Ocho Rios: a Caribbean hideaway on Jamaica’s north coast

On the opposite coast to the island’s busy capital, Kingston, ‘Ochi’ is a tranquil but thriving haven with plenty to do, see and eat – and some characterful places to stay

Clava Cairns and Fort George, Scotland

Excerpt from the book Scottish Highlands, Caribbean Islands, and more

After the battlefield of Culloden I went to see the nearby Clava Cairns a complex of three cairns surrounded by stone circles and a ring of small boulders. This complex dates from between 4,400 BC and 2,000 BC. The middle cairn never had a roof but the other two did and were burial chambers with sunlight only ever reaching the centre of the cairns at sunrise on the shortest day of the year.

My final visit was to Fort George built between 1748 and 1769 to house the forces of King George II. This magnificent fortress juts aggressively into the waters of the Moray Firth and is all angular bastions with cannons covering the sea and land approaches. The fort is a working army base, but the places where visitors are allowed is clearly marked. Barrack rooms depicting conditions from 1768 and 1860 can be visited as well as an officer’s room from 1813. Visitors are given guides and a map. Numbered plaques are displayed at various points of interest around the fort and when you arrive at one of these places tap in the number on the guide’s keypad and listen to the information provided. The gift shop is well stocked with lovely souvenirs such as quarter-litres of whisky, cufflinks with Celtic designs, and silver candle holders. From the walls of the fort Dolphins can be seen frolicking in the sea.

Inverness to Ullapool via Plockton, Scotland

Excerpt from the book Scottish Highlands, Caribbean Islands, and more

Driving down the western side of Loch Ness I was vaguely aware of a large body of water through the trees on the left-hand side of the road. At Drumnadrochit I became acutely aware of a thriving industry based on the Nessie legend. I decided to leave this tourist paraphernalia behind and head for the shores of the loch itself. Urquhart Castle was built in the 13th-Century and was taken by Edward I but later lost to Robert the Bruce. Urquhart was repeatedly attacked during the 15th and 16th centuries by the Lords of the Isles arriving from the West although it wasn’t until 1692 that the castle was largely destroyed in the fight between the Williamite and Jacobite groups.

Visitors were milling around the shop buying souvenir whiskys, tea towels, and guidebooks. The ruins are not extensive and are fairly easy to traverse, but most people tend to concentrate on looking out over the loch and trying to spot something unusual. Some talking telescopes might help in this process.

The Castle was originally built to protect the Great Glen and the views are extensive. The loch disappears north-eastwards towards Inverness over the horizon and is about a mile wide at Urquhart. A boat heading towards the horizon can soon fade from view and yet its wake is still seen heading sideways to the far shore. The wind blows in gusts across the water and raises waves; the sun shines on part of the loch and creates patterns of grey. In places the water looks pitch black and I had to remind myself that the loch is over 700 feet deep in parts. Try as I might I couldn’t see any monster-shapes in the water though other people have been more successful in seeing things than I have.