From Rob Roy to Long John Silver, Peter Pan to Harry Potter, Scotland’s landscapes, history and passionate people have helped breathe life into some of the world’s best-loved literary heroes.
Whether it’s hard-hitting crime novels, action-packed adventures or heart-soaring romances, the country further cemented its place in the literary history books in 2004 when Edinburgh was named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.
And thanks to smash hits like Outlander and Harry Potter, VisitScotland believes interest in the country’s literary links is stronger than ever.
Jenni Steele, Film and Creative Industries manager at VisitScotland, said: “From Robert Burns to JK Rowling, Scotland has world-class literary links. Our landscapes, cities, history and people have inspired writers for centuries, and in turn their stories have helped draw visitors to our shores. Since Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, there has been strong ties between literature and tourism, and thanks to the introduction of film and television, every day people across the world are discovering Scotland.”
So this World Book Day (March 2), VisitScotland is inviting you to take a journey from page to place and explore the history and heritage that have inspired some of the world’s best known authors:
Sir Walter Scott – known for Waverley, The Lady of the Lake, Rob Roy
Abbotsford House, near Melrose, is the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott. It remains the best place in the country to understand the life and works of one of Scotland’s finest literary exports. A short distance away lies Scott’s View, a stunning vantage point overlooking the valley of the River Tweed and reputed to be one of the acclaimed author’s favourite views.
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Rob Roy. Inspired by the legends of the Highland folk hero Robert ‘Roy’ MacGregor and set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, the story is narrated by the fictional young Englishman Frank Osbaldistone. Ahead of writing, Scott visited Rob Roy’s cave at the head of Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch, in order to familiarise himself with the Rob Roy’s exploits
Robert Louis Stevenson – known for Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped
From buccaneers and buried gold to tales of good and evil, Robert Louis Stevenson was behind some of Scotland’s most imaginative stories including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh is where you’ll find the most extensive collection of his work. Follow in Stevenson’s footsteps with a trip to Braemar in Aberdeenshire where Treasure Island began after Stevenson was inspired by his step-son, Lloyd, drawing a treasure map. Or head to the Firth of Forth where you’ll find Fidra. The island is mentioned in the novel, Catriona, and was also thought to be an inspiration for Treasure Island. Finally, enjoy a spot of lunch at The Hawes Inn. The pub in South Queensferry not only features in Kidnapped but it is said Stevenson stayed in the Inn and actually wrote part of the famous novel in one of the rooms.
JM Barrie – known for Peter Pan
‘The Boy Who Never Grows Up’ or Peter Pan is the greatest literary creation of Angus-author JM Barrie. A statue of Peter Pan still resides at Barrie’s Birthplace in Kirriemuir but it is the fine Georgian town house of Moat Brae in Dumfries that Barrie himself credited as the inspiration for Neverland, the enchanted faraway place where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys outwit Captain Hook. Currently undergoing a major redevelopment, Moat Brae, The Birthplace of Peter Pan is set to open its doors next year.
Beatrix Potter – known for The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Although born in London, it was Beatrix Potter’s childhood holidays in Perthshire that are believed to have inspired some of her most famous creations, such as Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-winkle. With a love of small animals and a keen interest in the natural world, she often spent her spare time exploring the Perthshire countryside and writing illustrated letters to young friends. It was in one of these letters that Potter first wrote about the adventures of ‘four little rabbits, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.’ Today, visitors to the region can enjoy a trip to Birnam Arts home to the Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden, a celebration of Potter’s link to Scotland and her beloved furry fictional friends.
John Buchan – known for The Thirty-Nine Steps
Best known for the spy thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps -which saw its valiant hero Richard Hannay on the run through the Highlands - Buchan was born in Perth but brought up in Kirkcaldy. However, it is the Scottish Borders where he is most often associated, having spent many summer holidays with his grandparents in Broughton. His love of the Borders is often depicted in his books and the region is now home to the John Buchan Story in Peebles and The John Buchan Way –a 13 mile route which connects Broughton with Peebles. Despite not appearing in the novel, the Forth Bridge became a cinema icon after appearing in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film adaption of Buchan’s best-seller.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Known for The Scots Quair Trilogy: Sunset Song, Cloud Howe and Grey Granite
Hailed as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century, Grassic Gibbon’s celebrated novel, Sunset Song, encapsulates the struggles of farming life in a small fictional Aberdeenshire village. Taking inspiration from his surroundings, Grassic Gibbon’s novel mentions many real-life places including Laurencekirk, Stonehaven, Dunnottar Castle and The Aberlemno Standing Stones in Angus. Arbuthnott, where Grassic Gibbon’s was born, is now home to The Grassic Gibbon Centre, the perfect place to learn more about the life, inspiration and history of the acclaimed author
Alasdair Gray – known for Lanark
His groundbreaking novel Lanark, helped propel him into Scotland’s literary hall of fame, blending sci-fi and fictional settings with Gray’s real-life experiences of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Readers of the acclaimed novel will recognise Glasgow School of Art, where Gray himself attended in 1950s and where the title character of Lanark studied painting, as well as Glasgow Necropolis. The cemeteries, where fifty thousand individuals have been buried, are thought to be one of the most important in Europe.
JK Rowling – known for the Harry Potter series
It’s been exactly 20 years since ‘muggles’ were introduced to Harry Potter, Hogwarts and the wider Wizarding world. The Capital clearly cast a spell on author JK Rowling with the series beginning and ending in the city and its landmarks inspiring some of the book’s most recognisable places and people. Fans can embark on their own ‘Potter Pilgrimage’ by visiting; The Elephant House, a café in the heart of the Old Town where much of the first and second books were written; George Heriot’s School, the reputed inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Greyfriars Kirkyard, the final resting place Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort.
Diana Gabaldon – known for Outlander
Claire and Jamie’s epic love story may take centre-stage in the Outlander saga but Scotland’s sweeping scenery, romantic castles and fascinating history are far from just the support act, helping attract thousands of visitors to our shores. The blockbuster fantasy series, along with the smash-hit TV show, have inspired a range of tours and catapulted the real life attractions and places from the series into the spotlight. Fan favourites include Culloden Battlefield, the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Doune Castle as the fictional Castle Leoch and Clava Cairns, the rumoured inspiration for the mysterious Craigh na Dun, which swept Claire back in time.
Tartan Noir Trailblazers
With such a deliciously dark history, it’s no surprise that Scotland is home to some of the best crime-writers in the business, including Ian Rankin, Peter May, Val McDermid, Louise Welsh, and Christopher Brookmyre. Any Tartan Noir tour of Scotland has to include a trip to The Oxford Bar in Edinburgh’s Young Street, the favoured pub of curmudgeonly detective Inspector John Rebus and his creator Ian Rankin. Eriskay and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides both feature in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy a fascinating combination of crime and countryside. Finally, Glasgow has been the backdrop for many Tartan Noir thrillers and is full of fascinating attractions and places to visit. The city’s River Clyde features at several points in Louise Welsh’s The Bullet Trick, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the targeted venues in Christopher Brookmyre’s The Sacred Art of Stealing and the area of Garnethill is where Denise Mina’s first book was primarily set.
For further inspiration, plus information about other Scottish authors, check out VisitScotland’s A Timeline of Scottish Literature at www.ebooks.visitscotland.com/scottish-literature/ or visit www.visitscotland.com/scotliterature.