Reading lists

14 books set in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland

If you're planning a staycation this summer, we've got just the book to match your destination – and get you in the holiday mood.

Donna Mackay-Smith
Image credit: Flynn Shore/Penguin

There’s no place like home, and some of the best holiday destinations are right on our doorstep. Whether you want to explore the museums of Edinburgh, the warmer climes of Devon, or the greenery of Wales, there are so many spots in the UK and Ireland that are even more beautiful during the summer months.

And what better way to immerse yourself in the extraordinary landscape than to read a book set there? The following are the best books set in the UK and Ireland, which are a must-read for your next staycation.

Books set in Wales

Buffy, a retired actor, leaves The Big Smoke to take on a B&B in the Welsh Borders in desperate need of some TLC. A menagerie of guests brings the shabby resort back to life, in this lighthearted read from the author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Belinda Bauer invites readers to see the world through the eyes of Patrick, a neurodiverse anatomy student at Cardiff University. He’s determined to uncover the truth when a cadaver he is studying bears signs of foul play. This deftly-written, one-of-a-kind mystery, won the coveted Crime Novel of the Year Award.

Books set in Edinburgh

Clare is hoping for a fresh start amid the Gothic splendour of Scotland’s capital when she goes to university. But a promising new friendship takes a dark turn, thwarting her attempt to reinvent herself. This psychological drama has Hitchcockian undertones that will transport you to Edinburgh’s dark underbelly, via its cobbled alleys.

A brutal road rage incident sets off a chain of unexpected events, leaving a trail of bodies in its wake, in the second in Atkinson’s Brodie Jackson series. Set against the backdrop of a sizzling Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this is a whip-smart crime drama told with Atkinson’s signature panache.

Books set in Dublin

A betrayal causes Claire to flee to Dublin with her newborn baby, where the loving embrace of her family offers shelter and recovery. Will she find the courage to go it alone, or is she bound by the ties of her past? This is the first novel in Marian Keyes’ popular Walsh Family series.

James Joyce’s keenly observed collection of short stories charts the life of ordinary Dubliners in the early 20th Century. It’s a vivid portrait of the human condition, and an intimate glimpse into his homeland. As the writer’s first work of fiction, it’s a literary gem – perfect for dipping in and out of during a city break.

Books set in Devon

When actress Nina makes a career-ending error, she flees to Devon to wait for the paparazzi storm to blow over. The cliff-side idyll is a balm for the soul and, before long, Nina is contemplating a new life there. Cathy Bramley gives readers a dose of Devon’s salty sea air in this warm romantic comedy.

A luxurious wellness retreat offers rest and relaxation on a small island off the coast of Devon. But when a body is found on the rocks, a storm brews on the island and suddenly, danger lurks around every corner. This twisty thriller is packed with suspense.

Books set in London

A chance encounter shows Nazneen, a Bangladeshi immigrant trapped in an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior, that another life is possible, and she undergoes an extraordinary transformation. Monica Ali’s Sunday Times best-selling novel depicts an often-overlooked London locale, which shimmers in all its multicultural glory.

Literature’s favourite Londoner and eternal singleton returns, but this time, she’s unexpectedly hanging up her Spanx for a pair of maternity pants. And while the hapless Bridget navigates pregnancy, she’s left wondering: just who is the father? Warm and witty, this story has all the hijinks you’d expect from the beloved character.

Books set in the Lake District

When Prudence’s achingly cool boyfriend invites her to a getaway in the picturesque Lake District to meet his family, she jumps at the chance. But a decaying mansion and a quarrelling family with rather questionable dynamics weren’t quite what she envisioned. A timeless classic from an adored author.

This bestselling memoir documents what it’s like being a shepherd in one of the most beautiful parts of England. Rebanks’s moving narrative beautifully captures the very essence of the shepherd's existence, where a deep sense of stewardship intertwines with a generational connection to the land.

Books set in Brighton

In this heartrending romance, set in 1950s Brighton, Patrick and Tom are victims of their time, their romantic relationship forbidden. But they are continually drawn to each other in this powerful story of forbidden love that inspired the recent film starring Harry Styles. Be warned: there will be tears.

Teenagers Nell and Jude’s lives change forever when they stumble upon a body washed up on Brighton Beach. Shortly after, Jude goes missing. The trauma of these events continues to overshadow Nell’s life in the decades that follow. She quits her job to investigate what really happened, in this pacy ‘whodunit’.

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