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

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

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

Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover!

huge white rabbit
white rabbit leading to a book cover

At first it doesn’t feel quite real… where is the white rabbit leading? To a book cover? That seems odd…

This Alice in Wonderland style post dates from the build up to the release of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR in 2019.

The rabbit leads us down or, as is more accurate, through, a giant rabbit hole!

down the rabbit hole to a book cover

Things get stranger yet as we pass between a huge fork and knife…

a giant fork and knife at Brodie Castle

We come to a place of unicorns.

unicorns and a book cover

We want to stay here with the unicorns, but we have to move on, to see…

miniature castle

A miniature castle! We go inside, and peer out like giants.

view from castle window, almost at the book cover now

We hear sweet music, percussion. Everything feels dreamy and lovely.

music to a book cover

And then, finally, this is where the rabbit has been taking us… to the book cover!

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Set in a castle in Aberdeenshire, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features a fictional account of three real women who were accused of witchcraft in 1597. It’s also a love story. And the cover makes it all very real now to Ailish (the Gaelic form of Alice)…

She needs to have a nice lie down like the huge white rabbit (6.5 metres long) in the Playful Garden at Brodie Castle, featured in this post.

huge white rabbit

Don’t miss any of Ailish in Wonderland’s news; sign up to her mailing list 🙂

The Mermaid and the Bear is out now in both paperback and Kindle. 

Mermaid blurb

Scottish Castles: here we go a-castle-ing!

Scottish castles: Delgatie

Delgatie

Yes, it’s another post about Scottish castles! I do seem to find it difficult to write anything without one, or three, as in this case. The first, above, is Delgatie Castle, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. I met one of the quines there last week (post originally from 2016) and we walked the woods and gardens and encountered these little Shetland ponies looking as if they were waiting for the tearoom to open.

From there, we went on to the Auld Kirk-yard in Turriff to see the grave of the late owner of the castle, Captain John Hay:

grave stone

And then, on the other side of Turriff, the beautiful River Deveron:

River Deveron

Let us pass through a door to another day and another castle…

door at Craigievar

Craigievar:

One of the most famous Scottish castles: Craigievar Castle

Near Alford, this beauty is rumoured to be the source for Walt Disney’s fairy-tale castle. It is wonderfully pink and turreted and full of colourful ghost stories. Red John Forbes is supposed to have forced his daughter’s lover, a Gordon and hence an enemy, to jump to his death from The Blue Room window. The window is now hidden behind a headboard but you can make out light through a pinhole. Both Red John and the Gordon boy are said to haunt the castle.

Photos were allowed up on the roof!

the roof of Scottish castle Craigievar

But it’s time to skip across the stone mushrooms…

Scottish castle: stone mushrooms at Craigievar

and on to Corgarff, the last of the Scottish cast;es today…

A Scottish castle: Corgarff

A bit more out of the way, near Tarland, but still in Aberdeenshire, is the fortress that is Corgarff Castle. Originally home to the Forbes, it was then burnt by the Gordons and left derelict. After the battle of Culloden the tower house was gutted and rebuilt as barracks for government soldiers (Redcoats).

Corgarff, a Scottish castle

Inside the star shaped perimeter:

coutryard of Corgarff

This is how the soldiers’ barracks room would have looked in 1750:

18th century barracks room

And that’s it. Off out the door you go, but do come back soon!

door to a Scottish castle...

Keep up to date with all my news, from visits to Scottish castles and stone circles, to books and writing and life, by signing up to the mailing list!

Scottish author Ailish Sinclair
My books!

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

Gight Castle and the Hagberry Pot, Aberdeenshire

Gight Castle may be one of the lesser known castles of Aberdeenshire but it has a rich, if somewhat bleak, history with many of its owners dying prematurely. Built in the 15th century by the Gordon family, it was the ancestral home of Lord Byron. A ghostly piper is said to haunt the ruins. The nearby Hagberry Pot in the River Ythan is said to be bottomless and full of treasure!

Originally posted 2018.

The quines took a walk. We started in Methlick and strolled through the Braes of Gight woods, across fields and along roads. This was the long way to do it: there is a car park relatively near to the castle. First view:

Gight Castle through the trees

The castle was surrounded by barbed wire and there were ‘enter at your own risk’ signs. In we went:

interior of Gight Castle

Great windows:

window, Gight Castle
small window, Gight Castle

We were careful not to wake Sleeping Beauty. Or the ghostly piper.

ivy on Gight Castle

I was most impressed by this brave little tree:

tree on Gight Castle

Then, taking the circular route, we headed off down to the river and tried to work out which bit was the Hagberry Pot. Nowhere looked very bottomless or a good hiding place for jewels, but this seemed the most likely site by the bridge:

Hagberry Pot in th River Ythan

The 7th Laird of Gight threw his jewels in there when the castle was sacked by the Covenanters. The poor diver who was sent down to retrieve them floated back up to the top in four pieces. There is a more involved version of this story here, featuring the devil. We did not go in.

The walk back along the river was pleasant, if a bit boggy, with glimpses of the Castle up on the hill.

Gight Castle in the distance

Keep up to date with all my posts and news by signing up to the mailing list 🙂

My Debut Novel

Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Aberdeenshire countryside, 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. Published by GWL Publishing, 2019.

Craigievar Castle

It has a pink castle.

And a stone circle.

And six chapters of medieval Christmas.

Paperback and kindle: 

The Mermaid and the Bear

My Witchy Debut Novel is Published, 2019

The Mermaid and the Bear Christmas

2019 got off to an exciting start for me when I signed a contract with GWL Publishing for my debut novel, The Mermaid and the Bear. It’s out in both paperback and Kindle NOW!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

Aspects of the book:

  • It’s mainly set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire.
  • It incorporates the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic.
  • There’s a stone circle.
  • There’s 16th century Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

Cover:

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's debut novel THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Blurb:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

 Further insight:

I made a wee aesthetic for it, because: oh the fun!

Aesthetic for The Mermaid and the Bear, Ailish Sinclair's debut novel

Keep up to date with all my news by signing up to the mailing list.

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

Sign up to the mailing list for exclusive photos and news of my writing and life here.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Castle Windows, Castle Doors: Drum in Aberdeenshire

castle windows at Drum

Beautiful castle windows and doors at Drum.

From small, dark hidey-holes…

little castle windows

To windows and doors that reveal exactly where you are.

pink castle windows

The door of the chapel:

chapel door at Drum Castle

On this day there was torture in the dungeon.

a Scold's Bridle

A knight in the medieval great hall:

armour

A walk on the roof:

castle rooftop

Soup by the old fireplace in the kitchen…

range

And unrelenting rain.

All the castle windows and doors at Drum Castle

Sign up to the mailing list to peer through some more castle windows and doors with me!

Ailish Sinclair stares out to sea

Above: at Dunnottar. Post here.

My Castle-y Debut Novel

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

A Scottish tale that includes a handsome Laird, witchcraft accusations, a stone circle and lots of love.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features:

  • a 16th century Scottish castle
  • 6 chapters of medieval Christmas
  • the Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597
  • an ancient circle of standing stones, based on Aikey Brae
  • and a love story.

Come taste the Twelfth Night Cake and dance the fast lifting dance, La Volta!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

Festive quote from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair

About page

Writer’s tip jar:

Waters of Philorth, an Aberdeenshire nature reserve

Philorth River, Waters of Philorth

The Waters of Philorth is a small nature reserve near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire.

History

The sheltered terrain of the reserve was created by the dunes, which in turn were inadvertently created by man during WW2. Large coils of barbed wire and concrete blocks were laid along the coastline to deter enemy invaders. Over time sand built up on them, plants grew, and the River Philorth changed course.

waters of philorth

Wildlife of the Waters of Philorth

Wildlife flourishes at Philorth today. There’s a rather nice PDF about it on the council website here.

Let’s walk along beside the river. There’s a gull fishing.

A gull fishing at the waters of philorth

I love the tall grasses.

philorth reeds

The scenery grows more and more beach-like as we progress along the riverside path.

philorth sands
washed up fishing net at the waters of philorth
washed up fishing net
limpet
limpet

Beach

We finally reach the sea, and the town of Fraserburgh is visible in the distance.

Fraserburgh and the sea

We return by the higher dune path through the Waters of Philorth as dark clouds gather above us.

dune path through the waters of philorth

And a Castle!

Exiting onto the main road, leaving just in time to miss the sudden and heavy rainfall, we get a brief glimpse of Cairnbulg Castle through the trees. Read about it on the website of Lady Saltoun, Chief of the name and arms of Fraser.

Cairnbulg Castle

Sign up to the mailing list to hear all my news first!

Book Giveaway

Ailish's book giveaway (till June 26th 2022)

I’m doing a wee book giveaway on Instagram this week. It runs all week (till June 26th 2022) with one of each book up for grabs and it’s a worldwide competition. See it here.

The Books

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