Friday, 17 November 2017

Scottish honeymoon roadtrip - Nevis Range & Glenfinnan Viaduct

After our first few nights visiting Loch Lomond, Glen Coe and Oban we based ourselves in Fort William. Fort William isn't a spectacularly exciting town but it is great location to explore the Nevis Range and is known as the 'Outdoor Capital of the UK' - the area was full of hikers and and adventurous types looking to make the arduous journey to the top of Ben Nevis. 

I'm way too inexperienced (lazy) to climb Ben Nevis (Pen Y Fan is much more suited to my ability) and Coco has tiny little legs and would need to be carried up a mountain so we took the easy option and took the nevis Range mountain gondola up to Aonach Mor. The Nevis Range in Fort William is home to the UK’s only mountain gondola. 


On our last trip on the gondola back in February Martyn and I were treated to loads of snow on the mountain but there was very little visibility. Luckily this time the sky was perfectly clear and we had fantastic views of the Great Glen, Ben Nevis and the surrounding areas. Once at the top there are some easy trails you can follow which are under an hour return and a cafe to get a hot chocolate to warm up. 




Coco absolutely loved his trip on the gondola and running around and exploring on the mountain. We stayed up there for hours enjoying the views and the sunshine after a few grey days.


We spent a lovely night at the Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping park eating some of our wedding cake and reading. Yes, we took the entire top tier of our cake and scoffed the lot in the first week. The park had everything you could need including spectacular views, a dog walking area, fully serviced pitches and spotless washroom facilities. We loved the campsite so much we decided to stop there on the way back to Wales after we had completed the NC500 route around the north of Scotland. 




After a hearty breakfast which included Scottish square sausage we made our way to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Both myself and Martyn work in the railway industry and are total train geeks. We spend lots of our days off going to railway museums and heritage railways - the viaduct was an obvious place of interest to add to our itinerary. 

I got my times mixed up and we arrived way too late to make our way to a good viewing point to see the Jacobite steam train go over the viaduct (you may recognise the train and the location from the Harry Potter films). By the time we parked up we had to dash across a muddy field to get a glimpse of the train with the dog running behind us. I'm really annoyed with myself for getting this one wrong but the viaduct is impressive with or without the Hogwarts Express running over it. 

Whilst the Glenfinnan Viaduct is free to access there is a fee for parking in the National Trust visitors centre. There is a small free car park slightly further along over the bridge just after the centre but this gets busy very quickly and you're unlikely to get a space unless you arrive well in advance. 




The spectacular 21-arched concrete crescent is still in use today and forms part of the West Highland Railway line between Fort William and Mallaig which was constructed between 1897 and 1901. The Jacobite steam trains only operate during the summer months but ScotRail diesel multiple units run there all year round. 


After our brief stop at the viaduct we pushed on with our journey to the north coast towards Gairloch and Ullapool which will feature in my next post. I can't wait to share my photos of the stunning Scottish coast!

If you want to view our  North Coast 500 route stops and campsite follow the link. 

Gemma
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Thursday, 2 November 2017

Travel - Florence photo diary

The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence can boast a wealth of artistic masterpieces including Michelangelo’s "David" and Botticelli’s "The Birth of Venus". Despite it's long and intriguing history and beautiful buildings I just didn't fall in love with Florence during my visit which probably explains why it has taken me so long to write about my trip way back in April. Don't get me wrong, I loved certain aspects of the city but it isn't a place I long to return to. 

Maybe I'm getting a bit grumpy in my old age but I much prefer holidays to remote locations or towns with a more relaxed feel - I loved my trip to Lucca the day after we visited Florence as it was far less busy and I felt like I could take my time to explore and go at my own pace without a crowd of tourists swarming around me.

I would like to be a bit more positive and say that I am glad I visited the city as I was able to view some spectaular architecture and art - it is a very visually exiting city. 

exterior photo of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore with layers of coloured marble

Florence has a history dating back to Roman times. It was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC, was dominated by the powerful Medici family and famous Florentines include Galileo and Michelangelo.

The iconic sight in Florence is unmissable - the Il Duomo di Firenze or Santa Maria del Fiore can be viewed from most parts of the city. It is free to visit but expect a queue as the cathedral complex is part of the UNESCO World Hertiage site in Florence. The basilica is one of Italy's largest churches and has the largest brick dome ever constructed. The marble fa├žade is stunning and similar in style to churches throughout Tuscany including those I visited in Lucca and Pisa. 



The Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge is also and iconic sight and was the only bridge across the Arno in Florence until 1218. During World War II the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the Arno that the Germans did not destroy when fleeing the city.

Pontivecchio Bridge in Florence


In a bid to keep costs of our day excursion to Florence low I planned the trip to coincide with 'Sunday at the Museum'. In Italy you can take advantage of free entry to state museums on the first Sunday of each month. Entrance to the Uffizi is 12 euros in low season and 20 euros in high season - a considerable saving was made by visiting on a Sunday which meant more in the kitty for Aperol spritz.
The Uffizi is the most visited museum in Italy and has one of the world’s most impressive collections of Italian Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces including The Birth of Venus. The building hosts up to 10,000 guests each day and was originally designed to be a workplace for the Medici family. The unusual U shaped building houses paintings and sculptures by Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Not only is the art breathtaking but the building is lavishly decorated too - a real feast for the eyes. 

Uffizi Gallery Museum of Florence, Italy


Uffizi Gallery Museum of Florence, Italy[




Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece, the Primavera

I totally hogged the space in front of this painting for at least 15 minutes - I loved the detail on Flora's gown. If you are short on time during your visit I recommend heading straight for the top floor as that's where the most precious collections are kept and you can then make your way through the rest of the museum if you have time at the end. My two hour stroll around the Uffizi made the trip to Florence worthwhile. 



Overall I enjoyed my day out in Florence but the crowds of people were completely overwhelming for me. If I ever return I think I'll venture out of the city centre or to quieter places of interest like the Pitti Palace and gardens.

Are there any European cities that you found underwhelming? (or overhwmeling in my case)
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Gemma
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