“Wow check out that view. Wait, look over there” punctuated the air around every corner as I tried to focus on the road as we took in the views on our drive from Edinburgh to Oban.
As we crested the final hill and wound down into Oban itself we couldn’t get over the beauty of the area. What a fantastic location and setting for a quick getaway only 2.5 hours drive from Edinburgh on the west coast of Scotland.
Arriving late in the evening we pulled into the Oban camping and caravan park, located just a couple of miles south of Oban overlooking the water, and were immediately told that my company car with its sign writing was not welcome. Not that they hated our business, it was just a policy to not allow commercial vehicles on site. We weren’t the only ones either.
We were allowed to set up our campsite and then park a half mile down the road and wander back along the country road. A reasonable request and one we had to obey anyway as all the other places were full!
A quick trip back into town saw us at Ee-Usk Pizza restaurant for a fantastic zuchinni starter and yum pastas. Highly recommend checking it out on the pier with some great views over the harbour and amazing staff who squeezed us in before the kitchen closed. Although we do advise booking ahead as they get very busy.
Island of Kerrera across the harbour
We woke to a warm but overcast day. Perfect for exploring the wee Island of Kerrera on our mountain bikes.
Kerrera is located just a short 5 min ferry ride (£5 return) from the ramp near the campground and runs basically every half hour. Unless he has stopped for lunch at 12, then its good luck or a swim.
Unfortunately he can also only take a dozen at a time so be prepared to wait a trip if its a nice weekend like we did.
The only cars allowed on the Island are owned by the approximate 30 locals. But there is no reason for one anyway as the entire Island of Kerrera is only 6 miles long so can easily be walked in a few hours.
We decided to take in the northern tip first to check out the Obelisk which is visible from Oban and is a memorial dedicated to David Hutcheson, founder of the steamer company. Although it all appears to be private land, the locals didn’t mind us biking everywhere provided that, as in any rural setting, you make sure you shut every gate you go through.
I wouldn’t recommend taking a bike that isn’t a half decent mountain bike as it does get rough in patches although nothing was unrideable. Just watch out for the sheep raisins on the ground flicking up leaving a nice trail up your back!
Biking on Kerrera with Oban in the background
After the monument we took a wrong turn and ended up biking through chest high bracken and carrying our bikes up a mental hill. Good times…
I just wish I had a towel for a swim and cool down in the crystal clear water. I’m sure I would’ve regretted it but will remember to pack a travel sized one next time we travel.
We ended up cruising along the coastal road to take in Gylen Castle. It was abandoned in 1647 after Cromwell’s forces laid seige to it. We are suckers for a castle and this was no exception with it perched high on the cliffs overlooking the sheltered bays.
Could just imagine staying there many moons ago.
Final stop was the tea house for a tasty and well deserved homemade banana chocolate and pineapple cake with ice cold orange juices to wash it down. We missed the ferry by seconds and were rewarded with a short sharp downpour, but it was nice to cool off.
Absolutely buggered so fish and chips were the call on the pier at the reasonably priced tasty Cuan Mor restaurant.
Rain. The only downside to camping in a ten year old tent.
Adela held her doubts about the weather-proofness of said tent while I assured her if it leaked we would just jump in the car, unfortunately still 1 mile down the road since we couldn’t park on site. I could just imagine how fun that would be at 3 in the morning.
4.30am in the morning and “Cole its leaking!”. A single drop had managed to squeeze through and plopped on Adela’s cheek. I groggily told her just to shift over a bit. The tent held and we slept on.
As it was absolutely pouring in the morning we made a quick getaway from the campground and hit the tourist route. We managed to fit in MacCaig Tower with stunning views over Oban and is a must, even if the climb up is a steep one.
Along the coast, within a short walk or cycle is the overgrown Dunollie Castle perched on the northern entrance of the harbour.
Following another tasty feed, this time at Dolce Vita cafe for a big brekky and amazing deluxe hot chocolate we took off back to Edinburgh. The final stop being Dunstaffnage Castle (15 mins out of Oban) which is great for getting up on top of the battlements to look over the harbour. An indomitable structure that was built over 800 years ago on the skinny peninsular.
Its amazing to think that NZ was not even inhabited then!
In Summary – The Top 10 to do in Oban :
- A walk or cycle on the Island of Kerrera (even if its only for the cakes at the end);
- Fish and Chips on the pier as it is billed as the seafood capital of the world;
- Dunollie Castle;
- MacCaig’s Tower with its stunning views out to the other Islands and over Oban;
- Dunstaffnage Castle;
- A cycle along the coastline taking in the secluded beaches including Ganavan Beach;
- The Oban Distillery for a wee dram;
- Sea kayaking (which we planned to do on Sunday if it didn’t rain);
- Relax with no worries;
- And last but not least… The Island of Kerrera (it’s so good it gets on here twice).
Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos
These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.
El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.
To be honest, I was relieved.
The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.
So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.
There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.
Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.
There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.
And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.
Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.
Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.
Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!
While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.
Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.
I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.
Hammock vs Tent Camping
Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.
In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!
Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.
Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.
For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.
Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.
If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.
One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.
If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.
Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.
A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)
Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!
With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.
It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.
The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!
From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.
The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!
Middle Earth Travel Review
- The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
- We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
- It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
- In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
- Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
- Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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