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8 Scottish Locations Featured in Debut Novels

A passageway through two bookshleves, books lining shelves all around

Armchair Books, Edinburgh

Did you know that 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories? As we celebrate Scotland’s wealth of stories, it’s important to remember emerging, fresh and forward-looking talent. This list of recent debut novels set in Scotland shows the pull of Scotland’s places for new writers. What a location to set your first book!

It’s a great feeling to recognise somewhere you know when you’re reading – it can really help set the scene. So how many of these places have you been to?

Victorian Edinburgh

Ross Macfarlane – Edward Kane and the Parlour Maid Murderer

New Town, Edinburgh

Set in Edinburgh in 1850, Edward Kane and the Parlour Maid Murderer is a Christmas mystery with a legal twist. Kane is a young defence lawyer with little experience who is thrust into a gruesome mystery that takes him around Scotland’s capital city. From Edinburgh’s elegant New Town to the dark closes and wynds of the city’s Old Town, you’ll follow an exciting plot that evokes the sights and sounds of Victorian Scotland.

If this sounds like your kind of tale you may be interested in visiting The Royal Mile, where grand buildings like Edinburgh’s Courts and St Giles Cathedral rub shoulders with shops and restaurants. The atmosphere here is electric, especially at Christmas and during festival season in August.

Glasgow

Emma Grae – Be Guid Tae Yer Mammy

Ashton Lane, Glasgow

Written in Scots and telling the story of three generations of Scottish women, this debut novel is a morality tale about family relationships and secrets. Set in Glasgow, this unsettling family story follows the Stirling family including Jean, a traditional Glaswegian housewife in her nineties, who had big dreams as a young woman and now must come to terms with her past.

Looking to visit Glasgow? There are all kinds of places to explore, especially if you are interested in history. You could visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Riverside Museum or take a walk along the Glasgow Necropolis Trail. Explore free attractions and things to do in Glasgow.

Galloway Forest Park

Mick Kitson – Sal 

Galloway Forest Park

This coming-of-age story mixes in elements of nature writing to create an exciting plot that is partly set in the forests of Galloway. Sal is a young enthusiast of survival programmes and literature and when she and her sibling must escape their circumstances to the Scottish wilderness, she knows what to do. If you like vivid depictions of nature and strong lead characters then this one could be for you.

Galloway Forest Park is one of Scotland’s most inspiring natural landscapes and the UK’s largest forest park. Many people visit for the dark skies that the area is famous for but there are also adventure activities and comfortable places to stay.

Midlothian

Flora Johnston – What You Call Free

Pentland Hills, Midlothian

Set in 1687 in the turbulent Covenanting period of Scottish history, where religious factions fought for precedence, this debut novel intertwines the stories of two real historical women. Those interested in Scottish history will recognise the religious and political backdrop to this novel and the struggles of women at this time. Set partly in the Pentland Hills in Midlothian and in the city of Edinburgh, What You Call Free asks what does it mean to be free?

The stunning Pentland Hills offer walking routes and nature trails on the edge of Edinburgh. If you are staying in the city this is a great place to visit for a taste of Scottish wilderness.

Modern Day Edinburgh

Colin Burnett – A Working Class State of Mind

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Written in East Coast Scots, A Working Class State of Mind explores the lives of a group of characters from Leith in Edinburgh. This honest, often gritty account of working-class life is full of dark humour and tales of perseverance through hard times. Fans of Irvine Welsh and James Kelman will enjoy this new and exciting young author.

Visiting Edinburgh isn’t all about the well-trodden tourist trail – exploring the Leith area will reveal an exciting community, trendy bars, restaurants, and hidden gems. Check out our article Leith: One of The World’s Coolest Neighbourhoods.

North Lanarkshire

Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain

A hard-hitting novel about life growing up in the former industrial heartland of Scotland, Shuggie Bain chronicles the childhood of a boy growing up in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire in the 1980s. Winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, this incredibly successful novel has put Scotland on the map.

North Lanarkshire lies in the central belt of Scotland, to the east of Glasgow. If you are interested in Scotland’s industrial past you could visit the Summerlee Museum of Industrial Life in Coatbridge. If watching the night sky is your thing you could visit Airdrie Observatory . Or what about taking to the golf course at Airdrie Golf Club? Cyclists might be interested in a journey between Glasgow and the Falkirk Wheel along the Forth-Clyde Canal.

Juniper, A Fictional Scottish Village

Elle McNicoll – A Kind of Spark

This inspirational story for children is set in the fictional Scottish Town of Juniper. A Kind of Spark follows a young autistic girl as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her hometown. The main character Addie hopes to change the way her neighbours see her in this compassionate and witty debut book.

Although most people in Scotland live in cities, village life is very much alive and kicking. There are many places you can visit to go off the beaten track and spend a few days including these Scottish harbours and seaside towns. Perhaps you’ll find a story of your own!

The Highlands

Angela Meyer – A Superior Spectre

Durness, Highlands

A Superior Spectre is an impressive and imaginative debut novel by Australian publisher and author Angela Meyer. A dying man runs off to the Scottish Highlands with a piece of technology that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. He is instructed to only use it three times but ignores the advice. What results is a fascinating ghostly story with Scottish landscapes at its heart.

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most romantic places there are and it’s no wonder that many novels have been set amongst the hills and glens – including Outlander, of course. Explore the Highlands and see if it lives up to the landscapes of your imagination.

Inspired to read about Scotland or maybe even write something set here? Plan a visit today and let your literary dreams take shape. Read more about Scottish writers and literature. You can also explore more must-read books as well as indie bookshops where you can buy them!

 

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