Puffins, or clifftop clowns, have one of the biggest colonies here, in a tucked away British island somewhere between Scotland and Norway.
As advertised, Shetland is a birdwatchers paradise and these little fellows share the impressive cliffs with gannets, fulmars, guillemots, razorbirds, kittiwakes and shags.
Their beaks full of colour remind me of toucans, but puffins are not graceful landing nor flying. If anything they are rather clumsy and quite comical. They use their colourful beaks and powerful legs to dig out the same burrows where each spring puffin couples return to procreate.
How many can you count?
To make the water of life all you need is barley, water, yeast and time.
The barley is best if it is still slightly green and it is then heated up with steam from peat to give the grains a smokey flavour. It is wetted and spread out on malting floors to germinate, being turned regularly to prevent the build up of heat. The barley is grinded to a perfect consistency to then be mixed with water at different temperatures. The mix gets yeast added to it to ferment. It is then distilled twice in specific stills. Some say their shape affects the whisky reason why distilleries try and keep their stills exactly the same for years. Whisky, to be called that, and to be sold needs to be aged in either sherry or bourbon barrels; this gives the drink its unique colour.
All the distillate passes through a mechanism called the still safe which were traditionally controlled by the Customs department by holding the key. The contraption allows whisky makers to test the alcohol contents and nowadays the keys are held by the distilling houses but still need to keep tight controls of who has access to prove the beverage was not tampered with.
Whether you like your Scottish drink light, smoky, rich or delicate, there is no other place better than this Scottish corner.
Stirling Castle was the key to the kingdom of Scotland. So much that the popular saying is that “if you hold Stirling Castle, you hold Scotland”.
This stone castle witnessed some of the most dramatic and important events in Scottish history, including the infamous murder of the earl of Douglas by James II. The castle later became an important military base until the 1960’s.
When the soldiers left, the castle has been subject to major restoration projects to return the main buildings to their original glory for just £12 million. The castle re-opened to the public in June 2011 and aims to take visitors back in time to the 16th century life. Impressive work was done to the Great Hall. Its hammer-beam roof and parapet were replaced using the same traditional way than centuries ago. An interesting fact is that not one nail was used in this upside-down boat like structure; the woodwork is held together with 2328 oak pegs.
Part of making visitors feel in the era is impersonating people from the time. If you are lucky you might get a chance to play House of Fortune. A gambling game originally called Glückshouse; though the brits later changed its name to House of Fortune or Lucky Pig.
A visit will tell you even more stories from the castle’s long history as a special place in Scotland.
With the risk of loosing Perth and WA to other colonies, the brits saw no other way to keep this side of the world than to do the same as in the rest of Australia: build a city with convicts. Freemantle prison was first known as the Convict Establishment; it was built by convicts for convicts between 1852 and 1859 using limestone quarried on the site. The first prisoners moved into the main cell block in 1855 and the prison continued to be used until 1991.
On its own, Fremantle Prison isn’t World Heritage though it is part of a group of 11 convict sites in Australia which together are on the list.
One of the Prison’s most famous inmates was Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joe. He became famous for a lifetime of escapes from the prison. A habit that never died, even after finishing his last sentence, Moondyne Joe escaped three times the psychiatric ward he got put in.
A good stop to stretch your legs, if you are heading North from Denmark, is the Granite Skywalk. A 4.4 km return hike up 282 meters incline through the Porongurup National Park. During the bushwalk you can enjoy the vegetation or admire the massive granite boulders that nature has created. These rocks are, and have been for millions of years, in an eternal balancing act that started with a crack and rain drops running through them; until eventually they are what we see today.
At the top of the hike you have a choice of two lookouts. The upper lookout perches over the side of Castle Rock and requires scrambling over and under rocks and climbing a rattling ladder. The lower lookout, the Karri Lookout, for those who are not comfortable with the adrenaline pump to go up to the upper lookout. Both offering amazing views of the region and a healthy dose of cold wind blowing in your face.
With so much to do around the area, Denmark is a popular tourist destination. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tall forests and a small town which is home to 5,000 people. The Denmark region is known to the aboriginal community as ‘Koorabup’ meaning ‘place of the Black Swan’. The Bibbulmum Track, one of the world’s great long distance walking trails, crosses the town. This walk is nearly 1000km. Other walking, or running, tracks are just as spectacular, if not as long.
A secluded cristal clear tranquil beach in Western Australia. Ideal for swimming if you are not too cold as the rocks shelter the pool keeping it calm all year around.
The large boulder granite rocks that surround it make it a stunning and interesting destination. Especially for adventures, but be warned some rocks are slippery and you might fall flat on your back!
Before the introduction of spotter planes and drones, a network of fire lookout trees was built across the south-west forests of Australia. The aim: to spot fires that were hidden at ground level by the giant Karri forests during the hot Aussie summers.
The first Karri fire lookout tower, was the Big Tree, constructed in 1938. This lookout was lost years later to a bushfire. After this tree, eight other lookouts followed between 1937 and 1952, including the Gloucester Tree chosen as a fire lookout in 1947. Gloucester Tree is 72 meters in height though the lookout is at 61 meters. Although the Gloucester tree was originally pegged with wooden pegs, now all the trees are pegged with metal pegs which are easier to grip. They are regularly checked for any faults. The Gloucester Tree has 153 pegs.
Nowadays climbing up the giants is an attraction for tourists that rewards them with amazing views at the top. No one has died making their ascent to the three trees lookouts but two people have had heart attacks after climbing the trees.
You wouldn’t even know that just a short drive north from Brisbane 11 gorgeous peaks of the Glass House Mountains can be found in the hinterland. They are the remains of volcanic activity that occurred about 25-27 million years ago. When the volcanic mountains cooled down, stunning vertical columns emerged in the middle of a landscape of eucalyptus trees and pineapple plantations. However, there is another story explaining the origins of the mountains.
It is believed that the Glass House Mountains area is a special ceremonial site where many Aboriginal people, the Gubbi Gubbi people, gathered for ceremonies and trading. Though the aboriginal people do not talk about which ceremonies or rituals are practiced in the area.
How they got their European name is that Captain Cook was reminded of glass furnaces from the north of England.
Bandicoots are small marsupials that have strong hind legs designed for jumping and sharp front paws to dig holes when it detects underground prey. Bandicoots then reach their meal with their long snout and use their pointed teeth to chomp through their prize. These opportunistic omnivores, are happy to eat pretty much anything, from insects, larvae, lizards, mice and snails, to fungi, grass seeds, berries and fruit. They ‘grunt’ happily when they’re munching their food, and make a shrill squeak when disturbed.
Just like in other marsupials, female bandicoots have a pouch. And like wombats, the pouch faces upside down to protect their offspring from the dirt when digging.
Bandicoots have the shortest pregnancy of all mammals (12 days). Like Koalas, baby bandicoots are very small and poorly developed at birth. After birth, they crawl toward the pouch, where they complete their development.
Bandicoots are a protected animal in all states of Australia. Of the 20 species of bandicoots in Australia, 7 are listed as critically endangered or already extinct. Introduced and native species, like foxes, dingos, large birds and feral and domestic cats and dogs are bandicoots predators.
Bandicoots play an important role in the ecosystem as they turn over soil, increasing the rate of leaf litter decomposition, soil production and nutrient cycling. They’re also critical in dispersing fungi spores, so losing bandicoots from ecosystems would have fatal cascading effects on plant diversity, species composition and structure of forests and woodlands in Australia and SouthEast Asia where they live.