Fairytale Fun in Gardens

Fairytale fun: there be gragons
The two-tonne dragon head in Castle Fraser’s secret garden

In between dark and romantic writing sessions, I’ve been taking little breaks of fairytale fun, in memory, and in the garden which is just entering its pink phase.

fairytale fun in the pink garden

The dragon pictured at the top of this post is located in Castle Fraser’s secret garden, which also contains this rather lovely little castle:

Fairytale fun: a wooden castle

And a hobbit-style door…

Fairytale fun: hobbit door in Castle Fraser's secret garden

Castle Fraser itself:

Castle Fraser
Castle Fraser

Then, of course, there’s the playful garden at Brodie Castle.

Brodie Castle
Brodie Castle

It features a huge white rabbit. I used lots of pictures of this garden for the cover reveal of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, here in this Alice in Wonderland themed post, almost four years ago now. There’s unicorns to be found there too.

huge white rabbit: fairytale fun

But it’s time for me to head back down to my own darker fairytale again. I pass the knight in the medieval hall at Drum Castle as I leave bright places behind.

a knight gets dressed

Down the secret stairway I go…

the secret stairway in a castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

The candles snuff out as I enter the dungeon. Yes, it’s the same one that features in Mermaid. It’s still there in the modern day, in my contemporary work.

castle dungeon quote: not quite so much fairytale fun

So, I type away at my desk, lost in the dramatic events of the story once more.

Meanwhile, back out in the garden, where lighter fairytale fun still exists, Frogbert waits patiently to be kissed.

Fairytale fun with a frog prince.

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SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair. "Ethereal and spellbinding..." says The Historical Novel Society

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance…

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

Read the article New Novel Highlights Roman History in North East from Grampian Online.

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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. There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas too.

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

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper 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

My About Page

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

Read my bio and see all the social links and articles here.

Writer’s Tip Jar

The Fairy Glen by Rosemarkie on the Black Isle

waterfall at the Fairy Glen

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.

coins in a tree at the fairy glen on the Black Isle.

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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Also see: The Clootie Well on the Black Isle

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The Mermaid and the Bear

The Mermaid and the Bear on the pink bench in the snow

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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

A delight from end to end.” Undiscovered Scotland

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

Over the Sea to Skye and the Fairies

Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

Over the sea to Skye

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!

Dun Hallin

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.

Dun Hallin on the Isle of Skye

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:

The Trial Stone on the Isle of Skye

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.

John Bowlby's grave on the Isle of Skye

Fairies

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:

Castle Euan on the Isle of Skye

It’s Dunvegan Castle that we need for fairy legends!

Dunvegan Castle, Skye

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:

Trumpan Point on Skye

We’ll be back over the sea to Skye again one day!

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. If you would rather just hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

My Books

Ethereal and spellbinding... says the Historical Novel Society of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

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!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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

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

Ailish's feet

My About Page

Writer’s Tip Jar

Fairytale Mushrooms and Staying Well

fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools

I do like nice fairytale mushrooms, or fly agaric toadstools as those actually are. The woods here are full of them just now, and they’ll feature in my next newsletter.

Staying Well

I am still well. So I can walk among the mushrooms and crunch through the first fallen leaves of the season. Exactly two years ago today I was on my way to hospital again, so I’m very glad things are different now.

I have a new article that references that particular hospital stay over on Women Writers, Women’s Books: Doctors and Deadlines: Writing with Chronic Illness. It contains wellness tips that I hope will be helpful to everyone, not just those with chronic conditions. Here’s one of them:

“Sleep. Sleep well and long. Make yourself stop thinking about writing a while before bedtime. If you have a brilliant idea in the night, write it down and let it go. Do not lie there for hours going over every little nuance that you’re going to perfect the next day, and then cry for your characters because of what you’re about to put them through. You’ll be far better placed to do terrible things to them if you’re well rested.”

More Fairytale Mushrooms

More fairytale mushrooms.

And it’s not long now till the latest ‘terrible things I put my characters through‘ is published. One week today, in fact. (Out now!)

Stay calm. Breathe. Look at mushrooms.

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance! Out in paperback and kindle, September 21st 2022.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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

Summer in Scotland: bluebells and blossom

Sunlight in the bluebells woods. Summer in Scotland.

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.

pink bench and pink petals. summer in Scotland.

It gets quite floral in the garden too. Cherry blossom falls like pink snow and gathers everywhere creating a carpet of petals.

A floral carpet of pink petals. Summer in Scotland

I walk the pink carpet to the pink bench.

Then I run into the bluebell woods to wait for the fairies.

Down in the bluebell woods... summer in Scotland.

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.

See the whole review here on Rosie Amber’s blog.

Books among the blossom

Ailish Sinclair's novels, among pink petals
I had to lay the books down among the petals!

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

bluebells, small blue ball

See more photos from summer in Scotland in the post about pain, small blue ball.

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