Balgorkar Stone Circle and Castle Fraser

Balgorkar Stone Circle
On the way to Balgorkar Stone Circle

This post details a day in 2014 when we set off to find Balgorkar Stone Circle and visited two castles and another circle too.

We headed off to look for the stones. But first, there was a quick stop at Fraserburgh beach where the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) hung low and filtered the sunlight in a silvery way. A seagull flew by as I took the photo.

Balgorkar Stone Circle

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser.

To the left in the picture below (click to see larger image) are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar Stone Circle (also known as Castle Fraser Stone Circle). The stones were visible from the road, so quite easily found.

standing stones and a Balgorkar stone circle

Up the side of the field we walked.

Balgorkar Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

I thought we’d have to just view the stones from there, but no, some naughty person had trampled a pathway through the crop, so we did no further damage by walking it.

illicit path to Balgorkar stone circle

The recumbent and flankers, dark against the field:

Balgorkar stone circle

Castle Fraser

Next we visited Castle Fraser, where I was meant to be doing research for writing on heraldry, historic dates and architecture. This took the form of running about taking photos:

Castle Fraser

I loved the rooftop and later wrote about it here.

turrets

Kildrummy Castle

Then, after picnicking, with only half the day gone, we decided to head to ruinous Kildrummy Castle, a few miles further on.

more serendipity at Kildrummy Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

There in the reception was an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. There was hugging and much talking. Other people got fed up waiting to be served… We kept saying it was amazing. My friend is currently doing a PhD in history, so some of our conversation became spontaneous research.

We finally moved on to look around:

great hall

I do appreciate the use of the adverb ‘treacherously’ there; without it we might think Osbourne the Blacksmith to have merely made a mistake or had an unfortunate accident such as tripping with a pot of molten metal or dropping a freshly forged sword.

window

Broomend of Crichie Stone Circle

The day ended with a visit to Broomend of Crichie stone circle, Pictish stone placed in the middle.

Broomend of Crichie

This blog post is ending in a rather unrelated way, with some ballet. It’s beautiful and romantic and only two minutes long. It’s Scottish Ballet performing at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Historical Fiction featuring a castle and a stone circle!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair
Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

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

There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

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“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

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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:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

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: Amazon 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

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Blue Mind and Bare Feet on Pink Rocks

Blue MInd at New Aberdour Beach in Aberdeenshire

The term ‘blue mind’ describes the mild meditative state that we enter when in or close to natural bodies of water. It was coined by marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. He wrote a book on the subject and did a Ted Talk too:

So ‘blue mind’ in mind, and encouraged by my wee trip to Rosehearty Harbour last week, I ventured out again. Travelling slightly further this time, I arrived at New Aberdour beach where everything was blue, blue, blue…

blue mind over the rockpools

Blue Mind to Pink Rocks

Feet bare, I sat on the pink rocks and stared out to sea.

blue mind, bare feet and pink rocks

I saw stones and pools and pink, lots of pink everywhere.

I used the transition from blue to pink in this post to symbolise levels of pain.

stones in a rock pool crevice

But in this context, the blue of ‘blue mind’ was not pain. It was perfect.

So I stared out over the rock pools.

And breathed in the blue of the sea.

blue mind and rockpools

And, hopefully, now, healing comes…

A coastal quote from SISTERS, my work in progress

I am just looking at the soft shapes of land, and the hard shapes of rock, as they drop away into the sea. No in-between places up on top here. No beach, no marsh. Here the space between life and death is painted clear. You could be walking on grass one moment and dead on the rocks the next. This is a place of instant transition from one state to another.

The Published Books on the pink bench…

books on pink

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: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

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blue mind

There’s more Blue Mind photos in the older post Going Coastal

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Rosehearty Harbour: tiny blog, tiny outing…

Rosehearty Harbour in Aberdeenshire

Rosehearty harbour, pretty with pink thrift growing in the foreground.

So, I’m out.

In the car.

Whizzing through the countryside.

Seeing things that are not my garden, not my house: ripening crops, winding roads, people, tractors, dogs…

I’ve moved on from the small blue ball I was before. In my excitement to be out, I overestimate the level of moving on that has occurred. Going into a shop turns out to be a mistake that leads to pain and shaking and a slow hobbling retreat.

But sitting by Rosehearty harbour, on a bench, in the sun, is perfect.

It’s progress, and it’s good.

Rosehearty Harbour

Read more about the harbour at Rosehearty, one of the oldest seaports in Scotland, here.

My books:

Books by Ailish Sinclair

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 soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

See my About Page here

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Playing with Geography at Cullykhan Bay

I love Cullykhan Bay.

Near the village of Pennan in Aberdeenshire, it’s a place that has long been appreciated by people, so it has a rich history. To the left of the sandy and sheltered beach is an impressive promontory.

It’s been home to an Iron Age fort, now vitrified, and a medieval castle. Excavations uncovered Neolithic and Roman finds there too (see Canmore).

From the promontory you can see the Deil’s Lum (meaning devil’s chimney), a cave which is also sometimes called Hell’s Lum. It shoots sea spray with a roar during stormy weather.

The Deil's Lum, a cave at Cullykhan Bay.

It’s a place – promontory, bay and caves – that I write about quite a lot.

In THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, Isobell, Jasper and Ian have to cross the inside of the Deil’s Lum before following a tunnel to the castle. The tunnel is fictional and so is my description of the interior of the cave, or rather it’s stolen from just around the corner.

As is my way, I have explored every tunnel and cave that is remotely accessible by land at Cullykhan. In we go…

cave entrance at Cullykhan Bay

Through to this dark and seagull filled space… and it’s this space that I made my characters traverse, after struggling across it myself, of course!

Cave opening at Cullykhan Bay

Isobell, at least, did not enjoy it:

The truth was that caves and tunnels were more fun when told of beside a fireside, in dry clothes with a full belly. The reality of them – the cold, the wet, the dripping and the echoing, and the smell of decay – was only startling. The roof looked as if a huge ogre had wielded a knife inside the cliffs, cutting and carving to his heart’s content, but the idea contained no mirth, nor even any interest. And what lay ahead in this new life of ours?

Excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Staring at the entrance of the Deil’s Lum from across the divide wasn’t enough for me so I slid down the hill and climbed up into it. This is foolhardy behaviour and not recommended, but I made a short video so you can see the cave without risking life and limb!

Now I’m back in my Iron Age manuscript (see below), Cullykhan features much more heavily, and I love that too. Trying to capture the essence of the place in words, its magnificence, its beauty, and swirl all that round with the terrible things that I have happen there.

Cave opening at Cullykhan
Light and dark at Cullykhan…

I was honoured to appear on two wonderful websites recently: in an interview on Sue’s Musings here and on Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore.

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen, is out now. 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!

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Waterstones 

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

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features three real women who were accused of witchcraft during the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic. There’s also a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

And, coming soon… (body allowing, this year surely?!):

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land. 

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.


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Broadsea: let’s go for a coastal stroll!

Broadsea near Fraserburgh

Broadsea is the older part of Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. It was once the site of a Pictish settlement and later a fishing community. It still feels distinctly different from the surrounding town, more like a small village, and is a great place for a walk!

Our Broadsea Stroll

From Fraserburgh, we’re heading down Broadsea Road, past all the wee hoosies, right to the end.

a wee hoosie in Broadsea

From there we’re going left to see the craggy rocks and some paintings. There’s a Lion Rampant on the other side of that outcrop but it’s taken a bit of a bashing from the sea and is rather faded.

sea at Broadsea in Aberdeenshire

Let’s retrace our steps and continue on round the corner. We’re heading towards the cove of Broadsea, the lighthouse at Kinnaird Head just coming into view.

view from Broadsea or Faithlee

Tiptoeing between houses and walking the curving path, we pass many old cottages. The new housing development we come to next holds on to hints of the past in the form of various buoys placed along the verge.

buoy at Broadsea

On we go. Up to lighthouses, old and new. There’s a great museum and tearoom here if you need a break. Older post with more on the museum and lighthouse here.

lighthouse

A little further along from the lighthouse is The Wine Tower, said to be Fraserburgh’s oldest building. Post on it here.

wine tower of Fraserburgh

We can finish there if you like, but I prefer to walk all the way back so as to see Broadsea from the other direction.

So, one last look at The Wine Tower… perhaps a quick run up and down the steps and a peer in the window…

wine tower

And we return to the wee hoosies.

cottage at Broadsea

And Broadsea Road.

Broadsea house

The best time of day for a Broadsea stroll definitely seems to be in the morning. Clash with school let out time and you may have sticks and stones brandished at you! For a fascinating read on the 19th century history of the place, I highly recommend The Christian Watt Papers.

The Books

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

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

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen, 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 feet of Ailish Sinclair
My feet…

See my about page here

sunset sky during lockdown
trees and moon

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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

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Book Giveaway

Ailish's book giveaway (till June 26th 2022)

I’m doing a wee book giveaway on Instagram this week. It runs all week (till June 26th 2022) with one of each book up for grabs and it’s a worldwide competition. See it here.

The Books

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

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen, 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 feet of Ailish Sinclair
My feet…

See my about page here

Crovie, a Historic Village in Aberdeenshire

stones on a windowsill in Crovie
Crovie

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 then 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

Books

books on pink

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: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

correction wynd in aberdeen

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

See my About Page

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 🙂

My Books

Scottish Historical Fiction from Ailish Sinclair

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

door at Craigievar Castle
Craigievar

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Amazon worldwide

Waterstones

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The Space Between Dunes

dunes silhouetted

Between the dunes. There’s just the sea breeze and me.

looking through the dunes at the sea

I’m looking out across the ocean. Walking down through the coarse grasses, feeling their roughness with my fingertips. As people must have done for as long as people have existed.

18th century.

16th century.

When the Romans were here.

Before.

sea

Then there’s listening. The incoming tide, the waves pulling back from the beach. It feels like a healing sound. I wish it could be prescribed to everyone as needed.

The light is silvery over the dunes now.

No health concerns. No book stuff.

Just me. And the sea.

silvery light over the dunes

I sometimes write more sensible things! Do sign up for my occasional newsletters if you would like to be kept abreast of these.

dunes silhouetted

Beach featured: Fraserburgh.

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