Aviemore Stone Circle in the Highlands

Roses bloom in Aviemore stone circle

Aviemore stone circle is unusual, though not unique, in that it is situated in the middle of a housing estate. On the day I visited, the summer solstice, roses were blooming at the edge of the circle, adding to the magical atmosphere of the place. The houses don’t detract from that, bushes and trees lending some privacy to the ancient stones.

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Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover!

white rabbit

At first it doesn’t feel quite real… where is the white rabbit leading?

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Loch Morlich, big blog, little blog

Ducks by Loch Morlich

The tiny blog is this one, sent from holiday. The big blog is my guest post on the official tourism site for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire: 10 Mystical and Magical Places in Aberdeenshire.

And Loch Morlich is in the pictures. I was there before the ducks were up today!

The Cairngorms beyond Loch Morlich

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A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle looms, majestic and huge against the skyline as you approach. It’s imposing and impressive… dramatic too…

Duffus Castle silhouetted against the sun

On the day I visited – Easter Sunday – it was busy, really busy, and the air contained a mysterious hint of sulphur. This medieval fortress of the Moray family, one of Scotland’s most beautiful motte and bailey castles, had become a giant playground for the seasonal pastime of ‘egg rolling’.

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Love, Dance, Obsession, and Chocolate

An aesthetic for TENDU, a novel by Ailish Sinclair

2019 continues to be an exciting year for me on the bookish front! My contemporary novel, TENDU, is coming out in 2020 with Black Opal Books.

Some aspects of the story:

  • It’s a tale of unconventional love, dance and obsession.
  • Much of the book is set in Scotland.
  • There’s a stone circle and a castle.
  • The central relationship is deeply tempestuous.
  • Ballet!
  • Dark and terrible happenings!
  • Hot chocolate and cake. Depending on era, you can’t always include chocolate in historical writing and, given all that I put them through, my characters both need and deserve it. So there’s lots of chocolate in this contemporary title. LOTS.

And there’ll obviously have to be lots at my desk too 🙂

The desk of Scottish author Ailish Sinclair

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The Land Girls Gate

The Women's Land Army Memorial in Clochan - Ailish Sinclair, author
The Women’s Land Army Memorial in Clochan

The Women’s Land Army was formed in 1917, and then again in 1939 when WWII broke out. Women as young as 17 signed up for the duration of the war and took on all forms of farming and food production. The Army was eventually disbanded in 1950. There’s lots more information about the Land Girls here.

The memorial at Clochan in Moray is a joyous piece of art, paying tribute to the women who served in the Land Army throughout Scotland. Stones from various farms across the country have been incorporated into the ground around the gate. The fact that the memorial is surrounded by working farmland feels perfectly fitting too.

If you visit on a Sunday morning, as I did, there’s a small car boot sale going on just down the road in Clochan, with pancakes and tea being served in the village hall. It’s rather lovely and feels a bit like stepping back into a simpler time.

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The Land Girls Gate in Clochan, colourful farmland beyond
The Land Girls, farmland beyond
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Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen

Galllus Quines. Wonderful street art in Aberdeen honouring those persecuted for witchcraft.
Gallus Quines

I ran through St Nicholas Kirkyard, and down and round Correction Wynd, an old medieval lane in Aberdeen, to see this recent street art. I was due to meet people for breakfast, but determined to see the ‘Quine Shrine’ first. The reason being? That first part, on the left, honours those who were persecuted for witchcraft in Aberdeen, and one tile names a few of them, including the three women I chose to write about in The Mermaid and the Bear.

Tile naming some of those accused of being witches in Aberdeen, Scotland

The spellings are different, because spellings weren’t set back then, not like they are today. I chose to go with the way the names are recorded in the Survey Of Scottish Witchcraft from Edinburgh University. It was there that I learned, contrary to popular belief, that only a tiny proportion of those accused were midwives or folk healers; a mere 9 of the 3837 ‘witches’ in Scotland were midwives, and only 141 had some mention of healing in their cases (see the background page of the database).

In my fictional account of these women’s lives, one of them is a midwife and healer, but this is not the reason for the accusations brought against the three quines.

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Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle

Sunshine and snow at Aikey Brae stone circle. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

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.

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Castles in the Snow

Through the gates to Fyvie Castle. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

Here we are at the start of our quest to find castles in the snow… we pass through the gates to Fyvie Castle where it’s more icy than snowy and we’re getting down and frosty with it!

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The Witch Stone in Winter

Frosty hill leading up to the Witch Stone. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

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.

Ladybirds hibernate on the Witch Stone. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

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Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'
Out October 18th 2019

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, 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.

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