Literary Scotland itinerary

A book cover of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novel
Diana Gabaldon: Outlander ››

READ our ideas on how to bring Outlander to life and follow in the footsteps of your favourite characters

The outside of the tent for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
Book festivals ››

Meet award-winning authors and discuss your favourite books at Scotland's book festivals.

A statue of Peter Pan from the book by JM Barrie, in his birthplace town of Kirriemuir, Angus
More literary itineraries ››

Discover more literature itineraries around Scotland themed on specific regions and authors

Burns storytelling festival at the Brig o' Doon
Robert Burns ››

Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard, is revered the world over for the creativity and humanity he poured into his poetry.

Follow this Literary Scotland itinerary and discover the dramatic landscapes, fascinating history and vibrant culture which have inspired literature for generations. From classic Scottish authors like Scott and Stevenson, to the popular contemporary writers of today, intriguing connections to literary greats can be found across Scotland.

  • Looking towards the House and gardens of Abbotsford, Melrose
    Abbotsford House, Melrose
  • Looking through a book shop window to a woman browsing books in Wigtown, Scotland's Book Town
    A book shop in Wigtown, Scotland's Book Town
  • Burns storytelling festival at the Brig o' Doon, Alloway
    Burns storytelling festival at the Brig o' Doon, Alloway
  • The Douglas Dunn quote
    Edinburgh Castle lit up with a quote from Douglas Dunn's poem 'Disenchantments' © Chris Scott
  • The ornate stone carved Prentice Pillar of Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin
    The ornate interior of Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin

Begin exploring Scotland’s literary past in the picturesque town of Alloway, where the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns. The museum brings together several fascinating sites, including the Burns Cottage where the bard was born in 1759, the Poet’s Path, Alloway Auld Kirk, the Brig o’ Doon and the Burns Monument.

Head south on the A713 to Dumfries where more attractions offer an insight into Scotland's most celebrated poet, including the Robert Burns Centre, Burns House, his mausoleum and his favourite pub, The Globe Inn

If time allows, visit Ellisland Farm to the north of Dumfries, off the A76. This was Burns' home for three years, where he found great inspiration for his poetry.

Why not visit Wigtown, located to the west of Dumfries? Known as Scotland's National Booktown, this book lover's haven boasts several bookshops, publishers, printers, bookbinders, writers and an annual literary festival.

Head north east to cross the M74 to Moffat and via the A708 to St Mary's Loch, a scenic spot with links to the famous 19th century Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, and the English Lakeland poet William Wordsworth. Look out for the monument of the Scots poet and writer James Hogg, located in the woodlands next to the loch.

Continue east to Melrose, home to Abbotsford House. This treasure-trove of Scottish historical and literary material was built and lived in by Sir Walter Scott, and to the north east lies the famous scenic location of Scott's View, a famous panorama over the River Tweed and Eildon Hills.

Turn north for Rosslyn Chapel, also mentioned by Scott, but more recently playing a crucial role in the plot of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Immersed in myths and legends, the chapel featured in the novel’s blockbuster film adaptation, which starred Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon.

Other literary sites in the Lothians are nearby, including Gullane in East Lothian. The attractive sandy beach features in an exciting episode in Robert Louis Stevenson's Catriona. Nearer Edinburgh is the little community of Swanston, which Stevenson knew from boyhood. It features in his novel St Ives, where a French prisoner, Monsieur de St Yves, escapes from Edinburgh Castle.

There are many more literary links in Scotland's capital of Edinburgh, perhaps the most literary place in Scotland and the setting for the annual Edinburgh International Festival - a key event in the city's festival calendar. Edinburgh also has the distinction of being designated the first World City of Literature by UNESCO.

As an aid to creativity, the city has inspired a variety of writers. Robert Louis Stevenson used the story of the city's real-life Deacon Brodie as a theme for his book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is deeply rooted in the city.

Other notable authors born here include Kenneth Grahame, writer of the children's classic The Wind in the Willows and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The city is also associated with contemporary writers, such as the detective novels of Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. Stop off at the Elephant House coffee shop where JK Rowling first began imagining the compelling adventures of Harry Potter, and visit the Writers Museum which explores the links between the city and Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The renowned literary pub tour takes you through the wynds, courtyards and pubs of Edinburgh to discover Scotland’s greatest writers. Specialist tours are also available on Ian Rankin’s best selling Rebus books and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting

Take the M90 for Perth, then the A9 for Dunkeld, where signposts from the main road mark the Hermitage woodlands by the River Braan. In the 18th century, an early Duke of Atholl built a picturesque folly, which still stands, overlooking the foaming river. It was called Ossian's Hall, a reference to the then wildly-popular Poems of Ossian by James MacPherson. He was supposedly the discoverer of ancient Gaelic texts by a bard called Ossian, though the work was mostly from his imagination. His writings were the blockbusters of their day, translated into several European languages, and had a great impact on contemporary European literature with fans including Goethe and Napoleon.

From Dunkeld it is a very easy and pleasant drive along the edge of the Highlands north eastwards (A923/A926) via Blairgowrie to Kirriemuir. This former weaving town is a gateway to the Angus Glens and the birthplace of JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. His early years in Kirriemuir with his many brothers and sisters influenced the characters in his work, and even the outside wash house became his first theatre. There is a fascinating exhibition about Barrie's life, as well as memorabilia and theatrical costumes.