South of Lake Maggiore, the Ticino offers picturesque towns, the odd secret bar and even an open-air pool. Perfect for exploring on foot and by canoe
Let me take you down my home river, the Ticino. The Italian Ticino, that is, just 30 minutes from Milan by car or train (most of the towns mentioned here are on train lines from Milan).
It’s a supremely protean creature, rising in the Swiss Alps, plunging and rushing its rocky way (much-loved by kayakers) down to Lake Maggiore, where it sneaks into Italy under cover of the lake to reappear in altogether more placid form at the picturesque town of Sesto Calende. That’s where we’re going to start our trip. Ahead of us are about 60 glorious miles south to Pavia, where the Ticino surrenders its glacial waters to the more majestic Po, Venice-bound.
From red squirrels to golden eagles, eastern Scotland is home to some of Britain’s best-loved wildlife
In a boat full of twitchers, amateur photographers and American missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, I’m heading to the Isle of May to witness a sight few of us will forget. Five miles away, off the coast of Fife, 42,000 expectant mothers each sit on a single, precious egg in underground burrows while their mates keep watch for prowling gulls. Puffin-nesting season is in full swing.
On a calm day, it is possible to spot dolphins and even humpback and minke whales en route to the island. Not this particular morning, though. The sea is rough and sick bags are passed around with a jocular “No 5p charge today!” Even so, the feeling of anticipation is palpable – and not just among our motley crew. Approaching the island, the sound of squawking seabirds is reaching fever pitch. Visiting gannets (wingspan 6ft) from their home on Bass Rock waft overhead and bespectacled guillemots in their trademark dinner jackets stand cheek to cheek on the tiered, white guano-splattered cliffs, like a gathering of miniature grooms atop a wedding cake.