Scotland is a land full of rich history and beautiful landscapes.
Its environment and culture can really evoke huge emotions, and when you read novels written about Scotland – it’s easy to fall in love with the country.
But there are many novels out there in this area, it can be difficult to know which the best ones are. Luckily though, I’ve done the hard work for you.
I’ve got 12 bonnie novels that will help you beautifully capture your love of Scotland. So, if you’re ready to learn more – then read on and find out much more!
About Bonnie Novels
Before I move on to my list of the best 12 bonnie novels, I must clarify what I mean by “bonnie novels”. Bonnie is a term used in Scottish slang which means beautiful or pretty.
When I talk about bonnie novels, I’m referring to the most beautifully written and most evocative Scottish novels. These aren’t necessarily written by Scottish authors, but rather they are about the Scottish lands, history, and culture.
Scottish novels have become very popular, and it’s easy to see why. When authors describe the Highlands, the land of lochs, glens, and the hazy, misty, and quiet landscape – you right away get a feeling of peace.
Of course, due to such a rich history in Scotland, some authors can even write about freedom, romance, war, and nationalism.
Indeed, there are plenty of thematic areas to explore and certainly a lot of room for intriguing characters and plots.
12 Bonnie Novels To Love Scotland
So, without further ado, let me show you my picks for the 12 bonnie novels which will capture your love of Scotland.
Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf is one of the most famous writers in history, and To The Lighthouse can show you exactly why this is the case if you have never read any of Woolf’s novels.
The story is centered around the Ramsay family, who are comprised of a husband, wife, and their eight children.
They also accept multiple vacation guests to their summer house.
Woolf manages to write a compelling story with a pretty simple setting – a summer house that would normally be inconsequential and dull.
The Ramsay family however must start to deal with important issues in life.
Notably, the story provides the reader with an insight into each one of the characters’ lives and you are able to understand how they are the way they are.
But their demeanor comes at a cost, and they have to face the realities of a lonely lifestyle.
If you’re wondering how Scotland comes into the equation – the novel is set on the Isle of Skye, near the rocky coastline in Scotland.
- Rich story
- Beautifully set near harsh, Scottish seas
- Deep character development
- Might not be a book for everyone
Themes: Family and relationships, Community strength, The need for change
Muriel Spark: The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
I cannot have a list of bonnie novels without mentioning this pure classic by Muriel Spark.
This is one of the most unique stories I have ever read, and even now – it’s difficult to find a plot that mirrors it.
The story is set in 1930s Edinburgh and follows a teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, who is not like other traditional educators of her time.
She’s unorthodox and makes education come to life for her students. Indeed – it’s easy to follow Miss Jean Brodie.
In her class, she identifies six students who she believes to be the most gifted of the group and the plot then centers around how these students grow and learn.
Miss Jean Brodie teaches many things to her students, from love, and finances… to fascism.
Yes, Miss Jean Brodie is very much a unique individual. She pursues other school masters romantically and commands respect in her way, which leads the six girls to follow her teachings – but eventually, one will betray her.
- Unique tale
- A classic that stands the test of time
- A strong independent female character
- Might be outdated for some modern readers
Themes: Ideology, Power dynamic, Gender roles
Ian Rankin: Knots And Crosses
Ian Rankin is well known for his mystery novels, and Knots and Crosses is one such mystery novel that I’ve found to be incredibly intriguing.
The story is about Inspector John Rebus who used to be a soldier in the British SAS (special forces).
He now is a police officer in Edinburgh who, along with trying to solve a series of brutal murders, must also cope with his past and his own mental state.
It seems everyone is out to get him, including the press, the police, and himself.
But can this incredibly talented inspector solve the crimes and his own struggles before it is too late?
- Compelling mystery
- Relatable character
- Rich plot
- Can trigger some readers
Themes: Haunting past traumas, The struggles of mental health, Mystery
Alexander McCall Smith: 44 Scotland Street
Set in Edinburgh, this novel by Alexander McCall Smith wonderfully encapsulates the real life of Scottish people. In a block of flats – essentially apartments – we are met with an abundance of eccentric characters, all of which grab a place in our hearts.
Of course, with so many whacky and vibrant characters, you can imagine that a variety of unforeseen events occur, including a mystery of a missing painting that must be solved between them all!
What I really like about this book is how grounded in reality it is.
From the setting to the characters and how they are portrayed, the novel can seriously relate to you and it’s easy to put yourself in the shoes of one of these wild characters!
- Grounded in the reality of the common person
- Array of characters
- Funny and witty
- Might be too low-brow for some readers
Themes: Societal roles, Community, Family
Sandra Ireland: Bone Deep
This book is a seriously compelling psychological thriller that keeps you reading from the start to the finish.
With so many twists and turns, it’s almost impossible to put the book down.
The story discusses three main characters; Mac, Arthur, and Lucie. Mac is an academic and a writer, and she has a young son called Arthur.
Upon the insistence of Arthur, Mac decides to hire a live-in assistant while she works on her new collection of folk tales.
However, these three characters all have secrets, and none of them want them to come to light.
With an eerie setting of an old mill nearby too, you constantly feel on edge for when the truth finally comes out – but will that happen?
This story really pulls on your feelings about abandonment, family issues, and dark secrets – and with its creepy setting in an area of Scotland, it enhances your feelings of dread and fear.
- Keeps you guessing
- Hard to put down
- Not suitable for younger readers
Themes: Past and history, Trust, Abandonment and family ties
Alan Gold: The Pretender’s Lady
This is a unique story that reimagines the true story of the lover of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Around this time, she was the most famous woman in all of Scotland – and to this day, she is still widely regarded as a local legend.
There’s a lot in this book that answers the gaps in history – of course in a fictional way – but it’s truly compelling to wonder what would have happened if it were true.
Only the lady, Flora, knows about Bonnie’s true claim to the Scottish throne – but with the pair now living in America and raising a son on a farm, what are they going to do about it?
Well, perhaps the genius of Benjamin Franklin can help them!
Placing huge historical names back into the limelight, The Pretender’s Lady encapsulates the hearts and minds of an entire nation – and you can learn more about the legend of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the family with this superb novel.
- Merges real historical events and characters with fiction
- Uses huge names in Scottish history
- Might be too grounded in history for some readers
Themes: Secrets, Rights, True love
Susanna Kearsley: The Winter Sea
This bestselling novel is about an author called Carrie McClelland who wants to write a new book set in the Jacobite era that talks about when exiled James nearly reclaimed his throne – but she wants to do this with her own characters.
So, she decides to hole up in Slains Castle and create a heroine and begins writing.
But when Carrie gets so far into her work, she realizes that maybe not everything is fictional, and things might be more real than she ever imagined.
With ancestral memories and dark hauntings – this novel begins to mesmerize the reader and enthralls you to keep reading, right up until the conclusion!
- Can be scary
Themes: History meets the present, Fact vs fiction, Family pasts
Posie Graeme-Evans: Wild Wood
If any of you have ever read and enjoyed Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series, then you will absolutely love this gem.
Set on the gorgeous landscape of the Scottish border (and London) in the 1980s, the story follows Jesse Marley – who is a self-proclaimed realist.
However, Jesse’s beliefs are quickly shaken up when she finds out that she is actually adopted.
In the midst of trying to process this information, she is hit by a motorbike and awakens in a London hospital.
She finds that she cannot speak – and despite being right-handed, she begins to draw things with her left hand.
As though her body is completely independent of her mind. She draws places she knows she has never been.
She also draws a castle and a man in armor – appearing like events from a different time.
Her neurologist finds her story fascinating and aims to discover if the accident caused these newfound abilities.
But then he realizes that these drawings are places he has been before!
And thus, the story truly begins with the two heading off on an adventure to discover the truth behind Jesse’s life, past, and changes – with some surprising results.
- Engrossing plot
- Easy to read
- Can’t put the novel down!
- Might be too complex for some readers
Themes: Past life, History, Lies and deceit
Sarah Maine: Women Of The Dunes
This novel beautifully ties in Scotland, love, and rich history along with an intriguing mystery.
It covers two generations of Scottish women and it takes us through different locations of the land for people to discover their own past and legacies and dispel myths from their history.
There’s not too much I want to say about this book in terms of the plot because it would be too easy to spoil the plot – but trust me when I say that this book grips you and takes you through a winding and never-ending journey.
- Gorgeous setting
- Compelling plot
- The timeline and geography can easily be confused
Themes: Myth, Legacy, Family
Susan Fletcher: The Highland Witch
If you are an admirer of Scottish history, then this stunning novel by Susan Fletcher is definitely the book for you.
Set in the Scottish Highlands in 1692, you follow the protagonist Corrag who is imprisoned and accused of witchcraft.
Whilst imprisoned, she regales her story to an Irish propagandist Charles Leslie, who wishes to get information to condemn King William who is a protestant and potentially involved in the Highlands massacre.
With such factors involved – will the truth come out? Only time will tell…
- Binds love, Scotland, history, and mystery
- Amazing characters
- Grounded in true history with fiction
- Might not be suitable for younger readers
Themes: Love, History, Witchcraft and customs
Signe Pike: The Lost Queen
This book is deep in fantasy and you may recognize some of the characters from other works such as Emrys Pendragon.
It’s a really rich dive into the dark ages of Scotland and it involves love, battles, and myth.
If you’re someone that enjoys dark history and you want to go further back into Scottish legends, then this is certainly the book choice for you. I will say that it requires attention to keep up with the plot.
- Set in ancient Scotland
- Memorable characters
- Can be difficult to follow at times
Themes: Fantasy, Old vs new, Ancient customs
Diana Gabaldon: Outlander
I briefly mentioned this earlier, but it has to get a mention finally on my list.
This is one of the most popular books that follows a war nurse from 1940s Scotland, who travels back in time to the 18th Century in the Scottish Highlands.
Filled with war, romance, intrigue, and mystery – this novel really gets anyone involved in the story who is a lover of Scotland and history.
I think what sets this apart from the rest though is how easy it is to engage with the characters and its premise makes it incredibly interesting – not to mention it became a television series produced by Starz.
- Brilliant premise
- Easy to connect to the characters
- Beautiful setting
- Not suitable for younger readers
Bonnie novels are among some of the best in literature, and if I’m being honest – they’re up there with some of my favorites too.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my list and I hope I was able to give you an idea of your next favorite bonnie novel!
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ll now take you through some of your most frequently asked questions.
How Popular Are Bonnie Novels?
These novels have grown in popularity over the years, but they are especially popular with people who love romance novels, historically based novels and myth or legend.
Who Is The Most Famous Scottish Author?
Technically, the most famous author is Arthur Conan Doyle, famed for his creation of Sherlock Holmes!
Who Is The “Father” Of Scottish Literature?
Alasdair Gray has been credited as being the father of a renaissance of Scottish literature. He wrote Lanark and Old Men In Love.
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