Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle

Sunshine and snow at Aikey Brae stone circle

Beautiful Aikey Brae. Of the 150 or so recumbent stone circles in the North East of Scotland, this is my favourite.

I used to live close by and enjoyed many a summer picnic and winter stroll there. One year I watched a solar eclipse, with my children, sat right in the middle of the circle. The setting made it feel timeless and magical.

Fallen stones in the foreground

The snow picks out detail and shape, makes the stones look different.

Down on the ground with the stones

The fallen stone on the right in this next picture must have popped right out of the ground when it fell, because you can see the carved point of the anchoring lower part.

Aikey Brae stone circle in teh sun and snow

This pointy feature can also be seen on the Lang Stane, hidden away just off Union Street in Aberdeen, leading to the theory that it was once part of a stone circle too.

But back to the sun and snow at Aikey, and the smiling recumbent.

The huge recumbent stone at Aikey Brae stone circle.

On another subject, I have made a page for my mailing list sign-up form here – thank you to those who have already signed up! I’ve been thinking about what to put in the newsletters: news about my life and writing, some exclusive photos, and I’d also like to feature other people’s work. So if you have a site or blog that you’d be happy to have included, please feel free to link it up in the comments. I can’t guarantee to use them all in the mailings as they will only be occasional, but it would be great to see your sites here ūüôā

If you have any else you’d like to see in the mailing list, do let me know that too!

Let’s finish up by staring through the stones, to the world beyond.

Looking through the stones to the landscape beyond

The Witch Stone in Winter

Frosty hill

The ground is solid, all the ruts and bumps hard and crunchy under my feet as I climb the hill. And there on the top, small from this angle, is the Witch Stone.

It’s said that witches were burned there in the past.

It’s quiet now. Cold. Peaceful.

Ladybirds are hibernating on it! I hope they survive the season.

A Bookish Post

2019 got off to an exciting start for me with the news that my historical novel, The Mermaid and the Bear, will be published by GWL Publishing this Autumn.

An editing journey lies ahead, but I can tell you these things about the book:

  • It’s mainly set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire.
  • It incorporates the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic.
  • There’s a stone circle.
  • There’s 16th century Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

I made a wee aesthetic for it, because: oh the fun!

Walking in the Moonlight

Above: a scene from a moonlit walk, because I so appreciate being able to go on walks now that I can’t wait for it to get light!

It’s been a strange summer. I spent much of it being ill, properly ‘can’t do anything, go anywhere, just have to sit still‘ ill.¬†I feel changed by it. I have such huge appreciation for the good in my¬†world now: the wonderful people I share my life with, the amazing place I live.

Seriously, there was no better place to lie¬†around being ill than in my garden. Bats and giant dragonflies kept coming out of the pond and trees to peer at me. Tall trees rustled protectively around me. And the sun shone and shone this summer, didn’t it?

And books! Films! Netflix! Thank you, thank you, to all those creators: you kept my mind occupied while my body healed.

And the less than good? It highlighted itself with such clarity that I am left so much wiser and, I hope, more able to deflect it in the future.

Things that happened while I was still: the witch stone near Fraserburgh was cleared of gorse so it can now be seen.

I had a wee story published in an anthology.

But summer is over now. Illness is over. So, boots on, off out into the moonlight I go!

Shifting Sands

There’s been a lot of barefoot walking along beaches this summer, with friends, with family, much of it between St Combs and Scotstown. And that’s where there do be many shipwrecks to see! Aye, aye, me hearties! Prepare yersels for the photos!

I don’t know the name or date of this first wreck. It’s wooden and relatively small and sometimes entirely covered by the shifting sands that it, no doubt, fell victim to. It’s well bedecked with seaweed!

Closeby¬†is¬†a large metallic boat. It’s usually¬†more submerged than this. I *think* it’s the HMS Erne. She ran aground in 1915 and broke her back ūüôĀ

On this day I got to go right up to it.

And touch the barnacles.

And wonder if that’s a treasure chest…

A bit further on, between Rattray Head and Scotstown, lies a much more well documented ship: the Excelsior of Laurwig,¬†a Norwegian barque wrecked in 1881. It’s rather impressive.

There is another, somewhat different, wreck on this bit of coastline, sometimes to be seen wedged into the sand:

Now, let’s go to Cruden Bay, for the last barefoot walk of the summer!

Trip, trap, trip. trap, across the bridge. To find…

Is it a shipwreck? I’m not sure. It may be part of a defense from WW2. Not very boat shaped!

But it’s a great beach to finish the season and the post on.

A Walk Round Broadsea

Broadsea is the older part of Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, having been the site of a Pictish settlement and later a fishing community. It still feels distinctly different from the surrounding town, more like a small village, and is a great place for a walk!

From Fraserburgh, we’re heading down Broadsea Road, past all the wee hoosies, right to the end.

From there we’re going left to see the¬†craggy rocks and some paintings. There’s a Lion Rampant on the other side of that outcrop but it’s taken a bit of a bashing from the sea and is rather faded.

Let’s¬†retrace our steps and continue on round the corner to the right towards the cove of Broadsea, the lighthouse at Kinnaird Head just coming into view.

We tiptoe between houses and walk the curving path, passing many old cottages. The new housing development we come to next holds on to hints of the past in the form of various buoys placed along the verge.

On we go. Up to lighthouses, old and new. Great museum and tearoom here if you need a break. Older post with more on the museum and lighthouse here.

A little further along from the lighthouse is The Wine Tower, said to be Fraserburgh’s oldest building. Post on it here.

We can finish there if you like, but I prefer to walk all the way back so as to see Broadsea from the other direction.

So, one last look at The Wine Tower… perhaps a quick run up and down the steps and a peer in the window…

And we return to the wee hoosies.

And Broadsea Road.

The best time of day for a Broadsea stroll definitely seems to be in the morning. Clash with school let out time and you may have sticks and stones brandished at you! For a fascinating read on the 19th century history of the place, I highly recommend The Christian Watt Papers.

going coastal

sea at Fraserburgh beach

Sky. Sea. Sand. It’s been a summer of these. Even on dull days it’s been¬†warm and walks on the beach, beautiful. But I’m donning the tour guide hat again and we’re heading along¬†the Aberdeenshire coast, starting up North and working our way round the corner and down.

rainbow

Two generations of quines walked the coast route between Banff and Whitehills back in February. We got rained on, but we got a rainbow. And amazing colours of sky and sea. Below is the Red Well, said to date from Roman times, also said to be haunted by an old lady ghost and to be aligned for sunrise¬†sunbeams on the summer solstice. I lived in Whitehills for a short time as a child and remember the beehive shaped building¬†being called ‘the witch’s hoosie’ and kids shutting each other in there for ‘fun’. It’s now locked.

The Red Well, Whitehills

No time to linger, we’re skipping along into summer¬†to Gardenstown and St John’s Kirk. There it is, up on the hill between cloud shadows.

St John's Kirk, Gardenstown

There is an exciting tale of local ladies winning a battle with the Vikings in 1004 by weaponising their stockings with rocks and sand. Three Viking skulls were subsequently built into the walls of the then under-construction Kirk.

walls of St John's Kirk, Gamrie

Today it’s a peaceful place, though the landscape is probably much the same as it was during the era¬†of battling lassies and Viking warriors.

landscape at Gamrie

Time for a picnic, and an exploration of the various bays at New Aberdour.

New Aberdour

Let’s lie on the ground and gaze up at the red rocks and blue sky above…

rocks and sky

Let’s¬†watch, entranced, as sand martins dart in and out of their nests. Whoops, forget to cover the home made pizza so it’s now covered in sand… ¬†Never mind, just time for a poke around in a rock pool before we go…

rock pool

Okay. Shoes off. We’re going to race along the golden shore¬†at¬†Fraserburgh, getting the sand right up between our toes. If we’re feeling energetic we can climb Tiger Hill, that large dune to the right, and enjoy enhanced views of the beach and town.

reflective clouds

A reflective moment.

Fraserburgh beach

Calming right down now. We turn the corner. Out comes a book and a bar of chocolate as we sit on the rocks at St Combs.

St Combs beach

Walking boots on for this next part…

rocky

On we go, past Peterhead, to seek out mermaids at the Bullers of Buchan. There are folk tales of them being spotted here in the Sea Cauldron:

the sea cauldron

It’s actually quite a dangerous place, cliff edges all round, so do take care.

Bullers of Buchan

We’ve come to the end of our coastal¬†oddessy. Just one more stare at¬†that silvery sea at the Bullers, and it’s home for a cup of tea.

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Gight Castle and the Hagberry Pot

gight castle

Gight Castle may be one of the lesser known castles of Aberdeenshire but it has a rich, if somewhat bleak, history with many of its owners dying prematurely. Built in the 15th century by the Gordon family, it was the ancestral home of Lord Byron. A ghostly piper is said to haunt the ruins. The nearby Hagberry Pot in the River Ythan is said to be bottomless and full of treasure!

The quines took a walk. We started in Methlick and strolled through the Braes of Gight woods, across fields and along roads. This was the long way to do it: there is a car park relatively near to the castle. First view:

Gight through the trees

The castle was surrounded by barbed wire and there were ‘enter at your own risk’ signs.¬†In we went:

interior of Gight Castle

Great windows:

gight8  gight2

We were careful not to wake Sleeping Beauty. Or the ghostly piper.

ivy

I was most impressed by this brave little tree:

tree

Then, taking the circular route, we headed off down to the river and tried to work out which bit was the Hagberry Pot. Nowhere looked very bottomless or a good hiding place for jewels, but this seemed the most likely site by the bridge:

Hagberry Pot

The 7th Laird of Gight threw his jewels in there when the castle was sacked by the Covenanters. The poor diver who was sent down to retrieve them floated back up to the top in four pieces. There is a more involved version of this story here, featuring the devil. We did not go in.

The walk back along the river was pleasant, if a bit boggy, with glimpses of the Castle up on the hill.

gight5

Walking with the Quines

Haddo House

Quine is the Doric¬†word for girl. The Quines (or Super Quines as we have become recently) are a group of women that met on Twitter. I can’t recall the exact ways in which we all first started chatting, though these has been much hilarity from the start. I follow many local people as well as those who share various interests, and¬†there’s a mix of that among The Quines. Last year some of us met up in person, out in the wider world, and we hope to meet our more distant living Quine¬†one day too.

There’s been tea. There’s been talk. And walks, lots and lots of walks.

snowy beach

The most recent walk was on a snowy beach. Beaches feature quite a bit. Back in the summer we walked barefoot along golden sands and through a river to see a shipwreck:

sands

St Combs

Other coastal Quine walks have already been documented: Crovie (where we got lost in a pea field) and another day when we searched for Lord Pitsligo’s Cave.

Summer continued with Huntly Castle and a much thistled stroll along the River Deveron:

Huntly Castle

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A tall tower and a stone circle (Drinnie’s Wood Observatory and Louden Wood Circle):

tower

sun and stone

Autumn returned us to the Deveron. Alvah Bridge and the Earl’s Love Nest within (more on that here):

The Bridge of Alvah

Gothic window

The Lake at Pitfour Estate was nice and mellow, the old Temple of Theseus thankfully no longer housing crocodiles!

Pitfour

Sometimes social media isn’t all that social; it can be taken over by constant ads and spam and passive aggressive Facebook memes. But good things happen too. I deeply appreciate the caring and non-demanding friendship of The Quines. I value many others I’ve got to know along the Twitter path too.

So take a minute. Listen. Laugh. Tap those screens and sit and chat.

bench

The first picture in this post was of Haddo House; the one above was taken in the country park there too.

an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)

The Black Isle is a peninsula near Inverness in The Highlands of Scotland. The towns and villages of the ‘Isle’ boast many excellent museums, hotels and shops, there’s castles too, making a quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile.¬†Dismantled oil rigs can be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins sometimes.

Cromarty

Inland there are older places, prettier places. We took a wrong turn while searching for The Clootie Well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine and then spent some time wandering among trees.

pines

Ah Ha! We were on the right track:

cloots

People hang cloots (cloths) beside the well and in the surrounding woodland to ask for wishes or healing. As the cloot disintegrates, healing occurs or wishes come true.

hillside

It’s an unusual but peaceful place; despite the modernity of many of the hanging items, the well feels timeless. The number and variety¬†of cloots is impressive. They extend right down the hill to the roadside.

the well

A few miles on there is The Fairy Glen, another beautiful woodland, this time with waterfalls. Children used to dress a pool within the glen to keep the fairies happy.

waterfall

Coins are pressed into a dead tree, by some for wishes or luck, but in older tradition these tree coins are an offering to the fairies to ask them not to exchange babies for changelings.

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The atmosphere of The Fairy Glen is joyful; it’s easy to imagine fairies dancing and flying and giggling over the pools and streams.

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For more information see The Black Isle Community website or Black-Isle.info