The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty

the hanging stone, Rosehearty
Mounthooly Doocot

A couple of years ago, I decided to search for the Hanging Stone near Rosehearty, here in Aberdeenshire. It’s another witch stone, a place of historical execution and, according to local folklore, ‘dooking’ as well.

I’ve reached the stage in my current malady of being able to sit at my desk for short times, but obviously I’m not able to run around the countryside visiting interesting places. But I can write about the ones already visited. So here we go.

I knew the stone was in the vicinity of the Mounthooly Doocot (pigeon house), pictured above and below, so headed there. *experiences mild jealousy of past self, so gung ho in the ability to just get up and go out*

Mounthooly Doocot

Turning 360 degrees, searching the skyline, the stone was finally spotted, embedded in a dry stane dyke. That’s a dry stone wall; there’s a great art and skill to building these traditional field boundaries.

The Hanging Stone on the horizon.

I walked from the Mounthooly car park, along narrow roads and then up the field.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

And there it was. Quite tall, much taller than me, wrapped round with barbed wire, which seemed somehow fitting given the stones dark past.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

The Hanging Stone is quite possibly an ancient standing stone which later came to be used in the way it’s named for now. It’s very square. Carved that way, I think.

Nearby is The Pit, which was used for lesser punishments than death. The dooking, I imagine, as it is said to have been ‘for witches’. Dooking involved testing someone in water to see if they would sink or float and thereby prove if they were a witch or not. I did not see The Pit, and, as I walked away, focused my attention on the great beauty of the ocean views.

Canmore details on stone.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

And back here, today, at my desk, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD has a blurb:

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land. 

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.


Already published books:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a 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

Playing with Geography at Cullykhan Bay

I love Cullykhan Bay.

Near the village of Pennan in Aberdeenshire, it’s a place that has long been appreciated by people, so it has a rich history. To the left of the sandy and sheltered beach is an impressive promontory.

It’s been home to an Iron Age fort, now vitrified, and a medieval castle. Excavations uncovered Neolithic and Roman finds there too (see Canmore).

From the promontory you can see the Deil’s Lum (meaning devil’s chimney), a cave which is also sometimes called Hell’s Lum. It shoots sea spray with a roar during stormy weather.

The Deil's Lum, a cave at Cullykhan Bay.

It’s a place – promontory, bay and caves – that I write about quite a lot.

In THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, Isobell, Jasper and Ian have to cross the inside of the Deil’s Lum before following a tunnel to the castle. The tunnel is fictional and so is my description of the interior of the cave, or rather it’s stolen from just around the corner.

As is my way, I have explored every tunnel and cave that is remotely accessible by land at Cullykhan. In we go…

cave entrance at Cullykhan Bay

Through to this dark and seagull filled space… and it’s this space that I made my characters traverse, after struggling across it myself, of course!

Cave opening at Cullykhan Bay

Isobell, at least, did not enjoy it:

The truth was that caves and tunnels were more fun when told of beside a fireside, in dry clothes with a full belly. The reality of them – the cold, the wet, the dripping and the echoing, and the smell of decay – was only startling. The roof looked as if a huge ogre had wielded a knife inside the cliffs, cutting and carving to his heart’s content, but the idea contained no mirth, nor even any interest. And what lay ahead in this new life of ours?

Excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Staring at the entrance of the Deil’s Lum from across the divide wasn’t enough for me so I slid down the hill and climbed up into it. This is foolhardy behaviour and not recommended, but I made a short video so you can see the cave without risking life and limb!

Now I’m back in my Iron Age manuscript (see below), Cullykhan features much more heavily, and I love that too. Trying to capture the essence of the place in words, its magnificence, its beauty, and swirl all that round with the terrible things that I have happen there.

Cave opening at Cullykhan
Light and dark at Cullykhan…

I was honoured to appear on two wonderful websites recently: in an interview on Sue’s Musings here and on Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore.

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

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

Amazon

Waterstones 

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

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features three real women who were accused of witchcraft during the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic. There’s also a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

And, coming soon… (body allowing, this year surely?!):

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land. 

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.


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Memorial: the History of Witchcraft in Aberdeen

leg fetters
The Steeple of St Nicholas Kirk

Aberdeen has quite a brutal history of witchcraft accusations (and other dark events such as mass kidnappings). This post details the start of my research into those areas.

Memorial

Cowdray Hall War Memorial and the history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

Aberdeen’s Cowdray Hall doubles as a war memorial and a venue for classical concerts, and it’s where I started my wee tour of the city on this day.

Gaol!

Leaving grand places behind, I journeyed on to the Tolbooth Museum, a 17th and 18th century gaol.  Unlike the pristine war memorial, the prison exhibits the dark nature of its origin for all to see. The small cells are stifling and scary. They smell stale. There are a few of those terrifying pretend people; some of them talk, regaling you with tales of their mistreatment.

leg fetters: history of witchcraft
bars in the 17th century gaol

The 18th century record of prisoners reveals many debtors, a murder spree and one intriguing entry of unspecified ‘outrages’.

outrages

History of Witchcraft Accusations

An interesting fact gleaned behind the bars and bolts and padlocks of the jail was that people accused of witchcraft were once imprisoned in the steeple of St. Nicholas Kirk. Out the door I went.

door to the cells: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The present day kirk is serene and beautiful and open to visitors in the afternoons. The steeple sits just above the part pictured below. It’s not the same one that was used as a prison in the 16th century, but it is situated in exactly the same place.

Those boards on the left display a detailed history of  the church,  but there was no mention of witchcraft.

church and history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

There was an excavation happening in the east part of the building. Lots of skeletons were uncovered along with a metal ring that ‘witches’ were once tied to.

archaeology: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The 12th century St. John’s Chapel houses a memorial to those killed in the Piper Alpha oil disaster. These amazing chairs are part of it. They sit right underneath the steeple.

carved furniture as a memorial

This window depicts the history of Aberdeen. It was paid for by the oil and gas industry so those themes dominate.

14664648327_339113ba52_z

I walked down steps and cobbled streets in search of comfort, hot chocolate and books.

research

Unfortunately there’s not much comfort to be found in researching The Witchcraft Act and all that followed.

The Witch Stone

History of Witchcraft: the witch stone near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire

It is said that witches were tied to the witch stone near Fraserburgh, and burnt. The landowner questions whether this was the case as no documentation exists on the subject. But such evidence was often destroyed, or omitted from written history. After the burnings and ‘dookings’ and other well specified outrages by church and state had ended, people were ashamed. And rightly so. But where’s the memorial in that?

Memorial through Dance

70 years since D-Day, BalletBoyz pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives with a specially commissioned short film for Channel 4:

More Witch Related Posts

The book that eventually sprang from all this is out in both paperback and Kindle now!

See the publisher’s press release here.

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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Small Blue Ball, Big Golden Orb: cover reveal

sisters
oorange tulip behind barbed wire
Tulip behind barbed wire

I am a small blue ball of pain.

Curled up.

Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t write.

Life on hold.

Wondering what went wrong. Why I am here again.

bluebells, small blue ball

A pause by the bluebell woods on the way back from hospital. A biopsy may provide answers to the mystery of me and my strange body, who knows?

The flowers smell sweet. I breathe them in.

lilac. small blue ball.

An easing comes. A moving on from the small blue ball. A sort of pinkening. Lilac flowers are taken in from the garden and I sit in a delicately scented cloud of beauty.

Then, a few steps, and I am outside.

Camelia. Small blue ball.

It is glorious. Painful still, but better. I can envision being well again.

pink bench and blossom
Blossom caught in the pink bench.

The sunshine. The breeze. I love it all.

Thoughts of writing come. I left my poor characters in the middle of the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. War. A situation far worse than my own. I must release them from it soon.

Before all this, before I became ill, I got here – to the golden orb – with my ‘fun project‘:

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

The main character in the book is neuro-diverse.

As am I.

Illness makes me open, bared and true. Pain peels back layers of politeness and hesitancy and doubt. I just say things. I just am.

I still hope for a summer release, a later one obviously, maybe early autumn. My body will have its say in the matter. But it will come 🙂

My books:

Ailish's books

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a 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

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Aberdeen Art Gallery
first pioneers to Scotland

Originally posted in May 2014.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a beautiful trail through history and, at 143 metres long, the longest tapestry in the world. Its soft sewn artworks filled three large rooms of Aberdeen Art Gallery and photography was allowed. Yes. I was happy. May you be too.

Despite the earliness of my visit, the gallery was crowded; I was not quite so happy about the angle of this next pic. Lovely, lovely stone circles though:

stone circles panel of The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Some of Scotland’s past is sad and terrible:

witches panel of The Great Tapestry of Scotland
Glencoe
war

Happier happenings:

14108971062_74b94ae9bc_b (700x700)

‘Fiction is to grown men what play is to the child.’ RLS

Robert Louis Stevenson

and strange ones…

Dolly the Sheep

There was something calm and nourishing about walking round this exhibition. Whether it was the gentle and warm art of needlework that hung everywhere in the rooms – there was also a lady demonstrating sewing techniques – or the many different styles from the 1000+ stitchers marking the constant change of the world, I don’t know. The overall feeling was reflective yet hopeful: happy.

The Tapestry is touring , mainly in Scotland at the moment but other UK and overseas venues are planned, see the website for details.

Great Tapestry

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The Mermaid and the Bear Christmas

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 UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

Summer in Scotland: bluebells and blossom

Sunlight in the bluebells woods. Summer in Scotland.

Summer in Scotland can be cold. Sometimes it’s hot. But, whatever the weather, bluebells always herald the start of the season (photos and post from May 2021). And just look at them!

Vibrant patches of purple abound in the forest. The scent is rich and heady, luxurious even.

It calls to mind the fairy folklore of bluebell woods, but I am not spirited off to fairyland, not this time.

pink bench and pink petals. summer in Scotland.

It gets quite floral in the garden too. Cherry blossom falls like pink snow and gathers everywhere creating a carpet of petals.

A floral carpet of pink petals. Summer in Scotland

I walk the pink carpet to the pink bench.

Then I run into the bluebell woods to wait for the fairies.

Down in the bluebell woods... summer in Scotland.

Terry Tyler has written a wonderful review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE: “A ghastly accident of circumstance leads to her being imprisoned on an Aberdeen slave ship, taking children and young people to the tobacco plantations of North America. A round of applause to Ms Sinclair for using fiction to highlight little-known history – I knew nothing about this.

See the whole review here on Rosie Amber’s blog.

Books among the blossom

Ailish Sinclair's novels, among pink petals
I had to lay the books down among the petals!

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

bluebells, small blue ball

See more photos from summer in Scotland in the post about pain, small blue ball.

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Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns

Fraser Clan Stone on Culloden Moor

This post details a 2014 trip to Culloden Battlefield and the nearby Clava Cairns.

A bright blue sky day. Good for a journey up the coast and into the past. I stopped to take a picture of the anchor on the hill in Macduff.

Macduff, anchor and church

A couple of hours and many miles later, the skies had clouded.

Culloden Moor

Culloden Battlefield

The visitor centre at Culloden is high-tech, swish, clean and pristine, all the things the bloody battle of the past was not. The contrast always gets me. I sit on a soft red sofa looking out at the battlefield, eating my delicious lentil soup and enjoying decadent chocolate cake in comfort and warmth.

Compare that to being one of the Jacobite clansmen, having marched across boggy rough terrain in the dark all night, exhausted, starving, about to be slaughtered in a fight so unfairly matched that it was all over in one hour. What would he think of Culloden Moor today and the nice day out it provides for families and tourists?

Out on the battlefield, things feel more authentic, more memorial. Red flags mark the government line:

flag on Culloden Moor

Clan stones over mass graves:

clans stone
field of the English

Old Leanach Cottage is dated about 1760, several years after the battle, but is said to stand on the site of an earlier cottage that was used as a field hospital for government troops:

cottage at Culloden

People leave offerings:

tartan offering at Culloden

After a little look at the peaceful, cud-chewing, Highland cattle, it’s time to visit some ancient standing stones.

The Clava Cairns

Victorian Grove

Here ancient burial cairns (estimated at about 4000 years old) are surrounded by circles of stone and trees. It’s the perfect peaceful place to visit after Culloden.

Clava Cairns

You can walk right into two of the three cairns, though the entrance tunnel would have been covered in the past: you would have had to crawl.

into the cairn

Some of the standing stones are high and shaped, rather like enormous graves:

standing stone rectangular, at Clava

Let’s finish with one of the aforementioned Highland Coos. There’s four of them in a field next to Culloden.

Highland Cow

Also see the post about the Cumberland Stone.

Cumberland Stone, by Culloden in the Scottish Highlands

My Books

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, out April 1st, is set at the time of Culloden and 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

Waterstones

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

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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My Witchy Debut Novel is Published, 2019

The Mermaid and the Bear Christmas

2019 got off to an exciting start for me when I signed a contract with GWL Publishing for my debut novel, The Mermaid and the Bear. It’s out in both paperback and Kindle NOW!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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 16th century Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

Cover:

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's debut novel THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Blurb:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

 Further insight:

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

Aesthetic for The Mermaid and the Bear, Ailish Sinclair's debut novel

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Broadsea: let’s go for a coastal stroll!

Broadsea near Fraserburgh

Broadsea is the older part of Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. It was once 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!

Our Broadsea Stroll

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

a wee hoosie in Broadsea

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.

sea at Broadsea in Aberdeenshire

Let’s retrace our steps and continue on round the corner. We’re heading towards the cove of Broadsea, the lighthouse at Kinnaird Head just coming into view.

view from Broadsea or Faithlee

Tiptoeing between houses and walking the curving path, we pass 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.

buoy at Broadsea

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

lighthouse

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

wine tower of Fraserburgh

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…

wine tower

And we return to the wee hoosies.

cottage at Broadsea

And Broadsea Road.

Broadsea house

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.

The Books

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

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

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen, 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 feet of Ailish Sinclair
My feet…

See my about page here

sunset sky during lockdown
trees and moon

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