5 Children’s Books to Read on the NC500
Travelling the NC500 is an easy choice for families. With so many fantastic beaches along the route, wildlife to spot and outdoor freedom to enjoy, there is never going to be a dull moment. But what of the tired evenings?Thankfully there is a ready supply of excellent children’s books to fire up young imaginations as you travel: from historical Highland Clearances to the Picts, folklore and legends to contemporary wildlife stories. Let this list inspire you to explore Scotland’s literature as well as its landscape.
Check out Barbara Henderson’s recommended children’s books to read on the NC500!
The Beast on the Broch by John Fulton (8-12)
Set in and around Portmahomack on the Tarbat Peninsula, just a little inland from Tain, its setting is an often unexplored area of exceptional beauty and Pictish heritage. Pictish girl Talorca finds herself confronted by the legendary Pictish Beast and forges an unlikely friendship with the dangerous creature. But Celts are infiltrating her village, and the threat of a Norsemen raid is never far away. Can Talorca defend her village when everyone in power seems to make the wrong choices?
2. Harris the Hero by Lynne Rickards and Gabby Grant (3-6)
Harris the puffin is lonely and at a loose end. He sets out travelling, looking for adventure and meets a lost baby seal. Harris bravely helps his new young companion, but they run into trouble. Then a happy crowd of Scottish sea life pitches in: an eiderduck, a dolphin, otters and some fish. And there are more new friends to come … Lynne Rickards’ rollicking rhymes are matched by the verve and character of Gabby Grant’s loveable illustrations. Puffins can be spotted in many places along the NC500 route, but Faraid Head (near Durness) and Handa Island are particularly good places to try.
3. The Desperate Journey by Kathleen Fidler (8-12)
Kathleen Fidler’s classic The Desperate Journey explores the Highand Clearances and describes one family’s eviction from their home in Sutherland. Fidler follows her characters on their perilous journey to Glasgow and beyond in search of a new future. Published in 1964, it remains widely read, with good reason.
4. Storm Singing by Lari Don (9-12)
Lari Don’s Fabled Beasts series has just the right mix of fantasy and reality, and Storm Singing is the best of an excellent lot, powerfully evoking the Sutherland and Caithness coast, with a memorable showdown in Smoo Cave! A lovable cast of fabled creatures and a brave girl protagonist – what’s not to love?
4. An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales by Theresa Breslin. (6-12)
Apart from a great selection of traditional tales, expertly brought to life by one of Scotland’s most sure-penned writers for children, this book must be the most beautiful volume of illustrated fiction in the land. Kate Leiper’s cover is utterly iconic and will have youngsters begging for bedtime.
5. Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest by Janis Mackay (8-12)
Magnus Fin just knows that he is different – but he doesn’t know why his parents are so secretive. On his eleventh birthday Magnus throws a message in a bottle out to sea and gets a lot more than he bargained for. Magnus discovers that he is half selkie – part seal, part human – and his selkie family urgently need his help. As far as I am concerned, the whole of the NC500 is selkie country, and Janis Mackay was inspired by the rugged beauty of the Caithness coastline for this trilogy. Well worth reading!
Barbara Henderson is the author of critically acclaimed Highland Clearances children’s novel Fir for Luck. Her forthcoming novel for children is a Victorian boy-on-the-run tale called Punch, beginning and concluding in Inverness. Her favourite stretch of the NC500 is between Durness and Tongue, where Fir for Luck is set, and where the Ceannabeinne trail tells of the real events on which the novel is based.