Scotland’s Landscape of Magic

Scotland is full of inspiring landscapes and locations – places that are beautiful but also linked with ancient folklore and fascinating history – and as a children’s writer, I’m constantly inspired by the local landscape and lore.

I always visit a location I’m planning to use in one of my adventure novels, partly to get the details right: the sound of the echo in a cave, the colours of the landscape at a particular time of year or even the best way to break into a specific castle (my advice: take a dragon with you…) But I also visit to be inspired. To sit and imagine and scribble, to consider what might be behind that tree or hiding in that shadow. I couldn’t write these adventures if I spent all year sitting at a desk in Edinburgh. Here are a few wonderful Scottish locations that have already inspired me:

Smoo Cave, under Durness in Sutherland – an amazing series of caves with deep pools, perfect for a sea monster attack.

Dunvegan Castle in Skye – the castle I broke into using a dragon, though the owners forgave me when they invited me back to do a reading!

Ring of Brodgar in Orkney – the most atmospheric and gorgeous ring of standing stones. Orkney’s history, stories and beauty makes it a writers’ paradise!

Fairy Pools in Skye – I visited this enchanting burn intending to use it in a scene I’d already drafted, but ended up rewriting the whole chapter as I clambered up the side of the waterfalls.

lari4Dunadd, a hillfort in Kilmartin in Argyll, with a footprint carved into a rock used in the coronation of ancient Scottish kings – I’d never been to Dunadd, but I’d read about it, and when I needed somewhere for a scheming minotaur to ambush an ambitious fairy warrior I knew Dunnad was the perfect place. I visited before I wrote the scene, then had to go all the way back again, when I realised I hadn’t checked whether the top of the hill was large enough to land a dragon.

The Eildons, near Melrose in the Borders – I spent a day there, walking on my own with a notebook. Only I wasn’t really on my own: by the end of the day, I’d written so much dialogue, it’s as if my characters came hillwalking with me!

Meg’s Widd in Dufftown (pictured in the header) – the wonderful little wood I played in as a child, with different colours in every season, that inspired one of characters and much of the magic in my new Spellchasers trilogy.

Other inspiring places in Speyside that became part of the magical landscape of the Spellchasers trilogy: the Giant’s Chair and Giant’s Cradle beside the River Fiddich, the cooperage at Balvenie Distillery, and the wide beauty of the Cabrach south of Dufftown….

There are many other parts of Scotland that I love, that feel adventurous and magical, and I’m sure will inspire future stories:

lari2I recently visited Goblin’s Ha (pictured), an underground hall below the ruins of Yester Castle near Haddington. It was apparently built for a magician by a team of goblins. It’s very dark, slightly spooky, and just waiting for stories to bring it to life again.

It’s years since I tried to have a picnic beside Loch Coruisk in Skye, on a wild wet windy day, surrounded by the high peaks of the Black Cuillins. I’ve never written about that dark loch, but I’m sure I will.

And one location that inspires me almost every day: the cycle-paths in Edinburgh, long green birdsong-filled former railway lines where I get away from my desk and remind myself of all the other magical inspiring places in Scotland…

Lari Don is an Edinburgh-based writer, whose most recent book, Spellchasers: The Beginner’s Guide to Curses, is out now, published by Floris Books

Read Suse Coon’s review here:

lari3Many of the locations above inspired her earlier series, the Fabled Beast Chronicles, also published by Floris Books.

More information about Lari’s other books and author events: and on Twitter: @LariDonWriter


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