Day 10 – Market Rasen to East Kennett (near Avebury) – August 20, 2013
See I told you it would be a long day, although it wasn’t as long as we expected it to be.
In the back of my mind, I thought we would do Stonehenge AND the Avebury stones the following day but we arrived early enough that we had time for at least the former and this was before we even found the B&B where we’d be spending the night!
The next two photos are of The Heel Stone. Don’t you think it looks like a face? A creepy face, but a face nonetheless.
After we left Stonehenge, we came up on a tailback for something. There was a road off to the right and I took it not having any idea where we would end up. Obviously, the others either thought I knew where I was going or they did because they followed me.
This detour from our planned route paid huge dividends because we came across this…
Next on our quest for the day was to find the Old Forge B&B. The first time we drove by, we missed it but once we turned around and came from the other direction, it stood out – especially the green B&B sign in the grass verge across the road from the house.
Like when we stayed at Fernbank House at Dufftown, we had a private bathroom. Not quite so close to our room but our own.
We walked to The Bell only to find it didn’t open until 6:00. This was about 4:30 so we walked back to the B&B by way of the back roads (much safer). One of the fields along the road was home to rabbits. We counted less than ten but think there were more.
After a short rest and WC stop, we wandered back towards the pub. This time we took advantage of a footpath that took a good chunk off the walk if you stuck to the road.
The pub still wasn’t open when we got back but it was close enough to 6:00 and we were parched enough that we waited. Whilst we ‘loitered’ about the car park, a family arrived so we waited together, although when the doors finally opened, they went to the restaurant while we were content to sit in the bar.
The menu we had seen at the B&B was the lunch menu so we couldn’t get any of the dishes listed on it. So, we had fish and chips and mushy peas. I had mushy peas. They were served in a small sealer jar. I ate mine and hubby’s as they didn’t do a thing for him.
After all the walking we’d done during the day but especially before and after supper, we were tired so had an early night.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
If you think you know where the pictures were taken, leave a comment with your answers or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org You could win a 2014 A Shadow in the Past calendar!
Tomorrow is going to be another long day as we’re back north to Harrogate with a stop in Tewkesbury to meet another online author friend, Linn B Halton. Woo hoo!
Today’s the day I meet Nicky Wells. Squee!!! We’ve planned this for ages and I found a location near Whitby where we could meet for lunch that was convenient for everyone. But that’s getting ahead of myself. After all, we’ve got to get from Scotland into England.
Before breakfast this morning, we went out for a short walk. First to the Bank of Scotland in the square then dropped in to the newsagent’s on the way back for copy of today’s The Scotsman.
We sat in the lounge at Duncan House while we waited for breakfast to finish cooking. While we were there, the owner came in from his walk, although we didn’t meet him straight away, we did meet his black lab who charged into the lounge and practically turned himself inside out getting someone to pay attention to him. At one point, he did a backwards somersault.
Jeff, the owner, greeted us at the breakfast table where we were served yet another hearty start to the day. He felt bad about leaving the note on the door for me the day before but to us, that was part of the charm.
When we were finally ready to check out, not only did I get a handshake from our host, but also a wee kiss on the cheek.
At the Scotland/England border we stopped so I could take photos. There’s a huge lay-by with parking for cars and buses (and whilst we were there a bus filled with tourists pulled in).
Beyond here, you’re in England. On the small table that was set up beside the boulder marking the border, were CDs you could buy for £5.00 and a tray with a paperweight where you could put your money.
I crossed into England and got this photo of Scotland. The red car in the background was well and truly in Scottish lands as was ours although with it being closer, it got cropped out of the picture. Was it difficult leaving Scotland? Sort of, but I had a number of adventures ahead of me and I knew that I would be returning to Scotland before we came home.
While we were at the border, the piper arrived and soon he was playing. I bought one of his CDs and when I asked hubby to take a picture of me with the Scottish border sign, the piper turned so that he was facing the camera along with me. It was windy here as you can tell from my hair. I wonder if that’s why my Robertsons all had such wild curly hair?
After spending some time (too much) here, we had to get on the road. The plan was to meet Nicky and her family around 12:00 ish. Well that wasn’t going to happen and I texted or had hubby text and advise we were running late. I think it was about 1:15 when we finally blew in at The Cross Butts Stable Restaurant.
I really had no idea exactly how close to Whitby the restaurant was but as we crested the last hill before there, Whitby Abbey came in to view. We’d visited the abbey when we stayed in Whitby back in 2005 but this view of it was totally different than what we had seen on our previous trip.
I had brought two wee (not sure of the scale) die cast models for Nicky’s sons since they love “all things lorry” and the TV program Ice Road Truckers. They went down a real treat with the boys.
Really hoping that our hubbies had the chance to at least talk to each other because Nicky and I were so involved in talking writing, publishers and the like that we rather neglected them. I really like the phrase Nicky used over on her blog – “we talked nineteen to the dozen”.
It was so much fun finally meeting the entire family that it was sad when it came time to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.
The initial part of the trip over the North Yorkshire Moors to Market Rasen was so familiar – partly because we had travelled these roads in 2005 and partly from watching the TV programs Heartbeat and The Royal.
When we reached Beechwood Guesthouse and checked in, we had the same room as when we stayed there in 2005. Other than Earlsfield Farm at Kennethmont, this was the first of two repeat accommodations from previous trips.
After getting settled in our room in Market Rasen, I gave my cousin who lives in Dragonby a call so we could go meet him. He gave me his post code so we could program it in to “Sat Nav Sally” and off we went. I knew this cousin existed but had only discovered where he was living in the last 3-4 years and made the initial contact. Since then, it’s been via email and/or Facebook that we’ve gotten to know each other.
One of the cool things that the hamlet of Dragonby has going for it is the Dragonby Dragon – a rock formation that resembles, you guessed it – a dragon.
After visiting the dragon, which is almost in my cousin’s back yard, we went back to the house for a cuppa and a chinwag. The photo albums came out and I was able to identify some of the people in the pictures that were taken on this side of the pond.
Since we had a long day ahead of us, said our goodbyes and hubby and I returned to the Guesthouse in Market Rasen.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
As I said earlier, tomorrow is going to be a long day. We’re headed south to Avebury.
There were likely faster ways of getting from Kennethmont to Kelso but they wouldn’t have been as much fun. I wanted to go the back way to Banchory then over to Stonehaven and down the coast – well at least as far as Dundee.
It was mid morning by the time we got away from Earlsfield Farm but we expected that and not just because of the late night. We had so much fun when we stayed here it was really hard to say goodbye.
We stopped in at Kildrummy Castle in the heart of Aberdeenshire – another Historic Scotland property – on our way south. It’s well-maintained, has a small, but well-stocked gift shop and WCs! The gentleman working there had a brother who used to live less than 30 miles from where we currently live. Talk about a small world.
The further we got away from Kennethmont, the more melancholy I felt. There were a couple of times that I could have pulled the car off the road and bawled my eyes out. Thankfully, we had an argument or two with “Sat Nav Sally” over where we were going which temporarily took my mind off things. I knew the route I wanted to take (been there, taken it before so knew where I was going) and she refused to recalculate and get on the same page… or perhaps I should say the same road.
We stopped briefly at Dunnottar Castle just south of Stonehaven on the North Sea, primarily for a photo op and maybe make a point. Long story…
Okay, back to my long story. Some years ago, I started reading a novel set in Scotland (author and title shall remain nameless) and a castle on the North Sea south of Stonehaven was wrongly named Kildrummy Castle. Having been to both castles, I knew it was WRONG! The only castle fitting this locational description was Dunnottar. Try as I might, I couldn’t get past this glaring error. I might have passed up a good author but that was a chance I was willing to take. I mean, if the author didn’t want to use the ‘real’ name, then make up a fictitonal one, don’t just plunk an inland castle on the coast. Rant over now.
At Dundee, we agreed to “Sat Nav Sally’s” route and we continued on without her nagging “turn around when possible”. The rest of the trip to Kelso was quiet (well at least on the sat nav front). I was still sad but not so much as before. Now, I had new territory to get excited about. Yes, we’d been to The Borders before but not Kelso.
When we arrived in Kelso, I couldn’t remember the name of the street the B&B was on, only that it was a one way street. It seemed most of the way in to the town centre was just that. I wanted to stop in the square where the Tourist Information was located but I missed the turning and ended up going up yet another one way street. And guess what! It was the right one. Just at the top of the hill was the sign for Duncan House and their car park. How fortuitous was that?
There was a note on the door addressed to me, telling me where the keys were and how to get to our room so we began the process of unloading the car. On one of our trips to the car, we opened the front door at Duncan House to be greeted by a young couple wondering if we were the owners and was there a room going for the night, We disappointed them but told them to try the phone number on the note in the window. Making sure the front door was securely locked behind us, we got the rest of our loot from the boot of the car.
One of the first things I had to do was plug my laptop in and charge it as the battery was almost flat and I didn’t want to give it a case of “chargus-interruptus” before we left Kennethmont.
Once we were settled, it was time to go exploring but first we stopped off for a bite to eat at The Empress of India, just down the street from our B&B.
After a fantastic meal, an Indian beer (Cobra) and the best onion bhajias I’ve ever had, we headed to the abbey. Unfortunately, the gates were locked but I still got some great photos – likely even better than from within the gated part of the grounds.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Tomorrow will be another big day! We’re going ‘south of the border’ with our final destination being Market Rasen, but on our way we’re stopping near Whitby to meet my author friend, Nicky Wells, and her family and my cousin in Lincolnshire that I’ve not met in person before. How exciting!
Day 7 – Launch Day at the Rannes Hall in Kennethmont! – August 17, 2013
The big day was finally here! Was I nervous? A wee bit. Mostly because I still had no idea how many people were coming.
Besides my book launch today at the Rannes Hall, I appeared virtually on two blogs – one is my author friend, Nicky Wells’ Romance That Rocks Your World blog and I did an interview with Peggy Stanton over at Famous Five Plus so I hope you’ll pop over to these wonderful sites.
Compared to other days (especially our ‘free’ day), we did nothing. We both think we went in to Huntly that morning but for what, we can’t remember. We’d been there the night before. Still, we did something/went somewhere nearby in the morning and for the life of us, we have no recall whatsoever.
Fast forward to the afternoon… we loaded the car with books, book swag, door prizes and my silver sharpie pen for signing and made the short journey down the road. We could have easily walked, but trundling a suitcase behind us and me in my ‘ruby’ slippers, it wouldn’t have been a very comfortable walk.
I’m not sure when this sign popped up. I don’t remember seeing it the day before when we walked to the Old Kirkyard and we walked right past here – trash day, wheelie bin in front of the hall. I guess it ‘grew’ overnight.
Here it is – the venue for my book launch. Isn’t it a grand looking building? It’s home to many a Robbie Burns night and other functions.
When we pulled in to the car park, I was gobsmacked to see my friend, Bill Dunbar, still sitting in the vehicle beside us while his wife chatted by the side entrance with David, my Rannes Hall connection (and owner of Earlsfield Farm). He and Helen made the drive up from Quarriers Village for my launch. I got a huge hug from him as did Don (who insisted on it, since they’d come so far).
So, let’s go inside and see what it looks like in there. I have an advantage having been to a dance here in 2000 and seeing photos from Burns Night celebrations online.
My table was set up in front of the stage with alternating Canadian and Scottish flags affixed to it and three rows of seats were arranged in a semi-circle.
With the hall empty, it seemed even bigger than it really was. It was between 1:30 and 2:00 pm and so far it was only Bill and Helen, David, and Don and me. Nail biting time.
Soon, it went from hardly anyone to almost every seat filled. The original plan of doing my reading, followed by a Q&A session, then signing and selling kind of went out the window as people wanted to purchase their copy right away, or if they already had one, get it signed. Who was I to argue? It worked.
I had three draws for the following door prizes.
David wanted one of these so it was sheer serendipity when it was his wife’s ticket number that was drawn.
If our murky memories are correct, Helen Dunbar won the tote bag.
And the calendar was headed off to Dubai with a teenaged cousin of mine. And speaking of cousins…
Ian’s and Norman’s fathers were two of my Dad’s brothers who remained in Scotland. And it was Norman’s great-granddaughter who won the calendar.
By the time the afternoon’s event was over I sold… drum roll, please…
copies of A Shadow in the Past! Yippee!!!
People mingled afterwards over tea/coffee and shortbread before gradually saying their goodbyes and heading homeward. Once everyone was out of the hall, we did the same and went back to Earlsfield Farm to change and relax before going out to supper at The Hunters Moon in Auchleven.
In the end there were ten of us who went to supper. The food was amazing!
After our meal, we went over to Rhynie for the dance at the gala. There was a dance the night before for the younger crowd but they were all back in full force. I got bowled over trying to get in when security couldn’t wrestle a drunk out. Not the most auspicious start to the rest of the evening.
It was well after 1:00 the next morning when we finally got back to Earlsfield farm and we would be back on the road that morning heading south to Kelso.
No SEEKING SARAH SHAND today… we all know where she was. It will resume on Day 8.
It wasn’t actually a “free” day but more a “what shall we do today?”. Better still – an “open” day. Earlier in the week, we had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather and visited the churchyards in Gartly and Insch that we wanted to visit.
We decided that after breakfast, we would walk down to the village and the Old Kirkyard where my grandparents were buried.
Before we reached the junction of the road our B&B was on and the B9002, this sign begged for a picture. I’d seen it when I drove past it but never had the opportunity to get a good look, until this morning.
In order to get to the footpath to the Old Kirkyard, we had to walk past the Rannes Hall where I would be launching my book the next day. I did take a couple of photos but as it was trash day, there was a huge wheelie bin out front. I decided then, I would try the next day or Sunday (depending on the weather) to get another photo.
Look who is in the Rannes Hall’s outside announcements board. You’ll likely have to click on the picture to get the full-sized image to be able to see, but my event is in there.
We continued on up the road to the footpath. It starts out as a lane up to a couple of houses, then becomes the footpath to the Old Kirkyard and on to Leith Hall.
From what I’ve read, this used to be the Old Kirk at Kennethmont. The door was padlocked shut but I was able to peek in the windows.
We continued making the most of our day and carried on along the footpath.
Despite being near the railway line close to train time, I missed being able to stand on the bridge and photograph the train as it approached. And there were two trains! One to Aberdeen and one to Inverness and I missed both of them.
As we still had other things we wanted/needed to do, we didn’t walk any further but turned and made our way back along the footpath, this time taking a different route and coming out at the B9002 at the opposite end of Kennethmont.
One of the things we needed to do was laundry, and even though the wash machine at Earlsfield was offered, with it being so close to when we’d be leaving, I needed a tumble dryer to ensure everything washed was dry by the time we packed up to leave. My luck, had I hung them on the line, it would have poured rain and there I’d be with a load of soggy clothes.
Laundry in the car, we drove up into Huntly to the launderette which had since moved from its location known to us (Bogie Street) right onto the main street going into the town (Gordon Street). This location was far more convenient. After our laundry was washed, dried and folded, we walked up to the square and the Brander Library. They were the only one I sent a book launch poster to that acknowledged receiving it. I asked if they would like to purchase a copy of my book for their branch and was told that all acquisitions had to go through the branch in Old Meldrum. She did take some of my postcards and bookmarks. I thanked her for her time and we went back to the car.
The rain that had fallen earlier had stopped. No bright sunshine yet but at least no rain. Since I had wanted to see Auchindoun Castle for years and it wasn’t too far from Huntly, that was the direction I pointed the car in.
When we arrived at the small car park (essentially just a wee lay-by) along the A941, it was spitting rain again. We grabbed our outerwear and started up the footpath which is actually a road up to two farms. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the steel beams running across the road at regular intervals to keep it from washing out in heavy rains. The photo doesn’t really show how steep the incline was but trust me, it was.
I think the fact there were some ominous, black cloud looming when we got to a vantage point where we could see the castle added to the atmosphere of the place.
Now that we finally reached the last of our journey up the hill, we still had some climbing to do. We didn’t realize it until we were leaving but if you walked along the fence line, there was a far less steep approach to the castle. Oh well, this was all part of the experience.
By now we had seen and done everything we wanted to at the castle, so we picked our way back down the hill to the road and our car. Our next stop was the Walker Shortbread Company where we picked up some shorties to bring home and some to have whilst we were away.
After getting stocked up, we headed to the Aberlour Distillery. Hubby had enjoyed the sampling the night before so we thought we would take their tour. It was a bit disappointing to find out they only do two tours a day and they had just filled the final two places for the 2:00 pm tour fifteen minutes before we arrived. Still, we were told we could walk about the property and take pictures… so I did.
The cemetery at Rhynie was one of the stops we wanted to make today since we hadn’t got there yet. We could have taken the main roads into Huntly and down the A97 to get there but what fun is there in that? Instead, we went down the A941, waving as we went past Auchindoun Castle.
I had an ulterior motive for taking this route even though the road in the middle section isn’t the widest or affords the best places to pull over when meeting traffic. The small Essie Cemetery is on this road and Essie is mentioned as places my ancestors came from. So I had to investigate, now didn’t I?
All along the road the heather was blooming on the hills and until this point never in a location where a body could pull over. Then, the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t let it pass.
When we arrived at the small Essie cemetery, we tromped around but found no one related. Or if they were, I’ve not come across their names in my genealogy – yet.
After our short prowl here, we carried on to the village of Rhynie and the cemetery (where I do have relatives).
This is my great-grandparents’ (on my dad’s mother’s side) grave and one of their children, although we’ve never been able to find a birth or death registration for him. Things that make you go hmm…
Probably the most interesting thing here at Rhynie is the Gordon vault built into the back wall.
Oh yeah, and a lean-to at the far end of the car park where three Pictish, sculptured stones are on display protected from the elements.
From here we went on a bit of a cross-country adventure where we drove past the restaurant in Auchleven (The Hunters Moon) where we would be having supper the next night and before we knew it, we were in Alford. Unfortunately, we were too late to tour the Grampian Transport Museum properly as they were closing in fifteen minutes at 5:00 pm, we did get to see a Dalek in the Tourist Information and museum gift shop.
Right after I took this photo, it came towards me shouting in its Dalek voice, “Exterminate!”. Not every nice…
For a day that was free, we managed to do a great deal – and we weren’t done yet! We went back to Huntly, this time by way of the two main roads – the A944 and the A97 where we stopped in at the Tesco for an Indian takeaway, bottle of wine, another poncho and a long-sleeved sweater for me. When the sun was out, it was lovely and warm but when it wasn’t it got cool and long sleeves were nice, especially in the evenings.
After eating our supper, we decided to take advantage of the fact that the sun came out and we walked up to the stone circle on the farm. Our hosts gave us each a pair of wellies and off we went up the road to the top of the hill and through the five-bar gate at the top.
The cows were at hoot on our way up. When we got what they thought was too close they ran off, but it wasn’t long before they were hanging around and following us – the nosy parkers.
They scattered shortly after this picture was taken.
See what I mean about being nosy? Had to see exactly what we were doing up there.
See, it really is visible from the stone circle if you know where to look.
We started back towards the gate and the cows closed ranks between us and it. As we moved closer they parted – slowly – and allowed us passage. Even the bull didn’t move any faster than need be and we didn’t see him at all on the way to the stone circle. I think before he got bored with us, I was only about four feet from him. When he sauntered off, the rest of the herd took their cue from him and off they went.
The gate might not have been chained quite the same way, but I made sure it was secure and we started down the road, this time to be greeted by the “ladies” in the field across the road from the stone circle.
Now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Tomorrow is a big day for me, not because we’re travelling but because it’s launch day for A Shadow in the Past at the Rannes Hall! Wish me luck!
It’s time to Rock And Roll in earnest! Yes, Nicky Wells is here to celebrate the upcoming launch of Sophie’s Encore. Three cheers for the third book in her Rock Star Romance Trilogy!!!
“I’m so excited to share with you, finally, this third installment in Sophie and Dan’s epic romance! Thank you for coming to celebrate with me. Read on for:
The fantabulous giveaway!
But most of all, enjoy yourself and party hard! Are you ready?”
Her rock star is waiting in the wings, but will he get a second chance?
It’s all change for Sophie Jones—only this time, there is more at stake than just her happiness.
Rock star extraordinaire, Dan Hunter, has been her patient and caring friend through the highs and lows since her wedding day, but now he figures it is time for her to start over. By stealth, the rock singer draws Sophie into the behind-the-scenes work for his band’s latest album. Through the days and weeks spent together at the mixing desk, Sophie discovers whole new horizons for her life, yet before she can even begin to explore them, she faces the very real threat of losing her rock star for good.
Join Sophie and Dan in Sophie’s Encore to find out how their journey will end…
Happy, exhilarated, bereft. Or: how it feels to finish a Trilogy.
It’s done. My third book, Sophie’s Encore, has hit the virtual shelves. The long-awaited conclusion to the epic romance between my girl-next-door, Sophie, and rock star extraordinaire, Dan, is written and published for the world to see. I’m not saying how it’s gonna end but… You wanted to know how it feels to get to The End. Well, let me see….
The beginning of the end: the writing of Sophie’s Encore
Monday, 8 October 2012. 9:30 am.
Cup of tea—check.
Laptop at the ready—check.
Plotline tacked to the wall—check.
I start typing. “So how is Dan?”
To my great surprise, I find that my hands are shaking. This is it. I’m going to bring the story to an end. I’m starting on the last leg of the journey, and I’m frightened. I know where I’m going, of course, but what will I do when I get there?
Sophie, Dan and me: Long-time friends
For eight years now, Sophie and Dan have lived in my head. For the past two years, they’ve been my and my family’s constant companion. Between us, we have talked about them as though they were real persons. But when I’m done, I’ll have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes.
Still, there’s nothing for it but to forge ahead, so I start writing fast and furiously. As I’m working my way through my meticulous plan, I make some astounding discoveries.
The devil and the detail and all that…
First of all, chronology matters. Doh, right? Evidently I’ve planned the Trilogy in great detail, and still things trip me up. Ages, mostly. Sophie was 28 when the Trilogy started, and Dan was 38. They had birthdays ‘in between’ books and also quite prominently in Sophie’s Run, when Sophie celebrates her 30th birthday with astounding consequences, and Dan his 40th with ditto.
But time’s moved on. More birthdays have been had and other life-changing events have transpired. I find myself referring back to Sophie and Dan’s early romance as having been seven years ago. Oh, hang on, wasn’t it eight? Or maybe nine? *Cue nail-biting* Turns out that counting back in years yields a slightly different answer than counting back in ages.
My solution? More planning. I make a large table with twelve columns for months and several rows for years passed. I mark birthdays. I make the start and end of each book. I mark key events. I figure it out.
Next up, I’ve grown. My outlook has changed, and my perspective on Sophie and Dan’s fate has changed. Moreover, narrated time between books has passed, so Sophie herself has grown. I decide to tackle that issue head-on by having Sophie, Dan and Rachel reflect on how things are different for them, now.
I get so involved in fine-tuning these last details that I completely forget about the pain of goodbye as I feverishly approach the finishing line.
Done, done, done!
It’s end of January 2013 by the time I finishSophie’s Encore. While I don’t exactly write the words, “The End”, I definitely know that this is the end, and do you know what? I shed a little tear or three. Happy tears, I hasten to add. And proud tears. I feel bereft and exhilarated at the same time.
Onwards and upwards
To stem the floods, I move on immediately. I start planning book 4; a new book, a new story, new characters, a fresh start. I mock up a cover for Sophie’s Encore. I launch Sophie’s Run. I conceive of a completely unscheduled mini-project that gets planned, written and completed in the space of four or five weeks. I edit Sophie’s Encore. I start writing book 4. See? There’s no standing still here, the only way is forward. I’ve dried those tears and launched myself headlong into new adventures.
So watch out, here I come! I have a surprise for you later this year, and my fourth full-length book, Fallen For Rock, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2014. Meanwhile, happy reading of Sophie’s Encore! I’d love to hear what you think!!
Party Time — The ENCORE PARTY!!
Join in the release day fun!! Come on and party with Nicky — On her blog On Facebook
On Twitter — #SophiesEncore
Moreover! In honor of the launch, the first two books in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy are available on Kindle for only $0.99/£0.77 for a limited time only!
If you haven’t already got them, go get them here:
If you’ve already read them, share the joy and spread the word!
Party Time — The GIVEAWAY!!!
1 x signed Sophie’s Encore Poster
2 x Sophie’s Encore Mugs
1 x Sophie’s Run Mug
1 x $10 Amazon Gift Voucher (or equivalent currency)
2 x Sophie’s Encore Key Ring
1 x Sophie’s Run Key Ring
2 x “Swag Pack” featuring 2 postcards (1 signed) each for all three Rock Star Romance books, and 2 bookmarks each for Sophie’s Turn and Sophie’s Run
The giveaway closes 30 September at 12 midnight BST.
Entrants must be 18 or over. Giveaway is open internationally.
About Nicky Wells
Nicky Wells is your ultimate rock chick author. Signed to US Publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, Nicky writes Romance That Rocks Your World, featuring the rock star and the girl next door.
Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous contemporary romance with a rock theme ~ imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill!
Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln. In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C. Like her leading lady, Sophie, Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor to The Midweek Drive show on Lincoln’s Siren 107.3 FM. Rock on!
Whoa! What a party! I hope you enjoyed yourself. Thank you again for stopping by Celtic Connexions today to help me celebrate. Happy reading and rock on! And don’t forget to say ‘hi’, I’d love to hear from you and I will come back to chat later!
The idea of driving into Aberdeen didn’t thrill me even though I’ve done it on previous trips but not all the way into the heart of the city. It probably wasn’t so much the idea of driving as it was the idea of finding a place to leave the car relatively close to the library for the entire day without having to run back periodically and pay to stay longer.
Even before we left Canada, we had pretty much decided on driving from Earlsfield Farm to Insch and catching the train there.
The station isn’t manned but there was a self-serve kiosk outside where you could purchase your tickets (in 2000 we bought our tickets on the train) so we did then hung out on the platform while we waited for the Inverness to Aberdeen train to arrive.
If you look really closely at the mountain in the background, you can see the tip of the hillfort just poking up.
The train arrived a few minutes before its scheduled departure time to allow folks already on the train to get off and those of us waiting time to board and get settled. It appeared that seats were at a premium because the majority in the carriage we were on had reserved tags inserted in the slot in the top of the seat back. We found a couple of empty seats reserved for stations the train had already passed through and took them. Who would book passage on a specific train then not turn up at the station? I know I certainly wouldn’t.
We passed by Aberdeen airport and as we did, a helicopter was landing. Seeing that sparked me to look for Bond’s headquarters (used in another manuscript in progress) as I had Google street-viewed them before. Knowing roughly where they were located and the colour of their building made it easier and I spotted it almost immediately.
The Central Library was a short walk up from the train station so we made our way there. I wanted to soak in some Aberdeen atmosphere and didn’t want to cart books about with us. I had already made arrangements to drop them off on our arrival.
On our way to the library, we saw this street sign and I just had to take a picture of it. It would have been better with hubby in the picture, too, but this will have to do… for now. Besides with the steps and the railings, I’m not sure how well I could have framed the entire shot with him in it.
After relieving ourselves of the bag of books and using the facilities, we went on a short tour of Aberdeen – across Rosemount Viaduct, which changes names to Schoolhill (where it passes over Denburn Road, and latterly Upperkirkgate. Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate were streets I mentioned in previous drafts of my novel. Then it was down Broad Street in front of the magnificent Marischal College building (now home to the Aberdeen City Council). Even on the opposite side of the street, the building was so massive I couldn’t get all of it into the frame at once, not to mention we were on a bit of a time constraint to see the things I wanted to and photograph them and get back to the library on time to go on our lunch date.
From Broad Street, we continued on Queen Street past the Grampian Police Headquarters then Shoe Lane where we reached King Street and turned right heading for the top of Union Street and the Castlegate.
Aberdeen in the sunshine is a truly, beautiful place. The granite buildings sparkle. After this brief photo session, we quickly returned to the library via Union Street and Union Terrace, alongside the Union Terrace Gardens.
We were a bit late getting back to the library, but not everyone who was going out to lunch was available. Once everyone was gathered by the main desk, we set out to this as yet undisclosed location. I remember we walked up Skene Terrace then kept going at the end of the street. I’m pretty sure we ended up on Huntly Street at Mi Amore (confirm with library staff) a lovely Italian, Mediterranean restaurant.
When we returned, I was given a tour of the local studies department which was the area that helped me so much with my research and will also play a role in the sequel to A Shadow in the Past.
My friend, 2009 Dundee International Book Prize winner, Chris Longmuir, came up from her seaside town by train to be there for me. We had a wee natter and I signed the copy of my book that she had bought from amazon.co.uk earlier in the year.
Another of my online writer friends, Bill Kirton popped in, too. It was brilliant to finally meet him in person. We chatted briefly before it was “show time”!
Only ten people had pre-registered for the event with the library so I was well chuffed to see more like twenty people filling the seats. I chose what I hoped was an enticing segment from early in A Shadow in the Past and began.
When I was finished my reading, I fielded questions and answers related to A Shadow in the Past and my friends, Chris and Bill, encouraged me to write a book on Home Children – possibly from the child’s point-of-view.
As if I hadn’t already been treated like royalty by the library staff, they presented me with a tote bag filled with books from their Local Studies Department and two Waterstones giftcards.
It was an amazing day. Everyone in attendance enjoyed by presentation but best of all, I sold and signed three copies of A Shadow in the Past.
When it was finally time to leave, Bill walked with us as far as Union Street where we said our goodbyes. Chris accompanied us as far as the train station where we parted company when she discovered there was a train home that she might be able to make.
Our train left shortly after Chris’s so we headed towards the platform and waited. It felt good to finally relax on the train and recall the day’s events. At the Insch station, we doddled about waiting for the car park to clear before we got in and headed for ‘home’ with a detour up to Huntly for a bite of supper (not that we needed it) so we grabbed a couple of sarnies and packets of crisps from the ASDA and a bottle of wine to replace the one mine hostess at Earlsfield cracked open when we arrived.
Later that evening, the guys cracked open mine host’s bottle of 18 year old Aberlour (after having our 18 year old Glenlivet the night before) and I carried on with wine. More than once, we toasted a successful day.
And before I forget… wait, I did forget… my bad. Anyway, better late than never, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Since it was only a half an hour drive we decided we would do some other things before making the short trip. So, we started by going in the opposite direction and visited the Cardhu Distillery.
Here we sampled two of their own single malts (again, I could only take the very smallest of sips since I was the driver) – an 18 year old and a 12 year old, and one from a sister distillery back in Dufftown – Singleton. Like The Glenlivet, not all of Cardhu’s whisky is stored on site. They have it at other locations throughout the country and store the amber nectar for others at their location. That way, heaven forbid, if there is ever a fire, a distillery’s stock isn’t completely wiped out.
Next we were off to the location of the former Ladysbridge Asylum. I found this place on a Victorian Ordnance Survey map when I was writing my novel and decided to use it. If I recall correctly, on the map it was labelled Lunatic Asylum. They certainly didn’t mince their words back then.
The main building has been converted to flats/apartments and on the opposite side of the street, a housing estate/subdivision is in various stages of development.
This is one of the original buildings that hasn’t been restored. There was another one between here and the main building in this same state of disrepair but the trees were too thick to be able to get a good photo of it. On our way to Ladysbridge, hubby spotted a castle in the middle of a field so rather than go straight back to the main road, we took one of the minor roads and weren’t disappointed. This got us as close as possible to the castle without venturing on to private property.
I still haven’t found the name of this castle but I’ve not given up. It will be on one of the maps or in one of the books that I have here.
I’ve visited the Gartly churchyard more than once in the past, figuring I had ancestors buried here as I had seen Gartly in various documents but on those previous visits, I wasn’t far enough back in my family tree to be able to find the stone(s). This time, I did know.
Unfortunately, the stone is very difficult to read but it is definitely my great-great grandparents through my dad’s mother. Since we still had plenty of time before we had to be at Earlsfield Farm, we decided we would check out yet another churchyard where I knew I had family (this time Robertsons) so back into the car and down to the Royal Borough of Insch – or just Insch for short. Hubby and I prowled through a cemetery in Insch (in the pouring rain, even) on a previous visit only to discover later on that there was a churchyard at the other end of the village – a much older one.
Many of the old stones here were impossible to read – the stonework had flaked off the face of the stone entirely or the stones had toppled (or been toppled) and were lying face down. I was afraid that my Robertson stone would be in that state but luckily, even though it was lying on the ground, it was face up and in good condition.
By now it was getting late enough, not to mention the need for a WC (shall we say was getting rather urgent) that we could make our way back to Earlsfield farm. Hugs and kisses from our hosts and good friends and we got the car unloaded and had a wee catch-up with them. Being a working farm, there was still work to do and it would be 6:00 or shortly after before we could have a proper sit down with them. Since we still had some time, I wanted to go and take some more pictures while the weather remained on our side. I fell in love with this old heap the very first time I clapped eyes on it when the trees were growing through the confines of the walls and knew that it would play a huge role in my life.
We parked outside the works entrance to the site and walked back along the road until we came to a vantage point where we could see the mansion without trees obstructing the view. The plan is to convert it into flats (seven luxury ones, if I recall correctly). After being derelict for so long, it will be wonderful to see it intact once again. Once I got my photos, we went back to the car and found our way to the car park at the bottom of Dunnideer.
The first part of the trek up the hill was hard enough but after we got about halfway up, it got harder. The incline became steeper and it was riddled with rabbit holes.
The climb was worth every moment, despite me having to stop periodically to catch my breath. I took advantage of those breaks for photo ops and we tried to see if we could spot the steeple of the remains of St Drostan’s Kirk. Too many trees to be sure but we thought we saw it, or it was only a chimney tile.
The views from the top of the hill were breathtaking. Don’t you agree? It seemed everywhere we were to this point was quite windy, and on top of Dunnideer it was extremely so. It was hard to hold the camera steady.
Even within the confines of the remaining walls, way still taller than me (not that it’s difficult) the wind gusted. We stayed and admired the view for a bit longer before making our way back to Earlsfield Farm where we ordered Chinese from the takeaway in Kennethmont. Each time we’ve stayed here at Earlsfield, we’ve had this room – even on my first solo trip back in 1993! The only difference back then was there was no ensuite.
We spent a truly enjoyable evening with the family in their dining/living room catching up on one another’s news. Even though it was only a short drive from Dufftown to Kennethmont, we made a full day out of it. After all, the only other free day we would have whilst staying in the area would be the Friday and there was no guarantee the weather would cooperate.
So… let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!!!
Tomorrow will be another busy day as we’re off into Aberdeen where I’ll be presenting a copy of my book to the library, doing a reading, and hopefully selling loads of books.
We woke this morning to sunshine and blue sky – a wonderful start to the day. However, the low hanging clouds loomed nearby shrouding the tops of the mountains. After the first day, we knew all too well what that meant. However, we didn’t come to Scotland for the weather.
As we got further inland, the skies cleared even more and it became a gorgeous day for travelling. Not too hot, not too cool. Just right. We stopped just past the town of Laggan at the dam since the sun was out so bright at the time.
Something else I had wanted to see for some time after seeing it online was the old bridge at Carrbridge. Since we had plenty of time, we made the side trip into the community in search of the bridge but even more importantly, the much-needed WC, which was easier to find than the bridge – thankfully.
For us, no trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to an old churchyard and some sculptured stones. We got both at the Inveravon churchyard. The sculptured stones were secured away from the elements inside an alcove in the church.
Once we arrived in Dufftown, we stopped at Balvenie Castle even though we had visited there in the past. We rejoined Historic Scotland (after letting our memberships lapse a few years ago) before we came over so it was time to start using it to our advantage.
After we established the location of our B&B – Fernbank House – we decided to take a distillery tour since we had plenty of time before we had to check in. We waffled at bit on which one we’d go to, Cardhu or Glenlivet and for today, the latter won.
At the end of the tour we got to sample the product. We’ve both had the 12 year old Glenlivet so I chose the 15 year old and Don the 18 year old. I could only have the smallest of portions since I’m the driver when we’re in Scotland so I had not even a full mouthful of mine and an even smaller taste of Don’s but man was it smooth. We enjoyed it so much we bought a bottle. Will it make it home with us? Not likely, but that’s another story. After our distillery tour, we checked in at Fernbank House.
The upstairs window on the left is our room and the smaller one in the middle is our ‘private’ bathroom.
Once we were checked in, we walked back into Dufftown (about a 20 minute jaunt) where we had chicken curry and sticky toffee pudding for dessert at The Stuart Arms Bar & Restaurant. Good thing we were on foot. We needed to walk off all those calories… LOL!
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Tomorrow we’re off to Kennethmont but are hoping to do a few other things before our arrival there since it’s so close. The Cardhu Distillery is one our stops, possibly up to the location of the asylum in A Shadow in the Past, Auchindoin Castle, the Gartly and Insch churchyards. But that’s another day.
We woke to bright sunshine this morning in contrast to the mostly grey, dreich weather after our arrival. Before leaving Oban, since the weather wasn’t suitable yesterday, we decided to make the trek up the ‘hill’ to McCaig’s Tower.
It’s a good thing the views from up there are spectacular, because the drive up to the tower were far from it. Narrow streets, stone walls, parked cars. I might be 50 shades greyer after the drive.
I offered to take a photo for a young couple since he was taking pictures of her. It’s not often on holiday you get photos of you together. They were very appreciative of the gesture. Afterwards, the guy thought he would try to walk along the narrow ledge on the wall to the next opening. He succeeded but not without a helping hand.
We went our separate ways for a bit. We went out onto the observation platform outside the tower for some photos. It was considerably cooler out there without the stone walls to protect you from the wind.
Shortly after coming back within the ‘warmth’ of the tower, we met the couple from earlier. This time they returned the favour and he took a picture of Don and me together.
Before we left, I took one last photo from within the confines of McCaig’s Tower.
Next it was off to Fort William as we had a date with the Jacobite Steam train that we didn’t want to miss.
I’m not sure why yesterday I was convinced our rental car was a Skoda. Perhaps only functioning on a couple of hours’ sleep on the plane? Once I got a good night’s sleep in, I clearly realized that the car was, in fact, a Vauxhall. Still a six speed manual and the driving today went even better than yesterday. Again, maybe because I was better rested?
There was no parking available at the train station so we came back to the B&B we had booked for tonight to see if we could leave our car there since we were checking in tonight. Well, they bent over backwards to accommodate us – brought us to the house adjacent to the main building where we’d be staying and we were checked in straight away.
A couple from couple from the continent sat in the seats opposite us on the train. We were all quiet until he got a phone call and then pronounced loudly “they’re idiots!”. Well that cracked us up and from that moment on, we visited with them.
As the train approached the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka Harry Potter’s Bridge, it slowed allowing us to get some wonderful photographs.
We stopped at the Glenfinnan Station a short ride up the tracks for about twenty minutes where we could get off the train, stretch our legs and take photographs. Then it was back on the train to continue our journey to Mallaig.
It was really hard to tell if this church was still used or not because of its remoteness to anything and the plainness of the structure. What’s your call judging by the photo below?
The heather grew in clumps along the rail line but in places way too close (I thought) to be able to get a decent photograph. But I was wrong. Still, the mountains weren’t as purple with it as I had hoped. Maybe we have to get a bit further north?
The end of the line at Mallaig, and I mean the end. After the train stopped everyone rushed to the street to get a photo of it. Me included. I waited a few moments and as soon as a free spot appeared next to the stone wall, I squeezed in and got this picture.
We decided on our way to Mallaig that depending on the size of the bottle of champagne on offer (for a fee, naturally) we would get a bottle for the ride home.
After a poke around Mallaig, we stopped at the fish and chip takeaway, got an order of fish and chips each, then sat on a bench on the platform and ate them. After all, we didn’t want to get pished (as they say here) and fall off the train when we got back to Fort William.
On our return journey, our seats were on the opposite side of the train and our carriage was closer to the back due to the way they turned it around. We got different views this time, but our friends from the continent were our seat mates again.
Once the train got rolling, the bottle of champagne and two glasses were brought to our table. Don asked for two more and after they were brought to us, he opened the bottle. It had been shaken enough with the jostling of the train, being picked up and sat down that when it was opened, it sprayed all over everything and everyone – including people across the aisle!
On the way to Mallaig, we saw a herd of about ten deer on the mountain. We were hoping we’d see some on our way back and we weren’t disappointed although there weren’t as many this time round.
After sharing our bottle of champagne (what didn’t get sprayed away) – and yes, it burns your eyes – our companions bought us each a beer and we continued our journey in convivial company.
Just outside Fort William, we crossed over the Caledonian Canal and the locks known as Neptune’s Staircase.
As we were getting ready to detrain, a young couple across the aisle asked us which part of Ontario we were from (as they had overheard our conversation) and come to find out they were from Ottawa – basically in our own backyard.
We said goodbye to our companions and made our way back to our B&B.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
At 11:00 pm last night I still hadn’t got all the pictures I wanted for this post downloaded. I was a bit bleary-eyed from being up so late so decided to finish up this morning.
After our breakfast, our next destination is Dufftown. will post more tonight.
My Scottish roots and writing by Melanie Robertson-King