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

Clanlands Book Cover

Authors: Graham McTavish & Sam Heughan
New York Times Bestseller, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller
Original Publication: 2020
Genre: Nonfiction

As a person with Scottish heritage and a fan of Outlander (both the book series and the television show), it was perhaps inevitable that I would read this book. For fans of the television show, the authors are the men who play Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and his uncle Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish). Here, they’ve teamed up to go on the ultimate road trip through Scotland in order to get in touch with their own heritages.

Together, they visit historical sites, learn the stories of their homeland, and (in fine Scottish tradition), drink plenty of whiskey and give one another copious rafts of shit. The pair are billed as “unlikely” friends, but I think they’re as likely friends as any two men who love adventure, history, learning, and mischief. Heughan is charming and displays a penchant for flumgummery, as the Scots might say. McTavish is hysterical as the requisite straight man / foil to Sam’s shenanigans. Both men are brilliant and funny, and it makes one wish that they were along for the ride. The banter alone is worth the price of admission!

The foreword was written by Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, and was quite ribald. An excerpt:

So I’m sitting there in a pleasant daze, thinking, ‘Yes, yes, go on…’, when he suddenly said, ‘There is just one thing I wonder: can you explain to me, what is the appeal of a man in a kilt?’

Well, had I been totally conscious, I might not have said it (then again…). Anyway, I looked at him for a moment and said, ‘Well… I suppose it’s the idea that you could be up against a wall with him in a moment.’


I’m sure more than one woman is fanning herself at that notion! And this book features not one, but two Men in Kilts.

Fun Fact: “Clanlands” was originally conceived as a podcast, and ultimately also became a television docu-series called “Men in Kilts”, which will begin airing on Starz on February 14, 2021.

Bother if: If you’re a fan of the Outlander TV series, road trips, or unstuffy tellings of Scottish history, this one is a no-brainer. Fans of the show will enjoy the many cameos from their co-stars, especially Duncan Lacroix (Murtagh Fitzgibbons). Fans of celebrity anecdotes will also appreciate the many personal stories each man tells from their own careers and lives. If anything, I thought the humor was a necessary balance – Scotland’s history is dark and bloody. The friendship between the two men shines, and the opportunity to “get to know” two such talented actors as people was, in their case, utterly delightful. You put down the book wishing you were friends with them and along for the fun.

Don’t bother if: It’s too serious to fully pass as a road trip buddy comedy, and too light to pass as a history text. If you have no particular interest in the subject matter, the show, or the actors, I can see giving this one an easy miss.

The Red Tent

Facebook Discussions


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *