Photography and travel blog

The UK’s gentle countryside and abundant bodies of water mean visitors will find ample opportunities for al fresco dips. Traverse near-forgotten pathways and stumble upon distant glades while exploring our pick of the country's six most alluring wild swimming spots. Article by

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

The Fairy Pools look as magical as they sound
The Fairy Pools look as magical as they sound
The Fairy Pools form a collection of ice-blue waters and tumbling rapids that look like something straight out of Scottish folklore. Amid the Isle of Skye's emerald knolls (hills) and towering glens (valleys), these ponds can be reached via a trek along the River Brittle. The water temperature may be breathlessly cold but it's also endlessly enticing and refreshing to swim beneath rocky cliffs and under hidden arches shrouded by waterfalls. Clamber up onto the surrounding rocks to dry off in the sun before a drive home to the wooden cabins of Skeabost View Pods Skye.

Lower Ddwili Falls, Brecon Beacons

The Lower Ddwili Falls are hidden in the woods of Pontneddfechan
The Lower Ddwili Falls is hidden in the woods of Pontneddfechan
Hidden in Wales' bucolic Waterfall Country beneath the hulking red sandstone peaks of the Brecon Beacons, you'll find the Lower Ddwili Falls. An open pool crested by gushing waterfalls, this place is a real spectacle. You can reach it via a walk through the woods from the villages of Pontneddfechan or Pont Melin-Fach. On sunny days, the waterfall mist leaves rainbow trails overhead. Spend the night at the 18th-century farmhouse, Beili Helyg Guest House, just a short drive away.
While many travel destinations tend to bloom in midsummer, there are quite a few that become particularly hot or busy during their warmest months while being in their prime come spring.
So for a holiday that makes the most of off-peak accommodation rates and fewer tourists, we’ve lined up five destinations that are at their most glorious before summer arrives.

Death Valley National Park, California

The floor of Death Valley coming into bloom with Desert gold Wildflowers, California
The floor of Death Valley coming into bloom with Desert gold Wildflowers, California
Death Valley is known as one of the hottest and driest places on earth, making a visit here in the height of summer an intense experience. Spring, on the other hand, is much more manageable for those who wither in the heat, with milder but still sunny weather. And – if you’re lucky – you’ll be privy to the Valley’s wildflower display when a carpet of spectacular colour covers the desert floor and attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds (this floral spectacle usually peaks in late March to Early April). Check into K7 B&B for easy access to Death Valley National Park.

Seville, Spain

Traditionally dressed revellers during the Seville Fair
Traditionally dressed revellers during the Seville Fair
Spring in Seville not only brings sunshine and pleasant temperatures but also several Easter celebrations. Semana Santa (Holy Week) runs from early to mid-April and is one of Spain’s biggest festivals, involving a procession of flamboyant floats. The following week, another grand event – the Seville Fair – kicks off. Hundreds of tents are set up and locals and tourists gather to feast and admire the parade of traditional horses, carriages and people dressed in traditional Sevillian attire. Stay at Hotel Gravina 51, a restored 18th-century manor house in the centre of Seville featuring suites with brocade wallpaper and a beautiful courtyard.

Tokyo, Japan

Cherry blossom (sakura) turns Tokyo pale pink come spring
Cherry blossom (sakura) turns Tokyo pale pink come spring
Lviv (Ukrainian: Львів [lʲʋiu̯] ,Russian: Львов Lvov Polish: Lwów , German: Lemberg; Latin: Leopolis; see also other names) is the largest city in western Ukraine and the seventh-largest city in the country overall, with a population of around 728,350 as of 2016.  Lviv is one of the main cultural centres of Ukraine. Lviv is a unique combination of Western and Eastern cultures. Where else one can see such wonderful samples of Ukrainian, Polish,Armenian, Jewish, German, Austrian and other cultures within a span of a 10-minute walk?
Lviv is a hidden pearl of Europe, which is slowly being discovered by the world. Even experienced travelers say that for them Lviv is one of the most unexpected discoveries.
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Kiev (/ˈkiːɛf, -ɛv/ KEE-ef, -ev)[10] or Kyiv (Ukrainian: Київ, translit. Kyiv [ˈkɪjiu̯] ( listen); Russian: Киев, translit. Kiyev [ˈkʲi(j)ɪf]; Old East Slavic: Кыѥвъ, translit. Kyjev) is the capital and largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper. The population in July 2015 was 2,887,974 (though higher estimated numbers have been cited in the press), making Kiev the 7th most populous city in Europe.

Kiev is an important industrial, scientific, educational, and cultural centre of Eastern Europe. It is home to many high-tech industries, higher education institutions, and world-famous historical landmarks. The city has an extensive infrastructure and highly developed system of public transport, including the Kiev Metro.
The city's name is said to derive from the name of Kyi, one of its four legendary founders (see Name, below). During its history, Kiev, one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, passed through several stages of great prominence and relative obscurity. The city probably existed as a commercial centre as early as the 5th century. A Slavic settlement on the great trade route between Scandinavia and Constantinople, Kiev was a tributary of the Khazars,until seized by the Varangians (Vikings) in the mid-9th century. Under Varangian rule, the city became a capital of the Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state. Completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1240, the city lost most of its influence for the centuries to come. It was a provincial capital of marginal importance in the outskirts of the territories controlled by its powerful neighbours; first the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, followed by Poland and Russia.
The city prospered again during the Russian Empire's Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. In 1917, after the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence from the Russian Empire, Kiev became its capital. From 1921 onwards Kiev was a city of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was proclaimed by the Red Army, and, from 1934, Kiev was its capital. During World War II, the city again suffered significant damage, but quickly recovered in the post-war years, remaining the third largest city of the Soviet Union.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence in 1991, Kiev remained the capital of Ukraine and experienced a steady migration influx of ethnic Ukrainians from other regions of the country. During the country's transformation to a market economy and electoral democracy, Kiev has continued to be Ukraine's largest and richest city. Kiev's armament-dependent industrial output fell after the Soviet collapse, adversely affecting science and technology. But new sectors of the economy such as services and finance facilitated Kiev's growth in salaries and investment, as well as providing continuous funding for the development of housing and urban infrastructure. Kiev emerged as the most pro-Western region of Ukraine where partiesadvocating tighter integration with the European Union dominate during elections.
Currently, Kiev is the traditional and most commonly used English name for the city. The Ukrainian government however uses Kyiv as the mandatory romanization where legislative and official acts are translated into English.
As a prominent city with a long history, its English name was subject to gradual evolution. The early English spelling was derived from Old East Slavic form Kyjev (Cyrillic: Къıєвъ. The name is associated with that of Kyi (Кий), the legendary eponymous founder of the city.

Early English sources use various names, including Kiou, Kiow, Kiew, Kiovia. On one of the oldest English maps of the region, Russiae, Moscoviae et Tartariae published by Ortelius(London, 1570) the name of the city is spelled Kiou. On the 1650 map by Guillaume de Beauplan, the name of the city is Kiiow, and the region was named Kÿowia. In the book Travels, by Joseph Marshall (London, 1772), the city is referred to as Kiovia. The name Kiev that started to take hold at later times is based on Russian orthography and pronunciation [ˈkʲijɪf], during a time when Kiev was in the Russian Empire (from 1708, a seat of a governorate).
In English, Kiev was used in print as early as in 1804 in the John Cary's "New map of Europe, from the latest authorities" in "Cary's new universal atlas" published in London. The English travelogue titled New Russia: Journey from Riga to the Crimea by way of Kiev, by Mary Holderness was published in 1823. By 1883, the Oxford English Dictionary included Kiev in a quotation.

Kyiv ([ˈkɪjiw]) is the romanized version of the name of the city used in modern Ukrainian. Following independence in 1991, the Ukrainian government introduced the national rules for transliteration of geographic names from Ukrainian into English. According to the rules, the Ukrainian Київ transliterates into Kyiv.
This has established the use of the spelling Kyiv in all official documents issued by the governmental authorities since October 1995. The spelling is used by the United Nations, all English-speaking foreign diplomatic missions,several international organizations,Encarta encyclopedia, and by some media in Ukraine.In October 2006, the United States federal government changed its official spelling of the city name to Kyiv, upon the recommendation of the US Board of Geographic Names. The British government has also started using Kyiv. The alternate romanizations Kyyiv (BGN/PCGN transliteration) and Kyjiv (scholarly) are also in use in English-language atlases. Most major English-language news sources like the BBCThe Economist, and The New York Times continue to prefer Kiev.
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Nothing compares to the experience of seeing animals in their natural habitats, from lions stalking their prey on the African savannah to orangutans swinging through trees in a tropical rain forest. 
The Lone Hunter: Bengal Tiger
Habitat: India, Nepal and China 
Population: 2,500 worldwide
Average size: 10 feet long; 550 pounds
The stealthy and powerful Bengal tiger has a history of being both feared and revered by local populations across South Asia. In Hindu mythology, the goddess Durga is often depicted riding a tiger, while tigers represent royalty in the Chinese tradition. Naga tribes in Myanmar and India believe that men and tigers are brothers, a departure from the tiger’s fearsome reputation as a “man-eater.” The Bengal tiger has a distinctive striped coat—and no two tigers have exactly the same stripes. When a tiger roars, it can be heard from as far as two miles away. 
The Gentle Giant: Mountain Gorilla
Habitat: Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda
Population: About 900
Average life span: 35 years
In much of the western world, mountain gorillas were once thought to be a mythical creature, like Bigfoot, until the early twentieth century. In 1902, German explorer and Army Captain Robert von Beringe encountered the mountain gorilla in the Virunga Mountains and helped establish this large ape as a separate subspecies of the gorilla. The mountain gorilla’s Latin classification—gorilla gorilla beringei—honors Robert von Beringe’s discovery. 
The Singer-Songwriter of the Seas: Humpback Whale
Habitat: Earth’s oceans
Population: 30,000 to 40,000
Average life span: Up to 80 years
Average size: 50 feet (about as long as a school bus)
Whales have captured the imagination of humans since ancient times. The Chinese believed the seas were ruled by a deity with the body of a whale and the hands and feet of a human. Great whales are also specifically mentioned in the King James Bible’s Book of Genesis as one of the first sea creatures created by God. Humpback whales are one of the largest species of whales, renowned for their acrobatic performances in the water and their unusual songs. Scientists have discovered that male humpback whales sing long, complex “songs” that can 10 to 20 minutes. Humpback whales sing in a variety of “dialects” because the songs are unique to the part of the world where the whales live.
The Person of the Forest: Orangutan
Habitat: Borneo and Sumatra
Population: Estimated 50,000 to 60,000 
Average life span: 30 to 40 years
In Indonesia, legend has it that orangutans have the ability to speak but chose to became silent after human beings entered the forest. Orangutans supposedly feared that humans would enslave them if they found out the forest dwellers could speak. These long-armed, intelligent primates are close relatives of humans, sharing 97 percent of the same DNA, and the word orangutan means "people of the forest" in the local Malay language. Orangutans have an enormous arm span—up to 7 or 8 feet—allowing them to swing with ease between treetops. When it rains, orangutans often fashion umbrellas from leaves to keep themselves dry.
The King of the Jungle: Lion
Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa and Western India
Population: 25,000 to 30,000 worldwide
Average Life Span: 12 to 16 years
Celebrated worldwide for their fierceness and strength, lions are often referred to as the “king of the jungle” and, thus, associated with royalty. The official emblem of India features a pillar with four lions standing back to back, a symbol first adopted by Emperor Ashoka in 250 B.C. In other parts of Asia, lion statues act as guardians to Buddhist temples and the Forbidden City in Beijing. Lions live in groups known as prides. Female lions do most of the hunting for the pride and work in teams to bring down their prey, while male lions are responsible for defending the group’s territory. 
Experience the wonder of seeing lions, Bengal tigers, orangutans, mountain gorillas and other incredible animals up-close in their natural habitats.
If group travel brings to mind busloads of tourists being whisked between landmarks for photo-ops, think again.
Over the last two decades, TCS World Travel has been curating unique journeys around the world, and we’ve discovered that group travel done right is one of the most rewarding ways to explore the globe. Here's a video and four reasons why our itineraries defy the group travel stereotype—and why our guests return to travel with us again.

Explore at your own pace
Whether you’re taking a private museum tour or exploring ancient ruins, you’ll never have to worry about being lost in a large group. Our daily activities are limited to small groups of 8 to 12 people, with a maximum of six for wildlife viewing. These groups form organically based on interest or pace—and are never pre-set. Each has its own guide and vehicle, so there’s freedom to adjust the schedule on the fly, and at many destinations, you can opt to enjoy time at your leisure. 
Dine in small groups—or on your own
No two meals on our trips are the same. Share a table with new friends at a barbecue lunch, dine with your partner at a well-known local restaurant for dinner, or order room service instead of going out. We believe cuisine is one way of getting to know a culture, which is why each itinerary includes unique group dining experiences, such as a festive dinner among temple ruins in Cambodia, that showcase the food traditions of that destination
Experience what you can’t do on your own
Imagine skipping the line at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg for a private tour without the crowds, or chartering a whole train along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Traveling as a group allows us to offer exclusive access to iconic sites and hidden gems, as well as experiences difficult to arrange on your own, such as a dinner with royalty. Plus, since we take care of all the details, you can sit back and enjoy the moments as they happen.
Share moments with like-minded explorers 
Our trips are a unique opportunity for like-minded travelers who are interested in learning and exploring to come together. The strong friendships forged on our trips continue long after guests return home and open the door to more travel adventures. In 2016, four couples who met each on one of our Around the World expeditions traveled together on a custom journey to Chile, Argentina and Brazil, created by our Private Travel department. This is just one example of why more than 40 percent of our guests choose to travel with us more than once. 
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