Contemplation in Kōtō-in Buddhist Temple, Kyoto
Contemplation in Kōtō-in Buddhist Temple, Kyoto

I was lucky enough to spend 5 months with my family in Kyoto. This allowed us to explore slowly, sink into the rhythms of the city and enjoy discovering hidden experiences down every alley

Traditional Pontocho alleys in Kyoto, Japan
Traditional Pontocho alleys in Kyoto, Japan
Pedestrian river crossing in a traditional Kyoto neighbourhood
Pedestrian river crossing in a traditional Kyoto neighbourhood
Entrance gates to Yotokuin Buddhist temple, Kyoto
Entrance gates to Yotokuin Buddhist temple, Kyoto
Descending the path from Soren-ji temple
Descending the path from Soren-ji temple
Bronze lanterns in Heian Jingu Shinto Shrine
Bronze lanterns in Heian Jingu Shinto Shrine
Rabbit offerings for fertility in Okazaki Jinja Shinto Shrine
Rabbit offerings for fertility in Okazaki Jinja Shinto Shrine
Sanjusangendo temple which contains 1,001 life-sized wooden statues of the goddess Kannon
Sanjusangendo temple which contains 1,001 life-sized wooden statues of the goddess Kannon
Snowy dawn walks in the Kurodanicho neighbourhood, Kyoto
Snowy dawn walks in the Kurodanicho neighbourhood, Kyoto
Snowy dawn walks in the Kurodanicho graveyard, Kyoto
Snowy dawn walks in the Kurodanicho graveyard, Kyoto
Sunrise on a snowy Kurodani Temple, Kyoto
Sunrise on a snowy Kurodani Temple, Kyoto

One thing I love about slow travel is the opportunty to explore and revisit a place in different moods, times and seasons

The famous golden temple, Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺,  appears to float above the lake
The famous golden temple, Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺, appears to float above the lake
Exploring the cliffs at the Butt of Lewis
Exploring the cliffs at the Butt of Lewis

On a recent assignment for Visit Scotland and Calmac Ferries we explored the Hebridean islands of Harris, Lewis, Skye and St Kilda. The contrast between rugged scenery like this and endless white sand beaches within a few miles of each other was extraordinary. The main challenge on this day however, was simply remaining upright and keeping all our gear dry

Possibly the prettiest golf club in the world
Possibly the prettiest golf club in the world

Green fees are paid into an honesty box at the start of the course

Rainy Bokeh
Rainy Bokeh

While waiting for the sunset on Horgabost beach, we were caught in a sudden shower and retreated to our campervan. Because the Outer Hebrides are so exposed to the Atlantic winds, the weather can change by the minute

Wild beaches on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
Wild beaches on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
Calm reflections, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
Calm reflections, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

This was the tranquil view from our campsite, Lickisto Blackhouse Camping, on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Exploring the cliffs at the Butt of Lewis
Exploring the cliffs at the Butt of Lewis

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse marks the northernmost tip of the Hebridean islands of Harris and Lewis. Its also apparently the windiest place in the UK. The landscape is undeniably dramatic

Taking in the view from the tallest building in Japan
Taking in the view from the tallest building in Japan

In Osaka we stayed in the Mariott Hotel within a 62 floor 300m high skyscraper called Abeno Harukas. The tallest building in Japan (for now at least). It was our first experience of visiting a really large city with the kid and he loved the energy and vibrance of the city as well as the views from being so high up. Mostly though he just wanted to ride on the subway, escalators and visit the aquarium.

Taking in the view from the tallest building in Japan
Taking in the view from the tallest building in Japan

The views from the 62nd floor deck were amazing, although even at sunrise the city was shrouded in a haze and Mt Fuji was hidden. I was surprised to find that the building swayed imperceptibly, but enough that my timelapse of early morning traffic was wobbly!

Exploring Gion, Kyoto on a rainny night
Exploring Gion, Kyoto on a rainny night

Kyoto's entertainment district is a warren of alleys containing small bars and restaurants signalled by both neon signs and traditional lanterns

Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy
Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy

We love the change of pace that life in a small Italian village imposes. No wifi, no commutes, chats with neigbours and of course that Tuscan light

Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy
Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy
Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy
Seeking tranquil moments off the beaten track in rural Tuscany, Italy
A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing
A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing

A brief visit to Beijing in December. It was bitterly cold, but the air was relatively clear enabling us to see across the city for once unencumbered by smog.

A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing
A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing

The low angle of December sun transformed the landscapes of the palace and reminded me (somewhat unsurprisingly) of the design for a Willow Pattern plate.

Looking into the Forbidden City
Looking into the Forbidden City

We climbed to the top of Jingshang Park to get our bearings in the city and peek down into the forbidden city. From ground level it's impossible to get a true sense of the scale of this palace complex which served as the Chinese imperial palace from 1420 to 1912 and covers 180 acres.

Hiking on an unrestored section of the Great Wall of China
Hiking on an unrestored section of the Great Wall of China

In order to explore a more remote section of the Great Wall, we joined Beijing Hiking Club rather than booking a tourist package and experiencing the wall by cable car in a crowd. This meant we were able to hike along an unrestored section through steep and spectacular countryside then descended through orchards into a traditional village for lunch while chickens roamed freely. A totally different pace of life to Beijing. This section of the wall has since been rather extensively restored.

A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing
A quiet moment in the Summer Palace, Beijing

The city outside the palace boundary is just visible through the smog 

The Summer Palace, Beijing
The Summer Palace, Beijing

Decorative window details looking across the Kunming Lake from the Summer Palace

The abandoned street of Hirta on St Kilda
The abandoned street of Hirta on St Kilda

The remaining 36 inhabitants asked to be evacuated to the mainland in 1930 after life on these islands became unsustainable. These re-roofed houses are used by conservation volunteers for the National Trust for Scotland who study the vast seabird colonies and wild sheep that remain.

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A volunteer conservation worker in the abandoned village of Hirta, St Kilda
A volunteer conservation worker in the abandoned village of Hirta, St Kilda
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Looking across from Hirta to the stacks of Boreray
Looking across from Hirta to the stacks of Boreray