Scotland has a long literary tradition, providing inspiration for authors across the world. Some authors have created a global following with popular television and film adaptations. The novels of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson helped to put Scotland on the literary map.
There’s an abundance of books and movies set in Scotland. The below list is only a taste of some of the authors inspired by Scotland;
“Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, follows the magical journey of a young wizard, Harry Potter, as he navigates the challenges of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, confronts the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, and discovers the true power of love, friendship, and courage in a world filled with enchanting creatures and captivating adventures.
“Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon
“Outlander” weaves a spellbinding tale of Claire Randall, a World War II nurse mysteriously transported back in time to 18th-century Scotland. This series intricately blends historical drama, romance, and time-travel, immersing readers in a gripping narrative of love and intrigue against the backdrop of Scotland’s rich and tumultuous past.
“Trainspotting” and “Filth” by Irvine Welsh
These books have gone on to huge success, with film versions starring Ewan McGregor and James McAvoy.
Ian Rankin, Cristopher Brookmyre and Val McDermid among them.Authors such as Iain Banks found success with his dark novels and science-fiction writing.
“Waverley” (1814) by Walter Scott
Set in 1745 at the time of the Jacobite Uprising, the story follows Edward Waverley, a young apolitical man who is posted on military service in Dundee and later becomes involved in the Jacobite cause. Although this is the first novel by Sir Walter Scott it already shows the style and literary flourishes that would come to typify his work, with florid descriptions and an eye for detail.
“Kidnapped” (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
17-year old David Balfour is captured by men who wish to sell him into slavery. When their ship runs aground David finds himself washed up on the Isle of Erraid, near Mull, from where he must try to find his way home. Stevenson clearly had a love of ships, with his other famous piratical novel “Treasure Island” a favourite with all generations. The story of David Balfour was continued in the sequel novel “Catriona”.
“The 39 Steps” (1915) by John Buchan
Written while the author was ill in bed, the book has gone on to incredible success, being turned into a popular film by Alfred Hitchcock. The protagonist and narrator Richard Hannay flees on a train from London to his native Scotland. Full of action and adventure it was also listed #42 on a Guardian list of the best British novels. The film version was shot partly on location at Glen Coe and the surrounding villages still see many visits by fans.
“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (1961) by Muriel Spark
Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at an all-girls school in Edinburgh. She is assigned a group of 10-year old girls, whom she decides that she will educate as the elite amongst the pupils at the school. However, Miss Brodie’s unorthodox teaching style puts her at odds with the school authorities. The story has been adapted for film, stage and television, and its entertaining and complex portrayal of teacher-student relationship continues to fascinate readers.
“The Wasp Factory” (1984) by Iain Banks
Banks’ debut novel is a dark delight, featuring a peculiar 16-year old, Frank, who lives with his father on an island in rural Scotland. He has a disturbing predilection for killing and it is revealed that he is responsible for three murders. An excellent recommendation for those who are interested in the macabre and a book that is one of a kind.
“44 Scotland Street” series by Alexander McCall Smith
A delightful series set in Edinburgh, exploring the lives and relationships of the residents of 44 Scotland Street.
“The Lewis Trilogy” by Peter May
This crime trilogy (The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, and The Chessmen) is set in the Outer Hebrides and features Detective Fin Macleod.
“The Vanishing” by Sophia Tobin
This historical mystery is set in the Scottish Highlands and involves a young woman’s disappearance and the secrets of a remote mansion.
These books offer a diverse range of perspectives on Scotland, from historical fiction to crime novels, providing readers with a rich literary experience inspired by the country’s culture and landscapes. There are of course many more books that are set across Scotland, both modern and historical, and in every genre!
What are some of your favourites?!