Scottish Historical Fiction from Aberdeenshire

Scottish Historical Fiction

I write Scottish historical fiction, often set in the area of Scotland where I live, Aberdeenshire. I also take a LOT of photos, as is evidenced throughout the site.

Keep up with all my news by signing up to the newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog, only occasional, and always contains some exclusive photos.

Sisters at the Edge of the World, out now!

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

Sisters at the Edge of the World

The Mermaid and the Bear

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

My debut novel was published by GWL Publishing in October 2019, and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Aspects of 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 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

Review on Terry Tyler Book Reviews

See The Mermaid and the Bear page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to more reviews.

Fireflies and Chocolate

Fireflies and Chocolate, out April 2021

My second novel, also published by GWL Publishing, was released on April 1st 2021 and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Aspects of the book:

  • Set in both Aberdeenshire and Colonial Pennsylvania.
  • It includes the Aberdeen child kidnappings of the 1740s.
  • There’s derring-dos on the high seas.
  • There’s chocolate!
  • And there’s love.

Review from the Historical Novel Society

See the Fireflies and Chocolate page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to more reviews.

Further insight into my writing and research:

A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty

Map of Witches

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a new resource from the University of Edinburgh, utilising the extensive data collected in their Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. See it here.

It’s a visual and clickable map of over 3000 people accused of witchcraft in Scotland, and is both fascinating and terrible, as this subject always is. My three quines from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR are included (see Isobell’s entry above) as are a disturbing Witch Pricker’s Journey and various other stories. You can choose to view a modern map or a historical one, the latter suiting it better, I think.

Autumn Beauty

After peering back into the dark like that, I need to look at beauty, so here’s some golden blue autumnal goodness:

Blue and gold after the map of witches

The wonderful gold of the harvest.

rockpool

Pink shimmering rockpools at New Aberdour beach.

New Aberdour Beach and a map of witches

A dark cave, blue reflected within.

a dark cave and a map of witches

And the path up to St Drostan’s well, shining in the sunlight:

St Drostan's well and a map of witches

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news, witchy and otherwise, by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos.

My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from the Historical Novel Society

Writer’s Tip Jar

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

I love Loanhead of Daviot Stone Circle. Really love it. I know I’ve talked about how Aikey Brae is my favourite, and that is true. But this one comes in a close second. It’s another circle that I’ve been visiting for decades, often starting a day out with a quick walk round the stones.

Castle in the woods

The approach is through woodland and I like the wee castle that has appeared in recent years.

play castle in Daviot woods

The path then leads up the hill and out to the stones.

Loanhead of Daviot

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

It’s a happy feeling circle, this one. They all have their own distinct atmosphere. Of course, maybe it’s just my own response to these places that I’m feeling. But then, isn’t everything that? A bit, at least. I once felt so happy at Daviot that I danced around in my bare feet and broke a toe on a hidden stone in the grass!

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

It always seems to be sunny there when I visit.

I picked up a fallen oak leaf from the adjacent ring of small stones that was used as a cremation cemetery in the distant past. The leaf is on my desk now as I write.

Daviot has been quite well excavated, with many cremation burials found (see the Historic Environment Scotland site). And there is, or was, a second circle across the valley. Only the large recumbent and flankers remain now. You can just make them out below, by the densest part of the tree line. You should be able to click the image to see a larger version.

As is my way (see the older post Things I Stole from Castles), I took these two circles and put them in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

Quote from the book

We hold hands as we walk down and then up the short grassy valley that lies between the two circles. The stones we arrive at are overgrown with all manner of plant life. There are healing herbs that I recognise, wee flowers too, and spiny stems that look rather forbidding. Keep out, they say. Stay away. Leave the stones in peace.

Review

Reviews are coming in for Sisters. From Terry Tyler:

“It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.”

See the whole review here.

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance…

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Aberdeenshire in Roman times takes centre stage in author’s latest book from AberdeenLive.

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Stormy Skies over St Combs Beach

St Combs Beach

Wandering barefoot. Along the sand. At St Combs Beach.

sand worm castings

Tiptoeing between the sandworm castings.

St Combs Beach

Feeling the smoothness and solidity of the rocks.

shells at St Combs Beach

Bending down to look at some wee sea snails.

seaweed at St Combs Beach

Leaping over the seaweed.

sand storm

A sand storm blows up on the way back.

rocks in the sea

But the skies stay dramatic.

For more beaches and skies, sign up to my mailing list here

Sisters at the Edge of the World is out now!

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

The Mermaid and the Bear

There’s a great review of The Mermaid and the Bear over on The Inquisitive Inkpot: “This is where I connected with Isobell: I connected with her when the fragility of her world suddenly mirrored the fragility of mine. So to speak, I met her in the details.”

And another here on Instagram: “The author has written such a triumphant tale of love, bravery, and true magic for these women and all women.”

The Mermaid and the Bear

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

I swear, I’m not a mermaid…

I'm not a mermaid...

Article

I’m not a mermaid, nor do I have a pet bear as is suggested in this article: 8 Strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair 😀

Calm

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD has been out for three days now and I think it’s going quite well. I’m staying calm and mellow anyway…

Reviews

Review from Lizanne Lost in a Good Book: “This is a complex mystical tale of bloody conflict between two disparate civilisations, but also about sisterhood, romantic love and dramatic choices. Morragh is not like most of us. Her actions are instinctive and passionate, but her certainty is persuasive.” See the whole review here.

And here’s the book being read in France.

A wee flip-through on TikTik:

@ailishsinclair

Out today! Paperback & kindle on Amazon. From the provocative opening scene to the later dramatic and devastating events of the story, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a book that will continually surprise, delight, and sometimes shock the reader. #historicalfiction #booktok #romance #ancientworld #neurodiversity

♬ original sound – Alisa
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

The Red Well and a Book 7 Years in the Making

the red well and the sea
the red well near Whitehills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Red Well

The Red Well by Whitehills in Aberdeenshire is protected by an unusual building. On the autumn equinox, at sunrise, a beam of light shines through the doorway and illuminates the well within. This happens on the spring equinox too. The well, and the building, are said to date from Roman times.

the red well by whitehills

Book Release!

So, of course, I took it for SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. The book releases today, at the time of autumn equinox, and that just seems right. It’s been seven years in the making, this one. Both the novel and I have been through a lot as the story developed: severe editing, hospitalisations, deleting, pain, rewriting, crying and being monstrous. I’m very glad that we’re finally here at a place of relative wellness and publication.

See the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

It’s on Kindle Unlimited too so can be read for free (there’s a 30 day free trial).

The well is described in the book:

This wee spring is very near the sea, situated on a gentle incline that heads down to the beach. There the land is flat and looks to be walkable for miles. The sand is golden with some stony places. I see grey rocks and pink pebbles. I feel the desire to walk down to the beach, to spend many a day on those sands. It is strange.

Excerpt from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair
the red well by Whitehills

A Witch’s Hoosie

I have a bit of personal history with the well. When I was a small child, I lived with my grandparents in Whitehills for a few months. One day, playing with my cousins, I was locked in that building to see if the witch would get me. The place was referred to as the ‘witch’s hoosie’ back then, by children at least. There were scary stories of an old lady witch ghost. I was quite interested to see if she would show up. She didn’t, and I was eventually freed, my lack of fear having disappointed my companions somewhat.

The door is kept locked now.

Since then, I’ve always viewed the well as rather a magical place, and keenly look out for the quick glimpse of it in the landscape that you get when driving along the main Banff to Portsoy road.

thistles by the well
Thistles by the well

It’s in a particularly beautiful spot, the Red Well. The town of Banff can just be seen in the distance below.

the red well by the sea

Out today: SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

new novel from Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Fairytale Mushrooms and Staying Well

fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools

I do like nice fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools as those actually are. The woods here are full of them just now, and they’ll feature in my next newsletter.

Staying Well

I am still well. So I can walk among the mushrooms and crunch through the first fallen leaves of the season. Exactly two years ago today I was on my way to hospital again, so I’m very glad things are different now.

I have a new article that references that particular hospital stay over on Women Writers, Women’s Books: Doctors and Deadlines: Writing with Chronic Illness. It contains wellness tips that I hope will be helpful to everyone, not just those with chronic conditions. Here’s one of them:

“Sleep. Sleep well and long. Make yourself stop thinking about writing a while before bedtime. If you have a brilliant idea in the night, write it down and let it go. Do not lie there for hours going over every little nuance that you’re going to perfect the next day, and then cry for your characters because of what you’re about to put them through. You’ll be far better placed to do terrible things to them if you’re well rested.”

More Fairytale Mushrooms

More fairytale mushrooms.

And it’s not long now till the latest ‘terrible things I put my characters through‘ is published. One week today, in fact. (Out now!)

Stay calm. Breathe. Look at mushrooms.

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance! Out in paperback and kindle, September 21st 2022.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

The Edge of the World

the edge of the world on Bennachie
Bennachie in Aberdeenshire

The Romans had a point. Parts of Scotland really do feel like the edge of the world.

Two Sisters…

Two Cultures…

Out now!

The Romans called it the Edge of the World.

Sisters is out on the 21st of September in both paperback and kindle, so it’s getting close now.

I’m calmer this time. It doesn’t feel like quite such a great big worrying thing. And, as you can see, I’m having fun playing with imagery for marketing.

Out now!

Normal blogging will resume shortly…

More Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos from the edge of the world!

Tip Jar

Rowan Berries on the Path

rowan berries on a woodland path

There were rowan berries on the path this morning in the woods. I take this to mean that it’s really autumn now. When the rowans are all shiny and new on the trees, you know that the end of summer approaches. There’s just the tiniest hint of the next season in the air.

rowan berries

But once they’re on the ground? Autumn. Autumn all the way.

Rowan Berry Jam

I recall a time when I used to make jam out of rowan berries. They are poisonous raw, but after a vigorous boiling with sugar, they’re edible, though rather bitter.

rowan berry jam

I liked the bitter sweet flavour. It was fruity and earthy and somehow tasted ancient. However, I was the only one. The rest of my family screwed up their faces at the bitterness. I no longer eat refined sugar, due to medical conditions, so my rowan jam making days are over. Nothing is wasted in nature though. The birds love those little waxy berries.

And I love autumn with its mix of misty mornings and hot sunny afternoons. It’s breezy and blustery here today. The air is warm, though it rained overnight. No need to water the pots. No need to light the fire. Rowan berries pop under my feet as I walk, and the trees grow more colourful every day.

Recent Reviews

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Sally Cronin featured a review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Bookshelf last week.

Elizabeth is gutsy, vulnerable, rash and caring, and her quick wittedness and bravery had me cheering her on from the sidelines. Like her, we are confronted by the harsh realities of life as a slave or indentured labourer and she experiences danger and brutality as she wades in to protect her new-found friends.

See the whole review here.

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

A review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR was included in the reading round up on the lovely Smelly Socks and Garden Peas blog.

“I really loved the rich variety this novel brought – it’s not all danger and torture, there’s peace and contentment, a feeling of having found one’s place, delight, fun, celebration and true happiness too. Each phase of Isobell’s experiences are brought to life, they’re evocative and have real depth. I’ll definitely be picking up Ailish’s other books in future too.”

See the review here.

Talking of those books in the future…

Well, one of them anyway.

That’s misty Bennachie in the background of the image below, and stones from Aikey Brae on the cover. Both places feature in the novel.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes, a neurodiverse main character, and some rather complicated romance.

The book releases in paperback and kindle on September 21st 2022. 

Out now!

Quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

See all my books here on the site or on my Amazon author page.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for the (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

The Maiden Stone and Persephone

Persephone
the maiden stone

The Maiden Stone

The beautiful pink granite Maiden Stone stands near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. It is an 8th century Pictish stone. On one side it bears designs favoured by the Picts, such as the comb and mirror, the mysterious Pictish Beast (Dolphin? Elephant? Mermaid? Nobody knows…) and a centaur at the top.

centaur at the top of the Maiden Stone

On the other side there is a very worn Celtic Cross, indicating that this may have been an early Christian preaching site.

the Maiden Stone, cross side

Maiden Stone Folklore

There’s a rather wonderful tale attached to the stone.

A maid from Durno was baking a batch of bannocks one morning when a handsome man appeared at her door. He bet her that he could build a road up the hill of Bennachie before she could finish baking the bannocks. If he won, she had to marry him. Unfortunately, the man was actually the devil and he built the road with great speed. The maid ran. He chased after. Just as he caught up to her, she prayed to be turned to stone rather than have to wed him. The notch on the stone is where the devil grabbed her shoulder as she transformed.

The Statue of Persephone

Persephone

A couple of hundred yards to the west of the Maiden Stone, in the woods, is a statue of Persephone. She was carved from 8.5 tonnes of millstone grit in 1961 by the artist Shaun Crampton, and her story echoes that of the Maiden Stone. In the Greek myth, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the harvest, was carried off to the underworld by Hades to become his wife. Zeus decreed that she should be released as long as she had not eaten anything in the underworld. But, poor quine, she had consumed some pomegranate seeds. So she only got to return for six months of the year, the six months of growth and harvest.

The statue holds some pomegranate seeds in one hand, and a mirror like the one on the Maiden Stone in the other.

Persephone near the Maiden Stone in Aberdeenshire

On the day I visited, someone had left a pomegranate at her feet.

pomegranate at Persephone's feet

And, like the Maiden Stone, the back of the statue is worth viewing too.

Back of Persephone

My Books, set mostly in Aberdeenshire

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

The latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is now out in both kindle and paperback. It features Bennachie, Romans, Celts, romance, a neurodiverse main character and the Battle of Mons Graupius. Out now!

More titles

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Iron Age, Jurassic, and Back to the Future

cave at Cullykhan: iron age fort nearby
Cave at Cullykhan

Iron Age

For this small time travelling post, we start at beautiful Cullykhan Bay, once the site of an Iron Age Fort. The fort features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, as does a slightly adjusted version of the cave above. The Iron Age is generally thought to have ended in 43 CE in Britain when the Romans arrived. That happened a little later up here. The book is set in 83 CE.

Back to the Future

And there’s now a release date, in the future, the 21st of September to be precise.

Edit: the book is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age

The Jurassic

I went looking for squirrels in Aden Park recently.

I found dinosaurs.

dinosaur
Behind a yew tree.

They were only there for three days.

dinosaur in a window
In the mansion house window.

The dinosaur explorer event was clearly aimed at children, but I had rather a lot of fun looking for the creatures.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park

And now, refreshed, I return to my desk and the Iron Age, where I’m very happy to be.

Out now!

new novel from Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age
ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar