of towers and stones

tower

Rapunzel’s Tower appears over the trees, dark and mysterious, a fairytale setting at the top of a hill. No hair is let down in answer to my call. Maybe the newly installed CCTV reveals me to be neither Prince nor abusive mother figure so I am ignored? Or maybe the words on the council sign are true and the Drinnie’s Wood Observatory really is only open May-September.

Onwards and upwards. And downwards. Up the wrong path and back again. Up another, almost identical, path and ta-da! The elusive Louden Wood Stone Circle:

deerforest 049 (700x525)

It evaded me for years, this place. The entry to the narrow path is hidden by low hanging pine branches, and it wasn’t until the advent of Google Earth that I finally pinpointed its exact location.

I do like the white tree that stands opposite the large recumbent stone:

deerforest 024 (500x375)

Most stone circles in Aberdeenshire are imbued with a  deep peacefulness. This one seems alive somehow, buzzing with an undercurrent of ancient energy, like a radio still tuned to the past. Carved stone:

deerforest 030 (488x650)

Back to the present and a newly planted wind turbine, another tower I would like to look inside; see the inviting steps and door at the bottom? Surprisingly large up close – diagonal was the only way to get the whole thing in shot – and surprisingly quiet, whoosh-whooshing us gently into the future.

a modern tower

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a little bit of snow

pine cones in snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

How could I have forgotten what proper cold feels like? It pulls you up short as you realise that just breathing in the sub zero air is going to chill you, no matter how well wrapped up you are. And the dark, the days that don’t begin until half way through the morning and seem to end at 3 in the afternoon. This is the truth of December in Scotland. Even when there is only a tiny amount of snow.

Scots Pine in snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

I complain (this was especially evident during the five hour power cut we had last week), but I love it. It’s a time of hibernation, of books and log fires, and writing, writing, writing; no hot sun to distract and lure, only the occasional frosty bright sunrise. And that little bit of snow.

sunrise over the loch - Ailish Sinclair, author

I’m also enjoying all the Christmas cookies and hot chocolate of the season, sparkly tree lights, nostalgia made real.

It’ll all be over soon. The Solstice will herald the lightening of the nights, that’s always noticeable quite quickly. But for now I appreciate the views of winter: the loch is frozen and my neighbour forgot to take in his boat, now also frozen.

boat om a frozen loch - Ailish Sinclair, author

And the field makes me think of chocolate cake dusted with icing sugar…

fields dusted with snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

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Mausoleum

steps

This afternoon I wandered through the grounds of Duff House with friends.

mausoleum

We originally met at a Halloween party eight years ago, a fact that sprang easily to mind as we investigated the 18th century Gothic mausoleum.

knight

Above: an effigy of a knight at the rear of the building. Sadly it is not Robert the Bruce as once purported. The skulls, crossbones and wheat are quite common on older graves in Aberdeenshire. Below: the interior of the mausoleum taken through the metal door.

inside)

This time of year in Scotland the days seem to be either golden or grey, sunny or driech. Today didn’t get properly light at all, but autumn added its gold regardless. The River Deveron:

River Deveron

We came upon an old dog grave in Wrack Wood; some lovely Dickensian sounding names there.

dog grave

Grey and golden, the colours of the day:

grey and golden

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The Mermaid and the Bear cover

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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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pictures from a quiet weekend

autumn

Autumn is tinging  the tips of leaves now. A quiet point has been reached, a small breathing space between frenetic activity. It makes me sleepy. I sit in a beach cafe eating chips and watch others be energetic:

chips 033 (550x413)

In fact there’s rather a lot of sitting going on this weekend. Sitting. Staring. Watching. Contemplating the busy time to come. And smelling the birthday flowers, because that’s always good.

flower

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