The Red Well and a Book 7 Years in the Making

the red well and the sea
the red well near Whitehills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Red Well

The Red Well by Whitehills in Aberdeenshire is protected by an unusual building. On the autumn equinox, at sunrise, a beam of light shines through the doorway and illuminates the well within. This happens on the spring equinox too. The well, and the building, are said to date from Roman times.

the red well by whitehills

Book Release!

So, of course, I took it for SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. The book releases today, at the time of autumn equinox, and that just seems right. It’s been seven years in the making, this one. Both the novel and I have been through a lot as the story developed: severe editing, hospitalisations, deleting, pain, rewriting, crying and being monstrous. I’m very glad that we’re finally here at a place of relative wellness and publication.

See the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

It’s on Kindle Unlimited too so can be read for free (there’s a 30 day free trial).

The well is described in the book:

This wee spring is very near the sea, situated on a gentle incline that heads down to the beach. There the land is flat and looks to be walkable for miles. The sand is golden with some stony places. I see grey rocks and pink pebbles. I feel the desire to walk down to the beach, to spend many a day on those sands. It is strange.

Excerpt from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair
the red well by Whitehills

A Witch’s Hoosie

I have a bit of personal history with the well. When I was a small child, I lived with my grandparents in Whitehills for a few months. One day, playing with my cousins, I was locked in that building to see if the witch would get me. The place was referred to as the ‘witch’s hoosie’ back then, by children at least. There were scary stories of an old lady witch ghost. I was quite interested to see if she would show up. She didn’t, and I was eventually freed, my lack of fear having disappointed my companions somewhat.

The door is kept locked now.

Since then, I’ve always viewed the well as rather a magical place, and keenly look out for the quick glimpse of it in the landscape that you get when driving along the main Banff to Portsoy road.

thistles by the well
Thistles by the well

It’s in a particularly beautiful spot, the Red Well. The town of Banff can just be seen in the distance below.

the red well by the sea

Out today: SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

new novel from Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Fairytale Mushrooms and Staying Well

fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools

I do like nice fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools as those actually are. The woods here are full of them just now, and they’ll feature in my next newsletter.

Staying Well

I am still well. So I can walk among the mushrooms and crunch through the first fallen leaves of the season. Exactly two years ago today I was on my way to hospital again, so I’m very glad things are different now.

I have a new article that references that particular hospital stay over on Women Writers, Women’s Books: Doctors and Deadlines: Writing with Chronic Illness. It contains wellness tips that I hope will be helpful to everyone, not just those with chronic conditions. Here’s one of them:

“Sleep. Sleep well and long. Make yourself stop thinking about writing a while before bedtime. If you have a brilliant idea in the night, write it down and let it go. Do not lie there for hours going over every little nuance that you’re going to perfect the next day, and then cry for your characters because of what you’re about to put them through. You’ll be far better placed to do terrible things to them if you’re well rested.”

More Fairytale Mushrooms

More fairytale mushrooms.

And it’s not long now till the latest ‘terrible things I put my characters through‘ is published. One week today, in fact. (Out now!)

Stay calm. Breathe. Look at mushrooms.

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance! Out in paperback and kindle, September 21st 2022.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

The Edge of the World

the edge of the world on Bennachie
Bennachie in Aberdeenshire

The Romans had a point. Parts of Scotland really do feel like the edge of the world.

Two Sisters…

Two Cultures…

Out now!

The Romans called it the Edge of the World.

Sisters is out on the 21st of September in both paperback and kindle, so it’s getting close now.

I’m calmer this time. It doesn’t feel like quite such a great big worrying thing. And, as you can see, I’m having fun playing with imagery for marketing.

Out now!

Normal blogging will resume shortly…

More Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient 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

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos from the edge of the world!

Tip Jar

Rowan Berries on the Path

rowan berries on a woodland path

There were rowan berries on the path this morning in the woods. I take this to mean that it’s really autumn now. When the rowans are all shiny and new on the trees, you know that the end of summer approaches. There’s just the tiniest hint of the next season in the air.

rowan berries

But once they’re on the ground? Autumn. Autumn all the way.

Rowan Berry Jam

I recall a time when I used to make jam out of rowan berries. They are poisonous raw, but after a vigorous boiling with sugar, they’re edible, though rather bitter.

rowan berry jam

I liked the bitter sweet flavour. It was fruity and earthy and somehow tasted ancient. However, I was the only one. The rest of my family screwed up their faces at the bitterness. I no longer eat refined sugar, due to medical conditions, so my rowan jam making days are over. Nothing is wasted in nature though. The birds love those little waxy berries.

And I love autumn with its mix of misty mornings and hot sunny afternoons. It’s breezy and blustery here today. The air is warm, though it rained overnight. No need to water the pots. No need to light the fire. Rowan berries pop under my feet as I walk, and the trees grow more colourful every day.

Recent Reviews

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Sally Cronin featured a review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Bookshelf last week.

Elizabeth is gutsy, vulnerable, rash and caring, and her quick wittedness and bravery had me cheering her on from the sidelines. Like her, we are confronted by the harsh realities of life as a slave or indentured labourer and she experiences danger and brutality as she wades in to protect her new-found friends.

See the whole review here.

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

A review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR was included in the reading round up on the lovely Smelly Socks and Garden Peas blog.

“I really loved the rich variety this novel brought – it’s not all danger and torture, there’s peace and contentment, a feeling of having found one’s place, delight, fun, celebration and true happiness too. Each phase of Isobell’s experiences are brought to life, they’re evocative and have real depth. I’ll definitely be picking up Ailish’s other books in future too.”

See the review here.

Talking of those books in the future…

Well, one of them anyway.

That’s misty Bennachie in the background of the image below, and stones from Aikey Brae on the cover. Both places feature in the novel.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes, a neurodiverse main character, and some rather complicated romance.

The book releases in paperback and kindle on September 21st 2022. 

Out now!

Quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

See all my books here on the site or on my Amazon author page.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for the (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

The Maiden Stone and Persephone

Persephone
the maiden stone

The Maiden Stone

The beautiful pink granite Maiden Stone stands near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. It is an 8th century Pictish stone. On one side it bears designs favoured by the Picts, such as the comb and mirror, the mysterious Pictish Beast (Dolphin? Elephant? Mermaid? Nobody knows…) and a centaur at the top.

centaur at the top of the Maiden Stone

On the other side there is a very worn Celtic Cross, indicating that this may have been an early Christian preaching site.

the Maiden Stone, cross side

Maiden Stone Folklore

There’s a rather wonderful tale attached to the stone.

A maid from Durno was baking a batch of bannocks one morning when a handsome man appeared at her door. He bet her that he could build a road up the hill of Bennachie before she could finish baking the bannocks. If he won, she had to marry him. Unfortunately, the man was actually the devil and he built the road with great speed. The maid ran. He chased after. Just as he caught up to her, she prayed to be turned to stone rather than have to wed him. The notch on the stone is where the devil grabbed her shoulder as she transformed.

The Statue of Persephone

Persephone

A couple of hundred yards to the west of the Maiden Stone, in the woods, is a statue of Persephone. She was carved from 8.5 tonnes of millstone grit in 1961 by the artist Shaun Crampton, and her story echoes that of the Maiden Stone. In the Greek myth, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the harvest, was carried off to the underworld by Hades to become his wife. Zeus decreed that she should be released as long as she had not eaten anything in the underworld. But, poor quine, she had consumed some pomegranate seeds. So she only got to return for six months of the year, the six months of growth and harvest.

The statue holds some pomegranate seeds in one hand, and a mirror like the one on the Maiden Stone in the other.

Persephone near the Maiden Stone in Aberdeenshire

On the day I visited, someone had left a pomegranate at her feet.

pomegranate at Persephone's feet

And, like the Maiden Stone, the back of the statue is worth viewing too.

Back of Persephone

My Books, set mostly in Aberdeenshire

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

The latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is now out in both kindle and paperback. It features Bennachie, Romans, Celts, romance, a neurodiverse main character and the Battle of Mons Graupius. Out now!

More titles

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient 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

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Iron Age, Jurassic, and Back to the Future

cave at Cullykhan: iron age fort nearby
Cave at Cullykhan

Iron Age

For this small time travelling post, we start at beautiful Cullykhan Bay, once the site of an Iron Age Fort. The fort features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, as does a slightly adjusted version of the cave above. The Iron Age is generally thought to have ended in 43 CE in Britain when the Romans arrived. That happened a little later up here. The book is set in 83 CE.

Back to the Future

And there’s now a release date, in the future, the 21st of September to be precise.

Edit: the book is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age

The Jurassic

I went looking for squirrels in Aden Park recently.

I found dinosaurs.

dinosaur
Behind a yew tree.

They were only there for three days.

dinosaur in a window
In the mansion house window.

The dinosaur explorer event was clearly aimed at children, but I had rather a lot of fun looking for the creatures.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park

And now, refreshed, I return to my desk and the Iron Age, where I’m very happy to be.

Out now!

new novel from Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age
ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

North East Scotland Beaches: Vikings and Mermaids!

sea at Fraserburgh beach - Going Coastal: North East Scotland Beaches

Sky. Sea. Sand. It’s been a summer of these. Even on dull days it’s been warm, and walks on the beach, beautiful. I’m donning the tour guide hat again, and we’re going to explore some North East Scotland beaches, cliffs and caves.

Adapted from a 2016 post.

Whitehills

rainbow over the coast: North East Scotland Beaches

Two generations of quines walked the coast route between Banff and Whitehills back in February. We got rained on, but we got a rainbow. And amazing colours of sky and sea. Below is the Red Well. More on that here as it features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (out now!).

The Red Well, Whitehills

North East Scotland Beaches: Gardenstown and Vikings!

No time to linger at the well today, as we’re skipping along into summer to Gardenstown and St John’s Kirk. There it is, up on the hill between cloud shadows.

St John's Kirk, Gardenstown

There is an exciting tale of local ladies winning a battle with the Vikings in 1004 by weaponising their stockings with rocks and sand. Three Viking skulls were subsequently built into the walls of the then under-construction Kirk.

The coast as seen from the walls of St John's Kirk, Gamrie - Going Coastal with Ailish Sinclair North East Scotland Beaches

Today it’s a peaceful place, though the landscape is probably much the same as it was during the era of battling lassies and Viking warriors.

landscape at Gamrie

New Aberdour

Time for a picnic, and an exploration of the various bays at New Aberdour.

New Aberdour: North East Scotland Beaches

Let’s lie on the ground and gaze up at the red rocks and blue sky above.

rocks and sky: North East Scotland Beaches

We watch, entranced, as sand martins dart in and out of their nests. Whoops, forget to cover the home made pizza so it’s now covered in sand.  Never mind, just time for a poke around in a rock pool before we go…

rock pool: North East Scotland Beaches

Fraserburgh

Okay. Shoes off. We’re going to race along the golden shore at Fraserburgh, getting the sand right up between our toes. If we’re feeling energetic we can climb Tiger Hill, that large dune to the right, and enjoy enhanced views of the beach and town.

reflective clouds at the coast: North East Scotland Beaches

A reflective moment.

Fraserburgh beach - reflections at the coast

St Combs

Calming right down now. We turn the corner. Out comes a book and a bar of chocolate as we sit on the rocks at St Combs.

St Combs beach: North East Scotland Beaches

Walking boots on for this next part…

rocky

The Bullers of Buchan: Mermaids!

On we go, past Peterhead, to seek out mermaids at the Bullers of Buchan. There are folk tales of them being spotted here in the cave known as the Sea Cauldron:

the sea cauldron - Going Coastal and looking for mermaids!

It’s actually quite a dangerous place, with cliff edges all round, so do take care.

The coast at the Bullers of Buchan

We’ve come to the end of our coastal oddessy. Just one more stare at that silvery sea at the Bullers, and then it’s home for a cup of tea.

The coast at the Bullers of Buchan - Ailish Sinclair, author: North East Scotland Beaches

My Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient 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

And coming very soon now…

The latest book, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Short Post: Early Morning Walk Before Writing

I am now well enough to start the day with an early morning walk, just like I always used to. And today, it really feels like autumn. I made a wee video:

I walked all the way up to the Witch Stone.

early morning walk to the witch stone

But now it’s back to making SISTERS happen soon.

And, it’s out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World, out soon

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Holiday in a Day: Aberdeenshire and Moray Coast

a holiday in a day: dolphin sculpture
holiday in a day: window by Portsoy Harbour
Window by Portsoy Harbour

I went out for the day. I ended up visiting so many places that it felt like having a whole holiday in a day. It’s been a really long time since I did this. There’s been wee local trips here and there since this latest bout of illness. But it’s been years, literally, since I’ve been out in this way. Other ill times and lockdowns all stopped play for me in this regard.

I didn’t know how far I’d get, so just took one small step of the journey at a time, sharing on Twitter and Instagram as I went.

Holiday in a Day: the Red Well

the Red Well

First was the Red Well by Whitehills. I won’t write about it now as it features in SISTERS and deserves its own post (see that post here). It was beautiful though and provided a gentle start to the outing.

Portsoy Harbour

A little further up the coast, I came to the wonderfully scenic Portsoy Harbour, its window and dolphin sculpture also pictured above.

Holiday in a day: Portsoy Harbour

Speymouth Forest

The trip was going well, so on I went, and soon reached deep and dark Speymouth Forest.

Trees at Speymouth Forest

I didn’t walk far, but there was so much beauty to be seen everywhere in the old woodland.

holiday in a day: canopy of trees

Lots of little pathways.

pathway in the forest

Biblical Garden

On and on I travelled, still feeling good. I took a walk in the Biblical Garden at Elgin. This garden contains 110 plants that are mentioned in the bible. It’s an interesting and peaceful place to visit, maintained by the horticultural students of Moray College.

Samson:

Samson in the biblical garden

A rainbow:

Holiday in a Day: rainbow of flowers

Then the fear kicked in. Two competing fears actually. One that I might exhaust myself back into being ill, and the other that I might become ill again so should do as much as possible in one day.

I compromised by sitting quietly by the sea at Sandend for a while before heading home.

Holiday in a Day: Sandend
Note the jumping and boating people in the background!

TikTok

I made a short TikTok video of the day. I am new on there and really don’t know what I’m doing yet. Any advice welcome!

Writing Update

Sisters at the Edge of the World is out now.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

More Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient 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

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Dunnideer Vitrified Hill Fort and Leith Hall Garden

tree at the base of Dunnideer vitrified hill fort

This beautiful tree sits at the foot of Dunnideer vitrified hill fort near Insch in Aberdeenshire. It’s a short but steep climb to the top of the hill. When you see the remains of the medieval castle and prehistoric fort you know you’re nearly there.

The Vitrified Hill Fort

The vitrified forts of Northern Scotland are a bit of a mystery. About 2000 years ago the stones of many of these defensive buildings reached a high enough temperature to melt. Theories as to how this happened are varied. Battles? Ancient building techniques? Aliens? I’ve written a dramatic stone melting event into SISTERS (no aliens involved) but don’t pretend to have the answer to this piece of prehistory.

vitrified hill fort rock and medieval castle

The views from the hill make all exertion of the climb worthwhile. Click the pano for a larger version:

panorama of view from Dunideer vitrified hill fort

View from the other side:

Dunnideer vitrified hill fort

Nestled, and almost completely hidden, under a tree at the bottom of the hill are the remains of Dunnideer Recumbent Stone Circle.

recumbent and flankers of Dunnideer stone circle at the base of the vitrified hill fort
stone under tree
split flanker of Dunnideer stone circle

Leith Hall

A few miles further west is Leith Hall with its wonderful walled garden.

colourful borders of Leith Hall garden

Stone guardian at the gate:

lion at Leith Hall

I love the Moon Gate, and in retrospect wish I had gone through it and taken a photo from the other side too. Oh well, next time…

moongate at Leith Hall

My Books

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

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. It features a neurodiverse main character, the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes, and some rather complicated romance!

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

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

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindleAmazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

About Page

See it here

Writer’s Tip Jar