Sunday 10 December 2023

A History of Scotland, Book Two: Covenant - out now!

How long does it take to write a book?

It depends who you ask.

George RR Martin has taken over a decade to write his next book, with no sign of it appearing.

Whereas Barbara Cartland could churn one out every few weeks.

And for me the answer is three years.

Three years ago I released Scotland's Story, Book One, a history of Scotland from the Ice Age to the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Book Two is finally out, and there's been some changes!

The series isn't titled Scotland's Story any more, but A History of Scotland.

Book One now goes up to 1542 and the death of James V.

And there are new cover designs for the series...


Book One: Foundation covers Scotland's early story. It's a tale of brutality, drama, freedom... and a slightly surprising battle against royal taxation.

Buy A History of Scotland, Book One: Foundation on

Book Two: Covenant dives deep into the pivotal moments between 1542 to 1815 of Reformation, Union, Empire, and war with Napoleonic France... and answers the question: did the early Americans really hate the Scots that much?

Buy A History of Scotland, Book Two: Covenant on

What about Book Three?

I'm working on that now. Hopefully it doesn't take another three years to complete! But if it does, I'll be pitching you the whole series to enjoy in 2026 :)

Wednesday 6 December 2023

The Seven Tops of Holyrood Park: Part 2

 In Part 1, we visited the first two tops of Holyrood Park: Haggis Knowe and Salisbury Crags. It's time to take a wander over the rest!

From Salisbury Crags, a memorable vista of central Edinburgh opens up. Yet above you is a higher top, Arthur's Seat - the summit of Holyrood Park.  It's twice as high above the city, so surely the views from up there are twice as good? They aren't, but it makes a memorable ascent, so lets go. Descend the crags and take a zig-zag path up and right, to find yourself on a bald minor top of Nether Hill. There's not much to it, and to be honest it was only researching the seven tops that I realised this bump had a name! 

From here it is a short rocky scramble to the much more prominent Arthur's Seat. This is the highest point of Edinburgh inside the city bypass, the top of a long-extinct volcano. Wide and windy vistas open up - it is always windy up here, so bring a cagoule - to the Pentlands, Moorfoots and East Lothian, to Fife across the water, and beyond the Forth Bridges to the Ochils and Highlands. The view north is basis of an obscure list called the Arthurs: see how many of them you have climbed. From Arthur's Seat, it is a short walk over to Crow Hill, quieter than the summit which is thronged most days by tourists. A good place for a picnic and contemplate your surroundings.

Crow Hill from Arthur's Seat at sunrise:

Your eyes turn to Whinny Hill, sixth of the seven tops. This is an individual hill in its own right, much less frequented than Arthur's Seat or Salisburgy Crags. The paths on Whinny Hill are confusing, threading around the 'whin' or gorse that names this hill. There isn't an obvious single summit, so wander in the general direction of what seems highest. We enjoyed the peace and perspective from this top before heading down to the final top, Dunsapie, and a big surprise! The tiny loch at the foot of this bump is home to an otter! Seeing an otter this far from any rivers, in the centre of the city, was quite an experience.

Well, you couldn't top the unexpected sight of an otter in the middle of the city, so we walked back down Queens Drive to our starting point, happy to have climbed over all the tops of Holyrood Park, even if we didn't make it to the Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston!