Pitsligo Castle and Peathill Kirk in Aberdeenshire

Pitsligo Castle

Pitsligo Castle

Crows nest in the old keep of Pitsligo Castle near the village of Rosehearty in Aberdeenshire. Dating from 1424, it’s an impressive and atmospheric place. The Forbes family who built it, staunch Jacobite supporters, lost their lands and titles after the battle of Culloden. The castle was then ravaged by Hanoverian soldiers and fell into ruin.

The oldest part of the castle, the keep or tower:

the towerhouse at Pitsligo Castle
keep at Pitsligo Castle

Many of the rooms round the rubble filled courtyard remain intact. The evening sun added bright effects on this visit.

gun hole ay Pitsligo Castle

A large bird flew out of here. It was all a bit ‘Game of Thrones’…

dark room in Pitsligo Castle

Here and there the sky shows through chimneys, windows and decayed stairwells.

the kitchen chimney of Pitsligo Castle
window at Pitsligo Castle
stairway at Pitsligo Castle

The gateway:

daffodils outside Pitsligo Castle
sungate at Pitsligo Castle

Peathill Kirk

Just up the hill sits Peathill Kirk, where old and new towers stand side by side and, unsightly as it is, mobile phone reception is great.

phone tower, bell tower

Ghosts of Jacobites lurk here too.

grave
plaque

Alexander Forbes, the 4th Lord of Pitsligo, quite a famous Jacobite, and owner of Pitsligo Castle, is buried in the crypt below. He was a most interesting character.

I’ve written about him here: In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave and then in more detail over on The Witch, The Weird and the Wonderful blog. His open minded and fair way of being also inspired the character of Thomas, the Laird, in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

17011541928_1df143d7cd_z

Here he is at the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie (on the right, in the shadows), entering the ballroom at the Palace of Hollyroodhouse.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Entering the Ballroom at Holyroodhouse

The painting, by John Pettie, is part of the Royal Collection Trust.

The two sites make a trip up to Peathill most worthwhile. The castle and kirk would been used and inhabited at the same time – Lord Pitsligo would have sat in the Forbes pew just above where his grave now is – and offer an evocative glimpse into the past.

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.

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

Witchcraft and a Handsome Laird

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Tonya Ulynn Brown: “Before I go any further, I just have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read…

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Kidnapping, Slavery and Friendship

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

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The Land Girls Gate in Clochan, Moray

The Women's Land Army Memorial in Clochan - Ailish Sinclair, author
The Women’s Land Army Memorial in Clochan

The Land Girls Gate in Clochan is a memorial to all those that served in the Women’s Land Army during the world wars. The Army was formed in 1917, and then again in 1939 when WWII broke out. Women as young as 17 signed up for the duration of the war and took on all forms of farming and food production. The Army was eventually disbanded in 1950. There’s lots more information about the Land Girls here.

The memorial at Clochan in Moray is a joyous piece of art, paying tribute to the women who served in the Land Army throughout Scotland. Stones from various farms across the country have been incorporated into the ground around the gate. The fact that the memorial is surrounded by working farmland feels perfectly fitting too.

If you visit the Land Girls Gate on a Sunday morning, as I did, there’s a small car boot sale going on just down the road in Clochan, with pancakes and tea being served in the village hall. It’s rather lovely and feels a bit like stepping back into a simpler time.

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The Land Girls Gate in Clochan, colourful farmland beyond
The Land Girls, farmland beyond

My historical novels:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a 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

Fireflies and Chocolate, my second historical novel

Fireflies and Chocolate, the new historical novel from Ailish Sinclair

Originally posted 2020.

GWL Publishing have accepted my next historical novel, FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, for publication Spring 2021. I am lucky to have a publisher who is so understanding about my current health issues; all the deadlines for various edits are flexible.

Fireflies and Chocolate, released April 2021

The book was inspired by the 600 children who were kidnapped in Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies. You will meet the Manteith family again, and see the castle and the stone circle, though the story doesn’t stay there long.

There’s some real historical figures again. There’s a love story again, though it’s quite different from the one in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. And, this time, there’s chocolate, in the form of hot chocolate 😀

Article in The Evening Express

Amazon: kindle or paperback 

Waterstones 

See the FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE PAGE for full details.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well during these strange times of lockdown and isolation. I’m posting photos of #goodthings from my phone archives on Twitter and Instagram each day at the moment.

sunset over the loch
Sunset over the loch, from 2014

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is now free to download on Kindle Unlimited here.

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

The Mysterious Lang Stane of Aberdeen

Inscription on the Lang Stane
The Lang Stane, Aberdeen

The Lang Stane (long stone) of Aberdeen is situated close to busy and bustling Union Street. Many places in the city are named after this stone, but most people don’t know that it’s there. It’s hidden away on the corner of Langstane Place and Dee Street. The Music Hall can be seen in the background of the above photo.

The Lang Stane in Langstane Place
From Google Street View

History of the Lang Stane

There’s not a lot of documented history on the stone or how it came to be placed in the wall, though I have heard that this event happened in the 1960s. It’s shown as a solitary standing stone on a map from 1746, before Langstane Place was built.

The Lang Stane in its alcove

Battles and Boundaries

The Lang Stane may have originally been part of a stone circle. The carved base is consistent with this idea, that anchor shape being common in the stones of Aberdeenshire recumbent circles. It is also thought to have been used as a boundary marker along with another old and mysterious stone, the Crabstane. Both stones may have borne stony witness to the 1571 Battle of Craibstone between Clans Forbes and Gordon.

Who carved the words onto it, or when, I don’t know. There is also a faint six pointed star just below the text.

Visiting the Stone

I like to pay the stone a wee visit when I’m in the vicinity, all tucked away and squished into its alcove as it is. There’s no scenic rolling hillsides or lush forests for the Lang Stane as enjoyed by its contemporaries!

The opening scene of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE takes place in a stone circle, the story then travelling the old cobbled streets of Aberdeen before leaving Scotland’s shores.

There’s a lovely new review of the book up on Pink Quill Books here: “This is a love story that transcends colour, race, and class, as Elizabeth grows from being a spoilt lady of the castle to a young woman who fiercely defends her closest friends.

All My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

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!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

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

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

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A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

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

Duffus Castle at Easter

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’.

Continue reading “A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle”

Witchcraft, Kidnapping, and the Cobbles Between

cobbles of Correction Wynd in Aberdeen

I do seem to have a habit of running up and down the medieval cobbles of Aberdeen in the name of research. Here I am again, travelling down Correction Wynd, site of the 17th century House of Correction. But it’s not the old poorhouse/jail that I’m investigating. Not today anyway…

I pass St Nicholas Kirk, where people accused of witchcraft were held in the 16th century.

sT nICHOLAS kIRK, aBERDEEN

It’s time to move on from that now.

On from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

Researching and writing those times have led me to another.

Over the cobbles towards The Green, in Aberdeen

Over the cobbles I go, glancing up at the modern city above.

Archway in Correction Wynd, Aberdeen

Through the beam of light and into the, also rather modern seeming, Green.

The Green, Aberdeen

The kidnapped children of Aberdeen were held here in the 1740s. In a barn.

Cobbles of The Green in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Passers by sometimes heard music coming from the place, as the kidnappers tried to keep the children entertained.

The Green is mentioned in Fireflies and Chocolate (out today!):

“Another barn,” notes Peter, when we are ushered into a large ramshackle wooden building. Again we find a space to sit together, among the others. Again, we are on the floor, this time an earthen one. No chairs are provided for the likes of us anywhere now it seems. “I was kept in a barn in Aberdeen,” he tells me. “Down at The Green.”

I ken The Green. I used to think it was a nice place to walk through, a space between buildings, like a city version of a forest glade.

The children were also kept in the Tolbooth at times. There are tales of desperate parents trying to break down the door to get to them. Peter Williamson, who appears in the above quote, would be held there again in later life as punishment for his book, in which he accused the town magistrates of involvement in the kidnappings. You can read a large print version in the Tolbooth museum today beside a life size cut out of Peter!

He’s not the main character in Fireflies and Chocolate though. That’s Elizabeth Manteith, who is entirely fictional. But I love her. In their press release about the book the publisher describes her like this:

Fiery and forthright, Elizabeth isn’t someone to be argued with. She knows her own mind, and isn’t afraid to speak it. Through her experiences, the reader sees her grow from a girl, into a woman with a powerful voice… a woman of her time, but very much of ours too.

The cobbles of Correction Wynd in Aberdeen, dark Kirk behind.

Those dark cobbles do take me places!

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies, is out now. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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Crovie, a Historic Village in Aberdeenshire

stones on a windowsill in Crovie
Crovie

Crovie is an 18th century fishing village in the North-East of Scotland. People first came to live there after having been cleared away from their inland homes to make way for sheep farming.

Today many of the houses are holiday lets and it’s a scenic place to walk. And take photos.

Oh yes.

A Crovie Walk

This post details a walk taken in 2015.

Crovie from above

See those vans below? Beside the amazing sea? That’s as far up the street as vehicles can go in Crovie:

Crovie and coast

View from the shore:

The shore at Crovie

The wee postbox:

red letter box at Crovie

The coastline is beautiful and dramatic. Light conditions change constantly.

rocks

Myself and a friend set off on what was meant to be a 1.5 mile walk.

We got lost.

There was torrential rain.

The approach of the rain:

clouds gather

We walked on and on.

We followed the arrows.

And then we found ourselves in a pea field.

pea plants growing

The pea field led to a gorge. We retraced our many, many steps, eight miles of steps in the end… but then there was soup and pie and cake and all was very, very well.

pebbles spell out Crovie

Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire 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

“Ailish Sinclair spins this Scottish tale filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

correction wynd in aberdeen

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails. They always include some exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

See my About Page

The Cumberland Stone near Culloden Moor

Cumberland Stone, by Culloden in the Scottish Highlands

The huge Cumberland Stone sits in woodland very close to Culloden Moor. It is said that the Duke of Cumberland (the king’s son and leader of the government troops) ate his lunch, or in some accounts his breakfast, sitting atop the stone on the day of battle in 1746. It’s also said that he watched the battle from there.

Continue reading “The Cumberland Stone near Culloden Moor”

London, baby!

Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Lion, London

My daughter and I took a little trip to London (originally posted 2014). It was a heady mix of excitement, fun, sore feet, poignant memories, ballet and food. This post is a veritable photo bomb, so continue reading only if you possess extreme picture viewing fortitude.

Covent Garden, London

Above: the bridge that joins the Royal Ballet School to the Opera House. Below: bronze of a little dancer opposite the Opera House.

the bridge between the royal ballet school and opera house.
little dancer beside the Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England

We stayed in Covent Garden. We saw Bill Nighy in the street in Covent Garden. He frowned at us. We like Covent Garden.

Neal’s Yard:

Neal's Yard, London
Covent Garden tube station, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author
the moomin shop, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Quirky streets: Brydges Place is the narrowest alleyway in London, measuring just 15 inches across where it comes out beside The Coliseum theatre.

Brydges Place, the narrowest street in London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

This one had fun shops:

Cucumber Alley, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Self-indulgent memory alert: Freed was one of the last places I visited before leaving London many years ago. It was to buy a pair of shoes to teach in rather than to dance in, after my body had crumbled… A much happier, sunnier day is shown below, for us if not the staff; there was an angry man in there trying to buy many pairs of shoes in sizes they didn’t have. It was all very dramatic.

Freed of London, dancewear shop. UK. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Beautiful Blochs:

Many, many Bloch ballet shoes in a window. London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Trafalgar Square

I don’t get the blue cock (that is what it’s called) in Trafalgar Square. I’ve read the various excuses explanations for it and they don’t make sense, it’s like a blue joke in an otherwise dignified play… but it is photogenic, so my dislike is not total:

blue cockrel in Trafalgar Square, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

But I prefer the mermaids:

mermaids in the fountain, Trafalgar Square. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Theatre

We saw Kings of the Dance at The Coliseum. They were phenomenal, but of course, no photos, other than this pre-show one:

The Coliseum theatre, London

The bar sold chocolate. Just thought I would mention because that impressed me. Right, high heeled boots are abandoned in favour of Bloch dance trainers (an emergency purchase) and on we go.

Shakespeare in Leicester Square:

Shakespeare in Leicester Square, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

 

M&M store:

M&M store, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Piccadilly Circus

Big red bus in Piccadilly Circus, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

 Chinatown

Chinatown, London

Year of the Horse:

Year of the horse statue, Chinatown, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

The Rudest Restaurant in London (and one of the best and cheapest)

Wong Kei, formerly the ‘rudest restaurant in London’ (still quite curt and bossy to be honest), and a haunt of my youth due to the excellent and cheap food:

Wong Kei, London

The jasmine tea is free and unlimited, just leave the lid of your pot open and it will be replaced.

jasmine tea at Wong Kei. Ailish Sinclair | Author

British Museum

British Museum ceiling, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

This iron age helmet was found in the River Thames beside Waterloo Bridge. I want one.

horned helmet, British museum, London. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Naked statues in Soho Square

Naked statues in Soho Square. Ailish Sinclair | Author

And finally (I promise)…

The London Eye

My camera really doesn’t do night.

The London Eye. Ailish Sinclair | Author
London Eye at night. UK. Ailish Sinclair | Author

Well done. One and all.

My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

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!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

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

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

feet

See my About Page here

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A Lighthouse in a Castle and a Love Story

old lighthouse, new lighthouse: lighthouse in a castle

The Lighthouse in a Castle

Yes, Fraserburgh boasts its very own lighthouse in a castle! The 16th century Kinnaird Castle, on the left, was converted into a lighthouse in 1787 and is now part of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. On the right is the modern automated lighthouse.

Before we go in, let’s walk on a bit to the wine tower, the oldest building in Fraserburgh. The photo may not be the best of the tower, but look at that sky!

wine tower and sky

The Love Story

The wine tower is thought to have been a secret post-reformation Catholic Chapel, and has a sad love story attached to it. Strain your eyes and you can just see the red paint on the ground there in the picture above.

love story piper laird's daughter

I visited the tower again on Doors Open Day and went inside. Go here to read about it and see the interior.

I love the uneven bricks and studded door of the solid little building.

wine tower beside the lighthouse in a castle

Back up the hill to castle walls…

Castle walls. Lighthouse in a catle.

And lots of stairs…

spiral staircase inside the lighthouse in a castle

And, ooh look! My Granny had a television just like the one in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. I do like to see books being put to good use too.

television from the 70s in a lighthouse in a castle

Out onto the wider deck:

lighthouse in a castle

It’s scary on the top balcony; I can’t keep the skyline straight.

lighthouse in a castle

Into the main museum we go to examine some steampunk style things.

14300955380_d80a282c48_z
lenses

The Beach

Let’s end this trip and post with a walk on the golden sands of Fraserburgh beach, as the colour blue tantalises from above.

beach, it's the sky, of course it's the sky!

The Mermaid and the Bear

“Once Upon a Time, in the Days of Auld Lang Syne…”

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is a Scottish tale that includes a castle, a handsome Laird, witchcraft accusations, a stone circle and lots of love…

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair