The Neolithic Stone Balls of Scotland

stone balls
neolithic stone balls from Aberdeenshire
They’re about the size of tennis balls.

The Neolithic stone balls of Scotland are a bit of a mystery. They’re mainly found in Aberdeenshire, sometimes buried beside stone circles. The carvings on them are varied and some of them have knobs. Yes, we could have a lot of fun with the balls and knobs of this post, but let’s not go there 😀

The use of the balls is unknown. There’s not much wear and tear on them, so they’re not generally thought to have been weapons.

The above stones are in the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead. I took the picture in 2020, right before lockdown, having just become well enough to go out and about again. I posted on Twitter about including such a stone in my – then – work in progress.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is set well after the date of these balls. They’re thought to be about 5000 years old. But Morragh knows that it’s an old object. She calls it the ancestor stone, and sometimes it travels about with her.

Excerpt

I am before the Calgach and we look into one another’s eyes. It does not hurt too much, this looking, this time. He does not question me or try to interrupt what I am doing. I lay the knife in front of him, still looking into his eyes, and then the stone ball which makes a large hollow echoing sound as it connects with the table, silver sickle encircling it.

Further Reading

You can read more about the Neolithic stone balls on the National Museum of Scotland site here. Below is the stunning Towie ball which is part of their collection.

Neolithic stone balls: the Towie Ball

Recent Reviews

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

SISTERS is an unusual book with an unconventional narrative voice, as is noted by the following two men in their reviews.

Tom Williams: “Is it a romance? Well, there’s a boy and a girl but, if they’d had Facebook in the Bronze Age, their relationship status would best be described as ‘complicated’.” See whole review here.

Andrew G Lockhart: “Morragh walks in a mystic and magical realm, but one which recaptures the wild simplicity and beliefs of the peoples of pagan Scotland.” See review here.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

And then MERMAID got a great review from Louisa Blackburn: “I really, really like the way the accents are written. I talked about them enough to where my mom asked me, “Are you reading the story, or are you listening to it?” I read the book, but the accents were written in a way that I knew what everyone sounded like.” See the whole review here.

We’ve had balls and knobs, so why not baubles too?

My historical novels all involve dark events, romance and a little magic…

  • SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on the winter solstice.
  • THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR has 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE features Christmas in Colonial Pennsylvania.

They’re all available in paperback, kindle and on kindle unlimited.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies from me

Novels by Ailish Sinclair

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

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

An Illuminated Path to Winter

illuminated path in the woods

An illuminated path in the woods.

It’s autumn, but with a hint of what’s to come in the air. There’s a chill, a dampness and darkness to mornings and evenings.

Here in Scotland, our clocks just went back an hour. A seasonal change. A portent of winter.

But for just now, there’s still lots of blue and gold beauty to behold in the woods.

I’ll crunch through those leaves for as long as I can!

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Romans + Celts = some rather complicated romance!

Set in 1st century Scotland, the novel features a neurodiverse main character, chosen sisters, fierce warriors and the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From recent reviews:

  • An extraordinary read.
  • A fabulous story.
  • Eye-opening, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Available in paperback, kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

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.

My About Page

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

On Monsters: being one, writing one…

witch, not quite a monster
Arriving at a Halloween party in the past…

This monster post was originally posted in 2020. Happily, I am less monstrous now.

Being a Monster

I don’t need a Halloween costume this year. I already look like a monster. The medication I’m on to stop my body killing me (condition lamented here) has made my face swell up. Like a moon. It is a well documented side effect actually referred to as ‘moonface’. The same drug is also causing insomnia so I have massive eye bags that extend to what feels like halfway down my face. There’s quite a lot of bandage action across my body too, which adds an air of mummification fun to the whole ensemble.

I’m also pale. Pale like a ghost.

Ghost, a monster?

A Historical Monster

However, being a monster on the outside, in appearance, is nothing to being truly monstrous. While researching witch-hunting in preparation for writing THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, I wanted to find a real monster, a person so enthused for the brutal activity that they could become a focal point for that dark energy in the story. History did not give him up easily. There was no obvious individual in the court documents or confessions. But I hunted him down and finally cornered the rogue in the financial accounts of Aberdeen.

In September 1597 William Dunn, Dean of Guild, was awarded, £47 3s 4d (the equivalent of £6000 in today’s money) for taking ‘extraordinary pains in the burning of a great number of witches’. It was unusual for someone to be given a large lump sum like this. With the exception of some witch prickers and those who sought to escheat their rich relatives, money was not commonly a motivating factor in the witch trials. William Dunn’s job was being in charge of the public money of the town, so he basically gave the cash to himself. I found you Sir, and I made you smell of rotten fish! If you read the historical notes section of the book, you’ll see that I’ve also cast him as the devil.

mummification fun
Bandage action!

So now I’m editing FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE and, 150 years later, there is brief mention of the Dean of Guild again. It does seem to be a role associated with making money from the suffering of others, at least, historically, in Aberdeen.

Mermaid Review

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

There’s a review I forgot to mention earlier, being rather distracted by the task of becoming a monster. It’s from Undiscovered Scotland: “The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight from end to end. There is a superb level of description in the book, that transports the reader back to the sights, sounds and smells of 16th Century life in a Scottish castle.” See the whole review here.

A spooky wee quote for this spooky old season:

dungeon quote from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest book, 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.

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page

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

Scottish Fiction from Aberdeenshire

Scottish Fiction from Ailish Sinclair. Quote from contemporary novel TENDU.

I write contemporary and historical Scottish fiction, often set in the area of Scotland where I live, Aberdeenshire. My historical novels combine little known dark events with romance. There’s witches and bears and kidnappers and Romans to be found in them, detailed below. My contemporary writing is a lot naughtier, though still dark and romantic, and coming soon.

I also take a LOT of photos, as is evidenced throughout the site.

Here on the blog I write about castles, stone circles, living with chronic illness and writing. See my about page here.

Newsletter

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

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

Contemporary Scottish Fiction: Dark Ballet Romance

Quote from TENDU by Ailish Sinclair. Dark and sexy Scottish Fiction.

And coming Spring 2023, a dark and sexy contemporary romance series, starting with TENDU.

Scotland’s all misty lochs and magical forests and perfect boyfriends, right?

The dark of the dungeon soon proves otherwise.

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. They’re going to be released anyway 🙂

See the posts A Ballet Novel and a Tale of Publishing Woes and Byronic Heroes and the Bad Boys of Ballet

Pre-order should be available soon.

Further Insight into my Scottish Fiction:

Updates

If you want to be kept updated about when new books are available, you can sign up for: the mailing list, or the little newsletter on Twitter, follow my Amazon author page or the blog on wordpress:

Follow Ailish Sinclair on WordPress.com

Writer’s Tip Jar

Scottish Fiction from Ailish Sinclair

I swear, I’m not a mermaid…

I'm not a mermaid...

Article

I’m not a mermaid, nor do I have a pet bear as is suggested in this article: 8 Strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair 😀

Calm

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD has been out for three days now and I think it’s going quite well. I’m staying calm and mellow anyway…

Reviews

Review from Lizanne Lost in a Good Book: “This is a complex mystical tale of bloody conflict between two disparate civilisations, but also about sisterhood, romantic love and dramatic choices. Morragh is not like most of us. Her actions are instinctive and passionate, but her certainty is persuasive.” See the whole review here.

And here’s the book being read in France.

A wee flip-through on TikTik:

@ailishsinclair

Out today! Paperback & kindle on Amazon. From the provocative opening scene to the later dramatic and devastating events of the story, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a book that will continually surprise, delight, and sometimes shock the reader. #historicalfiction #booktok #romance #ancientworld #neurodiversity

♬ original sound – Alisa
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

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!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

The Red Well and a Book 7 Years in the Making

the red well and the sea
the red well near Whitehills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Red Well

The Red Well by Whitehills in Aberdeenshire is protected by an unusual building. On the autumn equinox, at sunrise, a beam of light shines through the doorway and illuminates the well within. This happens on the spring equinox too. The well, and the building, are said to date from Roman times.

the red well by whitehills

Book Release!

So, of course, I took it for SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. The book releases today, at the time of autumn equinox, and that just seems right. It’s been seven years in the making, this one. Both the novel and I have been through a lot as the story developed: severe editing, hospitalisations, deleting, pain, rewriting, crying and being monstrous. I’m very glad that we’re finally here at a place of relative wellness and publication.

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

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

It’s on Kindle Unlimited too so can be read for free (there’s a 30 day free trial).

The well is described in the book:

This wee spring is very near the sea, situated on a gentle incline that heads down to the beach. There the land is flat and looks to be walkable for miles. The sand is golden with some stony places. I see grey rocks and pink pebbles. I feel the desire to walk down to the beach, to spend many a day on those sands. It is strange.

Excerpt from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair
the red well by Whitehills

A Witch’s Hoosie

I have a bit of personal history with the well. When I was a small child, I lived with my grandparents in Whitehills for a few months. One day, playing with my cousins, I was locked in that building to see if the witch would get me. The place was referred to as the ‘witch’s hoosie’ back then, by children at least. There were scary stories of an old lady witch ghost. I was quite interested to see if she would show up. She didn’t, and I was eventually freed, my lack of fear having disappointed my companions somewhat.

The door is kept locked now.

Since then, I’ve always viewed the well as rather a magical place, and keenly look out for the quick glimpse of it in the landscape that you get when driving along the main Banff to Portsoy road.

thistles by the well
Thistles by the well

It’s in a particularly beautiful spot, the Red Well. The town of Banff can just be seen in the distance below.

the red well by the sea

Out today: SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

new novel from 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.

The Edge of the World

the edge of the world on Bennachie
Bennachie in Aberdeenshire

The Romans had a point. Parts of Scotland really do feel like the edge of the world.

Two Sisters…

Two Cultures…

Out now!

The Romans called it the Edge of the World.

Sisters released on the 21st of September 2022, in both paperback and kindle and on kindle unlimited.

I’m calmer this time. It doesn’t feel like quite such a great big worrying thing. And, as you can see, I’m having fun playing with imagery for marketing.

Normal blogging will resume shortly…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view
Background image also taken on Bennachie

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.

More of my Books

books on pink

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

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

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 from the edge of the world!

Tip Jar

Rowan Berries on the Path

rowan berries on a woodland path

There were rowan berries on the path this morning in the woods. I take this to mean that it’s really autumn now. When the rowans are all shiny and new on the trees, you know that the end of summer approaches. There’s just the tiniest hint of the next season in the air.

rowan berries

But once they’re on the ground? Autumn. Autumn all the way.

Rowan Berry Jam

I recall a time when I used to make jam out of rowan berries. They are poisonous raw, but after a vigorous boiling with sugar, they’re edible, though rather bitter.

rowan berry jam

I liked the bitter sweet flavour. It was fruity and earthy and somehow tasted ancient. However, I was the only one. The rest of my family screwed up their faces at the bitterness. I no longer eat refined sugar, due to medical conditions, so my rowan jam making days are over. Nothing is wasted in nature though. The birds love those little waxy berries.

And I love autumn with its mix of misty mornings and hot sunny afternoons. It’s breezy and blustery here today. The air is warm, though it rained overnight. No need to water the pots. No need to light the fire. Rowan berries pop under my feet as I walk, and the trees grow more colourful every day.

Recent Reviews

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Sally Cronin featured a review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Bookshelf last week.

Elizabeth is gutsy, vulnerable, rash and caring, and her quick wittedness and bravery had me cheering her on from the sidelines. Like her, we are confronted by the harsh realities of life as a slave or indentured labourer and she experiences danger and brutality as she wades in to protect her new-found friends.

See the whole review here.

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

A review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR was included in the reading round up on the lovely Smelly Socks and Garden Peas blog.

“I really loved the rich variety this novel brought – it’s not all danger and torture, there’s peace and contentment, a feeling of having found one’s place, delight, fun, celebration and true happiness too. Each phase of Isobell’s experiences are brought to life, they’re evocative and have real depth. I’ll definitely be picking up Ailish’s other books in future too.”

See the review here.

Talking of those books in the future…

Well, one of them anyway.

That’s misty Bennachie in the background of the image below, and stones from Aikey Brae on the cover. Both places feature in the novel.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

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, a neurodiverse main character, and some rather complicated romance.

The book releases in paperback and kindle on September 21st 2022. 

Out now!

Quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

See all my books here on the site or on my Amazon author page.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for the (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Iron Age, Jurassic, and Back to the Future

cave at Cullykhan: iron age fort nearby
Cave at Cullykhan

Iron Age

For this small time travelling post, we start at beautiful Cullykhan Bay, once the site of an Iron Age Fort. The fort features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, as does a slightly adjusted version of the cave above. The Iron Age is generally thought to have ended in 43 CE in Britain when the Romans arrived. That happened a little later up here. The book is set in 83 CE.

Back to the Future

And there’s now a release date, in the future, the 21st of September to be precise.

Edit: the book is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age

The Jurassic

I went looking for squirrels in Aden Park recently.

I found dinosaurs.

dinosaur
Behind a yew tree.

They were only there for three days.

dinosaur in a window
In the mansion house window.

The dinosaur explorer event was clearly aimed at children, but I had rather a lot of fun looking for the creatures.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park

And now, refreshed, I return to my desk and the Iron Age, where I’m very happy to be.

Out now!

new novel from Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age
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.

Tip Jar