AS the days shorten and Christmas nears, how better to pass the time than to coorie in with festive books, TV shows, films and music. Here, we share some of our favourite ways to enjoy Scotland through screen, page and song.

Comfort and Joy

Bill Forsyth's 1984 film stars Bill Paterson as a Glasgow DJ Alan "Dicky" Bird, a man whose girlfriend leaves him a few days before Christmas.

Heartbroken and driving around the city, Alan spots an ice cream van where a smiling young woman – played by Clare Grogan – is working. He follows it, buys a cone, then watches in horror as three men rock up with baseball bats to smash the vehicle as its occupants retaliate by squirting raspberry sauce.

Alan finds himself attempting to broker peace between two feuding Italian families. Among the cast is Taggart actor Alex Norton and the late comedian Rikki Fulton.

The Herald: Bill Paterson in Comfort and JoyBill Paterson in Comfort and Joy

Anna and the Apocalypse

Black comedy and a killer soundtrack are the hallmarks of Christmas zombie musical film Anna and the Apocalypse. Think George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead franchise meets high school comedy-drama Glee but set in Scotland and with a snowman that gets decapitated by a seesaw.

Events unfold in the sleepy town of Little Haven where residents are gearing up for the festive season, unaware that a zombie infection is spreading.

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The 2017 film is directed by John McPhail from a screenplay by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, based on the 2010 BAFTA-nominated short Zombie Musical. It stars Ella Hunt, Paul Kaye and Mark Benton, with songs by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly.

Lost At Christmas

Sylvester McCoy, Sanjeev Kohli and Clare Grogan (yup, her again) are on the bill for this brand-new film shot in Scotland. Directed by Ryan Hendrick, Lost At Christmas centres on a blossoming romance in the Highlands.

Set in Fort William and Glencoe, Natalie Clark and Kenny Boyle play heartbroken, single and stranded strangers who meet at a train station on Christmas Eve. Heavy snowfall has closed the rail network and they seek refuge in a nearby lodge.

READ MORE: 10 more great Scottish festive books, films, TV shows and songs

The comedic plot taps into a festive formula adored by many romcom fans: folk moping around saying "bah humbug!", who slowly rekindle their Christmas spirit. Lost At Christmas is in selected cinemas now and available via on-demand streaming (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Sky, Virgin, Rakuten, Chili) from Monday.

The Herald: A scene from the 2020 film Lost At ChristmasA scene from the 2020 film Lost At Christmas

Call The Midwife

The 2019 Christmas special saw Mother Mildred and the Nonnatus House team head to the Outer Hebrides in response to a nursing shortage.

Shot in Lewis and Harris, the one-off festive episode followed the midwives as they established an antenatal clinic, battling challenging weather and rugged terrain, not to mention the fierce suspicions of islanders.

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The cast, including Aberdonian actor Laura Main who plays Shelagh Turner, filmed scenes on Luskentyre Beach in Harris and Calanais Stones on Lewis among others. Call The Midwife creator and writer, Heidi Thomas, described the "storms, mountains, standing stones, anarchic sheep, and sweeping beaches that take the breath away" as being "the perfect backdrop for our famous crimson cardigans and hats."

Mull of Kintyre by Wings

Written by Sir Paul McCartney, left, and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine, the song – paying tribute to the stunning panoramas of the Kintyre peninsula – features the rousing sounds of the Campbeltown Pipe Band.

The Herald: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine with the Campbeltown Pipe Band during the filming of the music video for Mull of Kintyre in 1977. Picture: Keystone/Getty ImagesPaul McCartney, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine with the Campbeltown Pipe Band during the filming of the music video for Mull of Kintyre in 1977. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images

Recorded at High Park Farm in Kintyre where Sir Paul was living with his late wife Linda and their children after The Beatles split, it was the Christmas No 1 in 1977. Mull of Kintyre spent nine weeks at the top of the charts and became the then-best-selling UK single in history.


Festive weddings never end well in soaps and the nuptials of Janine Butcher and Barry Evans in 2003 were no exception. The EastEnders duo – played by Charlie Brooks and Shaun Williamson – got hitched in Scotland on Hogmanay.

On New Year's Day, in scenes filmed at the Rest and Be Thankful on the A83 in Argyll, devious Janine pushed hapless car salesman Barry over a cliff edge to his death and was soon laughing all the way to the bank as she inherited his money. The episode aired on BBC on January 2, 2004.

A plaque has since been anonymously attached to a boulder at the spot where the loveable buffoon perished. It reads: "Barry from 'EastEnders' died here 2nd January 2004".

Christmas In The Olden Time by Sir Walter Scott

An excerpt from his epic poem Marmion, Christmas In The Olden Time, begins: "Heap on more wood, the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will; We'll keep our Christmas merry still."

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The verses – which refer to festive traditions and superstitions – were dedicated to book collector Richard Heber and are set at Mertoun House near St Boswells at Christmas. Scott is said to have viewed Heber's library as "superior to all others in the world". It was first published in 1808.

Winter Tales by George Mackay Brown

The poet, novelist and dramatist, below, was born in Stromness (the "Hamnavoe" of his stories and poems) and is renowned for bringing to life the history, landscapes and lore of his native Orkney.

The Herald: The late George MacKay Brown at home in Orkney. Picture: Jim Galloway/The HeraldThe late George MacKay Brown at home in Orkney. Picture: Jim Galloway/The Herald

This collection, published in 1995, focuses on darkness, ancient rhythms and the festivities of winter. Woven through its pages are shipwrecked Scandinavians, Norse warriors, an Edinburgh gentleman rediscovering his roots and the arrival of Lieutenant William Bligh at Hamnavoe.

The Computer's First Christmas Card by Edwin Morgan

"Jollymerry, hollyberry, jollyberry, merryholly," goes The Computer's First Christmas Card by Edwin Morgan. It is a funny and joyful poem that should be read out loud – if you can wrap your chops around the tongue-twisting verse.

Yet, for all the computer sweetly tries its best, it doesn't quite get it right, ultimately wishing the reader a "Merry Chrysanthemum". This humorous ditty is a wry observation about how machines – no matter how much AI advances – are little match for genuine human sentiment.

READ MORE: 10 more great Scottish festive books, films, TV shows and songs

The poem was penned by the former Scots Makar in 1968. We wonder what he and the computer would have made of the concept of a "digital Christmas", a phrase that has entered our lexicon in recent months?

Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert

Long-time friends and collaborators Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert released this festive-themed album in 2018. Melancholy rather merry, it serves as a stark reminder that Christmas isn't a jolly time for everyone and that many can struggle with feelings of loneliness or isolation.

The record is a powerful listen. Not least, The Fir Tree, a heart-breaking fable about a sapling who dreams of being chosen for Christmas, only to discover too late that a terrible fate awaits. Moffat's storytelling is mesmerising, accompanied by Hubbert's haunting strings.

The Herald: Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat and RM HubbertGhost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert

The title song, A Ghost Story For Christmas, captures the dark heart of bleak midwinter as loss and absence hangs heavy. On the track list are an acoustic cover of Yazoo's synth classic, Only You, and a sombre rendition of Mud's 1974 hit, Lonely This Christmas.

Pick up a copy of tomorrow's Herald on Sunday for 10 more great Scottish festive-themed books, films, TV shows and songs