Burns Night – Books Set in Scotland

In honour of Burns Night, a Scottish holiday that celebrates the life of Scots poet Robert Burns, I thought I’d share a selection of books set in the beautiful country that is Scotland. So prepare your haggis wi tatties an neeps, pour out a wee dram, and settle down by the roaring fire with one of these reads…

Outlander & A History of Scotland

  • If you’ve been following the blog since 2015, you’ve probably heard me mention the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon more than once… I’m just a little bit obsessed! It follows Claire Randall, a combat nurse from 1945, who is in the Scottish Highlands on her honeymoon. Whilst out exploring the countryside, she somehow steps back through time, via a stone circle, and ends up in 1743. She gets caught up with the clans, the Jacobite Rebellion, one dastardly ancestor of her husband, and one very, very sexy be-kilted James Fraser. I’m slowly working my way through the whole series, but so far the first book has been my favourite, because we get to watch Claire and Jamie’s relationship grow.
  • If you fancy a bit of non-fiction instead, then A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver might do the trick. I bought this last year and haven’t yet read it, but I have read his A History of Ancient Britain, which was excellent and very accessible, whether you know your history or not.

Harry Potter & Macbeth

  • It might be forgotten at times, but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is set in Scotland! Students take the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross all the way up north into Scotland. Hogwarts is supposedly located somewhere near Dufftown, in the Highlands, which interestingly is near the Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery… Although I’m pretty sure Hogwarts students are more interested in Butterbeer and Firewhiskey!
  • Of course, William Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth is set in Scotland. The ‘Scottish play’ tells of Macbeth, a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will become King of Scotland. Not wanting to delay his ascension to the throne, and also spurred on by Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan and takes the throne. His actions make him paranoid and guilt-ridden, and his reign is one of tyranny.

Trainspotting & The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • The infamous tale of heroin addicts, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is a 20th century classic. It is made up of short stories, all set in Leith, Edinburgh, and written in a mix of Scots, Scottish English and British English. Maybe not the thing to read if you’re looking for a nice, cosy read about Scotland… but a classic all the same.
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is one of the author’s best known works, and is set in 1930s Edinburgh. Miss Brodie teaches a group of six girls, in subjects such as classical studies and art history. The book frequently flashes forward through time to show glimpses of the future, and reveals that one of Miss Brodie’s students will eventually betray her.

Kidnapped & Knots and Crosses

  • Kidnapped by Robert Louise Stevenson is a classic adventure story, about the orphaned David Balfour. After a trip to find his last living relative, Uncle Ebenezer, goes horribly wrong, David finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned on a ship. However, it is soon wrecked off the coast of Scotland, and David must make his way back across the Highlands. Kidnapped is set in the period after the Jacobite Rebellion, a very tumultuous period of Scotland’s history.
  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin is the first of Rankin’s famous Inspector Rebus series, which follows Detective Sergeant John Rebus as he investigates grizzly crimes throughout Edinburgh. Like Trainspotting, this might not be the one to read just before going off on a weekend away to Edinburgh! 😉

Have you read any of these books? Can you suggest any other great reads set in Scotland?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #20: Trainspotting


Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: Trainspotting.


Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.

I’m aware that this was in fact based on the book Trainspotting (Mark Renton #2) by Irvine Welsh, but the film has such a cult following that I thought it would be a good one to cover.

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Whilst it’s set in New York, rather than Glasgow, Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. similarly follows the stories and lives of several people – a drug addict, a transvestite, a criminal and more. It is a very honest description that doesn’t hide anything, and was apparently banned in the UK in the 1960s! Which has to make it worth reading, right?

Junk by Melvin Burgess

Junk by Melvin Burgess

I read several Melvin Burgess books as a teenager, and I was always struck by the sheer brutal rawness of his writing. Junk by Melvin Burgess is the story of two teens who fall in love with each other – and heroin. Maybe it’s a shocking idea for a book for teenagers – but it’s not like this sort of thing never happens, and literature aimed at young adults should tackle topics like sex and drugs.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick is a typical PKD book – weird, a bit trippy and very clever. It is about an undercover narcotics agent called Bob Arctor, who has to indulge in the very drugs he is trying to bust, in order to fit in. However, he is soon informed of a new lead within the drug ring – a man by the name of Bob Arctor. It’s a pretty harrowing portrayal of what drugs can do to the mind, and definitely worth a read.

Junky by William S. Burroughs

Junky by William S. Burroughs

A dark account of a drug addict in 1953 New York, New Orleans and Mexico City, Junky was William S. Burroughs first novel. It was a risky move during a period of anti-drug hysteria, but it paid off – the book is now considered a modern classic.

Are you a fan of Trainspotting? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?