For centuries, Scottish writing has been at the forefront of the world of literature. Scottish literature has also shaped and influenced some of the greatest writers to have ever put pen to paper.

A history steeped in literature

From heroic epics to poignant tragedy, early Scottish literature was dominated by poetry and in particular, John Barbour (c.1320-1395), Scottish poet and the first major named literary figure to write in Scots.

Perhaps the best known figure in Scottish literature internationally is Robert Burns (1759-1796), our national Bard, whose work is celebrated worldwide with Burns Suppers on 25 January each year. Regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, Burns' work includes 'A Red, Red Rose', 'Tam O'Shanter', and 'Ae Fond Kiss', not to mention 'Auld Lang Syne' which is sung as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Day around the world.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), recognised in Europe as the creator of the modern historical novel, was the first British novelist to become a famous public figure, pioneering a new type of romantic historiography. His novels, ballads, poems and other writings have been translated into almost every major language and the world's largest monument to an author sits in Edinburgh, commemorating this Scottish author's life and work.

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

In October 2004 Edinburgh became the very first UNESCO City of Literature. No surprise as the city has inspired over 500 novels, ranging from R.L. Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. Edinburgh also hosts the world's largest International Book Festival every August and offers many literary tours year round.

Scottish Writers

The list of acclaimed contemporary Scottish writers of fiction, poetry and theatre reads a little like a who's who of literature: James Kelman, A L Kennedy, Ali Smith, Jackie Kay, Kate Atkinson, Iain Banks, Janice Galloway, Liz Lochhead, Alasdair Gray, Gregory Burke, Irvine Welsh, Andrew O'Hagan, James Robertson, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Douglas Dunn, Edwin Morgan, John Burnside; the list goes on.

Carol Ann Duffy, the UK's Poet Laureate, hails from Glasgow and world-famous authors Alexander McCall Smith (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series), Ian Rankin (Rebus series) and JK Rowling (Harry Potter series) all live and work in Edinburgh.

Other novelists associated with Scotland who have made a particularly strong impact around the world include:

  • James Hogg (The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner)
  • Sir Walter Scott (Waverley series)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde)
  • JM Barrie (Peter Pan)
  • Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes series)
  • RM Ballantyne (The Coral Island)
  • John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps)
  • Muriel Spark (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).

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