Things I Stole From Castles

Earthen floor at Drum Castle

A Stolen Floor

That’s the earthen floor of the medieval great hall at Drum Castle.

I love it.

So I took it!

From Chapter 3 of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR:

Bessie had shown me the great hall, a huge room that put one in mind of a church. Sunlight fell through twelve windows, making narrow shapes on the earthen floor of that place…

I did rather fill up my writer’s swag bag at Drum.

Below is a beautiful bedpost…

oaken leaves on a bedpost at Drum

Chapter 34:

“It’s beautiful, Thomas,” I said, walking into the room and running my hands up and down the dark smooth wood of the bedposts which were swirled with infinite oak leaves.

I don’t have a good picture of the dungeon there, though I pilfered that too. It’s a terrible place with a narrow stairway leading down, down, down into the dank. However, bats were roosting in it the last couple of times I visited the castle, and they’re a protected species so it was absolutely forbidden to disturb them. Which was quite a relief really… but here is a pictorial quote from the book:

castle dungeon quote

And into the swagbag goes…

A forest view from a high window at Crathes Castle

forest view from Crathes Castle window

From Chapter 38:

I sat up on my seat by the three thin windows and watched the first golden shafts of morning light creep over the tops of the trees in the forest.

A Secret Stairway

From beautiful Craigievar I took the secret stairway that runs from top to bottom of the castle, strictly no photos allowed inside…

Craigievar Castle

From Chapter 28:

We were in another passage, small and stony and grey, and after a short way it led to a narrow stairwell that was not lit by torches and sconces like the big one, but dark and shadowy and hidden. Secret. Indeed safe. For now.

The Laird’s Lug

Castle Fraser gave me it’s triangular peep-hole and ‘Laird’s Lug’.

Castle Fraser

From Chapter 28:

I told the Laird, and he took his turn at the peephole and gave the scene a long assessing look. “It is a pity there is so much noise tonight; we could have made out their words otherwise, the walls of the lug are thinned in places and shaped to augment speech made in the hall.”

I think that’s enough of my rampant thievery for one post – there may be others – so I’ll leave you with this recent review of the book from Terry Tyler, a brilliant writer herself. Actually – I can’t help myself – I’ll just steal a quote from that too:

Ailish Sinclair’s portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical.  On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters.  Suddenly I realised that I’d gone from thinking ‘yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read’ to ‘I’m loving this’.  

And here’s a wee picture of my author copies, or swag bags, if you will. Buy your own here on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

author copies

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

Newsletter

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

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

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

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:

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

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Finding Castles in the Snow

Through the gates to Fyvie Castle. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

Here we are at the start of our quest to find castles in the snow.

Fyvie

We pass through the gates to Fyvie Castle where it’s more icy than snowy and we’re getting down and frosty with it!

Originally posted 2019.

A frosty Fyvie Castle. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

Great shadows reach towards the castle, but we’re backing away, we’re leaving… seeking more of those castles in the snow…

Shadows reach towards the castle.Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

We’re travelling across country like Ice Road Truckers to…

Delgatie!

Delgatie Castle lit up in the sun. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

It’s bright and properly snowy here. Let’s walk in the woods.

A snowy scene in Delgatie woods. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

And circle back round to the castle.

Delgatie Castle on the horizon. Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

Say hello to the unicorns!

The unicorns of Delgatie Castle.

On to a stormier day and a dark ruin:

Huntly

Huntly Castle peeks through the trees.

Look at the old chimneys…

The snow dusted ruinous walls of Huntly Castle.

And the slopes and trees…

Sloping trees at the back of Huntly Castle

Finally, it’s time to snuggle up at home with hot chocolate in a mermaid mug!

Hot chocolate in a mermaid mug! Ailish Sinclair | Castles in the Snow

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

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Writer’s Tip Jar

One Castle, Three Circles, lots of Cows

the one castle of the post: Drum Castle

The One Castle: Drum

On our last visit to Drum Castle, the one castle of this post, it was raining. So on the way to explore circles, we took a walk through the gardens, having missed them before. They were filled with the bright sights and scents of summer, the castle peeking round corners and through trees everywhere we went.

Originally posted 2015.

medieval tower in the one castle

Circle 1: Cullerlie

Cullerlie Stone Circle is unusual for Aberdeenshire in that it is not a recumbent circle. There’s only one photo as we were distracted by an elderly dog from the farm that wanted us to throw a stick.

Cullerlie Stone Circle, next up from the one castle

Circle 2: Sunhoney

More animals awaited at Sunhoney; an excited herd of cows ran alongside the path with us…

path to Sunhoney

They then jostled and jiggled for the best view at the perimeter of the circle enclosure.

lineup of cows

I fear we were a disappointment. There were signs that other visitors may have danced (trampled grass) and provided snacks (rolled oats all over the place) whereas we mainly sat quietly and took photos.

Sunhoney Stone Circle

The recumbent stone at Sunhoney has many carved cup marks but lichen and light conditions were not helpful in capturing them on camera (note rolled oats though).

cupmarks

The cows gave us doleful looks as we left and did not follow us back down the path.

Circle 3: Midmar Kirk

There were no animals to greet us at Midmar Kirk Circle, again an unusual site, situated in a churchyard.

Midmar

While it was common for churches to be built on older sacred sites, it is unusual for the originals to have been left intact (almost, there are a few stones missing).

standing stone and graves
church and stones

Finishing with an apology to the cows – we’ll try harder next time – and the view from the roof of Drum:

window in Drum Castle roof, one castle

All my books feature a stone circle. Some have a castle too.

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

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.

Writer’s Tip Jar