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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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Walking in the Moonlight

Moonlight through the trees. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

Above: a scene from a walk in the moonlight, because I so appreciate being able to go on walks now that I can’t wait for daylight!

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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Wintry Aberdeenshire: Sparks of Light

Buchan Ness Lighthouse

Buchan Ness Lighthouse in Boddam, Aberdeenshire, shining its light out into the sunrise.

We’ve reached the point in the year, here in Northern Scotland, where light is scarce. It arrives late in the day and leaves early, by about 4pm. But that wintry low sun does some special things, especially at the beach…

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three circles

Drum Castle

On our last visit to Drum Castle it was raining, so on the way to explore circles, we took a walk through the gardens. They were filled with the bright sights and scents of summer, the castle peeking round corners and through trees everywhere we went.

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Dancing round rainy Aberdeen

The Chanonry on a rainy day in Aberdeen

I skirted round the edges of rainy Aberdeen in search of bright spots and green corners. Above is The Chanonry, a cobbled street in Old Aberdeen. Cobbles are called ‘cassies’ up here, a word I had long forgotten until I was reminded of it on Twitter.

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serendipity and stones and a little dance

seagull and serendipity

The first serendipitous happening of the day was the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) and its silvery filtering of the sunlight. Then there was the seagull that flew by as I took the photo.

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser. I’ve made the picture below clickable to a larger version; to the left are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar stone circle.

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A Lighthouse in a Castle, and a Love Story, and the Sky

old lighthouse, new lighthouse

That’s the sixteenth century Kinnaird Castle on the left, it was converted into a lighthouse in 1787 and now houses the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. On the right is the modern automated lighthouse. Quite why they seem to be leaning towards one another I don’t know; I may have been transfixed by the sky when I took the photo (a frequent and increasing occurrence, should I be worried?)

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loch

misty loch

Clouds of mist swirled over the surface of the loch last night. An unexpectedly hot day led to unexpectedly beautiful conditions. Well, not completely unexpected, it’s always beautiful, always different.

Summer brings lush green foliage and colour to the loch*, it’s not very deep so swimming can be warm.

summer loch

That glassy ‘stand and stare’ stillness can happen at any time of year. Sunsets are pink, silver or even purple. Whatever the sky is doing is intensified in reflection.

sunset

Winter is fierce. One year layer upon layer of ice and snow built up so thick that people and dogs ran about on it. It was at once surreal and yet so very real, unconnected from civilisation as it feels up there in the woods. No TV, no computers, just life and joy and fun on a natural huge flat screen among the trees.

snow

I feel the need to go for a walk and wonder what awaits me today. A liquid mirror? Slow moving ripples? The slightest change in airflow, made visible by water. There’s blue in the sky so there will be in the loch. Maybe there’ll be swans, or an otter leaping about on the banks (happened once), a boat, a dog, an owl… Excuse me, I need to go.

* I freely admit to having overused the word ‘loch’ in this post. The word ‘lake’ is not a suitable substitute. If you don’t come from Scotland you can have no idea how very wrong that notion is. And while we’re at it, make sure you’re saying/thinking the word right. The ‘ch’ sound is like a Scottish wildcat (something I once saw up by the large expanse of water, but no one believes me) hissing in the back of your throat. There you are, got it.

of Mountains, and Circles, and Russian Dolls

Cairngorm

Above is a picture taken from the top of the  Cairngorm Mountain, which in no way captures how windy it is up there. Loch Morlich can just be made out in the distance.

Gales aside, the mountain is always grounding. It is so huge and so solid and high. Worries recede. Ridiculous dramas can be seen for the trivial nothings that they are. And I was wearing my new, very cheerful dress:

russian dolls dress

There’s a scene with Russian dolls in my book, so I love this. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most appropriate clothing for hill walking, but I did wear sensible boots and a good coat and felt great solidarity with the man who had teamed shorts and plimsolls with a furry hat. We both attracted what I like to think were admiring looks.

Loch Morlich

Everything was serene down below by the loch, amid the sand and the trees.

loch waters

It was warm enough to paddle before heading to the stone circle at Aviemore:

Aviemore stone circle

This circle is rather unusually situated in the middle of a housing estate, but a peaceful and energising place nonetheless. *enters tour guide mode* There are over 150 stone circles in the Grampian region, more than the rest of Britain put together, but this is the most urban one I’ve encountered. They’re more commonly nestled on the brows of hills, sometimes surrounded by trees, sometimes overlooking open countryside. *reverts to ‘woman wearing a silly dress’ mode* I have a definite ‘thing’ for them; I write about them, I kiss them, I dance round them.

Aviemore stone circle

Yesterday I needed to soak up the calm, to absorb it from the stones and carry it with me into the week to come. However: I’ve already made one critique partner cry; I’ve got myself into a horrible manuscript formatting tangle and I have eaten too much chocolate. And it’s only Monday…

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grey skies, blue skies

golden hay bales and grey skies Ailish Sinclair | Author

It’s harvest season in Scotland, the start of autumn, the time of illuminated crops set against dark grey skies and heavy rainfall followed by hot golden sunshine. There’s bright blue skies too, crisp fresh sunny days, new winter boots and stripy tights. That ‘new start’ feel is in the air as people head back to school or begin fresh phases of work and study.

This is my favourite season, it always feels exciting, regardless of whether I’m partaking in any ‘newness’ of my own. I feel a deeper connection to nature as the earth quietens down in readiness for winter; my predilection for sitting in trees is at its height just now (or at its most disturbing if you’re an unsuspecting passerby).

I dig up tatties, make soup and bask in the beauty of it all.

Berrybrae Stone Circle below:

Author Ailish Sinclair reaching for the skies at Berrybrae Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

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