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Capt Town- Table Mountain from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Table Mountain – Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Cape Town – Adventure Meets Culture

In the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to experience a warm early January in both the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. This year, prompted by various UK storms (Pia, Gerrit, and Henk), we escaped to take up the challenge of a 10,000km British Airways overnight flight to Cape Town, which opened up new horizons in South Africa and the breathtaking beauty of the area’s natural attractions.

Cape Town is a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast and sits on a peninsula beneath the incredible sight of Table Mountain. It’s one of the big five Antarctic gateway cities along with Punta Arenas, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina; Hobart, Australia; and Christchurch, New Zealand.

As well as being South Africa’s oldest and second largest city, it is the legislative capital and also hosts the Parliament of South Africa. Because it was the site of the first European settlement in South Africa, Cape Town is known as the country’s “mother city.”

A true worldwide tourist destination due to its sun, sea, outstanding culinary reputation and incredible scenery, probably the reason it’s been voted the best city in the world seven years in a row!

But like many other major cities Cape Town also has a chequered history, Robben Island sitting in Table Bay is Cape Town’s version of Alcatraz, a notorious prison for over 300 years which has also been a leper colony, a mental hospital and a military base. Thankfully, today it’s a Unesco World Heritage site preserved as a memorial to those who were incarcerated there. You can take a boat trip and visit to this living museum and gain an understanding of the strides the city, and in fact the whole nation, has made since Mandela was freed on 11 February 1990.

One of the most famous moments in world history, marking the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa came from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall where Nelson Mandela delivered his first public speech hours after his release from imprisonment. In a nod to his fellow black countrymen the start of the speech was delivered in Xhosa, one of the main languages spoken by black South Africans. He opened with:

‘“Amandla! Amandla! i-Afrika, mayibuye! (Power! Power! Africa it is ours!)

My friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.

Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I there fore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.’”

It took four years following this event for the first democratic elections to be held on 27 April 1994.

Since then South Africa has become known as the rainbow nation and managed its return from being ostracised by much of the rest of the world.

Summer in Cape Town runs from November to March with its dry heat tempered by the ocean breeze. Apart from Table Mountain, city attractions include the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on the V&A Waterfront and Bo-Kaap with its colourful houses and Cape Malay culture or a boat ride to Robben Island. It’s also only a short bus ride to many beaches or hire a car (better with a driver) and take fabulous day trips to the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek or the Cape of Good Hope.

Accommodation – President Hotel, Bantry Bay, Cape Town.

President Hotel in Cape Town
Infinity pool view from reception

We stayed at the President Hotel which has a long and interesting history dating back to the establishment of the area we now know as Bantry Bay and Sea Point.

A pictorial history chart is displayed on the wall near the dining room and shows that a hotel has stood on the site for 150 years. Prior to that it housed the first substantial building in the area, the Society House, when the very same land stretched down to the sea and up the slopes of Lion’s Head to Kloof Road.

At check-in, we were made most welcome by a young receptionist, Michael Owen, who made us feel very welcome, not only to the hotel but also to Cape Town.

Due to the exceptional city attractions on offer most guests do day trips, then spend the rest of their sun-kissed time beside the infinity pool. Sit back, relax and let Zibele, Vuvu or Thumeka from the waiting staff serve you a cool drink or an oversized pizza! The poolside bar ‘The Deck’ serves great drinks and food and guests have the opportunity to take in the sunset views.

The hotel hosts wine tastings on a Friday evening (unfortunately, we didn’t make it), and on Saturdays, various promotions are held. Johnnie Walker Blonde scotch whisky, Cointreau liqueur, and Corona beer were available during our stay. Giving free Johnnie Walker whisky to a Scotsman in the sun brings on a huge smile!

While the main restaurant is recommended, the hotel location is perfect to venture out and savour delicious locally inspired cuisine in the Bantry Bay restaurants and bars. NV-80, The Greek Fisherman, Jarryds and Aerial are four really good quality restaurants within a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The even closer Piazza da Luz has two excellent and very well stocked supermarkets and a wine shop. The hotel is also an ideal location to reach the beaches, mountains, winelands, shopping and outdoor adventures on offer nearby. The hotel offers a courtesy bus with various stop offs and pick up points, all helpful in your local exploring.

Everything you could think of was on offer at breakfast with very attentive staff such as Nosihle serving you fresh coffee or a range of teas.

A great hotel for its location, facilities and staff.

Cape Town Tourist Attractions

Red Bus – City Sightseeing Tours

This service is on a mission to ensure its touristic sightseeing experiences are the number one thing to do whilst in Cape Town. They are doing a grand job at it, offering memorable and even educational fun. On just one of several open top bus tours you can easily tick off the best bits of Cape Town.

It’s easy to find one of the numerous bus stops, pay for a day ticket on the bus or easily book online. Then simply ‘hop on’ and discover the city sights, with the option to ‘hop off’ to explore particular sights further. The excellent service also offers day trips to Cape Point, the wine country and Table Mountain or join their harbour cruise but be warned the vessels are very small in comparison to some in the harbour area.

The day after our arrival we joined the Classic Tour which lasted close to 2 hours, helped us gain our bearings and allowed us to enjoy several sights on one trip.

Highly recommended.

Camps Bay

Cape town Camps Bay
Camps Bay

Camps Bay has been described as upmarket and draws crowds to its impressive promenade, shops, restaurants, fine white sandy beach and views of the Twelve Apostles mountains. The beach is vast and with huge granite boulders breaking up the sand it looks perfect although the Atlantic water can be very cold. It’s also very open and can be affected by strong winds. Behind the beach, there is a great range of restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars with terraces ideal for a sundowner. The nearby Mall has boutiques and a supermarket. There is also a Theatre on the Bay which advertises drama, musicals and comedy. Houses situated behind the promenade on the hill towards Table Mountain are very impressive and have outstanding views out to the ocean.

The Bay Hotel is at the centre of the area and on our list for a future visit. It really is a lovely area and highly recommend for a visit.

The Bay Hotel

Boulders Beach

African Penguins on Boulders Beach
African Penguins on Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a special place as it’s the only place in the world where you can get up close to African penguins, made easy by boardwalks that lead you across the beaches and allow you to view the penguins in their natural habitat. There is also an information centre.From our hotel Boulders Beach and the penguins were just 50 minutes south of Cape Town depending on the traffic and the day you visit. Sundays as we found out to our cost can be exceptionally busy as this is when many families head to the local beaches along the stunning False Bay coastline.

Beach Chalets at Kalk Bay

Beach chalets at Kalk Bay, Caoe Town

Beach Chalets at Kalk Bay on the Coastal Road to Boulders Beach

You can view the Boulders Beach penguins all year round, but locals state the best time is from March to May, the peak of the breeding season. Adults will smile and children will love the penguins and their antics. Boulders Beach which has a separate paid entry is also worth a stop for safe and enjoyable swimming.

The penguin viewing entrance fee is R190 for adults and R10 for children under the age of 12. It’s cheaper if you’re a South African citizen. Most of this charge contributes towards the conservation of this rare breed of African penguins. Tickets can be purchased easily at the entrance by card only as they have moved to a cashless system.

Boulders Beach is believed to be the only place in the world where you can swim effortlessly among penguins and possibly find them flopping onto your beach towel.

Time Out Market

Having been mightily impressed with the New York Time Out Market and in light of Cape Town’s trading port history, which has informed its culinary landscape to include influences from Europe, Asia and of course Africa, we thought we’d give it a go.

The Market is conveniently located in the popular Victoria & Alfred precinct alongside The Watershed which is an impressive design hub, and just a few steps from the Hop-on-Hop-off bus stop.

It’s also next to Nobel Square which features statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and of course Nelson Mandela.

Time Out Market, Cape Town offers about a dozen kitchens, all run by leading local chefs and restaurateurs, alongside four unique bars pouring fine Cape wines, local craft beers, and what seems like an endless list of cocktails.

Plenty of seating options are available with 750 seats, including outside quayside tables with jaw-dropping Table Mountain views.

The Market’s kitchens offer a tasty snapshot that shows just why Cape Town is Africa’s if not one of the world’s culinary hotspots.

Recommended venues include:

Mlilo – Fires of Africa

‘Fires of Africa’ brings a truly pan-African experience, the food on offer interprets the many ways that cultures across the continent have incorporated fire into their cooking. Zulu, Senegalese and Kenyan dishes are all on the menu but we stuck to vegetarian starters of chargrilled corn on the cob and broccoli with satay sauce. They were simply amazing! Highly recommended.

How Bao Now

This Asian street food was a lunchtime favourite and the spicy chicken and fish bao buns left our tastebuds tingling with delight. Also on offer are creative combinations like crayfish bao with Cape Malay flavours and a coconut and curry furikake, or wagyu sando-bao with a chilli crunch mayo, tonkatsu and pickled cucumber.

Culture Wine Bar

Having visited vineyards in Saint Emilion, Napa Valley and throughout Spain we were eager to get a tasting of the Cape wines. It was at this bar we met staff member Siya who expertly guided us through our sommelier tasting flight from a Le Lude Brut Reserve, 2022 Kaapzicht Skralhans Pinotage (which was a clear favourite), a 2020 Ananndale Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch to the heavier Syrah from Bakenkop Melish. Siya expertly talked us through the wines and after she identified our favourites she then poured us a 2021 Culture Crozes which was their own label and quite simply full of flavour and not too heavy. Siya, thank you, you provided a much needed Cape wine education!

We were later joined by sommelier, Sharrol who talked us through some local wines and vineyards of interest, particularly those lesser known, and of course we purchased another couple of excellent tastings on Sharrol’s recommendation.

As well as the tasting flights the bar has an extensive wine list, including a good range by the glass. Here you can easily sample a vinous trip through the Cape. Culture Wine Bar and its amazing staff captures the best of the Cape in the glass.

Matt Manning please look after your amazing staff!

Dry Dock Bar

Located on the ground floor and the heart of the Market we had a disappointing experience. We stood for at least 10 minutes waiting on the person in front being served, card payment only seems to cause some people problems so please be aware. Then the bar tender who was well aware that we had been waiting for some time immediately served two ladies who also knew we should have been next. No apology or even acknowledgment was forthcoming so we thankfully took our trade to the Culture Wine Bar. Not recommended at all!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Hand on heart I’m not a garden enthusiast but I must give it to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, they are fantastic and so interesting  – even for the uneducated in horticulture like myself, after all my botanics are normally in gin! These impressive gardens are acclaimed throughout the world and very few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch against the spectacular eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

You can quite easily spend a day exploring the impressive gardens, walking the tree canopy walkway or simply sitting on one of the many benches with a view. If you’re lucky enough to visit on Sunday afternoons between November and March live music concerts are held in the grassed theatre area There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes offering very good quality food and drinks, even picnics which can be taken out into the gardens and enjoyed underneath the shade of a tree. Highlights for me were the Silver trees which looked as if they had been spray painted and the wobbly but impressive Treetop Walkway. It’s only a short drive in a taxi from the city or visit via the Hop on Hop off bus service.

I completely concur with the quote from R. H. Compton, Director of Kirstenbosch 1919-1953 who in 1965 stated, “It would be a tragedy if Kirstenbosch were ever to become static: it should be as changeful and dynamic as the living plants which are its reason for existence”.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-KaapBo-Kaap with Table Mountain and the Lions Head in the background

Due to its impressive pastel coloured house and tight steep cobbled streets it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Cape Town. On our very short visit it was packed with tourists in large groups. There was also a Pro-Palestine protest ongoing with many law enforcement vehicles and officers in high profile positions. However, there’s much more to Bo-Kaap than the stunning coloured houses, like the 1790s built Auwal Mosque and the local restaurants which serve curries, roti and other Cape Malay dishes.

It’s also one of the oldest and most historic residential areas in Cape Town. I asked why the houses were painted colourfully, the answer given was its attributed to the fact that while on lease, all of the houses had to be painted white. When this rule was eventually lifted and slaves were allowed to buy the properties, all of the houses were painted bright colours by their owners as an expression of their freedom.

The Noon Gun cannon is fired daily at midday from nearby Signal Hill.

Inverdoorn Signature Day Trip Safari

Safarii LiosStandard return transfers from Cape Town are included in your day trip safari experience. Scheduled pick up times are between 0600 and 0700 the morning of your safari tour dependent on how many are in your party. We were to be joined by another three persons so looked forward to a more private safari experience.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a welcoming selection of freshly-baked banana bread, scones, chocolate brownies, pastries, fresh fruit, and a choice of tea or coffee. Then we embarked on a guided big five (really four) safari game drive, with our guide Shareen, who drove us through Inverdoorn’s incredible wildlife in a controlled but natural habitat. Please note that some of the tracks can be extremely bumpy and dry so expect sand in the wind.

Up close we saw lions, blue wilderbeasts, buffalo, ostrich, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, onyx, zebra and of course the speedy springboks. Only the leopard was missing from the big 5 but seems to have eluded any sightings in the local area for some time

giraffes.

On return to Inverdoorn we sat in the grounds and had lunch. Prior to our departure back to Cape Town at 1500, we visited the shop which sold wildlife souvenirs, snacks, safari gear, and local crafts.

I must say that the safari itself was excellent but the 3 hour 15 minute drive each way was tiresome. Thankfully our driver Craig’s singing kept us awake as did the scenery, some of it just breathtaking.

African Elephants

 Top Rated Travel & Transport

ransportion optionsWe were very lucky to be introduced to Chadd Pretorious by Craig our ‘singing driver’ from Inverdoorn Game Reserve. How we wish we had met on day 1 of our Cape Town trip. Taxis and Ubers are numerous and available 24/7 in Cape Town however Chadd’s company, MCG Charters ranks significantly higher. Their professionalism and service delivery goes above and beyond the norm, his team offering flexible packages ranging from straightforward airport transfers to VVIP close protection.

MCG Charters is based in Kuils River, Cape Town. As Chadd says, ‘I can take you anywhere you’d like to go, at any time’. He’s even driven a prestigious client to Egypt!

Having a chat with Chadd opens your eyes as to what trips are on offer in Cape Town and the surrounding area. Options include Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach, Chapmans Peak, Mariners Warf, Kirstenbosch Gardens however Chadd will also develop a personalised travel plan if you give him an idea of where you want to go or what attraction you want to visit. We arranged a trip to the Cape Winelands and to be honest Chadd, his local knowledge and his impeccably clean Mercedes people carrier allowed us to experience a new level of travel and left us feeling like VIPs.

I can only highly recommend Chadd and MCG Charters.

For more information, advice or bookings, Chadd and his team can be contacted on MCGCharters@gmail.com or WhatsApp App/call him on +2782 959 0024.

Nearby Winelands

Boschendal Wine Estate

Boschendal Wine EstateRecords show that this is the second oldest wine farm in South Africa. It offers picturesque views of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains along with Herbert Baker architecture. On entering through a small door in a stone wall our eyes opened up into a very impressive venue. After a short stroll about we enjoyed an exceptional Methode Cap Classic tasting (MCC – Cape Sparkling Wine) seated in the shade under a tree. The absolute highlight was the Grand Cuvee Brut, a spectacular MCC. Other tasting venues are available on site such as the Cellar Door but by reservation only.

There are also two restaurants (reservations recommended) and fabulous picnic spots beside the band stand. At the farm store you can stock up on various delectable baked goods, ready-made sandwiches, a very impressive range of cured and fresh meats, cheese, fruit, and of course Boschendal wines to enjoy in the shade outside or later at home.

There is a stress free atmosphere which can be enjoyed by family and friends, often joined by very large chickens roaming about freely under tables etc. When we return we will spend much more time at Boschendal and will consider staying in the luxury accommodation.

Wine and vineyards of cape Town

Highly recommended, particularly for its laid back and stress free atmosphere.

My favourite of the day’s vineyard visits and still have the red wines to taste. Looking forward to tasting the Black Angus!

 

 

Delaire Graff Estate

Stunning mountain views at Delaire Graff Vineyard.

This prestigious estate is the jewel of the Cape Winelands and looks stunning from the very moment you enter the grounds. The gardens are beautiful and immaculately maintained, making the drive up to the entrance very pleasant. This beauty then opens up into a spectacular estate with mountain views.We were immediately seated at a table and given an outstanding choice of wine tasting experiences which were elevated by the breathtaking setting.

Boschendal Wine Estate
Stunning mountain views at Delaire Graff Vineyard

The panoramic views provided an unforgettable backdrop to an expertly curated selection of wines. Our sommelier, Sikelela was personable and provided us with in depth knowledge about the one rose wine and three red wines we chose to taste. Throw in the delicious vegetable and olive platter and it was a small feast for the senses.

Delaire Graff is very upmarket and with its stunning views can only be highly recommended.

Fairview Wine & Cheese

Our third vineyard was thrown in as a surprise by our driver Chadd. Fairview is a vineyard & goat farm which offers paired wine & cheese tastings, it has a remarkable farm shop and I’m told it also has a mediterranean-style restaurant. It’s a charming and tranquil place. We had the pleasure of savouring some exceptionally delicious wines and quite honestly the best goat cheeses I’ve ever tasted, making the visit even more delightful. The wine tasting experience with Zita was the least impressive of the day (only because the previous two were unbeatable and staff at Fairview were looking to close up not long after we got there) but still interesting and the match to the cheese and meats was impeccable.

The grounds are pleasant with lots of shaded seating areas and goats penned just nearby. I didn’t come across any kids in our time there but I could see how Fairview would be a perfect destination for families. My only disappointment was due to our flight home we were unable to take some of the abundance of different goat cheeses home. They tasted quite delicious and certainly enhanced the wine sampling experience!

Cape Town Cuisine

Pier

Cape Town Cuisine- The PierWhat an impressive evening! At this fine dining experience, the waiting staff were as integral as the highly skilled kitchen staff. We had the most amazing 11-course tasting menu. I heard another customer call it a ‘masterful tapestry of education and experience,’ so I’m going to steal that quote!

It was by far one of the best dining experiences we have had. The waiter (our star was Warwick) will explain each dish so you can best enjoy it. All allergens can be catered for, even at short notice – gluten free, dairy free etc and for those wishing to avoid tuna! So professional, the kitchen staff simply adjusted each course as necessary and still provided a fine dining experience. Keegan expertly poached our oysters right at the table commenting on all he was doing and outlining the ingredients. They were fantastic!

It’s very difficult to pick a stand out but my favourite course was the crayfish, pork, spiced coconut and kimchi. Very tasty with a chilli kick. Towards the end Gavin brought his cheese trolley to the table. Unable to choose I sampled all 9 cheeses plus accompaniments. Again a fabulous tasting experience.

Eleven courses sounds a challenge but they are small, divine plates, plenty of time is taken over the course of the evening and you don’t leave feeling overly full. It’s all finished with a secret salt course!!

A superb selection of top wines and cocktails are on offer as are wine pairings to match your food. We opted not to have the pairing but most of the tables around us did and it looked impressive as well providing an educational element on the local vineyards. Good to see such a classy restaurant supporting local winemakers!

We ordered a glass of Colmant Brut Reserve from Franschhoek as an aperitif followed by a wonderful bottle of Groot Constantia 2021 Pinotage, both local to Cape Town. It really was one of the best experiences we have had and the tasting menu plus coffees took around two and a half hours.

By South African standards it’s certainly not cheap but from a UK perspective certainly worth the money and I’m 100% sure the cost would be significantly higher if the equivalent was on offer at home.

Can only be highly recommended and not to be missed, so go and let Warwick, Keegan, Gavin and the rest of this top team perform their magic!

Two last points, book well in advance and don’t expect too much by way of views as it’s located on a working harbour but that’s easily forgotten due to the superb food and service!

Thanks to Martin McLaren for his recommendation.

NV-80 Grill & Bar

This gem of a restaurant was recommended to us by both Jacklin Purdon and a regular visitor to Cape Town, Gillian McCrindle. It hides away on the first floor of The Point Mall Shopping Centre in Sea Point.

Despite it being a short 5 minute walk from The President Hotel, we had to ask mall security staff where it was located. It’s generally always busy and bizarrely has only two set sittings, so I suggest booking in advance.

NV-80 focuses on executing the classics very well. It won’t be a gastronomic experience, people come here for great quality steak and meat paired with a sauce and side dish. We had the taster menu with Boschendal wine pairings and it was really impressive.

We started with fresh oysters one with a natural dressing and the other Vietnamese, paired with a small glass of Boschendal brut NV.

Two large but delicious sauteed prawns followed as our second starter. These were paired with a small glass of Boschendal chardonnay pinot noir.

Our main was a flame grilled ribeye steak with pepper sauce and roast vegetables, both on the side. This was expertly paired with a large glass of Boschendal Nicolas red wine.

Dessert followed with a chocolate fondant accompanied with armagnac ice-cream and a small glass of Boschendal Vin D’Or to finish off the fantastic meal.

Would rank this very well in the best meat restaurants in Cape Town.

The Test Kitchen Fledglings

TTK Fledglings Yedst Kitchen
Kitchen Staff hard at work in TTK Fledglings

The British born chef Luke Dale Roberts, who is now based in Cape Town, has won numerous awards for his work at La Colombe. That restaurant won the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africa and Middle East in 2010 and was ranked 12th in the overall San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

At The Test Kitchen Fledgelings Roberts has focused his energy on offering opportunity to a new generation of talent. Aspiring chefs, often with zero formal training, are brought under the wing of former Fledgelings and professional chefs, and taught the basics from the kitchen to the pass. It’s a remarkable project offering employment, training and hope to young people.

All this certainly doesn’t diminish the standard of food or service. While not fine dining, the focus is on elevated cuisine with an a la carte menu (two or three courses) that runs from starters such as exceptional korean fried chicken and beef tartare through to delicious mains including lobster and pan seared linefish.

On your arrival at the restaurant, every staff member simultaneously greets each new table with a ‘welcome’ chorus!

The open kitchen creates an incredible atmosphere which is intriguing and infectious, the service is exemplary. You can essentially watch the skilled chefs in action creating your dish and follow the process through to your plate being served. Our waiter, Stanton expertly talked us through each course and described our choice of Boschendal red wine impeccably.

There is also an extensive tasting menu with wine pairing.

Located in the Old Biscuit Mill, which also houses its sister restaurants, Fledglings is slightly further out from the harbour, however security are ever present outside in the communal concourse and parking lot and take good care of you ensuring transport is easily and safely accessible to each customer.

A very busy and vibrant restaurant which provides expert on the job training to what will undoubtedly be stars of the future. The restaurant promotes that it’s ‘a place where dreams come true’ but I’d also suggest their clients’ dreams come true as well! The food was fantastic and an experience not to be missed. Highly recommended and a clear favourite of our Cape Town trip!

Thanks again for another fantastic recommendation from Martin McLaren.

Winchester Boutique Hotel

Winchester Boutique Hotel

Walking along Beach Road was a challenge in the wind and heat but this impressive boutique hotel is impossible to miss, The Winchester Hotel stands out with bold appeal on the edge of the Sea Point Promenade. This grand 1920s Cape Dutch-style icon is rivalled only by the views of Table Mountain, Lions Head and the Atlantic Ocean that surround it. It’s also known throughout Cape Town for its Sunday Brunch with live music in its internal courtyard.

As it was our final evening in Cape Town we decided to revisit the Winchester Boutique Hotel for sundown drinks and relaxed bar food. We were greeted by Soso who looked after us all evening.

Initially we sat at the bar’s outside terrace sipping a Boschendal Brut

Rose while watching the sun slip away for the day. The last few minutes of the sun is a spectacular sight and certainly a camera shot, but you only have seconds to capture it!

sunset terrace

Then as the temperature cooled we moved inside and had fabulous oysters followed by a Greek lamb plate and a spicy chicken dish. The bar has small plates on offer as well as the same menu options as the more formal restaurant and the food was excellent.

Highly recommended for the views, service and food. Thanks to Soso for making our final evening in Cape Town a very special memory! 

Cape Hilarity

Cape Town is home to the Africa’s first downhill tobogganing track. Aptly titled ‘Cool Runnings’ after the famous film about Jamaica’s first bobsled team, the track is located just 25km outside of the city centre on Carl Cronje Drive. The late actor John Candy would be very proud.

Personal Safety

Having spent 14 days in and around Cape Town you become aware of the social issues such as homelessness and street begging. Admittedly South Africa does have a reputation for crime and violence, even the South African Minster for Policing, Bheki Cele accepts there’s a big issue and says violent crime rates are “not pleasing at all”.  To be perfectly honest we saw neither crime nor violence apart from little boys stealing fruit off the back of an articulated vehicle. Be sensible in your surroundings and avoid carrying large sums of cash, don’t carry your phones or cameras in clear sight and do not leave belongings unattended, even on beaches. Avoid walking in deserted and dark places at night and take honest advice on where locals go after dusk and I’m sure you will be safe. Private taxis and Ubers are aplenty and very reasonable prices so use genuine transport from appointed taxi ranks or book online.

Private security staff (some even carrying side arms) are everywhere. The sight of them is reassuring and they will generally go out their way to help you or to provide advice. As with anywhere in the world, if you are approached for money, be polite in your refusal and walk on. Every person we came across begging simply accepted a ‘no’ and moved on. The authorities openly urge tourists not to give money to beggars as they say this discourages them from using locally provided hostels or emergency accommodation. As food portion sizes can be larger than wanted in some restaurants we simply took up the option of taking the remainder of food away and handed it to very appreciative homeless persons on our way back to the hotel.

Close

I thoroughly recommend you go and explore Cape Town and the surrounding area where a real world of wonder awaits. From endless white beaches and glittering waves to preening penguins, fluking whales and prowling great whites, there’s so much to discover in the Cape where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

It was our first visit to Cape Town and despite a very busy schedule while there, we still have to visit Table Mountain, Robben Island, Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope and many more attractions – not forgetting our desire to enjoy a stay at Boschendal Vineyard.

cheers with a snorkeling white wine from Cape Town

 

We will absolutely return to explore further the city that the locals say has four seasons in one day (obviously not been to Gourock in the summer!).

With grateful thanks to Gary & Jacklin Purdon who suggested Cape Town as an incredible place to visit, also to Mark Bell and David Shannon for insight into their experiences.

We are certainly open to your next challenge!

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Contacts

Calum Glenny - The Avid Traveller

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’

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Avid Traveller, Malaga, nerja, travel literature, TravelWatchNews

While eagerly waiting to disembark our flight at Malaga Airport, I become aware of my fellow passengers’ rising anticipation of sun and warmth, the brief excited chat going on around me is about where people are travelling on to. The vast majority were heading West of Malaga to the popular resorts of Marbella, Mijas and Benalmadena. Knowing where we’re going I feel we’re pushing against the flow by saying, ‘I’m heading East to Nerja’.  This makes me think that Marbella (West) or Nerja (East) may be the question!

Heading East to Nerja on the Spanish Sunshine Coast

Nerja - A Great Spanish Sunshine Break

Nerja can be described as quaint, quieter and probably more family-orientated than Marbella. There are very few stag parties or ‘football tops’ in comparison to Marbella and its surrounding coastal towns. Dining in Marbella however can be superior, although often more expensive. So saying, Nerja has its share of top class restaurants. Marbella also has Puerto Banus on its door step with its shopping, coffee venues and sight-seeing attractions during the day, then its mega club scene at night. At my age thankfully the club equivalent is relatively small scale in Nerja, the most well known being Plaza Tutti Frutti which is a large square, lined with numerous bars and which is frequented mainly by locals at weekends.

Your own destination choice will be very much dependent on what you’re looking for in a Spanish holiday. This blog takes in several visits to Nerja when I was staying in the award winning and beautiful pueblo blanco of Frigiliana.

Nerja on the East of Costa Del Sol

On our frequent visits to Southern Spain and mostly to the autonomous region of La Axarquia, I have spent many a sunny day in and around the town of Nerja.

Nerja is a picturesque Costa del Sol resort town sitting along Spain’s Southern coast. Just 50 kilometres east of Málaga city and connected by the Mediterranean highway. Once a sleepy fishing village, Nerja now has a population of over 25,000.

Nerja a picturesque Costa del Sol resort town
Balcón de Europa from Hotel Balcón de Europa.

It boasts an impressive seafront promenade and stunning blue Mediterranean sea views from the famous Balcón de Europa. Sightseers are mesmerised looking out across the water and often forget to turn around and take in the stunning views of the rugged mountains behind. Nerja is home to several historic churches and beside the Balcón de Europa is the impressive El Salvador Church, first erected in 1505 but rebuilt in 1697. If you catch sight of a wedding there you will be impressed by the set up and fashion on show. On either side of the Balcón are sandy beaches and numerous coves in the cliffs.

Balcon de Europa

The Caves of Nerja (Cueva de Nerja) are nearby and house unusual stalactites and stalagmites, although I’ve yet to see these as every time I’ve visited they’ve either been full or closed!

Nerja is also known for its paleolithic paintings (early Stone Age) which are best viewed by guided tour with many on offer. The town also has a three story museum covering the history of the first settlers based at the Nerja Caves until the tourist boom of the late 1950’s.

Festivals in Nerja

Similar to other local towns and villages, Nerja is served well with festivals. Catch one if you can, the main ones being:

Three Kings (January),
Carnival (February),
Semana Santa (March/April),
San Isidro (May),
San Juan (June),
Virgin del Carmen (July),
and the Feria (Second week in October).

Nerja Attractions

If you ask a local they will list the following attractions as the best places to visit:

1. Old Town
2. Balcón de Europa
3. Church of El Salvador
4. Museum of the village of Nerja
5. Beaches
6. Caves

Nerja Accommodation

There are a large number of hotels, hostels and self catering rental options in Nerja. To be honest you are spoiled for choice and you will easily find what you require and meet your budget needs.

Hotel Balcón de Europa

Plaza Balcón de Europa

Plaza Balcon
Balcón de Europa

Built into the rock face, this impressive hotel has direct access to Caletilla Beach and Playa el Salon. It features an outdoor infinity swimming pool and a restaurant with great sea views.

The hotel has a lovely outside terrace on the Balcón itself serving drinks and light meals. Sitting relaxing and people watching with a glass of Juve & Camps Cava is one of my favourite pastimes here.

Located in the centre of Nerja, the hotel is close to many shops, bars and restaurants. Its only downside is it’s accessed via the pedestrian walkway so unless you arrange a meet and greet you will have to carry your luggage for about 10 minutes from the transport drop off point to the hotel which can be strenuous in the heat, especially if you overpack.

I’ve heard people say some areas of the hotel look dated but for service and views of the Mediterranean I’d recommend this as an accommodation choice.

Parador de Nerja

Calle Almunecar, 8

Parador de Nerja a Malaga gem

A ‘parador’ in Spain and some other Spanish speaking nations are establishments where travellers can obtain accommodation, food and beverages, similar to an inn. Since 1928, the Spanish National Tourist Board in an attempt to boost domestic and international tourism began to nationalise these paradors and develop a national network. Paradors range from historic buildings, monasteries and castles to modern buildings that tend to hold ‘special appeal’. At the impressive 4 star Parador de Nerja this appeal is recognised in its panoramic views of Burriana Beach, the Mediterranean and Nerja Old Town.

This is a large, bright modern hotel with terraces facing the sea, a beautiful garden with an outdoor swimming pool, a lawn tennis court, a paddle tennis court and is very close to the pedestrian walkway into the centre of town.

Nerja Restaurants

During our visits we found several great tapas bars and restaurants all within a very short distance of each other in old town Nerja.

Redondo Bar

Calle Gloria 10

 Redondo Bar

A busy bar with limited tables outside, Redondo Bar serves good food with a large selection of drinks. It offers free tapas with each drink ordered but be sure and ask for your tapas. Very popular and in a busy street, sometimes there’s a wait for a table particularly in the evenings or if the weather is not sunny. Recommended for a quick drink and tapas, don’t expect a relaxing evening meal as it can be slightly chaotic when busy but the atmosphere is great!

Mum Indian Restaurant

Calle Pintada, 3

I do like an Indian meal and we have eaten in Mum several times. Each time we are impressed with the incredible tasting food and excellent service. Not really sure what is going on with the decor mind you but some people seem to like it. If going ask for a seat through at the back terrace of the restaurant. Overall really nice food however the stuffed tandoori mushrooms were a personal firm favourite and the chicken hyderabadi biryani really did tingle the taste buds without being too spicy!

We will revisit when next in Nerja or nearby and I recommend if you like good authentic Indian food.

La Braseria de Pacomari

Calle Almte. Ferrándiz, 31

La Braseria de Pacomari in the heart of Nerja

Situated in the very heart of Nerja, with a family friendly atmosphere. This is a brilliantly different restaurant where the menu merges Asian and South American options with premium Spanish cuisine. It’s truly an art form and your taste buds will love it! Combined with an excellent wine list from all corners of Spain to go hand in hand with the delicious dishes. I cannot recommend highly enough but be sure to book especially in the evening as you have little chance of getting a table without a reservation.

Restaurant 34, Hotel Carabeo

Calle de Hernando de Carabeo
Hotel Caraba- Restaurant 34

We were kindly invited to a meal at this restaurant to celebrate friends Kevin and Jenny’s special birthdays (not 21!). It’s neatly tucked away in the boutique Hotel Carabeo in a fantastic setting. The authentically Spanish-focused menu comprises many delicious, mouthwatering dishes. It claims that the organic fruit and vegetables used in the cuisine are sourced from their finca, as is their own homemade extra virgin olive oil.

Daily chef specials run alongside the a la carte menu and there is also an impressive set menu at €30 for three courses.

There are various dining areas to choose from, including the original hotel dining room, tables secluded in hedge trimmed alcoves around the impressive swimming pool, or on the summer terrace overlooking the beach. Truly a wonderful experience and comes highly recommended, the octopus starter and the suckling pig main were incredible dishes, just delicious.

Hotel Carabeo
Hotel Carabeo pool and dining alcoves

We can’t thank Kevin & Jenny enough for our introduction to Restaurant 34 and inclusion in their special celebrations. Feliz Cumpleanos to you both!

Terraza Buddha Lounge Bar

Calle de La Gloria 13

If you’re looking for night time entertainment, Bar Buddha is it. It has various levels with a restaurant, outdoor lounge and karaoke area. A wide selection of cocktails and chipitos (shots) are available at the impressive rooftop bar. Fairly priced and a great atmosphere although it can be very busy. The entrance is tucked away but can be accessed from opposite the Rodondo Bar.

Beaches

As previously stated Nerja is a small town but it punches well above its weight for excellent beaches. The coastline is dotted with loads of small coves and sandy beaches. You are spoiled for choice whether looking for watersports, sunbathing or simply swimming in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean.

Burriana Beach

Burriana Beach in Nerja' in Malaga Sunshine Coast

Burriana beach is the longest beach in Nerja, virtually one kilometre in length with as many watersports on offer as you can imagine. Lined with some of the best chiringuitos in the area, you can also find numerous beachside shops selling snorkels and all sorts of beach paraphernalia.

Chiringuito Ayo

Burriana Beach

A local favourite to visit is Ayo for a lunch on Burriana Beach. Every day you can watch chef Alfonso make fresh paella in traditional big pans on an open fire. Great photo opportunity.

Chef Alfonso at work

It’s certainly no palace but straight forward and simple with plastic chairs and tables. However, the paella is the top attraction and very good, loaded with chicken and shellfish. It used to be known for free paella refills but following the pandemic and mindful of the waste that people left, this is no longer an option. The service is great and even in the height of summer when there are long queues, table turnaround is quick due to the efficient and friendly service of the waiting staff – Nico, Livia and young Jose certainly look after you! You can’t really beat the price and quality on offer, the paella is fabulous and must be sampled but the rosada a la plancha is a winner for me and simply delicious! Eating grilled fresh fish while sampling local wine, sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re in a chiringuito on a beach and not a top class restaurant! Also worth knowing about is the breakfast here which is excellent – a large strong coffee and pan con tomate sets you up nicely for a day on the beach.

Nico, Livia and Jose at work

This is a local institution and certainly not to be missed! Go and visit Nico, Livia and Jose who work as a great team at the far left hand side of the restaurant.

Playa la Caletilla Beach

This is one of my favourite Nerja beaches, which is accessed by a steep downward hill and has a small shop selling drinks and snacks. Facilities such as showers, sun loungers and umbrellas are also available.

The beach is home to what were fisherman’s huts, now renovated into summer accommodation. It’s a fairly popular beach in the heart of Nerja town so can get busy. Although there are no restaurants or chiringuitos on the beach it’s only a short walk to the heart of Nerja and a huge choice of restaurants and tapas bars.

Carabeo Beach

Nerja - A Great Spanish Sunshine Break

Only accessed via the pedestrianised Carabeo street although with parking available in the adjacent town car park. Carabeo Beach is really a very uncomplicated beach, there are no sun loungers, bars or restaurants available. The simplicity of this beach is not to be understated however with its sandy crystal clear waters beautifully enclosed by high cliffs it’s the most natural of beaches.

Travel & Transport

While West of Malaga has a terrific train system, the East relies on its bus and taxi infrastructure. Nerja bus station is a 15 minute walk from the Balcón de Europa although this is somewhat of a misnomer as it’s effectively a layby on the N-340 with a small ticket kiosk. But don’t be mistaken as it provides excellent and regular bus links throughout the region. There’s also plenty of cafes and bars nearby to grab a refreshment in between journeys.

There are a multitude of taxis in operation but if you’re going to pre-book an airport transfer or a pick up from outside of Nerja, I suggest you use Taxi Frigiliana. WhatsApp or call them on +34 696969469 or check out their website www.taxifrigiliana.com if you require a taxi service to get to Nerja or to travel from Frigiliana. Owned and run by Paulino Lopez, it is a stand-out in service provision, honesty and integrity.

Historically West v East?

So back to the original conundrum. Local folklore states that dictator Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until he died in 1975, divided the area in two:

West of Malaga was for tourism; East of Malaga designated for agriculture. To be honest who really knows if this is true or simply an urban myth, but actually there is some logic in the statement particularly driving East along the Mediterranean Highway gazing at the farmers’ green hilly fields!

So here is a quick debrief on the original question of West or East of Malaga?

West

The western part of the region stretches 60 kilometres from Malaga to Marbella and beyond. In between you will find Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Mijas, and past Marbella you will reach Estepona and Gibraltar. All familiar names that roll off the tongue and true favourites with tourists.

East

East is very different and most readers will not have heard of Rincon del Victoria, Algarobbo or El Morche. Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar may be better known along with Torrox and Nerja. This 69 kilometre agricultural stretch is lined with poly tunnels and greenhouses, it’s also the largest mango and avocado cultivation area in Europe. Tourism clearly exists but not to the same degree as the West. I know I’m not alone in saying that the East and in particular Nerja is rather more relaxed.

As the sun sets


I’m certainly not discrediting Marbella, Mijas or other resorts west of Malaga as we have several good friends who own impressive properties in these areas. We have also spent many a happy holiday or long weekend with friends and family in these locations.

So despite the West v East conundrum the resort choice is as always down to the individual traveller. No matter what your choice you will enjoy warmth and hospitality. If you’re undecided perhaps opt for the ‘middle’ as I personally find Malaga an exceptional city to visit and it should be classed as up there with the best of Spanish cities.

In conclusion I’d say Nerja is an excellent choice for a holiday, it has it all and is friendly and relaxed. For me, one of the best secrets attached to Nerja is its easy access to the award winning and beautiful pueblo blanco of Frigiliana. Only €1.20 (£1) on the bus or €12 (£10) in a taxi to visit this stunning village but be ready for its many stairs and hills – as my local friend Antonio Domingo says ‘it’s all ups and downs in Frigiliana!’.

Summary Video


Video @RoguesinParadise

AvidTarvellers.News Blog by Calum Glenny

 

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s Avid Traveller

More like this – The AvidTraveller.News

Associate of Rogues Guide and the Book
Rogues in Paradise –


Avid Traveller, barbados, rogues in paradise, Slavery, travel literature, TravelWatchNews

I am delighted to have read the draft copy of this delightful and informative book. Rogues in Paradise. Here is a synopsis of my Rogues  Review. The full review is available here >>>

Book By Author Ian R. Clayon

ianrclaton-author
“Rogues in Paradise” is a captivating book about Barbados that delves deep into the heart and soul of this enchanting island.

The book, written by author y Ian R. Clayton, founder of the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia, provides a unique and intimate perspective of the island’s people, culture, heritage, and history.

Rogues Heroes, Legends, and Everyday Bjans

Rogues introduces readers to unforgettable people like Queen Bee Peggy, who finds herself on a high-tech medical stretcher, and Rex Wooton, embroiled in a comical caper with ‘stolen’ construction lights. It also recounts the uproarious courtroom antics of ‘Fred’ as he tries to save the Race Horse Bathing at Pebbles Beach. The stories of people are warm and vibrant everyday characters who embody the true spirit of Barbados.

a Captivating book by Author Ian R. Claton

However, “Rogues in Paradise” is not just about these characters; it’s about the legendary heroes who are often also rogues. Clayton seamlessly weaves significant historical events and special places into the narrative, shedding light on the island’s rich heritage and remarkable people. He discusses Errol Barrow, a visionary leader who introduced free schooling and meals for all children, making Barbados one of the most literate nations.

Reflection on a Dark Past

The book’s entertaining stories transition seamlessly into a more solemn reflection on the inhuman and brutal slave trade and its lasting impact on Barbados. Throughout it all, Clayton underscores the unwavering resilience of the Bajan spirit, emphasizing that it has endured and risen above all adversities.

the dark side of colonialism and the african slave trafe

“Rogues in Paradise” offers readers an engaging account of history, with humour, and poignant reflection that deepens understanding and connection to Barbados. For those who have visited the island, the characters in the book will feel like old friends encountered on beaches, in town squares, or even in the local rum shops and restaurants. Clayton’s narrative reinforces the idea that the people define Barbados, and Barbados, in turn, is a reflection of its people.

its humour will make you snile

As an avid traveler who has frequented Barbados, I eagerly anticipate the updated edition of this book. I assure readers that “Rogues in Paradise” is a delightful and enlightening read, offering laughter and profound insights of the history and people of of Barbados.

Summary Video of My Rogue Review

Original Review Blog –  https://RoguesinParadise.com/reviews-videos/

Calum Glenny – The Avid Traveller

Calum Glenny Avid Traveller
Whether planning a trip to the island or intrigued by its rich culture and heritage, this book is essential to understanding the essence of the island and the  Bajan people.

Rogues Review By Calum Glenny-
http://AvidTraveller.News

 

 


Avid Traveller, Inveraray

After what was really unexpected ill health, surgery resulting in a mandatory six week ‘no fly’ ban and 16 nights between two hospitals, what does the ‘Avid Traveller’ do? It was time for “A Dram Good Argyll Road and Ferry Trip

While still recovering, I decided I wasn’t going to lounge about feeling sorry for myself but I’m going to enjoy Scottish hospitality at its best!

Off we go!

Literally, 800 metres (half a mile) along Cloch Road in Gourock is McInroys Point where Western Ferries sail regularly between Gourock and Hunters Quay (Dunoon). Once off the ferry you’re on the Argyll Peninsula and less than an hours drive to Inveraray and the start of a truly memorable Scottish road trip, with a couple of ferry crossings thrown in.

Inveraray

Driving over the single-lane Aray Bridge (Inveraray Bridge) which is a stone two-arch public road bridge carrying the A83, the white town of Inveraray comes into sight.

Inveraray is a traditional county town of Argyll and sits proudly on Loch Fyne. Established in 1745 by the 3rd Duke of Argyll, head of the then-powerful Clan Campbell, the town is an absolute set piece of Scottish Georgian architecture. There are several buildings worth visiting, including the neo-classical church and the small but impressive Inveraray Jail and courthouse, now an award-winning museum that graphically recounts the horrendous prison conditions from medieval times up until the 19th century.

Inverary Castle - Dun Na Cuaiche

A short walk north of the town, the neo-gothic Inveraray Castle remains the family home of the Duke of Argyll. The impressive castle sits within stunning grounds and is the starting point for a number of marked walks. The most impressive and probably most strenuous takes you up over 800 feet to the tower, Dun Na Cuaiche and provides breathtaking views over the castle, town and Loch Fyne.

View of Inveraray from Dun Na Cuaiche.
nveraray from Dun Na Cuaiche.

The town is also the gateway to the Highlands & Islands and provides good access to further your road trip whether it’s planned or unplanned.

Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Clachan, Cairndow

Situated on the A83 just outside Inveraray this facility offers up a restaurant, farm shop, garden centre and coffee shop. We had lunch in the Oyster Bar which is very modern in looks, service was excellent along with the locally caught oysters and smoked salmon, simply fantastic! The shop offers both fresh fish products, shellfish, meats and game along with various speciality condiments and locally brewed beers, distilled gin and whisky. You will not visit this shop and fail to find something you want to buy.

Scotland’s best produce from land and sea housed in one impressive setting!

Samphire – 6A Arkland, Inveraray

Samphire

Simply stunning seafood restaurant behind the church in Inveraray. Whether you choose Loch Fyne mussels or locally caught lobster and langoustine cooked to perfection, the food is simply outstanding. The staff are really attentive and know the menu and source of its contents well. A fantastic restaurant for a special treat. I suggest booking ahead for lunch and this is absolutely essential for evenings. Highly recommended, we had already visited a number of years ago and will definitely return yet again.

The George Hotel
Main Street East, Inveraray

If there is a hotel or restaurant which sums up Scotland in one place this is it! The George is a multiple award winning independent
Scottish boutique hotel with indulgent and quirky suites along with winter only roaring open fires. Established in 1860, it’s over 160 years old and is not only a hotel but hosts a renowned restaurant, an award winning beer garden, which accommodates Scotland’s seasons, and a bar with a selection of over 300 whiskies! All this is set in a stunning Georgian townhouse on the banks of Loch Fyne. Highly recommended for the accommodation, restaurant and one of the best beer gardens in Scotland.

Loch Fyne Hotel & Spa, A83, Inveraray

On this short visit to Inveraray we chose to stay at the four star Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa. One of seven in the Crerar Hotel chain. Enjoys wonderful views across Loch Fyne to the Cowal hills. The hotel boasts a 15 metre swimming pool and impressive outdoor hot tub that overlooks Loch Fyne and a tranquil spa offering a variety of treatments. The Clansman is the AA Rosette-award winning restaurant which essentially has to be booked in advance. Inveraray Golf Club is just along the coastal road.

Barman, Scott at the Loch View Bar had an answer for everything. Great chat and a laugh while he served up the drinks from an impressively stocked bar with over 25 different malt whiskies, a great selection of local gins and of course the locally brewed Loch Fyne ales.

Barman, Scott at the Loch View Bar
Barman, Scott

Our room was very warm (perhaps because it was August) but comfortable and acceptable for a four star hotel.

Niall, the General Manager is a larger than life character. You hear his infectious laugh and him talking to other residents and staff before you see him. He doesn’t need a phone and that’s not being nasty as he seems to be everywhere in the hotel making sure it’s as close to perfect as can be.

After two great nights in Inveraray, which to be honest is adequate, we depart for the next part of our road trip. This includes the ferry crossing from Kennacraig to Islay.

Leaving Inveraray behind, we head out on the scenic A83 for about an hour towards the ferry terminal.

The ferry terminal and MV-Finlaggan

While sailing on the passage through the Sound of Islay on MV Finlaggan if you’re lucky you may see minke wales, dolphins and occasionally a passing basking shark. Dive bombing gannets and other seabirds are also regularly seen on this crossing before arriving at Port Askaig, Islay.

Islay (pronounced eye-la)

Islay is found just under a two hour ferry journey from Scotland’s west coast mainland. On a clear day its scenery and sea life is incredible.

The Inner Hebridean island is best known for its smoky, peat heavy whiskies. You can’t visit Islay without touring and sampling at least one of the nine (soon to be ten) distilleries on the island. With a population of just over 3,000 that is 300 people per distillery. Not bad if you like a dram!

Whisky apart, there is lots more to do on Islay. You can take in some out-of-the-way beaches, walk scenic hikes, catch incredible wildlife, see ancient standing stones, tour crumbling churches and appreciate locally handmade crafts.

If you’re looking to explore an island with a warm Scottish welcome and less crowds than elsewhere, then Islay is a stand out place to visit.

This blog will cover 72 hours on the island which is the fifth-largest Scottish island and the eighth-largest in the British Isles and takes in a stunning land area of almost 620 square kilometres (240 sq miles).

Today the main language spoken on Islay is English, although there are many Scots Gaelic speakers too. Around 25% of today’s population use Gaelic as their native language. Not long ago this was 75%. Even with that drop Gaelic influences culture, dialect and accents on the island. For the novice this can be challenging to read and spell.

A hint for some of the most common Scots Gaelic words you might come across on Islay.

• Islay (“eye-la”) – Islay
• Ileach (“eee-luch”) – a person from Islay and the local newspaper
• Alba (“al-ba”) – Scotland
• loch (“lokh”) – a Scottish lake
• Gaelic (“gal-ick”) – Celtic language native to Scotland
• fáilte (“fahl-che”) – welcome
• slainte mhath (“slanj-a-va”) – cheers, good health
• uisge-beatha (“ishke-baha”) – water of life, whisky

Airport

Islay Airport (locally known as Glenegedale Airport) is north of Port Ellen. Used for daily scheduled services to Glasgow and some local towns and islands along with its air ambulance capability. Car hire is available from the terminal building at Islay Airport

Bus Service

The island had two bus routes which run Monday to Saturday between 7am and 6pm, there is no service on a Sunday. Both routes operate on the main roads. The 450 service runs between Bowmore and Portnahaven in the south west. The 451 service runs between Port Askaig, Port Ellen and Ardbeg in the south. Check timetables before making any journey.

Taxi Service

Several taxi services advertise as being available for private hire, tours and transfers. My suggestion is use a service local to where you are on the island and book well in advance to avoid disappointment. If there is a festival or a local event on they will be booked up or off the road to party!

Bridgend Hotel Bridgend, Islay

Bridgend Hotel

After some research we pre-booked this hotel and our evening meal on the first night. It’s a traditional coaching inn situated at the tip of Loch Indaal and what could also be described as the heart of Islay. Deceptive from the outside as it’s fairly large once you walk in through one of the three doors. The staff provide a welcoming and comfortable place to stay where they offer the very best of Islay products. Manager Megan and staff Pete and Gabriel (our Portuguese star) go above and beyond to make sure you enjoy your stay. The rooms are a good size and well dressed, the food served in the restaurant is of high class for a small hotel. Breakfasts can be a hearty affair although lighter options are on offer. Beautiful gardens with private seating areas are available to guests, weather permitting. It has quite rightly been named as a 2023 finalist in the Scottish Hotel Awards – Best Country Hotel category. It’s absolutely the staff that make it!

The hotel’s location provides easy access to many of Islay’s distilleries, beaches, hills, lochs, Machrie golf course, and cultural landmarks, such as Finlaggan, the seat of the Lords of the Isles. It’s also next to Bridgend Woods where several walks follow the River Sorn winding its way through the lush surrounding land. Islay Estates has limited salmon and sea trout fishing available on some beats. On our first evening we even had a rousing rendition of Loch Lomond by patrons as the bar closed! Highly recommended for a central location to easily explore the island.

Food & Restaurants

The mild Atlantic air, fertile soil with its peat, rich clean seas and of course plenty of Scottish rain is not only why Islay produces top of the range whiskies. These near perfect farming conditions ensure farmers and the Islay estates can produce best quality beef, lamb and game, while the waters around the island produce some of the finest shellfish in Scotland. From sea or farm to plate the cuisine is outstanding and highly recommended.

An Tigh Seinnse, Portnahaven

Meaning ‘the public house’ or ‘a good pub’. This is the only pub in the village of Portnahaven which sits at the very edge of Islay looking towards Northern Ireland.

Offering a wide range of drinks, a home cooked menu and hot drinks to enjoy in front of the roaring fire or to take-away. If you get the chance go and experience the breathtaking scenery and sea life this magical wee village has to offer.

view-Portnahaven
Stunning view at Portnahaven

Peatzeria Bowmore

Who’d have thought a truly authentic pizza restaurant on Islay and a great name too! Perfectly matching Islay’s rich whisky heritage past. People say it’s a secret but how can you keep a great restaurant a secret, especially in Bowmore. They offer are a wide variety of traditional pizzas alongside unique Islay specials. I was planning on choosing the locally sourced lobster and scallops as a topping. Unfortunately Peatzeria remains a secret as we were unable to secure a taxi booking even 3 hours in advance of our table reservation and had to cancel. A big disappointment not getting to Peatzeria.

Whisky Things To Do!

 

Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich Distillery

Pronounced ‘Brook-Laddie’ and meaning ‘shore bank’ in Gaelic.

Most probably our favourite was Bruichladdich Distillery which is a Victorian Distillery (1881) re-imagined for the future and now very much a progressive Hebridean distillery. It’s perhaps better described as a working museum due to the original equipment still being in use today. We visited and luckily met up with Allan Logan, hands on Director and original staff member from 2001, Allan educated us with the story of where the idea for the distillery came from, how Bruichladdich moved from a village name to an international brand, its resurrection in 2001, the angels share legend, as well as the process for crafting their four world renowned spirits: the Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, Octomore single malts and Botanist gin.

I must be honest as I’m a little biased here. Bruichladdich is now owned by Remy Cointreau, whose liquers & spirits division gathers together eight brands from very distinct countries across the globe. So to have one of my favourite rums, Mount Gay from Barbados, linked with the single malts of Bruichladdich, including Port Charlotte and Octomore which purports to be the world’s most heavily peated malt whisky, plus the excellent Botanist gin is a family just heaven made for me. Really worth a visit as is the visitors centre which has an impressive range of merchandise and whisky products. I can’t recommend highly enough!

Three Distilleries Walk Port Ellen

A recommended walking route from the ferry at Port Ellen connects 3 distilleries (Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg locally known as the Kildalton Distilleries) along a 3 mile pathway (one way) on the southern coast of Islay. Laphroaig’s extremely strong tasting whiskies are definitely not for a novice. As an added attraction and kids favourite at this distillery is a stunning bay overlooking the North Channel water, weather permitting an ideal picnic spot. Ardbeg has a food truck and barbecue which is perfect for lunch but watch the closing times. If you’ve indulged in the tastings a little too much or the weather turns for the worse, a bus or taxi can be used a an alternative on the return walk.

In addition to the four distilleries mentioned above there are plenty of other options for distillery visits. Ardnahoe, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, and Caol Ila. Finally there is Kilchoman, the most westerly distillery in Scotland, and claimed to be the only true farm distillery in the country, utilising grain grown and malted on site, and where the liquid runs off the smallest stills in all of Scotland.

Kilchoman also has a link to Barbados and is expanding its operations overseas after receiving permission to develop a rum distillery there. The Kilchoman team lead by co-founder Anthony Wills will work with Frank Ward, former managing director of Barbados Mount Gay rum, in this exciting development. The derelict Bentley Mansion and its nine acres of land will house the new rum distillery.

Organised Whisky Tours

Due to the abundance of top-quality whisky distilleries on the island, there are several organised whisky tours on offer. Some of these are bespoke and to get the most out of your tour I suggest a 4-day tour which can start from around £600 per person.

Islay Rum Distillery, Antrim View, Port Ellen

Not to be out done by the stunning whisky and impressive gin available on the island, there is now a rum distillery on Islay. Housed in the renovated art deco old lemonade factory in Port Ellen, Islay Rum has only been in production since 2022.

The first bottle of Islay Rum Geal (Gaelic for clear) was produced from molasses and inspired by Caribbean rums from Haiti, Jamaica, and the French Antilles. Unaged white Rum bottled at 45% vol is very drinkable! The distillery is also experimenting with a spiced rum and although I’m not a great spiced rum lover, it’s good to see the distillery expanding their produce.

Beaches

Inverary Castle beacxh

Islay with 130 miles of coastline and 23 beaches truly displays what is achieved when Mother Nature performs to her best.

If you’re looking for a paddle, the safest beaches are Laggan Bay, Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal.

Although the scenery is stunning and worth a visit, there is a stern warning that should be taken on board for the beaches along the Atlantic coast (West), they are certainly not suitable for swimming, and if paddling or surfing take great care.

Kilnaughton Beach & Singing Sands

Singing Sands Beach

Singing Sands is a petit and picturesque part of Islay’s coastline. Local folklore states that when you rub the soles of your shoes over the sand in Kilnaughton Bay, it sings for you. My own perception was that maybe it’s only heard by a lucky few, or those who have had a whisky or two, but this beach is certainly worth a visit.

The American Monument, Mull of Oa

American-Monument

This lighthouse shaped monument was constructed as a memorial for the lives lost in two 1918 tragedies that occurred 8 months apart just off the coast of Islay. Firstly, an attack on the Tuscania passenger ship (carrying over 2,000 American troops) and then a shipping collision during a torrential storm between HMS Otranto (also carrying American soldiers) and the HMS Kashmir which resulted in the loss of over 600 lives. The monument faces out towards where the Tuscania sank.

A 30 minute walk from the car park to the monument can be slippy and muddy at points dependent on the weather. Nearby the monument are two memorial plaques on the ground. One of the plaques has an engraved message from Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States and in honour of those who perished.

Kildalton Cross

Kildalton Cross

This is an impressive Celtic cross standing 2.65 metres tall in the Kildalton churchyard. You will find it amongst medieval graves, it dates back to the 8th century AD and is considered one of the finest intact early Christian “high cross” to be found anywhere in Scotland.

Weather

The weather will come and go as it pleases, my recommendation to keep warm and dry is to prepare for all eventualities as Islay is on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re lucky enough to experience sunshine, lap it up and take in the glorious scenery. The best Islay description of the weather I heard over our long weekend was ‘Seasonal Confusion’!

The Dram is Finished!

So after a wonderful long weekend exploring the Queen of the Hebrides we reluctantly head back to Port Askaig for the car ferry to the mainland. Quite simply Islay is a stunning experience with the most welcoming of people, every local vehicle driver acknowledges you with a wave on passing, fabulous food, stunning scenery and is the go to place for seriously peaty or smokey but wonderful whisky.

An unexpected trip which is highly recommended for a truly spectacular Scottish Island.

As a thanks and a toast with Bruichladdich best, Port Charlotte heavily peated Islay single malt, I say slainte mhath (“slanj-a-va”) – cheers, good health, to all the medical staff who treated me so well while a patient in hospital. Their unwelcome but enforced ‘no fly’ ban provided me with the fantastic opportunity to experience Islay in all its mid-August glory while convalescing.

Oh and one last point:

A DRAM is a shot of Whisky- It is used as a play on the word Dam  in the Title  “A Dram Good Argyll Road and Ferry Trip

Sincere thanks once again!

Calum Glenny Avid Traveller

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s Avid Traveller
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Avid Traveller, scotland, TravelWatchNews

Calum Glenny Wanders through his hometown of Gourock, Scotland

Gourock, a charming coastal town in Scotland, is the subject of this travel blog, where author Calum Glenny takes us on an exciting journey of his hometown. The adventure begins at Kempock Street’s transport terminus – home to both Farmers Market and Pierhead Gardens, with historical landmarks that offer visitors an immersive experience into Gourock’s past.

Sculture Art

As we move along Kempock Street, our guide introduces us to bars like Cleats or Buckleys and Cafe Continental, serving delicious food options for all tastes! We also learn about local spirits, including Shipyard Gin and future releases from Ardgowan Distillery- making it clear why so many people love living here! With its rich history, modern amenities, and friendly locals, there is something special waiting around every corner in Gourock!

The blog provides insight into the Granny Kempock Stone, a Neolithic relic shrouded in mystery. It also recommends food shops such as Aulds The Bakers Made In Italy and Wildfire for those looking to indulge their taste buds. For fashion enthusiasts, boutiques like Straps Alexa Blu Reds Footwear offer unique styles that can’t be found elsewhere. Other attractions include gift stores Coorie In Seagull Gallery showcasing local artisans’ work while takeaways Chinese Indian restaurants offer delicious cuisine options, including Nicos Pizzeria. With so much on offer, this town has something for everyone!

Gourock is a town that offers convenience at every turn – from hairdressers and convenience stores to dry cleaning services. But beyond these practical amenities lies something extraordinary: the Gourock Outdoor Pool, which holds claim as Scotland’s oldest heated swimming pool! This historic landmark dates back centuries and remains an iconic attraction for locals and visitors alike. Additionally, nearby stands another treasure in honor of those who fought bravely during wartime- The Gourock War Memorial. Last but certainly not least is what many consider one of Gourrocks most stunning features; its promenade overlooking the river, where you can catch glimpses of yachts sailing by while also spotting wildlife, such as seals or porpoises frolicking about in their natural habitat.

Gourock has a rich history and culture that can be explored through its various landmarks such as Cragburn Gate flats, Spinnaker Hotel or Ashton Stores. The author suggests taking advantage of the town’s picturesque views by walking along its waterfront towards Royal Gourock Yacht Club & McInroys Point, which offer access to Dunoon via Western Ferries or Argyll Ferries, respectively. Along this journey, readers will discover numerous local shops, restaurants & bars that make up an integral part of what makes Gourock unique.

The author invites readers to explore Gourock and promises that a stroll through its streets will bring joy despite not being as warm as Barbados or Frigiliana. They urge us all to give this town an opportunity for ourselves.

It is important to note that the synopsis herein draws from the excerpt and may not cover all aspects or sections of the original blog post.

Full Article of Gourock, Scotland >>> PDF

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The Advid Traveler is a partner of Rogues Guides, a project of Rogues in Paradise.