Glorious Scotland

I can’t wait to share this trip with you. A fortnight before The Lady of the Loch is published, I managed to get away to Scotland to do a bit of extra research. There’s so much about the Highlands that is magical, and it was so much fun cramming it into a few days.

I visited Eilean Donan castle, a beautiful place on a small island accessed by a small bridge, with fascinating history and some inspiring ghost stories. Susan, one of the guides, talked to me for a long time about the hauntings. She has seen many ghosts herself, including a butler, a maid, and she heard two men talking in a corridor although no-one was there. I then spoke to Richard about the history, the McCrea family, and there were some interesting features of the castle that will certainly be useful in future novels. I’ll keep those in my notebook for now…

I travelled up the eastern coastal road because I wanted to see Munlochy, the beach where Cam and Agnes visit on horseback in The Lady of the Loch to talk about their past and their future. It’s one of the moments in the book that calls for a truly romantic setting. It was an incredible place. I love the rush of the sea and the bracing air. I could imagine them there beneath the stars…

The coastline was so breathtaking that I kept driving along the A9 coast road and ended up in John O’Groats. Now that’s a fascinating place in winter. And the wind was so strong that I couldn’t open the car door. I returned via the mountains, where there was no-one to be seen for miles, and the skies opened. Now that wild setting will certainly find its way into a novel…

Late in the evening, I drove to a glen near Drumnadrochit and took a little walk in the moonlight to search for the wild creatures, just as Angus and Jess do in The Highland Hens. It’s a walk I love; there were badgers, hares, and so many deer it was just thrilling. It was tingling cold out, and the forests were spooky, but it’s so worth the effort…besides, there’s whisky to be had back in the inn…

I wanted to video myself doing a reading from The Lady of the Loch, and I’d planned to do it on the old stone steps of Urquhart Castle but when I arrived, the kind man on the gates said they had no electricity and the castle would be closed for a few hours. So I clambered over a fence and legged it down towards the loch to do my reading there, where the setting was just right. Here’s the view from where I was standing.

Urquhart was the inspiration for Ravenscraig Catle in The Lady of the Loch, although I did also use ideas from Eilean Donan, as they hold weddings there – there is a huge wedding at the end of the novel – and the banqueting hall and the bedrooms are exactly as Leah and Zoe find them when Leah arrives as caretaker.

The Highlands are a truly inspirational setting for a novel, and it’s so easy to create characters and drama in my head simply by being there. I have the beginnings of two more ideas already: romance and ghosts and history are close by all the time. But no visit to the Highlands is complete without the mountains. The setting was important in The Lady of the Loch: I can imagine Agnes’s warrior in hiding with Robert de Brus’s army, waiting for the moment when he can return to her.

The Scottish people I met were warm and kind hearted. I could name so many people who made my trip special – Kerry and everyone else in The Loch Ness Inn (which is the inn where Angus and Jess visit after taking Thor to the vets in The Highland Hens…) and all the kind people at Eilean Donan, Urquhart and John o’ Groats Post Office. Huge thanks to them, and I’ll be back soon.

I’m home now, and the exciting part begins here. I have a novel I’m working on at the moment and a couple more in the editing stage, but in terms of new ideas, the cauldron of the brain starts to bubble well in advance of writing; the mixture has time to develop and a story to form. And it’s all down to breathtaking scenery, rich history, exciting locations, lovely people and memorable moments.

I can’t wait to go back….


4 thoughts on “Glorious Scotland

  1. It would be a great weekend for the solitary writers group if we came up on the lottery. My goodness the things we’d write! It’s seriously inspirational. But then so are Somerset, Devon, Cornwall – the inside of a cornflake box… ūüôā


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