Oh, to wander in the woods…

snowy woods in Scotland

Post from December 2019.

That is my favourite bit of path in the woods by my house. It’s also the most productive. When I get stuck with a storyline or a finicky little plot detail that just won’t iron out, that’s where I go, and solutions become clear. Big epiphanies about characters and back stories happen there too. Maybe it’s because it’s a timeless landscape. Or maybe I just feel relaxed and at peace there.

Just now though, I am recovering from flu and can’t walk in the woods. Soon, I tell myself. Soon. I can sit up and write so I may really need to go there soon!

I’ve been deeply touched by how much thought people have been putting into their reviews of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

Local Quine Kate the Quiet Knitter’s review “This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating.”

On the Mum, Write NOW blog “Overall the characters are lovable, I found it interesting that their lives intertwined slightly with Shakespeare and also touched on LGBT culture and attitudes at that time. It really felt that there was a depth of historical knowledge informing the narrative which I always enjoy.”

And the Wee Writing Lassie wrote about the book and asked me 7 impertinent questions! “Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized woman, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!”

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The same path, though the other end and other direction, in the woods, in summer:

green woods

In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave

craggy coast

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.

Continue reading “In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave”

Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool, Aberdeenshire

Tarlair outdoor swimming pool

I recently explored Tarlair open air swimming pool with my husband and children. Despite having fallen into serious disrepair over the years, it retains a certain beauty, and is evocative – for me anyway – of times past.

It was the scene of many halcyon days one summer; I was fifteen, and due to head off to college that September. I recall lying on the grass in the sun, messing around in the boating pool, buying sweets from the shop and chatting with friends. The hazy, golden hue of these bright points in memory is augmented by the nature of other events from that time.

There was a face off with the girl who used to beat me up in primary school. There was an abusive incident with an older family member, he was much respected and I didn’t feel able to tell anyone. An older boy grabbed me on a bus and kissed and bit my neck; actually that’s not a dark memory; non-consensual and unexpected as it was, I found it rather exciting at the time… There were other daily disappointments, but it can be bitter to dwell too deeply; some things are over when they’re finally over, and they are now.

Tarlair as seen from the cliffs above today

But Tarlair remains bright, both as it is now, and as it appears in my nostalgic image of the past. Three girls on the brink of being women laughed together and talked of their hopes for the future. We swam in the water of the North Sea with all our clothes on and got changed in the only one of our homes that was free from adult disapproval. We ate chocolate in an abandoned campervan. We drank White Russians in a local nightclub where no one questioned our age; hangovers were revelled in the next day by the pool.

None of our lives turned out quite how we hoped, we trailed far off those teenage maps we drew for ourselves that summer. We’ve all tasted despair but known great joy too. Maybe we couldn’t have had one without the other.

Strong emotion increases our capacity to feel and to live and to love, surely the greatest experience of all.

Below: looking out to the wider ocean through The Needle’s Eye, a rock formation beside Tarlair.

through the Needle's Eye

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Aviemore Stone Circle in the Highlands

Roses bloom in Aviemore stone circle

Aviemore stone circle is unusual, though not unique, in that it is situated in the middle of a housing estate. On the day I visited, the summer solstice, roses were blooming at the edge of the circle, adding to the magical atmosphere of the place. The houses don’t detract from that, bushes and trees lending some privacy to the ancient stones.

Continue reading “Aviemore Stone Circle in the Highlands”

serendipity and stones and a little dance

seagull and serendipity

The first serendipitous happening of the day was the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) and its silvery filtering of the sunlight. Then there was the seagull that flew by as I took the photo.

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser. I’ve made the picture below clickable to a larger version; to the left are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar stone circle.

Continue reading “serendipity and stones and a little dance”

Crovie, a Coastal Village in Aberdeenshire

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.

Continue reading “Crovie, a Coastal Village in Aberdeenshire”

Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands

search and rescue sea king helicopter
Track leading into the Glen Affric in the Highlands of Scotland
Here we go!
Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain

The day out happened and it happened at the stunning Glen Affric.

Page on it here

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.

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Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, 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.

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