Wednesday, August 18, 2010


You’ll find this tricky unless you’re reasonably good at Scottish topography! However, to help you along, author Jen Black and I have agreed to give you a clue - the place is at the mouth of a river that used to be called “Nis”. Och, that’s too easy, so forget I just said that while you read this excerpt from Jen Black’s first book The Banners of Alba, set in Scotland in 1035AD. The question is: Where am I?
"The ship glided smoothly forward with the incoming tide and
Ratagan studied the shoreline. Plump mallards and eider ducks,
beaks shovelling through the mud and weed, waddled through the
shallows of the broad, tree-lined estuary. Gulls swooped and dived over the wooded hill with the ancient ruined walls that stood like bones stark against the sky. She thought of the raucous colonies of long tailed gannets and fulmars that plundered the turbulent seas of the north and west, and a sudden longing for the white sand, turquoise water and golden brown gneiss of the western coast took
her by the throat and made her concentrate her gaze on the wooden landing stage where men and horses waited. She recognized no one. He had not come to meet her.

The horses made light work of the track up to the tall palisade
that ringed the new fort on the small hill by the river. Men within
would be able to stare down the length of the silver ribbon of water
winding through the thatched huts of (guess the name!) all the way to the estuary. A breeze brought fresh, flowery scents and from a turn in the track, she glimpsed the ring of soft green hills encircling the fort,
and the fainter rim of higher hills beyond. Her spirits began to lift."

Is it:

A) Edinburgh
B) Aberdeen
C) Inverness?

Click comment to give your answer...

Visit Jen Black's blog here.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Alistair - very handsome and engaging blog.

Jen - I enjoyed your excerpt - loved the way you evoked the scents and sounds of the place, which I guess to be Inverness.

Carla said...


lordteaspoon said...

Dammit, 'niss', 'ness' too easy I guess. They're going to get harder, just you watch! I'm thinking of doing one in Gaelic or Latin.

Carla said...

Well, if place name origins are anything to go by, 'mouth' automatically meant it must be either Inverness or Aberdeen (Inver/Aber = mouth or confluence), whereas Edinburgh isn't at the mouth of the Forth. Inverness is surrounded by hills, whereas Aberdeen is some distance from them, so that made it Inverness. The river name did help though :-)

Vijaya Schartz said...

Has to be Inverness. But again it's already been guessed.

lordteaspoon said...

Carla, my cap is doffed... fantastic. And I thought I knew everything! Right, I'm going to find a really hard one, somewhere, somehow...

A J Hawke said...

Easy, Inverness.

Lovely writing, Jen.

A J Hawke