Archive for June, 2008

The UK and humans

The UK is rich in history, rich in geology.  There are ‘historical’ UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury and ‘natural’ World Heritage Sites such as the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and Devon.  You travel around and it’s all highly visble.

What isn’t visible, but for some even more remarkable, is the story of humans and other animals in the UK.  I was reading an information board down in Devon the other day which stated that elephants and rhino used to bumble around the east coast.

And then there are the humans.  This week, there have been news stories about an archaeological dig which provided evidence that a human ancestor, the Neanderthal, was alive and well in West Sussex some 40,000 years ago.  Apparently, amongst the last hunting groups to occupy Northern Europe.  In the same county, West Sussex, there’s the more famous ‘Boxgrove Man’, another human ancestor, who lived here around 500,000 years ago.  When you visit the superb priory at Boxgrove it’s awesome to think that humans have been living there, on and off as they dodged ice ages, for such a vast amount of time.

The aim of picturetheuk is to reveal the UK to people through pictures (made from photos, videos, words, art etc) and perhaps we need to think of ways to bring this hidden past out as well.

Boxgrove Priory: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/boxgrove-priory-1037.html

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There are loads of retailers in the UK who sell outdoor kit.  Over the last couple of decades it’s become big business and this is only set to contiue owing to increasing awareness of environmental issues, high energy prices keeping more people within the UK, the continued move of outdoor gear from niche into mainstream fashion.  The North Face kit is omnipresent on our high streets.

It’s cool when retailers try a different approach and there’s a newish company called Webtogs that’s worth bookmarking.  The people behind it come from a technology background and it shows on their site.

There’s a shop as well in Blandford Forum which is on the fringe of the Cranbourne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the Dorset AONB  and a short distance from the New Forest National Park.  Well worth a visit.

Site: www.webtogs.co.uk

Blog: http://blog.webtogs.co.uk/

Cranbourne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs AONB: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/destinations/cranborne-chase-and-west-wiltshire-downs-508.html

Dorset AONB: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/destinations/dorset-510.html

New Forest National Park: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/destinations/new-forest-national-park-561.html


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World Heritage Sites and Roads

If you stand on The Ridgeway National Trail and look down at Avebury Stone Circle or if you walk Stonehenge Down and look back towards the henge, you can imagine what it must have been like to live in this area around 5000 years ago.  These are important places.  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

So why oh bloody why did a government bod think it was a good idea to build a sodding great big road metres from Stonehenge?  And then why oh bloody why did another government bod think it was a good idea to build another sodding great big road to compliment the first?

Check out the satellite image on the map here if you’ve never been http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/stonehenge-world-heritage-site-2.html

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picturetheuk has two websites.  The first is the public site www.picturetheuk.com and the second is an admininstrative site.  To us, ‘admin’.  This ‘admin’ site has a section that tells us where people are coming from, eg Google, Yahoo, blogs etc.

Today, a visitor to picturetheuk was referred by Google having searched the term ‘Areas of high tourism in the UK’.  Here are the answers …

In 2002, there were 167 million trips made by UK residents within the UK.  135 million of those were to England, 12 million in Wales, around 18 million in Scotland and nearly 3 million in Northern Ireland.  For overseas residents, there were 24 million visits made that year.  Over 20 million trips to England, around 1 million to Wales, 2 million to Scotland and 300,000 to Northern Ireland.

Breaking that down, for UK residents the ‘Heart of England’ (West Midlands and around The Peak District National Park area) and the South West of England were the most popular destinations with 25 million and 21 million visitors respectively.  London was by far and away the most popular destination for overseas residents with a whopping 12 million or 50% of total visits made.

I’ll post the full stats at a later date.  In addition, I’ll flesh out this post and explain how picturetheuk will provide such information.

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Google, travel and new websites

‘But how will people find you?’

You build a website, tell someone about it and they invariably ask ‘but how will people find you?’

Quite right too.  There are many answers including word of mouth (or the ‘viral’ word), formal marketing methods such as PR, advertising through display ads (the banners and boxes you see splattered all over the net) and advertising through search engines.

Search engines.  Or here in the UK, Google.  Stats out this week from one research company estimate that almost 9 out of every 10 searches in the UK in May went through Google.  Over in the US, it’s around the 7 out of 10 mark. 

In addition, the research shows that Google is an extraordinarily powerful driver of visitors (or ‘traffic’) to sites in general.  The above stats refer to search, ie people going online and searching for information, goods etc.  If you take the overall traffic to a specific category on the internet such as travel then Google still delivers about 2.5 in every 10 visits to a travel site.

And bear in mind that when you start out, people aren’t bookmarking your site and therefore returning to you directly so Google becomes even more critical as an enabler of growth.

[Update]: The moral?  Make sure you do everything in your power to get Google on your side 🙂

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As you travel around counties in the south west of England such as Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, you see sheep.  Lots of sheep.  You also see beautiful cream brick villages and towns and country houses.  And there are the elaborate churches and chunky public buildings and you wonder where all the money came from, how they afforded to build all this? 


Sheep provided wool.  Wool generated commerce.  Commerce created wealth.  Wealth was turned into the buildings that we love to visit today.

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This other Eden (3): Dover Castle

Drive along the south eastern coast of England and it’s clear we’ve had a violent past.  Roman forts and medieval castles, Napoleonic towers and modern bunkers.  All there, all highly visible.  Especially Dover Castle, glowering at France. 

A steep road runs parallel to the castle’s outer walls and then cuts left through a tower.  The road climbs again, past the secret wartime tunnels, past the WWII Admiralty look-out and turns into the car park.  The Norman castle keep is a short walk to the north, the Admiralty look-out to the south. 

From the top of the keep, there’s an amazing 360 view of Dover town, this part of the Kent Downs AONB, the castle church and its Roman lighthouse, the English Channel beyond.  From the look-out, Dover port and town are below, the White Cliffs of Dover to your right. 

The castle is astonishing and deserves its place as one of the UK’s finest attractions.

Link to: Dover Castle http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/dover-castle-32.html and the Admiralty look-out http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/dover-castle-admiralty-look-out-341.html and the Roman lighthouse http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/dover-castle-roman-lighthouse-1085.html and medieval church http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/dover-st-mary-in-castro-church-270.html

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Lists and maps and needles in haystacks

I once sat on a bus for about 24 hours travelling north from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.  On the map, I hadn’t moved very far.  It’s a big place.  The same 24 hour journey here in the UK would easily get you from the tip of Cornwall (England) to the top of Highland (Scotland).  The UK isn’t a big place. 

Well, not big in comparison to other places but still plenty big to feel that finding extraordinary places is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.  Sure, there are obvious attractions that are known the world over.  Stonehenge, Edinburgh Castle, Tower of London etc.  But what of all the other amazing places that are less well known.  How do you find them?

picturetheuk is a search engine.  You search for attractions and destinations.  Fine, but that still doesn’t really help you discover places does it?  So to address the problem, we rank attractions by popularity.  Users click on attractions, photos, videos, maps and we collect the info and arrange attractions by popularity accordingly.  So users can discover places they might want to visit.  We’ve tried to make the site as visual as possible to make this process enjoyable.

Yesterday, we provided the facility to view these attractions on maps.  So if you go to the home page and type in ‘London’ in the attraction search, you’ll be presented with the option of displaying places by list or on maps.

This way, we hope you’ll start discovering needles in haystacks that you never knew existed 😉

Link for that ‘London’ search: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/search?loc_q=london&loc_id=1085

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3D via lots and lots of photos

Some interesting work being done on maps at the moment.  In short, taking photos and stitching them together to create 3D representations of places.  Allowing people to visualise locations if you will.  Still think editorial and social content are the solution to the problem of visualising, recommending and discovering places before you visit them but this work will certainly be of help.  Reported on TechCrunch, links below.

Google bought a Spanish company called Panoramio in 2007.  This company geo-locates photos on Google’s maps.  Microsoft have (somewhere, not on site at mo) a facility called ‘Birds eye’ that allowed me to navigate around a 3D London when I last used it.  They then bought MultiMap and not too sure what’s going on with it now.

Google: http://www.panoramio.com/ and Microsoft http://labs.live.com/photosynth/default.html and TechCrunch report http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/03/googles-panoramio-launches-photosynth-like-flythroughs/

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This other Eden (2): Elgol

By car, from mainland Scotland, the A87 takes you past one of Scotland’s most famous attractions, Eilean Donan Castle.  The road continues through the Kyle of Lochalsh, over the bridge and onto the Isle of Skye. 

A little further on, there’s a smaller road on the left at Broadford which journeys around Loch Slapin (with spectacular views of the mountain Blaven) and then south west towards the coastline.  The road bends, dips, rises, arrives at the top of a steep descent.  At the bottom, by the sea, is the tiny village of Elgol.  Unquestionably, this is a candidate for the most spectacular view in the UK, the view from Elgol across the water to the Cuillin of the Isle of Skye. 

Over in Nepal, there’s a famous view of Everest from a peak called Kala Patthar.  From it, one looks across and up towards the bowl of rock that makes Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse.  The view from Elgol is every bit as extraodinary as the view from Kala Patthar. 

The view: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/attraction/the-cuillin-268.html and Elgol: http://www.picturetheuk.com/uk-tourism/destinations/elgol-47506.html



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