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Travel: A novel idea… Lose yourself in Scotland through iconic books set in or written in the country’s most stunning locations

© Shutterstock / Riekelt HakvoortSunrise in Scotland with a view on the Island Fidra, near  Edinburgh in the Firth of Forth.
Sunrise in Scotland with a view on the Island Fidra, near Edinburgh in the Firth of Forth.

There is nothing better than getting lost in the pages of a good book, escaping to different destinations and embarking on new adventures.

It’s World Book Day on Thursday, and Covid restrictions mean it’s not possible to explore Scotland just yet.

But readers can enjoy discovering Scotland on page, either through the eyes of a Scottish author or by reading a story inspired by Scotland.

Whether it’s hard-hitting crime novels, action-packed adventures or old favourites, discover Scotland’s literary links and stay inspired for travel when it is safe to do so.

Here are a few favourites:

The Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott

From epic poem, The Lady Of The Lake, set in the wild romantic landscape around Loch Katrine and the Trossachs to Rob Roy, inspired by Highland folk hero Robert ‘Roy’ MacGregor and set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, Scott’s works are landmarks in Scottish literature. Visit Rob Roy’s cave at the head of Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch, Abbotsford House, near Melrose, the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The swashbuckling adventure was written during a stay in Braemar. It’s thought Stevenson based some of the characters on people he met in the village. Treasure Island is also rumoured to have been inspired by Fidra Island in East Lothian.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Edinburgh is woven throughout the pages of the famous novel, particularly locations such as Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Barnbougle Castle and Dalmeny House.

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Sunset Song, encapsulates the struggles of farming life in an Aberdeenshire village. Grassic Gibbon’s novel mentions real-life places including Laurencekirk, Stonehaven, Dunnottar Castle and The Aberlemno Standing Stones in Angus. Arbuthnott, is home to The Grassic Gibbon Centre, the perfect place to learn more about the author.

Glenfinnan Viaduct © Shutterstock
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, immortalised in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Buchan’s love of the Borders is often depicted in his books and the region is home to the John Buchan Story in Peebles and The John Buchan Way – a 13-mile route between Broughton and Peebles.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Follow Harry and his friends, at Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Visit Tom Riddle’s grave at Greyfriars Kirkyard, meet Hedwig’s feathered friends at the Scottish Owl Centre. Or hop aboard the Hogwarts Express across the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

The story of a young boy who never grows up has entranced for decades.  A statue of Peter can be found at JM Barrie’s Birthplace in Kirriemuir, Angus but it was Moat Brae in Dumfries, where Barrie lived as a boy, that inspired Neverland, the enchanted faraway place where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys outwit Captain Hook.

Beano, Dandy and Oor Wullie by DC Thomson

The antics of Dennis and his pals in Beano, and A’body’s favourite wee laddie, Oor Wullie are published by DC Thomson in Dundee. Once restrictions allow, look out for statues of fellow legends, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie, in the city centre.

Peter Rabbit and Friends by Beatrix Potter

Potter created her fluffy friend, Peter Rabbit, following childhood summer holidays in Dunkeld. Add Birnam Arts to future travel plans as it is a great place to learn about the region that inspired her, and meet some of her other characters in the Beatrix Potter Exhibition Garden.

Report For Murder & My Scotland by Val McDermid

On a more grisly note, a doyenne of Scottish crime fiction is Val McDermid whose first book, Report For Murder was published in 1987. My Scotland, a personal journey through Scotland and how she has used the country’s distinctive settings in her works, was published in 2019.


P.S.

The Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies is the famous steam train, The Jacobite. Fans of the famously magical train can even book a seat in the Harry Potter compartment.

Factfile:

For more suggestions of books to read about Scotland, see visitscotland.com/blog/scotland/must-read-books/