The Ghosts of Swarbacks Minn

My fourth and final post about the naval heritage I visited during our recent holiday in Shetland… By complete coincidence (honest!), our rented cottage looked out directly over Busta Voe, at the head of the Swarbacks Minn anchorage. During World War I, this was the base of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, responsible for enforcing the […]

The Submarine and the Bus Stop

Number two in my short series of posts based on last week’s holiday in Shetland… Unst is an absolute must for visitors. As Britain’s most northerly inhabited island, it racks up the superlatives literally every few hundred yards, the further north you go – the most northerly roads, the most northerly shop (splendidly named ‘The […]

The Hollanders’ Graves

Last week, we had a terrific holiday in the sun-drenched beach resorts of… Shetland. OK, it’s a fair cop, the temperatures never reached double figures in the week we were there, and were driven down further by the constant northerly wind (reaching gale force at times, e.g. on our return ferry voyage to Aberdeen). But […]

Dead Admirals Society in the Highlands

Sometimes, one comes across dead admirals in unexpected ways and unexpected places. This was definitely the case during our recent road trip back from Orkney, where we’d been during the Jutland commemorations. On our journey north, my ‘significant other’ – the ‘LadyQJ’ of my Twitter feed – spotted a sign for a pottery whose products […]

Highways and Byways of the Seventeenth Century: the Artist’s Daughter

Sir Anthony van Dyck is rightly regarded as one of the towering figures of European art. However, he had only one legitimate child, Justina, or Justiniana, and tragically, he died just days after his daughter was born, on 1 December 1641. She was baptised on the 9th, the very day of her father’s death, at St […]

The Holy Grail? Somebody Left It on the Throne of Doom

We spent last week enjoying some ‘R&R’ at Rosslyn Castle, just outside Edinburgh. This is a Landmark Trust property, and regular readers of this blog will know that I/we are big fans of Landmarks, having notched up fifteen of them to date; indeed, I’ll be off to another one in just a few weeks time, […]

Homage to Caledonia

And so it belongs to the ages: the most momentous event in the history of the United Kingdom, and certainly of Scotland, for many decades. If you can be certain of one thing at this very moment, it’s that the first versions of the history of the Scottish independence referendum are already being written. As […]

Arfur Minute

A confession: I very nearly became an Arthurian. Before you all run off into the hills, screaming hysterically, bear with me for a few minutes. Remember that I originally come from Carmarthenshire – Caer Myrddin, the fort of Merlin, right? So the Arthurian myths and legends were all around me from pretty much as far back as […]

Worthy Causes, Part 2

Quite by chance, I came across the news that the ‘Scottish Houses’ museum in Veere, the Netherlands, is on a hit-list of thirty-four properties that the Dutch state intends to sell off as part of its own austerity programme. The museum has launched a fundraising campaign in the hope that it can purchase the historic […]

Castles in the Air, Part 1

Castles kicked it all off for me – ‘all’ being the lifelong interest in history, leading ultimately to a career teaching it and a second career writing about it. A visit to Pembroke Castle when I was five years old proved to be the catalyst, and a year or so later, when my parents and […]