5 must-read books for your trip to Scotland..
Updated: Aug 15
Scotland is world renowned for it's incredible scenery, fascinating history and rich culture. All of this stirs in us a sense of the permanence of this land and a deep desire to capture it's essence in language and art. Our people have earned a reputation for being diligent record-keepers, and we are a nation of bookworms and writers. So, before visiting, one of the best ways to stir your imagination for this land is to indulge in one of our finest exports - Whisky.
... Pardon me. Literature, that is.
Therefore, in no particular order, here are 5 of the best books you can read before your trip to Scotland (whisky accompaniment optional).
1) Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
A truly classic tale of action and adventure. Set just after the Jacobite Rebellions, young David Balfour is a canny lowlander who is tricked out of his inheritance by his own uncle, kidnapped, and bound aboard a ship sailing for America. Rescued by the highland spirit of Alan Breck Stewart, a "bonny fighter", Balfour and he journey through the remote places and dangerous action of the Highlands in the years following Culloden. Stevenson's descriptive power brings both the landscape and the atmosphere of the time to life and should be top of your list if you are interested in this period of history - or if you simply fancy an exciting read. We'd suggest our Loch Ness Day Tour to take in incredible highland scenery and hear many stories such as these along the way.
2) A Last Wild Place - Mike Tomkies
A somewhat lesser-known pick, Mike Tomkies' A Last Wild Place is a personal favourite. Tomkies was a naturalist and writer
who took a 20-year lease on a remote cabin deep in the Highlands, only accessible by a 5 hour boat trip. This is his account of the perpetual drama of the wildlife surrounding him, of the harsh seasonal weather, and his struggle for survival. It is an excellent natural history of some of the more famous species known to Scotland - red deer, golden eagles, buzzards - but is also a distinctly human story as he philosophises on the decision he has made. The perfect place to start for anyone who wants to learn more about our natural landscape and wildlife. If it's wildlife you're after, we offer a Multi-Day Wildlife Tour to the Isle of Mull. Another great option would be our Highland Lochs, Glens & Castle Day Tour to experience the scenery Tomkies' lived in.
3) Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
The global sensation now a hit TV show - Outlander is the story of a combat nurse who, honeymooning in Scotland after the war in 1945, finds herself thrust back in time to 1743 at the height of the Jacobite Rebellion. There, she falls for a gallant young Scots warrior and is torn between two lives in two worlds. Packed with action, adventure, and romance the novel is the first of a renowned series and excellently captures the mood of the time. We've created an Outlander Day Tour visiting many of the key settings and locations of the show, from Doune Castle (Castle Lioch) & Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison), to Blackness Castle (Fort William), Midhope Castle (Lallybroch) & beautiful Culross (Crainsmuir). These sites are also offer an incredible experience even if Outlander ain't your thing!
4) Waverley - Sir Walter Scott
A true classic - this list could not be complete without a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Waverley is the story of a young English soldier send to Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 which sought to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne through Bonnie Prince Charlie. He journeys North leaving behind his aristocratic family, first through the Lowlands and onward to the Highlands and the heart of the Rebellion. Required reading for anybody with an interest in the time and for one of our great national heroes. We suggest our History of Scotland Day Tour for anyone wanting to experience the story of Scotland first hand, covering the heroic days of William Wallace & Robert the Bruce, through the Stuart dynasty, to the Jacobite Rebellion which provided the backdrop for many of Scott's novels.
5) How the Scots Invented the Modern World - Arthur L. Herman
Historian and author Arthur L. Herman reveals how in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland made astounding contributions to fields as varied as science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics, and shows how these contributions have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since. Details abound on brilliant individuals such as David Hume, Adam Smith, and James Watt. High praise you might think? Give it a go and see for yourself, or why not try our St Andrews Day Tour and visit one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world.
So there you have it - your Scotland trip reading list sorted. We expect that you will be ingratiating yourselves with these texts before even daring to engage another Scot in conversation. And we will be asking questions!