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

Moody Monday…… it was just another wet day!

Glenfinnan Memorial, Loch Shiel, Western Highlands
I have driven to, and past, this Memorial Tower many times,  each time I think it has rained …. and a good deal worse, than on this particular occasion. 
The Memorial is built to commemorate all those who took part in the Jacobite Rising. 
It was here, in 1745, that Prince Charles Edward Stuart symbolically raised his standard on the shore of Loch Shiel. It is also here that many of his followers had gathered for the start of his campaign.
The Prince declared his claim to the British Throne. Enthusiastic and faithful as his followers were, it all ended very badly at the very Bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746. 
The Memorial Tower was erected in 1815.  On the very top of the  60ft tower, stands a statue of  Bonnie Prince Charlie, gazing down the Loch to the Isle beyond  (on a clear day of course).

If you visit, and a climb to the top of the tower is well worth it, I do hope you have better luck with the weather.  Even if it is no better, it is still an evocative place, an important place in Scottish History

Please Remember ….

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

24th August

(C) David Oakes 2020

The Name is the same….. Castle and Village



A battle scarred Castle stand above the village.  Both share the same name…Corfe Castle.

The Castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.  Its location, on high ground on the Isle of Purbeck* in the County of Dorset, made it a near perfect ‘lookout’ and defensive position.   During its history it has fulfilled its role as a fortress, as a Royal Palace and also as a Family home. If you want the full history then your favourite search engine will oblige!

Today, both the Castle and the Village, are  on the well trodden tourist trail.  But don’t let that put you off……  it is a great place to explore.  There is space for everyone and the Castle is much bigger than it looks.

*Isle of Purbeck is not an island, but a peninsula of land with an English Channel coastline.

Please Remember ….

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

18th August

(C) David Oakes 2020