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

The White Horse on Mormond Hill, Aberdeenshire

Ear of the white horse on Mormond Hill
The White Horse on Mormond Hill as seen from the distance

The white horse on Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire can be seen for miles around. Constructed of white quartz, the horse is said to have been built by a Captain Fraser in the 1790s after the Flanders campaign. His own horse was shot from under him in battle and his sergeant offered his mount as replacement and was shot in the process. The white horse is a memorial to Sergeant Henderson.

I have visited the horse a few times, by car a long time ago, and also by walking. It’s quite a long walk! From the village of Strichen you head up Hospital Road and keep going. The road becomes a track which leads to fields. You cross a stile at one point. Then there’s a wee path and it all gets rather steep.

But it’s worth it. Look at the views!

Views of Aberdeenshire.

And of course, the horse itself:

Ear of the white horse on Mormond Hill

According to a local saying, if you turn round three times in the horse’s eye (just visible in the lower right corner of the above photo), your wish will be granted!

The nose of the white horse on Mormond hill.
The nose.

Do be careful if walking on the hill. Parts of it are boggy and the ground once swallowed a whole tractor.

The remains of an 18th century hunting lodge in Aberdeenshire.

The aforementioned Captain Fraser is also credited with the hunting lodge on top of the hill, now a ruin.

View from the hunting lodge on top of Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
View from the lodge.

So, lets perform a triple pirouette in the eye of the white horse, have one more gaze across the countryside as we try to pinpoint which village is which… and then it’s time to head back down to earth.

Countryside views from Mormond Hill.
Scottish Historical Fiction from Ailish Sinclair

Set in a castle, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story. Her second book, FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, was inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

castle door

Amazon UK

Amazon worldwide

Waterstones

Come through the castle door to sign up to my occasional emails for exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

My About Page

New Aberdour Beach: caves, folklore and a heroine

view out to sea from a cave at New Aberdour beach

A high speed wind was hurtling through the sea cave at New Aberdour beach as I took the photo above. I nearly blew over. But it was worth it to capture that combination of dark and light and blue and black. That tunnel of transition from enclosed space to open sea.

The beach is never busy, being a bit far from main roads and civilisation. I do recommend seeking it out if you are ever in Northern Aberdeenshire. It has sandy bits for summer picnics and sunbathing. There are stony bits that noisily orchestrate the retreat of the waves.

Then there’s the magnificent caves:

Some entrances are almost hidden…

entrance to the cave above at New Aberdour beach

This next one I always avoid. I once overheard a highly respected educational psychologist, who I knew from my time working in schools, emotionally blackmailing a small child to defecate in there. Such memories are off-putting, plus, the roof is rather head-bangingly low…

the pooping cave at New Aberdour beach

But New Aberdour beach as a whole is lovely. Apart from the car park, there is no sign of the modern day, you could be meandering through any time, any era.

rock pools at New Aberdour beach

Folklore

Some specific points in history and local folklore are marked. St. Drostan is said to have landed at New Aberdour in 580AD. His well:

St Drostan's Well

The Heroine of New Aberdour Beach

And the heroic actions of one Jane Whyte, who rescued fifteen men from a shipwreck in 1886, are commemorated in the remains of her little cottage:

Jayne Whyte memorial at New Aberdour beach

When the tide is out the rockpools display all manner of sea life from minnows to sea slugs, starfish, pipefish and anemones. Tide allowing again, you can walk for miles round bay after bay. Do watch the sea though, there’s no mobile phone reception down there if you get stranded. Sometimes you catch sight of dolphins and whales.

I sound like a guidebook, a representative of Scottish tourism… but I’m not.

I’ve visited this place at times of trauma and felt negativity drain away into the pink rocks. I’ve lain on the sand reading books during hot relaxing summers while my children explored the pools and searched for cowrie shells. And I’ve introduced all my friends to the beach. So memories of New Aberdour are mixed up with those of my favourite people.

I write about the beach. Of course I do 🙂

Isobell rides her horse there in the THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR:

Excerpt:

“We walked along grassy clifftops and looked out at the sea, a sea that was some days brilliant blue, others stormy grey; green and pink stones showed in the shallows by the craggy bays. We saw dolphins. We saw seals. I waved and called out to my brown-eyed friends.

The wind swept us clean, leaving the taste of salt on our lips and our manes wild and unkempt. We only went down onto the sandy beaches; I would risk some things, but not Selkie feet on rocky shores. We found places where waves crashed so high they shot out of the very land itself. They roared in celebration of their watery power; I instinctively hugged tight to my horse’s neck then as she reared up with the waves in some Kelpie joy of her own.”

Excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair
rocky shore and sea

I love the beach.

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

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright…

This Candlemas post was originally published in 2014.

Hot

I just sat in the hot place. It was good, it was sunny and bright, though it offered only a vague warmth today.

The ‘hot place’ is a point on our property that is sheltered from both North and East winds by walls and situated next to large windows that reflect the sunlight and bestow a sort of ‘double sunning’. It is rather like a portal to another country, a warmer clime or different season. In summer it can reach unbearable temperatures. In the deepest months of winter the sun doesn’t touch it at all. This was the first time it lit up this year, fitting then that it’s Groundhog Day (wiki), Candlemas (wiki) and Imbolc (wiki).

Feeling the sun on my face, without the usual buffeting wind, was a good reminder that the Earth is turning and Spring is on its way. More good reminders, brave little snowdrops:

snowdrops on Candlemas

Cold

It’s been an odd winter, very dark but with none of the usual bright and dramatic snow of Scotland. The continual rain, mud and roof leakages have made the season seem long and arduous. Grey. Dull. No enchanted snowy moonlit walks where surprised owls fly low overhead, no snow angels or sledging. I almost miss having to dig my way into the woodshed (almost, not really; it was fairly tortuous, nasty when ice dripped down your neck too). Solstice 2010:

wood shed in the snow

The wind has been notably fierce, bringing an ancient beech tree crashing to the ground one night. I heard it from my bed half a mile away, three loud cracks as its branches broke. How disorienting to stand among high boughs and look through to what was the ground, upended like the tree:

a tree fallen on Candlemas

The world on its side. An oliphaunt fallen.

So winter: snow properly, or let Spring through. The sun is nice today; I’d like more of that please, I’m ready to laze in the hot place with a book. But if this saying be true, so be it:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and won’t come again.

snowdrops on Candlemas

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

Ailish's books

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

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Ailish Sinclair spins this Scottish tale filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie

The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie are situated near the village of New Deer in Aberdeenshire and thought to be the remnants of a recumbent stone circle. Only the large recumbent and one flanker remain. They are made of white quartz which lights up under the moon and sparkles in the sunlight. What an impressive circle it would have been when whole! Most recumbent circles in the Grampian region are aligned to moon cycles so moonlight quite possibly featured in their use.

They are still beautiful, I think. Even in driving hail, as they were when I visited recently.

close up of the quartz of the rocking stones of auchmaliddie
The quartz.

The black line there is comprised of straw bales wrapped in plastic. The stones are located at the edge of a field.

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie.

Folklore of the Rocking Stones

Local folklore suggests that the stones, also known as the Muckle (huge) Stanes of Auchmaliddie, were once placed on top of one another. It is said that if a person were to stand on them and tell a lie the top stone would tip.

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie

The rocking stones have fared better than the stone circle that stood on the hill, just a mile or so away, at the other side of the village. In the 18th century it was smashed up and used in the foundations of the new manse. Bad luck is said to befall anyone who lives on the surrounding lands. The nearby farm is called Standing Stones. Below is the hillside where the circle would have been, Culsh Monument to the right.

The Culsh Monument, New Deer, Aberdeenshire

In other news, I did a wee interview over on Relationships are Complicated.com here.

Quote from interview: My next historical novel explores the relationship between two chosen sisters who flee abuse together as young children. They are as close as two people can be and I am still working on conveying that closeness and the deep understanding that exists between these young women as they negotiate their own romantic liaisons with men, both approved and unapproved by their community, and as their Bronze Age society marches into war.

If you liked this article on the Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie, you might like to explore my other stone circle posts here.

Or maybe my books, both of which feature a circle…

Ailish's books

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

Set in a castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story.

Paperbacks and kindle: http://author.to/mermaid

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)

The Black Isle is a peninsula near Inverness in The Highlands of Scotland. The towns and villages of the ‘Isle’ boast many excellent museums, hotels and shops, there’s castles too, making a quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile. Dismantled oil rigs can be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins sometimes.

Cromarty

Inland there are older places, prettier places. We took a wrong turn while searching for The Clootie Well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine and then spent some time wandering among trees.

Continue reading “an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)”

Deer Abbey and the Man Trap!

A copper beech tree at Deer Abbey
Copper beech at Deer Abbey

Deer Abbey in Aberdeenshire is a beautiful sprawling ruin. It’s a peaceful place to visit. Reflective. A place to peer through old doorways into the past.

Doorway at Deer Abbey
Into the kitchen…

If I look back a year into my own past I see myself in quite a state, just about to go into hospital and become monstrous. I am better this year. Better than that anyway. Able to go out and about to places other than my doctor’s surgery.

Which brings me to the man trap:

man trap at Deer Abbey
Man trap!

You would definitely need some medical intervention after stepping in that! It’s a hideous contraption that was designed to catch poachers, widely used in the 19th century by local Lairds. It’s not known how it came to be at Deer Abbey.

From one of the informational plaques, the man trap in use:

Caught in the man trap!
Ouch!

For 340 years the Abbey housed a Cistercian community. The monks of Deer wore white robes and no underwear, a brave choice given Aberdeenshire’s low temperatures and the strong gales of winter!

Cloisters at Deer Abbey
Cloisters

After the reformation the building became the property of the Keith family. Mrs Keith dreamed of angry monks coming to destroy her home, Dunnottar Castle. And more recently, there have been sightings of a ghostly monk on the main road outside the Abbey. Maybe the old Cistercians do not rest easy yet.

Yew Tree at Deer Abbey
A boundary of yews.

I love the ancient trees of the Abbey grounds. And the pink hue of the crumbling walls. The hillside beyond is satisfyingly timeless, and probably offers quite a similar view to the one that the white robed monks looked out on.

Deer Abbey in Aberdeenshire

A little more Deer Abbey will be dropping into my mailing list next week. Go here to sign up if you like.

the novels of 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: http://author.to/mermaid

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com