Category Archives: Travel

Take a look at Tallinn’s dark side

First comes an opening salvo of disorientation. Then a frisson a cold, hard fear as I grope my way through the spirit-sapping darkness, blundering through a series of curtains into the night-blind murk of the inner womb.

My heart is racing now. Twinges of lung-squeezing panic grip me as I grapple with my more rational side to steady my staccato breath.

Then a voice in the gloom reaches out to me: “Hello, David. I’m your guide, Jürgen. Just walk towards my voice.”

I’m at the Ahhaa Science Centre in Tallinn, Estonia, to sample some early highlights from the city’s European Capital of Culture programme.

Dark Matters, a sensory-depriving art installation based on an idea by the German artist Andreas Heinecke, is one of the first headline-grabbing works. Blind people guide the sighted in a thought-provoking role reversal.

I posted a few weeks ago about my trip to Tallinn. If you liked this so far, you can read the whole story at Travel-Lists.


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Hit the North is one

Thanks to for mulling over how Hit the North did in 2010. Post below what you’d like to read more of here in 2011.

Meanwhile, we start the new year with a high-level summary of its blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Number crunching

Featured image

This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2010.

In 2010, there were 44 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 45 posts. There were 98 pictures uploaded. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was February 8, 2010 with 70 views. The most popular post that day was Manchester Airport’s new mile-high club.

Referring on

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for chris ofili, duncan barkes talksport, darryl lonsbrough, and father ted.

Top five posts

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

Manchester Airport’s new mile-high club February 2010

David Atkinson December 2009

Straight talking at Travellers’ Tales February 2010

When Hilton gets it right – and wrong February 2010

On the heritage trail in Leeds August 2010

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Video blog: A new perspective on Wales

Last week I blogged about a research trip to the National Museum of Wales.

As promised, this week I’m posting the accompanying video blog.

Follow the link to YouTube here.

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Filed under Travel, Wales

Go on, go on, go on – an ecumenical tour of Aran

More edited highlights from the summer workload as part of an ongoing series.

This week: on the trail of saints, sinners and Father Ted in western Ireland.

Inis Oirr Father Ted tours

The illusive craic

Everyone who goes to the trio of Aran Islands is looking for something.

The saints and pilgrims came in search of early Christian spirituality. Before them, the Celtic fort builders sought to channel ancestral wisdom through limestone-carved monoliths. These days, some 250,000 visitors each year come in search of all-the illusive Irish critic.

I’m searching too: a high-season escape from the crowds, theme pubs and fiddle-de-dee leprechauns of western Ireland.

The Aran Islands, “three stepping stones out of Europe” as described by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, are thought of as the last bastion of traditional Irish culture. “Ireland to the power of two,” says the historian Tim Robinson.

Craggy Island

Inis Oirr B&B

Of the three remote isles, Inis Oirr was chosen as Craggy Island, the setting for the TV comedy series, Father Ted.

It still hosts some events for the annual Tedfest and ecumenical tours of the TV locations are a year-round attraction.

They stop at the wreck of the SS Plessay, which features in the opening credits. The ship ran aground in March 1960, en route from Limerick to Galway.

Twisted and rusting, her hull gouged open by rock and her mast askew, she radiates the quiet pride of the islanders, who saved her crew from certain death.

Read more in a forthcoming issue of Coast Magazine.

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Back on talkSport – and live in Leeds

What are the hot topics in travel this weekend? That’s the question I’ll be answering on the Duncan Barkes programme on talkSport late Friday/early Saturday as Hit the North continues its regular, late-night travel slot.

Duncan Barkes

And this week there’s a twist: I’ll be live in Leeds, researching a story for Heritage magazine and checking out plans for this year’s Yorkshire Day celebrations on August 1st.

Amongst the topics under discussion are the following:

* Planning a post-World Cup holiday? Good reasons to try Portugal or Greece

* Hunt wants us to holiday at home, but where is he taking his hols?

* Tony Benn does it sitting down

The Seatcase

* Plus an on-the-spot report from Leeds

If you’ve got any questions, ideas, comments or thoughts, post them below and we’ll get them on the air.


Filed under Radio, Tourism, Travel

Back on the radio – Hit the North comes to Talk Sport

Cast your mind back. In a previous incarnation, Hit the North used to blog about a travel-talk slot I used do for radio station CityTalk. The erstwhile breakfast show presenter, Duncan Barkes, has now moved to talkSport.

Hit the North will be joining Duncan for late-night travel discussion from Saturday, May 5th onwards. Programme details here. Tun in to catch us on DAB or online.

This week, we will be discussing the following:

  • Travelodge sleep Police; story here
  • Survey shows cheapest holiday destinations this summer; story here
  • Bed & Fed – cheaper than a B&B, better than dossing on a mate’s sofa; story here
  • Boring but useful advice on how not to screw up at the World Cup; story here

So, got any comments, questions, random thoughts or mad urges to voice your opinion?

Add a comment below and we’ll get it on the air.

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Anglesey rocks says Lemmy

Just back from Anglesey. Book research across the island, the Red Boat ice-cream parlour in Beaumaris, Kyffin Williams just outside Llangefni, and discovering probably the nicest away-from-the-crowds beach in North Wales.

Not telling. Okay, go on then: Church Bay.

Ann's Pantry, Moelfre

Ace of Spades

But of the many angles I was researching over the last few days, the strangest must be an unlikely tourism ambassador for the popular holiday island: Lemmy.

Yes, that’s the one. The Jack Daniels-swilling, bass guitar-pounding, heavy-metal-wildman lead singer of Motorhead.

A new film highlights the fact that young Lemmy (then just plain Ian) lived near Benllech and went to junior school in nearby Amlwch.

Iron Fist

A crew for the forthcoming Lemmy – The Movie was recently on the island, filming scenes at his former school, Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones, and raising eyebrows in the process as BBC Wales reports.

The station, Llanfair PG

Of course Lemmy lives in California these days but maybe here’s a golden opportunity for Anglesey to fuel a new tourism boom with Motorhead fans making the pilgrimage to the rural idyll that shaped a rock god.

Is Anglesey proud of its heavy metal credentials, or is the man behind Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers a step too far for Anglesey?

No sleep till Beaumaris, then.

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Filed under Travel, Wales