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Visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula and walking Gully Ravine
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The Gully is located at the north west side of the Gallipoli peninsula, in the Helles sector. The closest centres of population are Alcitepe, which is less than a kilometre from the northern end of the Gully, or Sedd El Bahr, about 6 kilometres to the south west, the location of V Beach.
Do please note that whilst I am an enthusiastic traveller and battlefield guide, what follows is based on my personal visits and should not be construed in any way as specific recommendations or professional advice concerning travel or accommodation. For specialised information on travel to Turkey, I recommend Tom Brosnahan's Turkey Travel Planner site.
Many travelling to Gallipoli will arrive in Turkey via Istanbul's Ataturk airport. This is some 300 km from the Gallipoli peninsula, but it is still slightly nearer and has better travel facilities than the other two choices of airport, namely Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen and Izmir. British Airways and Turkish Airlines run direct daily scheduled flights from the UK to Istanbul Ataturk. There are other airlines offering flights but these sometimes involve a change of aircraft at a European stop-
Note that a third airport for Istanbul is being built some 35 kilometres north of Ataturk Airport. If a bus station is part of the plan and if coaches from here run to the Gallipoli peninsula then travel there may become rather easier.
From Istanbul there are four main ways of getting to Gallipoli.
Air: BoraJet run a regular domestic service to Canakkale from Sabiha Gokcen Airport, costing around £25 for a single flight and taking just 45 minutes. For travellers from the UK, there is little synchronisation between flight times however, with the domestic flight typically departing a round midnight. To allow time to catch this flight, it is often necessary to arrive with BA or Turkish air by around 5pm (the later flights will not allow enough time to check in for the internal one) so you then have to wait some 6 -
A further minor but important issue is that whilst most international flights allow 20 -
My last word on Sabiha Gokcen Airport: it is modern and well designed,with the extraordinary exception that seating provision is extremely poor. If you see one free, grab it!
The Canakkale airfield is about 5 km from the town centre so a taxi is the best option if you are staying near the ferry port or across the water in Eceabat.
Bus: Turkey has a superb long-
At the Otogar, Truva and Metro are the companies that offer the most frequent services to Gallipoli. Kamel Koc, the biggest coach company in Turkey, also run services, but timings are not as frequent.
The journey takes about 5 hours, with a few rest stops.The service is superb, with nibbles, free drinks (soft) and freshen-
Taxi: Taxis from the airports can be booked in advance, with a journey time of about 5 hours (depending on the driver). As one would expect, costs are high, around £150 for a single journey (also depending on the driver!).
Car hire: Cars are easy to hire in Turkey. You will need to present an internationally accepted driving licence, with costs at around £30 a day for a small 2 door car. Air conditioning is relatively essential.
Without intending any slight on the nation as a whole, which I love, it is generally recognised that Turkish driving is 'passionate'. You need to add to this the huge traffic congestion in and around Istanbul. Once on the peninsula, things are very different, with little traffic and open, if rather rough roads. I have hired cars and motor scooters locally, which worked extremely well. Be prepared for infrequent use of indicators, ‘undertaking’, and a total disregard for pedestrian crossings. Take it easy. Turkish drivers are very laid back and it pays to adopt the same attitude.
My own choice now would be to fly down and then hire a car locally for a few days. There are several car hire companies in Canakkale.
A last comment on the overall travel package. If you aim to get to the peninsula by coach, fly in to Ataturk or Izmir airports, not Sabiha Gokcen. Arriving at this latter airport will mean getting a local bus, taxi or train in to the centre of Istanbul or over to the Esenler Otogar for ongoing travel, all of which adds an unnecessary layer of organisation.
Although it is gaining in popularity, the Gallipoli peninsula is still a bit 'off the beaten track' in Turkey, and hotels and accommodation can reflect this. In any case, what passes for 3 star in Turkey will not be anything like the same standard as London or Manchester. An easy-
The basic choice is between hotels and pansiyons, (B & Bs). When choosing accommodation, you also need to make decisions about access to the battlefield areas.
Eceabat and Canakkale are about 30 kilometres to the north east from Cape Helles and around 12 kilometres south east from the Anzac areas. Canakkale is the largest town locally, but bear in mind that if you stay there, you will need to cross the straits via the ferry and back each time you visit the battlefields, thereby adding at least two hours to your daily programme
Eceabat, on the northern ’battlefields’ side of the straits, is smaller, but does have some hotels and a few restaurants. My preference is use Eceabat as a base. It is then very easy (and quite pleasant) to cross the the straits in the evening for the wider selection of places to eat in Canakkale. More about the ferries below.
As mentioned above, the following are a few pointers to accommodation that I have personal experience of. Please note however that I am not a travel writer/agent, and what follows is not a formal recommendation:
Helles Panorama, Sedd El Bahr: This is the home of Errol Baycan and his wife, and their large house stands on hill 141, just a few metres from Doughty-
The Grand Eceabat hotel is situated literally adjacent to the ferry berth. The hotel offers good if rather basic accommodation, and it has a wonderful rooftop restaurant/bar area with superb views across the Dardanelles. The hostel opposite is more backpacker style with dormitory accommodation and suitably lower prices.
Villa Bagci, just west of the town centre, is superb. A small family-
On the southern side of the straits, in Canakkale, there are many good hotels, and the benefit here is that there are far more facilities, particularly for eating, car hire, practical & technical supplies etc. As stated elsewhere, the drawback is that if you are in the area specifically to visit the battlefields, you will have to cross the straits by ferry every day, adding two hours and a few pounds outlay in cash to your daily programme.
I stayed at the Kervansaray hotel in Canakkale in 2013 and 2015 and this worked well. It is not greatly luxurious by western standards but the food was fresh and plentiful and the rooms comfortable, if a little tired in a quaint way. It has a lovely private garden. Our hire car was parked and brought to the door for us, for a few Euros ‘tip’ each day. The hotel is about 200 metres from the main ferry and the waterfront restaurants are just a few minutes walk away.
There are dolmuses , (pronounced ‘Dolmush), I.e., shared buses, which will stop on the road on request) running between Eceabat and Cape Helles, and also to Anzac. They seem to run about every 30 minutes to an hour, but there is no obvious timetable and drivers will not necessarily speak English. This is a very cheap way of getting around if you have time to spare and can master the system! They will stop anywhere on the road if you indicate with a wave. (Conversely, if you are on your mobile do not gesticulate, or you may find a queue of dolmuses stopping to pick you up!) Costs for journeys are very modest.
The main ferry runs at least hourly between Canakkale on the south side of the Dardanelles and Eceabat on the north side. The service reduces in frequency in the small hours of the night. As mentioned elsewhere, the battle sites are on the north side, but Canakkale has most of the facilities. The ferry costs about 1.5 lira (60p) for a return crossing. At the present time (Autumn 2015), two persons in a car can cross for 35 Lira, that is about £8.
There is also a smaller cheaper ferry which runs from Canakkale to Kilitbahir, to the west of Eceabat.
There are plenty of taxis in Canakkale and Eceabat. If you are staying in Canakkale, note that there is no point in hailing a taxi there to take you over the straits. Instead, walk onto the ferry, pay for the 'on foot' crossing and then get a taxi on the other side from Eceabat. Don't necessarily expect taxi prices that are significantly lower than the UK. Try to negotiate a price first, or at least check that there is a meter running.
Car hire: Barring 25th April and the surrounding days, when thousands of mainly young Australian and New Zealand pilgrims arrive for the Anzac Day remembrance events, car hire is a good choice, especially if there are between 2 and 4 of you. Once out of the towns, traffic will not be a problem. Parking is free at the various memorials, although apart from the main locations such as the Helles Memorial and at Chunuk Bair, which have proper car parks, it is often a matter of finding a verge to pull up on. Petrol is cheap but note carefully that the only petrol stations in the area once you are on the north side of the straits are in Eceabat, both of them on the bypass road that loops round the north of the town. If you are heading off to Cape Helles or to Suvla for the day, make sure you have plenty of fuel. This is especially important in hot weather, when the air condition system will reduce your MPG.
Walking: A round walk from Eceabat to Helles is about 60 km (40 miles) so very few will be able, or want to do this. However, once you are in the vicinity, especially if you are walking Gully Ravine and the spurs, there is really no choice but to walk locally. See below for sensible precautions.
Most of this is common sense:
Take lots of water.
Check the weather. Any rain will make the gully stream bed difficult to get through. between late April -
Consider carefully the possibility of walking with someone else or as part of a group. Once in the gully you are completely cut off from the outside world. Your mobile is unlikely to work, and the loudest shout will go unheard unless you are extremely lucky unless there happens to be a shepherd (who understands English!) nearby.
Tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back.
Take lots of water, especially in hot weather. (Did I mention that earlier?). Food is also likely to be necessary since the complete walk can take up to 4 hours, depending on how many stops and diversions you make.
Take maps and guides etc. The best book on the area is undoubtedly Stephen Chambers', 'Gully Ravine', See below under ‘resources’.
Take a basic first aid kit and any medication needed on a regular basis.
A number of guide books mention dogs or packs of dogs in the Pink Farm area and around Gully Beach. There are some strays, but most dogs are working with shepherds to marshall sheep and goats. There are two precautions that can be taken, namely, appeasement in the form of dog biscuits, or deterrent in the form of a walking stick etc. (Please note however that I am not for a moment advocating the active use of the latter, its just for show … I have a black Labrador back home! ). I have been barked at by sheep dogs, who appear simply to want to let you know who is boss, but I have never really felt threatened. If this happens, the best idea is to stand still until the dog passed by with its herd. Stray dogs are usually quite timid, and permanently hungry!
A good pair of walking boots is more or less essential. The gully path is soft sand for much of its course, but this is completely untamed land, and holes, divots and loose rocks are commonplace. Sunglasses and a sun hat may also be required. I would not recommend walking in shorts. The grass can be prickly and razor-
Depending on the season, be prepared to climb over or crawl under fallen trees.
Although the possibility is fairly remote, you may just come across live rounds, hand bombs or even shells. These are approached and touched, literally, at one's peril. Stay clear.
A map of Gully Ravine will be very useful, although one argument is that once in the gully, you just keep going to its other end! A book which describes the background and actions in this this area would also be useful and the two requirements can be perfectly combined by acquiring a copy of Stephen Chamber’s excellent book, suitably named ‘Gully Ravine’, Battlefield Europe series, ISBN 0850529239.
The book is pictured left with a few artifacts found on the surface around the area of the Eastern Birdcage on one of my recent walks through the ravine, namely, a piece of ‘SRD’ rum jar, a .303 cartridge and a shrapnel ball. They were left there.
This is a good place for the mini-
Although admittedly unlikely, it is also just possible that some ordnance may still be live.
Leave it be! Amen.
The walk itinerary below is linked to images of the route. Click a link to follow a virtual visual walk up the ravine. Details are based on my 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2015 walks.
In September 2015 it was noticeable that water erosion had made quite an impact on the gully compared with my previous visits. The gully is presently a harder hike than it was, with a considerable number of fallen trees to be negotiated.
To walk the entire length of Gully Ravine, or at least, the most relevant parts, it will probably be necessary to make some transport arrangements. The notes that follow assume a walk from the southern end at Gully Beach, to the northern part, at Nuri Yamut (Fusilliers’ Bluff). If you are walking southwards down the ravine then a reversal of the suggestions below will work well. You may want to arrange for a taxi to pick you up at your eventually finishing point. Serious hikers can of course walk the gully in both directions to arrive back at their starting point, perhaps by coming back down via Gully Spur or Fir Tree Spur.
Whatever transport you use, you need to arrive at Pink Farm Cemetery or just to the south west of this, at a distinctive bend in the road.
Pink Farm CWGC is the closest cemetery to the Gully and most of the 602 burials and commemorations here fell in the local area. The farm itself was the base for a mining company later in the campaign, as described in Jo Murray’s first hand account published as ‘Gallipoli as I saw it’.
Walk south west along the road from Pink Farm cemetery. The road takes a sweeping turn to the left, and from the bend, you will be able to see the Helles Memorial with Seddulbahir on its left. To the extreme left, you may also glimpse the distinctive Turkish Memorial at Morto Bay.
To your right, the land is flat and runs across the fields to the cliff top above the sea. Close to a cluster of trees on the bend you will see a track that gradually descends, becoming sunken, to the east. This is the path down to Gully Beach. As it descends, you can either take the (relatively) easier route that curves right and then left down the hill, or the more extreme route straight down to the beach. (Either route is fairly challenging however, and caution should be exercised underfoot).
Once you are on the shore and facing out to sea, Gully Beach is to your right, and a sprawling rocky coastline that leads eventually to Bakery Beach and X beach extends to your left. Turn right and walk along the rocky shore. There is an area of slightly higher land to your right. This was the 1915 location of a small battlefield cemetery called ‘H29’. Burials from here were relocated to Pink Farm in 1919.
After a few minutes walk, you will arrive at Gully Beach. With the Aegean sea on your left, you will see the distinctive headland ahead.
In the sea to your left, a few metres off shore, you will notice the protruding remains of the bridge and bow of a 'K' type lighter (barge), which ran aground during the night of the evacuation in January 1916.
About 400 metres northward along the narrow beach, Sergeant John Robins was executed on 2nd January 1916 for dereliction of duty.
Turn slightly to your right and, with the headland on your left, follow the flat ground towards the well head. This is easily found because it is surrounded by chunks of old lorry tyres, rather unsightly but apparently placed there as a crude safety feature!
Murray's Well is documented in Joseph Murray's book, 'Gallipoli as I saw it'. It was dug by Murray and others in July 1915 and still contains water (albeit infested by frogs and thick with algae -
Assuming you are still facing north eastwards you may notice a pill box in the undergrowth on the right. This was constructed post 1918. Over your shoulder to the right is the shallow offshoot gully which was the HQ of 29th Division in 1915. Penetration of this area is a major undertaking.
Walk a few metres into the gully, with the well behind you, and very suddenly, the breeze will cease. This is caused, quite naturally, by the physical shadow of the seaward cliff, but the effect is quite strange, and a number of troops commented on it in 1915. The silence is poignant, reminding one that in 1915 the journey ahead was at the cost of many hundreds of lives and numerous unmarked graves.
The gully makes a sharp kink to the left and then right soon after the beach, cutting one off quickly from the sound of the sea -
The trees and scrub mask a great deal of detail, and you will inevitably pass numerous passages, dugouts and shallow side gullies without being aware of them. After about one kilometre, you will emerge into a fairly open space. To the right, a track runs upwards over your right shoulder. This is Artillery Road, leading down from Pink Farm, a major route into the gully from Fir Tree Spur. A few metres onwards, running upwards, forward and over your left shoulder, is Artillery Row, the primary route onto the trenches and gun emplacements on Gully Spur.
If you have the time, the 20 minute diversion westwards via Artillery Row up onto Gully Spur is well worth it. As you climb the path, you will notice, down and to your right, a fairly long offshoot gully running parallel to your path.
After a fairly strenuous ascent, you will emerge onto a well-
From here, an option is to follow the woodland path to the north east for about 400 metres. Off to the left, the seaward side, it is possible to find the well-
Back in Gully Ravine, continue northwards, noting that the path here is wider and (subjectively) less oppressive. About 200 metres further onwards, you will come to two side gullies on the left. The first of these, the slightly smaller, is 'Aberdeen Gully', the location of the 89th Brigade Field Ambulance. Next door, to the north, was the 88th Field Ambulance.
A great deal of the specific knowledge we have about Aberdeen Gully comes from the Revd. Oswin Creighton, who was a chaplain attached to the 89th Ambulance, which was located here. His book, 'with the 29th Division in Gallipoli' describes in detail his experience in Aberdeen Gully, and includes this telling quote, referring to his base:
'It is about 500 yards from the firing line in a little gully called Aberdeen Gully (as the 89th come from there), which runs off from the main gully. A narrow path about fifty yards long has been cut out of the bed formed by a stream now dry. The path runs up into a little natural amphitheatre in the cliff, about fifteen yards in diameter. The sides of the gully are almost precipitous, but it has been widened enough at places to make a dressing-
Visitors intending to locate Aberdeen Gully would do well to read Creighton's book. Aberdeen Gully's identity can be verified by walking about 20 metres further north along the main gully and checking for the presence of a slightly larger but similar offshoot gully, also on the left, which was the base of the 88th Field dressing station. There is no similar geography in the immediate vicinity.
Creighton was killed by a shell on the Western Front in 1918. A collection of his letters was compiled by his mother in 1920 and is now available as a public domain download, in PDF format.
The gully continues to twist and turn as you progress, narrowing in places and opening out in others, although the thick undergrowth and trees make it difficult to see the offshoot areas. There is evidence of a number of dugouts and widened areas in the immediate walls however, particularly to the right.
Eventually you will come into a long narrow straight section at the end of which the gully makes a sharp 90 degree turn to the right. This is the southern end of the Zig Zag.
The Zig Zag was named by the troops due to its winding nature, and perhaps also after the sinuous goat path running up the eastern wall of the gully which was widened and improved for use as a main access route to and from the 'H' tenches on Fir Tree Spur.
A few metres round the first turn you will see a path that ascends the low bank on your left. If you follow this, you will emerge on to a wide flat area bounded by trees to the south and west. This is Geoghegan's Bluff, or 'G' Bluff as it was known.
G bluff lies between Gully Ravine and Y beach. During the campaign it was a major cemetery just behind the allied front lines. After the war, over 900 graves from here were relocated to a special area at Twelve Tree Copse cemetery.
If you ascend the slope straight ahead, you will be rewarded with excellent views back over the eastern wall of the Zig Zig. A ten minute walk northwards across to the cliffs from here will bring you to Y Ravine and to Gurkha Bluff where the still-
If you return and enter the gully again at Geoghegan’s Bluff (Turn left as you drop down from the bluff to the gully floor. Otherwise you will be walking back to the sea again!) you will quickly enter a section where the path turns sharply left and right between high walls. You are now walking through the notorious Zig Zag. The cliff walls, especially on the right, rise sheer, and it is easy to sense the simultaneous oppression and comfort of this unique location. On the eastern wall of the Zig Zag, a goat path was utilised as an access point to the trenches on Fir Tree Spur. As far as I know, no trace of it now exists.
As you draw near to the 90 degree out-
About 20 metres further on, also on the left, right in the elbow of the last 90 degree turn, you will see a similar trench entering. This is the beginning of Douglas Street, a communications trench which ran up onto the further 'J' trenches on Gully Spur.
As you leave the Zig Zag, another 90 degree turn open onto a longish straight section. Ahead is the distinctive earth and concrete barrier of Redoubt C, which has been broken down over the years into a step-
Walk on for about another 100 metres and you will note that the Gully walls are reducing rapidly in size. You are in the vicinity of Border Barricade, (little if anything of which now remains) the final allied front line. Although occasional advances were made beyond this point, the barricade, named after the 1/Border regiment who first established it during the battle of Gully Ravine, was the furthest point consistently held by the allies during the campaign. It is worth climbing out the ravine on the right side here to visit the sites of the Boomerang and Cawley's Crater.
From here the ravine walls quickly reduce in height until you come to a clear junction in the water-
The walk narrative concludes here. It is possible either to follow the Nullah to the left up to Nuri Yamut Memorial (Fusilliers’ Bluff) or to walk through the final shallow section of Gully Ravine on the right and onto the fields, then turning sharp right onto a well-
If you take this path into Alcitepe, do not miss the opportunity to visit the small but excellent private museum established by Salim Mutlu, which contains huge amounts of battlefield memorabilia and maps, documents etc.
The local dolmus drops off and picks up outside the museum. There are several routes operated. One one of early visits, having walked into Alcitepe from the gully, I caught a dolmus full of Turkish tourists and then discovered that it was only going back to Eceabat after a full tour of the Anzac area, completely in Turkish, so I spent the afternoon on the Turkish tour -
I do not speak Turkish, but have learned the value of making a stab at a few words.
The tables below contain the original Turkish, a phonetic version in italics, with bold for the required emphasis, and then the English translation.
Locations around Gallipoli
(Most 'c's in Turkish are soft, ie., ‘ch or ‘char’, and 'e's on the ends of words are normally voiced).
tesekkür ederim Teshekur -
Ismim Ismim I am ... (My name is ...)
Tamam Tamam Fine, great, OK
Hesap Hesap The bill (As in asking the bill in a restaurant. add ‘lutfen’ to be polite).
Bir Beer One
Iki icky Two
Try the following site for a quick crash course: http://www.turkishlanguage.co.uk