Muckle Fugga

Shetland is a group of islands located in the North Sea, North of Scotland and West of Norway. Unst, the most northerly populated island in Britain, is often known as the island above all others. Population: 600.

The Hermaness National Nature Reserve, up top Unst, has magnificent views during its walk in the high cliffs. This walk is also full of up close encounters with sea birds, especially the Great Skua (or Bonxie as the locals know it) as here is a breeding ground for them. These birds can be quite aggressive in breeding season, so sticking to the path is the best caution whilst walking.

Even further North than Unst is the Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, built on a pinnacle of rock in Oost (Out of Stack) that rises 61m above the sea, and is frequently overtopped by unbroken waves. This is Britain’s most northerly lighthouse. Three people manned this remote spot, ferried with supplies when they could.

The lighthouse was known originally as North Unst Lighthouse. In 1964 its name changed to Muckle Flugga — derived from the Old Norse for ‘large steep-sided island’.

Finally blue skies

Uttakleiv is the most photographed beach on Lofoten. A 4km walk that took 11 years to build along the coast takes you to what is considered the most romantic beach in Lofoten: Haukland. Along the way sheep that climb hundreds of meters up the cliff to eat the best grass; a shelter where an otter hunter used to take refuge; and dramatic views of the Nordic coastline in a sunny 11°C summer day.

The Lofoten Hawaii

The small island of Skrova, in the middle of Vestfjord, is only accessible by boat and considered the Lofoten islands “Hawaii” for the most amount of sunlight and least amount of rainfall it gets through the year.

Being the most sheltered of a group of three islands, it is where the 220 residents of the area decide to live. The population lives mainly from salmon farming, fishing and whaling. In fact, according to my guide, this little island processes more than half of Norways whale hunting quota. There are two restaurants in the small island: one that serves whale meat and the one that doesn’t.

Tourism is nowadays also a source of income. Climbing up the 281 meters of the highest mountain in Skrova is the second most popular touristic information after kayaking. Every walk has a guest book at an important point of the walk where you can sign. Though not every one is blue.

Unexpected sightings

Part of the enchantment of living in the old country is bumping into old buildings randomly. The church of St Francesc de Sales, patron of journalists and writers, is a prime example. A brick building designed by Joan Martorell i Montells, one of Gaudís teachers. It suffered in the civil war and then, during the 80s, it endured a fire. It has been refurbished and now a great piece of architecture in the streets of this Catalunyan city.

A home then a cinema

Exploring Barcelona I bumped into this urban palace from 1887, Palau Marcet. The building on the right, until 1934, was a home, then it was sold and refitted to become a theatre, named Teatro de la Comedia, until 1960 when it became a cinema.

Neighbours

The most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona at my doorstep. The Sagrada Familia started construction in 1882 and is hoped to be completed in 2026 – for the centennial of Gaudí’s death. That will total 144 years of construction which is 7 times the time it took to build the Taj Mahal.

Antoni Gaudí is buried in La Sagrada Familia, he died a few days after being hit by a tram. He was mistaken by a beggar and thus people didn’t take him to hospital promptly. So in a way, we are now neighbours.

Bigger than Central Park

Kings Park is at least 15% bigger than the Central Park in NYC. At 400 hectares it is one of the largest inner city parks, and is visited by more than six million people each year.

The park sits in Mount Eliza and overlooks the beautiful Swan River, the city of Perth and its surrounding suburbs. The park is 2/3 bush and 1/3 is gardens, playgrounds and other areas. Ideal for walks, runs and picnics.

This place is sacred for Aboriginals. They believe that the Wagyl, a mythical serpent, entered the ground near the park and came out at the foot of Mount Eliza and created the Swan River.

Walking in the sky

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.

Climbing big trees

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.