By Marie-Renee Goulet

Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other

For a few years now I’ve had to resort to audiobooks. My eyesight started to go, and thanks to years of using a smart phone, I have the attention span of a fly. I can still listen for hours, though. Once in a while, the reader’s voice just doesn’t click, and finishing a book is a task. However, in recent years, authors have read their own material or hired professional actors to perform. 

With “Clanlands” you get the best of both worlds: the authors are the stars of the wildly popular television series Outlander (2014 – ) and very entertaining. This book and related series evolved from a podcast to bringing a Go-Pro camera to a full television production and companion book. Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish documented their Scottish adventure in a book while filming season one of an upcoming Starz series. Their genuine friendship comes across for an enjoyable 10 hours and 22 minutes. I connected with their self-deprecating sense of humour, and they had me laugh out loud a few times. For those who do not watch Outlander, Sam’s Jamie Fraser murders Graham’s Douglas MacKenzie in season two of Outlander. Stabs his own uncle in the heart no less. That comes up a few times.

The book is the prelude to Men in Kilts (2021), a Starz series that will begin airing on February 14th. It is dynamic and informative, spanning a large swath of Scottish history. It is well researched, and I was surprised to learn a lot, especially about details preceding the Massacre of Glencoe. I made a stop in Glencoe back in 2017, and even though it was a beautiful sunny day, there is still something somber about the place. As if it could never recover from the sadness of what took place in January 1692. I felt someone had me by the throat, and my chest felt heavy. The area is so majestic it makes you want to cry. As you may remember, the Campbells arrived at Glencoe 12 days before the massacre. The fort was full, and honouring the Highland hospitality code, the MacDonalds gave the Campbells their own house. For 12 days, they lived, ate and drank together until the order came for the Campbells to slaughter their hosts in the middle of the night. They killed 38, including the chief and his elderly wife. More died in the elements as they fled up the mountains. Even for a country with a violent history, this was a bridge too far for all. The outrage lasts to this day; there is a sign at the Clachaig Inn: “No hawkers or Campbells.”

The authors make sure to punctuate Scotland’s eventful history with plenty of male banter, whiskey tastings, and sharing bits of their own life story. They are charming professional storytellers, and I would recommend this book to all.

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