The Bridge of Alvah and the Earl’s Love Nest

The Bridge of Alvah

As a child, the task of walking to the 18th century Bridge of Alvah, near Banff in Aberdeenshire, was presented as something akin to travelling to Mordor: a journey of such length and difficulty as to render it impossible to your average mortal.

top of bridge

The walk from Duff House (a place with easy parking, swings, art gallery, tearoom and gift shop) to Alvah is actually comprised of just over two miles of well maintained track.

18519059541_6249651afe_z

The other fact about Alvah recalled from childhood is that it is a place of great natural beauty. That is true.

River Deveron

The bridge stands huge and majestic – it is a bit ‘Lord of the Rings’ after all – over a deep gorge and the River Deveron.

18519324271_69d85423bb_z

I was most intrigued by the Gothic window (visible in first and last pics) and the many little hooks, just about discernible below.

side of the bridge

Googling revealed that there was a room for a toll collector within the bridge. This explains the window, though how a person got in there is not so clear. Either the door has been sealed or there was something Rapunzel-like going on. Local legend has it that the room was used by the (married) Earl to entertain young ladies so perhaps it was kept semi-secret. The hooks remain a mystery.

In summary: go visit the Bridge of Alvah; it’s well worth the two mile trek. Not an Orc in sight!

bridge from below

See the post about the Mausoleum for more on the grounds of Duff House.

Update: we revisited the bridge in Autumn and were given access the Earl’s secret room/love nest.

It’s beautiful.

earlsroom (540x540)
earlsroom2

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 like to hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

Naughty Contemporary Fiction

Book covers of A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair: celebratory dance.

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

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland…

My dance background and love of history and spicy stories are what inspired this heady mix of contemporary romance and ballet set in a castle. Readers of my historical fiction will recognise the castle and stone circle that feature in these books.

There are no cliffhanger endings in this series; each book completes a story, but then there is more. So much more. Read all the blurbs here

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction by Ailish Sinclair

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

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

About Page

Ailish in the stones

Read all about little old me here!

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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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Waters of Philorth, an Aberdeenshire nature reserve

Philorth River, Waters of Philorth

The Waters of Philorth is a small nature reserve near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire.

History

The sheltered terrain of the reserve was created by the dunes, which in turn were inadvertently created by man during WW2. Large coils of barbed wire and concrete blocks were laid along the coastline to deter enemy invaders. Over time sand built up on them, plants grew, and the River Philorth changed course.

waters of philorth

Wildlife of the Waters of Philorth

Wildlife flourishes at Philorth today. There’s a rather nice PDF about it on the council website here.

Let’s walk along beside the river. There’s a gull fishing.

A gull fishing at the waters of philorth

I love the tall grasses.

philorth reeds

The scenery grows more and more beach-like as we progress along the riverside path.

philorth sands
washed up fishing net at the waters of philorth
washed up fishing net
limpet
limpet

Beach

We finally reach the sea, and the town of Fraserburgh is visible in the distance.

Fraserburgh and the sea

We return by the higher dune path through the Waters of Philorth as dark clouds gather above us.

dune path through the waters of philorth

And a Castle!

Exiting onto the main road, leaving just in time to miss the sudden and heavy rainfall, we get a brief glimpse of Cairnbulg Castle through the trees. Read about it on the website of Lady Saltoun, Chief of the name and arms of Fraser.

Cairnbulg Castle

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance.

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

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

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

See my about page here

Writer’s Tip Jar

A Map of Witches and the Beauty of Autumn

Map of Witches

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a wonderful resource from the University of Edinburgh, utilising the extensive data collected in their Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. See it here.

It’s a visual and clickable map of over 3000 people accused of witchcraft in Scotland. It’s both fascinating and terrible as this subject always is. My three quines from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR are included (see Isobell’s entry above) as are a disturbing Witch Pricker’s Journey and various other stories. You can choose to view a modern map or a historical one, the latter suiting it better, I think.

The Beauty of Autumn

After peering into the dark, I need to look at beauty, so here’s some golden blue autumnal goodness:

Blue and gold after the map of witches

The gold of the harvest.

rockpool

Pink shimmering rockpools at New Aberdour beach.

New Aberdour Beach and a map of witches

A dark cave, blue reflected within.

a dark cave and a map of witches

And the path up to St Drostan’s well, shining in the sunlight:

St Drostan's well and a map of witches

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

Contemporary Fiction

A Dancer's Journey Series by Ailish Sinclair

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

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland…

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

My dance background and love of history and spicy stories are what inspired this heady mix of contemporary romance and ballet set in a castle. Readers of my historical fiction will recognise the castle and stone circle that feature in these books.

There are no cliffhanger endings in this series; each book completes a story, but then there is more. So much more. Read all the blurbs here

Historical Fiction

Books by Ailish Sinclair

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

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Writer’s Tip Jar

Findlater Castle: Necessary Risks and a Ghost!

Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

For years I passed by the road signs for Findlater Castle on my way to other places, joking that ‘I must find that later’. I’m so glad I finally did! I’ve been a few times now and it’s always stunning.

On this day, in 2018, it was exceptionally warm and still for Northern Scotland which emboldened me to go a bit further down onto the ramparts than I’ve been before.

Off I went, past the gorse which was warmed by the sun and smelled all coconutty…

Findlater Castle and gorse on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

This is as far as I normally dare, just to this first chunk of wall…

A chunk of Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

And then up the wee path for a peek at the shore beyond.

View of the sea from Findlater Castle in Scotland. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

But with no gusts of wind to blast me off the edge, on I marched (or tentatively crept, as is more accurate).

The side of Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

Look at those craggy walls!

The old crumbling windows of Findlater Castle. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

The Findlater Castle Ghost

I sat down here and contemplated being really brave and jumping down that hole under the archway. Ah, what photos I would get, what views, what atmosphere… then I remembered the ghost story. A small boy and his nurse were standing near an open window, maybe even one of those in view, when he jumped from her arms and disappeared down the side of the cliff, presumably to his death. She scrambled after him, also to her doom, and her spirit still haunts the castle searching for her errant charge.

I didn’t really want to join her.

So, sorry to disappoint, but after another look over the edge I retraced my steps back up the hill.

Peering over the edge at Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

This meant I survived to visit the nearby Doocot (pigeon house). It dates from the 15th century as does the castle.

Doocot (dove house) in Aberdeenshire. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

I love its door:

Door to the doocot. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

And all the little nesting boxes within:

Window of the doocot. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

Risks!

If you visit Findlater do be careful not to fall to your doom. If it’s muddy or windy it would be much more dangerous than it was for me on this occasion. Look, the council have even written it in great big red letters underneath the history:

Informational board about Findlater Castle on the cliffs. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

Necessary risks only then 🙂

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 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 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.

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

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, 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

Sea King over Glen Affric in the Highlands

search and rescue sea king helicopter
Track leading into the Glen Affric in the Highlands of Scotland
Here we go, into Glen Affric…

A pictorial post about beautiful Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands.

Page on it here

Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain
The Dog Falls at Glen Affric
Beside the Dog Falls…
Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain from another vantage point.
heather at Glen Affric
Heather.
Loch Affric
Loch Affric.
search and rescue sea king helicopter at Glen Affric
Search and rescue Sea King helicopter over Glen Affric.

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

Books!

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance!

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

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

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

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, 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

feet

See my About Page here

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In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave

craggy coast on the way to Lord Pitsligo's Cave

Lord Pitsligo

I’ve written about Lord Pitsligo before, briefly here in a post about his home, Pitsligo Castle, and then in more detail over at The Witch, The Weird and the Wonderful. He’s an intriguing character who hid around the Buchan countryside for three years following the battle of Culloden, for some of the time in a cave which is still referred to as Lord Pitsligo’s Cave.

I had to find it.

floral coastline on the way to Lord Pitsligo's Cave

Walking to Lord Pitsligo’s Cave

A friend and I set off along the coast, heading West from Rosehearty, having read several conflicting accounts of the exact location of the cave. We knew it had been blown up by the home guard in WW2 and the lower entrance made inaccessible. Perhaps the best we would be able to say was that we’d walked near it?

white quartz line on the way to Lord Pitsligo's Cave

We passed lines of white quartz and rocky plateaus and many craggy cliffs where we stopped and wondered: is this it?

rockpool on the way to Lord Pitsligo's Cave

Then: yes! We just knew we’d found the place. Seagulls flew up, angry about us being so close to their nests, but down we went into the bay.

Lord Pitsligo's Cave

It’s not too easy to discern in my shadowy pictures, but there’s a pile of rubble where the lower entrance would have been and a small opening in the cliff above.

beach by Lord Pitsligo's Cave

My friend went back on a brighter day and zoomed in on the higher entrance:

Lord Pitsligo's Cave

We walked further, along to Quarry Head, the site of a 16th century shipwreck (interesting story here), and looked back across the various bays:

bluebells

It’s a stunning bit of coastline to explore; the cave is about two miles from Rosehearty. Picture below taken on another day just before a thunder storm, note the tiny white sailing boat in the centre:

stormy sky

My Books

My newest book features another local cave, by Cullykhan Bay.

sisters at the edge of the world

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

“Ethereal and spellbinding…” Historical Novel Society

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

All my books

All my books are available in paperback and kindle and can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. If you follow me there you should be updated with new releases and any offers or sales.

Ailish Sinclair

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

Crovie: a Historic Village in Aberdeenshire

stones on a windowsill in Crovie
Crovie

Clearances

Crovie is an 18th century fishing village in the North-East of Scotland. People first came to live there after having been cleared away from their inland homes to make way for sheep farming.

Today many of the houses are holiday lets, and it’s a scenic place to walk. And take photos.

Oh, yes.

A Crovie Walk

This post details a walk taken in 2015.

Crovie from above

See those vans below? Beside the amazing sea? That’s as far up the street as vehicles can go in Crovie:

Crovie and coast

View from the shore:

The shore at Crovie

The wee postbox:

red letter box at Crovie

The coastline is beautiful and dramatic. Light conditions change constantly.

rocks

Myself and a friend set off on what was meant to be a 1.5 mile walk.

We got lost.

There was torrential rain.

The approach of the rain:

clouds gather

We walked on and on.

We followed the arrows.

And we found ourselves in a pea field.

pea plants growing

The pea field led to a gorge. We retraced our many, many steps, eight miles of steps in the end… but then there was soup and pie and cake and all was very, very well.

pebbles spell out Crovie

Naughty Contemporary Fiction

A Dancer's Journey Series by Ailish Sinclair

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

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland…

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

My dance background and love of history and spicy stories are what inspired this heady mix of contemporary romance and ballet set in a castle. Readers of my historical fiction will recognise the castle and stone circle that feature in these books.

There are no cliffhanger endings in this series; each book completes a story, but then there is more. So much more. Read all the blurbs here

Historical Fiction

Books by Ailish Sinclair

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

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

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos. If you would like to hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

About Page

Ailish in the stones

See the About Page

Writer’s Tip Jar

Fraserburgh Beach: a good place for #bluemind

Fraserburgh Beach

Fraserburgh beach in Aberdeenshire is sandy and golden and beautiful. It’s usually pretty deserted, especially early in the morning, and I love it.

I’m still very taken with the concept of blue mind (see last post on it here) and have decided to take every opportunity to experience it.

So, here I am.

Fraserburgh beach

Beside the ocean.

The tide is in today, so I only have to take a few steps to be right by the water. Sometimes the North Sea is far far away in Fraserburgh bay.

But this gentle morning, I just sit on a pink granite block and breathe it all in. The sun. The lapping waves. And the blue… the glorious blue.

Fraserburgh beach

Fraserburgh beach also features in these posts:

My Books

books by Ailish Sinclair

Romans + Celts = some rather complicated romance in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations 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 and on Kindle UnlimitedAmazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

peering through the grasses to the sea

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

See my About Page

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.

My About Page

Go here to subscribe to my occasional email newsletters.

Writer’s Tip Jar