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Writer Barbara Henderson picks great reads for your North Coast 500 trip

By Barbara Henderson

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Barbara Henderson with Scottish by Inclination.
Barbara Henderson with Scottish by Inclination.

Confession time – I have never ‘done’ the North Coast 500, although I have visited many places along the famous route.

One of my favourite places in the world is the area around Loch Eriboll, and I can’t wait to return. I will never forget stumbling upon the Ceannabeinne Township Trail while camping at Durness in 2013 – 20 minutes which literally changed my life.

It inspired the children’s novel that made me a published writer and set me off on the life I live now.

Luckily for you all, there are many more books than my own Fir for Luck set on the iconic route. What better time than the summer months to delve in?

First up:

North Coast Journey by Brigid Benson (pictured below).

It is a non-fiction classic already, travel-writing and guidebook combined, with an inherent love and respect for the land and its people. Benson is a likeable companion who encourages slow tourism, savouring the scenery of surely Scotland’s most spectacular region.

Brigid Benson's North Coast Journey.
Brigid Benson's North Coast Journey.

And how about:

Neil Ansell’s The Last Wilderness: A Journey Into Silence.

It has been shortlisted for a clutch of awards including the Highland Book Prize. Travel writing and memoir combine in this reflective and poetic account of walking in the wildest places, with knowledgeable insights and plenty of wild encounters with Scotland’s flora and fauna. Highly recommended.

Light-hearted fiction:

Blàs of the Highlands by Tain author CC Hutton.

If light-hearted reading is more your cup of tea, consider this book.

Her entertaining portrayal of a quirky community under threat has won many friends. Times are changing in the land of the NC500, and Stroma and her friends need to fight for their village way of life (pictured below).

CC Hutton's Blas Of The Highlands
CC Hutton's Blas Of The Highlands

Inspired by history:

Iron Age Trilogy: The Walrus Mutterer by Mandy Haggith.

When holidaying in Ullapool, I devoured this Assynt-based writer’s book, beginning the trilogy and set around Clachtoll.

Real historical events and the ruins of a broch brought the books to life. And Celtic Scotland came alive for me in these pages. Excellent.

For the young ones:

I’d thoroughly recommend all-round-national-treasure Lari Don and her Storm Singing And Other Tangled Tasks, part of her Fabled Beast Chronicles. Set on the north coast, it has a climactic scene in Smoo Cave, sure to engage even the most reluctant eight to 12-year-old reader. In fact, the whole series treads a wonderful tightrope between fantasy and reality.

And there you have it: the North Coast 500 experience. Have a good trip. Drive safely!

Find out more about this week's Artyness columnist, writer Barbara Henderson – and her books, here: www.barbarahenderson.co.uk/

Related stories: https://www.whatson-north.co.uk/whats-on/news/remembering-it-s-good-to-talk-242794/

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