11 Classic Works of Scottish Historical Fiction

Books that bring Scottish history to life

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was launched in 2010, with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall winning the inaugural prize. Whilst the prize is based in Scotland and honours Sir Walter Scott’s achievements as the inventor of the genre, books do not have to be by Scottish authors or set in Scotland; indeed Andrew Greig’s Fair Helen is the only Scottish book thus far to have been shortlisted for the prize, in 2014. In 2012 the Prize extended to entries from the Commonwealth countries, and it was won in 2013 by Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng. Its other winners include Andrea Levy, Sebastian Barry, Robert Harris and, this year, John Spurling. Winners are presented at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, in June every year.

In keeping with the spirit of Walter Scott’s own output, the criteria for the prize are ‘originality, innovation, and longevity of the work, with quality of writing as the deciding factor’. Books must be set at least 60 years ago, taking a cue from the subtitle of Scott’s best-known work, Waverley: ‘tis sixty years since’.

Here is our choice of the best historical fiction by Scottish authors.


Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

1. Waverley

Sir Walter Scott
The Ragged Lion cover

4. The Ragged Lion

Allan Massie
Joseph Knight cover

5. Joseph Knight

James Robertson
The Sea Road cover

6. The Sea Road

Margaret Elphinstone
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

9. Sunset Song

Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Clara Cover

10. Clara

Janice Galloway
Day cover

11. Day

A L Kennedy

List created by

Alistair Moffat

Alistair Moffat is the chair of judges of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. He is also a writer, historian, journalist and founder and director of the Borders Book Festival in Melrose. A former Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Director of Programmes at Scottish Television, his books include The Sea KingdomsThe Scots: A Genetic JourneyThe Borders, and Tuscany: A History.