It’s National Book Week and so I thought I’d write about some of my favourite books this year on the Scottish Borders. As well as a few I just really like this year. Great Christmas reads, for presents or just for yourself. Many of the books I read are out of print and sourced in secondhand bookshops, but all these are in print so your local bookshop should have them or be able to order them.
Walking the Border: A journey between Scotland and England, Ian Crofton
In 2013 Ian Crofton walked the border set by the Union of Crowns. Written in a light style, it is both entertaining and informative. Drawing on Crofton’s knowledge of history and culture, it is also filled with excellent natural descriptions and lots of comic encounters. He portrays the wildness of much of the Borders and how arbitrary the line between England and Scotland is.
The Marches, Rory Stewart
In 2014 MP and serial adventure Rory Stewart set out to walk the Border with his elderly father. Full of childhood reminiscences, history, geology and politics, chance encounters with locals, they relive their lives and experiences. A subtle and complex book that is beautifully written and a delight to read. Start Kelly in the Scotsman described it as a ‘rare’ sort of a book by a politician, having more in common with Sara Maitland than a memoir by Nick Clegg.
Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and its Dark Origins, Tim Clarkson
I came across this legend when writing about the John Buchan Way and just had to buy the book. Clarkson traces Merlin’s origins back to the story of Lailoken, a mysterious ‘wild man’ who lived in the Scottish Lowlands in the sixth century AD. He looks at the historical background and discusses key characters such as Saint Kentigern of Glasgow and King Rhydderch of Dumbarton. A fascinating read.
The Lowland Clearances: Scotland’s Silent Revolution 1760 – 1830, Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell
The Highland Clearances are well-documented but the process began in the Scottish Lowlands nearly a century before. Based on pioneering historical research, this book tells the story of the Lowland Clearances. Tens of thousands of people – significantly more than were later exiled from the Highlands – were moved from the land by estate owners. This is a great read, telling a forgotten story.
The Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers Alastair Moffat
Alastair Moffat has written many books on the Scottish Borders and Scotland. So its hard to choose just one. This is the one I started with. It gives a real sense of 300 years of lawlessness in the Borders and the families at the heart of it. Reputedly used by many a romance novelist to get a sense of those bloody times in Border history.
111 Places in Edinburgh that you Shouldn’t Miss, Gillian Tait
This is the ultimate insiders guide to places to visit in Edinburgh. Even though I lived in Edinburgh for many years I had not heard of many of them. Fully illustrated it has much to offer those looking to get away from the well worn tourist trail. A great Christmas present for a local or a visitor.
Gather, Gill Mellor
I was fortunate to meet the lovely Gill Mellor of River Cottage fame, and have my picture taking with him at Mainstreet Trading
this year. This is a beautiful book with some excellent cake recipes and lots of good country cooking. There’s not a recipe in here that I wouldn’t cook.
The Book of Tides, William Thomson
So this one I haven’t read but have it on my Christmas list (friends take note). Inspired by his travels round Britain’s coastline, Thomson depicts how the sea’s cycle affects our landscape and our lives. A book for those who love the coast and want to understand our coastline and the waters surrounding us.
Previous posts with more book ideas
Scott-land, The Man who Invented a Nation
Bookworm – a bookshops for children
Folk Tales of the Scottish Borders
5 Best Walking Guides for the Scottish Borders
What’s in that bread