The Old Grey Man, the Murder Hole, and the Merrick Moor

Today we welcome multi-pubbed Austenesque author Regina Jeffers with her new release The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, talking about the Scottish highland settings that were the inspiration for the book. She’s also giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter, so let’s get chatting.

Here’s the blurb (and isn’t that a lovely cover!):

Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor – the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe. Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors. How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.

My latest novel, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, is set in the Scottish Uplands in a land drenched in legend and mystery. It is an area where the heather in bloom can steal one’s breath with its beauty, but where nature can also teach harsh lessons.

The Merrick is a 2766-foot hill that is part of the Awful Hand. Close by is the descent to Loch Enoch, the Grey Man, the Murder Hole, and a host of other lochs. The wilderness walk that traverses the area covers nine miles. The Range of the Awful Hand is a string of hills in the Southern Uplands named due to their resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The hills, starting at the ‘thumb’ are Benyellary (719 m); Merrick (843 m); Kirriereoch Hill (786 m); Tarfessock (697 m); Shalloch on Minnoch (768 m).

The wilderness walk starts at Bruce’s Stone, a monument erected in memory of Robert Bruce’s defeat of the English at Glen Troll. If one knows anything of the battle, he realizes that the monument represents Bruce’s men rolling huge rocks down the hillside on the advancing army.

The “Grey Man of Merrick” is an eerie rocky outcrop aptly named, as it clearly resembles the stoney face of an old man. He sits just below Merrick Hill, acting almost as a guard to the highest hill in Galloway.

If one is adventurous enough to set out on foot in the area, it is best to approach Loch Neldricken via the Rig of Loch Enoch, which is high enough to keep a person from the bog lands below. The advantage of walking along the Rig of Loch Enoch is it is high enough to keep a person out the bog lands below. There are no paths, and the grass grows in lumpy tufts making walking quite difficult. Sometimes one’s feet will disappear into a deep shuch, and a person ends up covered in mud.

In this photo, one finds the infamous Murder Hole. It is the round pool to the right of the loch in this photo. Legend has it that many years ago weary travelers were robbed and their bodies dumped in the hole never to be seen again. In summer there is a ring of reeds growing around the hole, but none grow in it. It is also rumored that in even the coldest winters, the center does not freeze.

Though it is claimed that the real Murder Hole is near Rowantree Bridge on the Water of Minnoch where the bodies of waylaid, murdered travelers were dumped, the “Murder Hole” refers to an incident in Samuel Crockett’s novel The Raiders.

Galloway’s landscape and its legends inspired Samuel Rutherford Crockett (1859-1914), a writer with a prodigious output. The Raiders, his best known book, was a romantic, loosely historical, adventure story, which sold thousands of copies in 1894, and further editions were published to meet demand.

Taking A762 past the ruined Kenmure Castle, a traveler will eventually come to Mossdale, where he will find the sad little wooden sign of Little Duchrae Farm, where Samuel Crockett was born and further on the impressive memorial at Laurieston Village, the Clachanpluck of ‘The Raiders’ story. Paid for by public subscription and unveiled in 1932 by Crockett’s wife Ruth, it is constructed with large granite blocks set on a slight rise just off the road. Although he never met Robert Louis Stevenson, Crockett and Stevenson corresponded, and a plaque on the pillar carries part of the Stevenson poem, To SR Crockett,

Blows the wind today,
and the sun and the rain are flying,
Blows the wind on the moors today and now,
Where about the graves of the martyrs the whaups are crying
My heart remembers Now!

In her book The Life and Times of Samuel Rutherford Crockett, Islay Murray Donaldson stresses that, due to various circumstances, Crockett could not afford the luxury of spending enough time on his literary efforts, so he never reached Stevenson’s sustained heights or enduring popularity.

So, this is the setting for the mystery behind The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. Is it not the perfect? One of the best sites for photos of this area is Walkhighlands.

If you’d like your name to be entered into the drawing for a copy of The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, you must include your email in a “safe” form, e.g., riskies at yahoo dot com. We’ll announce the winner on Monday evening.

Tell us about favorite settings, real or imagined, that you’ve enjoyed in books.

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29 Responses to The Old Grey Man, the Murder Hole, and the Merrick Moor

  1. Thank you for hosting me today.

  2. Great to have you here, Regina. I love those placenames–they’re so evocative!

  3. SusannahC says:

    Interesting names! Even more interesting when you think that those places undoubtedly got those names for a reason. I like Scottish settings, and English settings, but lately I’ve become quite fond of Norman settings.

    susannah at susannahcarleton dot com

  4. Diane Gaston says:

    Welcome Regina!

    My favorite settings are Regency London and the Waterloo Battlefield!

    But your Scottish ones are very intriguing.

  5. Janet,
    I stumbled across these places when I was researching my vampire book. I’ve held onto the scenes until I could find a book where it would fit the story line.

  6. Susannah,
    I have seen aerial pictures of “The Awful Hand.” The 5 mountain ranges do resemble a rheumatic hand. I found that fascinating.
    Thank you for reading the post.

  7. I have a Scottish background, Diane. Therefore, Scotland shows up often in my settings. However, I have never set a complete novel in Scotland.

    My Regency romances stay with the London scenes and country estates.

  8. Hi Regina,

    What a great setting you’ve chosen for your book. I love the photo of the old man rock. I like London as a setting, but also places like Cornwall that are perfect for smugglers and skulduggery.


  9. Robin Helm says:

    I’m English-Scots-Irish, Regina. This story line is intriguing. I can’t wait to read another of your wonderful books!

  10. Maureen says:

    It looks like a gorgeous setting. One of my favorites in a story was Venice which looks like such a unique place to visit.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  11. Shelley,
    I do appreciate your stopping by. Cornwall is a great setting. Wild and Wonderful!!!
    Many of my Regencies end up in Derbyshire, Northumberland, or Staffordshire. I don’t have a reason, other than I have lots of resources on those areas.

  12. Robin,
    Thank you for your kind words.
    Having met you, your coloring says “English” and “Irish.” That would have been my guess even without your confirmation.

  13. Maureen,
    Although it is part of my dream vacation, I have never traveled to Italy, which is quite ridiculous because, during my lifetime, I have married two different Italians. I fell in love with “Tuscany” from several romance novels set in that area.
    Venice during the early 1800s was quite the place to which to travel. I wish I knew more of it.

  14. catslady says:

    Oh, such wonderful research and what lovely pictures. Sounds like a delightful read!

  15. Regina, after reading PD James’s Darcy mystery, I’m primed for more Austen mysteries. And thank you for the walking journey through the mountaineous Uplands.

    My favorite part of Scotland is the north eastern parts from Aberdeen down in the Grampians.

    Janet, I have to agree with you. The cover’s lovely! Lately, I have been having cover discussions with a few folks on Twitter and lamenting how poorly made many of them are. This is one of the few really good ones. Kudos to the art department.

  16. Jakki L. says:

    Kind of boring answer, but I like any setting as long as it is well described and I can picture myself or the characters there!
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Jane George says:

    Cornwall is a great setting, similar to Scotland in the mix of civilization and wild country.

    And Hogwarts, lol. Gotta love the setting of Hogwarts.

    Always wondered what happened to Georgiana Darcy!

  18. librarypat says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. librarypat says:

    Thanks for the walking link. the pictures are wonderful. If we ever manage to get over there, we plan on hiking and walking. This looks like a good one, but not in the winter, thank you.

    My two favorite settings for stories are Scotland and the American West, both historic and contemporary. They both have a ruggedness that appeals and that is reflected in the character of the inhabitants.

    Forgot my email address.
    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  20. Deb says:

    Hi, you two! Regina and Janet! :] Two of my very favorite Austen “set pieces!” But, speaking of settings, I have to say my very favorite has to be the moors that Kathy and Heathcliff wander. When I read “Wuthering Heights” as a teen ager I was forever lost in the moors. I see them as being strewn with heather in spots, moss in others, wild and windy, crags and calamity. I see cave-like crevases where Kathy and Heathcliff huddle to get out of the winds and rains together. I can see sunsets and stormy skies across endless wild, rocky landscape. I see ghostly figures fading when dawn begins to dry the foggy blanket of night.

    As to your new book, Regina, nothing is to be done but that I have to have a copy, and you must come back to A Bookish Libraria (which is now a new and improved blog site!)to talk about it!! I love the whole idea of poor Georgiana disappearing and this Merrick Moor!
    Please enter me in the giveaway..:]

  21. Deb says:

    PS: Janet, Yours is a beautiful blog and I’ve loved reading it tonight. :]

  22. Lúthien84 says:

    Love reading your piece on the Scottish Highlands. But I love Regency London setting more. Please enter me for the giveaway. Thanks


  23. CatsLady, Thank you for stopping by and reading the post.

  24. Kiera,
    I was especially pleased with this cover. Ulysses Press tends to use period art for my Austen pieces. I have had a Joshua Reynolds and a Gainsborough for the covers.

  25. Jakki,
    You are quite familiar with how I describe the setting. I am a big fan of enough to picture it, but not so much to drown it.

  26. Jane George,
    There are so many wonderful places to extol in the British Isles. I wish I knew more of Ireland.

  27. LibraryPat,
    I am fond of the Appalachian Mountain Range. It is an area of which I am very familiar.

  28. Deb,
    Thank you for the invitation to visit your blog again.
    I think you will find that this area that I describe in “The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy” is very much like that found in “Wuthering Heights.” I was surprised by the amount of heather found in the area. It has overrun much of the former forested areas.

  29. Sylvia,
    You will love this setting equally. Trust me.

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