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Discovering the Highlands and Islands in Literature

The landscape and identity of the Highlands and Islands have contributed to a rich literary legacy.

It is a legacy that combines the works of writers and poets born here with many others who have been inspired by the history, culture or just the geographic isolation to be found in more remote places.

From George Mackay Brown writing about the Orkney Isles to Neil Gunn writing about Caithness or Sorley Maclean crafting Gaelic verse on Raasay, there is no shortage of local literary giants to quote on a journey across the Highlands and Islands. For many others, from Robert Louis Stevenson down through the decades to Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig and into the modern day with diverse writers such as Malachy Tallack, Michel Faber and Amy Liptrop, the Highlands and Islands have been an inspirational landscape, a rousing canvas, a place of escape and adventure, poetry and reflection. And then, for others, it is simply the desire to write in creative solitude and quiet isolation that brings them here. Perhaps none more so than George Orwell, who famously drafted his dystopian masterpiece, 1984, while living in the farmhouse of Barnhill in the far north of the island of Jura in the 1940s.

Jen Hadfield was inspired by Shetland in her novel The Stone Age. (Credit: Airborne Lens)
Uath Lochans, Kingussie. Nan Shepherd's 'The Living Mountain' details adventures in the Cairngorms. (Credit: VisitScotland)
Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown was inspired by the landscape of Orkney. (Credit: Airborne Lens)
Paps of Jura. George Orwell wrote his iconic novel 1984 while staying on Jura. (Credit: VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins)