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

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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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Books

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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

Share Your Books and Writing with Me!

Share your books with me!

And any other writing, such as poems, blogs and excerpts from your work in progress. I want to see it. My readers want to see it. Show us those heartfelt creative efforts.

Share your books!
In local bookshop Better Read Books in Ellon

No-nos

There’s so many no-nos in the online world of writing today. Review swaps are against the terms and conditions of Amazon and other places. ‘Buy my book!’ DMs on social media are just annoying and unprofessional, and thankfully much rarer than they used to be. This week a writer (big 5 publisher, famous agent) posted a ‘buy my book’ comment on one of my Instagram posts. We don’t follow each other. The book had nothing to do with the subject of my post, so it seemed a bit desperate and, again, unprofessional. It did not make me want to buy the book; in fact, it was off-putting. An invasion of space even.

But it got me thinking about spaces where it is good to share, and here we have this post.

Share you books! Witchy books.
Witchy books…

Share Your Books!

There’s no no-nos here today. The comment section of this post is a free for all sharing space. Post your own work and peruse that of others too. You’re also welcome to add links 🙂

And talking of adding links, if you have a book and a blog, it’s a good idea to post some way to see those books in the posts. I’ve quite often been impressed with writing on a blog and looked for a mentioned book to no avail.

I have a Facebook group for sharing any books that have a Scottish connection. See it here.

I want to see your books and writing, people! So post away…

And, of course, here’s mine:

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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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

Cairnbulg and Inverallochy: Come Awa In!

Cairnbulg: come awa in!
Come away in!

I took a wee trip to Cairnbulg. And also Inverallochy, as the two fishing villages are joined together. I drove myself, a major milestone in the healing process (see posts about illness here and here).

Cairnbulg Library

The library had some lovely signs up, written in the Doric, the Scots language as spoken in the northeast of Scotland. They were fairly simple, but I will translate under the pictures.

Cairnbulg library in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
The Counter

My favourite was the one that separated the adult books from the junior section.

Cairnbulg library
Big folks books

There’s a vaguely Pictish feel to the statue outside the library.

Statue outside Cairnbulg Library.
Statue outside Cairnbulg Library

The Beach

After perusing the books and signs, I drove down to the beach.

Cairnbulg: washing lines
Communal washing line

I had forgotten how beautiful the rugged and rocky nature of the coast at the bottom of the village was.

beach
Beach

I just had to walk down onto the beach. Another ‘blue mind‘ moment!

Rocks at Cairnbulg
Rocks at Cairnbulg beach

Memorial

The memorial below commemorates all those who have been lost at sea from the community.

Memorial at Cairnbulg

Haste Ye Back!

And lastly, probably needing no translation, but I will anyway, Haste Ye Back! To the blog as well as the library…

Haste You Back: return soon!

For more Doric sayings see the post Dancing Round Aberdeen in the Rain

My books, also available at the library!

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

Fireflies and Chocolate at the library!
Picture taken at Fraserburgh Library, books on the just returned shelf.

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, neurodiversity, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar:

Leaving Easter Aquorthies Stone Circle

Purple flowers at Easter Aquorthies

Easter Aquorthies Circle

Easter Aquorthies, also known as East Aquorthies, is sometimes described as a ‘show circle’ and recommended as a good first stone circle to visit. This is due to its near perfect condition and position: all stones are present and upright; the grass always seems to have been manicured to a close shave, and the views of the surrounding countryside are magnificent. It’s also very clearly signposted from the nearby town of Inverurie, making it easy to find and then park in its small car park.

Blue skies over a stone circle

Bennachie

The Mither Tap of Bennachie is apparent wherever you walk in and around the circle, looming majestic and large over your shoulder.

cows at Easter Aquorthies

The Recumbent Stone

The recumbent stone is unusual in that it has extra supporting stones on the inner side. I wonder what led to this arrangement. Did it fall and crush someone in Neolithic or Bronze Age times, causing new health and safety measures to be put in place? It is on a slope, so maybe it was just hard to make secure. I hope no one got crushed!

recumbent at Easter Aquorthies stone circle

Name Origin

The name is thought to derive from Gaelic and means either ‘field of prayer’ or ‘field of the stone pillar’. Most of the stones are granite but one, below, is red jasper.

The red jasper stone at Easter Aquorthies stone circle

Leaving Easter Aquorthies…

There are numerous tales of people finding it hard to exit Easter Aquorthies stone circle. Some describe walking away as being like trying to wade through treacle and report feeling as if the circle wants to keep them there. There are also stories of enticing music coming from under the ground.

On the day I visited, I really didn’t want to leave. I would rather have stayed sitting in the sun with my back up against one of the recumbent flankers, staring out over Bennachie.

I knew the next circle on my list to visit was going to be contrastingly tricky to find. And it was. But that’s a post for another day (see Tyrebagger here).

Leave I did, reluctantly, and a little later than planned. I encountered no treacle or music… but I have been left with a strong desire to return. Soon.

straight line of stones

My Books, set mostly in Aberdeenshire

The latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, releases September 21st in both kindle and paperback. It features Bennachie, Romans, Celts, romance, a neurodiverse main character and the Battle of Mons Graupius. Kindle pre-order is live now.

See the book detail page here

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Already published 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

Balgorkar Stone Circle and Castle Fraser

Balgorkar Stone Circle
On the way to Balgorkar Stone Circle

This post details a day in 2014 when we set off to find Balgorkar Stone Circle and visited two castles and another circle too.

We headed off to look for the stones. But first, there was a quick stop at Fraserburgh beach where the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) hung low and filtered the sunlight in a silvery way. A seagull flew by as I took the photo.

Balgorkar Stone Circle

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser.

To the left in the picture below (click to see larger image) are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar Stone Circle (also known as Castle Fraser Stone Circle). The stones were visible from the road, so quite easily found.

standing stones and a Balgorkar stone circle

Up the side of the field we walked.

Balgorkar Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

I thought we’d have to just view the stones from there, but no, some naughty person had trampled a pathway through the crop, so we did no further damage by walking it.

illicit path to Balgorkar stone circle

The recumbent and flankers, dark against the field:

Balgorkar stone circle

Castle Fraser

Next we visited Castle Fraser, where I was meant to be doing research for writing on heraldry, historic dates and architecture. This took the form of running about taking photos:

Castle Fraser

I loved the rooftop and later wrote about it here.

turrets

Kildrummy Castle

Then, after picnicking, with only half the day gone, we decided to head to ruinous Kildrummy Castle, a few miles further on.

more serendipity at Kildrummy Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

There in the reception was an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. There was hugging and much talking. Other people got fed up waiting to be served… We kept saying it was amazing. My friend is currently doing a PhD in history, so some of our conversation became spontaneous research.

We finally moved on to look around:

great hall

I do appreciate the use of the adverb ‘treacherously’ there; without it we might think Osbourne the Blacksmith to have merely made a mistake or had an unfortunate accident such as tripping with a pot of molten metal or dropping a freshly forged sword.

window

Broomend of Crichie Stone Circle

The day ended with a visit to Broomend of Crichie stone circle, Pictish stone placed in the middle.

Broomend of Crichie

This blog post is ending in a rather unrelated way, with some ballet. It’s beautiful and romantic and only two minutes long. It’s Scottish Ballet performing at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Historical Fiction featuring a castle and a stone circle!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair
Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

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

There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ailish's feet

My About Page

Writer’s Begging Tip Jar

Byronic Heroes and the Bad Boys of Ballet

Quote from TENDO by Ailish Sinclair, a book with a Byronic hero.

I’m still deep in the TENDU manuscript, though the end of this edit approaches and I’ll soon be returning to SISTERS.

Between chapters, I’m watching things like this:

Byronic Heroes

Sergei Polunin, known as the bad boy of ballet, was born in the Ukraine, as was my own ballet bad boy from TENDU.

Unlike the mainly perfect men from MERMAID and FIREFLIES, Aleks is a Byronic hero. What’s that, you ask?

From Dictionary.com:

A Byronic hero is a type of fictional character who is a moody, brooding rebel, often one haunted by a dark secret from his past. The term describes the type of main character found in many fictional works by Lord Byron, who is said to have had this type of personality.

I love Byronic heroes. I love reading them. And I love writing them. He is very naughty though, and I will have to punish him for the rest of his life. Oh, the FUN!

Side note: see my post on Gight Castle, the ancestral home of Lord Byron.

Interview

Ailish Sinclair

I was recently featured over on Instagram in a Fast Facts type interview. Read about my obsessions, fears and atrociously bad singing here.

Books

books on pink, not a Byronic hero in sight

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

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

My About Page

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Writer’s Tip Jar

Just a wee description of a castle rooftop today…

castle roof
Photo taken at Castle Fraser

A castle rooftop from my work in progress:

The gable of the great hall rose high to the front, a huge chimney boasted diminutive battlements, and other lower layers of pink castle sprawled out haphazardly in front of me. There were three small turrets, upended cones that had been meticulously finished round and round with ever smaller and smaller lichen dotted tiles. Tiny mismatched windows blinked in the sun: circles, squares and one narrow bent rectangle. Sections of roof ended randomly, some with mossy little steps to nowhere; one jutting brick triangle had been shaped to fit the side of a sloping turret.

Excerpt from TENDU by Ailish Sinclair

And that really is all today. Because: busy writing. Been sucked in to the manuscript and am finding it hard to leave.

Other castle rooftops are available.

As are other thefts from castles.

Other books too