From Shire by Ali Smith


“Next: I’m sitting halfway up a wall in a ruined turret in a small roofless castle, reading a book. I’m twenty-one. Because I have a car, a 2CV, I can go where I like (when the car will actually start) and often I’ll drive a carful of friends or sometimes I come alone out here to this ruin north of Aberdeen.

Here nobody cares how high you climb up the stony walls, which are full of good footholds, good places to sit and read that aren’t the library.


We found it one day by chance; we were driving randomly about and we followed a small sign saying Tolquhoun Castle with a silhouette of a turret on it. If the weather’s good it’s full of suntraps and it’s possible to stay here for hours and never see anybody else.

I’ve read most of the books on the syllabus for the Modern Scottish Literature paper here. George Douglas Brown, J MacDougall Hay, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Neil Gunn, James Kennaway, George Mackay Brown, Robin Jenkins, Gordon Williams, William McIlvanney, Muriel Spark.” 


Part of the fun of books is exploring the setting, and as the setting for Shire (my review here) is actually close enough to visit, I wanted to share some images of one of the places mentioned in the book.
Actually, it was a lot of fun trying to find this place (it is rather hidden) and exploring the ruins. The place is now owned and maintained by Historic Scotland and I’m not sure if this was the case when Smith came to visit but you still get a sense of calm at the ruins as there really are only few visitors.