Year: 2015

Excited about 2016

New Year New Start

Well, 2015’s Mindmap is complete, and I’ve begun work on 2016.

I found this written on a whiteboard at work and I thought it captured my thoughts about the New Year, which I always find really exciting.

This year has been another amazing one. I’ve been out hill walking on more than 40 occasions, visited 6 countries, did some amazing work on my house and hundreds of other things.


Busy planning New Year in the lake district.

Were staying in Coniston with some friends for the first 2 nights (usual stuff, walking in the daytime, nice food and beer/wine in the evening).

After this, were off the Ambleside where well have a nice evening in our favourite hotel and dinner at Zeffrellis.

If you’re out tonight, stay safe.


Another fantastic year of adventure.

The mindmap contains nearly 300 completed targets for the year, but to highlight a few of the ones I’m especially please/proud about.

* Had some fantastic/special times with Nikki (celebrating our 3rd year together)

* Lost a stone

* Finally got rid of wisdom tooth

* Got to meet the Azimo robot

* Completed all 7 routes up Snowdon


Above, just a quick something to make you laugh.

The message here is:

By all means push to better yourself and achieve more, but don’t take yourself or life to seriously.

Reggie and I have some fantastic plans for next year.

Thanks for coming and visiting us this year.

The search for adventure continues…

Christmas in Malta


What a fantastic few days we’ve had in Malta.

Its true what they say, its a fantastic place to go walking.

I’ve emailed/texted/called/put-bricks-through windows with messages wrapped around them, as many people as I could.

What a fantastic Christmas its been.

Last night I had the biggest T Bone steak I’ve ever eaten, and today we did an amazing coastal walk, which visited a derelict Nato base.

Best foot forward for next year, near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Last few days.

For the first time since its inception in 2001 (long before Facebook and Twitter) hasn’t been updated for a whole 6 weeks. I know if I don’t keep it up to date, the staff at Phonak, and Wrexham Mayelor hospital will get bored and do something else on Friday morning at breaktime, so I’m bouncing back.

My Trip to Japan.


I’m going to write about the trip in more detail in the travel pages, but the main thing I did was an amazing trip to Japan.

Amongst many amazing things, I visited the Honda Plaza, saw the Asimo robot on stage and later had this amazing picture (well Asimo looks amazing, me perhaps not) taken. The culmination of an 11 year dream.


We travelled to numerous city’s and saw Himeji Ninja castle, had a tea ceremony, visited an Aquarium big enough for 3 whales…

Best of all we travelled around on the Shinkansen bullet train. In a 2 week trip, not 1 train was a single minute late.

A week in bed.

Photo 14-06-2011 20 52 30

Back in the office for 2 days, and then I’m struck down by some kind of Flu (3 out of 4 of us on the Japan trip got this).

After so much excitement, and with so many jobs that needed doing, I ended up spending an entire week in bed.

My talk at Chester museum.


A week later, and Nikki and I are invited to speak at the Chester Globetrotters at Chester Museum.

We had about 60 slides and talked for 90 minutes about last years adventure in Cuba (here and here).

Lots of our friends were in the audience and the talk seemed to go really well.

Nikki and I are available for weddings, barmitzfas and birthday parties.

Visit to Manchester – gods own country.


Following day, were booked to see a comedian in Manchester so decide to head over early and explore my home town.

The German markets are an annual event in Manchester. Growing bigger each year, they sprawl across the city.

Stopping to have dinner at Panama Hatty’s, something feels strangely familiar.

Then I realise. I’m in the same building that used to be Brahm’s and Liszt. We used to go there frequently on a Friday, and the room I’m sat in, is the one where Julie and Rick met for the first time.

We finish off with a drink at hanging ditch. Its a fascinating piece of history.

Both pubs are very old, and after the IRA bomb, were moved brick by brick, 400 metres.

Because they couldn’t fit side by side, they are now at right angles. If your an original customer of the Oyster bar, it looks identical inside, but the sun shines in through a different set of windows 🙂

Oasis – Masterplan.

While wondering around, I find myself singing some old Manchester songs.

For those that don’t know, Manchester music really came in 3 generations.

The Smiths (which I consider to be the best band to come out of the city)

After this, came Madchester music with the Happy Mondays and stuff like that.

The most recent incarnation was Oasis.

I have all of these kinds of music on my ipod, The other day, for the first time, I saw the video to Masterplan (the song I consider to be Oasis’s finest). I’ve embedded it above, I hope you enjoy it.

Look out for Liam’s famous walk.

Pam Ann.


Finally, we went to see Pam Ann in a live 2 hour show.

She’s a sort of parody of air hostesses from different airlines.

I thought she was funny, but most of her humour was extremely crude.

A sort of female chubby brown, I enjoyed it but wouldn’t go again.

Drinks around town.


Weekend later, and Dan comes around.

I always like going out with Dan. There are a few “less celubrious” pubs in Chester.

They feature some rough looking people, the usual sprinkling of the “disabled” (have a crutch but seem able to stand comfortably at the bar for hours) and some foul language.

But they also have amazing character. No everyone wants to go to places like that, but Dan and I love them and once inside we can have a real conversation.

Farewell to Astrid.


Tragicaly, the next day, our amazing friend Astrid is leaving Chester.

She is moving house, and needs assistance.

Nikki and I go over to help and with the assistance of Astrids Dad we were all done in 2 hours.

So busy in fact that there was no time to take any pictures.

Instead, the photo above is of us all on Trefan, one of the special times we spent with Astrid.

Halo 5 – adventures ahead 🙁


I’m not big on “gaming” like some of my friends in the dev team, who treat it like a religion.

I do however really like the Halo and Call of duty series.

Halo 5 is not surprisingly, the 5th outing of the amazing master chief.

Unfortunately, it requires an entirely new games console to play it, the Xbox1.

So, isn’t it a bit daft, that I’ve treated myself to the game as a Christmas present to myself, when I cant  actually play it.

January and February will be pretty quiet months before adventure season starts, so I’ll probably buy 1 then, when its cheaper.

Walking group Christmas weekend.


Each year, the Chester and District walking group, where I’m a frequent walk leader and member of the committee have their Christmas weekend away.

This year was my 5th and was held at Eyam, famous for its selfless black plague antics.

As usual, I took the Friday off and did a project of my own during the day, before meeting everyone in the evening.

We stopped at the Snake pass in on the drive up and then walked up Win hill.


We did some fun walks on Saturday an Sunday, although the wind was really strong and it took a lot more effort to complete.

As usual, we stayed in a youth hostel in the town, where they cooked a really good Christmas dinner (although the food was fab, the staff were lacking a little in customer service and charisma).

In between, we spent time in the Miners Arms who’s service, company and food I couldn’t rate more highly.

Another fab weekend, thanks to Dave H for organising it.

Like being tortured !.


I had some problems with a wisdom tooth a few months ago. After frequent trips to the dentist I was referred for surgery to the NHS.

As the tooth couldn’t easily be extracted, they used some sort of cutting drill to take “bites” out of it, and then broke the piece off with some pliers.

They had to do this 23 times over 2 hours, as I lay on the operating table with a local anaesthetic.

What was easily the worst physical experience of my life was made much better, by the professionalism and skill of the staff there.

And at least now, the tooth’s gone !.

Watson talks to Bob Dylan.

 Well, this blog started with the amazing Asimo robot.

So to finish, I’ve included a recent tongue-in-cheek advert for the IBM Watson, another amazing piece of technology (it beat 3 human beings at double jeopardy using the spoken word. This stuff really is clever).

In this, Watson talks to Bob Dylan !. Watch it and find out what happens :).

Christmas and New Year adventures.


Well that’s it until after Christmas. On Saturday I fly to Malta for 10 days of walking & fine food and wine.

Back in work for 3 days, then 3 days in the Lake district to celebrate New Year.

If you’ve been reading this website in 2015, thanks so much for your continued support.

Near and far, Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.

As 2016 looms, adventure calls.


The search for adventure continues… 

Humour and wisdom of Facebook.

Run of my feet at the moment, preparing for talks at Globetrotters:  Nikki and I are giving a talk on our trip to Cuba, on Saturday the 21st of November at Chester, Grosvenor museum.

Packing and preparing for Japan next week, and Planning two weekends away and a week in Malta between now and Christmas.

With loads going on at work, and trying to keep up with friends while working on the house (and keeping it tidy) I just don’t have a lot of free time.

But its worked in everyone’s favour.

My thoughts on Facebook are well know, but a few of my friends can only be reached on there (they don’t have text or email).

While I’ve been keeping up to date on my friends, I’ve collected a few interesting graphics. Some are funny, some thought provoking.

I’ve put them up bellow, have a look and see what you think.


Bible bashing is a popular pastime on Facebook.


So is social justice.


Click on the one above to enlarge it. I thought it was hilarious and friends with children said it was highly accurate.


The first of a few “kick back” type graphics.




Bashing astrology.


I find this one quite funny.


I don’t think I know anyone like this.


Someone said, this reminded them of me.


More observation humour.


I thought this was really good.


Politics bashing. Click on this to enlarge it.


2nd of the “kick back” graphics.


Reflection on whether to be trendy or not.


Classic motivational quote.


Technically accurate and highly informative.


Probably a fake, but funny anyway.


Crude impirical’ism.


Good sales advert. Click to enlarge.


Spoof motivational poster with a mini-gun.


Information about “yoof” triends.


More religion bashing.


Yet more religion bashing.


Lego Stephen Hawking.


Someone posted this, who’d recently had a bad time. I really like it.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

No 2nd chances…


Nikki and I are giving a talk on our trip to Cuba, on Saturday the 21st of November at Chester, Grosvenor museum. More details here.

I always say, in adventure there’s no 2nd chances.

I was faced with a dilemma recently. A chance to visit Japan, and spend Christmas in Malta (along with a weekend away before Christmas, and a weekend away in the lakes).

Problem, this will leave me with just a few days holiday between now and the end of July.

Logically, I should hold back more holiday. I don’t know what opportunity’s are around the corner.

Practically, I’m just going to go. These trips are real now so I’ve opted for adventure and thrown caution to the wind.

I’ve often advised people on how to get out and find adventure if they’re on a budget, but what about if they haven’t got enough holiday from work.

Adept now, at making the most of the 141 *, I present a plan for what I’ll do for the first half of next year to illustrate what is possible.

Firstly, my adventure season doesn’t really start until the end of March, so I won’t need any time off before then.

25th – 28th of March Walk Hadrians wall over the Easter bank holiday
30th April – 2nd May Bank holiday weekend, I’ll go youth hostelling in the Peak District for my birthday
28th – 30th of May Bank holiday weekend, camping in the Lake district
4th – 20th of June 9 day walking trip in Morocco. Will use my 4 days remaining holiday, and I’ll have to buy an additional 1
1st – 3rd July Weekend in Iceland. Late flight on Friday, normal weekend
29th – 31st July Camping in Tenby
12th – 14th August Youth hostelling in the Yorkshire Dales

I’ll probably do even more than this, and I’ll be out with the walking group every Sunday that I’m free.

I hope you can see that people who say I can’t get out in search of adventure, I never have the time, just need to re-think their priorities.

* 141 is calculated to be the number of free days an average working person has in a year.


Ironic that I started this post talking about no 2nd chances.

I did my first trip around the world in 2004. My first stop was Tokyo for 4 days.

I remember being exhausted from the work I’d had to do in order to take the time away.

With little travel experience up to that point, I hadn’t really researched the place.

As a result, I spent one day on an organised tour, and the rest of the time, just wandering around.

I missed an opportunity, which I deeply regret (above is a picture of the Shinegawa Prince hotel where I stayed with its’ amazing bar on the 41st floor).

Well, now that I’m going back to Japan, I have to chance to put things right.

With 3 days in Tokyo, I’ve planned an extensive itinerary, which I’m really excited about (and that doesn’t even include the stuff I’m doing in the rest of Japan !)

And, I’m going to revisit the bar on the 41st floor with its spectacular views.

Sometimes there are 2nd chances 🙂

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

The end of the season. Peaks, Lakes, Snowdon.

End of the season

While Nikki’s cousin Mark was visiting, we popped into Chester’s Grosvenor Museum.

Nothing unusual there, we go there all the time, to take part in the Chester Globetrotters meeting.

But that’s in the lecture theatre, and this time we decided to actually peruse the museum itself.

An amazing exhibition called End of the season, talked about North Wales holidays in the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s.

All about how they became an institution, but inevitably fell by the wayside.

Most of my childhood holidays were off this kind, so I found it fascinating.

Made me think though. The adventure season is coming to an end.

Pretty much from the beginning of April, until sometime in September each year, I celebrate what I call the UK adventure season.

I still go on overseas trips, but I try to do as many adventure weekends away in the UK as I can to make the most of the UK weather.

And I realise that this years is coming to an end…

So, the final 3 adventures I did, are captured in brief bellow. Have a a look and see what you think.

Remember, April isn’t far away, and its just a question of getting out and doing it.

Return to Hartington Hall YHA and the Peak district.

Walking around Castleton

Earlier in the year, I visited Hartington Hall youth hostel (a solo trip, I walked from Buxton).

At the time I went, while Nikki was Skiing.

I enjoyed it so much, that we decided to visit it together and have a weekend in the lakes.

Most of our weekends, begin with a walk.

The reason for this is simple. Instead of a 2 day weekend break, we normally take the Friday off, get up really early and do the first of 3 walks then.

We found a cracking circular walk on walking world that took in Mam Tor and Castleton among other places.

Reaching the top and catching site of paragliders was pretty amazing.

Hartington village in the evening

We leave the walk, and make for Hartington, and our home for the weekend.

The little village is really nice, and on Friday evening has a van which sells chips.

With a bag of chips, I sit by the lake/pond in the centre of town.

After checking into the youth hostel and getting cleaned up, we have dinner and a few drinks in the hostel bar.

The Hartington lollipop

Our second day, and we choose a walk called the Hartington Lollipop.

I wasn’t too enthusiastic, and considered it a bit of a “filler in” type of walk.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, we wandered along rivers and meadows, and the weather was fantastic the whole time.

Watts Russel Arms

We stopped along the way at this little pub called the Watts Russel Arms (strange name, but brilliant pub).

Inside, the landlord had an extensive book collection for guests to look at, which he talked me through.

It was so nice, that we stayed for a 2nd drink.

Wandering back through the fields

Farther along, we reached a spot which seemed vaguely familiar.

Then I remembered. Last year I went to the YHA association AGM and gave a talk on social media for walking groups.

After lunch, we’d gone out on a walk and Graham and I had extended it. I remember realising I’d lost my wallet at a rest stop.

When I came back (to an area packed with walkers) it was still there.

I gave the children who found it £2 (which apart from cards, was all the money that was in it 🙂

Wandering back through open fields, its a perfect day and I’m looking forward to another evening relaxing with Nikki.

Hartington hall YHA

Our room was quite cosy, but with central heating and an on-suite bathroom for £32 per night represented amazing value.

It’s one of those things where although the room is really nice, I spend practically no time in it apart from sleeping and getting ready, as I’m always out either walking, dining out or drinking in friendly pubs.

After a quick shower and changing into Rohan Goa’s (well I did anyway) we head into town, have dinner in the Devonshire Arms and a couple of drinks later at the Charles Cotton hotel.

Monyash village

But nothings perfect, and now the disappointing part.

After a fantastic breakfast at the Youth Hostel, we head out for the day.

This time were doing a walk from Monyash. I hadn’t been here, since Frank and I walked the Limeston way all those years ago.

Back then, we’d walked all day and arrived at the campsite. We couldn’t find anywhere to book in, until we found a sign that said “go to pub”.

We found the farmer in the pub, paid him and went back to set up our tent.

Back at the pub, we had dinner. It was so busy that I remember we had to eat it on plates standing up.

In the morning, there was a cafe that served breakfast. With far too many customers to fit inside, I’ll always remember a lovely Sunday morning with perfect sunshine and about 30 people sitting out on the flags drinking tea and eating bacon butty’s 🙂

Appalling weather

But in actual fact, the place was rather empty. The circular walk we had planned just involved walking through fields in appalling weather.

So bad in fact that after a drink in the pub at the halfway point, we just walked back along the road to our starting point.

Peak District campsite

On the way, I saw this, which lifted my spirits.

I dont know if you can see, but its a recycle bin that’s meant to say clothes and shoes.

Instead, someone has rubbed our some letters and the sign now says “clothes and hoes” !

But this kind of mixed fortune is what makes a weekend away that bit more fun.

And as you’ll see from the following section, considering the good look we’ve had throughout the adventure season, we’ve more then compensated for the bad luck we were due.

Lake district Bank holiday.

On Scafell hillside

Our next trip is back to the lake district and the beautifull town of Keswick that Lee Sawbridge introduced me too 25 years ago.

We’ve had some good and bad luck with camping over bank holidays in the lakes previously, but were confident this time it would be ok.

The campsite on the lake at Keswick is without doubt the best one I’ve stayed at in this country.

Up early on Friday, breakfast and coffee in the car, we head for Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

We’d had a good crack at it earlier in the year, but the weather had turned us back.

So looking at the weather above, it wasn’t sunny but it was quite nice for the UK.

And it lasted for about the first 20 minutes of the walk, then the heavens opened for the rest of the day.

Top of Englands highest mountain

I like to think I look “windswept” in this photo on the top.

But I’m told by Nikki I just look bedraggled and soaking wet.

I’m not one for standing on top of peaks and chatting so barely a minute later, were off back down the hill.

Keswick Campsite

Back to our camp-site.

We didn’t have the spot we wanted and the ground was soaking.

Like I said, fortune is overdue to give us some bad luck !.

But when the cloud clears, you can see the view from our front porch on the tent.

It’s a lovely site, as you can see, there are quad bikes and boats parked so its all about adventure.

A new restaurant in Keswick sells Mexican and Tapas, (Bar Es) so there was no real question where we were going for dinner.

Couple of pints in the Royal Oak (which for 20 years I’ve known as the Keswick Lodge) for old times sake.

Wainwright exibition

The following day, we head out early and get breakfast at a cafe in the town.

We wander around the shops, and I see a shop selling axes and other bushcraft stuff.

There’s an exhibition on at Keswick museum about Alfred Wainwright, one of my heroes so we spend a couple of hours in there.

In the photo above, you can see Wainwright’s “haversack” and tweed jacket which he wore on his 13 year exploration of the lakes.

If you were seen out in gear like that today, you’d be called a lunatic and told to go home !.

Derwent water lake

At lunchtime we decide to wander around the lake.

Not exactly Anapurna, but a nice walk all the same, and a stop at the halfway point of the Mary Mount for a drink (a pint obviously).

Keswick cinema

We head back into town for a treat at the Keswickian chippy (probably the best in-shore chippy in the UK).

Nikki wants to get ready and relax before dinner with a glass of wine in the tent.

I realise there’s an old cinema there, so have other plans.

With the Man from Uncle showing 20 mins later, I take my leave off Nikki and head off to watch the film (its a small place, and after paying my money, I’m given something that looks like a bus ticket 🙂

Film was quite good, and all the better for being shown in a traditional cinema atmosphere.

I head back, get cleaned up, and this time, its Italian for dinner and a few drinks around the town.

Back down the hill to Keswick

Up early, we have breakfast on the hill, as we head for the peak of Skiddaw. A cracking mountain that overlooks Keswick.

I’m really looking forward to it, as last time I was hear, I met Sir Chris Bonnington (one of my personal heroes and one of the proudest moments of my life).

A lot steeper than I remember (but last time we broke the trip up with an overnight at Skiddaw house).

On top of Skidaw

Another foul day, but ultimately, we reach the top.

Dinner and drinks again in the town, up early the next morning (thanks to the numb skull we were camped next too), we pack our gear and head for home.

Long weekend in Anglesy and Snowdonia.

Lakes around Trefan

I honestly think that if my brother lived in France, I’d see more of him.

It’s one of those classic situations, where my home town of Manchester is so “near” that something comes up and I can always go “next week”.

In fairness though, I also think the pace of life, is much faster now (or feels that way) than its ever been. I finish work for the weekend on Friday evening sometimes, and in a blink its Sunday morning !.

Brilliant news, was that David and his lovely wife Leigh had got a cottage in Anglesey for a week, and invited us to join them for the weekend.

Stranger swimming in a freezing lake

Not wanting to wast a single minute of the weekend, we once again took Friday off work, had toast and coffee in the car, and headed straight to North Wales for an exciting day walk.

On the way, we stop at Fitzpatricks cafe in Bethesda which along with its amazing food and atmosphere, was really popular with bikers, as it had a motorbike in the window.

From here, we continue to the Ogwen valley but the cloud cover is really bad, so we decide on a low level walk, around some lakes.

Our first circuit was around Cwm Idwal, where we spotted a woman in a bathing costume swimming in the lake (I thought for a moment that we might have to rescue here, and wasn’t really sure how we would do it 🙂

We move to our 2nd lake, Llyn Ogwen with superb views of the Ogwen valley and Treffan where there are superb hills, which I’m determined to return and climb (so much so, that I bought a special map from Fitzpatricks).

We briefly make a stop off in Bangor and have a revelation.

Most of the places I go back to and visit, are much more run down than they were when I was last there x years ago.

In this case, the whole town has been done up, and the grim pub I remember visiting is now an up market shop !.

Our home for the weekend

With the days adventures complete, we drive across to Anglesey to meet up with Dave and Leigh. The cottage can only be described as superb, with en-suit rooms, massive tv, opulent kitchen, and an amazing view across the straits back to Bangor.

Dinner by the ocean

We get showered and changed in our beautiful room, then spend an hour catching up with David & Leigh.

There’s a nice pub nearby on the waterfront, so we head to the Gazzelle for dinner.

After an amazing chilli and brilliant company we head back to the cottage. Everyone is going to bed, but I realise that the original Fast and the furious film is on ITV, so I decide to stay up and watch it.

It’s been that long since I watched normal tv, that I’d forgotten, its stops every 25 mins, for the adverts.

I just couldn’t deal with that, so I went to bed !.

South Stack lighthouse

I get up bright and early, and start work on various projects on my laptop (the wifi coverage was superb).

A bit of a lazy morning, we decide were going to visit South Stack lighthouse (a favourite venue of my mother when she was alive).

The first leg, was arriving at the RSPB sanctuary on the top, overlooking the lighthouse (we had some really nice coffee).

The place has special meaning for Nikki and I. We came here 3 years ago with the walking group.

I think its the first time’s we realised we were fond of each other.

Sea cliffs

When we walked down to the lighthouse, and crossed the bridge onto the Island, I saw this spectacular view back across the cliffs.

Top of te Lighthouse

I get a bit sick of constantly being charged to visit National Trust sites (I know they cost money and all the rest of it, but sometimes I’ve paid £5 to visit a farmyard and get a cup of coffee).

When I was told there was an entrance fee for the lighthouse I wasn’t impressed.

But I thought it was just to be allowed on the Island. I didn’t realise you got a tour of the whole facility (including a walk to the top of the lighthouse), and they had a really good museum as well.

On the way back, we nip to the supermarket to get supplies for the evening.

Dave and Leigh are here for a whole week, but we’ve only got one day, so we leave them to go back, so we can continue exploring.

We find a nice pub and have a couple of drinks, then since were on holiday, visit the town of Menai bridge and get some chips.

Walking around Menai bridge

We follow a path through some woods to the coastline of Anglesey.

Years ago, I camped out between the 2 bridges for nearly a week with a budget of £15. All the memories come flooding back.

Menai Bridge

As we continue along, we pass under the Menai bridge, and I get the photo I’m delighted with.

Back to the cottage, we cook dinner and have a relaxing evening.

Spectacular view from Anglesey

In the morning, its breakfast on the terrace, and up early for me and Nikki.

Dave and Leigh are going to get the train up to the top of Snowdon.

Nikki and I area going to walk up, using a route we’ve not used before (well, we’ve walked down it, but never up).

From here, we’ll all meet up at the cafe on the top. Quite an exciting co-ordinated plan, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Walking to Snowdon

We were worried about congestion, as the tour of Britain would be passing through here on the same day, but needn’t have worried.

We park up in Llanberis and hit the trail.

I’ve given us two and a half hours to get to to the top, and I realise three and a half would have been better.

Like the Para’s marching to Goose Green, we blast off up the hill (well, kind off. I was puffing and panting for most off it).

Appaling weather

Cloud cover is very low that day, and within an hour, it looks like this.

It’s all very nice when mountaineers answer the question “why do you climb” with “because its there” but the reality is its nice to have something to look at as well, and this wasn’t doing much for me.

Anyway, we have a date with destiny (well, David and Leigh actually) so no time for contemplation.

Then Nikki mentions that the trains have been going up every half hour at first, but we haven’t heard one in over an hour.

And then, 150 metres from the top, I get a text from Dave.

The f***ing train has broken down (my words, not his) and his train (behind it) has been cancelled.

Back down the hill we go at a much faster pace.

We get back to Llanberris, and I get to see the the ramblers bar at the Padern lake hotel, the mountain photograph ship and Pete’s Eats.

All the things I remember from my youth.

The end of a brilliant weekend, and the end of another fantastic UK adventure season.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Adventures at home.

Ok, so I haven’t updated the blog in a while.

As most of you know, it’s what I call adventure season at the moment (and about to come to an end).

Basically, adventure season, is the time between the beginning of April and the end of August.

I still do adventures outside this time, but for the last 5 years (and mainly the last 3) I try and get away on as many weekends for trips away in the UK, to make the most of the weather.

I’ve been on about 13 weekends away this year, and it’s been fantastic.

Just for a change though, I’ve decided to talk about the adventures I do at home. This is a list of some of the things I’ve done in the last 6 weeks.

Like everything else on this site, I don’t say this to brag, it’s put up here sincerely, in the hope it may provide inspiration.

Music Train.

On the Music train

Glenn organised an evening on the Chester music train.

Not exactly as fun as it looks on this picture on their website, but certainly not a dull evening.

The basic idea, is that you get on a train, and some folk musicians “entertain” you.

Its a normal running train (so basically a bit uncomfortable, and doesn’t have a buffet trolley) that goes from Chester to Plumley.

When it arrives in Plumley, we get off and have a couple of hours in the Golden Pheasant pub, where the musicians perform.

We have a few drinks and a nice meal, then its back on the train and more hi-jinx as we thunder back towards Chester.

Overall, a pretty interesting evening with good company (including Glenn).

If you go yourself, take some drinks for the train.

Trip to the Theatre.

Theatre - Dog in the night time

Known locally as a man of the arts, I’m sometimes frustrated that my home – Chester (that quaint British city/village) has no theatre (and that the new one has cost £40,000,000 so far !).

So I usually end up going to the theatre either in Wrexham or Liverpool.

I saw an advert for a play called “The curious incident of the dog in the night time“.

Nikki and I went to the Liverpool Empire to watch it (earlier in the year, we’d been to see 3 other plays in Liverpool so I’d grown to like it there).

I won’t spoil it, but the story was really engaging, and they had amazing visual effects using among other things, 6 light projectors.

Specialist catered Barbecue.

Catered Barbecue.

There used to be an advert for cigars some years ago. The slogan went “Castella for the man that thinks that little bit bigger”.

Nikki and I were invited to her friends Barbecue. When we got there, I expected Derrick to be flipping burgers and Marie to be tossing salad with wooden spoons.

Instead, they were socializing with everyone, and had hired Big 5 catering, to do their barbecue.

Big 5 were courteous and professional the whole time, the food was delicious and they cleared everything up afterwards.

Brilliant weather and a fantastic afternoon.

* Big 5 is just their name. They don’t actually make Lion burgers or anything like that.

Noel performing at Alexander’s open mike night.

Noel singing at Alexanders.

It’s important to have friends (I’m incredibly popular, so I have hundreds).

A friend from work called Noel (a front end developer) owns a Guitar and likes to play at venues.

Since he was playing at Alexander’s, on the open mike night, I decided to go over and hear him perform.

He turned out to be really good, and while there I realised 2 other friends from work had turned up with the same idea.

Wine tasting at Urbano32.

Wine tasting at Urbano 32

Most Sunday evenings (as the weekends drawing to a close and work/the need to wash clothes/putting train sets away, hovers on the imminent horizon) we go out for a drink and something nice to eat.

Our 2 favourite venue’s for this are Artichoke or Urbano32.

While out in Urbano32, the manager there (Claire who I’ve known for years and previously worked at BT with Dan and his henchmen) mentioned they were doing a wine tasting evening.

Cork’s out is our normal wine tasting venue of choice, with the excellent Tom. But why not try something different we thought, so immediately signed up.

On the evening, there was a 2 course meal and 2 white’s 2 red’s and a sparkling wine. All for £20 each, which I thought was superb value.

Their director of wine talked us through the different wines, and when the tasting glasses were empty, we bought a bottle of one of them, they were that good.

They’re doing another one on the 10th of September and were looking forward to that already.

Boat trip and my first Hen do.

Lisa Hen Do.

My friend Lisa from Phonak was getting married.

Lyndsay Lomax, my friend who now lives in Switzerland was coming over for the Hen do, so I arranged to meet her for an hour before the Hen (which would be a cruise on the Princess Diana boat along the river Dee in Chester).

Nikki joined us later, then the fun really started.

Turned out, 2 of Lisa’s guests had been forced to cancel. There were 2 tickets going to this great event, and she asked if Nikki and I would like to go.

I was a bit nervous as I’d be the only man (and I was dressed for an afternoon around Chester, not a special occasion).

But these people are friends I’ve know for years I reasoned, and although I’ve been on the boat before, I’ve never been to a party on 1.

As it was, a fantastic night out, with really good food, brilliant company and the Phonak girls even brought a selfie stick with them.

Lisa and Phil got married yesterday. Due to family commitments, I wasn’t able to attend but I sincerely wish them every happiness in the future.

Lunch in West Kirby and live Comedy evening.

Nikki and Cousin Mark.

Nikki’s cousin Mark comes up to Chester to see her every now and then, and we’ve become firm friends.

Couple of weeks ago, we took him to the Wro in West Kirby for lunch, then walked over to Hilbre Island.

Afterwards we had coffee at a small place there, and I realised it was right next to Sarah’s Mum’s old house (I place I spent many happy times, in a previous life).

From here, we came home and got ready then back to Alexander’s.

£10 seems a lot, but the 3 comedians are on for 3 hours and its hilarious.

“When my girlfriend moved in with me, there were so many shoes lined up, it looked like the outside of a mosque”

“Why do people criticise David Beckham because he’s thick !. Nobody criticises Stephen Hawking because he can’t play football”

Chez Jules film & dinner.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

In addition to not having a theatre, Chester doesn’t have a cinema either.

But as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Those cool guys at the very authentic French restaurant Chez Jules have started to do a dinner and film evening in the upstairs of their establishment.

Nikki and I had never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s so decided to go.

2 course dinner then they turned the lights down and the film began (which was good, as I had been concerned about the clinking of cutlery).

During the performance, they discreetly refilled drinks so nobody got thirsty.

I’m still not sure if I liked the film or I didn’t (although Audrey Hepburn was incredible).

I really enjoyed the subtle combination of food, drink and film all put together though.

Take the stairs by Rory Vaden.

Take the stairs.

I always try and read on the train to work and coming home each day.

I remember reading somewhere, that what we call a PHD is basically knowing the general details of what’s accumulated in about 50 books.

An average book can be read in 5 – 7 hours. So, at 1 hour a day, that’s a book a week.

So, imagine your a van driver and want to get a job in a music shop selling violins and pianos. Your fascinated by it, but just dont know much about it.

We’ll, in 1 year, you could accumulate a man-in-the-street PHD on musical instruments.

The most recent book I’ve read is called Take the stairs by Rory Vaden.

His basic premise. Success is never owned, its only rented. Self discipline and doing some things you dont really want to do, is the only key to real success.

I thought it was fantastic, I’ve learned loads from it and now I’ve read it, I gave it away to someone at work, with instructions its to be given away again, each time its read.

Theatre in the park.

Theatre in the park

Ok, ok, so enough moaning about not having a theatre or cinema.

Well, each year they do theatre in the park and this year, we decided to go.

I took this photo early on before it got dark, but later, it was completely packed.

We had good seats that were under cover, but it didn’t rain much anyway. We also took a picnic and a bottle of wine.

The production was the Merry wives of Windsor. It had been made with a 70’s theme which was really stylish (at the end in the “countryside scene” they even had Pifco torches).

Although 500 years old, you could really connect with the story (the guy who worries if his wife still loves him, the old night, who’s the oldest swinger in town).

Expensive but highly recommended.

Ex Machina, Automata, The Machine.


 Speaking of things that are highly recommended, my old lodger Nathan came around and we had a couple of pints.

He advised me to watch a film called Ex Machina. It was science fiction, featured Robots and drew heavily on Alan Turing’sartificial intelligence test.

There’s 3 good reasons to start with. I watched it and thought it was excellent.

One thing I’ve started to do now, is put the films I like into the Internet Move Database. It will recommend other films you might like.

Completely different, but on the same theme, it advised Automata and The Machine.

I watched them both and I enjoyed them as well. 3 cracking films, 3 great evenings.

Moonlight Flicks, outdoor cinema.

Watching Moonlight Flicks

Sometimes you try things and they’re a bit crap.

Drive is a film I’ve wanted to see for a while, and it was showing as an outdoor event at Chester Roman baths.

When we got there, it had just started raining, so loads of people put up umbrella’s.

We were given headset so we could hear the film and the screen was ok.

The actual film itself was quite good. A modern slant on the getaway driver with a conscience and Brian Cranston from breaking bad was in it.

The problem was, the other people. There were people taking pictures with flash, talking loudly, just getting up and wandering off, then coming back 10 minutes later and having a stand up conversation and blocking the film.

When I watch a film, its not for an evening out, its to immerse myself in the film.

The other people were dis respecting the film in my view, if they just went because all their friends were going, stay at home next time.

I know I will be.

Eating out.

Coffee with Lyn & Vick

Well, in the last 8 weeks, I’ve had 3 Italians, 2 Curry’s, 2 Mexican meals, 7 traditional meals in pubs and 3 steaks.

Oh and I’ve been to the chippy twice.

Nikki’s sister Lyn came over to visit with her husband Vick (were all going to Japan together in about 2 months).

We took them to Koconut Grove, El Gato Negro and Artichoke for Nikki’s mums birthday.

Oh, and after we all did the Baker way, we took them for coffee to Joseph Benjamine.

Koconut Grove is my favourite curry house in Chester, since the sad demise of India Flava and Asia Fusion. However, somebody needs to talk to the owners. As good as the place is, it has a daft name.

El Gato Negro is based in the Bluebell, the first restaurant I ever visited in Chester. I like it there as they do traditional, Italian, Tapas and Mexican so there’s something for everyone.

Artichoke. What’s to say, its excellent in every way I can think off.

Good Cinema.

Mission Impossible 5

I don’t go to the cinema as often as I used to ( I watch a lot of stuff, but usually at home).

Sometimes though, there’s a film I really want to see. At that point, there’s really only 1 way to watch it.

On the cinema, as god intended.

Went with Dave E and Glenn to see Mission Impossible 5. It must be hard to make 5 films and each one is even better than the other 1 but that’s what they’ve managed to do.

The opening scene hanging of the plane was incredible and the motorbike chase in the top 10 action sequences I’ve seen since my first trip to the cinema.

While on a trip to Keswick, I realised they had a cinema there.

While Nikki went back to our tent to read, before we went out for the evening, I nipped into the cinema to watch Man from Uncle.

Really stylish and filmed in an authentic 60’s style (a bit like watching Life on Mars where you really feel like you’re in dreary Manchester of the 70’s.

Bad Cinema.

Thats how I felt when I was watching it

Terminator Genisys delivers 2 amazing feats of cinema.

Make Emilia Clarke (brilliant in Game of thrones) look bored through a whole film.

Make Jason Clarke (no relation and fantastic in the Chicago code, the best Police series I’ve ever seen) give a poor on screen performance.

Both of these 2 are naturally gifted performers. To get them to under achieve must take some really hard work from the director.

Arnie could never act, but now someone decided he should try really hard.

Oh, and if you build up a tense moment, then crack a joke, its funny.

If you fail at this and the tension doesn’t happen, the audience just feel sorry for the poor bugger that’s got to crack the joke.

The picture above captures superbly how I was feeling while watching the film. Best forgotten about.

Work on the house.

Once corner of my loft

 On top of all this, I’ve been continuing with the renovation of my house.

Phase 2 is almost complete (there are 3 phases altogether), and the loft/spare room on the 3rd floor should be complete in a few days.

One small addition I’ve made, is a “retro” corner. It has a black book case and black chair in a corner by the window where I sit and read.

Most of the furniture in my first house when I was 25 was black, and this is a tip of the cap to that.

I’ve also got a new futon, a comfortable “creative desk” to work on and I should be able to put up my train set permanently.

Both at home and away, the search for adventure continues…

Keswick & Tenby


In December last year, I wrote about a couple of the goals I’d set myself for the year, and whether I’d completed them.

I failed on the 6 routes up Snowdon, but completed that earlier this year.

My attempt to do all the “Julia’s” was still outstanding. Nikki and I get away as much as we can during the summer and the lake district was calling us once again.

However, I can’s push my own projects onto other people (well not too much) so I hoped that while we were away, we’d get chance to visit Castle Crag, along with our other adventures.

We had a packed program of interesting walks and nice places to eat and drink in the evening.

Doing something like that with a special friend or someone you love, is, to me, about as good as life gets.

As I’ve said before, if I won £10,000,000 tomorrow, I dont know what I’d be doing. But the day after that I’d be out hill walking . So off we go.


We had bad experiences last year in summer at some camp sites in the lakes.

One who’s name won’t be mentioned was like a refugee camp, and hopelessly over booked.

However, they’d taken our booking (and our money) and when we arrived, just basically told us to “find somewhere” without the least concern.

There were tents 3 feet from ours on 3 sides and people having party’s into the night. But, we turned that trip around, and did some of our most ambitious walking routes.

This year, we’ve tried to learn from that experience.

I’ve always believed that most people say they want “cheap”. But what they really want is “right”, and if its cheap, then that’s nice, but its most important is that the object/experience/employee etc, is above all “right”.

There’s a camp-site in the centre of Keswick. I’ve passed on it before as its quite expensive, but considering our experiences, I thought it was worth a try.

It’s quiet (strict rules on the camp-site that are enforced. A refreshing change). A measured out pitch and space for the car (you have to tell them the dimension when you book, and they pick the perfect spot).

A short walk into town, on the bank of the Derwent lake, and enough showers so nobody has to queue.

We’re delighted.

So once the tents pitched, the beds inflated and sleeping bags out, were off into town for some nice dinner and a few drinks.


After a great nights sleep and a quick breakfast in our tent, were off out for the day.

It’s our first walk of the weekend and we’ve decided on Scafell from Seatoller.


We arrive at Seathwait farm and park the car.

It never stops amazing me, that some of the oldest hobby’s in the world (walking and camping were practised by the Romans and the Greeks) are still susceptible to fads.

Camping “pods” were hot for a time.

Pretty much a garden shed, with a radiator and plug to charge your mobile. But it meant you could “camp” without having to put up a tent, and knowing that no matter how bad the weather got, none of it would effect you.

For full transparency, I stayed in one about 6 years ago, with the famous Dizzy-Dave and it was fab.

On close inspection of the camp-site, it appears that Yurts, the private jet of glamping world and favourite of Ray Mears and thousands of Mongol’s are taking over the lake district.


We set off, on an interesting route from Walking World.

Would have been fab, but in honesty, the weather was appalling and navigation especially difficult.

We get to the top, get back down and relax for the evening.


The following day, breakfast on route, as we head for the honister pass.

In the slate visitor centre, you can do a tour of the mine, enjoy a drink and a cake in the cafe, and see some truly beautiful piece of slate, turned into horrendous tourist tat !.

This time, we headed straight to inominate tarn, the final resting place of Wainwright.

Great to visit it again with Nikki, as it has a special place in the hearts of many hill walkers.


We continue on, and “conquer” haystacks. We did a previous walk from Buttermere a year or 2 ago, where we did 3 fells in order, but failed to complete the 4th, haystacks.

It was nice to put things back in order.


In the evening, were in high spirits.

A place that’s recently opened, eS bar. A mixture of Spanish Tapas and Mexican, which we both really like.


In the morning, we wake and the weather isn’t very good.

We decide to wander around the town and do a bit of exploring (I think its an awful waste, when people visit the lakes, and spend a WHOLE DAY wandering around somewhere like Ambleside or Keswick.

In the daytime, I’m normally in the mountains, and usually spend time in town in the evenings having dinner and drinks (unless I finish a walk early when I might have a pint or 2 before heading back to get showered and changed for the evening).

On this occasion, it seemed okay to indulge for 2 hours, getting breakfast, visiting the Rohan shop and walking to the bank of the lake.

I was surprised when I couldn’t find a cafe I normally visit. There was a building site there, and I realised it had been knocked down and a new one was being built !.

The National Trust were doing trips to the island (only open a few days each year), but were fully booked. At £8 to canoe there yourself it seemed expensive anyway.

in the afternoon, we decided to head for Castle Crag. An easy walk, that seemed suited to the weather.


Setting off on the walk, I see another Yurt. The lakes are being taken over, 1 Yurt at a time :).


A fairly easy walk up to castle crag.

At the top, a sort of graveyard for rocks.

Very atmospheric and almost spooky.

I take a moment and congratulate myself on completing all of the Julia’s.


From the top of Castle crag, you can see Derwent water lake.

We stop off at a cafe on the way back, and then head for home.

Another adventure complete.


A week later, and I’m in Tenby.

I get a lift down with Dave and Sam, and its decided for a change, that instead of having chippy when we arrive, were going to have a barbecue.

On route, I buy some can’s and some Findu’s Chicken burgers, which have defrosted by the time we arrive.

Tenby campsite

I eat my burgers, have a few cans, and then off for an early night.

What I hadn’t realised was there was a Triathlon going on over the weekend.

At 6am in the morning, the PA system starts blasting from Tenby.

Although were more than a mile away from the town, the wind changed direction, it sounds like a car cd system with the window down, right outside your tent.

I can’t sleep, so I get up for a walk and wander into the town.

St Catherines

I grab a coffee in the town (my favourite place right by the ocean, Dennis cafe is open, but only doing take out, so I get coffee and continue wandering around).

It’s cheesy to say it, but its then that I realise how lucky I am.

This truly beautiful place, the world is just starting to wake up, and there’s practically no-one around and I can enjoy it in peace.

I find out that St Catherine’s (the sort of Island/Fort right next to Tenby) is now open and you can visit it, and go on a guided tour.

Walking from Amroth

As I wander along, I run into Sue, Aled and assorted other friends, setting out on a walk.

The bus has left (he MUST have left early, as we were easily there on time).

Ridiculously, a minibus is hired, and he actually charges less than the bus would have (so we give him the change as a tip).

This time, were walking from Amroth, via Saundersfoot, back to Tenby (I’ve usually done the walk in the other direction, so I’m quite looking forward to this.

Refreshments on-route

Obviously on an arduous walk like this, it was necessary to stop for refreshments (I had a pint).

On the trip, was the famous Christine. As lean as a greyhound, she was in front of me for the whole of the walk.

Tenby Walk

We continue the walk, the coastal scenery is as fantastic as its been on my 2 previous trips.

Get back, get cleaned up, and its into town for a few pints and something to eat.

tenby camper

I get the chance to peruse Sue and Aled’s new camper van.

I’m pretty inspired. I don’t know quite when exactly, but I’m going to have one of those 🙂

Drinks and dinner around Tenby

The triathlon is complete for today, so the town is alive with exuberant (and tired) people.

I can never resist fish and chip here, so instead of having dinner in the bar we were in, I nipped out, got a take away, ate it and then went back to the pub.

By 10:30pm, I’ve had a fantastic day, so I head back to my tent.

Tenby Triathlon

On Sunday morning, a trip home is imminent.

We know we’ve got a really long way to go, and we’ve got to set off early.

We wander down to the beach, to see the Triathlon competitors preparing for final event of the weekend.

The Dennis cafe

So, its with a heavy heart that I head for the Dennis cafe for the last time.

Cheese on toast and a pot of tea. The company of all my friends, and this years trip is finally over.

But, what a fab weekend. I’ll be back again next year.

The search for adventure continues…


Me at Gjirokaster castle

I’ve always been a fan of the former Eastern Block, and I’ve made extensive trips there.

In recent times, I’ve visited a lot of the former Yugoslavia. I’d heard some dark things about it, but I’m not one to be put off by rumours.

The attractiveness of the place is that its brand new. Like Macedonia  where I also had a fab time, its practically impossible to get a guide book (even my beloved DK Eyewitness Guides have yet to surface) so the only one I could get was a Bradt.

As I was planning it, there were real problems getting a direct flight at a reasonable price. As I continued to study the guidebook, articles, pictures and maps, something was starting to bug me, and I couldn’t work out what it was.

Then I realised. That Island on the bottom left of the map of Albania is Corfu. Easyjet fly there from Manchester, and there are several boat trips from Corfu to Saranda each day.

With a plan in place, its booked. We spend the night before at the hotel in Manchester airport (I love doing that, in the evening, we had dinner, then wandered around the airport stopping off for drinks, a really great start to an adventure holiday).

Up early, shower and breakfast, then were on the plane.

A few episodes of Game of thrones and a few chapters of Wilbur Smith’s Desert God and we arrive in Corfu.

I’m not a big fan of “classic” holiday destinations, but this place really was beautifull, and the weather was fantastic.

It was so nice in fact, that instead of getting a taxi, we walked to our destination, stopping off occasionally on the way (Nikki has one of those infernal pull along things which I hate (and I was pulling it)), so several drinks were needed).

On the way we pass the Old Fortress.

Rooftop bar

To avoid any problems with delayed planes -> boats or delayed boats -> planes, we’d arranged to spend the first and last night of our trip in Corfu (and I’m glad we did, it was lovely).

Our hotel, had spectacular views of the ocean from our room and for relaxing in the evening, an amazing atmospheric rooftop bar.


When we got there, this is what it actually looked like. The bar broken, no chairs, nobody there.

I shouldn’t be mean, the hotel was superb, the room very comfortable, the wifi fast and the breakfast tasty.

Once set up, we wander out to buy our boat tickets

There seems to be some confusion about whether we buy the tickets from the port, or from a shop in the high street. We walk to the port which is miles away (but its a nice day) and then have to walk all the way back to the shop.

We find out the fast boat doesn’t start until high season so we’ll only be able to get that one, on our journey home. On our way out, were booked on some sort of fishing boat !.


We wander around exploring in the afternoon, then head back to get showered and changed and then head out for the evening.

I had a traditional Greek Stifado stew, which was really nice. Later we sat out and had a few glasses of wine.


But this is an adventure trip, not an episode of Jeeves and Wooster.

In the morning, were up early and out on the trail, ready to join our boot.

* I’d like to mention that the photo above, is the boat we came back on, which takes about 30 minutes.

Our actual boat looked like something fishermen use of the coast of the Shetland islands. It took 1hr and 45 mins.


This is the map showing the route we “sailed”.


Our boat arrives in the port of Saranda. They were really friendly and we got through customs and immigration pretty quickly.


We’d decided to base our trip out of 3 main destinations in Albania and since we were only there for 5 nights, it made sense to rent a car.

Strangely, there is no car rental place in Saranda, so the chap who gave is the keys and paper work, had driven all the way from Tirana, and had to get a lift back.

One concern we had was changing money. We shouldn’t have worried, as there were loads of places exchanging Euros for Albanian Lek.

We popped into a café to get coffee. The owner didn’t have change for the large denominations we try to pay with. With a smile, he just says pay me the next time your passing.

Up to now, I’ve had eyes everywhere, thinking of the horror story’s I’ve heard about pickpockets, organised crime and waking up to find one of your organs missing.

But these people are charming and friendly. Still not completely convinced, but my minds opened (just as it should be).


An ancient city called Butrint is our first destination (and its absolutely massive).

Driving carefully, we go straight there, and spend the next few hours exploring.

You could set up a whole website just devoted to that place, so I’ve only put 1 picture up.

If you really want to see it, go there yourself, you won’t be disappointed.


In the afternoon, we head back Kasamil and the coast, intending to book into our hotel.

Problem is, the whole area has undergone massive development, and there are dozens of streets and roads that just aren’t on our sat nav.

Disappointed, we stop for a drink by the beautiful ocean to formulate a plan.

The owner speaks perfect English and explains her husband (who doesn’t) will help us, just give them a shout when were ready to leave.

20 mins later, we finish our drinks expecting him to draw us a map. He gets up from the table with his son, they get into a truck, and tell us to follow them.

20 minutes after that, were at our hotel. As we arrive, I thank them sincerely, and politely offer a bit of money, “get himself a drink”

I gesture with my hand, as thought tipping a pint: an international language, understood by all men from eskimo kayakers to wall street stock brokers.

He looks embarrassed, declines and explains to the hotel owner, that it was a pleasure to help, and off he goes.

Now I’m starting to think.

I believe that most British people are helpful and kind (and we are).

But if I was sat in the Lock Keeper relaxing, would I get up from my table, leave the pub and spend 40 minutes off my time on a round trip to help an inconvenienced tourist stranger ?

As will be confirmed many times on the trip, the Albanians we met, couldn’t be more charming and would go out of their way to help. Not at all what I’d been told to expect.

In the evening, we go to a local Pizza place and have a few drinks around the beach.

In the morning I realise I’d left my favourite Rohan jumper in one of the bars. When I ask its returned right away.


In the morning, its breakfast by the beach. Its going to be a beautiful day.

We’re heading for our next base, Gjirokaster, and on route, were going to stop somewhere called the Blue Eye.

Its a naturally occurring blah blah blah. If you really want to read about it, click here.

For me, I just thought it was fantastic countryside with forests and rivers (in communist times, the old party members used to come here to hunt and it was a restricted area).


We continue exploring and have lunch at this café/bar right next to the rapids.


We arrive in Gjirokaster.

Its an amazing place, but just like Chester, ideal to explore on foot, and an absolute pig to get around in a vehicle.

Matters aren’t helped when we arrive at our accommodation and they don’t have our booking.

It’s the usual story that some hoteliers do. They will overbook a hotel, then meet you there and take you to an alternative.

That all works fine so long as A, the hotelier actually remembers to turn up and B, if he doesn’t, the staff at the hotel, know what the hells going on.

A frustrating start, but then were taken to a brand new hotel which I thought was amazing. So, all’s well that ends well.

Bellow is the rooftop bar above our room. You can see the views were spectacular.


There was some sort of folk music festival going on (for some strange reason they called a folklore festival, so at first I was looking for lune’s dressed as witches and vampires and stuff).

I don’t really like folk music, to the point where I almost feel embarrassed watching them sing.

I feel like I’m watching someone abuse themselves, and I need to get away.

Some folk musicians arrived in our bar, and decided to start practising over a few drinks. I politely left.


The castle at Gjirokaster.

It’s absolutely massive, and virtually impossible to capture in 1 photograph.

This is the closest I could get.


Exploring around the castle.

It had an American plane that had been shot down (there wasn’t much of it left).

Loads of old military ordnance (like the mortar in the photo above).

A military museum and a fascinating museum of local history, which lots of stuff about communist times and telling of the towns connection with Ali Pasha, Lord Byron, Edward Lear and Enver Hoxha.

One section talked about mass production of things during the communist era.

It was said that spoons were made from a single sheet of metal, with dozens and dozens of spoons being pressed from it.

It mentioned that resources were so scarce, that sometimes people would use the leftover sheet for garden fences.


In the afternoon, we went around exploring, and what do you know, I found a garden with this “spoon” fence.


In the evening we had drinks in a few bars, then dinner at Kujtimi restaurant.

In the middle of the evening was a blackout.

It didn’t cause any sort of problem, as they cooked the excellent food using gas, but it did make the evening that bit more exciting.


The following day, we leave for Himare (the Albanian Riviera).

On the way, we stop to visit an ancient site called Phoneke.

We see a lone motorbike parked there. The owner, sitting in the shade, asks us for about 50p for the entrance fee (we were the only people there apart from him).


Some ancient ruins, and a simple amphitheatre.

In my opinion, far more interesting, were the old bomb shelters on the hill top.


I was even able to explore underground.


Leaving Phoneke, we continue.

On the road through the mountains we stop at a place called Borsh and see this fairly looking roadside hotel/restaurant/bar.

Presuming it sells cold drinks, we step inside.


And that’s when it happens…

I get the 2 cokes, and walk onto the back patio.

There’s an amazing outdoor terrace with waterfalls and stairways, that goes up the hillside.

It was quite spectacular to see, and the photo above only partially captures it.

It was called the Ujvara Veranda, if you visit Albania (As you should) make a point to visit it.


Arriving in Himare, we check in, and head for the beach.

I walk along it, Nikki goes for a swim.

We head back to our hotel.


We stay in hotel Rondos.

Were the only guests, but it was early in the season, and you could tell, the hotel had lots of work done to it, in advance of the high season.

The owner was charming, served drinks, gave local advise and cooked our breakfast (on the morning we went home, got up 2 hours early (5am) to make sure we had something to eat, before we set off for Saranda).

In the evening, we head out and have Seabass by the ocean (and break the cardinal rule by having red wine with it).

A few drinks around the town, it was surprising to see so many people smoking.


The next day, we head up to Llogara into the mountains to do some walking.


A mix of forests and stony paths.


We even found an unfinished hotel which we were able to explore.

Overall, a fantastic trip.

I couldn’t recommend Albania more highly, and if money is tight, it offers one of the best adventure/beach/culture holidays you can get, for the money.

The search for adventure continues…

Devon – wine and walking.

After last years fantastic trip to Cornwall, we decided this year to head down to Devon.

For Christmas we’d received a vineyard tour and wine tasting event, so we used that as a framework for the trip and off we went.


We drove down early and spent the afternoon exploring.

We stayed at a place called Shaldon. I’m sure some tweed wearing  people would describe it as sleepy and quaint.

The London Inn, Shaldon - against fierce competition, the most shit pub in Shaldon.
The London Inn, Shaldon – a shit pub.

I thought it was pretentious and expensive and far preferred Teignmouth across the bridge..

Throughout the trip, the weather was either too windy or too wet, but our high spirits made for a fab trip.


The following day, up bright and early and off to the Old Walls Vineyard. We decided to walk the 2 miles from our campsite (it was alcohol based after all, and neither of us wanted to drive).

The owner (a charismatic chap, very comfortable in the countryside and at least in his seventy’s)  told the history of the area and how he’d arrived at the decision to setup a vineyard.

As we wandered around, he explained how a vineyard is constructed and that its 3 years before the “yard” starts to produce anything.

We also saw some “thin” tractors, designed for work on Vineyards.


After a while, we were taken inside and shown how wine is made (they make white, red and sparkling (which to anyone else, would be champagne)).

The grapes are pressed using a sort of air bag. He said you normally just press the automatic setting, and the machine does the rest.

We had a chance to taste all the different wines. I was surprised, as none of the wines seemed to be blended, they just came out as they were, and then bottled.

The and tasting came to and end and  we were taken to the terrace restaurant for out inclusive lunch and a complimentary bottle of wine for each couple.

I thought for the money, a half day activity and everything included, it represented outstanding value for money.

Leaving them with a sincere goodbye, we head on our way.


But the adventure doesn’t end there.

We were in the mood for exploring (and drinking) so we headed back to Teignmouth.

The wind was very strong, and on the front, waves splashed onto the road and pavement.

The Queensberry Arms. Now that's a bit more like it.
The Queensberry Arms. Now that’s a bit more like it.

A few drinks around Teignmouth in some local pubs with friendly people and good atmosphere.

Afterwards, what more appropriate for a seaside town than Fish & Chips, before we head home to our tent.

We wander back through the banality of Shaldon and relax in our tent.


The following day, we head out walking (after the vineyard, that’s the main reason we’d come).

It was a first for me, as I’d never been walking on Dartmoor.

Using the now famous Walking World, we do a long circular walk around Maldon reservoir and up into the moor.


Windy, but spectacular views, a cracking 12 mile walk, with lunch & coffee on the hill.

Made me sad that we were only there for 3 days. I could have spent weeks exploring the hills around there.


We head back to Longmeadow Farm (the superb campsite where were staying) and the Sun has come out.

After a hard day on the hill, a more localised evening is planned.

There is a caravan park nearby with a sort of Hi Di Hi type social club attached.

I shouldn’t complain, the drinks were very reasonably priced and my curry was delicious.

Just before bed, the heavens open (its at moments like that, you’re glad you paid a bit more for your tent and aside from the sound of rain hitting the ceiling, slept in perfect comfort.


In the morning we pack up and and head out of the campsite to do another walk on our way home.

As we leave, I see the farm animals have found improvised shelter in the picknick area.

This must be where the phrase “acting the goat” comes from.


Another walk suggested by Walking World, is around Haytor rocks.


Only 8 miles this time, but the area is famous for having these stone tracks in the ground for its granite tramway.

I’ve been walking on Dartmoore, and drank British made wine. Result.