Scotland’s history, scenery and culture has inspired many famous authors, including Robert Burns, J.K. Rowling, J.M. Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Rankin to put a pen to paper and create books that we all know and love.
Alongside other inspirational Scottish locations, in 2004 Edinburgh was named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. We’ve picked out some of the top Scottish locations that appear in world famous books.
Spellbinding scenery and the birthplace of Harry Potter
The Elephant House, a small café in the centre of Edinburgh, was where J.K. Rowling first found inspiration for the Harry Potter books. After moving to Edinburgh, this is where she wrote much of the first of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, writing notes on the back of napkins when she ran out of paper.
The Elephant House is now popular with wizarding fans across the globe – not only can you enjoy a hot drink and cakes, visitors have been delighted to find drawers filled with letters and notes on the back of napkins to J.K. Rowling.
The inspiration behind Peter Pan
Kirriemuir, near Dundee, was the birthplace and childhood home of J M Barrie, the imagination behind Peter Pan. His time spent outside playing inspired his writing, with Peter Pan being written several years later.
Visit the small whitewashed cottage where Barrie grew up in Kirriemuir. The exhibition gives insight into his early life, with original costumes and manuscripts, and you can stop by the wash-house where he performed his very first play aged seven, and which provided inspiration for the Wendy house in Peter Pan.
With the fifth season round the corner, Outlander fans can travel back in time in Edinburgh. Led by Mercat Tours, this walking tour brings to life the real events that inspired the acclaimed novels and subsequent television series.
Walk into Edinburgh’s Old Town to see key places in Edinburgh’s history including the Tolbooth Jail, Canongate Kirkyard and World’s End Tavern.
If you’re travelling to Inverness, visit Culloden Battlefield, where Claire and Jamie part ways before the Battle of Culloden. Whilst in Inverness, visit Leakey’s bookshop to immerse yourself in some of your favourite books. With floor to ceiling books, stained glass windows and an open log fire, this old Gaelic church is a book lover’s paradise.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Dunkeld and Birnam was Beatrix Potter’s annual summer holiday location, and where she found her passion for nature. This passion translated to writing, and her holiday home was where she first wrote about Peter Rabbit, providing the basis for one of the most famous children’s books, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The local area inspired many other books written by Beatrix Potter, including The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle, and The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, based on her exploration of the banks of the River Tay.
Visit the Birnam Arts Centre to see the Beatrix Potter Exhibition and the Beatrix Potter Garden, featuring flowers and wildlife characters that inspired Beatrix when on holiday in the area.
Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson often visited the popular natural cove beach of Yellowcraig which offers spectacular views of Fidra Island.
Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island is said to be inspired by the shape of Fidra, which features a lighthouse built in 1885, rugged edges, grassy slopes and steep cliffs.
Easily accessible by public transport or a short car journey from Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, Yellowcraig is popular with families who enjoy the area’s nature trails, barbeque sites and network of footpaths.
Scottish novelist Ian Rankin set his best-selling books in Scotland, with his Inspector Rebus novels set mainly in Edinburgh. The success of Inspector Rebus books led to subsequent adaptation into a television series. Fans of the book will be familiar with The Oxford Bar, a small pub in Edinburgh which was where Inspector Rebus would visit for a drink.
Vampires in Aberdeen
Slains Castle, a 16th century castle situated atop the clifftops of Aberdeenshire and overlooking the North Sea, is said to be the inspiration for the novel Dracula. Famed author Bram Stoker visited Cruden Bay regularly for 17 years, and some of his other work including The Mystery of the Sea have been set in Cruden Bay. The gothic-style castle is where Stoker first came up with the character of Count Dracula.
Discover Sherlock Holmes’ Edinburgh
Visitors to Edinburgh can see the Sherlock Holmes Statue in Picardy Place, marking the location where Scotland-born author Arthur Conan Doyle was born. Across the road from the statue is The Conan Doyle Pub, named after the author.
Step back in time to Victorian Edinburgh by joining The Real Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of Edinburgh. Find out about where Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired as a young medical student, and who he met that inspired the character Sherlock Holmes.