Scotland: A Literary Guide

Garry MacKenzie’s Scotland: A Literary Guide for Travellers is published by I.B. Tauris. You can buy a copy here.

With its vibrant cities and breathtaking landscapes, Scotland has captivated writers and visitors for centuries and inspired a diverse range of literature, from the religious poems carved on the rocks of its sacred monuments to the seedy urban novels of Irvine Welsh. For Robert Burns, Scotland’s iconic poet, the culture of his native country was a fertile ground for his imagination. Sir Walter Scott drew on the nation’s past, and on the stirring mountains and lochs of the Highlands, as he pioneered the historical novel. Some of the most famous early literary tourists, including James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, and Dorothy and William Wordsworth, wrote captivating accounts of their travels in Scotland.

scotland book cover

This enthralling guide gets under the skin of the country through the writers who lived in or visited Scotland, as well as those who simply imagined it in their work – from Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and the Scots ‘Makars’ of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to Keats, Coleridge and Robert Louis Stevenson; from Gaelic bards and anonymous balladeers to the cosmopolitan Hugh MacDiarmid, Jackie Kay, Ian Rankin and Kathleen Jamie. Famous figures sit alongside writers sometimes overlooked by literary travellers, and through their lives and words we experience the rich, fractious and passionate story of Scottish culture and discover how Scotland’s history, landscape and society are brought to life in literature.


‘cogent and lucidly written…the chronology is broad but accurate…the best bits about MacKenzie’s book are the bits where we see ourselves as others see us’

– Stuart Kelly, Spectator

‘MacKenzie is well informed and wears his research benignly…a diverting and informative book’

– Alan Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

‘succeeds in being evocative and affectionate…MacKenzie takes his reader on a long and rewarding walk across Scotland. His range of references is wide, and presented with passion and without pretensions’

– Mike Gonzalez, Review 31

‘Clear, concise, and companionable, the prose is engagingly readable and the learning worn with admirable lightness. Garry MacKenzie’s Scotland is a delight.’

– Robert Crawford, author of Scotland’s Books and The Bard: Robert Burns, the Biography

‘“Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?” Hugh MacDiarmid once expostulated. Many other nations are larger than Scotland, but its cultural achievements and influences have by far exceeded its geographical size and demography. Its literature – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and many others – from earliest times to the present day, as well as visitors from abroad, have inscribed Scotland as a literary land, balladic, sung, and dramatised. Garry MacKenzie’s Scotland will be invaluable to literary visitors, and for those who live in Scotland a catalyst to explore further its literature and its places.’

– Douglas Dunn, editor of The Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories and Twentieth Century Scottish Poetry

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close