From the Scottish Hebrides to the Middle East, the settings for all my novels have been important to me. They’ve provided inspiration and they’ve influenced the content and direction the stories have taken. And judging by the reviews I’ve received, they’ve made a positive impression on my readers too.
Edinburgh is where I was born, grew up and spent a substantial part of my adult life. I also lived for many years on the Isle of Skye. And I have visited Israel-Palestine, where a dear friend of mine lives, on several occasions. So it’s probably not all that surprising that these places feature as settings in my books.
Indeed much of the action in my stories takes place while the characters are outdoors either working or simply enjoying being out in the natural world.
So in this post I thought I’d share my five favourite real-life, outdoor places that also feature in my novels.
The Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh:
This is a wonderful park on the south side of the city. The water of the Braid Burn runs through it and it has Blackford Hill on one side and the Braid Hills on the other. In some parts it feels as if you’re deep in the woods or out in farming country rather than in the middle of a busy city. It has a semi-wild feel to it and is definitely not manicured parkland. I played in this park as a child, climbing trees and fishing for minnows in the burn, and I was brought on nature-study (as it was called back in the day) lessons from my primary school which was nearby. And it’s a place I return to nowadays if I’m in the city and feel like a good walk. So when I needed somewhere for Edinburgh school girl, Caitlin, and her friends to meet up in the school holidays in order to set out on their adventures in The Silver Locket, the Hermitage was the ideal setting.
Gullane Beach, East Lothian:
This is a lovely stretch of shoreline on Scotland’s east coast. There are dunes, a long sandy beach and amazing views across to Fife on the other side of the Firth of Forth. This is another place I visited a lot as a child and that has continued to be one of my favourite outdoor places since then. So when I needed a seaside setting for the home of Rosie, the main character, in Change of Life I chose Gullane and its beautiful beach.
Waternish Point, Isle of Skye:
A walk anywhere on this island is always going to be spectacular. The views and the scenery are breathtaking and second-to-none. But I’ve managed to choose two favourites that also feature in my writing. The walk to Waternish headland in the north of the island is the first walk that Rachel and Jack go on together in Displacement. And it’s a walk I did many times when I lived in Waternish. It takes you over streams and peatbogs, uphill and downhill, through a deserted crofting settlement and past two Iron Age brochs, before finishing at the lighthouse on what feels like the edge of the world.
Neist Point, Isle of Skye:
This walk takes you to the cliff tops at Skye’s north-western tip. You can walk down the steep path from the lighthouse to the cliff edge. You see lots of seabirds such as fulmars and gannets and looking out to sea, you may even spot dolphins and minke whales if you’re lucky. This is another walk taken by Jack and Rachel and which features in Settlement.
Dead Sea and the Judean Desert, Israel:
And walk number five couldn’t be more different in terms of landscape from all of the above. This landlocked exceptionally salty lake is on the border between Jordan and Israel. My visit here left a lasting impression. For a Scot used to coolness, dampness and greenery it was a shock to the senses to be walking in such hot, arid and barren surroundings – but it was still beautiful – albeit in a different way from what I’m used to. But having made such an impression on me it had to feature as one of the places visited by Rachel in Displacement and it’s the setting for her romantic encounter with Eitan.
So there you have it – my five favourite walks that made it into my fiction.
Where are your favourite places to go for a walk? And, if you’re a writer, artist or musician do real life settings inspire or feature in your work? As always please do comment below.