When I was a child, my family would gather round the radiogram and play old 78’s. One of their favourites was Granny’s Heilan’ Hame sung by Kenneth McKellar and by the time the record finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
I hadn’t thought about that song in years but when we left the Black Isle and headed towards Brora I saw a sign Granny’s Heilan Hame and it triggered some happy memories. I researched the eponymous granny ( Kate Mackay), and discovered more about her and the song, including a photograph of her highland home.
Rain bucketing down we headed for Golspie and the campsite at Brora. The wind dropped enough to allow us to explore the sand dunes and we had the glorious beach almost to ourselves. We considered taking the single track rail journey to Wick the next day but were talked out of it by a fellow camper who said that most of the journey was between brown hills dotted with telegraph poles. Next time, maybe.
If you do find yourself in Brora consider visiting Dunrobin Castle. (see turrets in photo on right) We’d visited years before so we headed up the A9 instead for Dunnet Bay and the Castle of Mey. We thought that touring Scotland in September the camping/caravan sites would be empty – not so. The popularity of Route 500 meant that sites were very busy and it’s wise to book ahead.
That’s me pointing at a dead jellyfish on the beach (one of many!) and the view from our caravan window over Dunnet Bay. Bit stormy as you can see, but no midges.
Next day we drove into Thurso. Being used to large towns and cities I turned my nose up at the rather old fashioned shop fronts. Once inside the shops, I revised my opinion, I found them to be well-stocked and the staff were very helpful and welcoming. So don’t drive past Thurse, take time to stop and look around. The following day we visited John o’ Groats. We hadn’t been there in twenty years so we were surprised to find it vastly improved, – fabulous cafe. cool gift shop, free wifi, and the best roast beef sandwich ever.
I was glad I was able to get on the internet because there was a message from Amazon offering me a three month #PRIME deal on Boot Camp Bride. I had to reply before the end of the day. Did I accept? You bet I did.
We decided to visit the Queen Mum’s former home at the Castle of Mey and had a guided tour which made it well worth the visit. It’s a pity it wasn’t high summer because we were told that the rose gardens there are something else. The castle was very comfortable and I could have easily have lived there because it wasn’t too large – and it had central heating (!)
The next day, as we drove through Thurso, we were held up to allow a police convoy to pass us by at high speed. It consisted of outriders on motorbikes, and a couple of large vehicles packed with armed officers wearing SWAT gear and carrying machine guns. We never found out what the drama was, but we wondered if it was a drill or something similar. Anyhoo, undeterred, we moved on – past the former nuclear plant at Dounreay and towards our goal, BettyHill.
I’ve always wanted to visit Bettyhill because that was my maiden name, and I remember as a child wondering why a place in the remote north of Scotland shared a name with me. Just as we were travelling along the rather narrow road (sans caravan, obvs) we drove past over a thousand cyclists – luckily going the other way – on the last leg of the Lands’ End/ John O’ Groats Ride Across Britain . We stopped at the Bettyhill Hotel and had coffee and a bacon butty while we watched them swoosh past. Brave souls. Here are two stragglers . . . and a view from the hotel dining room.
Then it was on to Bettyhill. I discovered that the Countess of Sutherland had built it as a replacement village the to rehouse 15, 000 tenants removed from prime sheep grazing land as part of the Highland Clearances. The Countess (Elizabeth) named the village after herself and probably considered that she’d looked after her former tenants/crofters well. We might have a different take on that nowadays. Read some of the first-hand accounts of the distress caused by the clearances and make up your own mind.
One of the places we would have loved to visit and camp overnight is Altnaharra but everything we read advised against taking a caravan to the site. So we pressed on the Durness and my favourite cafe – Cocoa Mountain – and the best hot chocolate in the world. But I’ll tell you more about that in my next blog post.
Meantime, if you haven’t read any of my novels, check out the blurbs and download one from Amazon. Paperbacks also available.
I’ve just finished proofreading my latest novel – Take Me, I’m Yours – which will be published July 2018. If you’d like to learn more about THAT, subscribe to my newsletter and be in with a chance to even win a signed paperback and other goodies.
Hi everyone – I’m delighted to share my news with you.
GIRL IN THE CASTLE has been long listed for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Click on the arrow to watch this promo.
I’ve got my fingers and everything else crossed that I make the short list.
💕Perhaps you’d like to read Girl in the Castle or buy a paperback copy for someone for Valentine’s Day? 💕 Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite –
Her academic career in tatters, Dr Henriette Bruar needs somewhere to lay low, plan her comeback and restore her tarnished reputation. Fate takes her to a remote Scottish castle to auction the contents of an ancient library to pay the laird’s mounting debts. The family are in deep mourning over a tragedy which happened years before, resulting in a toxic relationship between the laird and his son, Keir MacKenzie. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the MacKenzies to confront the past and move on. However – will the Girl in the Castle be able to return to university once her task is completed, and leave gorgeous, sexy Keir MacKenzie behind?If you want to read an extract from Girl in the Castle, you can do so here.
I’m also offering a #GIVEAWAY of a paperback copy of Girl in the Castle on Goodreads (US only, sorry). You have until February 15th to enter.
Two years ago I was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize with Scotch on the Rocks. If you would like to read about that occasion, here’s the link –
Finally . . . yesterday, New Romantics Press travelled to London for the launch of Adrienne Vaughan’s new novel – That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel. We had a fabulous time. If you’d like to see the photos and read the blog post, here it is . . . Have a great weekend and keep on writing, reading and reviewing.
Hi, I’m RAPHAEL FONSECA-FFINCH – 38 – campaigning journalist and adrenalin junkie, born of dual Scottish-Brazilian heritage. Hence the name. Despite what is says in my passport I’m a citizen of no country and travel the world alone in search of the next scoop, the next headline-grabbing story. My life is solitary and often dangerous, but that’s my choice. I have a driven personality and that makes me hard to live with. I have no time for emotional entanglements and that, conversely, makes women eager to ‘be the one’ to tame my free spirit.
I’ve staked out a Boot Camp for Brides on the Norfolk marshes which I believe a Columbian cartel is using to smuggle drugs into the UK. I need to gain access to the camp, and for that, I need a ‘fake fiancée’. I’ve found one in the shape of rookie journalist Charlie Montague. However, I’m a lone wolf and concerned that taking on a partner will slow me down. Worse still – that shaking her off at the end of the assignment will prove harder than dodging the cartel’s bullets.
Acquiring a phoney fiancee will enable me to enter and leave the boot camp without arousing suspicion.
On paper, Montague seems ideal – keen to learn, smart enough to accept any terms and anxious to work alongside me. So far, so good; so why do I have the uneasy feeling I’ve caught a tiger by the tail? That, given half a chance she’ll go off-piste and do her own thing? There’s something about her which attracts me. God forbid that she will be the one who succeeds where others have failed. Bringing me to my knees and forcing me to admit that, underneath the hard-bitten exterior I’ve cultivated, I’m as lonely and emotionally vulnerable as the next man.
At the end of the assignment, will I be able to walk away from the Boot Camp Bride?
If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also hop to all the stops on the Book Boyfriend Blog, collect the candidate’s name at each stop, then submit all 30 names to the same address in order to be entered into the GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY. This giveaway includes a Kindle Paperwhite + 30 e-books, one from each of the authors participating in the hop. Entries for the hop will be accepted until Sunday, May 21st at midnight – EDT.
A winner will be chosen on Monday, May 22nd.
I’ll be gifting Boot Camp Bride so you can read how Charlie and Rafa’s love story unfolds.
If you can’t wait that long, Boot Camp Bride is currently on Kindle Countdown at 99p/99c
And the winner of our Grand Prize is Kathy Davis. I have already contacted Kathy and her new Kindle Paperwhite is on the way to her. As soon as she receives the e-reader and sets it up, we can each gift her a copy of the e-book we promised.
Here are all the participating blogs
Tracie Banister http://traciebanister.blogspot.com/
Becky Monson https://www.beckymonson.com/blog
Hilary Grossman http://www.feelingbeachie.com
Glynis Astie http://www.glynisastie.com/blog
Jayne Denker http://jaynedenker.com
Jennie Marts http://www.jenniemarts.com/blog.html
Barbara Valentin https://barbaravalentin.com/blog/
Beth Labonte http://www.secretary4life.com
Victoria Cooke https://victoriacooke10.wordpress.com/
Holly Kerr http://hollykerr.ca/my-blog/
Meredith Schorr http://www.meredithschorr.com
Stacey Wiedower http://www.staceywiedower.com/blog/
Laurie Baxter http://lauriebaxter.com/blog/
Jennifer Farwell http://jenniferfarwell.com/#blog
Natalina Reis https://catarinadeobidos.wordpress.com/about/
Celia Kennedy http://www.womanreinventsself.blogspot.com
Beth Carter http://banterwithbeth.blogspot.com/
Ellyn Oaksmith http://ellynoaksmith.com/
BJ Knapp http://bjknapp.com/blog
Lizzie Lamb https://lizzielamb.co.uk/lizzies-scribbles/
Sylvia Ashby http://sylvia-ashby.com/?cat=64
Karen M. Cox http://karenmcox.merytonpress.com/blog/
Lindsay Detwiler http://www.lindsaydetwiler.com/
Kirsty McManus http://www.kirstymcmanus.com.au/category/blog-news/
Melissa Baldwin http://www.authormelissabaldwin.com/news.html
Geralyn Corcillo http://thingsthatmakemegommmrrh.blogspot.com
Cassandra O’Leary http://www.cassandraolearyauthor.com/blog/
Cat Lavoie http://www.catlavoie.com/blog
Kate O’Keeffe http://kateokeeffe.com/blog
Monique McDonell http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/blog