Ramshackled………….but still in use

Easdale Lumig

Full of character and most probably able to tell many a tale…. “Ramshackled” is perhaps the best word to describe their charm.  Patched against the elements these Highland Barns have stood for many a year…..I wouldn’t like to guess just how many years, dare I say centuries?   Despite their outward appearance they were still in use when last seen.  Walk by them and you feel as if you are walking in history.

Located on the shores of Loch Hourn, by the village of  Corran, at the mouth of Glen Arnisdale,  North West Scotland.   A wild location so you can be very sure they have endured the very worst of weathers, and no doubt will continue to do so for many more years to come.

27th March

© David Oakes 2014

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Not so Tranquil today…….

Disc One

This is Scourie Bay when last visited in the summer.  Today it will be far from tranquil.  Whilst storms are lashing the whole of the U.K. the very North West of Scotland seems to be getting battered the worst.  The Met Office tells us that a very deep depression is centred possibly just above Scourie with cyclonic winds of over 90 mph predicted plus of course heavy rains and some snow.

It is always hard to balance in ones mind the calm peaceful ambience of a place with the toil and turmoil of a winters storm…….whilst it is easy to say that they are used to winter storms on the North West coast of Scotland, it makes them no less dramatic or dangerous for those living there.

Location: Scourie Bay, Scourie, North West Sutherland, Highland Region, Scotland.  Whilst  Scourie is now considered just another small West Coast village, all be it one of the most beautiful, it was once the stronghold of Clan Mackay a fighting clan of some historic significance and distinction.

23rd December

© David Oakes 2013

There is more to a place than the obvious……

 

Although you may never have visited this Highland castle, I reckon it will still be a familiar view for many of you. 

 

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich

It is of course Eilean Donan Castle.  No one can fail to be impressed by the Castle and its dramatic location on the shores of Loch Duich. Thankfully for the current owners a great number of visitors pause in their journey to the Scottish Isles and take a tour, if you have the chance do just that.  Whilst much of to-days visitor experience centre arround the Jacobite Rebellion’s it’s history goes much deeper and is much more complicated (and for those who would like to know more then the following link is a start  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eilean_Donan )

On a calm peaceful morning it is hard to imagine the violence that the castle has seen and some of that violence inflicted by English warship whilst the castle was defended by Spanish Military who were supporting the Jacobite ‘Old Pretender’. But the castle is perhaps an indication that there is much more to the area than just a castle

Two miles south of Donan is an equally important site which people on the ‘Road to the Isles’, heading for Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye must pass.  

Glen Shiel may well be passed un-noticed, unaware of the bloody battles that took place there. Even more will pass by this church an not know of its existence…..yet for me its location is equally dramatic and its historical connection much more poignant than the clinical Visitor Centre experience at the castle.

Clachan Duich, Morvich  Kintail, Glen Sheil, Scotland 

Clachan Duich (or church of stone by the Loch Duich) is its name to-day.  In times gone by it has also be known as the Church of Saint Dubhthac. Whilst the roofless building has foundations that go back to the 11th century experts say there are records that the site has religious connections going back to the 3rd century. 

It location is hard to beat, on high ground above the Loch, in the shadow of the Five Sisters of Kintail in a relatively sheltered valley at Morvich and on a clear day are evocative views to the Islands.  For years it has been the Clan Burial ground for the Clan MacRaes of Kintail and many Clan warriors are buried here, for feudal wars were much apart of those early years. But others who fell during the Jacobite uprisings are also here.  Step inside the roofless walls and you will find a simple, but very large and rusty iron cross together with a memorial to all who lost their lives at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.

So pause for more than just a few moments on this special spot….enjoy the beauty, peace and the tranquillity of the moment but reflect upon the fact that you are standing on and amongst REAL history….a history of passion, believe and much bloodshed.

14th June

© David Oakes 2013

A Scottish Rose…..

It is said that there is no place like home!….a sentiment that I agree with.  No matter how far and how frequently we travel it is nice to arrive back home and being away for extended periods of time can make one ‘homesick’.

We are though left with memories of experiences and places from our travels…some of those places becoming very special places in our memory box, so special that you become ‘metaphorically homesick’ for particular places. For me that location is the very North of Scotland. 

The attraction is substantially the draw of the mountains but in truth it is much more….the people, the history, the culture and music and also the coastline. It is a coast that is both rugged with dramatic rock formations and cliffs that have to be seen to be believed – but also it is mellow with soft sweeping sandy beaches, on the west coast fine pale sands on the east far richer in colour.

My own travels this last year have been severely restricted so memories have been playing scenes and evoking places that I have enjoyed.  Many of these memories have been refreshed by reading and enjoying the posts of fellow bloggers.  Most stimulating have been the post from Scott Marshall (http://wp.me/1ya3j), the Highlands feature strongly but a great many of his images are of the Moray Firth coastline.  Adding fuel to these memories is the unlikely source, the latest Ian Rankin Detective thriller in the Rebus series and his vivid descriptions of the Moray Firth coast along the Back Isle.

Disc OneThis indeed is one of my Scottish Rose’s….Rosemarkie Bay. A long sweeping bay, backed by sand dunes and sheltering a lovely village that shares the same name. Turn about and the bay sweeps away to Chanonry Point and Lighthouse….

Disc One

The Moray Firth is at its narrowest at Chanonry Point, it is where the incoming waters from the North Sea meet the fresh waters flowing from the highlands and this makes it very special for Dolphins….in fact Chanonry Point is a ‘Hot Spot’ for Dolphin watching. It is so popular that I have yet to visit without feeling I am in a crowd, a crowd  all equipped with scopes, binoculars and cameras with huge lenses.  Serious Wildlife lovers and photographers are here in droves and no doubt getting far better shots of Dolphins than my humble effort…but it is my very own memory….

Disc One

In the shadow of the lighthouse is something very different, a memorial stone. It marks the very spot that witnessed the death by burning in a barrel of Tar of a certain Coinneach Odhar perhaps better know as the Brahan Seer.  A Seer is the Scottish name for someone who can see events in the future….a prophet! Many of his predictions came to pass, but as I understand the story he predicted the fall of the Seaforth Estate at Brahan, and this was at the time a prediction too far! However many years after his death his predictions for the downfall of the estate came true..

Disc One

Apart from a wonderful coastline and rolling hills and hidden valleys the Black Isle is steeped in history.  Should you visit Rosemarkie and Chanonry Point will will need to pass though the town of Fortrose, but pause awhile as here you will find the imposing ruins of Fortrose Cathedral…..

Disc OneBuilt in the 13th century, it started life as a much simpler building but as its importance to the area grew so did the building which was greatly enlarged and enhanced in the 15th century.

The name of the Black Isle is a misnomer as it is really a peninsular with the Moray Firth to the south and The Cromarty Firth to the north.  It is at the very tip of the Black Isle where the two Firths meet and are swallowed by the North Sea that you find what was once a busy fishing harbour and the village of Cromarty.  To many in the U.K. who have listened to the ‘Shipping Forecast’ the very name Cromarty is synonymous with stormy weather for sailors….but it can also put on its Sunday best and present a more peaceful scene…

Disc One

I have enjoyed prodding my memory bank into action, great memories of a special place which I hope you have enjoyed sharing with me.  I will be back to Scotland this year, possibly the Black Isle but most certainly some where North of the Great Glen.  May be you might make the trip too, I am sure that will not disappoint you.

20 February

© David Oakes 2013

Withdrawal Symptoms

I suppose for an island race (after all the U.K. is really only one big island with lots of smaller islands for company and surround by wild waters) that for those of us who live inland we get a craving for the coast.  I also suppose that as it is winter and for the most part dark grey days it does create a longing for blue skies, sunshine and warm sea breezes.

Stuck indoors today with snow showers and sleet outside and the thoughts of places visited in warmer times came flooding back.  Now don’t get me wrong, it is not the beach and deckchair that attracts but more the wilder aspect of our coast…….so just to brighten my day here are two locations to lift my spirits and I hope yours.

Bamburgh-Northumberland_00178

The first is the Northumberland Coast.  Giant sand dunes, rocky outcrops and off shore islands, such as the Farne’s plus small fishing villages and a feast of wildlife make this a magnet for us.  True the North Sea is often rough and the breeze blows from the arctic regions so that even on a hot day you have to keep moving. This just adds to the desire to explore and there is a good deal of history to explore with Bamburgh Castle (above) being just one of  many castles that have helped shape our history.

 

The second location is to be found on the opposite (west) coast and to the far north of Scotland. This part of the Scottish coast has been declared an international Geopark due to its dramatic very distinctive geology.  I am happy exploring anywhere from Cape Wrath down to Torridon but perhaps this little area south of the fishing village of Scourie is the magnet for me. The coast is at some points high cliffs, others a gently sweeping rocky plateau that is lapped by the North Atlantic, all with a backdrop of mountain ranges which even those seen in the distance add drama to these remote views.

Disc One

All of these rocks have been carved by the glacial process over the years, plus of course some volcanic activity in the very dim distant past. Giant boulders on rocky outcrops are geological sculptures in a wild seascape as here at Cnoc an Fhir Bhreige near Badcall just to the south of Scourie.  The view to the south, over Eddrachillis Bay, offering a glimpse of the mountains of the Assynt Peninsular.

The weather outside hasn’t improved but my spirits have even if my trip to the seaside has only been both brief and in my minds eye.

20th January

© David Oakes 2013