Whether you love losing yourself in a great novel or enjoy planning your holiday with a book by your side, captivating writing opens up the world. It has the timeless ability to transport you to faraway shores, long gone times and ignite the desire to see the world differently.
Exploring through books also offers the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of places, speaking to both heart and mind. Unsurprisingly, many authors have captured the beauty of Scotland, telling the stories of the nation’s heroes, its myths and legends. Around the world, these books have captivated millions over centuries. So, let us take you away to Midlothian and the Borders!
We have teamed up with the experts at The Mainstreet Trading Company to collate some of their reading recommendations. Here are 9 fiction and non-fiction books bringing the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to life.
After Flodden by Rosemary Goring
After Flodden takes its readers right into the aftermath of the eponymous battle. Louise Brenier sets off to find out what happened to her brother. Supported by James IV’s former right-hand man, Patrick Paniter, she finds herself entangled in clan feuds in the ungovernable borderlands.
Told from the point of view of characters either involved in or deeply affected by the war, this historical novel combines political intrigue, romance and the social complexities of being caught between England and Scotland in the 16th century. A gripping read for those looking to dive further into Scottish history.
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Dacre’s War Rosemary Goring
In the sequel to After Flodden, Goring returns to the Scottish Borders. There, Henry VIII has ordered the destruction of local towns, carried out by the ruthless Thomas Dacre, Warden of the English Marches. But opposition starts to form. Adam Crozier, head of a powerful Borders family is building an increasingly powerful alliance of Borderers to take down Dacre. His goal: Exacting revenge for the murder of his father.
To the Island of Tides by Alistair Moffat
Mixing personal memoir, travelogue and history, author Alistair Moffat sets out on a journey from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to the Isle of Lindisfarne. Moffat attempts to follow the original route of St Cuthbert, reflecting on where life has led him along the way.
Travelling through historic landscapes in Southern Scotland and the North of England, To the Island of Tides is a quiet meditation on the power of place in an often noisy and busy world.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott
A story inside a story, the titular minstrel recounts a tale of forbidden love and ancient sorcery. Lady Margaret Scott of Buccleuch, the “Flower of Teviot” is in love with Baron Henry of Cranstown. But with Henry an ally of the Kerr’s, who murdered Margaret’s father, marriage seems impossible.
A runaway success in its time, The Lay of the Last Minstrel vividly evokes the times of the Border Reivers. Scott’s poem is set against the backdrop of Newark Castle, and the combination of local places, Borders tales and romance inspire artists as well as tourists to this day.
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The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
Those looking for another daring, swashbuckling and decidedly gothic romance might enjoy reading The Bride of Lammermoor. Set further north-east, in the Lammermuir Hills dividing the Borders and East Lothian, this novel tells of another tragic love affair – allegedly based on real-life events.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
This international bestseller takes readers on a breathtaking adventure across France, England and Scotland.
When symbologist Robert Langdon finds himself at the centre of a murder investigation in Paris, he teams up with French cryptologist Sophie Neveu to find the true perpetrator. Along the way, the pair uncovers a trail of clues leading to secretive religious societies, the Knights Templar, and finally, the small town of Roslin.
Scottish Castle Legends by Theresa Breslin
Uncover the secrets hidden deep underneath Scotland’s ancient structures and come face to face with legendary monsters. Certain to draw in readers of all ages, Breslin’s Scottish Castle Legends tells fascinating stories from castles across Scotland, including the Borders tale of Muckle Mouth Meg.
Additionally, Breslin has written two more tomes full of Scottish legends. Check out An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Mythical Creatures and An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk & Fairy Tales for more fascinating stories.
The Scottish Borders (40 Favourite Walks) by Robbie Porteous
The Scottish Borders have always attracted walkers. Whether it’s the area’s varied long-distance routes along rolling hills and rugged coastlines or walks through ancient woodlands and over heather-clad moors, the choices are endless. Here, paths lead by the remains of Roman camps, ruined tower houses tell of a tumultuous past, and vast landscapes inspire a rich literary heritage. Exploring the Borders on foot means taking a walk through Scottish history! And The Scottish Borders by Robbie Porteous introduces some of the best opportunities for exploring.
The Pentland Hills, Midlothian & East Lothian (40 Coast and Country Walks) by Keith Fergus
A range of enthralling hiking and walking opportunities can be found right on the doorstep of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. In The Pentland Hills, Midlothian & East Lothian, Scottish writer and outdoor enthusiast Keith Fergus recommends his favourite walks and hikes. Reach new heights in the Pentlands with its nearly 600m high peaks or meander through forest-filled glens. This is the perfect, inspiring read for planning your next hillwalking adventure.
Bridging the Tweed by Jim Lyon
Weaving through beautiful landscapes, the Tweed has inspired many writers in their prose. Even Robert Burns commented on the river’s enchanting views and “fine bridges” when visiting Kelso in the 1700s. Today, 68 bridges span its waters. From grand bridges to ancient stone crossings over the remote beginnings of the Tweed, all are described in great detail in Jim Lyon’s Bridging the Tweed. Let Lyon take you on a journey along the fourth largest river in Scotland. A must-read for architecture enthusiasts.
Mountain Biking in Southern & Central Scotland by Peter Edwards
Enthusiasts know Scotland is a mountain biker’s paradise! It’s especially the hilly landscape of Southern and Central Scotland that promises an invigorating thrill.
But where to start? In Mountain Biking in Southern & Central Scotland, author Peter Edwards collates the best mountain biking routes in the region. With great care, he describes 21 mountain biking routes, ranging from scenic rides to tough downhill adventures. Whether you’re looking for marked trails at the 7stanes centres in Newcastleton, Innerleithen or Peebles, or cross-country routes in the Pentland Hills, Lammermuirs, Tweed Valley and Cheviots, this guide is a complete all-rounder for anyone with a keen interest in mountain biking.
These are just some of our recommended books. Which of these titles will you be adding to your reading list? Alternatively, check with your local bookshop – like The Mainstreet Trading Company – to discover even more!