The Fairy Glen, on the Black Isle, is an enchanting woodland with stunning waterfalls and pools. Not to be confused with the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye (see it here).
Keeping the Fairies Happy
Children used to dress a pool within the glen to keep the fairies happy.
Coins are pressed into a dead tree, today for wishes or luck. In older, darker tradition these tree coins were an offering to the fairies to ask them not to exchange babies for changelings.
Walking in the Fairy Glen
The atmosphere of the Fairy Glen is joyful and light. It’s easy to imagine fairies dancing and flying and giggling over the pools and streams. There are nice clear paths and bridges through it all, making it a wonderful place to walk.
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The Mermaid and the Bear
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.
These days, you don’t have to catch a boat or ferry and can drive straight over the large Skye bridge. That’s the Old Man of Storr in the hills above, a beautiful rock formation visible for miles around. This post details a holiday I took with my family in 2017, before chronic illness put paid to such things as holidays. For now. I have to believe, for now. But enough of that, over the sea to Skye we go!
The island is a place of fairies: there’s a castle and a glen and a bridge, much smaller than the one taken to get to the island. But first, back to another rock formation, specifically the one spied from the bedroom window of our holiday house.
‘That’s an interesting rocky outcrop,’ said I to husband.
‘Aye, we should walk up to it,’ he replied.
So we did.
And there was Dun Hallin, an Iron Age broch we had intended visiting but thought would be hard to find. Duns, or brochs, were a complex form of roundhouse, probably defensive, precursors to castles.
I loved Dun Hallin and the surprise of finding it like that. And the wonderful views of Trumpan Point.
The Trial Stone
Trumpan Kirkyard held surprise too. An ancient standing stone, Clach Deuchainn, the Trial Stone:
Trial stones were used to try a person. In this case if the accused could put their finger in the hole located on the stone, while blindfold, they were innocent. The stone is undoubtedly far older than this use. It is also known as the Priest Stone and the Heaven Stone.
There were some interesting graves too; these, and the gruesome history of the church can be read about here.
But back to the fairies. Firstly the Fairy Glen, an unusual land formation, which sadly does not have anyfolklore associated with it, but it does feel otherworldly when you walk round it.
The rocky peak is known as Castle Ewen:
It’s Dunvegan Castle that we need for fairy legends!
Displayed inside the castle, so no photos, is the ancient and tattered Fairy Flag. There are many stories and traditions surrounding this relic and its origins. The tale favoured in the information provided to visitors is the one in which the Chief of Clan Macleod marries a fairy. The couple have a child together but the fairy knows she has to return to her people in Fairyland. She leaves the magical flag, imbued with protective powers, wrapped round the baby, and this she does a few miles away at the Fairy Bridge:
There are also Fairy Pools on Skye but we did not get to them this trip. We did manage a quick visit to Kilt Rock:
We also took in the Museum of Island Life, one of the few places on the island with good mobile internet which meant I was distracted by a sudden barrage of Twitter notifications!
Near to the museum is the memorial to Flora MacDonald:
One more fairy mention: the house we stayed in was previously owned by the writer Aileen P. Roberts, and full of books, so I read her novella Fairy Fire while there, which was set in Skye and surprising and perfect.
The sun rises over Dun Hallin:
And sets at Trumpan Point:
We’ll be back over the sea to Skye again one day!
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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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance!
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.
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!
Summer in Scotland can be cold. Sometimes it’s hot. But, whatever the weather, bluebells always herald the start of the season (photos and post from May 2021). And just look at them!
Vibrant patches of purple abound in the forest. The scent is rich and heady, luxurious even.
It calls to mind the fairy folklore of bluebell woods, but I am not spirited off to fairyland, not this time.
It gets quite floral in the garden too. Cherry blossom falls like pink snow and gathers everywhere creating a carpet of petals.
I walk the pink carpet to the pink bench.
Then I run into the bluebell woods to wait for the fairies.
Terry Tyler has written a wonderful review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE: “A ghastly accident of circumstance leads to her being imprisoned on an Aberdeen slave ship, taking children and young people to the tobacco plantations of North America. A round of applause to Ms Sinclair for using fiction to highlight little-known history – I knew nothing about this.“