Gight Castle and the Hagberry Pot

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

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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

Review from the Historical Novel Society

Writer’s Tip Jar

Macbeth’s Hillock and the Three Witches

ancient battle on the Sueno's Stone
Macbeth's Hillock

Macbeth’s Hillock

A couple of miles from the town of Forres in Moray is a mound known as Macbeth’s Hillock. Local folklore tells us that this is where Macbeth met with the three witches from the play.

‘By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.’

So pronounces the second witch in Macbeth, Act 4, scene 1.

The Three Witches

The theme of the three witches is echoed in more folklore from the surrounding area. There are two stones in Forres that are both associated with them.

The Sueno’s Stone

Sueno's Stone in Forres, possible site of Macbeth's Hillock
In its glass case

This is a 9th-10th century Picto-Scottish stone depicting an ancient battle (I like to think it’s Mons Graupius as featured in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, but this is very unlikely given how long ago that battle took place). The stone is 6.5 metres tall and also lays claim, in local legend, to be situated where Macbeth met the witches. They are said to have been captured inside the stone, and should it ever be broken, they will be released.

Battle side of the Sueno's Stone in Forres, possible site of Macbeth's Hillock
Battle side
Cross side of the Sueno's Stone in Forres, possible site of Macbeth's Hillock
Celtic Cross side

The Witches Stone

witches stone

A rather more gruesome stone, and story, sits outside the police station on the main road in Forres. It has become a small shrine.

Gruesome tale of witch execution

There were originally meant to be have been three stones marking the final resting places of three women who were executed for witchcraft. The one remaining stone is held together with a piece of metal.

The Witches Stone in Forres.

More Witch Stones

The Witch Stone near Fraserburgh

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill by Rosehearty

Three Witches in The Mermaid and the Bear

There’s just something about ‘three witches’. I chose to write about three real women who were accused of witchcraft in 1597 in my debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. I spent a year researching all the various aspects of the history. You can read about the general, and sometimes obsessive and bizarre, research in my article Researching Historical Fiction: Immersing Oneself in the Past on the Women Writers site. There’s some witchy research here, some stolen castle bits here and the search for a villain in this monstrous post.

The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair

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ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

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Persephone and the Maiden Stone

Persephone
the maiden stone

The Maiden Stone

The beautiful pink granite Maiden Stone stands near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. It is an 8th century Pictish stone. On one side it bears designs favoured by the Picts, such as the comb and mirror, the mysterious Pictish Beast (Dolphin? Elephant? Mermaid? Nobody knows…) and a centaur at the top.

centaur at the top of the Maiden Stone

On the other side there is a very worn Celtic Cross, indicating that this may have been an early Christian preaching site.

the Maiden Stone, cross side

Maiden Stone Folklore

There’s a rather wonderful tale attached to the stone.

A maid from Durno was baking a batch of bannocks one morning when a handsome man appeared at her door. He bet her that he could build a road up the hill of Bennachie before she could finish baking the bannocks. If he won, she had to marry him. Unfortunately, the man was actually the devil, and he built the road with great speed. The maid ran. He chased after. Just as he caught up to her, she prayed to be turned to stone rather than have to wed him. The notch on the stone is where the devil grabbed her shoulder as she transformed.

The Statue of Persephone

Persephone

A couple of hundred yards to the west of the Maiden Stone, in the woods, is a statue of Persephone. She was carved from 8.5 tonnes of millstone grit in 1961 by the artist Shaun Crampton, and her story echoes that of the Maiden Stone. In the Greek myth, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the harvest, was carried off to the underworld by Hades to become his wife. Zeus decreed that she should be released as long as she had not eaten anything in the underworld. But, poor quine, she had consumed some pomegranate seeds. So she only got to return for six months of the year, the six months of growth and harvest.

The statue holds some pomegranate seeds in one hand, and a mirror like the one on the Maiden Stone in the other.

Persephone near the Maiden Stone in Aberdeenshire

On the day I visited, someone had left a pomegranate at her feet.

pomegranate at Persephone's feet

And, like the Maiden Stone, the back of the statue is worth viewing too.

Back of Persephone

Contemporary Fiction

A Dancer's Journey, a 3 book series by Ailish Sinclair. Romantic suspense.

These books are so naughty that I’m worried nobody will be able to look me in the face again after reading them. But not that worried. A Dancer’s Journey is dancing out into the world, titles releasing in October, November and December 2023.

See the series page here for blurbs and quotes.

A Dancer's Journey Series by Ailish Sinclair

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Historical Fiction

My historical novels combine little-known dark events with love stories and a hint of magic.

The historical novels of Ailish Sinclair

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

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If Candlemas Day is clear and bright…

quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair

This Candlemas (2nd of February) post was originally published in 2014.

Hot at Candlemas

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 at Candlemas

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, and 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 sounded 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. And if the saying below is true, there’s hope for that.

Traditional Candlemas Rhyme

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.

And the Scottish version:

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair, the half o’ winter’s to come and mair.
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul, the half o’ winter’s gane at Yule.

snowdrops on Candlemas

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

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.

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.

The part of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD that has been most highlighted by kindle readers.
The part of the book that has been most highlighted by kindle readers

About Page

feet

See the Page here

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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.

22920263095_833e60905f_z

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

The Clootie Well on the Black Isle

Bring your cloots! And let’s go make a wish at the Clootie Well on the Black Isle.

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 are castles too, making the quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile. Dismantled oil rigs can sometimes be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins.

Cromarty

Searching for the Clootie Well

Inland there are older places, special places.

We take a wrong turn while searching for the clootie well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine, and then spend some time wandering among trees.

pines near the clootie well

Ah Ha! We’re on the right track now.

cloots showing the way to the clootie well

People hang cloots (cloths) beside the well and in the surrounding woodland to ask for wishes or healing. As the cloot disintegrates, healing occurs or wishes come true.

hillside of the clootie well

It’s an unusual but peaceful place. Despite the modernity of many of the hanging items, the well feels timeless. The number and variety of cloots is impressive. They extend right down the hill to the roadside.

Let’s hang our cloots now, in imagination.

Let’s make our wishes.

And may they all come true!

the clootie well

In SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, Morragh ties a cloth above a sacred spring.

Excerpt

I tear a small piece of fabric from the bottom of my dress and tie it to a smaller branch of the tree above to thank the spirit. She needs it not, but it is a mark to me, a sign of my reverence, and a reminder of the blessing received on this day.

The Romans called it 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

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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

Ailish Sinclair stares out to sea

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar

Sunrise over Tiger Hill

Sunrise over Tiger Hill at Fraserburgh beach

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill is the largest sand dune at Fraserburgh beach. There are different theories as to how it got its name. One is that it looks a little like a crouched tiger. The other involves actual tigers. It’s said that four fighting tigers were used to ward off Viking invaders in the past, and that the animals were then buried where the dune is now.

Whatever the truth, Tiger Hill is beautiful.

Tiger Hill and the tide

Sunrise

Yesterday’s sunrise was beautiful too. It lit up the town.

Fraserburgh lit up by the sunrise, view from by Tiger Hill

I loved the pinks and blues of the sky.

sunrise over Fraserburgh beach near Tiger Hill

TENDU Aesthetic

The Wee Writing Lassie made this TikTik for TENDU, capturing many elements of the story:

@the_wee_writing_lassie

Check out my new post “The 8 1/2 Overly Pretentious Questions for Ailish Sinclair: The Second Question” weewritinglassie.home.blog/2023/10/21/the… #WritingCommmunity #authorlife #ballet #dancer

♬ Set Fire to the Rain – Adele

An Autistic Dancer, a Byronic Hero and an Obsessive Scientist

Read my series A Dancer’s Journey. There’s ballet. There’s lots of naughtiness. And there’s peril!

Tendu by Ailish Sinclair

Enjoy a kiss on the London tube in the first book, TENDU. Romp up and down the castle stairs. Dance in a stone circle. Attend a Ceilidh in the great hall. Have your brain studied in the dungeon. All fun, I assure you. Well, not quite all…

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Page with blurbs and quotes

There’s more about these stories in the posts below:

Diabolical reading

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

sisters collage

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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page

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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.

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A Lighthouse in a Castle and a Love Story

old lighthouse, new lighthouse: lighthouse in a castle

The Lighthouse in a Castle

Yes, Fraserburgh boasts its very own lighthouse in a castle! The 16th century Kinnaird Castle, on the left, was converted into a lighthouse in 1787 and is now part of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. On the right is the modern automated lighthouse.

Before we go in, let’s walk on a bit to the wine tower, the oldest building in Fraserburgh. The photo may not be the best of the tower, but look at that sky!

wine tower and sky

The Love Story

The wine tower is thought to have been a secret post-reformation Catholic Chapel, and has a sad love story attached to it. Strain your eyes and you can just see the red paint on the ground there in the picture above.

love story piper laird's daughter

I visited the tower again on Doors Open Day and went inside. Go here to read about it and see the interior.

I love the uneven bricks and studded door of the solid little building.

wine tower beside the lighthouse in a castle

Back up the hill to castle walls…

Castle walls. Lighthouse in a catle.

And lots of stairs…

spiral staircase inside the lighthouse in a castle

And, ooh look! My Granny had a television just like the one in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. I do like to see books being put to good use too.

television from the 70s in a lighthouse in a castle

Out onto the wider deck:

lighthouse in a castle

It’s scary on the top balcony; I can’t keep the skyline straight.

lighthouse in a castle

Into the main museum we go to examine some steampunk style things.

14300955380_d80a282c48_z
lenses

The Beach

Let’s end this trip and post with a walk on the golden sands of Fraserburgh beach, as the colour blue tantalises from above.

beach, it's the sky, of course it's the sky!

The Mermaid and the Bear

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

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is a Scottish tale that includes a castle, a handsome Laird, witchcraft accusations, a stone circle and lots of love…

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

Keep up with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s occasional and personal and always contains some exclusive photos.

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

Deer Abbey and the Man Trap

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

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…

The Man Trap

If I look back 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!

History of the Abbey

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.

Remaining Beauty

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

An Autistic Dancer, a Byronic Hero and an Obsessive Scientist

Read my series A Dancer’s Journey. There’s ballet. There’s lots of naughtiness. And there’s peril!

Tendu by Ailish Sinclair

Enjoy a kiss on the London tube in the first book, TENDU. Romp up and down the castle stairs. Dance in a stone circle. Attend a Ceilidh in the great hall. Have your brain studied in the dungeon. All fun, I assure you. Well, not quite all…

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Page with blurbs and quotes

There’s more about these stories in the posts below:

Diabolical reading

Newsletter, Updates and ARCs

Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a bit more intimate than the blog. If you would like to hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

Bookish people can apply for Advance Reader Copies of future books here.

My About Page

Ailish Sinclair dances in a stone circle.

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

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