I love books, and what’s better than books about Scotland?
I can still remember when my mother took me to the library as a young girl. I could take out a maximum of 20 books at a time with my membership, and I was always at the limit.
Before I visited Scotland, there were books. Many, many books.
Books helped me to fall even more in love with Scotland, and kept me adding to my bucket list!
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland and looking for books to read before visiting, I’ve compiled a list of 26 books that I have read, or are patiently waiting on my bookshelf.
Read on to discover my favourite books about Scotland I know you’ll love!
>> Related: The best bookshops in Scotland to get lost in
Books about Scotland you will Love
1. Witch Light by Susan Fletcher
Also known as The Highland Witch and Corrag [depending on which country you buy from] Witch Light is a beautifully poetic historical fiction novel set in Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands during the Massacre of Glencoe.
The author uses real people involved in the Glencoe Massacre, and the novel centres around Corrag, a highland witch that lived in Glencoe during that time. You can’t help but be pulled into Corrag’s world of nature and magic, and while reading I felt like I had been transported to the highlands during the 17th century. A truly beautiful piece of writing.
Witch Light is the September book for our Scotland Club monthly book club!
2. Bizarre Scotland by David Long
I love bizarre, random facts- so I found this book really interesting! Bizarre Scotland answers questions such as what island in Scotland once had an escaped bear roaming around it, and where Britain’s loneliest bus stop is.
If you like to annoy people with random bits of knowledge- this book is for you.
3. Between the Sunset and the Sea: A View of 16 British Mountains by Simon Ingram
Between the Sunset and the Sea is another beautifully written book with much of it being set in the Scottish Highlands. I’m obsessed with getting to know Scotland’s mountains and munros on a more intimate level, and this book does it for me.
Walking through Britain’s mountains during all four seasons, you’ll learn a lot about Scotland’s terrain in the changing seasons. It’s also part memoir, and is written by an old editor of Trail magazine in the UK- so the guy really knows his mountains.
If you’re into nature, munro bagging [climbing mountains in Scotland] and hiking, you’ll enjoy this beautifully poetic, yet educational book.
4. A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
The History of Scotland is one of the first books on Scottish history that I read, and it is still one of my favourite books. It covers the history of Scotland from the beginning of time until today- so if you’re looking for an introduction to Scotland’s history- this is the book for you.
The author, Neil Oliver, is a Scottish television presenter, archaeologist, and conservationist- and I find his books and television series informative and easy to understand.
There is also a television series with the same name as the book which is also a good watch [you can find a blurry version on YouTube and I think you may be able to purchase the series online].
5. North Coast Journey: The Magic of Scotland’s Northern Highlands
In 2019 I drove the North Coast 500, one of the world’s most spectacular drives on the north-west coast of Scotland. I relied heavily on this book for my planning! Not only does it make a gorgeous book for your coffee table, The North Coast Journey is filled with interesting history and things to see along the North Coast 500.
6. The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence by Neil Ansell
I recently finished reading The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell. The author is sadly losing his hearing, however you’ll soon realise how heightened his senses really are when you read this book.
Reading this book is like meditating; it forces you to slow down, breathe and take it all in. It’s beautifully poetic [I know I’ve used this phrase several times before- I bet you can guess what kinds of books I like!] and you’ll feel as though you’re right there with the author as he roams the wildest parts of Scotland.
Be warned: this book will make you want to get off the beaten path in Scotland and explore her wild coasts and moors.
7. The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs by Tristan Gooley
Another useful book to read before visiting Scotland- The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs teaches you the basic skills of tracking so that when you’re in the wilderness or out hiking, you’ll be able to pick up clues as to what animals have been in the area.
Full of useful little tips and facts, this book is for nature lovers.
8. A Scots Dictionary of Nature by Amanda Thomson
The Scots have funny and adorable words for things- especially when it comes to nature and outdoors. I love picking this dictionary up at random and learning a few random words at a time.
9. Scotland End to End: Walking the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail by Cameron McNeish and Richard Else
If you’re interested in hiking the length of Scotland [or just want to dream about it from your couch] then you’ll enjoy Scotland End To End.
I completed this hike in 2018 and I’m writing my own book about my adventure [watch this space] but for now I’m living vicariously through this book.
10. The Scottish Bothy Bible by Geoff Allan
So what’s a bothy? It’s basically an unlocked shelter for the use of hikers and outdoors folk in Scotland. Many of them have unique character- for example the old schoolhouse in the Scottish Highlands that was turned into a bothy!
This book is a super helpful resource if you’re planning a hiking adventure in Scotland. It also makes a cool wee book for your coffee table.
Psst. If you’re thinking about staying in a bothy in Scotland, please read The Bothy Code first.
11. Horrible Histories: Scotland by Terry Deary
Don’t laugh, but reading children’s books about history is SO much easier than getting through some pretty heavy and dense ones written for adults.
I loved the Horrible Histories books as a kid, and I love them even more as an adult.
There are a few Horrible History books on Scotland, but this one cuts through the fluff and gets right into the good stuff.
Have kids? Perfect! You have zero excuses for purchasing this book and reading it to them at bedtime.
12. Broken Ground by Val McDermid
If you love crime fiction you’ll love anything by Val McDermid- an award-winning Scottish crime writer.
I recently finished reading her novel Broken Ground, which follows Detective Karen Pirie on her crime solving adventures around Scotland. This particular novel was set in Edinburgh and Wester Ross- I found it quite interesting reading about the city I once lived in!
13. A Human Love Story: Journeys to the Heart by Matt Hopwood
Matt Hopwood walked across Scotland and had some beautiful conversations about love along the way.
With just a backpack and a walking stick he relied entirely on the generosity of strangers for shelter and all he asked in return was…their love stories. This book reminded me of my similar journey and all the kind and loving Scottish souls I met along the way.
Each story in A Human Love Story lasts just a few pages, and topics range from romantic love to motherly love.
This coffee table book is one you can pick up from time to time to read a short yet eloquent love story, or you can read the whole thing through [like I did].
This book gives you faith in humanity.
14. The Story of the British Isles by Neil Oliver
The Story of the British Isles is another book I enjoy from Neil Oliver. Though this book covers Britain, the Scotland section is wonderful and has helped me uncover some hidden gems in Scotland I hadn’t heard of before.
A big book full of bite sized facts and history of some of the most interesting parts of Great Britain.
15. Pockets of Pretty: An Instagrammers Edinburgh by Shawna Law
I met Shawna, the talented photographer and author of this gorgeous book, at the Edinburgh Festivals last year. She’s an Instagrammer, and I just LOVE the way she photographs Edinburgh.
She reveals her favourite hidden pockets of Edinburgh in this gorgeous book. I’m learning so much about the city that was once my home from this book, so if you’re visiting Edinburgh you MUST buy this book.
You can also see her photography on Instagram as @exploringedinburgh
16. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander is one of the reasons I fell head over heels with Scotland in the first place.
I read this book when I was 16 and WOW did it make me want to move to Scotland and marry a Scotsman [which I ended up doing– I’m not saying this book is the reason that happened but…bit of a coincidence eh?]
It’s a romantic historical fiction novel set in 1745 during the Jacobite Uprising and it features one of the best male characters a woman could write. If you haven’t read this yet- what are you waiting for?!
Scotland books on my reading list
Here are a few more books about Scotland that are currently sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read…
17. Scottish Island Bagging by Helen Webster
18. The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
19. Bothy Tales by John D Burns
20. Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas
22. The Coorie Home by Beth Pearson
24. Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
25. Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
26. Touring Scotland by Paul Bissett
Would you add any more books to read before visiting Scotland to this list? Comment below!
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