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 is out on the 21st of September in both paperback and kindle, so it’s getting close now.

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.

Out now!

Normal blogging will resume shortly…

More 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

The Maiden Stone and Persephone

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

My Books, set mostly in Aberdeenshire

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

The latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is now out in both kindle and paperback. It features Bennachie, Romans, Celts, romance, a neurodiverse main character and the Battle of Mons Graupius. Out now!

More titles

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.

Tip Jar

North East Scotland Beaches: Vikings and Mermaids!

sea at Fraserburgh beach - Going Coastal: North East Scotland Beaches

Sky. Sea. Sand. It’s been a summer of these. Even on dull days it’s been warm, and walks on the beach, beautiful. I’m donning the tour guide hat again, and we’re going to explore some North East Scotland beaches, cliffs and caves.

Adapted from a 2016 post.

Whitehills

rainbow over the coast: North East Scotland Beaches

Two generations of quines walked the coast route between Banff and Whitehills back in February. We got rained on, but we got a rainbow. And amazing colours of sky and sea. Below is the Red Well. More on that here as it features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (out now!).

The Red Well, Whitehills

North East Scotland Beaches: Gardenstown and Vikings!

No time to linger at the well today, as we’re skipping along into summer to Gardenstown and St John’s Kirk. There it is, up on the hill between cloud shadows.

St John's Kirk, Gardenstown

There is an exciting tale of local ladies winning a battle with the Vikings in 1004 by weaponising their stockings with rocks and sand. Three Viking skulls were subsequently built into the walls of the then under-construction Kirk.

The coast as seen from the walls of St John's Kirk, Gamrie - Going Coastal with Ailish Sinclair North East Scotland Beaches

Today it’s a peaceful place, though the landscape is probably much the same as it was during the era of battling lassies and Viking warriors.

landscape at Gamrie

New Aberdour

Time for a picnic, and an exploration of the various bays at New Aberdour.

New Aberdour: North East Scotland Beaches

Let’s lie on the ground and gaze up at the red rocks and blue sky above.

rocks and sky: North East Scotland Beaches

We watch, entranced, as sand martins dart in and out of their nests. Whoops, forget to cover the home made pizza so it’s now covered in sand.  Never mind, just time for a poke around in a rock pool before we go…

rock pool: North East Scotland Beaches

Fraserburgh

Okay. Shoes off. We’re going to race along the golden shore at Fraserburgh, getting the sand right up between our toes. If we’re feeling energetic we can climb Tiger Hill, that large dune to the right, and enjoy enhanced views of the beach and town.

reflective clouds at the coast: North East Scotland Beaches

A reflective moment.

Fraserburgh beach - reflections at the coast

St Combs

Calming right down now. We turn the corner. Out comes a book and a bar of chocolate as we sit on the rocks at St Combs.

St Combs beach: North East Scotland Beaches

Walking boots on for this next part…

rocky

The Bullers of Buchan: Mermaids!

On we go, past Peterhead, to seek out mermaids at the Bullers of Buchan. There are folk tales of them being spotted here in the cave known as the Sea Cauldron:

the sea cauldron - Going Coastal and looking for mermaids!

It’s actually quite a dangerous place, with cliff edges all round, so do take care.

The coast at the Bullers of Buchan

We’ve come to the end of our coastal oddessy. Just one more stare at that silvery sea at the Bullers, and then it’s home for a cup of tea.

The coast at the Bullers of Buchan - Ailish Sinclair, author: North East Scotland Beaches

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

And coming very soon now…

The latest book, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World

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

Leaving Easter Aquorthies Stone Circle

Purple flowers at Easter Aquorthies

Easter Aquorthies Circle

Easter Aquorthies, also known as East Aquorthies, is sometimes described as a ‘show circle’ and recommended as a good first stone circle to visit. This is due to its near perfect condition and position: all stones are present and upright; the grass always seems to have been manicured to a close shave, and the views of the surrounding countryside are magnificent. It’s also very clearly signposted from the nearby town of Inverurie, making it easy to find and then park in its small car park.

Blue skies over a stone circle

Bennachie

The Mither Tap of Bennachie is apparent wherever you walk in and around the circle, looming majestic and large over your shoulder.

cows at Easter Aquorthies

The Recumbent Stone

The recumbent stone is unusual in that it has extra supporting stones on the inner side. I wonder what led to this arrangement. Did it fall and crush someone in Neolithic or Bronze Age times, causing new health and safety measures to be put in place? It is on a slope, so maybe it was just hard to make secure. I hope no one got crushed!

recumbent at Easter Aquorthies stone circle

Name Origin

The name is thought to derive from Gaelic and means either ‘field of prayer’ or ‘field of the stone pillar’. Most of the stones are granite but one, below, is red jasper.

The red jasper stone at Easter Aquorthies stone circle

Leaving Easter Aquorthies…

There are numerous tales of people finding it hard to exit Easter Aquorthies stone circle. Some describe walking away as being like trying to wade through treacle and report feeling as if the circle wants to keep them there. There are also stories of enticing music coming from under the ground.

On the day I visited, I really didn’t want to leave. I would rather have stayed sitting in the sun with my back up against one of the recumbent flankers, staring out over Bennachie.

I knew the next circle on my list to visit was going to be contrastingly tricky to find. And it was. But that’s a post for another day (see Tyrebagger here).

Leave I did, reluctantly, and a little later than planned. I encountered no treacle or music… but I have been left with a strong desire to return. Soon.

straight line of stones

My Books, set mostly in Aberdeenshire

The latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, releases September 21st in both kindle and paperback. It features Bennachie, Romans, Celts, romance, a neurodiverse main character and the Battle of Mons Graupius. Kindle pre-order is live now.

See the book detail page here

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Already published titles

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.

Tip Jar

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, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, featuring another local cave at Cullykhan, releases on the 21st of September 2022. Kindle pre-order is live now.

new novel from Ailish Sinclair

All my books are available in paperback and kindle and can be seen on my Amazon Author Page

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

Stone Circles, Henges, Hills and a Barrow

Aikey Brae, one of my favourite stone circles

It’s no secret that I love stone circles and other old stony places. I visit them. A lot. I hug them. Quite a bit. And I write about them. Aikey Brae, above, is my absolute favourite. The circle in my books is loosely based on this one. I’ve blogged about it here in the snow and here after the trees were felled.

Today I’m sharing some older photos of ancient sites that I’ve not used before, so they may not be too perfect, but I hope they capture the spirit of these special places.

First, I’m going back in time, deep into the family photo archives, and journeying out of Scotland to Wiltshire in England.

Avebury

Avebury stone circle

The great henge of Avebury, a circle with a village built right in the middle of it, is another of my favourites.

Peeking round a stone at Avebury
Avebury

West Kennet and Silbury

Nearby is West Kennet Long Barrow where I once found a candle burning (very naughty, such things could cause damage):

candle in West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet

Across the road from the barrow is the mysterious Silbury Hill.

Aberdeenshire Stone Circles

We have a nice wee henge in Aberdeenshire too at Broomend of Crichie, and the shape of the stones really remind me of Avebury. As does the fact that there was once an avenue of stones leading to the circle.

Broomend of Crichie stone circle

And just down the river, in the old graveyard, is the Bass of Inverurie.

The Bass of Inverurie

The Bass is a natural hill that has been shaped. It’s been home to a Motte and Bailey castle and there have been older worked flint objects found there too.

Did someone create a diminutive complex similar to that of Avebury? I wonder…

Some lovely Pictish stones stand beside the Bass today, un-huggable in their new glass case.

Pictish stones by the Bass of Inverurie

The countryside of the Inverurie area is rich in standing stones and circles too. Easter Aquorthies lies a couple of miles away from the Bass. I’ve blogged about it here.

Easter Aquorthies Stone Circle

And, not too far away, is Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle, one that I’m writing about just now as it plays a part in the story of SISTERS.

At Daviot:

Ailish at Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

Wonderful Blogs

The Wee Writing Lassie asked me 7 intrusive questions! Go to her blog to see them.

Sally Cronin reviewed FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Blog Magazine: “This book is well researched, bringing history to life and the writing flows smoothly like hot chocolate as it warms on a cold day. It is a coming of age and love story which will have you holding your breath on occasion as Elizabeth comes to terms with her future.See the whole review here.

Tyrebagger stone circle
Tyrebagger Circle near Aberdeen

I hope you’ve enjoyed my wee journey into the ancient past. Sign up to my mailing list if you would like more of this ilk in your inbox.

Books (stone circle included!)

Set in a 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: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

Castle Fraser Circle
Path through crop to Castle Fraser stone circle

About Page 

Scottish Castles: here we go a-castle-ing!

Scottish castles: Delgatie

Delgatie

Yes, it’s another post about Scottish castles! I do seem to find it difficult to write anything without one, or three, as in this case. The first, above, is Delgatie Castle, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. I met one of the quines there last week (post originally from 2016) and we walked the woods and gardens and encountered these little Shetland ponies looking as if they were waiting for the tearoom to open.

From there, we went on to the Auld Kirk-yard in Turriff to see the grave of the late owner of the castle, Captain John Hay:

grave stone

And then, on the other side of Turriff, the beautiful River Deveron:

River Deveron

Let us pass through a door to another day and another castle…

door at Craigievar

Craigievar:

One of the most famous Scottish castles: Craigievar Castle

Near Alford, this beauty is rumoured to be the source for Walt Disney’s fairy-tale castle. It is wonderfully pink and turreted and full of colourful ghost stories. Red John Forbes is supposed to have forced his daughter’s lover, a Gordon and hence an enemy, to jump to his death from The Blue Room window. The window is now hidden behind a headboard but you can make out light through a pinhole. Both Red John and the Gordon boy are said to haunt the castle.

Photos were allowed up on the roof!

the roof of Scottish castle Craigievar

But it’s time to skip across the stone mushrooms…

Scottish castle: stone mushrooms at Craigievar

and on to Corgarff, the last of the Scottish cast;es today…

A Scottish castle: Corgarff

A bit more out of the way, near Tarland, but still in Aberdeenshire, is the fortress that is Corgarff Castle. Originally home to the Forbes, it was then burnt by the Gordons and left derelict. After the battle of Culloden the tower house was gutted and rebuilt as barracks for government soldiers (Redcoats).

Corgarff, a Scottish castle

Inside the star shaped perimeter:

coutryard of Corgarff

This is how the soldiers’ barracks room would have looked in 1750:

18th century barracks room

And that’s it. Off out the door you go, but do come back soon!

door to a Scottish castle...

Keep up to date with all my news, from visits to Scottish castles and stone circles, to books and writing and life, by signing up to the mailing list!

Scottish author 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: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

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

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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