Posted on April 23, 2023 by aaronmullins
Ayrshire authors have produced some some of Scotland’s finest books, cementing the historic county of Ayrshire, Scotland as a hotbed of creative talent in the literary history of the world. I am fortunate to find myself now living in Ayrshire and i’m inspired by the other authors who were born, lived or wrote some of their most famous novels here.
Famous Ayrshire authors: From Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, to more contemporary writers like Janice Galloway and Ian McMurdo, Ayrshire has a rich literary tradition that is well worth exploring.
There are also many great books set in Ayrshire, by brilliant Ayrshire writers and other authors who have decided to make Ayrshire their home. From this wealth of writing talent, I have compiled a list of the best writers and books set in Ayrshire.
In this article I will also explore the incredible writing community within Ayrshire, from the very successful Ayr Writer’s Club, to the ever popular Ayrshire Magazine, which regularly features local authors.
I can’t make a list of famous Ayrshire authors without mentioning the most acclaimed Ayrshire writer of them all, Robert Burns, who was born in the village of Alloway in 1759. His poetry and songs, which often explored themes of love, nature and Scottish identity, are still widely celebrated today. This is particularly true in his home county of Ayrshire, where each year we celebrate Burnsfest, one of the counties biggest festivals. Burns’ works, including Auld Lang Syne and Tam O’ Shanter, have been translated into multiple languages and continue to be enjoyed by people around the world.
Nae man can tether time or tide.Robert Burns
Janice Galloway is an Ayrshire writer who was born and raised in Saltcoats and attended Ardrossan Academy, a time of her life which she described in her popular memoir All Made Up. She is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including The Trick is to Keep Breathing and Foreign Parts. Galloway’s work often explores themes of identity, trauma, and mental health, and she is known for her experimental writing style. She has also produced many radio plays and been a writer in residence to four prisons, on behalf of the Scottish Arts Council, in a varied writing career.
Another notable Ayrshire author is novelist and playwright John Galt, who was born in Irvine in 1779 and wrote during the early 19th century. His works often dealt with themes of social and economic change and he was particularly interested in exploring the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Scottish society, particularly on rural communities. Galt’s writing style is characterized by his vivid descriptions of Scottish landscapes and his use of dialect to capture the unique voices and perspectives of his characters. His most famous works include Annals of the Parish and The Ayrshire Legatees.
Ayrshire has produced many incredible writers who weren’t born here, but came to call our wonderful county home (much the same I have). Alasdair Gray was born in Glasgow but raised in Ayrshire. Gray was a novelist, playwright, and artist who is often associated with the Scottish literary renaissance of the 1980s. Gray’s works, which include Lanark and Poor Things, are known for their experimental style and their exploration of Scottish identity.
Another notable author from Ayrshire is James Boswell, who was born in Auchinleck in 1740. Boswell is best known for his biography of Samuel Johnson, which is considered a masterpiece of English literature. Boswell’s writing style is characterized by his wit, humor, and keen observation of human behavior. Boswell’s work provides a fascinating glimpse into the social and cultural life of 18th-century Scotland and England.
William McIlvanney (1936-2015) was a Scottish author and poet, known for his crime novels featuring detective Jack Laidlaw. He studied English at the University of Glasgow and wrote poetry, short stories, and literary criticism. McIlvanney was an advocate for Scottish independence and won numerous awards, including the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award in 1995 for Walking Wounded. William McIlvanney remains a literary giant in Scotland.
Ayrshire author Ian McMurdo is best known for his popular book Dead Man Walking, which explores true stories of murder, mystery, and intrigue that have taken place in Ayrshire. The author was inspired to write the book after discovering a wealth of untold stories during his research. McMurdo’s book covers a wide range of topics, including notorious murders and lesser-known stories, and provides a fascinating insight into Ayrshire’s past.
From the enormous amount of books set in Ayrshire, I have hand-picked five brilliant Ayrshire stories to share with you.
Dead Man Walking by Ian McMurdo
Let’s begin where we left off with the Ayrshire authors. Ian McMurdo’s book is a collection of true stories of murder, mystery, and intrigue that have taken place in Ayrshire over the centuries. From gruesome murders to unsolved mysteries, McMurdo delves into the stories behind some of Ayrshire’s most chilling tales.
The book covers a wide range of topics, including the notorious murders of John Sweeney and Marion Gilchrist, as well as lesser-known stories such as the mystery of the Ayrshire Witches and the unsolved murder of James Taylor.
McMurdo’s meticulous research is evident throughout the book, which provides a fascinating insight into Ayrshire’s past. He also explores the impact of these events on the local community and how they continue to shape the region today.
Docherty by William McIlvanney
Set in a fictional mining town in Scotland, the debut book of the beloved Kilmarnock writer primarily takes place in and around the Cumnock region of Ayrshire. The narrative follows the struggles of miner Tam Docherty and his family as they confront discrimination, poverty, and the challenges of working-class existence before, during and after the First World War.
The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
The acclaimed debut novel of Saltcoats author Galloway revolves around Joy Stone, an alcoholic and anorexic drama teacher residing in a council estate situated on the fringes of Ayrshire. The story follows her struggles to cope with the death of her married lover in a drowning accident during their vacation.
Artefacts of the Dead by Tony Black
DI Bob Valentine, a detective hailing from Whitletts, takes the lead in this novel as it marks his first appearance in a book. The coastal town of Ayr is rocked by the news of a dead banker, and the discovery sends shockwaves throughout the community. As the investigation progresses, it becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose, prowling the streets of the town.
Duncan’s War by Douglas Bond
This is the first installment in a series of young adult books set in Ayrshire during the Covenanter uprising. The story follows young Duncan M’Kethe, who finds himself entangled in the schemes of Sir James Turner – a military leader of the persecutors, who was once a Covenanter himself.
Ayrshire Magazine is a regional lifestyle and culture publication based in Ayrshire, Scotland. It covers a range of topics such as food, travel, arts, and events happening in the Ayrshire area. The magazine showcases the people, places, and businesses that make Ayrshire unique and aims to celebrate the local community. It often shines a spotlight on local Ayrshire authors and featured my double-page interview following the success of my first bestselling book Mysteries and Misadventures: Tales from the Highlands.
Click to read my author interview Fiction Writer on the Beach: AM Speaks to Dr Aaron Mullins in Ayrshire Magazine for free.
At the heart of Ayrshire lies the bustling town of Ayr, a hub of creative activity and culture that offers something for everyone. From the historic Ayr Racecourse, where visitors can witness thrilling horse races, to the award-winning Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which celebrates the life and work of Scotland’s national bard, there is always something to see and do in this vibrant town. I live and work nearby and have spent many hours exploring the historic parts of the town.
Ayr Writers’ Club is a Scottish writing group based in the town of Ayr. Founded over 50 years ago, the club aims to provide a supportive and creative environment for writers of all levels to develop their craft and share their work. Members meet regularly to participate in writing workshops, critique sessions, and discussions on various aspects of writing. The club also hosts events and competitions, publishes anthologies of members’ work, and organises outreach programs to promote writing and literacy in the local Ayrshire community. With a diverse membership and a wide range of writing interests, Ayr Writers’ Club offers a welcoming and inspiring community for writers in the Ayrshire region and beyond.
I moved to Ayrshire in early January 2020 and discovered it is a stunning region that captivates visitors with its breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Nestled on the western coast of Scotland, Ayrshire is known for its rolling hills, picturesque countryside, and stunning coastline, which stretches for miles along the Firth of Clyde. The stunning landscape and warm people have inspired many Ayrshire authors. Some of my best stories have been created while walking along Ayrshire’s beaches, leading me to write a blog post about beach writing inspiration.
As we have seen, Ayrshire has produced some of Scotland’s most celebrated authors. Ayrshire’s literary tradition continues to thrive, with writers from the region exploring a wide range of themes and styles in their work. Whether you are interested in contemporary fiction, poetry, or drama, Ayrshire’s literary scene offers something for everyone. With its rich history and vibrant contemporary culture, Ayrshire is a destination that should not be missed by book lovers and literary enthusiasts. It also has a fabulous range of independent book shops located throughout its towns and villages.
Ayrshire’s writers have captured the essence of Scottish culture and identity through their works. Their legacy continues to inspire and captivate readers today, and their contributions to literature will be remembered for generations to come.
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Aaron Mullins (@DrAaronMullins) is a bestselling author and award winning, internationally published psychologist. Aaron has over 15 years experience in the writing and publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors. He previously owned Birdtree Books Publishing where he worked as Editor-in-Chief, partnered with World Reader Charity and taught Academic Writing at Coventry University. He regularly contributes to book festivals and gives author talks on a range of topics. Aaron’s book How to Write Fiction: A Creative Writing Guide for Authors has become a staple reference book for writers interested in a publishing career.
Category: All Categories, Writing InspirationTags: Ayr Writers Club, Ayrshire authors, Ayrshire books, Ayrshire magazine, Ayrshire stories, Ayrshire writers, Books set in Ayrshire, Famous Ayrshire authors