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8 Books You Should Read Before Visiting Scotland

Looking for a good book to read? We have compiled a list of our favourite books about Scotland for you to choose from, whether you are looking for inspiration, entertainment, or just love reading!

These includes a gripping best-selling crime trilogy set on the remote Isle of Lewis, an incredible love story between a fierce Highlander and a lost time-traveller, an honest account of life on a traditional croft farm, and a humorous tale of Scottish culture - and the importance of whisky!

With that in mind, put the kettle on, pour yourself a nice cup of tea, and bury yourself in one of these great books. 

A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver

Scotland's history is a complicated web weaved over thousands of years. Beginning with the nomadic hunter-gatherers who arrived here after the Ice Age, and working all the way through to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum - Neil Oliver's book is an easy to understand run-through of the key events which have shaped this complex nation. If you want to understand Scotland, this is the place to start.

Kirkcaldy Town House and clock tower is a Scandinavian influenced town hall located in Kirkcaldy, the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland
Photo: A Scottish and British flag fly outside a Scandinavian-influenced town hall in Kirkcaldy, Scotland

 

The Outlander Saga by Diana Gabaldon

The hugely popular Outlander books have attracted many visitors to Scotland, especially since the release of the TV series. The books are ultimately a romantic love story, but one that has been intelligently set in a mystical and captivating 18th-century Scotland.

They weave historical facts of a romanticised Jacobite Scotland into the main story of Claire - a nurse in the 1940s who finds herself flung back in time. This well-researched series is full of Scots humour and has a highly compelling plot, packed with suspense, adventure and romance.

If you'd like to discover some of the locations featured in Outlander, our self-guided Outlander Tour allows you to experience the highlights of Diana Gabaldon’s series of books and the most stunning locations used in the epic TV series.

The Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis
Photo: The Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

 

A Sense of Belonging by Andy Hall

We all have our own favourite place in Scotland, and this book brings together those that are special to a wide range of Scottish personalities. The author interviews a number of well-known Scots about their own favourite place, and then proceeds to take stunning photographs of the places they select.

The book features some wonderful images, so, if you have ever wondered where Ewan McGregor, Ian Rankin or Colin Montgomerie’s favorite place is, then this is the book for you.

Hill of Allargue viewpoint at Corgarff
Photo: Hill of Allargue viewpoint on the North East 250

 

The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May

Although the Lewis Trilogy essentially is a murder mystery series, the books are a fascinating window into life on the Isle of Lewis. They give the reader a gripping insight into the ancient Gaelic culture of the island, where English is a second language for most, and the Scottish mainland can seem centuries away. The wild, 'edge of the world' landscape of Lewis provides the perfect backdrop for an enthralling set of thrillers.

If you'd like to visit the Isle of Lewis for yourself, our 8 night Hebridean Island Hopping holiday explores these incredible islands on the edge of Scotland. 

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Carloway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Photo: Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Carloway, Isle of Lewis

 

Skye: The Island and Its Legends by Otta F. Swire

The Isle of Skye holds a special place in the hearts of many people around the world, and even those who have never stepped on the island find themselves drawn to the dramatic, mystical landscape. This fascinating book written in the 1950's still has relevance today as it maps a route around the island, mixing mythology and local history to capture the spirit of the land and its legends. This is a great guide to the Isle of Skye, and a jolt to the imagination.

Our self-guided Escape to the Highlands itinerary spends two unforgettable nights on the magical Isle of Skye. 

The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
Photo: The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

 

I Never Knew that About Scotland by Christopher Winn

If you would like to know some fun, interesting and light-hearted facts about Scotland this book is worth a read. It creates an entertaining way for you to gain an insight into different areas of Scotland. The book is witty yet informative.

Whether you are from Scotland or you are visiting for the first time, you really will discover things you never knew about Scotland!

The World’s Most Economical Taxi by Rogue-One in Mitchell Street. Part of the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail
Photo: The World’s Most Economical Taxi - Part of the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail

 

A Croft in the Hills by Katharine Stewart

This short book tells the true story of a family's move from an unsatisfying and hectic life in the city to a more primitive existence in a small croft farm near Loch Ness. Katherine Stewart writes about the joys and hardships of such a simple way of life, documenting her experience in an honest, straightforward and poetic way. It gives a unique insight into the tough but self-fulfilling life of making a living off the land you own - held strong by optimism, family, and community spirit.

Looking over to a remote croft near Rhiconich, Sutherland, Highlands
Photo: A remote croft in the Scottish Highlands

 

Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie

Set during the Second World War, this classic Scottish tale of a small community on a remote Hebridean island is filled with Gaelic wit and dry humour. War rationing and a serious shortage of whisky has brought the natives into a severe depression, but just before Lent a miracle happens: a cargo vessel wrecks with fifty thousand cases of whisky onboard!

Fuelled by “the water of life”, the locals find themselves braver than ever, and as love flourishes and the authorities lose control - one should never underestimate the importance of whisky!

If you'd like to find more about Scottish whisky, check out our self-guided Whisky Trails

Whisky and a Jamacian banknote from the SS Politician, on display in the Am Politician Pub, Isle of Eriskay, Outer Hebrides
Photo: Whisky and a Jamacian banknote from the SS Politician - on display in the Am Politician Pub, Isle of Eriskay

 

Regardless of whether you are looking for a historical masterpiece, psychological thriller or lighthearted comedy - Scotland has been used as the settings for numerous works of prose and poetry, fact and fiction. We all have our favourite book about Scotland, but which one will be yours?

The Absolute Escapes Team

P.S. If all of this reading has inspired you to visit Scotland for yourself, our Literary Scotland itinerary might inspire you further, as it follows in the footsteps of some of some of Scotland's finest authors including Rabbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott. 

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