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    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    Plymouth is city a to visit.

    When you are planning your next travel and you are looking to the map of a country you are always obliged to make choices:
    which places I should visit and which I should skip?

    If you are planning to visit Devon or Cornwall the name of Plymouth will most certainly catch your eyes, written in big capital letters exactly at the border within the two English regions, and you will certainly ask yourself: is Plymouth worth a visit?

    My opinion is yes: Plymouth is a city to visit if you are travelling in the South of England and United Kingdom.

    Why  Plymouth is a city to visit?

    Plymouth's atmosphere makes first of all Plymouth a city to visit.
    It is a young city with a young population and many University stundents, the faculty of Art seems to be the most popular here.

    Although partly modern, having being heavily damaged by the war, Plymouth is still have some very interesting parts to visit and it has an important role in history.

    Plymouth's history makes Plymouth a city to visit.

    The United States of America are born in Plymouth.

    If you walk along the Barbican in Plymouth you will immediately notice a Stars and Stripes flag next to the water and some steps, do you know why there is a U.S.A. flag there?

    Those steps are named the Mayflower Steps.
    From the Mayflower steps the Pilgrim Fathers are believed to have left England aboard the Mayflower, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to settle in North America on 6 September 1620. Those were the pilgrims that, after a miserable passage in the high waters of the Ocean founded the first settlements that would become a day part of the United States of America.
     

    What is to see in Plymouth?

    The best way to visit Plymouth if you are going to visit Plymouth in one day is to always walk along the sea coast and you will manage to see the most interesting parts of the city.

    Start your walk at the Old Harbour called the Barbican. This old harbour is famous because from here the vessel Mayflower started his long journey to the U.S.A., it is one of the oldest areas of the city.

    Plymouth was heavily bombed during the Second World War and many beautiful buildings were destroyed, but the Barbican is one of the best preserved areas.

    Apart for the National Marine Museum the Barbican in Plymouth offers a wonderful series of bars, pubs and fish and ship and makes for a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the sun and the breeze
    air.

    If you keep the sea at your left and you start walking along the coast you will walk along the walls of an old fortress this is the Royal Citadel. The Royal Citadel in Plymouth was built in the late 1660s to protect Plymouth's harbour.

    The Royal Citadel was the most important English defence for over 100 years and it is still be used as barracks today by the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery. It is possible to visit part of it and it is worth walking around its wall to see the entrance gate with the impressive monument to the English Commandos in front of the entrance.

    The Hoe is certainly the most famous sight in Plymouth.

    With his red and white lighthouse and with is beautiful views over the large bay the Hoe is unmissable, particularly at sunset and you will have the chance to see huge civil and military boats coming and going along the large harbour.

    This is all there is to see in Plymouth?
    Absolutely not!

    Keep walking along the sea (sea at your left) pass some modern bits of the town and finally head to the Royal William Yard Harbour.

    Definitely of the best kept secrets in Plymouth!

    What an amazing place is the Royal William Yard Harbour in Plymouth and what a wonderful example of intelligent refurbishment of a disused area!

    This one time military area is now one of the best places to go for a wonderful dinner al fresco, a drink in front of the sea and in the first Sunday of the Month for a wonderful Farmer Market of local products and particularly of local and traditional food (from the local honey wines to the Sicilian Cannoli!).


    The Royal William Yard Harbour was the major victualing depot of the Royal Navy in United Kingdom.

    The Yard was closed in 1992 and fall in ruin for years behind a house for squatters and homeless people.

    In 2006 The Royal William Yard Harbour became the object of a wonderful conservation and restoration work carried out by Gilmore Hankey Kirke Architects.

    Today you are still able to enjoy your visit to this huge military complex in front of the sea, admire its Georgian architecture, enjoy the sea breeze and have a wonderful time particularly at weekends.

    Is this all?

    No again! this is only the beginning.

    When you are in Plymouth you can also:

    - take a very cheap 5 minute ride by boat and cross to beautiful Cremyll
    - keep walking along the coastal path and start one of the most amazing coastal paths of the world all the way to Cornwall and Land's End and beautiful St Ives
    - take a boat to France and visit Brest the city that is the exact copy of Plymouth in French style (no wonder the two cities are twinned!): click here to read about Brest.
















    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    THE SCOTTISH CINQUE TERRE - FIVE LANDS OR FIFE LANDS?



    Fife is one of the most beautiful areas in East Scotland along the sea and it is little more than an hour driving from Edinburgh.  It is a perfect destination for a weekend or for a longer break.

    The five lands of Scotland expect the traveler linked one to another one by paths and cliffs. The air is cold, but when finally the sun is shining and the sky is clear the colours in Fife are inspiring.

    Have you ever visited the Italian Cinque Terre? 

    I think the similarities between the five villages of Fife and Cinque Terre in Italy are enormous (read the dedicated post about The Cinque Terre):

    In Scotland and Italy you have five wonderful fishermen villages.
    One connected to the other by a beautiful coastal path, offering breathtaking views along the way and surrounded by wonderful landscapes.

    Both Fife and Cinque Terre offer inspiration to artists and travellers from centuries: certainly two places to visit before to die.

    Your best place to make base to visit Fife will be Crail, with its houses that run downhill to the squared breakwater at the bottom of this picturesque fishermen's village. 

    The heart of Crail is certainly its harbour, but Crail hides also a beautiful main street, tree lined and quiet, along which to walk. 

    And if you walk up to the top of the village you will enjoy a fantastic panorama, above the red roofs of Crail you can enjoy the sun rising behind the little Isle of May in front of Crail's Harbour.

    If you love birdwatching or you just have time for a extra trip, the Isle of May, today a bird sanctuary, makes for a wonderful day trip.




    The area of Fife where these beautiful Scottish five villages are located is called East Neuk.

    Neuk is the Scots word for nook or corner, and the East Neuk is generally accepted to comprise the fishing villages of the most northerly part of the Firth of Forth: Crail, Anstruther (and Cellardyke), Pittenweem, St Monans, Elie.

    Theoretically you can walk all the way from Crail to Elie, the two furthest villages in one day, but if you don't want to walk so much here is the best part of the walk I absolutely recommend you doing.

    Start your walk from the old harbor of Cellardyke, beaten by a timid sun, the village is to the immediate east of Anstruther (the two effectively being conjoined). 

    Cellardyke is just a line of old and beautiful cottages surrounded by a large harbour once busy with fishermen boats.

    Following the main street lined by cottages you arrive to Anstruther in less then fifteen minutes. 

    Here there is a beautiful beach to enjoy, surrounded by stone cottages and overlooked by the bell tower of the church.

    At Anstruther the trail continues along the beach and then on the hills overlooking the sea towards Pittenweem. 

    Before to get to the old mill and then the wide bay just outside Pittenweem, near the fish market, walk on the breakwater and enjoy the view of the most beautiful and ancient cottages. 

    Pittenweem is the home of many skilled artists. Small houses have been turned into beautiful and small art galleries with lot of character. 

    Many artists meet in Pittenweem in the summer for a great art festival, and  when the festival ends many leave, but a few remain here for the following years and for the rest of their lives. 

    If you continue walking along the coastal path towards the ancient fishermen's village of St Monans, you will notice more houses turned in small art galleries. 



    After the rocky beach, it is the old mill, well preserved, almost intact , reminiscent of bygone days. In front stands a long row of white fishermen cottages and this is St. Monans. 

    Here the path opens into the harbor's horseshoe. The cottages are small and colorful, on narrow lanes battered by the strong wind.

    Then just outside the village, along the sea, there is St Monans' church, alone in a large green in front of the sea. 

    St moinans Church is surrounded by a bed of men and women who rest forever listening to the sound of the waves. The church inside is bare, but a nice cup of hot coffee after Sunday mass warms the heart more than many frescoes. And along with the cup so many smiles , so many words , so much interest for the traveler who has left his country to visit the church of St Monans and this seems incredible to many.

    Shortly after St Monans' Church are the ruins of an ancient castle overlooking the sea. TIf you are sufficiently tired of you walk you can return to Pittenweem among the many art galleries. 

    In Pittenweem the art galleries are homes, in some cases, livingrooms, kitchens , bedrooms and even toilets. Here the artist presents his art at his home. And  this art is sincere, done with the heart.  Not everything is for sale , because from some creations the artist can no longer separate , they are now his daughters. 






    If you have another beautiful sunny day to spend in Fife, .this time you should start your walk from Pittenweem. 

    The path to St Monans is so beautiful and scenic that you would not mind doing it again but today you can keep going and set off to Elie. 

    Back in front of the church and then to the ruins of the castle yesterday , along with the dark and the rain, you will keep going along the coast and cross a long sandy beach, but then the Lady 's Tower in the distance marks that Elie is near. 

    Elie is amazing if you're lucky enough to see it at low tide . The beach under the sun in the winter assumes a beautiful amber color and the light is reflected on the stone wall that prevents the sea to reach the beautiful white cottages . 

    Elie in reality is made of two villages: Elie and Earlsferry. 

    Earlsferry, the older of the two villages, was first settled in time immemorial. It is said that MacDuff, the Earl of Fife, crossed the Forth here in 1054 while fleeing from King Macbeth.

    Today Elie is a very charming village with beautiful cottages and a wonderful beach. At low tide in a sunny day the panorama is absolutely fantastic (see the photo at the top of this post).

    The sand has a special red colour and the beautiful white cottages all around make a wonderful contrast.

    ...and if you still have energies, finish your walk at Elie lighthouse, more great views to enjoy on the way.






    The last day in the land of Fife is dedicated to St. Andrews but this is another post...

    Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
    Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.


    Want to read about the Italian Cinqueterre after having discovered the Scottish ones?
    Click here to read about Cinque Terre - The five most inspiring fishermen villages in Italy.