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Heimaey Island was recreated as a result of a major volcanic eruption in January 1973. Half the town was destroyed and the harbour entrance narrowed by 300m.  Swift action saved the harbour from the lava. There was no loss of life, the entire population of 5000 was evacuated and only half of them returned.  It has risen again to 4500, with many new buildings and a graphic museum.

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A natural amphitheatre is used for festivals.  It includes reproduction houses of the first Viking settlers, over 1000 years ago.

There is a large puffin colony, still nesting before returning to sea.

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Nearby Surtsey was created by a volcanic eruption in 1968.

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Here is the famous elephant rock.

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Much of the town is new, some buildings survived and were repaired.  A road was dramatically blocked by lava.  Lava piles are everywhere.

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The museum showed two damaged houses and an amazing photo of the Lutheran Church in front of the eruption.

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The first visit to south east Iceland was mind blowing.  After tendering to shore at Djupivogur (off top right of map) we proceeded along all the mountainous inlets, seeing numerous glacier tongues, briefly visiting Hofn village and finally arriving at the glacier lake at Jokulsarion.

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This is where the biggest glacier reaches the coast and calves with the most amazing display of various sized and shaped icebergs changing from day to day. We were incredibly lucky with glorious weather and light and the best grouping of icebergs our guide had ever seen.  Some of the ice sparkled like jewels in the sun.

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David climbed up for a higher view and we saw groups going out on an amphibious duck.

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We set off from Greenock by coach to Gourock, then crossed the Firth of Clyde by ferry to Dunoon.         Travelling onward along Loch Long and then Loch Fyne we reached Inveraray where we had a private tour of the castle.  There were spectacular features including an elaborate table setting and very fine romantic tapestries in the drawing room. After lunch in the village, a wander and shopping we continued into the mountains climbing to Rest and Be Thankful.  Here you could view the old Wade road and compare with the modern road on which we then travelled.  Passing along the west shore of Loch Lomond we visited the church in the village of Luss, noting the hammer beam roof and thousand year old font.  The supposed Viking grave was less convincing.  Our afternoon sail away from Greenock was featured by a pipe and drum marching band and a dancing Highland Laddie.

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After arrival at Douglas, Isle of Man, we were driven to the start of the Electric Railway which took us in a winding route from the town into the countryside and through numerous communities.  Boarding the Snaefell Mountain Railway we then rose to the top of the mountain and into the mist.  We passed the Laxey Wheel and saw other old mines, before arriving at a road junction where the TT races would have crossed.  Arriving at the summit we were sent back down again immediately as our car was the only one functioning after a previous accident. We just managed to grab a hot chocolate before the return journey and then a bus ride round much of the TT route and back into town.  After lunch on the ship we took a ride along the water front in a horse drawn tram.

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From Belfast we set off along the beautiful Antrim coast.  At one point we saw a rope bridge over which fishermen carried their gear over a ravine.  We spent some time at the Giant’s Causeway and were lucky enough to enjoy it between showers.  On the way home we captured a photo of yet another castle.

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We docked in Holyhead and crossed Anglesey to Caernarfon where we explored the castle and its history.  After a long view of Snowdonia we crossed the Llanberis Pass and saw Conway Castle across the water.  We enjoyed lunch in Betws-y-Coed and then made for Llandudno and the Great Orme.  We rode up the tramway and finished our Snowdonian adventure in the village with the longest name in Britain.  It is rumoured that it is about to be twinned with the Norwegian town called O.

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Dublin and Beyond

Drove through Dublin seeing all the fine Georgian buildings and hearing the history from Martin our very amusing guide.  Then to Russborough House  at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, filled with glorious furniture, paintings, tapestries and splendid plasterwork.  After lunch at Grannie’s Pantry we spent the afternoon at Powerscourt House gardens, including interesting shops and fine weaving.

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