The country’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 has announced the launch of Scotland’s Storybook Trail. The trail will follow places with literary connections as far spread as Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, giving insight into the real locations that spawned some of the world’s favourite fictional characters.
While it is hoped that 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 8 to 26.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop believes that a tangible literary experience will “encourage children to read for pleasure and develop a life-long love of books.” Ms Hyslop also hinted at the project’s potential to have a positive economic impact, saying that “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 that Scotland’s history and culture is a motivating factor for 51% 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, 6% of those visiting Scotland in 2015/16 were prompted to make their trip after reading about the country in a book. While locations like Loch Ness and Glen Coe are eternally popular, the trail could direct book-lovers to less visited areas.
Maps outlining the route will be available for download and at VisitScotland iCentres, bookshops and libraries across the country. Currently 19 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.
CEO of Scottish Book Trust, Marc Lambert, said: “Visiting locations with a special connection to favourite stories or figures is a real thrill for fans of any age. Now is the perfect time to take a trip round our beautiful country and enjoy again, or for the first time, some of the greatest Scottish stories ever told and the places where the creative spark started.”
High-profile points of interest 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.
Locations dotted around the Capital include SCPB-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 and Greyfriars Bobby’s well-worn beat.
The announcement of the trail comes shortly after a new £6 million tourism campaign, Scotland Is Now, was accused of “blurring the lines” by promoting SNP policies.