Castle Windows, Castle Doors: Drum in Aberdeenshire

castle windows at Drum

Beautiful castle windows and doors at Drum.

From small, dark hidey-holes…

little castle windows

To windows and doors that reveal exactly where you are.

pink castle windows

The door of the chapel:

chapel door at Drum Castle

On this day there was torture in the dungeon.

a Scold's Bridle

A knight in the medieval great hall:

armour

A walk on the roof:

castle rooftop

Soup by the old fireplace in the kitchen…

range

And unrelenting rain.

All the castle windows and doors at Drum Castle

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Ailish Sinclair stares out to sea

Above: at Dunnottar. Post here.

My Castle-y Debut Novel

Once Upon a Time, in the Days of Auld Lang Syne…”

A Scottish tale that includes a handsome Laird, witchcraft accusations, a stone circle and lots of love.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features:

  • a 16th century Scottish castle
  • 6 chapters of medieval Christmas
  • the Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597
  • an ancient circle of standing stones, based on Aikey Brae
  • and a love story.

Come taste the Twelfth Night Cake and dance the fast lifting dance, La Volta!

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Festive quote from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair

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Pitsligo Castle and Peathill Kirk in Aberdeenshire

Pitsligo Castle

Pitsligo Castle

Crows nest in the old keep of Pitsligo Castle near the village of Rosehearty in Aberdeenshire. Dating from 1424, it’s an impressive and atmospheric place. The Forbes family who built it, staunch Jacobite supporters, lost their lands and titles after the battle of Culloden. The castle was then ravaged by Hanoverian soldiers and fell into ruin.

The oldest part of the castle, the keep or tower:

the towerhouse at Pitsligo Castle
keep at Pitsligo Castle

Many of the rooms round the rubble filled courtyard remain intact. The evening sun added bright effects on this visit.

gun hole ay Pitsligo Castle

A large bird flew out of here. It was all a bit ‘Game of Thrones’…

dark room in Pitsligo Castle

Here and there the sky shows through chimneys, windows and decayed stairwells.

the kitchen chimney of Pitsligo Castle
window at Pitsligo Castle
stairway at Pitsligo Castle

The gateway:

daffodils outside Pitsligo Castle
sungate at Pitsligo Castle

Peathill Kirk

Just up the hill sits Peathill Kirk, where old and new towers stand side by side and, unsightly as it is, mobile phone reception is great.

phone tower, bell tower

Ghosts of Jacobites lurk here too.

grave
plaque

Alexander Forbes, the 4th Lord of Pitsligo, quite a famous Jacobite, and owner of Pitsligo Castle, is buried in the crypt below. He was a most interesting character.

I’ve written about him here: In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave and then in more detail over on The Witch, The Weird and the Wonderful blog. His open minded and fair way of being also inspired the character of Thomas, the Laird, in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

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Here he is at the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie (on the right, in the shadows), entering the ballroom at the Palace of Hollyroodhouse.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Entering the Ballroom at Holyroodhouse

The painting, by John Pettie, is part of the Royal Collection Trust.

The two sites make a trip up to Peathill most worthwhile. The castle and kirk would been used and inhabited at the same time – Lord Pitsligo would have sat in the Forbes pew just above where his grave now is – and offer an evocative glimpse into the past.

My 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 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

About Page updated

A Loch Through the Seasons: mist, sunsets and snow

loch at sunset
misty Aberdeenshire loch

Clouds of mist swirl over the surface of the loch.

The picture above was taken after an unexpectedly hot day led to unexpectedly beautiful conditions. Well, not completely unexpected. It’s always beautiful, always different.

Summer Loch

Summer brings lush green foliage and colour to the loch*. It’s not very deep so swimming can be warm, though muddy.

summer Aberdeenshire loch

Autumn

That glassy ‘stand and stare’ stillness can happen at any time of year, but it most commonly occurs in Autumn. Sunsets are pink, silver or even purple. Whatever the sky is doing is intensified in reflection.

sunset

The Loch in Winter

Scottish winters are fierce. One year layer upon layer of ice and snow built up so thick that people and dogs ran about on top of the loch. I watched a fox run right across from one side to the other. It was at once surreal and yet so very real, unconnected from civilisation as it feels up there in the woods. No TV, no computers, just life and joy and fun on a natural huge flat screen among the trees.

snowy Aberdeenshire loch

I hope I will be well enough to walk up there soon. And what will await? A liquid mirror? Slow moving ripples? The slightest change in airflow is made visible by water. If there’s blue in the sky, there will be blue in the loch. Maybe there’ll be whooping swans with their yellow beaks, or an otter leaping about on the banks. I love the sound of otters giggling in the evening… I miss it.

whooper swans flying up from the loch
Whooper swans over the loch

* I freely admit to having overused the word ‘loch’ in this post. The word ‘lake’ is not a suitable substitute. If you don’t come from Scotland you can have no idea how very wrong that notion is. And while we’re at it, let’s make sure you’re saying/thinking the word right. The ‘ch’ sound is like a Scottish wildcat (something I once saw up by the large expanse of water, but no one believes me) hissing in the back of your throat. There you are, got it.

fun on the loch
Boating days…

The books:

Ailish's books

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 2nd century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

Writing Update

I am back editing the manuscript now. My poor characters have moved on from the battle scene at last! Though the phrase ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ springs to mind…

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One Castle, Three Circles, lots of Cows

the one castle of the post: Drum Castle

The One Castle: Drum

On our last visit to Drum Castle, the one castle of this post, it was raining. So on the way to explore circles, we took a walk through the gardens, having missed them before. They were filled with the bright sights and scents of summer, the castle peeking round corners and through trees everywhere we went.

Originally posted 2015.

medieval tower in the one castle

Circle 1: Cullerlie

Cullerlie Stone Circle is unusual for Aberdeenshire in that it is not a recumbent circle. There’s only one photo as we were distracted by an elderly dog from the farm that wanted us to throw a stick.

Cullerlie Stone Circle, next up from the one castle

Circle 2: Sunhoney

More animals awaited at Sunhoney; an excited herd of cows ran alongside the path with us…

path to Sunhoney

They then jostled and jiggled for the best view at the perimeter of the circle enclosure.

lineup of cows

I fear we were a disappointment. There were signs that other visitors may have danced (trampled grass) and provided snacks (rolled oats all over the place) whereas we mainly sat quietly and took photos.

Sunhoney Stone Circle

The recumbent stone at Sunhoney has many carved cup marks but lichen and light conditions were not helpful in capturing them on camera (note rolled oats though).

cupmarks

The cows gave us doleful looks as we left and did not follow us back down the path.

Circle 3: Midmar Kirk

There were no animals to greet us at Midmar Kirk Circle, again an unusual site, situated in a churchyard.

Midmar

While it was common for churches to be built on older sacred sites, it is unusual for the originals to have been left intact (almost, there are a few stones missing).

standing stone and graves
church and stones

Finishing with an apology to the cows – we’ll try harder next time – and the view from the roof of Drum:

window in Drum Castle roof, one castle

My Books (also featuring one castle!)

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.

one castle more, Delgatie!
One castle more, Delgatie!

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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.

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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.

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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
The Mermaid and the Bear

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

Amazon UK

Amazon worldwide

Waterstones

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

Bennachie: Craggy Peaks, Picts and Standing Stones

Bennachie in the distance

Bennachie is a large hill that can be seen for miles in Aberdeenshire. Its craggy peaks seem to loom out of nowhere as you drive round twisty corners of country roads. I once climbed it three times in one day for charity; complainers of sore legs were reminded of that fact on the climb detailed below (done some time ago, obviously).

The top of Harthill Castle, which was owned and restored by the late American writer Ann Savage, is just visible over the trees.

Bennachie and the circle at Loanhead of Daviot both feature in my upcoming book SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Bennachie, the hill

The start of any Bennachie climb – we took the easiest ‘Rowan Tree’ route – starts with a misleading forest stroll:

woodland walk on Bennachie

Then you’re out into the baking sun (sometimes; you are equally as likely to emerge into a dense Stephen King-esque mist) and views expand.

rock face on Bennachie

Parts of the path are pure exposed rock, it feels like standing on the bare face of the planet. I like to kneel and kiss the stone; you do see some strange people on Bennachie…

getting steeper as we climb Bennachie

The ascent gradually gets steeper, the sun gets hotter, but the Mither Tap nears. Big cairn, little cairn:

cairns on Bennachie

Picts!

There’s a Pictish hillfort on the top, you pass between its walls…

hillfort on Bennachie

And then cling, terrified, to the side of the uppermost rocks as the wind buffets you. That bit is over quickly. The landscape soon owns your attention.

views from Bennachie

Standing Stones near Bennachie

The Maiden Stone stands near the foot of the hill, a ninth century Pictish stone displaying a good example of the mysterious, much debated, ‘Pictish beast’. Swimming elephant? Dolphin? Kelpie?

The Maiden Stone

A few miles further on is Loanhead of Daviot Stone Circle, the first recumbent circle I ever visited, beautifully cared for by Historic Scotland.

Daviot
uprights at Daviot
between the recumbents

Will I stop now? No, one more, then we can put our feet up.

circle

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Published books:

Ailish's books

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a 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

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright…

This Candlemas post was originally published in 2014.

Hot

I just sat in the hot place. It was good, it was sunny and bright, though it offered only a vague warmth today.

The ‘hot place’ is a point on our property that is sheltered from both North and East winds by walls and situated next to large windows that reflect the sunlight and bestow a sort of ‘double sunning’. It is rather like a portal to another country, a warmer clime or different season. In summer it can reach unbearable temperatures. In the deepest months of winter the sun doesn’t touch it at all. This was the first time it lit up this year, fitting then that it’s Groundhog Day (wiki), Candlemas (wiki) and Imbolc (wiki).

Feeling the sun on my face, without the usual buffeting wind, was a good reminder that the Earth is turning and Spring is on its way. More good reminders, brave little snowdrops:

snowdrops on Candlemas

Cold

It’s been an odd winter, very dark but with none of the usual bright and dramatic snow of Scotland. The continual rain, mud and roof leakages have made the season seem long and arduous. Grey. Dull. No enchanted snowy moonlit walks where surprised owls fly low overhead, no snow angels or sledging. I almost miss having to dig my way into the woodshed (almost, not really; it was fairly tortuous, nasty when ice dripped down your neck too). Solstice 2010:

wood shed in the snow

The wind has been notably fierce, bringing an ancient beech tree crashing to the ground one night. I heard it from my bed half a mile away, three loud cracks as its branches broke. How disorienting to stand among high boughs and look through to what was the ground, upended like the tree:

a tree fallen on Candlemas

The world on its side. An oliphaunt fallen.

So winter: snow properly, or let Spring through. The sun is nice today; I’d like more of that please, I’m ready to laze in the hot place with a book. But if this saying be true, so be it:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and won’t come again.

snowdrops on Candlemas

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Ailish's books

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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