Whether you have a trip planned to Scotland or are dreaming about seeing this magical country for the first time – a book is a great place to get your wanderlust starting! Books allow us to learn a bit about the history and culture of a place and is a great introduction to the country! We’ll cover 30 books to read before visiting Scotland, including children’s, classic, historical, historical fiction, mystery books, and of course- travel!
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Children’s Books About Scotland
A Super Scotland Activity Book: Games, Puzzles, Drawing, Stickers & More will bring Scotland alive. Learning while playing is key with this book – play a few Highland games, travel on the North Coast 500 and stay occupied with all this book has to offer!
Even the littlest travelers can get excited for visiting Scotland with B is for Bagpipes. While it is an ABC book, it’s not the most basic book (see below for N is for Nessie). Using the alphabet as a framework, this book is actually 26 interlinking stories giving the reader a look into Scottish culture. There is a poem and a short paragraph about each letter/item.
Another great alphabet book is N is for Nessie! Little travelers can sing “Auld Lang Syne” while wearing a kilt and waving to a Highland Cow. Enjoy a trip through the beautiful landscapes of the highlands embracing the crazy weather of Scotland.
Scotland is a land of fairy tales and folk tales. Who doesn’t like the idea of searching for Nessie in the Loch Ness? Well this book will teach you all about the varies tales of Scotland so you can keep an eye out for selkies, brownies, kelpies, and even a stoorworm! You can purchase “Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales” here.
For more magic, The Adventures of Hamish and Mirren by Moira Miller is another great option! Get caught up in a world with singing sand, a grumpy witch, and a talking sea urchin!
Historical Fiction Books about Scotland
I love reading historical fiction books as I’m not a history buff. The way that history is told is important to me – and historical fiction is just, more interesting. (sorry mom!) Just be sure to google the actual event so you know what part is the truth and which part isn’t true. Corrag by Susan Fletcher is based on the true story of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Corrag is a woman condemned for her involvement in the slaughter and accused of being a witch. She shares her version of what happened to Irish Jacobite Charles Leslie. (This book also has two other titles – The Highland Witch and Witch Light.)
The Outlander series (a total of 8 books!) has captured travelers’ hearts through science fiction and romance! The Starz show (and there are some seasons on Netflix as well) has put Scotland on many people’s bucket lists. Claire Randall, a nurse in 1945, travels back in time to 1743 during the Jacobite Rebellion. Caught in between two worlds and two loves, this action-packed series will capture any reader (or viewer!).
If you like Outlander, you’ll also like The Watchers by Eilidh Miller. Grace protects the past and makes sure history happens as it should. Mostly takes place during the Jacobite rising.
Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine is an exciting tale that weaves together three timelines (looking at you, Outlander fans!) A Norsewoman in the 9th century, a servant girl in the 19th century, and an archaeologist in the modern-day. Enjoy weaving through history and perspectives in this book!
Classical Books about Scotland
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson follows the journey of David Balfour. David is a 17 year old boy who goes from being sold into slavery as an orphan to escaping to the Scottish Highlands. This action packed tale of adventure takes place a few years after the Jacobite rising – making it an interesting read as well!
I’m pretty sure my college literature professor would be a bit mad at me if I didn’t include one of the most influential Scottish novels of the 20th century. Lanark by Alasdair Gray wasn’t my favorite book in college, but it was an interesting one. It combines dystopian surrealism and realism, playing with linearity. It begins with a man waking up on a train with no memory of how he got there. Alasdair was born in Glasgow and his works reflect that. He passed away in 2019, one day after his 85th birthday.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is a darkly funny yet brilliant account of an Edinburgh girls’ school in the run-up to World War II. Spark has a few other novels as well if you like her style of writing!
Para Handy is a collection of stories by Neil Munro. It’s a book about the antics of the rag-tag crew that sails between the Scottish Highlands and Glasgow.
Published in 1824. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg has been an influential book for many writers. Follow the disturbed Robert Wringhim as he gets involved in his brother’s life with destructive results while challenging the notions of good & evil.
Non-fiction Books about Scotland
David Caldwell’s Mull and Iona: A Historical Guide gives an in-depth and engaging history. Mull and Iona are two of the most visited islands in all of Scotland. They are a place of pilgramage for the past 1,500 years due to it’s importance to the Catholics in Scotland.
Outlander star Sam Heughan actually wrote his own book about Scotland! Clanlands: Whsky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other is about his and co-star Graham McTavish’s road trip through their native Scotland. It’s a story of friendship, finding themselves, and of course – whisky!
For an all-encompassing book about Scotland’s history, check out Scotland: The Autobiography by Rosemary Goring. 2,000 years of Scottish history by people who saw it happen. The contributors for this book range from Mary Queen of Scots to Billy Connolly!
Who Built Scotland: A History of the Nation in Twenty-five Buildings by James Crawford is a compilation of essays about some of the most historical buildings in the country. Any history or archeology fan would enjoy this book.
I couldn’t skip including at least one biography about Mary Queen of Scots – so here’s two to choose from. Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most famous books, but can be a little dry (it is a biography after all). John Guy’s My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots is a bit more captivating!
Mystery Books about Scotland
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet is a popular triple murder mystery! it’s a disquieting account of brutal violence which puts a community on edge. The setting is in the Scottish Highlands!
As the 1888 International Exhibition in Glasgow gets underway, the events of Gillespie and I are underway. Combine an artist, an admirer, and a mysterious tragedy – prepare to be unsettled.
Isabel Dalhousie is determined to figure out the cause of a man falling to his death. Taking place in Edinburgh, Isabel and her niece dig deep into crime, angst, and our morals. The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith is a pageturner!
When eight tourists arrive in the Highlands for a weekend and the widowed town-gossip is murdered, policeman Hamish Macbeth has his hands full. M.C Beaton’s Death of a Gossip is one of 33 books in a great series.
Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories is book 1 of 5 in this mystery series. Stephen King said it’s “the best mystery of the decade.” P.I. Jackson Brodie follows three seemingly unconnected family mysteries in Edinburgh.
Travel Books about Scotland
Any section of travel books has to include Rick Steves. He’s one of the best and I absolutely love his gentle nature – both for the people and places he visits! Rick Steves’ Scotland will help the traveler plan out their time and money – but it’s ideal for visitors staying for two weeks or more (which I would recommend as both my trips were shorter and there is still plenty for me to see!)
If you’re a whiskey lover, then Clay Risen’s Single Malt: A Guide to the Whiskies of Scotland is a great way to get your fill of the country’s drink! Learn about the history, regions, and even having a tasting journal so you can track the whiskeys you enjoy on your trip!
Golf lovers traveling to Scotland can’t miss the book A Course Called Scotland by Tom Coyne. He works his way around the country to achieve his goal of playing on every course in Scotland – the birthplace of golf.
Often, Scotland is included on a trip throughout Great Britain (and was on my first visit – England, Scotland, N. Ireland, Ireland, and Wales) – so getting the best of these countries in a short amount of time is important, yet difficult. That’s where Fodor’s Essential Great Britain can come into play!
For the traveler who doesn’t want a guide book, but more of an inside-look to Scotland, then humorous Naked Scotland by S. Blyth Stirling is the book for you! An American who lives in Scotland, married a Scot, and is part of a Scottish family gives a uniquely American perspective on the country.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books About Scotland
This book will be updated regularly as new books are published – but if you have a favorite that should be added – let me know! I’ll add it as a reader favorite!