Celebrating Scotland – Greatest Scottish Literature Writers

Burns Night – the annual celebration of one of Scotland’s greatest literary figures – is less than a week away. So, as we celebrate all things Scottish it seems only natural that we look at some of the most celebrated figures in Scottish literature – from poets, playwrights and novelists – from the past to the present.

Robert Burns


The man himself. Scotland’s national poet and,  according to a 2009 public vote organised by STV, the greatest ever Scot. Some of his works include Hogmanay favourite ‘Auld Lang Syne‘, ‘A Red, Red Rose‘, and ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That‘. A vast majority of Burns’ work is in the public domain so there is no excuse to not brush up on your knowledge of the Bard – it can be found here: http://www.robertburns.org/works/ 

Sir Walter Scott


The Edinburgh-born novelist, poet and playwright, Sir Walter Scott remains a popular historical figure in Scottish literature. His influence can be seen clearly in the captial city – his novel ‘Waverley’ gave Edinburgh’s main train station its name and a monument in his honour towers over Princes Street. In addition, his face adorns Scottish banknotes. A huge figure in Scottish history.

Robert Louis Stevenson


Sticking with Edinburgh-born writers, his most famous works include the pirate adventure ‘Treasure Island’ and the influential horror ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. His stories have remained popular for over a hundred years and have received numerous adaptations over the years. Stevenson was also a keen poet and traveller, he died in Samoan Islands in 1894.

J.M. Barrie

by George Charles Beresford, vintage print, 1902

Pirates also played a big part of this author’s best known work, Barrie being primarily known as the author of ‘Peter Pan’, the timeless tale of the boy who would not grow up. Starting its life as a play in 1904, it was not until 1911 that the novel was released. The story continues to resonate with children and adults alike with an abundance of film and television adaptations – the best known of which is easily Disney’s 1953 animated film.

Alasdair Grey

Moving onto more modern figures now and Alasdair Grey is probably best known for his first novel ‘Lanark’ which was written over a period of 30 years. The book is still considered to be one of the most important of the past century, with its surreal yet realist depiction of Glasgow helping it take its rightful place as part of Scottish culture.

Iain Banks


A celebrated Science-Fiction author whose Culture series continues to influence the genre today. Born in Dunfermline in 1954, his first novel ‘The Wasp Factory’ was released in 1984. However, it was with the release of 1987’s ‘Consider Phlebas’ that he moved the genre away from its cyberpunk obsession and in turn helped to revive the space opera genre. He passed away at the age of 59 due to cancer, but lives on through his work.

Ian Rankin


A hugely prolific author, Rankin is the author behind the Inspector Rebus series of novels. Since 1987, there have been 21 novels in the series, which found a large audience as a television series between 2000 and 2007. Rankin’s series has cultivated a large following and looks to continue for a long time.

Irvine Welsh


Welsh’s first novel, ‘Trainspotting’ was published in 1993 and since then he has garnered a reputation for being a raw, controversial but excellent author. His stories depict a brutal side of Edinburgh that is rarely seen – sex, drugs and violence are major themes in his works. The film adaptation of Trainspotting had a huge impact on Scottish culture. With the imminent release of Trainspotting 2 it seems Welsh will continue to have an impact as one of Scotland’s modern literary greats.

Of course, this is just a small selection of Scottish literature greats. We would like you to tell us some of your favourites, either in the comment selection below or on Twitter @en4news2016

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