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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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Castles in the Snow

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

Through the gates we go… 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

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.

Also see Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen, for more background and insight into the book.

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

An aesthetic for THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair, out Autumn 2019

Walking in the Moonlight

The moon shines through the trees. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

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?

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Findlater Castle

Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

For years I passed by the road signs for Findlater Castle on my way to other places, joking that ‘I must find that later’. I’m so glad I finally did! I’ve been a few times now and it’s always stunning.

On this day it was exceptionally warm and still for Northern Scotland which emboldened me to go a bit further down onto the ramparts than I’ve been before.

Off I went, past the gorse which was warmed by the sun and smelled all coconutty…

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Over the Sea to the Fairies

The Isle of Skye. That’s the Old Man of Storr in the hills above, a beautiful rock formation visible for miles around. The island is a place of fairies: there’s a castle and a glen and a bridge… but first, back to another rock formation, specifically the one spied from the bedroom window of our holiday house.

‘That’s an interesting rocky outcrop,’ said I to husband.

‘Aye, we should walk up to it,’ he replied.

So we did.

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Here we go a-castle-ing!

Delgatie Castle

Yes, it’s another post about castles! I do seem to find it difficult to write anything without one, or three, as in this case. The first, above, is Delgatie Castle, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. I met one of the quines there last week and we walked the woods and gardens and encountered these little Shetland ponies looking as if they were waiting for the tearoom to open. From there, we went on to the Auld Kirk-yard in Turriff to see the grave of the late owner of the castle, Captain John Hay:

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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!

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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.

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