It is often said a good book should take readers on a journey, but a new initiative by VisitScotland is going a step further by encouraging readers to embark on their own literary adventures around Edinburgh and beyond.
Scotland’s ethereal landscapes and iconic cities have long served as inspiration for storytellers, giving rise to much-loved children’s characters like The Gruffalo and Peter Pan.
In an effort to celebrate this literary legacy and promote tourism across the nation, VisitScotland have announced the launch of Scotland’s Storybook Trail.
The trail will follow places with literary connections from the Capital to Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, giving insight into the real locations that spawned some of the world’s favourite fictional characters.
Locations dotted around the Capital include RSPB-protected Fidra Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, as well as the grave of real-life Tom Riddle – aka Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series – and Greyfriars Bobby’s well-worn beat.
High-profile points of interest outside of Edinburgh are Birnam Arts, which celebrates the work of Beatrix Potter, and the Isle of Coll, which served as the inspiration for Katie Morag’s fictional home, the Isle of Struay. While it is hoped those of all ages will enjoy visiting areas along the trail, the launch coincides with Scotland’s Year of Young People – a government-led initiative that aims to recognise and improve cultural and sporting opportunities for those aged eight to 26.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the experience would “encourage children to read for pleasure and develop a life-long love of books”.
She also hinted at the project’s potential to have a positive economic impact, saying “with so many locations across the country linked to characters in children’s literature, I am sure the trail will act as a magnet for visitors from home and abroad”.
Recent statistics show Scotland’s history and culture is a motivating factor for 51 per cent of European visitors, many of whom will be familiar with the characters and stories explored along the trail.
Thanks to the recent popularity of novels like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, six per cent of those visiting Scotland in 2015/16 made their trip after reading about the country in a book.
The trail will direct book-lovers to less visited areas on top of already popular locations such as Loch Ness and Glen Coe.
Maps outlining the route will be available for download and at VisitScotland iCentres, bookshops and libraries across the country.
Nineteen places are featured, with plans to expand the route to include any future children’s classics. The maps will also recommend book shops and related festivals.
Scottish Book Trust chief executive Marc Lambert said “Visiting locations with a special connection to favourite stories or figures is a real thrill for fans of any age.”