This month's book club choice was Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley (also released as The Winter Sea). It's a historical novel set at Slains Castle, located just 30 minutes north of Aberdeen in the town of Cruden Bay. The book is almost two stories in one as famous author, Carrie McClelland, visits the ruins of Slains castle and is inspired for her next novel by the stark and beautiful landscape. She starts to create a story of Slains that is oddly familiar to her while a story of her own is being written during her stay in Cruden Bay.
After Laine hosted an amazing Scottish tea inspired book club (complete with millionaire shortbread) she suggested that we should all do the Slains Castle and Bullers of Buchan hike so that we could see the inspiration and setting for the book (the main characters in the book took a similar walk as well). When we left Aberdeen the weather looked promising and we were all excited for the pictures we would all capture with a cloudless sky. However, as we neared Cruden Bay the haar (Scottish word for fog) started to set in and our 100% visibility was quickly diminished. Although, it wasn't ideal for picture taking, it did help to set the tone of book and the weather they experienced.
|The haar really cramped our picture taking|
|The haar cleared up a little on our way back|
After our hike, we visited the St. Olaf Hotel for lunch and sticky toffee pudding. St. Olaf is a small, family run hotel that was mentioned in the book and where Susanna Kearsley stayed while doing her research and getting r basis for the novel. The attendant at the hotel was so welcoming and helpful especially once we told her our reason for visiting. She clearly remembered the author's stay and offered to let us she the room in which she stayed during her 3-4 week visit. It was so cool to see her view as she was developing the story. She had a perfect view of the Slains castle (top left in the horizon) and just over the roofs you see in the picture is where she put the make believe cottage that she mentions in the novel.
|Oh so yummy!|
|The view from Room 4, just over the roof is the cottage described in the book|
|Giddy girls living in a fairytale!|
After snapping our photos and pinching ourselves we headed back downstairs where the lovely attendant was thumbing through the guest books to find Susanna Kearsley's entry from 2006. We didn't want her to spend her time looking so we thanked her million times and headed to the car. As we were almost pulling away, she came running out, book in hand and there it was, Susanna's guest entry. It was the perfect ending to a very special day. Imagine if you could visit all the settings of the books you read! I guess I could if I stick to those set in Scotland :-)
I highly recommend this book to anyone (because it's a great story that anyone would enjoy) but especially those living in the area or have plans to visit. It is truly amazing to see a book come to life.
Have you ever visited the actually setting of a book you've read? Tell me about it!