steep drops and loose rocks made it very dangerous – although if you are going to adventure around, take your camera. The beaches nearby are crowded, but very picturesque, especially Agios Pavlos nestled into a secluded little bay, well protected from the sea, and ideal for swimming.

img_20160829_173428210With plenty more driving to do, the next target was the castle in the town with our accommodation, Archangelos. Again this castle was free, but un-cared for, and compared to the others was really unspectacular, just a simple fort not special. The town was split into two, the main part on the hill overlooking the coast, and the other at the bottom actually on the beach. The beach side was nicer than the touristy areas surrounding it, but still had a vibe of tackyness, there to make money out of the summer trade rather than a real town. Archangelos main town was the exact opposite, only ever driven through by tourists, and even then rarely. Which made food options a rather interesting choice. The room was basic but comfortable, and with the limited Wi-Fi the only restaurant nearby was Mamas Pizza. It turned out to be pretty good, and seriously good value as well.

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The last day involved a very early morning, the journey back to Rhodes Town, leaving at 6am to make it to the port for an 8.30am ferry to Kos. Driving along the bypasses of the party beaches, seeing the odd straggler still drunkenly fumbling their way home was a delightful distraction from the road, and it made us very glad to have not been spending any time on those tourist traps.

Overall Rhodes was very impressive, so many castles and interesting and beautiful sights to see if only you take the time to explore. If you’re there for a flop and drop beach holiday I can highly recommend renting a car (much more comfortable than a quad) for a day or two and having an adventure. Especially to Monolithos – that place is something truly sensational.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Belfast Roadtrip Day 2 – #gentsonajaunt

Day 1

Belfast City Hall - Queen Victoria
Belfast City Hall

An earlyish start lead us out into a completely deserted Belfast, the religious roots still mean that the city centre is shut up until 1pm on a Sunday.

Moving on to our first stop, Shanes Castle, just half hour away to check out some more Game of Thrones filming locations. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly security guard who told us that the site was closed to visitors, although he did let us have a little walk down to the lough. He explained that the site was currently in use, and that filming had and would be occurring that month. So we got to see a real set, scaffolding, fences and everything.

Giants Causeway stretching into the sea
Giants Causeway

The next stop was Giant’s Causeway, via the coastal road from Port Stewart. The National Trust really want you to pay for your ticket, which includes entry into the appartently excellent visitor centre, and parking. But at £8.50 per person, we decided to park a little down the road at the Heritage Railway and walk, it’s still free access if you don’t use any of the NT facilities. The causeway is covered in tourists but covers a reasonable area, so you do get moments of peace. A lot of time is spent waiting for people to get out of your photos, or dodging out of their though. At £6 for the parking (split between  3) we felt that was a good amount to have paid, but that £8.50 was rather too much, unless the visitor centre was really spectacular.

 

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

Next was a quick stop off at Dunluce castle, a great location featuring a castle perched on a cliff stack, linked by bridge to the cliff top. It’s possible to walk around the paid site and check out the castle from below, along with the ‘mermaid cave’ underneath the castle. The way it is makes it feel like I could be in Game of Thrones, an impressive castle in an impressive location.

 

Ballintoy Harbour - the filming location for Pike
Ballintoy Harbour

Balintoy Harbour is a very picturesque little port, nestled in the natural alcove created in the rocks the harbour is built in and on this existing safe zone. Again it’s popularity somewhat mars the experience, but it’s still wonderfully pretty, and is another Game of Thrones filming location. We were hoping to try the cafe, but it had just started to rain, and there simply wasn’t space for all the tourists to cram in there together.

We drove on to the Carrick-A-Rede bridge but the weather and price put us off somewhat. The NT seems to really embracing the popularity of these sites and maximising their profits as well. It would be nice to see them charging a more reasonable amount.

Dark Hedges - The Kings Road
Dark Hedges

The final stop on our tour were the Dark Hedges, a popular stop before GoT featured them, and an even more popular stop now. However, it was surprisingly quiet. It only takes a minute or two to get a decent pic, and there’s not much more to it than that. It’s far from the coast though, and it looks really cool, so check it out.

From there it was the long haul back through the suburbs of Belfast and down to Dublin. Overall a very good trip, and very good value for money, certainly better value for money than a day tour, although that is booking in advance and splitting costs 3 ways.

Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway
Lough Neagh from Shanes Castle
Lough Neagh

Belfast Roadtrip Day 1 – #GentsonaJaunt

This weekend I took a trip to Northern Ireland with a couple of the other guys on my internship scheme. The Belfast roadtrip involved some very historical sites, a few Game of Thrones stops, and plenty of natural coastal beauty.

Strangford Lough and Castle Ward boat shed
Strangford Lough

Overall the trip cost us less than €50 per person for the car and hostel night. Food and booze is another matter, but if you’ve traveled at all you should be able to budget for those. The car was through Europcar, booked about 12 days in advance, and the hostel was Vagabonds booked through Hostelworld.com.

Knowth, and a satellite tomb
Knowth

Picking up the car from Dublin city we hit the road about 11 on Saturday morning and drove directly to the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the gateway to the Newgrange and Knowth ancient sites. Despite plenty of warnings, (normally the wait time is pretty long) we were lucky to be able to immediately join the Knowthe followed shortly by Newgrange. Tours include transport to the site, and are necessary to gain access to the megaliths, there’s no sneaking in or queue jumping possible.

Knowth Interior, smaller than it looks - approx 5ft high
Knowth Interior

Knowth has one megalith, surrounded by several satellite tombs, it has clearly been reconstructed in parts, but a lot of the original pieces are still in place. It is an impressive site, especially when you understand that these monuments were built over 5000 years ago, 500 years before the first Pyramid in Egypt. The tour guide was knowledgeable and interesting, showing us the various stages in development that had happened in and around the hill. There is also an opportunity to go inside, to a newly built display room, showing some of the more recent (but still 100s of years old) developments and the entrance to the original passageway to the central chamber that held the remains that led archaeologists to believe it to be a tomb.

Newgrange entrance - not the original steps
Newgrange entrance

Newgrange is a larger and more visually impressive site, with the quartz wall rebuilt along the front side. The carved rocks on display are the originals, and in the correct position, and are the reason for the wooden steps that lead to the internal passage. While this somewhat spoils the frontage, it protects these carvings, with the Tri-Spiral, a symbol only seen at this site. The tour guide here provides an excellent base of knowledge about the site, including the uncertainties involved with piecing together the evidence, and the variety of theories about the area. You are lead into the megalith to the very centre, a chamber which contains three large dish shaped pieces that are said to have been the first stones laid (they are too large to fit through the passageway). There is some wonderful original carving, as well as some less historic carved graffiti from the 1800’s. Using the lights it’s possible to give you an idea of what the room is like on the morning of the shortest days of the year. On these days the sunlight comes through the ‘roof box’, a window above the door,  right into the chamber. This is only for 20 minutes maximum, and is said to be of ancient sacred significance. You can enter a lottery to be allowed to be in the room on one of these day on the heritage ireland website. I hope the weather is good for the winners.

Wild Ireland - getting lost is fun!
Wild Ireland

Our next intended stop was the Tollymore Forest Park, a site for some Game of Thrones filming, we took some interesting wrong turns along the way, and ended up driving through the mountains of Mourne. This was an excellent accident, and the gloomy weather made us feel as though we were driving through the wild North of Game of Thrones/Misty mountains of Lord of the Rings. Some spectacular views later we found the park, but not the filming location, after a quick drive by we moved on.

Audleys Tower - GoT location stop 7 (according to the sign)
Audleys Tower

Castle ward and Audleys tower, overlooking Strangford Lough was the next stop, taking in a few more filming locations and appreciating a walk along the lake edge. The castle itself is not too impressive, but head to the waters edge and take a stroll, it’s impossible not to be impressed. Great views of the lake, with some wonderfully picturesque old buildings make for excellent photos, and Audleys Tower is a nice little site, perched atop a hill overlooking the lough.

The view from Castle Ward
Castle Ward

The last stop was Belfast, with no google maps thanks to flat batteries we found our hostel eventually. Vagabonds is great small hostel, welcoming and fun, even if we were the only people drinking around the table at first. The staff were good fun, and took us, and all the other guests who wanted to, to the local drinking establishment, a bar/club/off license, known as Laverys‘. Playing a nice mix of indie and rock downstairs and funky house and pop in the upstairs loft club. It was a good way to experience Belfast in a night.

Benjamin Duff