It might have been very different….


Charles Edward Stuart   —-   Bonnie Prince Charlie

Standing in the shadow of  Derby Cathedral*, is this statue to commemorate the visit to Derby of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.  I say visit, but really it was his Army’s Occupation (all be it briefly) of the Town of Derby.


It was all to do with the Jacobite Uprising in Scotland in 1745….known simply as the 45.  It started in August at Glenfinnan, when Prince Charlie started  to amass a Jacobite Army in Scotland.  The plan was to march to London and retake the Crown of Britain for his Father Charles Francis Edward Stuart, who expressed Claim to the Throne.  Support was substantial and he marched south.  Taking Edinburgh, defeated English Troops at the Battle of Prestonpans.  Crossed the Scottish border into England secured Carlisle Castle and marched on south. Prince Charlie arrived in Derby on December 4th 1745.  Not a bad achievement for a large army that had to travel by foot.

It was here in Derby that things changed.  Many suggest that if Charlie had stuck to his plans the History of the British Throne could have been so much different.  But his pause at Derby allowed time for his advisors to gather up-to-date intelligence of what might lie ahead for the Jacobite Army.  True, the British Army was being organised and a fighting force built to repel the Jacobite’s.  Maybe Charlies advisors were correct in persuading him to rethink his plans, maybe if he had gone forward his Jacobite Army could have overcome that anticipated resistance. Who really knows what that outcome would have been.

What we do know is that 2 days later on the 6th December 1745, Prince Charlie made the decision to return to Scotland.

It was along slow return journey.  His army became demoralised.  The slow progress gave the British Army time to build and pursue the Jacobite’s.  They caught up with them at Culloden.  On April 16th 1746, The Duke of Cumberland engaged the Jacobite Army. It was by all accounts a massacre.  The British Army had superior numbers, they had Cannon Power and highly maneuverable Cavalry.  The Battle of Culloden was won by the stronger British Forces. The Jacobite Rebellion was over.

_DOI0577qqq Despite the bloody and crushing defeat, Charles Edward Stuart has remained in the hearts of many.  Despite the blood shed and failure the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie has been and still is romanticised…. folk lore, legend, tragedy and the real history all blending together… the lines of truth becoming blurred.

I say, romanticised as Bonnie Prince Charlie is immortalised in the famous Scottish Ballard… ‘The Skye Boat Song‘.

” Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye “


So Charles Edward Stuart made his escape.  The British Army began building extensive defences across the Highlands to deter  a further uprising. Those tensions around identity continue today.

  •   I mentioned Derby Cathedral.But in 1745 it was called All Saints, Derby’s Parish Church.  All Saints was only made a Cathedral in 1927.

Please Remember to ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

23rd February

(C) David Oakes 2021

Silent Sunday…….. Off to Church


St. Michaels Chapel, Rame Head, Cornwall

Many years ago, when we were walking a part of the Cornish Coastal Path, we approached Rams Head.  It is a rocky outcrop that protrudes into the English Chanel and because of it high elevation also has a clear view down to Plymouth Sound.

As we approached we could see a Stone building at the highest vantage point.  We were to discover that this building was in fact called St. Michaels Chapel.

But the Chapel was not the first construction on this summit.  As far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages there has been a Hill Fort on this very spot. Not a bad strategic position, commanding expansive views  across both sea and land.  The building of the Chapel is ascribed to St. German and dates back to 981.

The weather and age has taken its toll on the Chapel, but I suspect it has always been very utilitarian building.  Apart from a place for prayer, I guess it was also a place of sanctuary for travellers and pilgrims providing basic shelter from the weather.

St. Michaels may not be the most imposing of buildings, but what cannot be denied is its spectacular location. It has proven to be an important vantage point.  During the 2nd World War it played an important roll, as a Coastal Lookout Point, in the efforts to safeguard  Plymouth Sound and its Navel base.  But it is also said, that it was from here, in 1588, that the first sightings of the Spanish Armada was made.  Warning were sent down to Sir Francis Drake, who legend tells, was playing Bowls on Plymouth Sound and despite the imminent challenge,  insisted on finishing his game. True or not,… its great yarn.

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

31st January

(C) David Oakes 2021

Moody Monday…… and may be everyday ?


Hardknott Roman Fort, Cumbria 

I imagine that for the Roman Soldiers stationed here at Hardknott Fort, high on the Cumbrian mountains, it was possibly Moody Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on.   The Fort was built at the top of the Hardknott Pass at the head of Eskdale.  An idyllic place on a warm sunny day, but more likely windy, wet and at time worse, vastly different from the Mediterranean climate the Romans were used to.

The pass reaches its summit at about a 1000ft and is surrounded by much higher Cumbrian mountains.  The purpose of the Fort was to guard the Roman Road that ascended from Wrynose Bottom (honest that’s is name), a vital link from the Coast to their network of Forts across Northern England.

They could though look forward to Bath Time, just an 8-mile trek down Eskdale to the port of Ravenglass. Here they had established another Fort named Glannoventa complete with a large Hypocaust Bath House.

For those Roman Soldiers it must have been a bleak location….. for us it can still be moody but also dramatically beautiful


Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

5th October

(C) David Oakes 2020

A Shetland Metropolis



As you approach Lerwick,  your first views of the Shetlands, is that you are indeed arriving in a very special place.  I guess many of us have visions of an isolated group of islands to the north east of mainland UK and so close to Norway with whom the Islanders have an affectionate relationship. Then of course there are the many Wildlife and Travel documentaries that portray the Shetlands apparent remoteness, the lack of population (possibly in decline), the wild winters and the sometimes idyllic summers of  long days and ever so short nights…. and of course the abundance of wildlife, in particular seabirds.

But head to the south of the islands, in particular to Sumburgh.  OK., the Islands Airport is there, but to the west overlooking the West Voe of Sumburgh there is somewhere very special.

This is Jarlshof...


Jarlshof…  is old…very very old.  Historians and archaeologists reckon there has been significant human occupation here at Jarlshof for over 5,000 years.  They have discovered and dated Neolithic structures , Bronze Age and Iron Age.  Norse Longhouses and also Medieval Farmsteads and a 16th century Lairds House.  This indeed would seem to be a remote location,  it has though obviously been of great importance.  An area supporting human habitation and their culture over the millennia. Houses, a complete settlement, that would appear to have been built below ground level, perhaps ensuring that we can now see just how complex and solid these building once were.  Farmsteads and Longhouses now just outlines are etched on the landscape.  It is a complex mix and should you visit an expert guide would be a great help in interpreting the Jarlshof for you.  But let me show you some more highlights……

In timeline terms, Jarlshof was only a recent and accidental discovery.  A sever storm in 1897 swept away layers of sand and Jarlshof was discovered.  It may well be that local historians were aware of a settlement but from all accounts, what was uncovered by these forces of nature, was far beyond anyone’s imagination.

Talking of ‘forces of nature’…..   even if your visit is on a sunny day, take a warm waterproof.  Shetland weather can and does change quickly.  Our visit was in September last year.  The sun shone and it was warm, one wondered why we need bring our waterproofs.  Within an hour we had rain, heavy!…. more sun to suggest it had just been a shower.  Then we had snow…. so go enjoy, but be prepared for both the weather, and to be impressed with what our ancestors have left for us to discover.


But where ever you are……

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

8th September

(C) David Oakes 2020

………….. Tantalising Tantallon


Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock

To the east of North Berwick on the East Lothian Coast of Scotland, on a high sea cliff,  stands the ruins of Tantallon Castle.  Built in the 14th century from local Red Sandstone, it was for Scotland a rather unique build.  It comprises of  a strong outer curtain wall, basically in a semi circle, enclosing the Castle buildings, with the sea cliffs providing  an extra defensive wall.  During its history,  it has had to withstand several sieges, not totally unscathed, but for the most part it stood firm.   It may well now be a ruin (though well protected and preserved) but definitely worth exploring, from battlements to dungeons.

If you climb to the very top of the battlements you will also be rewarded with a view across the outer Firth of Forth to the famous Bass Rock.  Bass Rock was once a Hermits Sanctuary, then a Castle guarding the Firth., and even for a time a Prison.

Today it is the home of one of the largest island Gannet Colonies in the World…..hence its white appearance.  The Rock itself is a 320 million year old volcanic plug and at high tide stands at 107 meters  tall.

You can visit Bass Rock, many thousands of Bird Watchers and others do.  Boats from North Berwick provide the service.  However be warned, it is very much tide and weather dependant.  Over many years, at what should be good weather and conditions, the sea’s have conspired against us.  It is here that the outer Firth of Forth meets the North Sea, tides, turbulence and wind are the masters of the waterways.  It is still on my to do list.  

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

27th August

(C) David Oakes 2020