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A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland

Scotland has a long tradition of using thatch, and the country has one of the most diverse ranges of thatching materials and techniques found in Europe. In some places the local traditions of thatching continued until the beginning of the 20th century. However, since then, thatched buildings have largely disappeared from the rural landscape in many parts of Scotland. In September 2016 the government body Historic Environment Scotland completed an ambitious survey of all 305 of Scotland's historic, traditionally thatched buildings. The hardback book, more than 600 pages long and filled with photographs and descriptions, sells for about $117, but a free download is available here.

His Bloody Project, Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae

by Graeme MaCrae Burnet

A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of 17-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. But what would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path... and will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused -- one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae's own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. Medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial and other documents follow, which throw both Macrae's motive and his sanity into question.

Graeme Macrae Burnet's multilayered narrative --centered around an unreliable narrator -- will keep the reader guessing to the very end. His Bloody Project is a deeply imagined crime novel that is both thrilling and luridly entertaining from an exceptional new voice.

Walking Through Scotland's History

by Ian R. Mitchell

Today, walking is many things for many people -- a leisure activity, a weekend pursuit, or even a chore -- but rarely is it an integral part of everyday life. In this delightful little book, Ian Mitchell encourages readers to get up off the sofa, recounting Scotland's great walking tradition by both natives and visitors. From the Roman legions marching into Caledonia to the 20th century's "tinkers" (itinerants), the author takes us on a tour of the missionaries, mapmakers and military leaders who have trodden Scottish paths over the last 2,000 years. He also examines the lives of the drovers, distillers, fishwives and workers for whom walking was a means of survival. Each chapter includes a variety of suggested walks and places to visit as an incentive for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.

Sea Room

by Adam Nicolson

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be given your own remote islands? Thirty years ago it happened to Adam Nicolson. When he was 21, Nicolson inherited the Shiants, three lonely Hebridean islands set in a dangerous sea off the Isle of Lewis. With only a stone bothy for accommodation and half a million puffins for company, he found himself in charge of one of the most beautiful places on earth. The story of the Shiants is a story of birds and boats, hermits and fishermen, witchcraft and catastrophe, and Nicolson expertly weaves these elements into his own tale of seclusion on the Shiants to create a stirring celebration of island life.

Walking in the Isle of Arran: Low-Level Walks to High Mountain Ranges

by Paddy Dillon

Often described as "Scotland in miniature," the Isle of Arran boasts a rich variety of landscapes. Although there are few roads, the island is easily explored on foot or via the excellent bus network. This guidebook presents a selection of 45 walks between two and 20 miles in length, from easy waymarked forest trails to more arduous mountain walks, exposed ridge routes and scrambles. There are linear and circular walks to choose from, and opportunities to link routes together and create longer walks across the length and breadth of the island. With highlights including Goatfell, Beinn Tarsuinn, the Sannox Horseshoe, Glen Rosa and the Cock of Arran, there's something here to suit walkers of all tastes and all levels of fitness. All the routes are clearly described with OS mapping, with extra notes revealing the archaeology, history and natural wonders of the island, along with background information on travel to Arran, public transport and a useful Gaelic/English glossary.

subscribe Full reviews of these books are available in the Winter 2016 issue of Scottish Life.

Previously Reviewed Books