Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Birdwatching on Orkney (Part One)

As we drove into Dounby after arriving in Orkney, an Oyster Catcher flew across the road. Their cries mingled with the call of the Curlew could be heard in most parts of Orkney Mainland. In the fields we saw Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Lapwings and heard the songs of numerous Larks soaring above us. There were other small birds we were unable to identify. Along the coast, the shore and cliffs were covered with sea birds.Orkney must be a birdwatcher's paradise. I've never seen so many birds in one place before.

Eider ducks and drakes seen from the Broch of Gurness

 Artic Terns seen from the Broch of Gurness

Mutes swan on nest near Standing Stones, Stenness

Oyster Catcher near Brough of Birsay trying to lead people away from its nest.

Oyster Catcher eggs.

Eider duck on nest. I suddenly saw her as I walked along the path on Birsay and she was doing her best to be invisible.

Eider ducks and ducklings seen from Lamb Holm

Monday, 4 June 2018

Neolitihic Orkney

Last Monday we walked in the beautiful sunny Orkney landscape and journeyed back 5,000 years to Skara Brae, the remains of a small Neolithic village of stone houses with indoor plumbing and an enclosed walkway linking the houses.

Skara Brae, Skaill Bay, Orkney
Before Stone Henge was built, . . .


. . . . before the Pyramids existed at Giza . . .

              . . . Neolithic people were building stone houses and henges in Orkney.

Skara Brae Neolithic Settlement

When Skara Brae was built it was much further from the sea than it is now. There has been considerable erosion over the last 5,000 years and it is thought some of the houses have been lost as a result. Based on what has been seen at other sites it's thought there could have been up to 12 houses in this complex.

The Maes Howe burial chamber is thought to date from the same period, as do the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones at Steness, the buildings at Barnhouse next to them and the Ness of Brodger, which is thought to include a large temple-like structure. These are all very close together and not far from Skara Brae. This suggests there were a fair number of people in the area to move all the stones into place, even if these structures were built by several generations.

Maes Howe is older than New Grange in the Boyne Valley, Ireland. It is bigger on the inside, but smaller on the inside and seems to have been simply covered in turf. We weren't allowed to take photos inside.

Approaching the Maes Howe cairn. Was it a burial chamber or an observatory?

It was necessary to bend down to enter the low tunnel that leads to the central chamber. The sun enters the tunnel at the time of the Winter solstice.

Ring of Brodgar

Standing Stones at Steness

Broadhouse Neolithic Settlement

Monday, 5 September 2016

Corfu Holiday 2016: Acharavi

Acharavi (Αχαράβη in Greek) is a large village on the north coast of Corfu with ancient origins. In the time of the ancient Greeks there was a town called Hebe where Acharavi is now. The town was destroyed in 32 BC by the Romans, as a result of which the local people changed its name to Acharavi, meaning "unhappy life/youth". During World War II and the Greek Civil War Acharavi also suffered a great deal of damage and much of the village has since been rebuilt.

With a resident population of around 1,000 inhabitants Acharavi is one of the larger villages on the island today.  Every year many thousands of tourists increase the population temporarily while they enjoy the long beach, the many bars, restaurants and hotels and everything else Acharavi has to offer its visitors.

Acharavi is set against a beautiful backdrop of the foothills of Mount Pantokrator

The leafy main street street is straight and long with a large number of restaurants, bars and small shops as well as two fairly large supermarkets where you can buy a wide selection of goods.

There is a branch of Alpha Bank as well as ATM machines at other locations.

Acharavi is an attractive village. No buildings dominate the skyline and there are many suburban gardens as well as fields, vineyards, vegetable patches and olive trees amongst the buildings.

The site of the old village pump has been incorporated into a roundabout.

A further selection of restaurants and bars can be found along the beach and in some of the side roads. Our favourite restaurant on the beach was Maistro for lunch or dinner. We enjoyed the Greek music and dancing on a Tuesday evening, but this meant the restaurant was more popular than ever and booking was essential.

Towards the end of our stay we discovered the Navigator, another beach hotel was much better than we had first thought.

The sunsets from the beach were stunning.

We also enjoyed eating at Taverna Apagio, a restaurant in a nearby side road. We probably ate there more than anywhere else. Both the food and the service were very good.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Corfu Holiday 2016: Eriva Apartments, Acharavi

We've just spent a lovely holiday based in Acharavi on Corfu.

We travelled with Thomas Cook and the journeys out and back went like clockwork.

We stayed in Eriva Apartments, which is an attractive set of buildings in a pretty setting, a short walk from the beach, although it is very narrow and stony where you come out.

We had clean towels and bedding 4 times while we were there, including tea towels. It wasn't obvious that the rooms were cleaned, but as there were only two of us and we're fairly clean, that wasn't a problem. Bins were emptied every other day and there were brooms and mops available to be used. As we were staying in an "apartment" consisting of the main room with bed, a small kitchen and a bathroom as well as the balcony area with room to sit and eat breakfast, perhaps we should not have expected a cleaner. It was not a hotel as such.  One loo roll was provided when we arrived, but no more was supplied during our stay, which wasn't a problem either. It might have been nice to know about some of these things in advance, though.

The walk to the beach: Eriva apartments is to the right of the photo.

Looking back to the mountains 

Looking to the side of the apartments 

                                                               The view from our apartment

Inside the apartment: The room was not excessively wide, but there was quite a bit of room behind where I'm standing to take this photo as well as a couch/sofa bed against the wall behind me.  A dressing table was to my left and a wardrobe was to my right. There wasn't much in the way of drawers for clothes.

The kitchen:

and bathroom