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