Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Beauty of Caithness, Scotland

When I decided to write Highland Sanctuary, I wanted a setting that wasn't as well known in Scotland. I had heard and read many novels set in Galloway, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. When I discovered Caithness, while researching historic castles, I found my ideal setting. 

Caithness, is a now a county in the far northern tip of Scotland, nestled against the sea. Formerly part of the shire of Inverness, it gained independence in 1455 when the Earl of Caithness gained a grant of of the justiciary or sheriffdom. 

It's beautiful--and different from the rest of the country. For instance, the land is open and flat, lacking trees and forest, known as moorland and covered in peat moss. A few hills are scattered about, but not the kind of mountains often associated in photos of the highlands. Caithness contains plenty of lochs and bog areas. 

In Highland Sanctuary, I created the fictional town of Braighwick and the wee Village of Braigh. This gave me the freedom to create the people and layout of the town, as needed for the purposes of my story. Braigh Castle was based on the ruins of Brough Castle. 

While my characters spoke the same English with a slight Scottish brogue as in my debut novel, Highland Blessings, it's worth noting the language variations in historic Caithness. The area was first inhabited by the Picts, whose language is unknown. By 800 AD the Norse occupied Caithness, and later the Gaelic speakers colonized the area from Scandinavia before the English arrived. Therefore, variations of Norse, Gaelic and English was spoken in different areas of Caithness. 

Another important development in Caithness that affected my story in Highland Sanctuary, was the established religion. By 1473, when my novel takes place, The Church of Scotland, a Catholic denomination, was well established in Caithness and throughout the country. Civil administration parishes were the same as the Church. The Cathedral in my novel is also a product of my imagination after I read about the history of Dornoch Cathedral and Halkirk Highland. The Scottish Reformation of 1560 introduced Protestant theology and in 1689 established the Presbyterian form of church government. 

About Photo
The first photo is looking north toward Halkirk in which my characters ride through at one point in Highland Sanctuary.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brough Castle (Braigh Castle)

Brough Castle was located at the northern tip of Scotland in Caithness on a long narrow promontory by the sea. It has also been known as the Castle of Braigh, and therefore, is the basis for Braigh Castle in my new novel Highland Sanctuary, scheduled to be released October 2011. There is also a Brough Castle in Cumbria, England, but it is a different castle known by the same name.

One of the reasons I chose this castle as the setting is because the original structure no longer exists and there is no documented history on the castle. We only have archaeological data to determine what we think it might have looked like and how it might have been designed, which leaves me lots of room for my over-active imagination.

Based on the layout features of what is believed to have been Brough Castle, it resembles the layout and size of Castle of Old Wick and was most likely built in the early 14th century. Andrew Spratt used this information to reconstruct a couple of drawings of what he believes may have been a likeness to Brough Castle. 

These drawings were very helpful to me, as I created the fictional world of Braigh Castle and the characters that will appear in Highland Sanctuary. If you'd like to see these drawings, go here. Also, at this link are photos of the Brough Castle site from the air and more detailed information written by Robert Wilson Richmond, go here for the air photos