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    December 2014
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    Scotiana’s selection of books for Christmas…

    Young woman decorating the Christmas tree - Marcel Rieder 1898

    Young woman decorating the Christmas tree – Marcel Rieder 1898

    Dear readers,

    In a very few days it will be Christmas!  Hectic times again. :-)

    Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe 145 Canongate Edinburgh © 2012 Scotiana

    Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe 145 Canongate © 2012 Scotiana

    Many of us are busy preparing the coming festivities, some of us haunting frozen paths in the woods to find and cut green holy branches with little red berries on them, other ones decorating the Christmas tree with glittering colourful tinsel and bells, candles and all sorts of lovely Christmas figurines or cooking mountains of little cakes for the whole family but you can be sure that there are still many of us desperately trying to find the missing gift for a dear friend or a beloved member of the family.

    Again, why not choose a book!  There is always one that will suit exactly one’s purpose and will delight the beloved one who will unpack it on Christmas Day.

    Books to the Ceiling illustration Arnold Lobel Whiskers & Rhymes Greenwillow Books 1985

    Books to the Ceiling illustration Arnold Lobel Whiskers & Rhymes Greenwillow Books 1985


     When I think of all the books still left for me to read,
    I am certain of further happiness.

     (Jules Renard – Journal)

    A glance at my library always leaves me perplexed considering the number of books which fill my shelves and the little time I have to read them. My reading list is reaching heights though I’m more afraid by the mountains than by mountains of books ;-)

    To do list elf

    As you can guess, the shelves of my library are overflowing with Scottish related books so, for all those who share our love for Scotland, I’ve made a selection of our favourite ones  for Christmas. A selection is always frustrating but I’ve tried to make it as large as possible, including literature, history, nature, wildlife and lifestyle.


    Scottish Literature Douglas Gifford Sarah Dunnigan and Alan MacGilllivray 2002

    I’d like to begin my selection with this big literature reference book (1248 pages). It’s not a recent one since it was published  by Edinburgh University Press in 2002 but it can be very useful for all those who like and want to know more about Scottish literature.

    This substantial new volume is a stimulating yet in-depth introduction to Scottish literature in English and Scots. From medieval to modern, the entire range of literature is introduced, examined and explored. Aimed primarily at those with an interest in Scottish literature, this guide also responds to the need for students and teachers to have detailed discussions of individual authors and texts.

    The volume looks at Scottish literature in six period sections: Early Scottish Literature, Eighteenth-Century, The Age of Scott, Victorian and Edwardian, The Twentieth-Century Scottish Literary Renaissance, and Scottish Literature since 1945. Each section begins with an overview of the period, followed by several chapters examining exemplary authors and texts. Each section finishes with an extensive discussion including suggestions as to how to further explore the rich and often neglected hinterlands of Scottish writing.

    Extensive reading lists identify primary texts of the period as well as details of a wide range of additional authors. Opening up neglected areas of study as well as responding to the burgeoning interest in novelists, modern poets and dramatists, this book serves as an invaluable guide to Scottish Literature.  By the way, can you guess what the cover of this book represents?

    (Source: Amazon)


    MacDiarmid memorial © 2012 Scotiana

    MacDiarmid memorial © 2012 Scotiana

    Quite appropriately, the  front cover of Scottish Literature is a picture focusing on a detail of the very beautiful  MacDiarmid memorial, a monument full of symbols. This Memorial which we discovered in 2012  has the shape of a giant metal open book and it was created by the sculptor Jake Harvey.

    It is situated in a lonely moor above the town of Langholm, the native town of Hugh MacDiarmid where he is buried. We were very happy to find this memorial  standing amidst purple heather. Before leaving Langholm we paid homage to the great Scottish poet in the local churchyard.


    Travel Writing

    Kenneth White is a great Scottish-French author and one of our favourite ones. Poet and philosopher, he is also a born traveller as many of his Scottish fellow-countrymen. We travelled along the St Lawrence in Canada with La route bleue in our pocket (The Blue Road), one of his most famous books.

    Shall we take with us The Winds of Vancouver and follow in his footsteps next time we go to Canada. Why not ? I know no better guide to go out of the beaten track to visit a country and to get a deep sense of the place. In the meantime we can travel virtually in reading his book. ;-) Anyway, we highly recommend the reading of all his books, wonderfully translated by his wife Marie-Claude. I’ve downloaded La maison des marées on my kindle (House of Tides). So far, the French edition of this book is the only one by Kenneth White which can be found in this format.

    The Winds of Vancouver Kenneth White Le mot et le reste 2014

    Les Vents de Vancouver Kenneth White University of Aberdeen 2013


    Editor’s presentation

    Kenneth White’s writings are explorations across a vast range of intellectual territories, and also, in what he calls his “waybooks”, chart his actual travels across varied geographic territories. The Winds of Vancouver records a journey from British Columbia to Alaska, retracing the itineraries of explorers, naturalists and environmentalists, many of them, such as John Muir, nomadic Scots like White himself. The narrative records a series of encounters, both historical and contemporary, between the modern and the primordial, as White goes in search of what is beyond the limits of the known world.





    The Real Patriots of Early Scottish Independence Alan Young & George Cumming Birlinn 2014

    A very appropriate reading to end this year 2014 when Scotland has been overwhelmed by an extraordinary wave of patriotic fervour.

    The battle of Bannockburn (1314) gave Scotland a great hero in Robert Bruce but deprived Scotland of three other worthy ‘patriot heroes’. This book tells the intriguing story of three members of the Comyn family who have been deprived of their rightful place in Scottish tradition because of Robert Bruce’s success. Bruce’s ruthless rise to power and his sacrilegious murder of Scotland’s chief political leader, John Comyn III Lord of Badenoch, in Greyfriars’ Church in Dumfries in 1306 had to be ‘spun’ to paint Bruce in a more favourable light in keeping with his status, and the victim (and his family) were mercilessly cast as traitors to Bruce and the Scottish ’cause’. The book re-examines the murder and reconstructs the Scottish Independence movement before 1306. The conclusions are surprising – there was already a strong sense of national identity and political independence before the involvement of William Wallace or Robert Bruce – and Walter Comyn Earl of Menteith (d.1258), Alexander Comyn Earl of Buchan (d.1289) and John Comyn III Lord of Badenoch (d.1 306) were pre-eminent as pillars of an independent Scottish monarchy, defining and protecting Scotland’s integrity in times of political crisis. The Comyns fittingly led Scotland into the War of Independence in 1296.

    (Source: Amazon)


    George Mackay Brown

    Winter Tales George Mackay Brown Polygon 2006

    I can’t help beginning my selection of  Scottish books by my two favourite Scottish authors: George Mackay Brown and Iain Crichton Smith.

    I was very happy this year when I discovered that most of George Mackay Brown’s books could be downloaded.

    Winter Tales George Mackay Brown Kindle edition March 2014

    I immediately created a shelf dedicated to George Mackay Brown in my virtual library and I think none of his books which can be downloaded is missing. Iain Crichton Smith’s big books of short stories had been downloaded on my kindle several months before. ;-)

    Iain Crichton Smith

    Iain Crichton Smith The Black Halo Stories 1977-98 Birlinn 2001

    The Red Door: The Complete English Stories 1949-76

    The Black Halo: The Complete English Stories 1977-98

    Listen To The Voice

    How many faces can you see on the above Black Halo book cover?

    Robert Louis Stevenson

    Delphi Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson (Illustrated) 2011

    Delphi Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson (Illustrated) is the edition I’ve chosen to download. It is complementary to my library where several shelves are devoted to this great Scottish author.

    * illustrated with many images relating to Stevenson’s life and works
    * ALL 12 Novels, annotated with concise introductions, giving valuable contextual information
    * separate contents tables for each novel
    * many of the texts are illustrated with the original Victorian artwork, including TREASURE ISLAND and DR JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
    * every short story and short story collection
    * the complete poetry and plays
    * ALL of the collaboration works with other authors
    * even includes the complete letters, with separate contents table
    * no less than three BONUS biographies – explore Stevenson’s adventurous life by contemporary biographers – with special contents tables
    * UPDATED with special contents tables for short stories, poetry and non-fiction works – navigate Stevenson’s immense works with ease and find that special poem, essay or story quickly!

    J.M. Barrie

    Complete Works of J.M. Barrie Delphi Classics

    For the first time in publishing history, this comprehensive eBook presents the Complete works of J. M. Barrie, with beautiful illustrations, informative introductions and the usual Delphi bonus material. (14MB Version 1)

    * Beautifully illustrated with images relating to Barrie’s life and works
    * Special PETER PAN section, with images and links to all the Peter Pan mythos texts
    * Concise introductions to the novels and other works
    * Images of how the books were first printed, giving your eReader a taste of the Edwardian texts
    * Excellent formatting of the works
    * Famous works such as PETER PAN are fully illustrated with their original artwork
    * Includes the complete novellas and short stories
    * Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the short stories
    * ALL 30 extant plays, including rare dramatic works like IBSEN’S GHOST and WALKER, LONDON, appearing for the first time in digital print
    * Includes Barrie’s complete non-fiction, with speeches, essays and prefaces
    * Features Barrie’s two memoirs, including the rare autobiography THE GREENWOOD HAT – discover Barrie’s literary life and influences in creating Peter Pan
    * Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genres

    (Source Amazon)

    Neil Gunn

    Butcher's Broom Neil M. Gunn Souvenir Press 1977

    Set at the time of the early nineteenth-century Highland Clearances, this tragic novel is one of the most deeply moving of all Neil Gunn’s books. Through its characters it traces the roots of Highland culture, re-creating the essence of the experience of the Gaels, a people whose way of life, though repressed and denied, can yet speak to the present century.

    (From the back cover of Butcher’s Broom - Souvenir Press 1977)

    This book can be read together with Iain Crichton’s Smith Consider the Lilies (1968). Butcher’s Broom can also be downloaded.

    Conan Doyle :


    The Complete Sherlock Holmes  The Heirloom Collection 2012

    This Sherlock Holmes four-volume box set has been added to my wishing list though I’ve already downloaded it on my kindle ;-) This lovely and  beautifully illustrated edition is not a cheap one but it’s worth its price for the fans of Sherlock Holmes!

    Sir Walter Scott

    I only have Rob Roy in the prestigious Edinburgh 30-volume edition of “The Waverley Novels” and can only dream to have the other ones for these books are very expensive and they are well-worth their value. It’s the ideal Christmas gift to offer to an admirer of Sir Walter Scott.

    Walter Scott Introductions and Notes from the Magnum Opus The Edinburgh Edition 2012

    Series Editor: David Hewitt

    “The joy of the Edinburgh edition is that it allows us to make up our minds about Scott once again.”European Romantic Review, April 2013

    Find Out What Scott Really Wrote

    At last – the complete, critically edited edition of the Waverley Novels as Scott originally wrote them: all 28 of the Waverley Novels are now available as Edinburgh Editions, together with the two volumes of Introductions and Notes from the Magnum Opus.

    The first of Scott’s Waverley Novels burst upon an astonished world in 1814. Its publication marked the emergence of the modern novel in the western world, influencing all the great nineteenth-century writers. This handsome edition of Sir Walter Scott’s novels captures the original power and freshness of his best-loved novels.

    Going back to the original manuscripts, a team of scholars has uncovered what Scott originally wrote and intended his public to read before errors, misreadings and expurgations crept in:

    • Clean, corrected texts
    • Textual histories
    • Explanatory notes
    • Verbal changes from the first-edition text
    • Full glossaries

    Alexander McCall Smith


    Bertie's Guide to Life & Mothers Alexander McCall Smith Abacus 2014


    Delightful Glimpse of Modern Day Edinburgh (with side trip to Glasgow!)


    By g3 VINE VOICE on December 11, 2014

    I am a huge fan of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but this was my first venture into the 44 Scotland Street books, and it is going to be the 9th novel in the Edinburgh series.

    I have read the tales of Mma. Ramotswe and her Gaborone, Botswana Detective Agency in chronological order, but I am happy to report that I had no trouble jumping into the Scotland Street stories beginning with this, the 9th, edition. I am now anxious to go back to the beginning and read books 1-8, but am also clear that each must be capable, like this volume, of standing on its own and being appreciated without having read the others.

    I was and am also a huge fan of John Mortimer, of Rumpole fame, and for me, Alexander McCall Smith, carries on Mortimer’s tradition of writing perceptive, humorous, gentle accounts of regular folks with all their frailties and foibles. Both authors write with amusement about the human condition, yet rarely, if ever, are mean spirited about it.

    I really enjoyed Bertie’s Guide, which involves intertwined stories of romances and family struggles (love at first sight; a first time marriage at a rather advanced age; a young couple grappling with triplets and two au pairs from Copenhagen; an over-protective, controlling mom; a mature unmarried woman who takes a foster child into her home; an older divorcee dating a rather garish Czech immigrant; and a vain young man who meets his match in one of the au pairs). People quibble over things, sometimes important, sometimes trivial.

    I recall that author A. McC. Smith, a real Renaissance man, is, among other things, the world’s leading expert on the forensics of sleep! and he even managed to work Somnambulism (sleep walking) into this compact, easy to read novel.

    He also intersperses the narrative with appearances by real authors, a lot of vocabulary words from Scotland that are new for this American reader, and the occasional jab at Marmite (which I am currently trying to learn to like) [available through Amazon --- shameless plug!].

    I tend to reserve 5 stars for Great works of literature (Lolita; The God of Small Things, etc.), so my award of 4 stars to this work is high praise indeed. If you like Outlander, and/or if you like Rumpole, and/or if you like No. 1 Ladies’, you will enjoy this new work as well.


    Ian Rankin :


    The Beat Must Go On Ian Rankin Orion 9 oct 2014

    The Beat Must Go On Ian Rankin Orion 9 oct 2014

    There is no detective like DI Rebus. Brilliant, irascible and endlessly frustrating to both his friends and his long-suffering bosses, he has made the dark places of Edinburgh his comfort and his home for over two decades. From his beginnings as a young Detective Constable in ‘Dead and Buried’, right up to his dramatic – but as it turns out, not quite final – retirement in ‘The Very Last Drop’, we see one of the most compelling, brilliant and mesmeric characters of modern times in his every guise and very much in his element.

    The Beat Goes On combines much-loved classics with previously unpublished gems from other media, and includes two brand-new stories written specifically for this collection – ‘The Passenger’ and ‘A Three-Pint Problem’. (Amazon)

    FictionFan’s comment on Amazon

    Last year, after one of his friends died unexpectedly at a young age, Ian Rankin announced that he’d be taking a year or two off from novel writing to have a bit of a rest. I assume this collection of short stories has been issued to fill the void that many of us Rebus fans would have felt without a new book for the winter. And, since I haven’t read any of these before, it filled that void very satisfactorily.

    There are 29 stories, ranging in length from a few pages to near-novella, but with most falling into the 20-40 minutes-to-read zone, so perfect bedside table material for late-night reading. There is also an interesting essay at the end where Rankin tells the story of how Rebus came into existence, which gives us some biographical snippets into how Rankin himself became a crime writer.

    Normally, when reviewing a short story collection, I find myself commenting on the variable quality of the stories, but I really can’t say that with this one. I found each of the stories, short or long, to be pretty much equally good, and while they obviously don’t have the complexity or depth of the novels, they show all Rankin’s normal talents for plotting and characterisation, and are as well written as the books. In fact, because we know the main characters so well, Rankin doesn’t have to spend much time on developing them, allowing him to pack a lot of story into a compact space. A few of them have a Christmas or New Year theme, I guess because they were originally written for newspaper or magazine Christmas specials. And a couple make reference to stories from great Edinburgh writers of the past – Muriel Spark and Arthur Conan Doyle – giving a glimpse into Rankin’s own influences.

    Each story is entirely consistent with the Rebus we know, but sometimes angled so that we see a new facet of his character, or get a closer look at an old one. They are spread throughout his career, with the first story being the most recently written – a prequel more or less to his latest novel Saints of the Shadow Bible, when Rebus was a new detective learning the ropes – right through to his retirement (which we now know didn’t last long). The bulk, however, are set in the earlier period, so there’s more of Brian Holmes as his sidekick than of Siobhan Clarke, who only came into the series mid-way through. I found this particularly pleasurable since it’s a long time since I’ve read any of the older books and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane with a younger Rebus. I was intrigued to realise that, although I tend to think back on the early Rebus as one of the drunken mavericks of his day who has since mellowed with age, in fact in comparison to a lot of today’s detectives he was actually both functional and professional throughout – clearly it’s the genre that’s shifted, rather than Rebus…or Rankin. I also felt there was more than a touch of William McIlvanney in the earlier stories, but that his influence seemed to fade as they went on, presumably as Rankin developed into his own equally strong style.

    The stories include all kinds of mysteries, from shop-lifting to murder, and the occasional one is really more an observation of a particular aspect of Edinburgh life than a crime story. In total, they left me in no doubt that Rankin is just as much a master of the short story as the novel. I found this a completely satisfying collection, and one that I’m sure to dip in and out of many times again.




    The Tobermory Cat Debi Gliori Birlinn front cover

    I n the village of Tobermory, on the Scottish island of Mull, lives a very special ginger cat. But once upon a time he didn’t think he was special at all – not like the woolly cats of Loch Ba, the singing cats of Staffa or the fishing cats of Fishnish. In the village of Tobermory, on the Scottish island of Mull, lives a very special ginger cat. But once upon a time he didn’t think he was special at all – not like the woolly cats of Loch Ba, the singing cats of Staffa or the fishing cats of Fishnish. But now everyone knows about him. He’s the cat who has become a legend in his own lifetime by simply being himself. He’s the cat who dances on top of the fish van; the cat who speaks to otters; the cat who drives the big yellow digger; the cat who rides on top of cars. He’s the Tobermory Cat.

    Debi Gliori was born in Glasgow and studied at Edinburgh College of Art. She is well known both for her picture books and her novels for children, and has been shortlisted for all the major prizes, including the Kate Greenaway Award (twice) and the Scottish Arts Council Award. Debi was the Shetland Islands’ first Children’s Writer-in-Residence. She published her first book in 1990 and since then has published so many successful books that she has lost count. She has written and illustrated No Matter What, The Trouble with Dragons, Stormy Weather and, most recently, The Scariest Thing of All.

    Tobermory Cat Angus Stewart

    I’m not sure they will do ;-) but Angus Stewart and Debi Gliori, the authors of these two books should go into partnership to promote the local feline hero. It seems to me that the two books are more complementary than competitive.

    My daughter offered me Debi Gliori’s book for my birthday ;-) :-) but now I’m eager to read Angus Stewart’s book as well as Debi Gliori’s second volume telling new adventures of the Tobermory cat. We visited the lovely little harbour town of Tobermory twice in the lovely island of Mull but next time we go there we’ll try to find its famous orange cat.

    The Tobermory Cat 1 2 3 Debi Gliori Birlinn 2014



    Land Lines The Scottish Literary Tour Company Ltd 2001

    Take a journey – real or imaginary – from the comfort of your armchair. Through quiet glens, over barren moors and hills, along lochside, seashore or city streets. On the way, indulge in the company of a host of Scottish writers across a rich diversity of language and dialect, century by century from Allan Ramsay to Ian Rankin, Stevenson to Spark, McGonagall to MacNeacail, Hogg to Irvine Welsh…

    Land Lines is an illustrated guide to the literature and landscape of Scotland, an inspiring and imaginative journey over a panoramic sweep of Scottish literary history – inviting you to travel through time and place, memory and emotion, as expressed through the personal vision of our writers and poet.

    (From the backcover of Land Lines -  Polygon at Edinburgh 2001)


    The Call ot fhe Mountains Max Landsberg Luath Press Ltd 2013

    Mountains change us more than we change them…

    Scotland’s mountains may not be the highest in the world. But they are certainly amongst the most awe-inspiring and enchanting. They tower in grandeur above ancient foundations, sculpted by ice and flood. Once home to the Gaels and their kings, now they are haunted by their spirits and the stag. These mountains offer magic grounds for connection with nature, and for personal transformation.

    Based on seven years of trekking across these mountains, this book shows you:

    - Where to find the best views
    - How geology, history, culture, flora and fauna have shaped these mountainscapes
    - How engagement with these lands can nurture your spirit, as well as your body and mind

    More than just a travel guide, The Call of the Mountains is a lyrical testament to the power of the Scottish mountains to offer anyone of reasonable fitness either simple enjoyment or a deeper journey of transformation. From the pinnacles of Skye to the rolling plateau of the Cairngorms; from the flanks of Ben Lomond to the Pass of Glencoe; from the summit of Ben Nevis to far away Ben Hope these lands can be your gymnasiums, your art galleries and your sacred spaces all in one. Filled with advice, anecdotes and personal recollections, this is an invaluable companion to anyone planning their next Highland adventure… or anyone who has just returned from one!

    The Call of the Mountains will inspire every reader with its panoramic view of the Scottish Highlands. Top of the Christmas Reading List Edinburgh Life Scotland has inspired legions of explorers and adventurers; this book will show you why. A wonderful journey through landscape, culture and obsession. Myles Farnbank, Director of Training, Wilderness Scotland

    Running Wild Mike Tomkies Whittles Publishing 2014 montage photos

    You may have thought he was retired, even dead? No, he is back! At the age of 86, Mike Tomkies is back doing what he does best – observing our rarest and most dramatic wildlife, unsuspected and from close quarters, and writing it with the kind of intimate detail that has earned high acclaim from critics and conservationists. (…) The book ends with the triumphant filming of magnificent white-tailed sea eagles on Mull. (from the back cover of the book)

    I’m a fan of Mike Tomkies since Iain et Margaret offered me Moobli,  the wonderful and very moving story of his 8-year life with his german shepherd on a remote island in the Highlands. Moobli reminded me very much of our dear old dog, Ralph. In my library, next to Moobli and Running Wild you can find Between Earth & Paradise, Wildcat Haven


    Scotland for Gardeners Kenneth Cox New Edition Birlinn 2014

     This book is a compact colour guide of the largest survey of Scottish gardens ever mounted and the first such guidebook to all that Scotland can offer garden and plant lovers. Including descriptions of virtually all Scotland’s gardens which are open to the public, it recommends when to visit and what to look out for. Gardens are described in a pithy and lively style. Also covered are specialist nurseries, garden centres, wildflower walks, shows, public parks and more. The book includes useful maps showing routes for day trips and short-break tours and is illustrated throughout with full-colour images by Ray Cox. This is the ideal book for the Scot or the tourist who wishes to explore the world of gardens and plants in Scotland.

    My edition of Scotland for Gardeners  dates back to 2009. Many pages have been added and I totally agree with the following reader’s comment on Amazon, though I only have the old edition. What a pity it can’t be downloaded for the book is heavy and it is difficult to take it on the plane, given the weight restrictions.

    Don’t go to Scotland without this!

    5 septembre 2014
    Par Phillip J. Klein
    Just got back from a 12 day trip to Northern Scotland which was primarily focused on gardens.This book is an amazing resource for picking out places to visit and for remembering the significant features of the gardens when reviewing photos.

    This is a “paperback” but every page is on high quality glossy paper with excellent illustrations. Not a lightweight book by any means and well worth the price. Don’t wait till you are overseas to buy it. The cost will be double in a bookstore.


    Scotland's Castle Culture Birlinn 2011

    The castle is an iconic building type and one of the most distinctive architectural emblems in the British Isles. This book covers the entire history of Scotland’s castles, from the very first stone castles in the 13th century to those of the present day. Ever since its medieval origins, the concept of the castle has undergone constant changes, with the tall tower house being superseded in the 17th century by the classical house, and in the 18th century by a fashionable building type designed by major architects such as Robert Adam. While Scotland’s Castle Culture in many ways marched with European fashion, much was distinctively Scottish – as seen in the reluctance to abandon castles as residences, and then in the power of the castle’s resurgence as a building type during the years when Scotland was one of the most ferociously modernising countries in the world: the Victorian age. At this time there were few modern building types that were not candidates for castellation: not just houses, but also farms, lighthouses, banks, schools and even railway stations. Lastly, the book takes us to the present, where most castles, of whatever century, are now protected for their value as national heritage. The drama and diversity of this story is reflected in the book’s structure: five chapters covering the main chronological phases of Castle Culture, followed by ten individual case studies of representative examples, from medieval Bothwell to Iain Begg’s late 20th-century Ravens’Craig.

    Audrey Dakin is a Project Officer at the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, and former Chief Officer of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

    Miles Glendinning is Professor of Architectural Conservation at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies at Edinburgh College of Art.

    Aonghus Mackechnie is Historic Scotland’s North Region Head

    The Castles of Glasgow and the Clyde by Gordon Mason Goblinshead 2013

    The second edition of this book has 170 more sites than the first and covers large and impressive edifices like Dumbarton and fragmentary ruins and long-vanished, previously forgotten locations.

    (The Scots Magazine – December 2014)


    Published by Birlinn and also reviewed in The Scots Magazine are these two books

    Whiskypedia Charles MacLean's

    Charles Maclean is known as ‘The Whiksky Guru’ for a reason. In Whiskypedia he takes us on a tour of every working distillery in Scotland. In addition there is the famous whisky wheel and flavour map, so everyone will be able to find their perfect dram.

    (The Scots Magazine – December 2014)

    This book is on its way to find a place under our Christmas tree, labelled ‘Jean-Claude’… it will prove quite useful for him to plan our 2015  ‘Whisky Trail’ in Scotland ;-)

    Scottish Baking Sue Lawrence

    The latest book from one of Scotland’s foremost cookery writers and journalists. This beautifully designed hardback covers everything from cakes to crumbles. A real mix of traditional and contemporary with clear step-by-step instructions and colour photographs throughout, Scottish Baking will make a lovely gift. It’s not surprising Nigella is such a fan!

    (The Scots Magazine – December 2014)

    It should not, but this one is also on my wishing list ;-)


    As a little bonus to end my post, I’ve chosen two ‘outsiders’, not Scottish books but big “coups de coeur” of mine ;-) .

    They will give you hours of happy reading in front of the fireplace… much suspense !

    Missing Person Patrick Modiano David R. Godine Publisher Inc (2004)

    A book by Patrick Modiano, the  French winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature …  Missing Person (Rue des boutiques obscures) …

    A great book and a must read.

    By Amazon Customer on 8 Nov 2013

    This was the first Patrick Modiano book that I’d read and I was hooked from page 1. The book follows the quest of a one time private detective, to try and find his own past and to discover who he really is. Set in Paris, the book takes the reader on a journey through time and through the Parisian suburbs of the 1940 – 60 period.
    A fantastic read, that I found hard to put down. Although I fully accept that this book will not appeal to everyone, if you do read it I am sure you won’t be dissapointed.
    Patrick Modiano is a French writer whos books are hard to find in translation, but, well worth the effort.


    Ship of Theseus J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst  Canongate 2013

    And last but not least a most extraordinary book, a very odd and inviting volume, which was offered to me by Fabien, my son-in-law, who is a lover of mystery books, detective novels, thrillers…  and also a great fan of Sherlock Holmes ;-)

    One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace and desire.

    A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

    THE BOOK: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V. M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched on a disorienting and perilous journey.

    THE WRITER: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumours that swirl around him.

    THE READERS: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts and fears.

    S., conceived by filmmaker J.J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand. It is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.

    (from Amazon)

    Hogmanay fireworks over Edinburgh Wikipedia


    Before concluding this post and wishing you all a happy Christmas let me tell you a little secret.  There is a big envelope  already waiting for us under the Christmas tree and a little bird told me that its contents will fulfill all my dreams for the year to come ;-)

    What it contains will open us the door to our “Itinéraire 8″ in Scotland in May-June:  a return-ticket from Bordeaux to Edinburgh, though I could do without the return ;-) ,  a 45-day trip to Scotland to celebrate our 45-year wedding anniversary ! But of course, I will tell you more about our preparations for this new trip and Janice too since she is going to share that new Scottish adventure in June !


    In Search of Ancient Scotland Gerald M. Ruzicki and Dorothy A. Ruzicki AspenGrove 2000

    Our overseas adventures consist of three parts: planning, going and remembering. Over the years, we’ve found we like them equally. Planning means deciding when and where and all the details in between. If the trip is carefully planned, the “going becomes enjoyable and usually proceeds without too many problems. Remembering can be like reliving the trip. We relish rehashing our adventures and misadventures, poring over pictures and even delighting in details with  bored friends. (Ah to find those rare friends who love to hear about our travels!). (In Search of Ancient Scotland Aspengrove 2000 – Chapter 2 “Planning is One-Third of the Trip)

    The very first part of the “planning” is done. We have booked our return-tickets to Scotland.
    It’s time for me to wish you all a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS !

    Enjoy !

    A bientôt.


    Boules de Noël rouge et dorée Wikipedia

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    Unicorns from Scottish Kings to Canadian Coat of Arms

    Did you know that the unicorn gold coins of Scotland are among the most famous and curious of all gold pieces?

    Greg Reynolds wrote a very interesting article in his series about the fabulous Eric Newman Collection of European coins that went on sale in early January 2014 in which he states :

    Scottish Rarities

    No single English coin was a star of the sale. Newman’s collection of British coins, as a whole, was important. I mention here three popular Scottish rarities that were in this sale. The unicorn gold coins of Scotland are among the most famous and curious of all gold pieces.

    unicorn gold coin james III scottish king

    The Newman Collection, ‘One Unicorn’ gold coin of King James III is an excellent representative of the ‘Unicorn’ gold denomination and design concept. This specific coin is NGC graded “AU-50.” Collectors of U.S. coins would probably see that it has been notably cleaned and some of the wear on the obverse (front) is due to a not so fortunate cleaning. It has naturally retoned, however, and the pale green tints and other natural colors are attractive. For a circulated, Scottish coin dating somewhere from 1469 to 1488, probably in the 1480s, its quality is impressive. The $28,200 result was slightly strong.


    I doubt this magnificent numismatic work of art will one day be housed in my collection of Unicorns, but I do appreciate to know it exists! :-)

    ctesias-monoceros-first-unicornThe first description of an unicorn known to date was about 2,400 years ago in a book ‘Indika‘, about India, written by Ctesias, a greek physician. He named it a ‘monoceros’,

    There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads dark red, and their eyes dark blue.

    They have a horn on the forehead which is about a foot-and-a-half in length.

    The base of the horn is pure white; the upper part is sharp and a vivid crimson; and the remainder, or middle portion, is black” – Ctesias, Greek physician, 416 B.C.

    Source: Wikipedia

    Born in the beautiful province of Quebec in Eastern Canada, I’m privileged, as a passionate of unicorn collectibles to have a country Coat of Arms  featuring the beautiful Unicorn. Ain’t that cool?! :-)

    arms-of-her-majesty-in-right-of-canadaThe arms of Canada reflects the royal symbols of the United Kingdom and France ( the three lions of England, the lion of Scotland , the fleur de lis of France and the Irish harp of Tara ECU and at low a sprig of three maple leaves representative of all Canadians regardless of their origins.)

    The shield is supported by the lion of England with the banner of the United Kingdom, and the unicorn of Scotland deploying the French royal flag.

    The crest is a crowned lion holding a red maple leaf.

    The floral emblem to the base of the arms of the Monarchy: the English rose , Scottish thistle, French fleur de lis and the Irish shamrock .

    The royal crown surmounting the arms identifies them as those of the sovereign of Canada. It is often called the Royal Arms of Canada or the Arms of Canada .

    Let’s travel back into the past to discover how this emblem came about…

    three-lions-of-england-coat-of-armsThe three royal lions of England

    In the 11th century, Henry I, known as “the lion of justice”, may have been the first English king to use a lion. It is uncertain as to why a second lion suddenly appeared. When Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose family emblem was also a lion, it is believed that he added the third lion. There is no question that, when he led his English troops in the Crusades, Richard I, “the Lion-Hearted” carried a shield emblazoned with three golden lions on a red background. To this day they have been the royal symbol of England.

    royal-lion-of-scotland-coat-of-armsThe royal lion of Scotland

    The second quarter consists of a red lion rearing on the left hind foot, within a red double border with fleurs-de-lis, on a gold background. The royal lion of Scotland was probably first used by King William, who was known as “the lion”. However it was certainly used by his son, Alexander III, who made Scotland an independent nation.


    Arms_of_the_United_Kingdom_royal_irish_harp_of_taraThe royal Irish harp of Tara

    The third quarter is a gold harp with silver strings, on a blue background. North of the present city of Dublin, there is a hill called Tara which for centuries was the religious and cultural capital of ancient Ireland. If you visit the site, you will see a 750 foot earthen work that is said to have been the site of the banqueting hall of Irish kings. Thomas Moore recalls the history of this site in one of the most famous of all Irish lyrics that begins: “The harp that once through Tara’s hall the soul of music shed…” There is a legend, recorded in C.W. Scott-Giles monumental work The Romance of Heraldry, that this harp was found and came into the possession of the pope. In the 16th century, Henry VIII suppressed the Irish people in his attempt to become the lawful successor to the kings of ancient Ireland. The pope sent the harp of Tara to England whereupon Henry added its likeness to his royal shield. From this time it has remained a symbol of Ireland.

    blason-fleur-de-lys-coat-of-armsThe royal fleurs-de-Lis of France

    The fourth quarter depicts three gold fleurs-de-lis, on a blue background. The fleurs-de-lis was the first heraldic emblem raised in Canada. On July 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier landed at Gaspé and erected a cross, affixed with the symbol of his sovereign and the royal house of France.


    Three_maple_leaves_of_CanadaThe three maple leaves

    To complete the design of the shield, a Canadian symbol was required. Three red maple leaves conjoined on one stem, on a silver or white background, were then added. Throughout the 19th century, the maple leaf had gradually become closely identified with Canada. The maple leaf had been worn as a symbol of Canada during the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The song “The Maple Leaf Forever”, written by the Toronto school teacher Alexander Muir in 1868 had become Canada’s national song. During World War I, the maple leaf was incorporated into the badge of many Canadian regiments. It was most appropriate that three maple leaves were given a commanding position within the shield, which made it unmistakably “Canadian”.

    Source: Canadian Heritage

    Stay tuned for more on Unicorns! :-)

    Talk soon,





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    North Harris: a Source of Inspiration for J.M. Barrie…



    Blue waters and pink sands in Harris Outer Hebrides © 2000 Scotiana

    Dear readers,

    We have wonderful memories of our trips in the Outer Hebrides in 2003, 2004 and 2006 which led us from Lewis in the north to Barra and Vatersay in the south. We’re eager to go back there to [...]

    Notes about the Oscar Slater Case: the Glasgow Murder…



    It is impossible to read and weigh the facts in connection with the conviction of Oscar Slater in May, 1909, at the High Court in Edinburgh, without feeling deeply dissatisfied with the proceedings, and morally certain that justice was not done

    (Conan Doyle – ‘The Case [...]

    What to Pack for a Trip to Scotland

    If you’re headed to Scotland for a vacation then it’s essential to make sure you pack well.

    My travelling friends Mairiuna and Jean-Claude have visited Scotland many more times since 2000 than I did, but still enough times on my part to have learned, sometimes the hard way, about the essentials!