I have something to admit: I have an addition to 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 moved to Scotland, I had to live through books. They helped me to fall even more in love with Scotland, and kept me adding to my Scotland bucket list!
If you had to postpone your trip to Scotland or you’re planning a trip and looking for books to read before visiting, I’ve compiled a list of over 34 of my favourite books about Scotland.
Read on to discover my favourite Scotland books I know you’ll love!
>> Related: The best bookshops in Scotland to get lost in
Books about Scotland you will Love
The Outlander Series 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?!
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.
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
The Lost Queen, the first of a trilogy, is set near what is now Glasgow, during the Middle Ages. It’s described as ‘Outlander meets Camelot’- so if you’re a fan of Outlander and Scotland in ancient times, this book will be right up your alley.
The story focuses on Languoreth- a forgotten queen of the 6th century, and twin to the man who inspired the legend of Merlin.
What I loved about this book is that it transports you back to 6th century Scotland. I found it interesting trying to piece together the real locations in Scotland, including Cadzow and Dumbarton. It was also interesting to read about the rise of Christianity in Scotland, which was happening during the century the book is set in. The second book in the trilogy, The Forgotten Kingdom, is also out now.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (Slains #1)
The Winter Sea is one of my favourite historical fiction books about Scotland I’ve read. It’s the closest book to Outlander I’ve discovered – and this book focuses on the first Jacobite Rebellion of 1708.
A writer travels to Scotland researching her upcoming novel, and when she visits Slains Castle she begins having memories of once living at that castle. The Winter Sea is partly written in the present and in the past – and it has loveable characters, an enviable romance, and a great twist!
This book actually inspired me to go to Aberdeenshire and visit Slains Castle!
The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
The Lighthouse Witches is one of my favourite recent reads! It’s about a cursed lighthouse and two sisters that go missing on a remote Scottish island. If you’re interested in the mystical and mysterious side of Scotland, you’ll enjoy this book.
The Last Witch of Scotland by Philip Paris
The Last Witch Of Scotland is inspired by the true story of the last person to be executed for witchcraft in Scotland in 1727. If you enjoy a combination of real historical events and great storytelling, you won’t be able to put this book down.
Sea Bean by Sally Huband
Sean Bean is written by naturalist, Sally Huband. It explores Shetland’s oceans, wildlife and people.
A good read if you enjoy nature writing and plan on visiting Shetland.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
The Hunting Party is a whodunit based in Scotland. A must-read for anyone who loves a good murder mystery!
The White Cockade: Historical Tales Of The Jacobites by Stuart McHardy
The White Cockade is full of short stories based on tales from the Jacobite Rebellion. Personally, I loved this book! It’s much nicer to read than a dry history book. A must-read for Outlander fans and anyone interested in the Jacobite Rebellion.
The Green Lady by Sue Lawrence
The Green Lady is a murder tale based during the time of Mary Queen of Scots.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Shuggie Bain is a portrayal of a working-class family in Glasgow during the Thatcher years. It tells the story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain and touches on subjects including addiction, sexuality, and love.
The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May
The Lewis Trilogy is a crime series set in the Outer Hebrides. I’m usually really good at figuring out what’s going to happen at the end of a crime novel [one of the downsides of studying literature!] however the twist in the first book, The Black House, really surprised me.
The other two that follow in the series, The Lewis Man and The Chess Men are also good reads.
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!
Clanlands by Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan
Clanlands is written by Outlander stars Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan. In this book they take you on a hilarious road trip through Scotland. Fans of Outlander will love this book! It’s an entertaining, easy and interesting read. You don’t need to be an Outlander fan to enjoy it.
Waypoints by Sam Heughan
Waypoints is Sam Heughan’s memoir. If you’re a fan of Outlander- this is a must-read!
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.
A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
A 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].
Sea Room: An Island Life by Adam Nicolson
Sea Room: An Island Life is the story of 21-year-old Adam who inherits the Shiants, three desolate islands off the Isle of Lewis. These islands are one of the most important breeding colonies for puffins and razorbills in Europe!
More Non-Fiction Books I Recommend
To The Island Of Tides by Alistair Moffat
Islands Of The Evening by Alistair Moffat
The Farthest Shore by Alex Roddie
Love of Country by Madeleine Bunting
Set Adrift Upon The World: The Sutherland Clearances by James Hunter
The Celts: A Skeptical History by Simon Jenkins
Skye: The Island and Its Legends by Otta Swire
Lochaber: A Historical Guide by Paula Martin
Mull and Iona by David Caldwell
The Story of Iona by Rosemary Power
Scotland: From Prehistory To The Present by Fiona Watson
The A-Z Of Curious Aberdeenshire by Duncan Harley
The Little History Of Aberdeenshire by Duncan Harley
Scottish Castles and Fortifications by Richard Lewis and Campbell Dargie
If you’re looking for a concise guide to some of Scotland’s most fascinating castles, this is a great book to take with you on your adventures!
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 book 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.
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.
Hiking & Nature
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.
The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories by Patrick Baker
This book is for anyone who enjoys exploring hidden gems and heading off the beaten path. The Unremembered Places takes you on a journey to some of Scotland’s least visited places. It’s also the perfect escapism if you’ve had to postpone your trip to Scotland!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
Bothy Tales: Footsteps in the Scottish hills by John D Burns
Bothy Tales by John D Burns is a hilarious collection of short stories about hiking in the Scottish Highlands. He shares stories about the many bothies he has stayed in [shelters found in Scotland] and the colourful characters he met in them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it if you’re looking for a quick and easy read.
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.
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
Described as ”the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain” by the Guardian, The Living Mountain is a timeless classic. This book promises a swift escape to the snowy peaks of the Cairngorm mountains. Take your time with this book; it is quite short, at just 108 pages, but Nan’s writing is beautifully poetic, and should be savoured, like a good whisky.
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.
Hebridean Journey by Brigid Benson
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 in 2019. 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
DK Eyewitness Scotland
DK Eyewitness Scotland is the best guidebook I’ve read about Scotland so far. In particular, I like that it is designed similar to a magazine- it doesn’t just list accommodation, tours and attractions. The photography is gorgeous, and the information is succinct. If you’re anything like me and like guidebooks that are filled with images in a magazine-style design, you’ll love this guide.
Scotland [Lonely Planet]
The Scotland Lonely Planet guide is great if you like guidebooks with comprehensive lists. It also has a handy Edinburgh city map. There aren’t a lot of photographs in this guidebook, however, it contains a lot of recommendations for accommodation, restaurants and attractions.
Rick Steves Scotland
Rick Steves Scotland is a very popular Scotland guide. Personally, I haven’t read it yet, but it’s a guide I always see being recommended by travellers.
Scottish Island Bagging by Helen Webster
A fantastic guide to Scotland’s islands, and how you can tick them all off your bucket list! This guide is written by Walkhighlands, Scotland’s most comprehensive website for hiking and walking trails.
The Scottish Islands : The Bestselling Guide To Every Scottish Island by Hamish Haswell-Smith
If there is a bible on the Scottish Islands – this is it. This is the only book with detailed information and maps on every Scottish island, making it the perfect companion if you plan on exploring Scotland’s bonnie islands!
My copy sits on my coffee table and I love picking it up every so often and learning about the different islands. It’s also very helpful for planning my Scottish island adventures.
Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas
Just Another Mountain is Sarah’s debut book and is the story of how she lost her mother to breast cancer, and how she took to hiking all 282 of Scotland’s munros [mountains] to heal. Sarah was also diagnosed with breast cancer herself, although she just touches on this in her book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, being a huge hiking and outdoors enthusiast myself, and I will admit- I shed a few tears too!
Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Confessions of a Bookseller is written by the owner of The Book Shop in Wigtown, one of the best bookshops in Scotland! This book is rather hilarious and if you’ve ever worked in customer service, you’ll emphathise with the author about all the quirky customers he has to put up with on a daily basis.
It’s a Sunday Times bestseller, and a great book to read if you plan on visiting Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town. He also is the author of The Diary of a Bookseller– the sequel to COAB.
Coffee Table Books
Take The Slow Road by Martin Dorey
Take The Slow Road: Inspirational Journeys Round the Highlands, Lowlands and Islands of Scotland by Camper Van and Motorhome [wow what a mouthful] will inspire your future travels in Scotland, so keep it in sight- like on your coffee table for example!
The Coorie Home by Beth Pearson and Ciara Menzies
Coorie is Scotland’s answer to hygge– a home trend all about comfort and cosiness. The Coorie Home explores the new home fashion trend and offers inspiration on how to include more Scotland in your home. It’s a great book for the coffee table, which is exactly where my copy sits!
For more on the Scottish coorie theme, I also recommend The Art of Coorie: How to Live Happy the Scottish Way.
Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A. Crawford
Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers is a thesaurus that explores the weird and wonderful words of the Scots. It’s a great book to have on your coffee table to pick up now and again to inject some more Scottish into your vocabulary!
✨ Check out our podcast episode about Scottish words and slang, where we discuss this book!
Would you add any more books to read before visiting Scotland to this list? Comment below!
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