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A little bit piece of Britain – a really good distance from home: The fun of the Falklands archipelago

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Above the tumbling dunes at Yorke Bay an RAF Typhoon screeched towards the South Atlantic. My companion waved on the aircraft and the pilot, spotting us, responded by waggling the jet’s wings in a friendly ‘hello’.

Welcome to the brand new Falkland Islands, where the military should be in place 4 a long time after the failed 1982 Argentine invasion, but years of stability have created a peaceful haven just waiting to be explored.

And Yorke Bay, a crescent of sand just outside the capital, Stanley, is a symbolic spot on this British Overseas Territory’s revival. For while its beach had long been no-go attributable to Argentinian mines, these have finally been cleared, allowing locals and tourists to benefit from the positive scenery.

‘I never dreamed I might stand here,’ said Daniel Biggs, owner of Falklands Outdoors, one in all the various recent tour firms. ‘I used to leaf through the fence and think it might never be secure.’

While exploring the Falkland Islands, Tom Chesshyre paid a visit to Yorke Bay, above. Its beach had long been no-go attributable to Argentinian mines, but these have finally been cleared, allowing locals and tourists to benefit from the positive scenery, he reveals

But it surely is now — and the ‘Suspect area, out of bounds’ signs are gone. Yet the query stays: why would you travel 8,000 miles to go to this distant archipelago (population 3,200) within the South Atlantic?

The reply is easy: to see among the most spectacular marine life on the earth, and to experience the fierce pride and resourcefulness of a community to date removed. A little bit piece of Britain… a really good distance from home.

After visiting the bay, it was off to Volunteer Point, where great colonies of king penguins and (smaller) gentoo and Magellanic penguins are found. Greater than 3,000 waddle about here.

Tom spent time at Volunteer Point (above), where more than 3,000 penguins 'waddle about'

Tom frolicked at Volunteer Point (above), where greater than 3,000 penguins ‘waddle about’

It was a unprecedented sensation. We strolled close by the tame birds as they squeaked, squawked, cavorted and customarily made a racket. On our visit in mid-November — spring within the Falklands — chicks were shedding down, revealing splendid black-and-white feathers.

Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, a curious penguin would scamper up, flapping its wings and inspecting us. These were heart-moving, joyous moments.

You fly to the Falklands’ Mount Nice Airport, a military/industrial airstrip built after 1982, via a stop-off on the mid-Atlantic island of Cape Verde. The full flight time is eighteen hours, and a direct service is out there on ‘Airbridge’ flights from RAF Brize Norton. You too can go via Chile.

On arrival, passengers normally head straight for Stanley. It is a vibrant place with brightly painted buildings with corrugated roofs and a clutch of full of life restaurants and pubs, plus gift shops, red post and phone boxes.

In pride of place, near Government House, stands a statue of Margaret Thatcher, who as prime minister ordered the Task Force to liberate the islands.

Colourful welcome: Stanley (above) is a 'colourful place with brightly painted buildings with corrugated roofs and a clutch of lively restaurants and pubs'

Vibrant welcome: Stanley (above) is a ‘vibrant place with brightly painted buildings with corrugated roofs and a clutch of full of life restaurants and pubs’

Above is the archipelago's statue of Margaret Thatcher, who as prime minister ordered the Task Force to liberate the islands

Above is the archipelago’s statue of Margaret Thatcher, who as prime minister ordered the Task Force to liberate the islands

There may be also Thatcher Drive along which many a Land Rover spins by. The Falklands will need to have more of those vehicles per head than anywhere.

A positive early Twentieth-century cathedral rises next to a curious whale-bone monument celebrating British heritage. Meanwhile, a museum explains British historical ties dating from the sixteenth century in addition to the ins-and-outs of the deadly 74-day Argentine conflict by which 255 British servicemen, three islanders and 649 Argentinians died.

There’s an upbeat feel in Stanley now, though, with prosperity coming from its thriving fishing industry. This is clear within the bustling watering holes, especially Victory Bar (with its Union Jack bunting) and the Globe Tavern, plus dining spots comparable to The Waterfront Hotel and Malvina House Hotel.

The latter is near a Falklands War memorial where the Princess Royal laid a wreath during our visit. Many veterans had made the trip. ‘I often think concerning the war,’ said David Woodward, 60, who served in 59 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers. ‘It’s still vivid in my mind. We’ve come to pay our respects.’

From Stanley, you can fly to Sea Lion Island (pictured), which is home to giant elephant seals as well as penguins

From Stanley, you’ll be able to fly to Sea Lion Island (pictured), which is home to large elephant seals in addition to penguins

A Magellanic penguin on Sea Lion Island

A Magellanic penguin on Sea Lion Island

Battlefield tours of Goose Green, San Carlos and Mount Tumbledown are popular. But it surely is the wildlife on the remoter islands that pulls many visitors.

From Stanley you’ll be able to fly to Sea Lion Island, also home to large elephant seals, in addition to the Bleaker, Pebble, Carcass and Saunders islands. Expect magnificent rockhopper penguins, rare caracara falcons, petrels and black-browed albatrosses.

Small propeller planes link the islands, landing at grass airstrips, effectively making a ‘marine safari’, with tourists popping off to 3 or 4 on typical fortnight visits. Flights last from 15 to 40 minutes.

At Port Howard farm on West Falkland, rockhoppers were abundant. We also tried trout fishing on the River Warrah.

Highlights, penguins aside, included oystercatchers, upland geese and sinister-but-serene skuas circling above penguin nests attempting to find eggs. We never did see a killer whale, though you sometimes could be lucky.

Small propeller planes link islands such as Carcass island (above) and Bleaker island, landing at grass airstrips

Small propeller planes link islands comparable to Carcass island (above) and Bleaker island, landing at grass airstrips

You can expect to see magnificent rockhopper penguins, pictured, when you arrive on Saunders island, Tom reveals

You possibly can expect to see magnificent rockhopper penguins, pictured, if you arrive on Saunders island, Tom reveals 

Visitors stay in small lodges and farmhouses. Don’t expect anything fancy. But that’s a part of the charm — together with an invariably hospitable welcome.

Back at Yorke Bay before flying home, we relaxed on the once-deadly sand watching an albatross sailing above. The war of 40 years ago felt a distant memory.

It just isn’t, after all, for a lot of locals — especially when Argentine veterans return, a number of in T-shirts bearing Argentinian flags.

No wonder there’s the odd comment about ‘Argies’, while giftshop souvenirs bear slogans comparable to ‘The Falklands: British to the core!’ As Argentina still claims the islands, that’s comprehensible.

Yes, the war could also be long over, but it surely’s removed from forgotten. Not that that matters down in Yorke Bay among the many penguins.

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