Whatever sort of stereotypical notions you have of Scotland are probably not too far off: a rebellious national spirit, a predilection for ghost stories, an affinity for smart plaids, and an appreciation of a wee dram o’ whisky. Scotland is all this and so much more.
In the city and out in nature, the scenery is craggy and brutally beautiful. There are castles and towers and keeps around every curve in the road. And the sheep! So many adorable sheep and cattle. You can head down the pub for an evening of singing folk songs — and, if you’re lucky, you might be told an appropriately moody story by an old Scot who can really spin a yarn.
The geography and weather of Scotland are characters in their own right. The southern part of the country nearer to England is moorland, and in the north are the Highlands with sharp mountains and sharper weather. The Atlantic coast on the west is like a serrated knife, indented with deep, cold lochs — and islands with long histories dot the ocean on both sides of the country.
In this episode, we talk about how we fell in love with Scotland on our visit there. Then we discuss books that swept us away to that enchanting country: an Edinburgh ghost story, a memoir by one of Scotland’s most beloved sons, a story collection that celebrates the Scottish tradition of oral storytelling, and two books that explore the unique communities on islands in the Outer Hebrides. We also enjoy a cozy chat with Tom Hodges, the owner of the brilliant bookshop, Typewronger Books in Edinburgh. (show notes / transcript)
Stunning windswept landscapes, a rebellious national spirit, an affinity for smart tartan plaids, a predilection for ghost stories, and an appreciation of a wee dram o' whisky. Scotland is all this and so much more.
The Lewis Chessmen are 12th-century chess pieces carved from walrus ivory, and their origin story is shrouded in conjecture, academic rivalry, and murder. One undisputed fact: They are ridiculously cute.
Typewronger Books in Edinburgh is the bookish retreat of our dreams: a cozy shop that only has the good stuff with a literary magician behind the counter. He looks into your soul and gives you the right book.
How idyllic! A group of old friends from Oxford gather in a remote hunting lodge in Scotland to relax by the fire, drink bubbly, and reconnect. Then their New Year's Eve celebration goes horribly, fabulously wrong.
Every character in this vividly rendered historical novel needs a restorative cup of tea and homemade shortbread to help them chill out. Here's a killer recipe for shortbread, in case you need a sweet treat, too.
Bake a batch of Scotch eggs and get caught up in a police procedural that travels from a peat bog in the Scottish Highlands to beautiful Edinburgh. Sure, there's murder afoot, but that's no excuse to go hungry.
Craggy islands, damp peat bogs, twisty lanes of cobblestones, vast swaths of green to make your heart soar — Scotland is a beautiful country with larger-than-life heroes (and heroines) and more than a few ghosts.
It's a readers' paradise: buttery scones and shortbread and tea, a windy landscape with the scent of the sea, and bookshops. Oh, the bookshops! Every genre, new and used, and a bookstore cat. What else could you need?
Feudal Scotland would perhaps not be your first choice should a time machine appear in your vicinity. But this gripping novel — told through police statements and court transcripts — is an unputdownable sensation.
Let us just lay some descriptors on you: suspense and intrigue, romance and heartbreak, seduction and betrayal, secrets and declarations. Now imagine all of these things playing out in 18th-century Scotland. Sublime.
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Top image courtesy of Jack Anstey/Unsplash.