Literature & Luxury
When you mention going to a festival on holiday most people think of ravers in muddy fields or crowds of drama students lining the streets of Edinburgh. Scotland however is very fortunate in that it has an incredibly vibrant literary festival scene with diverse events big and small all around the country.
The spiritual home of book festivals in Scotland is Wigtown. Officially designated as Scotland's National Book Town in 1998 it is now home to a wide range of book-related businesses. There are more bookshops here than any other town in the country and the largest second hand store in Scotland that has over a mile of shelving and a quarter of a million titles to choose from. Truly a book lovers’ haven it is impossible to escape empty-handed. The annual Book Festival has in recent years attracted many of the top names in contemporary literature and the 2016 edition which runs from the 23rd September to the 2nd October has over 200 events scheduled for adults, teens and young children. Knockbrex Castle is just a short drive down the coast and is like something straight from a fantasy novel with its stone spiral staircases, turreted bedrooms and Great Hall.
The Boswell Book Festival bills itself as the world’s only festival of biography and memoir. Held at Dumfries house, one of the country’s most opulent stately homes, this is a great example of an event that mixes Scottish history and tradition, with contemporary culture and an iconic setting to create something unique. Named after the Ayrshire writer James Boswell, the inventor of modern biography, the festival has in the past attracted such prominent stars such as Bill Paterson, John Byrne, Sally Magnusson, Kirsty Wark, James Naughtie, Kate Adie and Tam Dalyell. Glendow is a traditional 18th century Drovers Inn that is modern and luxurious without losing any of its period charm. It is only a short hop to the festival but its rural setting make it the perfect venue to relax in front of the open fire with that book you have been saving for just this occasion.
Cromarty is a small village on the Black Isle, its peaceful and historic streets are probably the last place you would expect to have a literary festival devoted to murder and criminality. Over the years the biggest names in crime writing have journeyed up here to take part in panels, talks, workshops and for 2016 an interactive whodunit murder mystery dinner. The programme for this April includes such genre luminaries as Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Caro Ramsay. Sandpiper House is a great family house a short walk away, if you tire of murder it is also perfectly located for the more traditional holiday pursuits such as dolphin spotting, bike riding and fine dining.
Melrose is the location for the Borders Book Festival. With Alistair Moffat as its director and Rory Bremner and John Sessions as its honorary patrons you can be sure of a top quality line up of entertainment this June. Priding itself on being the family friendly book festival there is a huge array of activities and events for younger readers with a special storytelling tent, poetry readings and writing workshops for children. Gateshaw House is the perfect family friendly place to stay when you visit the festival, it has a games room, two acres of grounds and can accommodate 16 easily.
Nairn Book and Arts Festival is a small and friendly affair that will take place this year from the 30th August to the 3rd September. There are many free events as well as live music and events such as Wine & Crime, Seashore Saturday and Wildnight comedy. Willowvale, right in the heart of the town is an unusual and elegant 1920s family home and is just a short walk to the award winning Nairn beach.
Bestselling Scottish writers Janice Galloway, Doug Johnstone and Kevin MacNeil are the main attractions at the Ullapool Book Festival this May. In addition the festival boasts an impressive line-up of award-winning poets, broadcasters and historians and will feature sessions in Gaelic using simultaneous translation. Also, this year in a special free session there will be a rare opportunity to see the legendary Norman Maclean. In Eavesdropping on Myself he chronicles his boyhood in Glasgow and explores the push-pull of two cultures: working-class Glaswegian and first-generation Hebridean. A journey up the coast from Ullapool to get to Culkein Lodge will take in some of the most impressive scenery in Scotland, it’s easy to see how poets like Norman MacCaig were so inspired by the dramatic landscape here.