The Castles of My Life

Brodie Castle and fire engines, one of the best castles

Brodie Castle

I took that picture standing in my bunny pyjamas on the castle lawn with three kids, three dogs and a budgie. There was no fire or disaster, just a malfunctioning alarm, or maybe it was the ghost. Yes, let’s blame it on ghosts, ghouls and phantoms; I’m sure they were responsible for continually setting off the motion sensors in the middle of the night during my winter sojourn. But that was summer, Brodie Castle was busy with visitors and altogether less creepy. I stayed in the property manager’s flat several times that year, looking after things for her, most efficiently as you can see.

I am fortunate to live in a place that has so many of these large historic buildings dotted about the countryside. Castles take us out of where we are; some transport us into the decadent, usually bygone, lives of rich families, while others encourage imagination to run amok in the ruins.


My earliest castle related memory is of ruinous, rambling Tolquhon:

tolquhon, one of Aberdeenshire's ruined castles

For me it is synonymous with life getting a little bit better. Childhood took an upturn after the birth of my brother; gone were the silent Sundays when my parents read the papers and my sister and I had to be very, very quiet in our room. We went places. Fun things happened, and Tolquhon was one of them.

I do like the bee boles or skeps:

bee boles


Later, with my own children, just about every castle in Northern Scotland was explored. We ran around the roof of the medieval tower of Drum (safer than it looks):

drum castle, one of the castles where you can go up on the roof!


We watched Shakespeare at Fyvie:

fyvie castle


And attended educational events at Huntly:

huntly castle


We admired the beautiful gardens at Ballindalloch, before being greeted by Lady Macpherson-Grant and her extended family, including a new grandchild in a pram, in the entrance hall.

ballindalloch castle, one of my favourite castles

New Slains Castle

The scariest of the castles has to be Slains Castle, built to look Gothic, now ruined. It’s very dangerous out there on the cliffs – someone once fell to their death – so I don’t really advise visiting. It inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, and there are plans to turn it into a theme hotel. And, umm, I don’t always heed my own advice:

Castles: Slains near Cruden Bay

Great sea views:

Castles have the best views! Here, from Slains.

In summary: castles, they’re great.

Get out there. Visit them (the safe ones). They’re so very different from our homes (unless you live in a castle), entirely dissimilar to modern office buildings, television screens and city streets. They can be cold and damp and ancient. Sometimes they’re lavish and royal. They smell of the past. They hold stories in their old walls and can unlock them in us.

Eilean Donan:

eil ean donnan

My books always seem to feature a castle (time period allowing)

Cover of Tendu by Ailish Sinclair

Explore the dark and sensual world of TENDU, where love, dance and obsession intertwine in a castle!

Amazon UK

Amazon worldwide

Dance and Despair: Writing What You Know on Women Writers, Women‘s Books. 

From emmalolly13 on TikTok: “This series has a special place in my heart… I feel so blessed to continue reading Amalphia’s story… Her journey with love has been rough… this is such a soul-touching series.

New novel from Aberdeenshire author combines passions from Grampian Online.

TENDU press release

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland (so, no castle, but there is an Iron Age round house), SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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 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

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

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31 Replies to “The Castles of My Life”

  1. Beautiful pictures! Very magical. And yes…someday I hope to get out there and visit some castles (although it requires a tad bit of a plane ride from non-castley-Canada).

  2. What gorgeous pictures. My family is hoping to make a trip to the UK at some point in the near future, and castles will be much on our schedule, especially those in Scotland. Thanks so much for sharing this: some of yours will be on our list!

  3. Great post, especially the title. There is something magical about castles. I visited many as a child, have seen loads across Europe and I used to live right next to one in Spain until a couple of years ago. Salzburg, Dover, Edinburgh castles are some of my favourites.

  4. This blog is delightful! Just visited Scotland in Oct 2013 for first time. We stayed in Edinburgh so only visited Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. Loved both. Hope to come again for a longer trip. Loved the country and the people. Have Scottish ancestry (grandparents Alexander and Wilson).

  5. Ailish I just discover your blog, I love it. Love to visit Scotland some day, so much magic, you described it in this post 🙂 Thank you

  6. As an Aberdonian, it’s lovely to be reminded of places like Fyvie and Huntly castles. The stomping grounds of summer holidays long gone and like you responsible for many a vivid daydream/nightmare! Lovely to find you via #mondayblogs

  7. What a fabulous photo essay! You have certainly seen your share of castles. A trip to Scotland is on my travel to-do list, and I would love to see some of the places you mention here.

    Also, you’ve sent me to the search engines with the word “skeps.” 🙂

    Btw, I actually *do* live in a house with a turret – rather rare for north Texas. We get mobbed at Halloween and little kids trade stories about our house being haunted, although if it is, they’ve not bothered me any!

    aka @TuiSnider, popping by from #ArchiveDay on Twitter!

  8. I absolutely loved this post. It’s so true that castles can take you to a different world. I haven’t visited many castles but there’s no doubt about their ‘other worldly’ feel, which I love. They totally feed your imagination, of which I’ve got oodles 🙂

  9. I’ve always wanted to live in a castle or visit castle ruins. I’ve always wanted to go back to medieval times so that I could dress up as a knight or use a sword and bows and arrows – even if it was just once. Specifically, Robin Hood’s time – if only the books were totally accurate *sigh*

  10. I also remember having to be very, very quiet. I never thought castles were real until I went to France and saw them. I also want to dance when my sports injuries heal some. So glad you found my blog so I could find yours!

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