Ok, so I had wanted to do something like this for some time. This is the first of a series of pieces called “The Geek DreamPacker” where I will be featuring books and films inspired by the countries I visited. For this first article, I will be talking about the best books and movies about Scotland.
Whenever I am travelling to a new country, I like to surround myself with some stories that took place there. It makes the site much more interesting and it also inspires me to go to some of the locations that the characters visit in the book or movie. I tried to leave out of the most common ones and give you guys some not-so-typical suggestions (with some exceptions, of course). So, don’t forget to let me know which books and movies about Scotland you like the most!
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Books about Scotland
I promise you, you won’t find this one in any other list of books and movies about Scotland. This is a very weird book that I found hidden in my mum’s old bookshelf, but I immediately fell in love with it! Candles in the Woods is a dark mystery with a bit of romance that takes place in the Scottish Highlands.
Summary: Helen Comyn grew up a servant’s child on the Grant family’s estate. However, she never expected that she would become an important heiress and return to Gallowmerry as a lady. Helen adopts a new identity to be accepted by the Grants as an equal, but she quickly realises that there is something mysterious lurking among the place. Lucy, the youngest daughter, seems to be cursed by her past. She is a grown woman, but, somehow, still acts like a young child. Lennox, the renegade son, is dangerously attractive but so is Duan, the heir of Gallowmerry who is tormented by the war and almost in the verge of craziness. Also, there seems to be the ghost of a child cursing the place and driving the inhabitants mad.
This book has a bit of Jane Austen classic charm, with much more palpable sexual tension (and some subtly steamy scenes) and a bit of a supernatural flair. It is also a short and addictive book that can be read in a just one evening (especially with some wine included).
If there is something I love about Mathias Malzieu is how he seems to be writing a children’s book, but he is actually delivering something darker and deeper.
Summary: Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart seems like a fairy tale at the beginning. Jack was born with a frozen heart, so a midwife replaced it with a cuckoo clock. He can live a normal life as long as he doesn’t touch the hands of the clock, he manages his temper and he never falls in love. Obviously, as in any good story, he breaks all of the rules and decides to travel half of Europe in search of a mysterious singer. I am not going to spoil the end, but it gives a pretty good look at the complicated human nature. Also, since Malzieu is random like that, the story features some characters like George Méliès and Jack the Ripper, because… Why not? Also, the first part of the book takes place in Edinburgh and then they move to Andalusia.
This is a quick, quirky, funny book that also has a great soundtrack, because its writer is in a band and composed some songs inspired by it that were then included in a film adaptation.
This is another one of my unusual favourite books. If you like historical fiction, war stories and just a bit of romance, this should be a must-read. The author is not Scottish, she is actually Australian, but we do not discriminate. She writes about Scottish culture, so there is no reason not to include her in our list of books and movies about Scotland.
Summary: The White Mare takes place during the Roman invasion of Alba (now Scotland) where governor Agricola has decided to send troops to the north of the island. Rhiann is a Scottish priestess that has been forced into a marriage with Eremon, a fugitive Irish prince that arrived to Rhiann’s village after a shipwreck. They form a military alliance to defend the tribe against the Romans, but they need the help of the rest of Alba’s clans so they travel around the country to search for allies.
This book provides a lot of historical information about the conquest of Alba, but it also has drama, mystery and (I must confess I love this) a bit of magic and Celtic mythology. It is a big book, so if you like to binge-read, this is your chance. At the beginning I thought it was just one volume, but then I discovered it is actually a trilogy, so it will keep you occupied for a couple of weeks (or days, if you are obsessive, like me).
When I was doing some research, almost everyone agreed that I should include Outlander among the best books and movies about Scotland. It is hard to classify Outlander in a single genre. Some people say it is historical fiction, some others that it is Science fiction, there are the occasional critics that argue it is just a romance novel, but I like to think it is a mix of all of these.
Summary: Claire Randall is a nurse that worked in the Second World War. She and her husband decide to take a holiday in Inverness and she ends up travelling back to the past when she touches a stone circle hidden in the woods. Now she finds herself in 1776, at he verge of the Jacobite rebellion, and she has to find her way back to her own time. However, during her journey, Claire becomes an involuntary guest of clan McKenzie, where she is held captive because she is suspected to be an English spy. There she meets Jamie Fraser and… Well, everything starts to complicate a little bit.
This is an easy to read book, but it is also big and has 7 sequels, so it requires a bit of a commitment. Nevertheless, it has really relatable, flawed characters, lots of history, time travel, steamy explicit sex scenes and plenty of nail-biting moments. I haven’t finished the entire series, but I love carrying this book when I am travelling. I never get bored.
Movies about Scotland
This is not a common title when you are talking about books and movies about Scotland. I found this movie during a weekend that I decided to become a twenty-something grannie and stay in all night. I love Karen Gillian, so I decided to give it a got and I was really pleased with my choice.
Summary: Basically, Jane Lockhart is an aspiring writer with a miserable life that has a manuscript no one wants to publish. One day, a tiny publishing house decides to give her a chance. surprisingly, the book turns out to be a big success. Jane is finally happy, she is famous, she has a new boyfriend… And she needs to write another one to finish her contract. But there is a small problem: Jane cannot write when she is happy, so her desperate editor decides to make her life miserable again in order to get her to finish the second book.
This is an indie, sweet, comical and slightly romantic film perfect when you want to watch something light, but not mainstream. It has a good cast and amazing costume design. What else can you ask?
2. Harry Potter
I know, I said I tried to look for not-so-typical options, but it seemed wrong not to include Harry Potter in a post of books and movies about Scotland. I debated a lot trying to decide if I should include it in the books’ list as well, but in the end, I think you can appreciate the beauty of Scotland in the movies better than in the books. The plot is a different story, though.
Summary: Do I really need to do this? I don’t think there’s someone out there who doesn’t know what Harry Potter is about. But just in case, we are talking about the kid with glasses that does magic and tries to defeat a noseless guy.
Although I love the saga, I do think that not all of the movies are great. However, The Prisoner of Azkaban has amazing shots of the Scottish landscape. Also, the Deathly Hallows part 1 and 2 also feature some really interesting locations (not all in Scotland, though). I will leave it opt to you, but you can always tell me in the comments which of the eight films is your favourite.
I feel like I am cheating because I also included the book. But, unlike many other adaptations, I think the producers did an amazing job with Outlander!
Summary: The story is the same; a Second World War nurse goes to a Scottish stone circle and travels back to 1776. This is the time when the Jacobites want to rebel against the English government. However, although the book has more details, the show was put together brilliantly and it really manages to keep you glued to your telly. The Scottish locations are breath-taking, the rhythm is great and the visual incentive is not so bad either (Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are both easy on the eye). My mum and I barely slept when we were watching it for several days!
Some people call it “a feminist take on Game of Thrones”, although I wouldn’t agree completely with that statement. It does have political plots, war and nudity, as well as a female perspective. But overall I think the angle is different from GoT. Equally enjoyable, though. It has a few Emmys nominations and there are several seasons out by now, so it is perfect for binge-watching!
My boyfriend thought my list was kind of girly and since I did not want to include Trainspotting, he suggested Filth instead. According to Conor, Filth shows a loosely exaggerated view of real Scotland. Drugs violence sex and sheer mental behaviour in 90 minutes. Plus James McCavoy. But that’s just me.
Summary: A corrupt police officer, with sociopathic traits and an alcohol and drug addiction is to investigate the murder of a Japanese exchange student. The case could win him a promotion to become a Detective Inspector, so he has to ruin the chances for his colleagues. However, the case triggers some deep emotional turmoil and he starts loosing the grip of reality.
This is definitely a denser, more complicated film. The story is from Irvine Welsh, the same guy from Trainspotting. This way you get an idea about the vibe of the movie. The cinematography is amazing and it depicts a different side of Scotland. Darker, but still super interesting!
No, sorry, I won’t include Braveheart. There are many books and movies about Scotland, so we can get by without it.
What did you think about my list? And, more importantly, which are some of your favourite books and movies about Scotland? Don’t forget to mention it in the comments and let me know if you have read/watched some of my suggestions!
I guess I’ll see you on the road.
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