Balnakeil Bay, Scotland
Balnakeil Bay. Click photo to enlarge. Those are black rocks in the foreground.
Balnakeil Bay in Durness, Scotland isn't too far from SangoBay, which I did a post about last week. The first time I visited Balnakeil Bay was two years ago. We'd just driven all day from Loch Ness north to Durness (stopping to visit one castle along the way).

After checking into the B&B we drove over to Balnakeil Bay at sunset. It was a cold, windy day in May, but the sunset was so beautiful. You will see it here on my cover, too, in the background.

Old Watermill near the beach

Balnakeil House and Balnakeil Church ruin
I love the reflections in the wet sand and the tempestuous sky.

A nearby resident
A day or two later we visited again. Still cold, cloudy and windy. It felt like January in the States. LOL We bundled up and walked on the beach, and had it mostly to ourselves. While we were out there, a bride, groom and photographer showed up. They took photos at Balnakeil Church and on the beach. We could easily tell they were Scots, because they seemed perfectly fine and warm, him in a kilt and her in a sleeveless wedding gown. I would have been an icicle if I'd dressed like that.

Bride and groom with photographers. Balnakeil Church in the background.

To get to Balnakeil Bay, take the single track road from the town of Durness. It's a little over a mile.
Balnakeil House above a field of yellow flowers

Balnakeil Beach in July.
 Our next visit to Balnakeil Bay was this past July. It was a very different day. So sunny and warm. We loved walking on the beach. No bundling up required. A couple of people were swimming. The above photo shows the freshwater stream that runs across the beach into the sea. The most distant cliff is Faraid Head.

One of the reasons I wanted to check out Balnakeil Bay was that I have several scenes set here in my latest book, My Notorious Highlander. Most of My Brave Highlander is set here also, but in winter.

Massive sand dunes behind the beach
 It's an interesting place. The sand blows up from the beach and creates huge sand dunes behind it, most of them covered with marram grass. These dunes lead out toward Faraid Head, a headland or small peninsula with high sea cliffs. I have an important scene set out there, too.

 Balnakeil Bay features prominently in my last three books because I've situated the MacKay clan's castle there, where Balnakeil House sits now. Centuries ago, the palace of the Bishop of Caithness stood on the site and the MacKays used it during the 1600s. (I named mine Castle Dunnakeil.) Lady Barbara MacKay lived here in the mid-1600s. Later the bishop's palace was torn down and on its foundation they built Balnakeil House between 1720 and 1744. This house has a very gothic look, siting forlornly above the windswept beach with the nearby cliffs and the ruin of Balnakeil Church nearby. I'll do a future post about Balnakeil Church.

 The beach is wide and a white to sandy blond color.

A trail between the dunes
 It is a haunting and beautiful place that stays with me. Maybe because I have been there so many times in my mind with my characters, especially with Torrin and Jessie in My Notorious Highlander.

Thank you for visiting Balnakeil Bay with me!

I received a fantastic review from My Book Addiction Reviews!
"If you enjoy fast paced, action packed Highland adventure than “My Notorious Highlander” is definitely the read for you. The characters are engaging, charismatic, and fierce. The storyline is intriguing, dangerous and will have you turning pages faster than you can say Highlander.... A deliciously sexy story of love,family, revenge, and forgiveness. For action, thrills, and passion pick up “My Notorious Highlander”.  I loved it! Well done, indeed!" AprilR RATING: 4.5  HEAT RATING: HOT

Chief Torrin MacLeod vows to possess and wed the spirited lady who stole his heart the previous winter. But Lady Jessie MacKay wants naught to do with the dangerous warrior, no matter how devilishly handsome and charming he is. When Torrin arrives unexpectedly at Jessie's home, along with Gregor MacBain, a man Jessie was formerly handfasted to, she is thrown off-kilter. She never wanted to see either man again, but now they are vying for her hand. Torrin promises to protect her from the devious MacBain, but how can she trust Torrin when she has witnessed how lethal he is? 

The more time Torrin spends with the strong and independent Jessie, the more determined he is to win her heart. Once she allows him a kiss, he feels her passion flame as hot as his own. After she knows Torrin better, Jessie finds herself falling for the fearsome Highlander. But the odds are stacked against them. The sinister MacBain is bent on kidnapping Jessie, making her his bride and killing Torrin, while Jessie's conniving younger brother, Haldane, is determined to use Jessie to take over the castle in his older brother's absence. Jessie fears she can never be with the man she loves, while Torrin will do everything in his power to ensure they are together forever. In his heart, she is the only lady for him. 

Excerpt: Here is a scene between Torrin and Jessie which takes place on Balnakeil Beach

"I could go back and get my bow and a few arrows, then we could walk along the beach that way." He pointed toward the right. "And I could teach you archery. If I don't behave myself, you can shoot me or use one of your hidden blades on me."
She sent a confused frown his way. "Why are you so determined to teach me how to shoot a bow?"
He shrugged. "I think you would be good at it. You're tall; you have long arms. You remind me of a warrior princess."
She gave him a narrow-eyed look as if he were daft. "Living in a make-believe world, are we, MacLeod?"
He smirked. When it came to her, he likely did, but he couldn't stop himself. "Well, you're always threatening me with those hidden knives you carry on your person at all times. I would truly love to see if you ken how to use them like a warrior."
Lifting an auburn brow, she sent him a challenging look. "You don't believe I can use them?"
"I have no inkling. I've never seen you in action. By the time I came upon you and MacBain, you were already trussed up like a—" He clamped his lips closed.
"Like a what? A boar?"
"Nay, like a tall, elegant stag."
She snorted and leapt up. "Come. I'll show you. We'll go to the end of the beach, near the cliffs where your guards upon the ramparts cannot help you."
He laughed. "Saints! You must indeed be deadly."
"I've hurt a few men but never killed anyone."
"'Tis a great comfort to me," he said in a dry tone and stood, smiling at her cocky attitude. "I'm up for the challenge, m'lady. But surely we aren't going to fight with sharpened blades. I don't wish to hurt you either."
She chuckled and headed along the beach.
Using long, quick strides, he caught up with her. "Are you certain you don't wish me to go back for the bow and arrows?"
"Thinking you'll need an extra weapon to defeat me?" she asked.
"Ha. Not likely."
She gave a confident smile, and he was glad he'd been able to turn her mood from gloomy to merry. He hoped this would be only a wrestling match, where she ended up pinning him to the ground—he'd let her do that. Aye, indeed. His body went on high alert, for he'd long imagined what her slight weight might feel like upon him. Like a dream come true.
"We'll have to use sticks instead of real knives," he said, trying to focus on the issue at hand and not his growing arousal.
"You fear me?"
"Aye, indeed," he said in a wry tone.
She laughed.
He'd love to know where on her body she had the rest of those hidden knives secured. He wanted to take them off her naked body, one by one. How delicious that would be.
"I often see red deer coming from that direction." She pointed toward the grassy sand dunes to their right.
Unexpectedly, Torrin tripped over something, and someone shoved him from the back at the same time. His face plowed into the sand. "What the hell?" The words blasted from his mouth. Spitting out the salty sand, he quickly rolled to his back and grabbed the dirk from the scabbard on his belt. He froze when he didn't see a band of attacking outlaws. Only Jessie stood above him, grinning like a banshee. Of course, he'd known she was the only one near, but he couldn't believe she'd gotten the best of him like that. Damned if she wasn't strong. His warrior skills were slipping, or mayhap he'd simply been distracted with his fantasies of stripping her naked.
"You tripped me!" he accused.
"You mean, I tricked you." Her smug smile was clear, even with the blinding sunlight behind her.
He narrowed his eyes. "Proud of yourself, are you?"
She shrugged, and he pushed to his feet. He'd have to be more careful around her. She was more wily than he'd anticipated. He glanced back at the castle, hoping Iain nor any of his men had witnessed that. He'd never live it down.
"You don't fight fair," he muttered.
"Most Highlanders don't. We're too canny. Fighting fair will get you killed, you ken?"
He laughed, then faced her with his arms down at his sides. "Are you ready to try it again, then, lady warrior?"
"Nay. I prefer surprise attacks." She backed away from him, moving further along the beach.
He knew what he had to do and 'twas naught more than she'd asked for, knocking him to the ground like that. He ran toward her, his body hunched low.
She screamed and bolted like a deer, flying over the sand. He quickened his pace, caught up to her and grabbed her. With one arm wrapped around her waist, he lifted her off her feet.
Kicking and elbowing, she fought him. He grasped her right hand so she wouldn't grab one of those knives. He hoped she wouldn't stab him, given the opportunity, but he didn't know for certain. She was a hellion… and he loved that about her.
She hooked her heel behind his knee. Losing his balance, he dropped to the sand, taking most of the impact with his shoulder and hip, but he didn't let go. Having captured both her wrists in one hand, he pinned her to the ground, half on her side and half on her stomach.
"Aha," he said against her ear. "Now we're even."
"Don't be so sure, MacLeod," she said through clenched teeth.
Something slammed painfully into his arse. Glancing around, he saw she'd kicked him hard with her bare heel.
He grabbed her ankle and pinned it close to him with his leg, then he tickled her foot with his free hand. She shrieked and squirmed about. With a sudden hard shove backward with her whole body, she flipped him onto his back. He tightened his grip on her wrists.
"Bastard!" she growled like a she-wolf and tried to untangle herself from him.
He laughed but feared she might get the best of him if he gave in to the amusement. He rolled her beneath him again.
She giggled but tried to scream at the same time. Squirming, she twisted and contorted her body, trying to wrest herself free. All she accomplished was turning to face him a bit more.
Her face was flushed pink, her eyes a glaring flash of blue, while her lips were scrunched with determination.
Damnation, how he wanted to kiss her. But she might break his nose if he did. He chuckled, amazed at how the thought of a violent woman aroused him. He had always thought he wanted a sweet, biddable wife. Now he knew he wanted one who would knock him to the ground unexpectedly.
"Admit defeat, warrior woman."
"Never!" One of her sharp elbows speared him in the stomach.
My Notorious Highlander Vonda Sinclair

9 Responses
  1. Vanessa Holland Says:

    What a beautiful place! Great pics. Thanks for sharing

  2. Yes, it is quite beautiful. The sand dunes reminded me of a beach on Kauai. Lovely, lovely pics!

  3. These photos are breathtaking. I love walking on sandy beaches. Guess this gorgeous place will be on the list of places to visit in the motherland. Thanks again for sharing, my friend.

  4. Thanks so much, Carol! The sand dunes are huge.

    Paisley, thank you! It's definitely worth a visit. I love it there.

  5. Love the pics, Vonda! My favourite is the wedding couple. Glad I stopped by and read the excerpt. Jessie and Torrin...I think she really has the best of him! Love it:)

  6. Thanks tons, Jennifer!! Glad you liked the excerpt. I had a lot of fun writing it. :)

  7. Thanks so much, dstoutholcomb! So glad you liked it!

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