Second Nature: New Nature Writing From Scotland

‘And the thing is, once you start noticing, it’s almost impossible to stop.’

It is little wonder Scotland has produced such a wealth of talented nature writers with its landscape as uniquely beautiful as it is diverse. In the film below we take a look at some of today’s brilliant Scottish nature writers, along with a nod to our pioneer in the field, Nan Shepherd. Their works, whether looking at the miniscule, the mighty, the menacing, or the mysterious nature of Scotland’s landscapes, encourage not only a deep love and admiration for Scotland’s wild places, but carry on a rich tradition of exploring the boundaries of what nature writing can mean.



And if you’d like more information on the excellent books featured in the film. . .


The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd

Published by Canongate, £8.99

Composed during the Second World War and written in intense, poetic prose Nan Shepherd takes the reader into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland on a quest to discover their ‘essential nature’. Walking in her footsteps we encounter a world that can be both breathtakingly beautiful and shockingly harsh, and are invited to, like Shepherd, meditate on our own relationship with the wild world around us.



Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie

Published by Sort of Books, £23.99

In this beautiful collection of essays Kathleen Jamie traces themes that have surfaced throughout her life and her work over the past 40 years. Mining her memories whilst moving through changing landscapes Jamie explores her own reflections on nature and the nature of life, and how what surfaces – both in our inner and outer world  – reconnects us to our past.

We would also highly recommend Kathleen Jamie’s other nature books, Sightlines and Findings.


The Nature of Summer, Jim Crumley

Published by Saraband Books, £12.99

In this intimately observed book, Jim Crumley both celebrates nature at its very apex in his beloved Highlands, Perthshire and Trossachs heartlands, and also looks in sensitive detail at the profound impact of climate chaos on the habitats and inhabitants of these beautiful wild places. Crumley chronicles it all: the wonder, the tumult, the spectacle of this spectacular season.

We’d also highly recommend the companion books, Nature of Autumn, Nature of Winter and Nature of Spring.


Moder DyModer Dy, Roseanne Watt

Published by Polygon, £8.99

In this debut collection from Shetland poet Roseanne Watt we are offered glimpses of the raw beauty of land and language. In deliberate, concise yet dramatic prose we are reminded of the complex and mysterious relationship of both the nature of human experience and that of land and sea.



Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession , Gavin Francis

Published by Canongate Books, £20.00

In this examination of our collective fascination with islands, Gavin Francis blends personal accounts of his own travels, with psychology, philosophy and great voyages from literature. Island Dreams reflects on themes of rest and motion, independence and attachment, and the importance of islands and isolation in our collective consciousness.



Antlers of Water, edited by Kathleen Jamie

Published by Canongate Books, £15.99

Showcasing the diversity and innovation in Scottish nature writing today, Antlers of Water features inspiring prose, poetry and photography that will enthrall and provoke. With voices from across the country, from many walks of life, and exploring all landscapes, this collection will make you look at the world in news ways.



Scotland from the Sky, James Crawford

Published by Historic Environment Scotland, £25.00

Offering an extraordinary birds-eye view, this book tells the remarkable story of a nation through aerial imagery. Travel through time and space to see the evolution of our rural and urban landscapes, and the tales they tell – of war, innovation, adventure, cities and people.


And these books are just the beginning! Here’s a selection of favourites from more of Publishing Scotland’s member publishers. . .


Secret Lochs & Special Places, Bruce Sandison

Published by Black & White Publishing, £9.99

This book celebrates the wonder and joy of wild fishing from an expert angler who knows a trick or two! Bruce Sandison also shares his own stories that highlight his love affair with his native land, its history, culture, people and places.



The Secret Life of the Cairngorms, Andy Howard

Published by Sandstone Press, £24.99

In a stunning selection of photographs, leading wildlife photographer, Andy Howard, captures the intimate majesty of the Cairngorms natural world, focusing in particular on its lively mountain hares, otters, red squirrels and birds.


A Handbook of Scotland’s Coasts, Fi Martynoga

Published by Saraband Books, £12.99

An inspirational guide to help you discover wonder along the thousands of miles of Scotland’s spectacular coastline –from its stunning geology and diverse marine and bird life to its coastal history, culture and landmarks. It includes coastal appreciation from many writers, while Fi Martynoga also gives us her own expertise in exploring our coasts seaweed, shellfish, plants, flowers and grasses.

We’d also recommend Fi Martynoga’s companion books A Handbook of Scotland’s Trees and A Handbook of Scotland’s Wild Harvest.


A Last Wild Place, Mike Tomkies

Published by Whittles Publishing, £18.99

Leaving the city to study the wilderness, Mike Tomkies shares his experience and his extraordinary insights into the wildlife and unrivaled beauty of the rugged and spectacular Scottish wilds. In this remarkable account Tomkies shares his quest to reconnect with nature and the urgent need for mankind to reattune to nature’s rhythms.



If Rivers Could Sing: A Scottish River Wildlife Journey, Keith Broomfield

Published by Tippermuir Books, £9.99

Rivers are captivating places, fluent in a secretive tongue that if you stop and listen will offer up surprises. In this book, Keith Broomfield dives deeper into the currents of his own local river to revel in its serenity, as well as its abundant wildlife and rich natural heritage.



Wilson’s Ornithology and Burds in Scots, Hamish MacDonald & Alexander Wilson

Published by Scotland Street Press, £9.99

In the early nineteenth century, Alexander Wilson, inspired by his extensive travels in North America, was the pioneering force behind the science of ornithological writing and illustration. Here his artwork is celebrated by Scots poet Hamish MacDonald who writes vivid responses alongside Wilson’s beautiful and illustrations.



The Outrun, Amy Liptrot

Published by Canongate Books, £14.99

With its lyrical, unsparing prose, this award-winning memoir offers a poignant and reconciliatory account of how island life and the raw beauty of its wild landscape helped Amy Liptrot restore her life and renew her hope, as she entered her thirties, after a decade of addiction.




Marram: Memories of Sea and Spider Silk, Leonie Charlton

Published by Sandstone Press, £12.99

In Marram, Leonie Charlton skillfully blends travel and nature writing to give us an intimate memoir on her trek through the Outer Hebrides with a friend and two Highland ponies. With an eye for beautiful detail and honest reflection, she tells us how the journey helped her grieve the loss of her mother and find acceptance of their fraught relationship.



The Dun Cow Rib, John Lister-Kaye

Published by Canongate Books, £9.99

In this captivating coming-of-age tale, John Lister-Kaye reminisces on his childhood with warmth, wonder and wisdom. The memories he shares capture how his early life inspired his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them.




An Amazing Animal Atlas of Scotland, Anders Frang

Published by Floris Books, £5.99

Full of fun and fascinating facts, with vivid illustrations on every page, this brilliant book is the perfect choice for any young animal enthusiast wanting to learn more about Scotland’s unique wild spaces and wonderful wildlife. Guaranteed to keep your young ‘uns captivated for hours!



The Baby Deer Rescue (The Animal Adventure Club) - coverAnimal Adventure Club series, Michelle Sloan

Published by Floris Books, £5.99

The Animal Adventure club is a brilliant series for young nature lovers, where we follow Isla, Buzz and Gracie – aka the Animal Adventure Club – do all they can to keep wild animals safe. It’s a heart-warming adventure series with friendship and a love of nature at its core.

Catch up with further adventures of the Animal Adventure Club with The Baby Squirrel Rescue and The Baby Otter Rescue.



Hutton’s Arse, Malcolm Rider

Published by Dunedin Academic Press, £19.99

Taking the reader on a journey spanning three billion years, and written for all to understand, Hutton’s Arse celebrates the extraordinary geological history that influenced and informed the magnificent beauty of the Northern Scottish Highlands.




And we can recommend more Scottish nature writing from publishers across the UK. . .


Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell

Published by Little Toller Books, £14.00

Another classic of the genre which has been hailed as a masterpiece for its lyrical and moving writing, this autobiographical work by Gavin Maxwell describes his relationship with the natural world, and his life-changing relationship with otters.



Island of Dreams: A Personal History of  Remarkable Place, Dan Boothby

Published by Picador, £14.99

Drifting for more than 20 years, Dan Boothby then realises a lifelong dream when he is given the chance to live in Gavin Maxwell’s former home. He embarks on a quest to both better understand himself and the mysterious Maxwell, the writer of his favourite book A Ring of Bright Water. In doing so, Boothby gives us a beautifully written celebration of the particularities of a person and a place.



Just Another Mountain: A Memoir of Hope, Sarah Jane Douglas

Published by Elliott & Thompson Ltd, £14.99

This heartfelt and inspiring book from Sarah Jane Douglas looks at one woman’s journey into the beautiful and forbidding mountains of her native Scotland on a quest for self and the strength to face her grief at losing her mother. This book is a powerful reminder that by putting one foot in front of the other you can climb any mountain.




Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape, Patrick Laurie

Published by Birlinn Ltd

Patrick Laurie reconnects to his native Galloway through working the land and cattle on his family farm there. Investing in the oldest and most traditional breeds of Galloway cattle, which demand lost traditions of rearing and caring, Laurie discovers the passing of an ancient rural heritage, and begins to uncover a way of life which once shaped the people, places and nature of his native land.



The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories, Patrick Baker

Published by Birlinn Ltd

Abandoned, uninhabited and forgotten places can be found across Scotland’s landscape, hiding incredible stories and past lives. Patrick Baker makes a series of journeys into these unnoticed and overlooked spaces and discovers unimaginable connections between people and place, painting a picture of the past that still resonates today.



Love of Country: A Hebridean, Madeleine Bunting

Published by Granta Books

The Hebrides inhabit a extraordinary place in our imaginations, including Madeline Bunting’s. Over the course of six years she travels across the Hebrides and studies the islands’ remarkable stories and contribution to our rich history and culture. With great sensitivity, Bunting explores themes of home and belonging, tragedy and tenacious resistance, which she discovers underpins Britain’s identity, for better and for worse, in a powerful way.



Field Notes From a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary, Esther Woolfson

Published by Granta Books

Written in absorbing prose, Esther Woolfson uses her city of Aberdeen as a backdrop for this close examination of the life of a city, its seasons, cycles, and how geographic, atmospheric and environmental elements support or inhibit the nature that exists within it. What Woolson discovers over the course of a year causes her to question the values we place on our lives and the lives of the species we live alongside.



Poachers Pilgrimage: An Island Journey, Alistair McIntosh

Published by Birlinn Ltd, £17.99

Alistair McIntosh returns to the islands of his childhood and embarks on a pilgrimage that traverses both a physical  and spiritual landscape in an exploration of the meaning of these places. His account is a powerful and moving reflection of an extraordinary place and its people, as well as an invitation to reimagine the course of our own trajectories and how land and community can bring us home to ourselves and each other.



We hope we have introduced you to books that will inspire you to revel, to celebrate, and, above all, to notice the world around you.



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