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

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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Writer’s Tip Jar

Finding Loudon Wood Stone Circle

Loudon Wood Stone Circle

Loudon Wood Stone Circle is so deep in the woods that it is almost impossible to find. There are many little paths that look like they might lead into it from the main track, but the one that actually does? Virtually hidden. I succeeded in finding it again in 2020. And it was wonderful.

One stone from the circle in Loudon Wood

Within the circle glade, it was peaceful. It was warm. It was calm.

sunshine over Loudon Wood Stone Circle

There was a brief rain shower while I was there, and even that felt gentle and soft, in direct contrast to the horizontal in-the-face precipitation we often get here.

Loudon Wood Stone Circle

I didn’t want to leave. Surrounded by dense trees, the circle felt separate from the somewhat crazed world outside. It made me think of the person who commented on a recent Instagram post, saying that the image freed them from ‘all the bullshit’ for a moment. This was that picture:

ox-eye daisy

Loudon Wood Stone Circle is like that too. Free of things that can maybe be symbolised by this beer made by a local brewery:

Brewdog's Barnard Castle beer

The stones are old. True. Dignified and simple.

Recumbent stone in Loudon Wood

And the pathway out? Easy to find.

pathway through the woods

You can read an interview I did recently on The Trainee Journalist blog: Novels by North-east author tell unheard stories from the past.

And there’s a nice review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR over on Goodreads here. “The ending is gorgeous and deeply moving. I had a hard time putting the book down. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, love stories, tragedies, and the resilience of love, kindness, and faith.”

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

Scottish author Ailish Sinclair at Berrybrae Stone Circle
At Berrybrae…

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See the About Page here.

The Lost City of Lenabo Woods

Demolished building in Lenabo Woods

Originally posted 2020 during lockdown.

Just like everyone else at the moment, I am not able to gallivant around filling my phone with pictures of interesting places. However, during my daily scroll to find #goodthings to post on Instagram and Twitter, I found photos of Lenabo Woods taken in 2017. I had meant to blog about the site back then, but didn’t get round to it.

So, take my hand, virtually, hygienically, and we’ll walk through what was once the setting of Britain’s most northerly airship base.

Continue reading “The Lost City of Lenabo Woods”

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

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See my About Page

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

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snowy woods

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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The White Horse on Mormond Hill, Aberdeenshire

Ear of the white horse on Mormond Hill
The White Horse on Mormond Hill as seen from the distance

The white horse on Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire can be seen for miles around. Constructed of white quartz, the horse is said to have been built by a Captain Fraser in the 1790s after the Flanders campaign. His own horse was shot from under him in battle and his sergeant offered his mount as replacement and was shot in the process. The white horse is a memorial to Sergeant Henderson.

I have visited the horse a few times, by car a long time ago, and also by walking. It’s quite a long walk! From the village of Strichen you head up Hospital Road and keep going. The road becomes a track which leads to fields. You cross a stile at one point. Then there’s a wee path and it all gets rather steep.

But it’s worth it. Look at the views!

Views of Aberdeenshire.

And of course, the horse itself:

Ear of the white horse on Mormond Hill

According to a local saying, if you turn round three times in the horse’s eye (just visible in the lower right corner of the above photo), your wish will be granted!

The nose of the white horse on Mormond hill.
The nose.

Do be careful if walking on the hill. Parts of it are boggy and the ground once swallowed a whole tractor.

The remains of an 18th century hunting lodge in Aberdeenshire.

The aforementioned Captain Fraser is also credited with the hunting lodge on top of the hill, now a ruin.

View from the hunting lodge on top of Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
View from the lodge.

So, lets perform a triple pirouette in the eye of the white horse, have one more gaze across the countryside as we try to pinpoint which village is which… and then it’s time to head back down to earth.

Countryside views from Mormond Hill.
Scottish Historical Fiction from Ailish Sinclair

Set in a castle, 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.

castle door

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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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