Saturday, November 29, 2008

British Islands

Isle of Anglesey

Anglesey’s 125 miles of coastline, with its sandy beaches and tiny fishing villages, quiet coves and rocky headlands, is officially designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Anglesey’s “Lakelands” such as Llyn Alaw and Llyn Maelog, offer good sports for the freshwater angler, and there’s riding at Trefor for all the family’s enjoyment. Attractions include the 200 acre nature reserve on Holy Island; Beaumaris Castle and the fascinating Museum of Childhood and Tegfryn Art Gallery, both at Menai Bridge; Beaumaris Gaol; the Visitor Centre at Llanfairpwll, and Plas Newydd, the imposing 18th century stately home now in the care of the National trust. Souvenir hunters will be eager to visit the many little craft workshops that flourish in the quieter inland areas of Anglesey.

The Channel Islands

Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm are sheltered by the French mainland, but are within easy reach of English shores. This gives the Channel Islands a unique atmosphere; a combination of both countries.
Jersey, largest of the group – roughly nine miles by five miles, has an area of some 45 square miles. There are some 500 miles of good motoring roads and the distance right around the island is just 46 miles. Car hire (very reasonably priced) is easily arranged. St. Helier, the lively and attractive capital provides much entertainment, good shops and a colorful, indoor market.
Guernsey, second largest of the Channel Islands, has an unspools, uncommercialised aspect which lures holidaymakers bent on simple pleasures and leisure in idyllic surroundings. Guernsey’s south-east coast is one of supreme grandeur providing breathtaking views from winding cliff paths. To the west is a long expanse of beaches with rocky headlands forming bays with fascinating names of French origin like Cobo, Chouet, L’Eree, L’Ancresse and Vazon. St. Peter Port, the capital, is built on a hillside and has narrow, cobbled streets which slope steeply to the harbor.
Alderney – an area of just three and a half by one and a half miles, but packed with interest, beauty and an exciting history of smuggling. The rugged coastline is a mass of wild flowers, and inland there are large areas of unspool moorland. There are a golf course and opportunities for sailing, fishing and even surfing.
Sark and Herm – where you can get away from the noise of traffic, for both islands forbid vehicles. Sark has cliffs, bays and two picturesque harbors and the colorful “Anemone cave”. Herm, a short launch trip from Guernsey, has sandy beaches, woods and cliffs with numerous varieties of wild flowers and birds.

Isle of Man

Out in the Irish Sea, 75 miles from the British mainland, the Isle of Man has a little of everything for holiday enjoyment, contained within its 227 square miles. From 100 miles of coastline, which varies from spectacular cliffs to tiny coves and miles of sandy beaches, the island rises steeply through lovely glens into rolling green mountains. On Snaefell summit from where on a clear day it is possible to see four other kingdoms – England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Douglas, the capital, is the destination of steamers from various parts of Britain. Home of the House of Keys, the island’s Parliament, Douglas has a two-mile sandy sea front and unusual horse-drawn trams. The island has many historic castles and ruins and much connected with folklore.
There are six fine golf courses, bowling-greens, boating lakes, sailing, sea, lake and river fishing, skin-diving, pony-trekking, water-skiing and so much more. This “Isle of Sport” has festivals of football, rugby, hockey, athletics and shooting, as well as international hockey, race walking, offshore yacht racing, and International Air Rally. But the island’s most famous sport is motorcycle racing. Every year in June, the International Tourist Trophy Races are held. There is also an international cycling week, and the Rothmans International Rally. Ronaldsway airport served by 18 airports in Britain and two in Ireland.

Isles of Scilly

More than 100 islands form the Isles of Scilly, situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 28 miles south-west of Land’s End, Cornwall – the English mainland’s westernmost point. Only five of these islands are inhabited and St. Mary’s, the largest, is no more than three miles long. The other inhabited “off-islands”, as they are always called, are Tresco, St. Martin’s, St. Agnes and Bryher. Seals, dolphins and puffins are the only inhabitants of some of the other islands. You can take a boat from St. Mary’s to all the inhabited islands and, when weather permits, to see the Bishop Rock Lighthouse. The Isles enjoy a usually drier and sunnier climate than other parts of South West, and winters are mild.
Penzance (on the mainland) is a good holiday centre, with its picturesque fishing villages and its sub-tropical gardens, plus its unequalled position in a shelter corner of Mount’s Bay. Penzance is the main port of departure for the Isles of Scilly - you can take 20 minute flight by helicopter or a more leisurely cruise out in the Scillonian to the islands. Those visiting for the day from Penzance will have the opportunity to go by launch to the island of Tresco and visit the unique sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. Brymon Airways fl from Exeter, Newquay and Plymouth to Scilly.

Isle of Wight

A year-round holiday resort- the Isle of Wight with its remarkable variety of scenery, spectacular chins, a multicolored sand cliff, and clear beaches – is but a short hop from the south coast of England. It is a great place for sailing – the round the island yacht race (June), starts and finishes at Cowes; and Cowes Week itself, the most fashionable event in the yachting calendar, is held the first week in August. There are over four dozen places of interest to visit and many miles of delightful walks.

Western Isles

These are made up of two large groups of Scottish Islands, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. The Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Coll, Tiree, Colonsey, Oronsay, Eigg, Muck, Rhum, Canna, Islay and Jura. Skye is the largest of the group – a glorious wilderness of rock and heather, mountains, lochs and trout streams. Portree is the island’s capital. Head for the Cuillins for some of the finest rock climbing in Europe. Mull, the second largest island has wild mountainous scenery, sea lochs and sandy bays. Tobermory is the main town. See the beautiful gardens of Calgary House in the north-west, while in the south-west, separated by a narrow channel, is Iona. You can take a boat from Mull to the island of Staffa, which is famous for its caves including Fingal’s Cave, which inspired Mendelssohn in the “Hebrides” overture.
Between them, the twin islands of Islay and Jura offer beaches, bays and rugged mountains. Jura has many caves, deer, large peaks known as the Paps of Jura – and a whisky distillery.
Lewis and Harris, Benbecula, Barra, North and South Uist – these are the islands of the Outer Hebrides. Together, Lewis and Harris form a single island – remote and unspool with wild moors and splendid beaches of silver-white. Here you will hear Gaelic spoken more often than English; and stirring Gaelic songs sung at lively ceilidhs (pronounced Kay-leys). Sternway is the largest town in the Outer Hebrides and is a major fishing port. Harris is famous for its hand-woven tweeds. The Uists are ideal for bird watching and Barra for sea angling.


Orkney, about 70 islands in all, lie some seven miles off the north coast of the Scottish mainland. Kirkwall is the capital with a busy harbor and narrow, twisting streets. Orkney was once a Norse earldom and many relics of the Vikings survive. Near Finstown is Maes Howe (Stone Age tomb dating back to 2000 BC). Stromness, Orkney’s major seaport is one of the most picturesque and attractive locations in Britain.


Beyond Orkney are the Shetland Islands, the northernmost outpost of the British Isles. About 100 in all, of which only 16 are inhabited. Lerwick is the main town. On the southern tip of the Shetland mainland, at Sumburg, ancient contrasts with modern as this is the site of the Shetlands airport, and nearby are Bronze and Iron Age remains, the ruins of a Viking Village and a 16th century house.

Isle of Arran

Arran is a sheltered island set in the Clyde estuary, protected from the full force of the Atlantic by the peninsula of Kintyre. Its shores are washed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and with its all year round mild climate, enjoy rich and colorful vegetation. To the north and east are spectacular mountain ridges and to the south and west are green pasturelands, bordered by sandy beaches and towering cliffs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bulgaria – mountains and ski resorts

Eight Bulgarian mountains tower over 2000 m above sea level, each of them with its own character and particular beauty. The highest, the Rila and Pirin Mountains, are situated in the southwest and the Balkan Range divides the country into two, almost equal parts. The Rhodopes Mountains are the largest ones and the Vitosha Mountains lie just south of Sofia. More than one-third of Bulgaria is mountainous.

Rila Mountains

Rila Mountains are the highest in southeast Europe with Mount Mussala (2925 m) the highest. It has a rugged, alpine beauty, with rocky ridges, bristling peaks, plunging precipices, numerous wildflowers, and more than 180 sparkling lakes and streams. The Rila Mountain range is declared a national park. The second biggest ski resort in Bulgaria is Borovets on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountains.

Pirin Mountains

Pirin Mountains take its name from Perun, the Slavic God of thunder. The highest peak, Mount Vihren, tops 2914 m. These mountains are the wildest and most rugged of the Bulgarian ranges, with the northern part having a truly alpine relief with jagged peaks, sharp crests, numerous glacially sculpted circuses, and over 170 glacial lakes. The Pirin Mountains are also declared a national park. The biggest Bulgarian ski resort is situating above the town of Bansko.

The Balkan Range

The Balkan Range is the longest chain on the peninsula, stretching for over 600 km. it is the natural border between southern and northern Bulgaria and plays a role as a climatic border. Situated where the Continental and Mediterranean climates meet, the mountain is an unequalled territory for biogenesis incubator of biodiversity in Europe. The Balkan offers spectacular natural sites, such as the Iskar River canyon and the Belogradchik Rocks. The central part of the Balkan is declared a national park with nine reserves.

Rhodopes Mountains

Rhodopes Mountains are relatively low but possess their own distinctive beauty, and are an ideal place for hiking and biking holidays. The Rhodopes Mountains are called the “Green Heart” of Europe for their large areas with pine trees. Unique natural sites in Rhodopes include: Trigrad and Buynovo as high as 40 meters, the rocky “mushrooms” of Beli Plast, and the Zimzelen Rocks. Rhodopes lies on the border with Greece, and the culture and climate have obvious Mediterranean influence. Two ski resorts are situated here – the third biggest at Pamporovo and a small one at Chepelare.

Vitosha Mountains

Vitosha Mountains rise up just beyond the outskirts of Sofia. Inhabitants flock to its slopes on weekends for hiking excursions. The Vitosha Plateau and moraine “Rock Rivers” are a typical and impressive landscape. Vitosha Mountains are declared a nature park with two reserves. The ski runs on Vitosha begin at Aleko Centre.

Ski resorts

The Bulgarian mountains are sure to have snow from the end of December until mid-April. The ski resorts are situated in southern Bulgaria. They are modern and attract much attention. The four biggest ski resorts are Bansko, Borovets, Pamporovo and Vitosha.

Borovets is the oldest and second largest ski resort in Bulgaria and is situated on the northern slopes f the Rila Mountains, at the foot of Mount Musala (2925 m). Borovets is a modern ski resort with luxury hotels, restaurants, discos, shops and a good choice of ski runs and lifts. Eight snow guns for artificial snow are installed and secure good snow coverage. Nightlife and night skiing are equally great

Bansko has a population of 12.000. This historic town is located at 925 m above sea level at the foot of Pirin Mountains. Bulgaria’s biggest ski resort is situated above the town. The skiing conditions in Bansko are the best in Bulgaria. The mountain has 44 snow guns working to cover 80 percent of the skiing surface. It is a snowboarder’s paradise with a newly established snowboard park. Night skiing is available on well-lit ski runs.
Bansko provides a unique combination of great skiing and of cozy Bulgarian Revival Period atmosphere. The local taverns charm locals and visitors with style, traditional music, local cuisine, and a good selection of wines.

Pamporovo nests in the heart of the Rhodopes Mountains. The skiing area is on the slopes of Mount Snezhanka. Strong influence from the Mediterranean forms the resort’s mild climate and heavy snowfalls in the winter. The resort has six snow guns for artificial snow. Dog sledge driving and night skiing will be available by winter, 2005.

Vitosha Mountain hosts the fourth biggest Bulgarian ski resort. It is on the eastern slopes of the highest Mount Cherni Vrah at 2290m. The resort is only a 45 min drive from Sofia. A gondola lift from Sofia brings skiers up to over 1800m. The skiing season starts in late December and lasts until April.