Armchair Travel: The British Isles

british isles map

We aren’t doing any traveling right now, but I hope we can again in the future. While we are waiting, we can travel in our mind with books, and visually through video. (Also, by song, but I didn’t go there.)

My first big trip once I retire is going to be to England so I thought I start my series with the British Isles. Hoopla has a series called The Little Book series. It features about many, many cities and areas in the British Isles. There are lots of factual chapters but also plenty of frivolous details which will amuse and surprise in each book.


There are several wonderful mystery series that will “take you away” to England.

Ann Cleeves: Her Vera Stanhope series takes place in Northumberland. You don’t really need to read them in order. Books are from OverDrive/Libby and audio from Hoopla. Right now RBDigital’s AcornTV offers series 6 and 7 of the television series.

Elly Griffiths‘ Ruth Galloway series set in Norfolk features a forensic archaeologist who is wonderful at ther job, but not so good with people. The first in the series is The Crossing Place. This series is best read in order. OverDrive/Libby and Hoopla.

Peter Robinson in his Inspector Banks series explores Yorkshire. The OverDrive/Libby and Hoopla. The first is Gallows View which is only available as audio in Hoopla. The story isn’t really spoiled by reading out of order. Reginald Hill writes several books which include the Dalziel and Pascoe series which take place in Yorkshire. Hoopla has the books.

M.C. Beaton goes to the Cotswold area for her Agatha Raisin cozy British mysteries. The books are available in OverDrive/Libby and the audio through Hoopla. The television series can be watched with RBDigital’s AcornTV.  (Don’t use Hoopla for the TV shows because each episode counts as a borrow.)

Bernard Cornwall‘s Poldark series gives you a historical look at Cornwall (OD/Libby/Hoopla.) Many of Daphne Du Maurier’s books are set in Cornwall (which may have led me as a teen to a love of this area). Also Kate Morton‘s Forgotten Garden and Susanna Kearsley‘s The Rose Garden. (All in OverDrive/Libby.)

Ellis Peter‘s historical Cadfael mystery series is set in Shrewsbury in the 12th century. Brother Cadfael is half Miss Marple, half Chief Inspector Gamache. All books are available in Hoopla and many are in OverDrive/Libby.

RBDigital AcornTV have many other television series set in Britain such as MidSomer Murders which give a good view of the countryside. Others are set in gritty locations if you want to go there.

You can go historical in Britain with Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Patrick O’Brian, Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, and a staff pick, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in OverDrive/Libby.

There are also nonfiction books about Britain that would be fun to read including Road to Little Dribbling and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson.

For documentary video we have on RBDigital AcornTV these choices: Hidden Britain, Coastal Railways (Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and more), Discovering Britain, Walks with my dog, UK Gorgeous Landscapes, Penelope Keith’s Hidden Coast Villages; Hidden Villages; Village of the Year, Rivers by Jeremy Paxman.


Wales has a completely different culture and language. Visit it with Richard Llewellyn‘s How Green Was My Valley in Hoopla,  and I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh in OverDrive/Libby as well as many fantasy novels. In RBDigital AcornTV there is a documentary, Off the Beaten Track: Wales. On YouTube, there are the Rick Steves’s episodes on Wales such as this one. Hidden  and Keeping Faith are mystery series available through RBDigital AcornTV. Here is an interesting “hotel” to stay in for library lovers.


You can fall in love with Scotland through regular fiction as well as mysteries. Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie books are quiet and philosophical, perhaps a good quality for now. The 1st is The Sunday Philosophical Club. The first few Outlander books by Diana Galbadon give you a historical look at Scotland. There are endless romance books set in the Highlands in Hoopla.

Ian Rankin sets his Inspector John Rebus series in Edinburgh. The 1st one, Knots and Crosses, can be found in the Boston Partner library of OD/Libby.

Kate Atkinson set the Jackson Brodie series (1st one is Case Histories) in Edinburgh as well.

Glasgow is another big city in Scotland. Denise Mina sets her trilogy there. The 1st on is Garnethill.

Scotland has a lot of islands. Visit the Hebrides with Peter May in Coffin Road and The Black House or Simon Beckett’s Written in Bone. Ann Cleeves brings the Shetland Islands alive; the 1st one is Raven Black. The audios are available in Hoopla. Richard Cubley’s Scotland’s Islands and Mary Macleod’s Call the Nurse are nonfiction offerings.

The most famous Highland detective is Hamish Macbeth, M.C. Beaton’s ever-young, lazy officer. The 1st one is Death of a Gossip. Don’t read too many in a row or you will get furious with his on again-off again-on again-off again relationships. RBDigital AcornTV has the television series.

Patience Griffin has a cozy series set in Scotland. The 1st is To Scotland with Love.

Loch Ness is a RBDigital AcornTV mystery show.


Just thinking about the Emerald Isle relaxing me, even if what I’m reading is a murder mystery. On the fiction side, Maeve Binchy is a good place to start. (Only OD/Libby) Cecelia Ahern also has great books set in Ireland: If You Could See Me Now, Rosie Dunne, and There’s No Place Like Here among others. OD/Libby and Hoopla. Several books by Colm Toibin are available including Brooklyn (a great movie, by the way.) (ebooks in OD/Libby and audio in Hoopla.)

Patrick Taylor takes us back in time to Northern Ireland with his Irish Doctor series. (ebooks in OD/Libby, audio in Hoopla.)

Tana French’s Dublin Squad series (the 1st is In the Woods) are wonderful. Each one features a side character from the previous book so you don’t have to read them in order. The Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty set in Northern Ireland during the time of the troubles should be read in order. The first is The Cold Cold Ground. (ebooks in OD/Libby and audio in Hoopla. The audios are wonderful!) The Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen is in keeping with these two authors. The setting is Galway. The ebooks are in Hoopla and OD/Libby; audio in Hoopla. Boston OverDrive has the 1st book in the series, The Guards. 

Sheila Connolly has a cozy mystery series, County Cork, available as ebooks in OD/Libby and audio in Hoopla. Buried in a Bog, the 1st in the series, is owned by Boston’s OverDrive collection.

Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma mystery series takes place in the 7th century, and provides a good mystery with history. Only a few are available in Hoopla.

Memoirs are big in the list of Irish stories. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was my introduction to these. Martha Long has a series called Memoirs of Dublin. Only the 2nd through 4th are available in Hoopla, but they look interesting.

RBDigital AcornTV has several series set in Ireland: Singlehanded, Acceptable Risk and Jack Taylor (based on the Ken Bruen books.)

Hoopla has a documentary called Brand Irish.

In the next blog I’ll “travel” to Australia and New Zealand.



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