Memories in the making….

As the year approaches the Winter Solstice and a New Year beckons so I thought I would look back at some of the years highlights…..memories in the making.

One memory we will have for a lifetime to come is of Carla, our Labrador and Director of Greetings. No longer with us but always there. 

14th December

(C) David Oakes 2017


Sunday……. So Off to Church


Our Lady of Kazan, Zelenogorsk, Russia

Zelenogorsk is on the Gulf of Finland just north of St. Petersburg.  The church was built in 1915 when this area was part of the Grand Duchy of Finland.  In terms of churches it is not that old. None the less in its short life it has seen much turbulence of wars and revolution …and in that time suffered the consequences of such violent actions.

After the Soviet Army invaded during WW2 the church was used as a warehouse.

Today you would be hard pressed visualise such times as  Our Lady of Kazan, which is an Russian Orthodox Church, was renovated in the 1970’s to much of its former glory.


To say the interior is lavish is perhaps an understatement.  It is a mix of gold and brass which helps display the enormous collection of historic Icons that are on display.

The church was re-consecrated in 1990  and once again a place of regular worship.

For a church that has endured such violence and turmoil it setting is surprisingly tranquil….surround by tall trees on the edge of a woodland area Our Lady of Kazan is set in the perfect Zelenogorsk setting…


3rd December

(C) David Oakes 2017

A Not so Black Isle…..


Chanonry Lighthouse, Fortrose, The Black Isle

Never has a name misled folk so much.  People who visit the Black Isle for the first time are surprised at this green and very fertile peninsular.  A Peninsular is what it is, above Inverness and stretching out to the North Sea between the Cromarty Firth and the Moray Firth.  We have visited many times and whilst we have always enjoyed good weather we do know that the area can be swept by gales and sever weather.

Those of you who live in the UK will be familiar with the Shipping Forecast a broadcast that is intended to warn shipping of bad weather….a regular name that does seem to crop up regularly is Cromarty Firth….usually with the warning of Gale Force winds.

But those of you who follow my Blog will know I regularly  feature post on a Wednesday of ‘My Favourite Places’…..  and the Village of Cromarty is, and  has been, one of those at the very top of my list…


Cromarty, the Village and Harbour

Cromarty is at the very tip of the Black Isle. Not sure why I love this spot so much, maybe it is because today it is relatively isolated and quiet. Yet at the same time it has enough character and people to make it interesting to explore.  There is a great little Museum in the Old Court House but to be frank I find the whole village to be a living museum. Of course like so many Scottish coastal villages Cromarty has seen better times.  Fishing (herring mainly) was one industry that has long gone.  Local grown Hemp was another, very successful weaving and rope making was a key employer in the town. During WW1 Cromarty and the Firth became an important Naval Base. Today the Firth is home to Oil and Gas Platforms, construction and Repair.  Despite all the changes Cromarty is a magnet for me…


The surroundings of Rosemarkie appear much softer.  Green grass covered sand dunes, pebble washed sand beaches and a small village welcome visitors…


The Bay offers great views over the Moray Firth and a magnet for walkers and Sea Angles and the views change with the tide and the Scottish weather..

It is though the Light House at Chanonry Point that is the biggest draw.



 Chanonry Point is a Dolphin Watch Observation Station….the narrow gap at the point between Chanonry and Fort George on the opposite side of the Moray Firth creates narrow gap for the tides and river waters to fight over. Seemingly ideal for Dolphins who love to play and catch their food.  Everyday at any time there are keen folk with binoculars and long lens  poised for the display.  Being very honest  I have to confess we didn’t even catch a glimpse of a fin….. though we have on past visits.

At the point there is also an small monument and plaque that leaves many a visitor with more questions than answers…. the monument marks the spot where someone met their grizzly end.

The Brahan Seer


Truth is often stranger than fiction or so they say.  But here we have a story that many believe over the years as being true…. yet disputed by others who have different interpretations of events, but even those leave more questions un-answered.

So let me précis what is both the most accepted and best recorded interpretation.  

A Seer is someone who can foresee events in the future.  For many they had established a reputation for accuracy.  This particular Seer had such a reputation and was employed by the Seaforth Family at their Braham Castle on the edge of the Black Isle. All went well until his prophesies turned rather bleak for the Seaforth Estate.  The Braham Seer predicted that this powerful and wealth family would befall several events that would spell misfortune and disaster for the family and the downfall of the Estate. The predictions were specific and started to occur.  Tradition had it that the predictions could be halted if the Seer was put to death….. and he was in a most barbaric manner.  Placed in a spiked barrel of boiling tar and set alight.  Chanonry Point was where the execution took place.  In theory this was in the 17th century but even that is disputed. But many did and still believe that the substance of the story is true and it is time that has adapted events.


Interested then this book may help. The ISBN No is 0 09 478460 4

What is true that in the Islands there are many who still think that there are those who can indeed see into the future.


Well…that is it….our Scottish trip has come to an end….over 34 days when the weather did its very best to please.  I hope you have enjoyed the journey.

19th October

(C) David Oakes 2017


Further North ….. More Mountains, Sea and much more….


The Letterewe Range

Dawn and Buster and I headed off up the Leathad Daraich Pass to try and capture the sunrise.  No red sky to welcome this day but as the sun climber above Slioch and Meal Mheiiidh we caught those first rays of morning sunlight.

DOI_5160_00011aaatt A morning that just got better and better


Yesterday we had moved further north from Skye to Lock Ewe and Poolewe…trouble is on route you could be persuaded to pause to enjoy the ever changing scenery….


From Loch Dughaill in Strath Carron….


To Loch Maree in the shadows of a cloud kissed Slioch.


Loch Ewe

Our home for the next few days would be on the shores of Loch Ewe.  Tranquil today yet in the WW2 it was a ‘safe harbour’ and one of the main bases for assembling the Merchant Convoys that head to the frozen seas around Russia.


Poolewe was out temporary address. You can hardly describe the few cottages that are on the banks of the River Ewe as a village but it is still a busy centre for the outlying community.

This area of North West Scotland is just a touch different and very individual.  It is a mix of rocky bays giving way to smooth golden/ white sands.  Rugged headlands, gentle coves, hidden harbours, scattered crofts, thick wooded hillsides and glens, wooded with Beech and Oak and also of course Scots Pines, vegetation lush and at this time of the year just starting to show signs of autumns colour…..and the whole of this magnificent piece of Scotland is of course surrounded by mountains and in places tantalising glimpses of even more dramatic mountains further to the north. So lets take a whirlwind trip round loch Ewe and Area.


But Poolewe has one more surprise up its sleeve….but we will save that till tomorrow when we will have a taste of tropical paradise.

16th October

(C) David Oakes 2017

Two places of Security…….A Port and a Castle



Oban….still a vital link to the outer Isle of the Hebrides.  Ferries plough still important links on a daily basis. There was a time when that link was vital for the many passengers who regularly made the journeys to replenish their store cupboards and essentials.  That still happens but progress has ensured that each of the Islands is now well stocked. The shops in the town still reflect the need to supply just about ‘everything’.  Always an important town, always busy, Oban grew more rapidly in the 1790 as the importance and fortunes of the Oban Distillery grew.


There was also a time, a time that even I can remember, when it was the Fishing Fleet that filled the harbour.  Lorries jostled for places on the quay that was covered with fish boxes and crushed ice. Those lorries then sped away to distribute the Fish across the UK.


Today the Harbour is much quieter and attracts Leisure Yachts ( a new marina is now in place). Cruise Liners occasional visit but have to anchor in the bay.

Oban was built on the importance as a port but like many other coastal towns of any size was developed in Victorian times as a holiday destination.  Today the promenade reflects this stylish building.

Less than 5 miles to the north of Oban can be found one of Scotland’s oldest Castles.  Dunstaffnage….. its history and location dates back to the times when Norway and Scotland shared the rule of this area. The Castle became the home of the MacDougall Clan in about 1164 and was proudly held by them for several centuries.

DOI_4125_00258bbb Dunstaffnage Castle

Built in the 1220’s the first appearance of the Castle is of a solid square fortress. The entrance is defensively above ground level…. but walk thru that Gate House and you find an inner court of what at one time was fashionable accommodation…..and importantly the vital Well.

 In the woodland behind the Castle you can find the Family Chapel.  Built by Duncan MacDougall in the 1200’s it was a clear illustration of the families wealth and importance. It was a single open space but well decorated with carvings and stonework.


Dunstaffnage Chapel

For many of its years the Chapel was just a place of worship, a burial licenses was not granted.  It seems that family burials were carried out on neighbouring islands. The Campbell’s secured the Castle and with it the Chapel and following the Reformations they built a burial aisle at the end of the Chapel and into that many of the family Burial Stones were installed.

Locations for castles were supposedly selected for there defensive strength…but for me it is the Loch side location alongside Dunstaffnage Bay.

12th October

(C) David Oakes 2017