Category Archives: Britain with a difference

Birks of Aberfeldy

Scotland has an unfathomable allure to almost everyone you meet. The mention of Scotland elicits the almost universal comment “Oh, I love Scotland, it is so beautiful!” My husband, who has Scottish heritage, is one of these and is quite obsessed with all things and places Scottish.

I have no love for the barren cragginess of much of the highlands but I do adore the lush greens and burbling waterways of Perthshire. I have written previously of the absolute beauty and serenity of sitting by the River Tay on the flower studded grass of Dunkeld Cathedral. Continue reading



Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands some 22km from the Normandy coast in France and 161 km from the south coast of Britain.  The Channel Islands are considered to be a remnant of the Duchy of Normandy and are not part of the United Kingdom but rather a British Crown Dependence.

The first time we visited Jersey, in 1984, we caught the hydrofoil from St. Malo in France. It was an extremely rough crossing with the majority of the passengers, not including us (thank goodness) becoming sea-sick. The weather was diabolical with gusting, horizontal rain trying to force us off our feet. Foolishly we went to the zoo, well it was the reason for being in Jersey, but we did not last long before we retreated to the warmth and comfort of a bookshop. After two months travelling from Turkey to France, via  Spain, an English language bookshop was a real treat!

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South-west England

Salisbury. I just had to visit Salisbury Cathedral as I have always loved John Constable’s paintings of it. When I was at uni I had several posters of Constable’s cathedral stuck to my walls.

constable salisbury cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds, John Constable. Housed in New York Metropolitan Art Museum.

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A couple of exceptional zoos.

Zoos are a passion of ours, and despite some people’s aversion to them, the majority do excellent and vital conservation work. My husband studied zoology at university and my daughter volunteered for six years with the Taronga Zoo ‘Youth at the Zoo’ programme. As you can see, it’s in the blood.

Twycross Zoo, in Warwickshire, is a superb little zoo, one of my favourites (and I’ve been to a lot of zoos). We discovered it in January 2011 because we found a brochure advertising Twycross as having snow leopards, my daughter’s favourite animal. This must be one of the most spectacular snow leopard display anywhere. Taronga Zoo has snow leopards, and the best views of any zoo in the world. The Billabong Zoo in Port Macquarie also has snow leopards but neither come close to the display at Twycross. You can even see the snow leopards for free if you have neither the time nor inclination to do a full tour of the zoo. The zoo has built its reception area, gift shop and cafe with a huge picture window overlooking the snow leopard enclosure. You can sit and have lunch or coffee for as long as you like whilst watching these magnificent cats. The Twycross website (2013) currently advertises their snow leopard cubs, so they must be doing something right.

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Dover, East and West Sussex

Much of our travel in southern England was in 1984 (just a little while ago now) and information is quite possibly out of date. Timeless, though, was the magnificent sight of the famous white cliffs of Dover as we arrived by sea from Belgium. Subsequent arrivals have been by air and, once, the Eurostar train from France. Take the time to catch a cross Channel ferry as the cliffs are really spectacular.

Dover was memorable for three other things, though I’m sure it has more to offer.

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Scottish Highlands

Leaving Skye in 1996 we did a typically Australian thing to do: we drove to Aberdeen in a day! The locals all thought we were mad.

But before we go to Aberdeen we have to visit Plockton, the ancestral home of my husband’s family. My husband’s grandfather left home at the age of 14 to go to sea, and ended up in South Australia. Plockton was, historically, a fishing village. These days, apparently, there are few of the original descendants, but rather it has become popular with “incomers” such as artists and writers. We had afternoon tea with a local historian who turned out to be wintering in Plockton from his usual residence in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Even the historian wasn’t local!

It is no wonder Plockton has become popular with artists; it is such a gorgeous place. Whitewashed cottages spread along the shore of Loch Carron with views out to the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula give it a charm you wouldn’t normally associate with a remote fishing village. In winter, the snow-capped mountains just add another dimension to the beauty. A walk up the hill overlooking the village allows a magnificent view of the village, loch and mountains. Truly breathtaking.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

View from the hill above Plockton

4-24 Plockton, Loch Carron, view to Duncraig Castle

View across Loch Carron towards Duncraig Castle, Plockton, Scotland

I have just discovered that you can go sea kayaking at Plockton – time for another trip!

“All age groups will be amazed at the breathtaking panoramic views of the Isle of Skye, Applecross and Torridon mountains and the adventure of reaching coral beaches only accessible by boat. Paddling over the clear waters around Plockton will enable young and old to appreciate the marine life below.”

For those of you who enjoyed the television series Hamish Macbeth, starring Robert Carlyle, you may be interested to know that the village of Loch Dubh in the series was actually Plockton. On one of our visits the side of the pub still had the sign ‘Loch Dubh’ painted on its wall.

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Isles of Skye, Lewis and Harris

A far croonin’ is pullin’ me away
As take I wi’ my cromack to the road.
The far Coolins are puttin’ love on me
As step I wi’ the sunlight for my load.”

Road to the Isles, Songs of the Hebrides 1917

“Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that’s born to be King
Over the sea to Skye”

  Skye Boat Song, Songs of the North 1884

Traditionally the road to Skye has been a romantic one, but these days there is a large, modern bridge which opened in 1995 to take you quickly from the mainland. If you prefer something more romantic, scenic and adventurous there is another way. Head across to Fort William and then onto Mallaig where you can catch a car ferry to Armadale on Skye. The drive from Fort William is very pretty and the ferry trip is much more charismatic than the bridge. Just watching the crew manoeuvre the boat into the dock to allow the vehicles access is fascinating.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

The road from Fort William.

2-24 Kylerhea ferry - very unusual, very imaginative

The Skye ferry.

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