books set in scotland highlander romance

Read These Before Visiting Scotland: Books Set In Scotland

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Scotland is a bookish country. The Scots seem to love to read and write. Since reading books set in Scotland is one of the primary ways I get ready for a trip to this beautiful country, I asked some of my blogging friends to share some of their favorite Scottish books.

If you need more proof of Scotland’s literary pedigree, consider this:

  • Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature
  • Edinburgh plays host to the largest International Book Festival annually
  • There are tours based on books set in Scotland throughout the country. We took a Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh. You can take a book lovers tour visiting the sites and haunts of Edinburgh’s literary legends: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin, J.K. Rowling, and others or a literary pub tour with professional actors leading you through the city’s literary sites and pubs.

These reviews of top books set in Scotland is in no way comprehensive, but it’s a good starting point of books to read before you travel to Scotland (or while you are there). We’ve included the Scottish historical romance novels we all know and love, some of the best British crime writers, classic Scottish novels, and books by famous Scottish writers.

You’ll even find some travelogues and guidebooks at the end to help you plan your own trip to Scotland.

If you are looking for books set in Scotland for kids, scroll down on my things to do with kids in Edinburgh post. When you are so inspired by the books set in Scotland that you are ready to take a trip, take a look through my:

Books Set In Scotland

Doune Castle - Outlander locations in Scotland

Best Highlander Romance Novels

We are starting with the best Highlander romance books because they are so very popular right now. The most well known, Outlander, has even been made into a series that can be watched online. Outlander is just one series of several steamy Scottish romance novels featuring men in kilts.

Heather Graham’s The King’s Pleasure and Conquer the Night, Evelyn Anthony’s Clandara and The French Bride, are also sure to fill your need for sexy Scottish Highland romance novels.

The two books reviewed here are considered the best Highland romance novels because they are hot and heavy, but also in the genre of Scottish historical romance – you learn something of Scottish history as you read.

At the Water’s Edge

By Sara Gruen

Scotland Location: Highlands

Imagine having it all until one fateful night, you disgrace yourself in front of the socialites of Philly. Unable to fight in WWII and financially cut off from his father, Ellis seeks out a solution: prove the Loch Ness Monster exists.

Hoping to regain his father’s respect, Ellis, Maddie, and their bougie friend Hank head off to the Scottish highlands in search of a myth. In the process, Maddie learns about love, social injustices, and creating a home in a foreign land. War, affairs, desperation, folklore, booze, and Hitler plague this novel.

At the Water’s Edge is the perfect historical fiction novel for readers who love WWII novels and those who are wanderlusting for Scotland. Plus, who doesn’t love a little angsty romance paired with a Nessie hunt?

Are you looking for more books set in Europe?  Check out this book list of Icelandic novels.

— Christine, The Uncorked Librarian

More books to read to inspire travel

Standing stones from Outlander

Outlander Series

By Diana Gabaldon

 Scotland Location: Highlands

I always say it’s a crime if you’re going to Scotland and you haven’t read at least the first book in the Outlander series! Wildly popular with people who visit Scotland or not, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is an incredible piece of historical fiction that will take you through the beautiful Highlands of Scotland in both post-WWII era and the 18th century.

The book follows Claire who, after just ending a horrendous and bloody WWII as a nurse, accidentally time travels through a circle of standing stones, straight into a different and just as destructive war! As you read, you learn about the events that lead to the Jacobite uprising in Scotland and eventually to the infamous battle of Cullode, which ended the way of Scottish Clan life. Gabaldon does an incredible job describing the majesty of the Highlands in a way that makes you want to jump into the page, or at least onto a plane!

From Wanderlust Crew

You can buy the entire Outlander book set (because once you start you are going to want to read them all!) or start with the first of the Highlander novels: Outlander.

Outlander Tours

This Scottish time travel romance is so popular that people are flocking to Outlander filming locations. If you are asking yourself, “Where is Outlander filmed?” here is a list of spots Outlander fans in Scotland must visit: Visit Scotland Outlander Film Locations.

Best Scottish Romance Novels

books set in scotland highlander romance

The Shadowy Horses

By Susanna Kearsley

 Scotland Location: The Borders

The Shadowy Horses falls into both the categories of ghost stories and Scottish romance books. Verity Grey goes to work on an archaeological dig of a Roman campsite in the small village of Eyemouth, in the Scottish Borders. Her boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it.

Grey falls for her boss and believes him when she discovers the ghost of a long-dead sentinel is guiding him. She comes to know the Sentinel and feels like he is protecting her, but from what?

— Mel

The Cafe By The Sea, The Endless Beach, Christmas on the Island

By Jenny Colgan

Scotland Location: Fictional Island of Mure

In these three novels by Jenny Colgan, we follow our heroine, Flora, as she returns from London to the small island she grew up on. At first, she is pretty unhappy to be there — back with her family and the small village life she fled to London to escape.

Throughout the books, she falls in love both with cooking and a person. She gets back to her roots and rekindles her love affair with Mure. Each Scottish romance novel stands on its own and is both funny and heartfelt.

Though the books are set on a fictional island, I pictured it as one of the Orkney Islands, since we visited both Orkney Mainland and Hoy while I was reading these books. I bet they could be seen as one of the less populated Hebrides as well. I loved her description of the island and the people that live there. 

There is a lot of talk about food in Colgan’s books and she includes recipes at the end. 

I cruised through these three books in record time and went on to find more Jenny Colgan books. They are fun and easy to read, but not trite. And she writes about some real issues that are beyond most contemporary romance (or maybe I just think that since I don’t normally read this genre).

Bake up some Scottish cheese scones (using good, cold butter!), sit in front of the fire, and jump into life on a beautiful island surrounded by Scottish seas.

A friend listened to The Cafe by the Sea on audiobooks and loved the Scottish brogue of the narrator. I’d recommend trying that version to really get the feel of a Scottish novel.

— Mel 

Best Scottish Historical Fiction

If you like historical fiction, Scotland seems to be the place to read about it.

Maybe you like your Scottish historical novels with a little less romance. I’ve got you covered. These books of historical fiction set in Scotland will teach you about Scottish history while they entertain you.

Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

The Italian Chapel

By Philip Paris

 Scotland Location: Orkney Islands

Based on fascinating true events, The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris is a heart-gripping story.

During WWII, Italian prisoners of war are sent to a camp on a tiny island Lamb Holm, between Orkney Mainland and Burray. In “Camp 60” they live through hardship; not only are they forced to work hard building causeways between the islands, but they must also help on local farms. They also struggle with the harsh climate conditions of Orkney. Nonetheless, they forge friendships between themselves and gain respect among British guards on Camp and the locals.

In the group of Italian prisoners are artists and craftsmen; they come with an initiative to build a chapel, a place to worship and find peace. They quickly get permission from camp officers and begin to build in their spare time. They give it all they have; using driftwood and junk they raise a simple chapel which is then beautifully decorated by skilled painter, Domenico, who actually decides to stay and finish off the frescoes after other prisoners are already sent home after the war.

Italian Chapel is nowadays one of the most iconic landmarks of the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland, treasured by the local community.

Ela, Stunning Outdoors

You might also like reading a nonfiction account of the story: Orkney’s Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon

Where the World Ends

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Book cover of Where the World Ends by McCaughreamScotland Location: St. Kilda

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean is based on a historic incident and set on the remote Scottish islands and sea stacks of St Kilda. Located to the west of Lewis and Harris in the Atlantic Ocean; St Kilda is now uninhabited. But until the 1930s a small community lived on Hirta, which despite having no trees, was the most habitable of the cluster of islands.

One way in which the population survived there was by sending groups of “fowlers” to the nearby sea stacks – sheer and steep-faced outcrops of rock – which are home to many birds in the summer months. The fowlers hunted birds for meat, oil, and feathers that could be sold on the Scottish mainland.

McCaughrean’s historical fiction retells the story of a small group of boys and men who went on a fowling expedition to Warrior Stac in 1727 and were then stranded for nine months. They should have been picked up after a few weeks, but when the boat did not return some concluded the end of the world had come. The novel tells of the group’s struggle to survive a harsh winter through the perspective of one of the older boys, Quill. Their experiences and reactions to their eventual discovery of why they have been abandoned are moving and shocking. The novel is a middle-grade fiction for readers aged 12+, however, older readers and adults will love this book too.

Angela Stapleford, Reading Inspiration

Buy Where the World Ends on Amazon or buy Where The World Ends on

Best Scottish Novels

Essentially if a Scottish novel doesn’t fit into one of my many other fiction categories, it goes here. 

Longhope on Hoy, Orkney

Rock Paper Scissors 

by Alice Feeney 

Book cover of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney Scotland Location: Remote Scottish Highlands 

Rock Paper Scissors is a gripping psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. The novel follows Adam and Amelia, a married couple who are struggling to move on from a traumatic event in their past. When they find themselves stranded at a remote Scottish cottage with an unknown third party, the tension between them escalates, and secrets and lies are revealed.

Feeney’s writing style is taut and suspenseful, with twists and turns that will keep readers guessing. The narrative is cleverly structured, with alternating perspectives and timelines that gradually reveal the full picture of what happened to Adam and Amelia.

Feeney’s book is a fast-paced and suspenseful read, and it is a great choice for fans of psychological thrillers.

— Mel

Buy Rock Paper Scissors on Amazon or buy Rock Paper Scissors on

The Wages of Sin (Sarah Gilchrist #1) 

by Katie Welsh

Book cover for The Wages of Sin by Katie Welsh a book set in EdinburghScotland Location: Edinburgh

The Wages of Sin is a captivating and atmospheric historical mystery set in Edinburgh in the late 19th century. The novel introduces us to Sarah Gilchrist, a young woman who is the first female student at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school.

Despite her academic achievements, Sarah faces discrimination and hostility from her male classmates and the wider society due to her gender and the scandalous circumstances that led her to attend the university. When a fellow student is found murdered, Sarah becomes embroiled in the investigation, using her medical knowledge and determination to uncover the truth.

Katie Welsh’s writing style is immersive and vivid, transporting the reader to the gritty streets of Edinburgh and the halls of the medical school. The author also skillfully weaves in themes of class, gender, and sexuality, exploring the constraints and prejudices that existed in Victorian society.

More in the series:

— Mel

Buy The Wages of Sin on Amazon or Buy The Wages of Sin on

Best Classic Scottish Fiction

Virginia Woolf has to be one of the most famous British authors, so she is included in our section on classic novels set in Scotland. Muriel Spark is another well-known British author with several books set in Scotland. Other books suitable for the title are: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson and Whiskey Galore by Compton Mackenzie.

classic Scottish fiction set in Edinburgh

To the Lighthouse

By Virginia Woolf

 Scotland Location: Inner Hebrides / Isle of Skye

If you’re looking for a great classic novel set in Scotland, then you can’t go wrong with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. As one of Woolf’s most notable works, this 1927 novel follows the modernist tradition that was perfected during that decade and it is noted for its unique and poignant writing style.

To the Lighthouse takes place at the summer home of the Ramsay family on Scotland’s Isle of Skye from the years 1910-1920. The book, like many of Woolf’s novels, is not particularly plot-driven and rather concentrates on snippets of human relationships and thoughts through a unique stream-of-consciousness style.

Though the book is not about Scotland, the Isle of Skye provides an excellent backdrop for examining the complexities of human emotion and relationships that are explored in this iconic novel. It is an excellent book to read if you’re planning a trip to this Hebridean island or are a fan of literature by monumental female writers.

Maggie, Books Like This One

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

By Muriel Spark

 Scotland Location: Edinburgh

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at a conservative school for girls in Edinburgh. And she is in her prime. She chooses six girls to mold into her vision of who they should be. She takes over their intellectual lives as well as their love lives, and careers.

She is passionate in her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and in her dedication to “The Brodie Set,” the students she selects to be her crème de la crème.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is Spark’s masterpiece, a novel that offers one of twentieth-century English literature’s most iconic and complex characters—a woman at once admirable and sinister, benevolent and conniving.”

I made my book club read this and there were varying reviews. I think it might be better if you are going to be in Edinburgh and know some of the places in the book. The audio version of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie got sterling reviews — nothing more fun than being read to in a Scottish brogue. 

— Mel

Whisky Galore

By Compton Mackenzie

 Scotland Location: Fictional Island, Outer Hebrides 

I picked up a copy of Whisky Galore at a used bookstore in Cullen, Scotland. It took a little while to get used to the dialect, but I found this book both charming and funny. 

The 1947 book was inspired by the true story of the sinking of the SS Politician on a point of the Isle of Eriskay in 1941. The boat was filled with provisions, including medicine, food, and 264,000 bottles of Scotch whisky. The locals had been feeling the deprivations of the war at that point and made haste to “salvage” what they could from the boat. 

The Mackenzie novel takes place on two fictional islands — Big and Little Todday. The people of the island are going a little nuts when they run out of whisky and comedy ensues. Then a ship carrying a lot of whisky to the United States wrecks on a rock just off of one of the islands. The people band together to salvage the whisky, hide it from authorities, and have a few big parties. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. 

There was a movie made 1949 directed by Alexander Mackendrick and one of the most enduring and loved of the Ealing comedies (for some reason it was retitled Tight Little Island in the US). Another movie was made in 2016 and we watched this version of Whisky Galore the movie when we were in Scotland. Some of it was filmed in Portsoy on the Moray Coast (even though the books is set in the Hebrides), the next town over from where we were staying and it was fun to see it. The movie is missing so much that was in the book. It was still fun to watch, but parts of it didn’t quite make sense to my three family members who hadn’t read the book. 

— Mel

Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland 

by Lisa Schneidau 

Book Cover of Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland stories set in ScotlandScotland Location: Various locations in Britain and Ireland

This is a collection of folk tales from Britain and Ireland that feature plants and flowers, as the title spells out. The stories are from a variety of cultures and traditions, and they offer a unique glimpse into the way that people in the past viewed the natural world. Schneidau’s book has nice illustrations of some of the plants and the stories are fun to read.  I really appreciated her introductions to the stories which helped out them in context and shared a little more about why these stories were meaningful at the time they were told. 

I recommend reading one story at a time if you can and lingering over them.

— Mel

Buy Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland on Amazon (It’s free with Kindle Unlimited)

Best Scottish Detective Series

If you are looking for a murder mystery, Scotland is the place to go, at least in a literary sense. The Peter May Lewis Trilogy has to be the best known of the Scottish detective series, although Alexander McCall Smith, with his Isabel Dalhousie series is up there, too, as Smith is one of the better known Scottish mystery writers.

The Shetland Island Mysteries by Ann Cleeves, is another murder mystery, or crime drama, series in which the Scottish landscape plays and important role.

Iona Isle of Mull. Books set in the Hebrides Scotland

The Lewis Trilogy

By Peter May

Scotland Location: Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

Set off the northwest coast of Scotland, the islands of the Outer Hebrides are known for their white-sand beaches, wild landscapes, Gaelic traditions, Neolithic history, and island hospitality. What they’re not known as is a hotbed of crime, other than in the bestselling series of novels by author Peter May.

His Lewis Trilogy is made up of three books – The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, and The Chessmen – which follow Edinburgh police officer Fin Macleod as he heads back to his childhood home on the Isle of Lewis to investigate a murder.

Each story unfolds with a different mystery to solve, from a body found in a peat bog to a plane wreck submerged in a lake.

Peter May’s books feature a cast of island characters, but in these atmospheric and sometimes gory tales, the landscapes of the Outer Hebrides are just as much a character in the book as the people. The local tourist board has even created a special map of the island for fans to follow.

You can visit real-life locations around the township of Ness where Finn grew up or follow in his footsteps and drink a pint in McNeill’s pub, visit the Iolaire monument in Stornoway, or walk across the gorgeous Uig bay in the south of the island to bring the Peter May trilogy to life.

— Lucy, On The Luce

Peter May Books in Order

Shetland series books set in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Shetland Island Mystery Series

By Ann Cleeves

 Scotland Location: Shetland Islands

Before it was a TV series set in Scotland, Ann Cleeves’ detective series books had Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and his colleagues investigating murders and other crimes on the remote, northern Shetland Islands. 

These Scottish crime books, and especially the Scottish TV series, will keep you on the edge of your seat while simultaneously having you longing for the wind-swept islands where they take place. I have friends who are planning trips to the Shetland Islands after seeing them on the show.

The stories are dark, like a lot of Scottish detective novels, as Perez et al investigate disappearances, murders, drug trafficking, and sexual assault. The landscape adds an eeriness, but also a calm, timelessness to the stories.

Most seasons of the Shetland TV series are no longer available on Netflix, but you can watch Shetland on Amazon if you have Prime and a Brit Box subscription (or a free trial of Brit Box).

— Mel

Shetland Books in Order

Edinburgh Twilight (Ian Hamilton Mysteries #1) 

by Carole Lawrence 

book cover of Edinburgh Twilight (Ian Hamilton Mysteries #1) by Carole Lawrence  Scotland Location: Edinburgh

This is the first mystery novel in a trilogy. The book follows the story of Ian Hamilton, a young lawyer who is investigating the murder of a young woman in 1881. Hamilton is a complex and likable character, and the mystery is well-paced and suspenseful.

Lawrence’s book is a great introduction to the gothic city of Edinburgh in the late 1800s, and it is a must-read for fans of mystery novels.

Ian Hamilton Mysteries books in order

— Mel

Buy Edinburgh Twilight on Amazon or buy Edinburgh Twilight on

Best Scottish Travelogues

Scottish travelogues

Love of Country: A Journey Through the Hebrides

By Madeleine Bunting

Book cover ofLove of Country: A Journey Through the Hebrides By Madeleine BuntingScotland Location: Hebrides Islands

British author, Madeleine Bunting travels to the Hebrides to explore her family history. In her search for “home,” she explores the cultural and natural history of these western islands.

“For all who have wondered how it might feel to stand face-out at the edge of home, Love of Country is a revelatory journey through one of the world’s most remote, beautiful landscapes that encourages us to think of the many identities we wear as we walk our paths, and how it is possible to belong to many places while at the same time not wholly belonging to any.”

— Mel

Buy Love of Country: A Journey Through the Hebrides on Amazon

Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes 

by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Book Cover of Edinburgh A Picturesque Journey by Robert Louis Stevenson Scotland Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

I loved this travelogue and collection of essays about the Scottish capital city. Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850, and he spent much of his childhood and early adulthood there. The book is full of his love for the city, its history, and its people. Stevenson writes with wit and charm, and he brings Edinburgh to life in vivid detail. The book is a must-read for anyone who loves Scotland or who is planning a trip to Edinburgh.

Knowing the layout of Edinburgh pretty well, I had to keep reminding myself that Stevenson wrote this book almost 150 years ago – it feels very current. It’s also pretty funny in places. 

— Mel

Buy Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes on Amazon or buy Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes on 

To the Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne 

by Alistair Moffat 

Book cover of To the Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne 
by Alistair MoffatScotland Location: Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England

This travelogue, memoir, and history of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a small island off the coast of Northumberland, England, is obviously not a book set in Scotland. However, I visited on a day trip from Edinburgh and the book starts in Scotland at the author’s home.
Lindisfarne is a place of great historical and religious significance. It was the site of a famous monastery in the 7th century, and it was also the site of a Viking raid in 793 that is considered to be the beginning of the Viking Age. Moffat’s book is a fascinating and informative read, and it is a great way to learn more about this place.

I found it especially intriguing as I read it with the knowledge that I’d be visiting and it really excited me about the prospect of seeing it in person.

— Mel

Buy To the Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne on Amazon or buy To the Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne on

Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops 

by Shaun Bythell 

book cover of Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell a book about ScotlandScotland Location: Wigtown

You have to have a book set in a bookstore in a post about books set in Scotland, right?

I thought this was a humorous and insightful memoir about life as a bookseller, if a bit cynical. Bythell owned a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, for many years, and he has a lot of stories to tell about the people he met there.

From the “Person Who Doesn’t Know What They Want (But Thinks It Might Have a Blue Cover)” to the “Parents Secretly After Free Childcare” we see the types of people who frequent bookstores through the misanthropic eyes of a very grumpy bookseller.

The book is full of wit, sarcasm, and charm, and it is a great read for anyone who loves books, people watching, or who has ever worked in a bookshop.

— Mel 

Buy Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops on Amazon or buy Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops on

Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other 

by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish 

Book cover of Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish Scotland Location: Scottish Highlands

This is a fun travelogue and memoir about two Scottish actors (from Outlander, among other roles) who go on a road trip through Scotland from Glencoe to Inverness and Culloden battlefield. Heughan and McTavish are both passionate about Scotland, and they share their love of the country with their readers.

The book is full of humor, adventure, and history, and it is a great read for anyone who loves Scotland or who is planning a trip there. I listened to the book, read by both actors, and thought it was pretty fun if a little self-indulgent. 

— Mel

Buy Clanlands on Amazon or buy Clanlands on

Around Scotland: A Scottish Travelogue

By Peter Brown

Book cover of Around Scotland: A Scottish TravelogueScotland Location: Northern Scotland

For a more irreverent journey around Scotland, join Brown and a group of Explorer Scouts as they travel around the northern parts of Scotland.

The book is also full of interesting anecdotes and historical information, providing readers with a deeper understanding of Scotland’s unique character and traditions. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a Scotland armchair adventurer, Around Scotland is a must-read for anyone who loves Scotland or simply enjoys exploring new places.

— Mel

Buy Around Scotland: A Scottish Travelogue on Amazon

Scotland Travel Books

 When you really need a guidebook for trip planning or implementation…here are some of my favorites.




See lots of Scotland Guidebooks here.

Join the Book Club!

Don’t miss these other book reviews and suggestions perfect for both the armchair traveler and those who like to read books set in the country in which they are traveling.

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6 thoughts on “Read These Before Visiting Scotland: Books Set In Scotland”

  1. Many thanks. I am anxious to try some of these.

    I am currently enjoying the Margot Fleming Series by Aline Templeton. Location is in southeast Scotland.

  2. Marcia Bennett

    Ian Rankin is the best for series mystery set in Edinburgh.

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