I'm writing this post from Michele's lounge in Milan, although by the time it's been released upon the world, I will most likely be high up on a mountain somewhere in the Dolomites. I don't really know when this blog became a hiking diary but I guess I should have seen it coming with my choice of banner photo on my home page. With the death of my compact camera (RIP Sony RX100), I haven't really fancied carting my Canon 500D into every restaurant I visit (especially as its temperamental at the best of times) or Michele's giant 5D (which I have accidentally taken hostage after tidying it away in the flat in Exeter last time he came to visit - turns out I was supposed to bring it back with me for the holiday in the mountains, oops!)

It's 7:20am here (6:20am according to my body - an hour difference isn't much but man it matters in the mornings) and I've already been awake for an hour due to a sadistic little mosquito deciding to buzz around my ears. Everyone else is asleep and for once, the city outside the window is almost quiet. In a few hours, we'll be packing up the car and heading out of the city, taking the road that heads up to Bergamo before crossing over and bumping against the southern shores of Lake Garda and then disappearing up, up and into the mountains!

For now though, whilst I wait for my hiking buddies to wake up, I thought I'd share some photos of a day I spent with my parents at the National Trust's Coleton Fishacre (yep, another National Trust post! What can I say, I'm officially middle aged.) I've had to split it into two parts though as I just took so many photos during the day and because we ended up spending half of the day clambering (literally) along a section of the South West Coast Path (yep, I'm also banging on about the SWCP again) and half of the day stumbling exhausted around the NT property itself.

After a delicious breakfast at Devon Coffee in Exeter (which I have only recently discovered, thanks to my new best friend Rachel who I drunkenly proclaimed as such the night I met her after trying one of the brownies she made. I then proceeded to ask the girl to make me a tower of said brownies for my wedding cake. She said yes. Over. The. Moon.), we jumped in the car and headed out of Exeter for a day of adventure in South Devon. We grabbed a light lunch at the cafe at Coleton Fishacre before embarking on our walk.

The National Trust website says that the route is around 3 miles and should take an hour. I don't really know what we did wrong, but it ended up taking us double that time. Ok so my parents aren't as used to hiking as I am but still. It started off gently enough, following country lanes fringed with bursting hedgerows and then a road that sloped down to the coastline where we met a gorgeous little puppy. This path took us past the Daymark, a strangely shaped tower built to help ships sailing along the coast find their way around the Devon coast. Sitting in its isolated position, with no sound but the wind rushing through the wheat fields surrounding it, it looked stark and eerie against the bright, sunny day.

From there, we began to climb down to the WWII gun emplacement built at Froward Point, for which the road we were walking along was built. Whilst the old wartime structures are now empty concrete shells, the National Coastwatch Institution lookout point saves the place from feeling too desolate. It was quite a steep climb down from the lookout point to the lower half of the gun emplacement, with some very steep concrete steps built into the cliffs and a miniature railway that was used to transport the ammunition down to the guns. The lowest building, which presumably was used as a lookout point, frames the sea and the horizon in the most spectacular way - a real-life widescreen panorama that takes your breath away.

From there, the stairs ended and we followed the undulating coast path which rose and fell in the shadows of pine trees and then out in the open. At times, it almost faded out beneath our feet, causing us to get lost at one point and resulting in a rather precarious cross-country clamber to try and get back on track (quite literally). The weather passed through glorious sunshine to blustery wind and rain - and then back again. Each turn of the coastline presented us with some new and wonderful view to behold; sharp rocks jutting menacingly from the sea, swooping pastures rushing to meet the sea, flocks of seabirds circling and diving over the waves.

Eventually, we came back to the bottom of the gardens of Coleton Fishacre - and I really mean eventually! By this point, it was only an hour until the house closed so we pushed ourselves to carry on, up through the steep and plentiful gardens until we got to the 1920s arts and crafts house. And for now, that is where I shall leave you.