Finlairig in the Sidebar

This week's picture in the sidebar is of Castle Finlairig, an unexpected find during my trip to Scotland.

When I knew I was going to make the trip, I carefully planned my itinerary to include the places Shawn, Niall, and Amy would see and experience.  One of Shawn's first experiences, on arriving in 1314, is a many-days' hike through Scotland's rugged Highlands.  He, of course, is not used to such physical exertion. 

I had hoped to make a four-day hike, myself, but two weeks, with stops in Inverness, Stirling, Bannockburn, and driving out to the Rannoch Moor, and across the central Highlands where Shawn and Allene hike, didn't leave four days to spare.  But I did make some very long (for me) walks and find a 'hill' to climb, at the very least.  That happened to be Sron a' Chlachain, The Nose of the Village, rising above the village of Killin near Loch Tay.

On the appointed day of experiencing what Shawn would, in making a long-distance hike for which he was not prepared, we set out to make about a five mile walk around Killin and climb Sron a' Chlachain all in the same day.  Our host at the hostel was a rather interesting man with fascinating stories to tell.  It is from him that I learned about the concept of ley lines, which make an appearance in Book Two of the Blue Bells Trilogy as people try to make sense of the mysterious events at Glenmirril.

This host also told us about Castle Finlairig, and suggested we watch for it.  It wasn't on the itinerary, but as much as there are good reasons for having A Plan in the first place, there are also good reasons for being flexible and sometimes taking a detour from The Plan.  I'm so glad we did!

Our host told us to look for a small path.  He warned us several times this path was small, and hard to spot, so to really watch carefully.  I'm nothing if not literal!  After a long walk through pastures full of sheep, and around one edge of Loch Tay, up a small hill to a gnarled tree with multiple spreading branches low to the ground, surrounded by Scotland's famous fields of bluebells, we came to the path where we must watch for Finlairig's miniscule, microscopic, guaranteed-to-miss-it-if-you-don't-watch-with-a-magnifying-glass path.

I found it!

It was a dirt track, about six inches wide, pushing through spring foliage.  We followed it through, edging through ferns and ducking under limbs in the path, and burst out into a small clearing, isolated and silent, with a massive square mausoleum still standing, and one tower of a castle still reaching for the patch of blue sky above the clearing, along with several of its walls in disrepair.  Trees and rich, green grass grew all around.  On the far side of the clearing stood two white, lichen-covered Celtic crosses, more than four feet high.

This was Finlairig!

We passed through the arched door of the tower (you can see in the picture), which was open to the world on the other side, to find narrow halls and a rough way to reach what was once the second floor.  On the other side, we saw what must have been a great hall, still with a wall and a half but now filled with grass and a tree.

We studied the charter stone over the arched doorway, and the Celtic crosses, and found out it had been the home of the Campbells.  I couldn't have planned it better!

I found the place enchanting--and I don't use that word often or lightly.  But it was easy, in the solitude and silence and sense of age, to imagine anything might happen there.  Thanks to an unexpected departure from The Plan, Finlairig, though it isn't named, got written into Blue Bells of Scotland. 

*The giveaway drawing for an electronic copy of Blue Bells of Scotland happens January 31.  Sign up as a follower to enter.


  1. Nice photo. Took a week-long driving trip throughout Scotland several years ago, but somehow missed this castle. I posted today some photos as well on my blog, but not of Scotland.

    R. Doug Wicker

  2. Thanks, Doug! It's always fun to meet others who have visited Scotland. It was a great trip. This castle is very small and off the beaten path.

  3. Great picture. Scotland is definitely a destination on my to be visit list! I'm a new follower now. Found you through book blog. I will have to check your book out. Sounds interested!

    Have a great weekend. Stop by my blog if you get a chance! As the Pages Turn Blog

  4. Hi, Ing,

    Thanks for stopping by! Of my many pictures, I really love a few of Finlairig in particular! Thanks for following!


  5. Love the photo and the story. I've been to Scotland twice now, visiting friends & family, and hope to get back again within the next year for a research trip. I am also writing a novel set there, in Knoydart. Due to the ferry schedule we weren't able to make it there on our last trip. Haven't been to Killen or Finlairig Castle either - might have to add it to the itinerary.
    Also, just discovered and followed your Gaelic word a day blog. Fantastic idea. I was taking lessons for years, but had to stop when I went back to school as it was all too much. Hoping to get back into it in a few months.
    Tapadh leat!

  6. Ciamar a tha sibh! I took a brief detour into another language which I found much easier. There seem to be so many idioms and idiomatic ways of saying things in Gaelic, I find it much more difficult. But this is getting me going again, too!

    What is your novel about? I remember the name Knoydart, but nothing about it, unfortunately. It sounds like you're planning a third trip! That's great. I'm hoping for a second soon.

  7. The novel is based on the memoirs of a relative, Captain "Spanish" John MacDonnell in the years leading up to an immediately following Culloden. But it is narrated by his sister, being left at home while he is adventuring.

  8. It sounds like a great story--I especially like stories that are true or based on true events. John Stanton, featured in one of my blog posts, has a book out of his uncle's memoirs as a missionary in Belize. It's definitely on my TBR list.


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