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

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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

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A Ballet Novel and a Tale of Publishing Woes

An aesthetic for TENDU, a ballet novel by Ailish Sinclair
Aesthetic for Tendu

I am now editing my ballet novel, a dark contemporary romance, TENDU, having pulled it from the proverbial drawer where it’s been for the last three years.

I’m LOVING it. I’d forgotten quite how much FUN this book this. It also feels as if I’m connecting to a different version of myself. Me before illness took hold. Me before doctors and medication and pain. It’s doing something to me, current day me. Something good. The book is funny and witty and SO naughty. I am slightly concerned that no one will be able to look me in the face again after reading it. But, hey-ho, life’s too short to worry about things like that, and I intend releasing this novel and the rest of the series in the near future.

It’s had a tumultuous publishing journey though. And I’m sharing that today.

pointe shoes, a ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair
Lovely Porselli Pointe Shoes

Publishers

I sent TENDU out into the world of publishers and quite a large one offered on it quickly. However, they wanted me to change something fundamental about the plot of the series (three titles) as a whole. And I couldn’t. Or, more correctly, I wouldn’t. I am always willing to make changes that will improve a book, but this was just to make it fit the guidelines of a particular romance line. It would have become formulaic. So, much to that publisher’s astonishment, I turned them down.

Time went by.

MERMAID got accepted by a British publisher (not to be confused with the ones I’m writing about here. GWL are very organised and always on the ball), and then along came an offer from a small American press for TENDU. It came with amazingly generous royalties, and no big requested changes, and I accepted it.

And more time went by.

After 18 months (the time, according to the contract, by which the book should have been published) I emailed the publisher and asked when things might get going. There was no reply.

Writers Group

Into the writers group I went. This was an amazing resource. All the writers from that publisher, chatting together and, as it turned out, sharing the same tales of woe. Through the group I learned that the woman who owned the publishing house had become too ill to continue working and she had sold the company. I had huge empathy for that. The new owner had a large backlog of books waiting to be published and it was all taking a very long time. The slowness of publication didn’t really bother me. I was rather busy being ill, after all.

But then the stories began to change. Already published writers were not receiving royalties or statements. Cheques were bouncing. So, three years after signing the contract, I asked for my rights back. And I got them. Very politely. Very apologetically. So there are no hard feelings, and I’m not going to name the publisher. They are still going though…

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

And that’s where I am.

SISTERS is back with the editor. I’m working on a press release for it and delving deeply into TENDU. I’m loving being in the castle again, yes the same one from the other books. It’s a dance school in the modern day. I love the characters. I love the stone circle and the dancing and the chocolate and the London bits and the romance. I love the story of this ballet novel, dark as it sometimes is.

And it all feels good.

Books

books on pink

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

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Memorial: the History of Witchcraft in Aberdeen

leg fetters
The Steeple of St Nicholas Kirk

Aberdeen has quite a brutal history of witchcraft accusations (and other dark events such as mass kidnappings). This post details the start of my research into those areas.

Memorial

Cowdray Hall War Memorial and the history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

Aberdeen’s Cowdray Hall doubles as a war memorial and a venue for classical concerts, and it’s where I started my wee tour of the city on this day.

Gaol!

Leaving grand places behind, I journeyed on to the Tolbooth Museum, a 17th and 18th century gaol.  Unlike the pristine war memorial, the prison exhibits the dark nature of its origin for all to see. The small cells are stifling and scary. They smell stale. There are a few of those terrifying pretend people; some of them talk, regaling you with tales of their mistreatment.

leg fetters: history of witchcraft
bars in the 17th century gaol

The 18th century record of prisoners reveals many debtors, a murder spree and one intriguing entry of unspecified ‘outrages’.

outrages

History of Witchcraft Accusations

An interesting fact gleaned behind the bars and bolts and padlocks of the jail was that people accused of witchcraft were once imprisoned in the steeple of St. Nicholas Kirk. Out the door I went.

door to the cells: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The present day kirk is serene and beautiful and open to visitors in the afternoons. The steeple sits just above the part pictured below. It’s not the same one that was used as a prison in the 16th century, but it is situated in exactly the same place.

Those boards on the left display a detailed history of  the church,  but there was no mention of witchcraft.

church and history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

There was an excavation happening in the east part of the building. Lots of skeletons were uncovered along with a metal ring that ‘witches’ were once tied to.

archaeology: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The 12th century St. John’s Chapel houses a memorial to those killed in the Piper Alpha oil disaster. These amazing chairs are part of it. They sit right underneath the steeple.

carved furniture as a memorial

This window depicts the history of Aberdeen. It was paid for by the oil and gas industry so those themes dominate.

14664648327_339113ba52_z

I walked down steps and cobbled streets in search of comfort, hot chocolate and books.

research

Unfortunately there’s not much comfort to be found in researching The Witchcraft Act and all that followed.

The Witch Stone

History of Witchcraft: the witch stone near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire

It is said that witches were tied to the witch stone near Fraserburgh, and burnt. The landowner questions whether this was the case as no documentation exists on the subject. But such evidence was often destroyed, or omitted from written history. After the burnings and ‘dookings’ and other well specified outrages by church and state had ended, people were ashamed. And rightly so. But where’s the memorial in that?

Memorial through Dance

70 years since D-Day, BalletBoyz pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives with a specially commissioned short film for Channel 4:

More Witch Related Posts

The book that eventually sprang from all this is out in both paperback and Kindle now!

See the publisher’s press release here.

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, 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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

My Other Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, 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.

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

Review from the Historical Novel Society

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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

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Writer’s Tip Jar

Misty Mornings, Signed Paperbacks and Bookmarks

misty mornings

There have been quite a few misty mornings of late and I’ve been out and about to see them. And they’ve all been beautiful. The sunrise above is over the Formartine area of Aberdeenshire. The wee tree below is in Strichen Community Park.

misty mornings

And there was one, quite common for Scotland really, morning in which all seasons seemed to happen at once. That was beautiful, though cold, too.

snow and sun and daffodils
bookmark

I’ll be posting some more photos of these misty mornings in my newsletter next week.

In other, non- weather related, news, I have finally, after many requests, organised a way for people to order signed copies of the books and/or signed bookmarks. See them here in the Ko-fi shop.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE featured on Sally Cronin’s wonderful bookshelf this week, alongside some great authors, with reviews from Sally herself. See them here

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos.

My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, 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…” Review from the Historical Novel Society

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar