Fit Like? Aberdeen in the Rain

The Chanonry. Aberdeen in the rain.

I skirted round the edges Aberdeen in the rain, in search of bright spots and green corners. Above is The Chanonry, a cobbled street in Old Aberdeen. Cobbles are called ‘cassies’ up here, a word I had long forgotten until I was reminded of it on Twitter.

Aberdeen in the Rain

I ran the grass maze in the Cruickshank botanic garden:

Aberdeen in the rain: grass maze

Then I caught sight of the Duncan Rice library – ooh, research! – where I found a dolphin (others previously blogged here):

Aberdeen in the rain

He’s a Doric dolphin that one, Doric being the dialect spoken in these parts. We do have some great words and phrases, such as:

Doric dolphin

Quine ~ girl. Loon ~ boy.

Flycup ~ a quick cup of tea, often served with a ‘piece’ (biscuit) or if you’re very lucky, a ‘funcy piece’ which might involve chocolate, cream or jam.

Fit like? ~ How are you doing? The accepted answer is ‘Nae bad, fit like yersel?’

The Winter Gardens at Duthie Park are an excellent place to visit when the weather is damp. I remember going there as a child with my Grandmother. She would have loved these colours:

archway at Duthie Park
14829367500_63b880f5ff_z
the Victorian corridor

Dancing Round Aberdeen in the Rain

A group of people huddled in the entrance hall, clinging to a vain hope that the rain might go off. I ran across the grass to the bandstand and was immediately reminded of a scene in The Sound of Music (16 going on 17) and indulged in some similar dancing. I am fortunate to have such open, non-judgemental people in my life. They joined in. We had all forgotten about the audience at the door who had quite a good view of the bandstand:

The Duthie Park bandstand. Aberdeen in the rain.

Having provided enough entertainment for one day, we headed home for a chocolate based fly cup and funcy piece.

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 neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

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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 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…

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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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

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.

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Writer’s Tip Jar

Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns

Fraser Clan Stone on Culloden Moor

This post details a 2014 trip to Culloden Battlefield and the nearby Clava Cairns.

A bright blue sky day. Good for a journey up the coast and into the past. I stopped to take a picture of the anchor on the hill in Macduff.

Macduff, anchor and church

A couple of hours and many miles later, the skies had clouded.

Culloden Moor

Culloden Battlefield

The visitor centre at Culloden is high-tech, swish, clean and pristine, all the things the bloody battle of the past was not. The contrast always gets me. I sit on a soft red sofa looking out at the battlefield, eating my delicious lentil soup and enjoying decadent chocolate cake in comfort and warmth.

Compare that to being one of the Jacobite clansmen, having marched across boggy rough terrain in the dark all night, exhausted, starving, about to be slaughtered in a fight so unfairly matched that it was all over in one hour. What would he think of Culloden Moor today and the nice day out it provides for families and tourists?

Out on the battlefield, things feel more authentic, more memorial. Red flags mark the government line:

flag on Culloden Moor

Clan stones over mass graves:

clans stone
field of the English

Old Leanach Cottage is dated about 1760, several years after the battle, but is said to stand on the site of an earlier cottage that was used as a field hospital for government troops:

cottage at Culloden

People leave offerings:

tartan offering at Culloden

After a little look at the peaceful, cud-chewing, Highland cattle, it’s time to visit some ancient standing stones.

The Clava Cairns

Victorian Grove

Here ancient burial cairns (estimated at about 4000 years old) are surrounded by circles of stone and trees. It’s the perfect peaceful place to visit after Culloden.

Clava Cairns

You can walk right into two of the three cairns, though the entrance tunnel would have been covered in the past: you would have had to crawl.

into the cairn

Some of the standing stones are high and shaped, rather like enormous graves:

standing stone rectangular, at Clava

Let’s finish with one of the aforementioned Highland Coos. There’s four of them in a field next to Culloden.

Highland Cow

Also see the post about the Cumberland Stone.

Cumberland Stone, by Culloden in the Scottish Highlands

My 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 neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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, out April 1st, is set at the time of Culloden and 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

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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

Sign up to the mailing list to peer through some more castle windows and doors with me!

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!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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.

17011541928_1df143d7cd_z

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.

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 neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Proofreading, a Tree and Fox Tracks

proofreading, tree and fox tracks

Just a small post, and a short wintry walk, written amid the nerve wracking experience of proofreading (originally from February 2021).

It’s been snowing.

Quite a lot.

Above are fox tracks in the woods. Below, an oak leaf.

oak leaf in the snow: proofreading

Scary Proofreading

I’ve been proofreading Fireflies and Chocolate (out now: Amazon), desperately seeking any errors, making tiny tweaks.

Last chance to change anything. Last chance to get it right before it goes back to the publisher. It’s a little bit scary, this final stage of writing a novel.

In the woods

So, I trudge. Through the snow. Through the trees.

I breathe in the fresh cold air. It feels good.

Calming. Natural. Real.

Emerging from the woods, I hold my face up to the sun, follow the fox tracks and hope all will be well.

sunshine through the trees

The Mermaid and the Bear

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

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair in the snow by deer tracks

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is a Scottish tale that includes a castle, a handsome Laird, witchcraft accusations, a stone circle and lots of love…

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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

snowy woods

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.

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 neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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