Stone Circles, Henges, Hills and a Barrow

Aikey Brae, one of my favourite stone circles

It’s no secret that I love stone circles and other old stony places. I visit them. A lot. I hug them. Quite a bit. And I write about them. Aikey Brae, above, is my absolute favourite. The circle in my books is loosely based on this one. I’ve blogged about it here in the snow and here after the trees were felled.

Today I’m sharing some older photos of ancient sites that I’ve not used before, so they may not be too perfect, but I hope they capture the spirit of these special places.

First, I’m going back in time, deep into the family photo archives, and journeying out of Scotland to Wiltshire in England.

Avebury

Avebury stone circle

The great henge of Avebury, a circle with a village built right in the middle of it, is another of my favourites.

Peeking round a stone at Avebury
Avebury

West Kennet and Silbury

Nearby is West Kennet Long Barrow where I once found a candle burning (very naughty, such things could cause damage):

candle in West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet

Across the road from the barrow is the mysterious Silbury Hill.

Aberdeenshire Stone Circles

We have a nice wee henge in Aberdeenshire too at Broomend of Crichie, and the shape of the stones really remind me of Avebury. As does the fact that there was once an avenue of stones leading to the circle.

Broomend of Crichie stone circle

And just down the river, in the old graveyard, is the Bass of Inverurie.

The Bass of Inverurie

The Bass is a natural hill that has been shaped. It’s been home to a Motte and Bailey castle and there have been older worked flint objects found there too.

Did someone create a diminutive complex similar to that of Avebury? I wonder…

Some lovely Pictish stones stand beside the Bass today, un-huggable in their new glass case.

Pictish stones by the Bass of Inverurie

The countryside of the Inverurie area is rich in standing stones and circles too. Easter Aquorthies lies a couple of miles away from the Bass. I’ve blogged about it here.

Easter Aquorthies Stone Circle

And, not too far away, is Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle, one that I’m writing about just now as it plays a part in the story of SISTERS.

At Daviot:

Ailish at Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

Wonderful Blogs

The Wee Writing Lassie asked me 7 intrusive questions! Go to her blog to see them.

Sally Cronin reviewed FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Blog Magazine: “This book is well researched, bringing history to life and the writing flows smoothly like hot chocolate as it warms on a cold day. It is a coming of age and love story which will have you holding your breath on occasion as Elizabeth comes to terms with her future.See the whole review here.

Tyrebagger stone circle
Tyrebagger Circle near Aberdeen

I hope you’ve enjoyed my wee journey into the ancient past. Sign up to my mailing list if you would like more of this ilk in your inbox.

Books (stone circle included!)

Set in a castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations 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 Editor’s Pick

Castle Fraser Circle
Path through crop to Castle Fraser stone circle

About Page 

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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Writer’s Tip Jar

Rosehearty Harbour: tiny blog, tiny outing…

Rosehearty Harbour in Aberdeenshire

Rosehearty harbour, pretty with pink thrift growing in the foreground.

So, I’m out.

In the car.

Whizzing through the countryside.

Seeing things that are not my garden, not my house: ripening crops, winding roads, people, tractors, dogs…

I’ve moved on from the small blue ball I was before. In my excitement to be out, I overestimate the level of moving on that has occurred. Going into a shop turns out to be a mistake that leads to pain and shaking and a slow hobbling retreat.

But sitting by Rosehearty harbour, on a bench, in the sun, is perfect.

It’s progress, and it’s good.

Rosehearty Harbour

Read more about the harbour at Rosehearty, one of the oldest seaports in Scotland, here.

My books:

Books by Ailish Sinclair

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 soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 2nd century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar:

Finding Loudon Wood Stone Circle

Loudon Wood Stone Circle

Loudon Wood Stone Circle is so deep in the woods that it is almost impossible to find. There are many little paths that look like they might lead into it from the main track, but the one that actually does? Virtually hidden. I succeeded in finding it again in 2020. And it was wonderful.

One stone from the circle in Loudon Wood

Within the circle glade, it was peaceful. It was warm. It was calm.

sunshine over Loudon Wood Stone Circle

There was a brief rain shower while I was there, and even that felt gentle and soft, in direct contrast to the horizontal in-the-face precipitation we often get here.

Loudon Wood Stone Circle

I didn’t want to leave. Surrounded by dense trees, the circle felt separate from the somewhat crazed world outside. It made me think of the person who commented on a recent Instagram post, saying that the image freed them from ‘all the bullshit’ for a moment. This was that picture:

ox-eye daisy

Loudon Wood Stone Circle is like that too. Free of things that can maybe be symbolised by this beer made by a local brewery:

Brewdog's Barnard Castle beer

The stones are old. True. Dignified and simple.

Recumbent stone in Loudon Wood

And the pathway out? Easy to find.

pathway through the woods

You can read an interview I did recently on The Trainee Journalist blog: Novels by North-east author tell unheard stories from the past.

And there’s a nice review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR over on Goodreads here. “The ending is gorgeous and deeply moving. I had a hard time putting the book down. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, love stories, tragedies, and the resilience of love, kindness, and faith.”

The Mermaid and the Bear

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

Scottish author Ailish Sinclair at Berrybrae Stone Circle
At Berrybrae…

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See the About Page here.

Chasing a Cover Reveal Along Snowy Pathways

snowy path to a cover reveal

The cover reveal for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE!

Other reveals can be seen here for THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, and more recently, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.


Last time I had a cover to reveal we journeyed down a rabbit hole to find it… but I haven’t been anywhere exciting like that lately, so we’ll have to stick closer to home, starting on the snowy track into the woods.

Reaching the end of the track, we nip up this narrow path:

narrow path to a cover reveal

Here we are on the loch-side walk now, sunshine to our left.

sunny path in the woods

Wait! What’s that? Something’s moving in the woods, running and leaping through the trees…

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair in the snow by deer tracks

No, that’s not it. That’s the first book (out now!) and some foot prints left by a deer. We need to retrace our steps, I think…

Snowy track to a cover reveal

And yes – finally we come to it – the cover reveal for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, out April 1st 2021!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

The cup featured on the cover is an actual chocolate cup from the 1740s when the book is set.

Inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies, the story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas (as opposed to my previous metaphorical ones)! And there’s chocolate…

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms: big blog, little blog

The Cairngorm mountains beyond Loch Morlich

Beautiful Loch Morlich, Cairngorms beyond, still with patches of snow in June.

Little Blog

This blog was originally sent from holiday in June 2019. I was completely depleted by my autoimmune conditions, at that point undiagnosed, and spent most of the holiday lying in bed reading books.

books in bed

It seems strange, looking back on it now, that I tried to keep my health problems a secret. Only happy pictures got posted on socials, such as ones of Aviemore Stone Circle and Reindeer in the Cairngorms. The gargantuan effort it took to get to these places, or how I hardly left the car, did not get mentioned.

I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to ‘snap out of it’. I didn’t want that to be the way of me.

I still don’t of course, and it is generally better now, flare ups aside. I guess I’m becoming more open and accepting of the situation, and I like to write honestly everywhere, not just in my books.

Big Blog

From bed I shared the news of my guest post on the official tourism site for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire: 10 Mystical and Magical Places in Aberdeenshire. Below is Pitsligo Castle, one of the sites featured in that post.

Loch Morlich

On the pictured morning I walked very slowly from the car to the loch, and it was wonderful to be out among such beauty. I was on the banks of Loch Morlich before the ducks were up! And probably back in bed before they were too…

Ducks by Loch Morlich

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The books:

Ailish's books

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 2nd century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

Crying While Writing: anyone else do this?

Crying while writing: Star of Bethlehem flowers
Star of Bethlehem in the meadow

Crying while writing. Crying while editing. And even crying while thinking about writing, as the scenes, both happy and sad, play out in my mind. It’s no wonder I’m sometimes dehydrated!

So, am I the only one?

Tell me I’m not.

I can’t be.

Emotive writing is, just that. Springing from emotion. Causing of emotions. If the writer isn’t fully immersed, how can the reader ever be?

crying while writing: Rhododendron flowers on the pink bench
Rhododendron flowers on the pink bench

Marketing

But then, I read other things, sensible things really. Like, when we market our books, they should be regarded as ‘products’ and we should not be emotionally attached to them. This is meant to work well. It makes better ‘business’ sense. And we should write to a ‘market’ and design covers to a genre stereotype. The first one I can maybe manage, at least while marketing, but certainly not while writing. The rest, no. It all flows fast and organically out of me and I have no choice but to go where my heart takes me.

ox eye daisy
Ox Eye Daisy

So. I sob on. The latest line, from SISTERS, to set me off was: In the midst of great loss, the newness of a baby helps.

Floods.

Breathlessness.

I’m welling up just looking at the line now, overcome by all that it references.

Rhoddies. Crying while writing

Editing

This emotional aspect of writing is one of the many reasons good, thorough, even brutal, editing is so important. We, or at least I, need someone less attached, someone who did not write the words and scenes, to look at the work objectively and say: this could be better, this is not clear, were you under the influence of one of your stronger prescription drugs when you wrote this? Because in our, or my, invested blubbering state, we might not see it. We might not know.

The book is on its way back for edit three soon (GWL did spoil me with their three editing process, and I won’t do less now), so all is well there.

It is possible that illness is making me worse, crying-wise. I feel a bit pathetic and vulnerable. But that will pass. I will get stronger again. And you’ll get nice sensible and scenic posts about castles and standing stones 🙂

But for now, I recover – from both medical conditions and writing – in the garden. Among the flowers. With a candle.

crying while writing, a candle outside
Lovely soothing candle from Tilly’s Candle Shop… sniff…

Giveaway

On a happier note, one that doesn’t make me cry anyway: I’m doing a signed book giveaway over on Instagram. See it here. It runs all week (June 19th- 26th 2022) with one of each book up for grabs and it’s a worldwide competition.

book giveaway

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

feet

About page updated

A Loch Through the Seasons: mist, sunsets and snow

loch at sunset
misty Aberdeenshire loch

Clouds of mist swirl over the surface of the loch.

The picture above was taken after an unexpectedly hot day led to unexpectedly beautiful conditions. Well, not completely unexpected. It’s always beautiful, always different.

Summer Loch

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

summer Aberdeenshire loch

Autumn

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

sunset

The Loch in Winter

Scottish winters are fierce. One year layer upon layer of ice and snow built up so thick that people and dogs ran about on top of the loch. I watched a fox run right across from one side to the other. 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.

snowy Aberdeenshire loch

I hope I will be well enough to walk up there soon. And what will await? A liquid mirror? Slow moving ripples? The slightest change in airflow is made visible by water. If there’s blue in the sky, there will be blue in the loch. Maybe there’ll be whooping swans with their yellow beaks, or an otter leaping about on the banks. I love the sound of otters giggling in the evening… I miss it.

whooper swans flying up from the loch
Whooper swans over the loch

* 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, let’s 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.

fun on the loch
Boating days…

The books:

Ailish's books

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 2nd century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

Writing Update

I am back editing the manuscript now. My poor characters have moved on from the battle scene at last! Though the phrase ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ springs to mind…

My About Page

Mailing List

New Aberdour Beach: caves, folklore and a heroine

view out to sea from a cave at New Aberdour beach

A high speed wind was hurtling through the sea cave at New Aberdour beach as I took the photo above. I nearly blew over. But it was worth it to capture that combination of dark and light and blue and black. That tunnel of transition from enclosed space to open sea.

The beach is never busy, being a bit far from main roads and civilisation. I do recommend seeking it out if you are ever in Northern Aberdeenshire. It has sandy bits for summer picnics and sunbathing. There are stony bits that noisily orchestrate the retreat of the waves.

Then there’s the magnificent caves:

Some entrances are almost hidden…

entrance to the cave above at New Aberdour beach

This next one I always avoid. I once overheard a highly respected educational psychologist, who I knew from my time working in schools, emotionally blackmailing a small child to defecate in there. Such memories are off-putting, plus, the roof is rather head-bangingly low…

the pooping cave at New Aberdour beach

But New Aberdour beach as a whole is lovely. Apart from the car park, there is no sign of the modern day, you could be meandering through any time, any era.

rock pools at New Aberdour beach

Folklore

Some specific points in history and local folklore are marked. St. Drostan is said to have landed at New Aberdour in 580AD. His well:

St Drostan's Well

The Heroine of New Aberdour Beach

And the heroic actions of one Jane Whyte, who rescued fifteen men from a shipwreck in 1886, are commemorated in the remains of her little cottage:

Jayne Whyte memorial at New Aberdour beach

When the tide is out the rockpools display all manner of sea life from minnows to sea slugs, starfish, pipefish and anemones. Tide allowing again, you can walk for miles round bay after bay. Do watch the sea though, there’s no mobile phone reception down there if you get stranded. Sometimes you catch sight of dolphins and whales.

I sound like a guidebook, a representative of Scottish tourism… but I’m not.

I’ve visited this place at times of trauma and felt negativity drain away into the pink rocks. I’ve lain on the sand reading books during hot relaxing summers while my children explored the pools and searched for cowrie shells. And I’ve introduced all my friends to the beach. So memories of New Aberdour are mixed up with those of my favourite people.

I write about the beach. Of course I do 🙂

Isobell rides her horse there in the THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR:

Excerpt:

“We walked along grassy clifftops and looked out at the sea, a sea that was some days brilliant blue, others stormy grey; green and pink stones showed in the shallows by the craggy bays. We saw dolphins. We saw seals. I waved and called out to my brown-eyed friends.

The wind swept us clean, leaving the taste of salt on our lips and our manes wild and unkempt. We only went down onto the sandy beaches; I would risk some things, but not Selkie feet on rocky shores. We found places where waves crashed so high they shot out of the very land itself. They roared in celebration of their watery power; I instinctively hugged tight to my horse’s neck then as she reared up with the waves in some Kelpie joy of her own.”

Excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair
rocky shore and sea

I love the beach.

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New Book: Sisters at the Edge of the World

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair
Aesthetic for the new book from Ailish Sinclair: Sisters at the Edge of the World.
Aesthetic for the book

Work on the new book is forging ahead nicely. The aim is for it to be released this summer, but that may be subject to change. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts on publishing options. My publisher, too, gave me lots of wonderful advice and information, and while they would have been willing to look at the manuscript, despite its shortness and strangeness, I am choosing to self-publish this novel.

Thanks also to everyone who has donated through Kofi. With traditional publishing there is no cost to the author (remember that, don’t be taken in by vanity presses posing as traditional pubs; there’s a lot of them about), but this time I’ll be paying for everything myself, so thank you so much!

Being ill, having chronic conditions and facing my own mortality have made me want to experience things while I can. And if those things can be accomplished sitting at my desk, all the easier. So, it’ll be an adventure! That’s how I’m thinking of it anyway…

Aspects of the book

  • The main characters are fiercely bonded chosen sisters. Can their bond survive betrayal and perhaps even death? (Already attempting to write the blurb here).
  • The story is set in the second century AD and features the battle of Mons Graupius between the Roman invaders and the Caledonian tribes.
  • There’s romance, but it’s rather complicated romance this time.
  • The stone circle is still there in all its glory.
  • The castle is not, obviously, but there is a great round house where it will be one day. And a wee hoosie in the woods.
sunshine and frost in the woods
Sunshine and frost in the woods

Edit in: and now it has a cover!

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Do sign up to my occasional mailing list to be kept abreast of developments and also for exclusive photos…

The traditionally published books

Ailish's books

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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