Poo, Potholes and Park-Ups – Why Highlanders Are Tired of Scotland’s North Coast 500 Route

Last year, I wrote an article on the ‘summer of discontent’ on Scotland’s ‘North Coast 500’ road trip. As a resident on the route here in Caithness, I spent a lot of time writing about responsible travel and repeating the phrase ‘let’s hope things improve.’ A summer of littering, outdoor toileting and inconsiderate ‘wild camping’…

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On Mental Health Awareness Week, Caithness and Caring

Here in the UK, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative hosted by the Mental Health Foundation to focus attention on mental health issues across the nation. This year the theme for the event is nature, with a focus on the supportive role the natural world can play in boosting mental health. The theme appears…

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Tread Lightly, Travel Politely

As travel restrictions ease across Scotland, many people in the North Highlands are feeling nervous about the resumption of tourism. 2020 was a challenging year here in the far north, and memories of irresponsible camping, inconsiderate motorhome parking, and the litter and human waste left by a minority of visitors will be difficult to erase.…

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Castles of Steel and Thunder Author Q&A

I was recently asked to answer some questions on my experience of novel-writing by a creative writing student from the University of the Highlands and Islands. Of course, I was happy to oblige – and thought I would share the interview here for anyone who would like to find out more. Read on for tips…

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No Wilderness: Reshaping The Way We Talk About Far North Places

Exactly a year ago, on the Sunday before the UK entered lockdown, I was out walking with my son here in Caithness when a man pulled over in his car and rolled down the driver’s side window. He asked us where he could find a place to eat and have a cup of coffee. The…

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Promoting Your Self-Published Book in a Pandemic

If, like me, you self-published your first novel during the pandemic, you might be wondering how on earth to go about promoting it. With bookshops – and indeed most places – still shut due to lockdown, it may not feel like the ideal time to be attracting new readers to your book. Thankfully, there are…

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Lockdown and January Reading (*contains gifted item)

One positive of these last few months in lockdown (and I think we really do have to seek out the good now and then, don’t we?) has been the chance to devote more time to reading. Reading can be such an escape from the realities of our current situation (even if, like me, you occasionally…

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Of Snow and Stories

Last weekend brought snow to Caithness, two days of respite from the unchanging nature of lockdown. As it fell that first evening, my 11-year-old ran into the street without a jacket while I watched him from the door. There was a simple kind of magic to seeing him spin under heavy, lamp-lit flakes, like parts…

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The Names Behind Castles of Steel and Thunder

Since the publication of my first novel, Castles of Steel and Thunder, a few people have asked me whether there was any specific inspiration behind the names of characters and places in the novel. The answer is yes, and I thought I’d write about some of that inspiration here. I’ve already written about the debt…

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2020: My Year in Numbers

Around this time last year, I wrote a review of my year in numbers (an idea borrowed gratefully from my friend Suzanne at Inside, Outside and Beyond – thankyou again Suzanne). I enjoyed the format of reflecting on the year numerically, and so I have decided to use it again this year. It also avoids…

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