Learn travel writing

Manukan beach, BorneoIf, like me, you’re prone to keeping travelogues whenever you skip out of town, why not have a go at turning your holidays into magazine features?

Tina Walsh is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience of writing about travel for publications such as TIME, the Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express and many more.

She’s leading a five-week online travel course, providing an insight into what travel editors are looking for from freelance journalists and offering tips on how to sell your stories.

What does it cover?

* How to find engaging story ideas
* How to write a pitch
* How to structure your story
* How to get invited on press trips and organise your own trips

The course is suitable for beginners and more experienced travel writers looking to brush up their skills.

Start dates are ongoing, so you can sign up whenever you’re ready and complete the course in your own time.

Taking part costs £250 (inc VAT) for five individual one-hour sessions. It could be the start of a brand new career, or at least add a new string to your writing bow.

Find full details at tina-walsh.com.

Reykjavik 10 Top Experiences

Reykjavik waterfront photo by Judy DarleyWhen better to visit Iceland than in January? Limited daylight hours, freezing conditions and plenty of snow make for an otherworldly adventure. The city is full of hipster cafes, galleries, bookstores and record shops (including the famous 12 Tónar), while the surrounding countryside is elemental like nowhere else I’ve encountered.

Here are my top ten recommendations for Reykjavik.

1 Seek out some culture

The Culture House Reykjavik photo by Judy Darley

Capital city Reykjavik is a cultural hotspot, with museums and galleries galore, including philosophically enriching and aptly named The Culture House, (shown above) where we spent a morning exploring some of the elements that make up the Icelandic outlook.

The elegant building at Hverfisgata 15, 101 Reykjavík was built between 1906 and 1908 to house the national library and archives and still has a decidedly academic air.

Fishes of the Sea and me photo by Judy DarleyThe exhibition Points of View covers a breadth of aspects of local culture and history, with artwork and artefacts, including a room dedicated to the extinction of the Great Auk, and including a taxidermy of the bird purchased at auction in London using public fundraising at the same cost as a three-bedroom apartment.

I particularly liked the probing questions for children (but equally engaging for adults), inviting you to consider your responses to different things. And this painting, Fishes of the Sea by Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson, made me smile.

Entry costs 1.200 ISK but is free for under 18s or with the Reykjavik City Card.

2 Head to the penis museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum photo by Judy Darley

The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains an abundance of willies, mostly harvested from sea creatures such as whales, walruses and dolphins, plus a fine selection from birds and land mammals including a growing number of human specimens. Look out for the one from “a rogue polar bear” (guess that showed him!) and 23 intriguing folklore specimens. There are also lovingly shaped sculptures and homewares such as lamps and “artistic oddments”, plus jewellery made using teeny delicate penis bones that were truly exquisite. Good for a giggle as well as, um, eye-opening.

Find the Icelandic Philological Museum at Laugavegur 116, 105 Reykjavik. Entry costs 1500 ISK for adults. Children under 13 years old in company of parents are free.

3 Gaze on the crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland photo by Judy Darley

There are plenty of trips heading out of the city to take in Iceland’s dramatic countryside. Our first stop on the Golden Circle Tour was Kerið, a 55m-deep volcanic crater about 3,000 years old. In summer it is filled with topaz-blue water; in winter, when we were there, it is iced over and filled with the sense of ghosts. Or maybe that was just the snow-storm weaving about us.

4 Sample skyr and whey

Skyr and whey photo by Judy Darley

You’ll see skyr advertised all over Reykjavik. A protein-rich, calcium-packed yoghurt, it’s a tart, healthy snack that the Icelanders are crazy about. It was a staple long before ice cream made it to these shores, and is best served with a shot of whey.

We were served ours at a farm where the owner was lamenting her children’s preference for pizza over boiled sheep’s head, and our group’s feelings about skyr and whey was equally conflicted. Personally I found it invigoratingly sharp in flavour. I’m pretty sure that this is what Miss Muffet was really tucking into when that big ol’ spider sat down beside her, but at the time we were in Iceland there were no arachnids to be found, scared off by the chilly weather.

5 Respect the supernatural

Iceland National Park photo by Judy Darley

There’s a strong belief in elves, trolls and other creatures in Iceland – as our guide to the Golden Circle says, “10% believe, 10% don’t believe and 80% haven’t made their minds up either way but don’t want to risk upsetting them.”

The road we were on weaved rather more than necessary to avoid destroying three elven churches, while one field on the farm we visited is left unploughed so as not to upset the little folk. The rocks shown above are in the National Park and at certain angles in certain lights you can see the faces of trolls unlucky enough to still be outside when the sun rose and turned them to stone.

6 Feed carniverous horses

Icelandic horses photo by Judy Darley

These hardy little horses (don’t you dare call them ponies in front of an Icelander!) spend all winter outside and have long hairy coats to keep them from freezing. Legend has it that they’re extra small just like the local sheep because the vikings who brought them needed as much space as possible on their ships for wine.

Our tour guide had brought bread for us to feed them, and the moment they saw us their noses began waggling. Things got a bit rowdy as one made a lunge forwards and took my shoulder, then my wrist, in its jaws in search of treats. It’s possible he was ravenous rather than carnivorous, but I’m just glad I was wearing so much clothing! The horse on the left was the leader for this particular herd, hence his prime feeding position. They put up with a bit of petting, but really it’s all about the food, and with temperatures so low and no fresh grass to munch on, who can blame them?

7 Witness the geyser

Strokkur geyser, Iceland photo by Judy Darley

This was one of my favourite stops on our Golden Circle tour. Geysir, the famous phenomenon from which every geyser worldwide takes its name, is somewhat sleepy these days, erupting only every eight hours or so, and instead we visited his sibling, the far more active Strokkur.

From the carpark we strolled along paths surrounded by snow and geothermal springs, with vegetation flourishing in an abundance of vivid colours around boiling mud pools. Ahead we could see people gathering, and we upped our pace to join them as the geyser bubbled thoughtfully for a moment or two before leaping skywards and subsiding.

We were told that it would erupt every five to eight minutes, but the reality was more like three, so we stayed to watch it happen once more – in truth I could have remained for half an hour watching this spectacle! The best moment is when the water begins to heave as though some huge creature is ascending from the depths, and you know the drama is about to uncoil.

8 Admire the waterfalls

Gullfoss Falls Iceland photo by Judy Darley

Fissures in Iceland’s landmass allow for rivers to pour down in immense crescendoes. The most renowned is Gullfoss, Golden Falls, on the glacial river Hvítá. The roar of them, coupled with the glory of all that water thrashing down a 32-metre deep crevice almost numbs the senses. To grasp the scale of it, notice the tiny figures on the left of the picture above.

9 Take a dip in a thermal pool

Judy in the thermal baths, Reykjavik Iceland 2017 photo by Kirsten Darley

Of course, there are the famous ones (which shall not be named here), but these are really pricey and the only patronised by tourists. Instead, I recommend making like a local and heading to the city’s many thermal pools, which are wonderful. We opted for Sundhöllin, which was just a few minute’s walk from Hallgrímskirkja church and features a large, very deep pool, a sauna and two open air hot pools, one at 39°C and one at 42°C.

My lovely cousin Kirsten took this pic of me at Sundhöllin. We swam, lounged and quietly cooked in the steaming waters as snowflakes drifting from above while the locals met for their daily dip and chat. Lovely. In fact, it suited us so well, we returned the very next afternoon.

10 Ascend the tower

Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavik photo by Judy Darley

You can’t miss Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church, because at 73 metres high, it’s the tallest man-madestructure in the city. On the day we visited they’d closed the church for the morning to fit new carpets, making this one of the comfiest churches I’ve strolled through. The interior is all clean lines and glowing light, but the tower is the real attraction.

We were fortunate to ascend (via lift – so civilised) when not too many people were there, and had a pleasant time discovering the outstanding city views from little windows all around the top, just above the clock. Once we’d drunk in our fill of the sites, we travelled back down, and found a queue of people waiting to take our place.

And that’s the trick with Iceland – tourism is growing increasingly vital to their economy, but much of this wilderness is best experienced with as few people as possible. See out the pastimes the locals enjoy and, with care, tread away from the most beaten paths, and who knows what wonders you will discover?

Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja church photo by Judy Darley

Discover more about Reykjavik at www.visitreykjavik.is.

Find full details and buy the Reykjavik City Card.

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Reykjavik street art

Reykjavik street art_Elle with Ulfur Ulfur, photo by Judy DarleyResiding in Bristol, I’m an ardent admirer of street art, providing it’s done well. A recent visit to Reykjavik revealed the capital of Iceland to be riddled with the stuff – and rather fabulous it is too.

Much of the best of it appears on Laugavegur, one of the city’s oldest shopping streets. My favourite was the one above, of the wolf family, but this squiggly fellow below on another street took my fancy too.

Reykjavik street art photo by James Hainsworth

According to the excellent website www.iheartreykjavik.net, the artwork below is titled Caratoes and Ylja, inspired by the song Óður til móður by Ylja. Much of it seems to be inspired by local folklore – well worth a gander!

Reykjavik street art Caratoes and Ylja photo by Judy Darley

If you happen upon this beautiful city, I recommend you wind your way through the central network of roads, looking out for the exceptional street art for a taste of the locals’ wild side.

I’ll be posting a full travel feature about this amazing trip on Thursday. In the meantime, find out more at www.visitreykjavik.is

Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

What better way to begin 2017 than with a trip to one of the world’s hottest literary festivals?

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, Jaipur Literature Festival is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2017, and takes place from 19-23rd January. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together over 250 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe, and expects audience numbers to surpass last year’s figure of 330,000.

Writers announced so far include the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple Alice Walker, 2016 Emerging Voices Award winner Eka Kurniawan, 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, award winning lyricist Swanand Kirkire, cultural critic Margo Jefferson, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, British-Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam, NoViolet Bulawayo, the first black African woman to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize and Hyeonseo Lee a North Korean defector living in Seoul, among many other writers from all cultures and creeds. Oh, and Jeremy Paxman.

Bespoke holiday specialists Steppes Travel offer tailor-made visits to Jaipur Literature Festival. Find full details here: www.steppestravel.co.uk/india-group-tour-jaipur-literature-festival/overview

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here. It could be a fabulous start to your literary year.

A retreat in Laugharne

Taf Etsuary, Laugharne cr Judy DarleyWhile others seek winter sun (and yes, I’m tempted), I often find myself drawn to the more secluded places, the out-of-season contemplative corners where mist and moss hang from the trees and the only sound may be the distant waterfall of a curlew’s call.

Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, Wales, on the estuary of the River Taf, is one such place. I had the chance to spend four foggy, magical days there in Spring 2012, and returned there this November.

Laugharne signpost cr Judy Darley

Home to poet Dylan Thomas for the last four years of his life (he died in 1953), Laugharne is the perfect spot to squirrel yourself away for plenty of thinking space and glorious views.

With my family, I stayed at the Season’s resort situated on the hill there, in a self-catering cottage with views over the Taf Estuary and the village rumoured to have been the starting point for the fictional Llareggub in Dylan’s Under Milk Wood. Although the invented name looks genuine enough for that area of Wales, if you reverse it you’ll discover the words bugger all, which tells you everything you need to know about this peaceful retreat.

Milk Wood, Laugharne cr Judy Darley

Ironically, Dylan’s time there has resulted in a number of attractions to visit and influxes of literary minded tourists in high summer, but at this time of year the majority of the visitors are wading birds, searching the estuary’s shallows for molluscs.

Dylan's Walk cr Judy Darley

Just along a little forest track from the resort, called Dylan’s Walk (and decorated lavishly with the afore-mention mist and moss hung trees), you’ll find Dylan’s writing shed, where you can peer in through the glass-panelled door and see it just as he left it, with a jacket hung over the back of his chair and bottles, books, paper and other ephemera littering the desk and shelves. I think it looks as though he’s nipped out for a moment’s think, and is standing somewhere nearby staring out at the Taf and swilling words around his mouth.

Dylan Thomas writing shed cr Judy Darley

A short way beyond this, you’ll find the Dylan Thomas Boathouse where he lived with his family, and now a museum. It’s a lovely building, with a cute café so you can pause for a coffee and a ponder. The Boathouse is also a great place for a spot of word bombing, as I did in 2012!

Boathouse word bomb cr Judy Darley

Boathouse word bomb cr Judy Darley1

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few minutes walk in the other direction leads to the village past the dramatic ruined Laugharne castle, which apparently boasts a summerhouse where Dylan used to write – presumably when he needed a very slight change of view. He described the castle as “Brown as owls” in his Poem in October.

Laugharne Castle cr Judy Darley

He was also known for frequenting Brown’s Hotel, which still thrives today – apparently his routine was to write at his shed in the mornings and then head to Brown’s in the afternoons, where he could drink beer as he wrote. According to the hotel’s website, he said he liked to “moulder” in the corner facing the entrance as he worked. Back then it was known simply as a bar with room, but now it’s a luxury boutique hotel – ideal for a romantic hideaway.

Dylan Thomas grave cr Judy Darley

If you head inland from Dylan’s writing shed, you’ll eventually reach St. Martin’s Church, where Dylan Thomas’ grave is marked by a plain white cross with exquisitely curly lettering. The name of his wife, Caitlin, adorns the other side as she’s buried with him. It looks like they’re finally achieving the marital harmony in death that eluded them in life!

Tenby cr Judy Darley

Further afield there are plenty of diversions. On our previous visit, we spent a pleasant day visiting the pretty harbour town of Tenby (above), and this time we went to Carmarthen and Pendine Beach, and called in at the excellent National Botanical Garden of Wales – another perfectly tranquil spot – on our way back to England.

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Bilbao – 10 Top Experiences

Bilbao by Judy DarleyWe were warned that Spain’s fourth largest city was far from being one of the most beautiful, but discovered a marvel of architecture, fountains and sculpture that had us enthralled at every turn. The presence of the Guggenheim Museum since 1997 has inevitably helped its metamorphosis from industrial hotspot to cultural centre, with notable museums dotted along with more cafes than you could count, and the twisting tidal Ría de Bilbao to confound you, while mountains make up an impressive backdrop.

Here are my top ten recommendations for Bilbao.

1 Eat up

Bilbao gastronomy_cr Judy Darley

The food in Bilbao is marvellously varied, reasonably priced, and made from fabulously fresh ingredients. Naturally, you need to try some pintxos, the Basque Country version of tapas, generally costing between €1 and €3 for a delicious morsel of meat, fish or cheese piled on a small slice of bread. The pastries are light and moorishly delicious, while the seafood is outstanding.

Things we ate during our days here include salmon tartare with cod roe, pickled quail legs with haricot beans, steak, churros (Paul Hollywood would have been impressed by the crisp exteriors and fluffy centres), rose ice cream and a large quantity of puff pastry, usually served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. To wash it all down, the Rioja wine is delicious, and cheaper than water. If you want a coffee, don’t forget to ask for “un Americano” – otherwise you’ll end up with an espresso. If you take your coffee with milk, ask for it “con leche”, or they’ll assume you want it without.

2 Meander in Doña Casilda Iturrizar park

Doña Casilda Iturrizar park, Bilbao_cr Judy Darley.

This elegantly sprawling park comes to life around 6pm, when families flock to the winding paths, green lawns, and the duck pond, which gives the park its local name Parque de los Patos. With the evening meal not commencing till 9pm or later, this is the perfect time for a few drinks sitting outside at the park’s café, or simply to promenade and chat. Look out for impressive fountains, some spectacular tiling and albino peacocks.

3 Soak up fine art

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum_cr Judy Darley

The Museo Bellas Artes (museobilbao.com) or Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is set on one corner of Doña Casilda Iturrizar park, and is full of the work of Spanish painters.

Docker of Bilbao by Quintin de Torre_cr Judy DarleyOur favourites were upstairs, where you can marvel at glowing canvasses of everyday life by Aurelio Arteta, Benito Barrueta, Joaquin Sorolla and others, as well as this bust of a Bilbao docker by Quintin de Torre Berastegui.

The building is itself a work of art, created by blending the Fine Arts Museum of 1908 and the Museum of Modern Art of 1924 into a classical building in 1954, was extended in 1970 and again in 2001. It’s open daily apart from Tuesdays and costs €7 apart from on Wednesday, when it is entirely free. Bargain!

4 Ride the metro

Norman Foster Metro entrance, Bilbao_cr Judy Darley

This elegant transportation system makes getting about really simple, and only costs €1.50 per ticket. Your first sightings of it may be the sci-fi slug-like eruptions designed by Norman Foster, emerging from sub-pavement level in a shimmer of glass and metal. If the sinuous shining curve seems familiar, it may be because Foster was also a key architect on The Gherkin in London.

5 Go to market

mercato-la-ribera-bilbao-by-judy-darley

Teetering on the riverside in Bilbao’s Casco Vieja (Old Town), you’ll find La Ribera – a market hall that’s been thriving since 1929. An amble among the stalls will offer up everything from pigs’ trotters to artisan cheeses, and a copious amount of fish. Up one level you’ll find bars selling wine, beer and pintxos to enjoy on the terrace.

To absorb the beauty of the building, walk to the far end and admire the windows and glass tiled ceiling.

 6 Be boggled by the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Bilbao cr Judy Darley

This Frank Gehry construcion of sweeping titanium and soaring curves is a true marvel on Bilbao’s riverside. Happily, the Gugenheim Bilbao (www.guggenheim-bilbao.es/en/) one of the first things you see of the city as the airport bus drives over the bridge alongside, but its definitely worth a closer look. Like a dance of angles and planes, of jousting metallic butterflies and fogged up mirrors, the building is a sculptural masterpiece, and that’s before you reach the art within.

Erm, and no, I’m not sure who that is photobombing my pic above!

Andy Warhol Shadows installation at Guggenhaim Bilbao cr Judy Darley

When we visited there were some spectacular Anselm Kiefer artworks on display, including the artist’s The Renowned Orders of the Night. We also had the chance to visit the Andy Warhol: Shadows installation – a fun opportunity to be immersed in pop art, not least through the evocation to take photos and become part of the show.

 7 Meet Puppy and friends

Puppy by Jeff Koons cr Judy Darley

The gleaming exterior of the Gugenheim isn’t the only reason to stick around, with an array of art adding humour and happiness to this part of the riverside. At the museum’s fron entrance you can meet Jeff Koon’s Puppy, an impressively enduring comment on extravagance and sentimentality, with a West Highland gigantic terrier build from petunias, begonias and other flowers. Originally created for a German castle, it’s been guarding its present home since 1997.

Maman by Louise Bourgeois, Bilbao_cr Judy DarleyOn the other side (as you exit close to the gift shop) you’ll find Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, an immense bronze and stainless steel spider, complete with a sack of marble eggs. Her impressive legs frame the view perfectly.

Then there’s Anish Kapoor’s gravity defying Tall Tree & The Eye, featuring 73 reflective spheres arranged as a tower of mirrored ball bearings. And Jeff Koon’s gloriously balloon-like Tulips. Plus, in case you hadn’t realised, that red structure on the bridge is another installation, Arcos Rojos, by Daniel Buren.

Fujiko Nakaya fog installation at Guggenheim Bilbao_cr Judy Darley

 

Hang around a while and you’ll experience Fujiko Nakaya’s fog pouring across the water and walkway. Somehow, this installation on a hot day in Bilbao seemed far more magical that the one I encountered on Pero’s Bridge during a naturally damp day in Bristol.

 8 Look out for public art

Bilbao coffee cups sculpture_cr Judy Darley

Well, you can’t really miss it. Every corner seems to have something worth marvelling over, whether it’s drinking fountains adorned with bats, a statue or a pair of vast coffee mugs.

Sculpture by Vicente Larrea_cr Judy DarleyIn Plaza de San José, you’ll find three sculptures by Vicente Larrea, created in memory of the architects and engineers who helped to build a new Bilbao in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The bridges themselves resemble sculptures, and occasional works of street art will stop you in your tracks.

See if you can spot any pixellated aliens, said to have been scattered through the city by a group of anonymous French artists. The fountains, too, are worth a few moments of your time, upheld as they are by wondrous figures and beasts.

Bilbao alien cr Judy Darley.

 9 Take a riverside stroll

Bilbao riverside_cr Judy Darley

This is one to enjoy slowly, during the siesta time that unfurl between 1 and 4pm, as that’s when you’ll see the locals jogging, roller blading and rowing – a reminder of why the people here are so friendly and laidback (unless you go to a post office, where you’ll find the folks are just as stressed out and pressed for time as they are in every post office in the world). What could be better than a culture that shoehorns a few hours of weekend pleasure into every working day? If you can get out on the water yourself, splendid. If not, satisfy yourself with a leisurely amble, pausing to sit and admire the views at every other bench you encounter.

10 Get out of town

Playa de San Antolin cr Judy Darley.

The city is stunning, but the countryside is equally entrancing, especially the beaches of buttery soft sand. Watch the surfers do battle with the Atlantic waves, paddle in the icy shallows and see the Basque country that nature created.

Where to stay
Hotel Zenit Bilbao bilbao.zenithoteles.com
Petit Palace Arana Bilbao petitpalacearanabilbaohotel.com

Discover more about Bilbao at www.bilbaoturismo.net

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Blenheim Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim PalaceI’m always on the look out for quirky festivals to tell you about and this one caught my eye for two reasons – a) the extraordinary opulent surroundings and b) a grand mash-up of the arts, food and politics.

Taking place mainly in the grand surroundings of Blenheim Palace and nearby Woodstock, Oxfordshire, from Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th October 2016, Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music will feature a curious mix of notable talents.

Events to look forward to include an audience with Darcey Bussell, comedy with Maureen Lipman, garden designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman in discussion with Richard E Grant, leading prose and poetry performer Ruth Rosen reading  Keats’s love letters – and that’s just a selection from the first two days!

There are also an abundance of special literary dinners, including one celebrating the 90th birthday of Her Majesty hosted by the editor of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, novelist and biographer Justine Picardie, with a menu designed and overseen by  Royal Chef to The Queen, Mark Flanagan, MVO.

And those are just a few of the options on offer. It may only be four days, but they’re set to be jam-packed with inspiration, opinions, intrigue and entertainment.

Visit blenheimpalaceliteraryfestival.com for full details.

Find out more about Oxfordshire, including places to stay, at www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com.

Art in and of a view

Anthony Garrratt High and Low, on Llyn Llydaw, Snowdon © Richard Broomhall, Fractured Ether

High and Low by Anthony Garratt, on Llyn Llydaw, Snowdon

You may recall me posting a piece on extraordinary landscape artist Anthony Garratt  when he created four spectacular al fresco paintings on Anglesey in 2015.

Anthony’s latest venture, High and Low, or ‘uchel ac isel’, captures the wild beauty of Snowdonia, with epic paintings and a film bringing together natural and manmade art.

Sponsored by self-catering holiday company Menai Holiday Cottages, the film and outdoor painting installation offers plenty of jaw-dropping views of the area.

Anthony Garratt High and Low, at Llechwedd slate mine, Snowdonia © Richard Broomhall, Fractured Ether

Anthony Garratt’s High and Low at Llechwedd slate mine, Snowdonia

“Menai Holidays hopes that the installation will tell the history, geography and industrial heritage of North Wales, and encourage visitors to make a deeper connection with the region’s dramatic landscapes and the incredible forces that have shaped them,” says Judith ‘Bun’ Matthews, the owner of Menai Holiday Cottages.

A preview of the film, which accompanies the High and Low installation, has been released online, with a full-length version of the film due to tour arts festivals and galleries across the UK from the autumn of 2016.

Like landscape artists Richard Wilson and JMW Turner before him, Anthony has drawn inspiration from the majesty of Snowdonia, in his case to fuel two immense paintings using water-based paint as well as naturally occurring local materials like slate dust and copper.

Anthony Garrratt_High and Low, at Llechwedd slate mine, Snowdonia © Richard Broomhall, Fractured Ether

Anthony Garratt’s High and Low, at Llechwedd slate mine, Snowdonia

The two paintings were created directly within the views they represent, and are now in position – one floating with soaring light and reflections of Snowdon on Llyn Llydaw, and the other suspended deep beneath the mountains amid the shadows of an abandoned slate cavern at Llechwedd Slate Mine.

What powerful motivation to visit Snowdonia and engage with it anew.

Anthony Garratt_High and Low, on Llyn Llydaw at Snowdon © Richard Broomhall, Fractured Ether

Anthony Garratt’s High and Low, on Llyn Llydaw at Snowdon

If you would like to see ‘High’ should park at Pen-y-Pass car park and follow the Miner’s Track path which ascends Snowdon. The easy, track-based walk to Llyn Llydaw takes around 40 minutes.

To see ‘Low’, head to Llechwedd Slate Caverns at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Entrance is via the mine visitor tour desk.

The High and Low installation will remain in situ until the end of October 2016.

Find out more at www.menaiholidays.co.uk/highandlow. All images credit Richard Broomhall / Fractured Ether.

Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Describing itself rather eloquently as “an annual celebration of words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration and fun”, Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the middle of a magical sprawling garden party.

It all kicks off on 28th July, running till 31st July, at St Germans, West Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and events include Noel Fielding, Gloria Steinem, Olivia Laing, Lail Arad, Decca Aitkenhead, Travis Elborough, Honey & Co, The Science of the Sky, foraging walks, garden tours, Miranda Sawyer, Juliet Nicolson, Barbara Hulanicki, Jalen N’Gonda, The Story Collider, Jack Adair Bevan, and alternative folk rock band Haunt the Woods.

Each of the stages have names that seem plucked straight from fairytales: Caught by the River, Walled Garden, Flower and Fodder, The Idler Academy and The Black Cow Saloon being just a few.

Port Eliot woodland cr Michael Bowles

It helps, of course, that the surroundings are some of the finest SW England has to offer, with historical attractions including the oldest church in Cornwall – St Germans Priory Norman church. Natural delights range from the Grade 1 listed park and garden, to the estuary – an irresistible spot for a dusk-glow lantern parade.

Port Eliot estuary cr Michael Bowles

That’s not all though, not by a long short. Once the grounds open, anything can happen – in the word’s of the organisers, “at Port Eliot, as twilight turns to darkness, you may still feel the menacing frisson of the unknown coming night…”

Now, that’s my kind of party.

Night at Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

Penzance Literary Festival 2016

Penzance views cr Judy DarleyPenzance Literary Festival runs from 6th-9th July 2016. It’s the perfect excuse to enjoy Cornish views and sea air while revelling in the written and spoken word!

Look forward to a guest appearance by best-selling author Gavin Knight, whose new book, The Swordfish and the Star, a gritty portrayal of life in the fishing communities of Newlyn and The Lizard.

I love how inclusive and friendly this festival is – in 2013 I had the chance to read my short story The Scent of Summer at a Telltales literary event in the Admiral Benbow and loved the experience.

Headliners for this year’s festival include Rachel Joyce, author of best-selling The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, and writer of BBC Radio’s dramatised version of Jane Eyre, part of this year’s 200th anniversary celebration of Charlotte Brontë’s birth.

Other folks set to tingle your literary tastebuds include Costa award-winning novelist Andrew Miller, Guardian journalist Patrick Barkham, whose book Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore celebrates many of Cornwall’s coastal National Trust properties, and poets Bert Biscoe, Pol Hodge, Gray Lightfoot and Colin Stringer. And don’t miss the Bookshop Band, with a brand new selection of bookish songs!

There will also be writing workshops, theatre, and literary tours of Penzance run by local tour guide Anna McClary. It’s a great way to get to know the heritage of this Cornish town, and be inspired! Find full details at www.pzlitfest.co.uk.

For details of where to stay in Penzance, go to www.visitcornwall.com.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.