Slindon author ghosts highland road trip book for Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

Slindon-based Charlotte Reather is the ghostwriter for Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish (Hodder & Stoughton, £20).
Charlotte Reather credit Chris JelfCharlotte Reather credit Chris Jelf
Charlotte Reather credit Chris Jelf

Charlotte, aged 41, said: “Clanlands is actors Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish’s hilarious road trip across Scotland discovering whisky, warfare and the wilds of the Highlands in an over-sized campervan!

“Sam and Graham met on the set of Outlander, the internationally successful historical television drama in which Sam plays the lead character, Jamie Fraser. After chatting over the Clanlands idea on set, they hit the road with a film crew in tow who documented their adventures, taking in copious amounts of whisky, epic scenery and the history of the Highlands. Key moments include Glencoe, Cawdor Castle and Culloden. As well as this book, their original road trip, Clanlands, has been turned into a major US TV show, Men in Kilts, on Starz (and streamed on Amazon Prime) in 2021.

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“My family on my maternal side – clan Birnie – are from Morayshire so I have a strong connection to Scotland and was keen to know more about the Highland’s bloody history, clan system and the Clearances. It was wonderful to do the research during lockdown, whilst binge-watching Outlander, which vividly brings the Jacobite struggle, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden to life.

“I learnt a lot and really enjoyed collaborating with Sam and Graham. It was hard work, but lots of fun. The Jacobite Risings are a complex part of history with clans and families divided by their allegiance to Hanovarian forces (King George II) and the Jacobites (those loyal to Charles Edward Stuart aka Bonnie Prince Charlie).

“The divisions are somewhat similar to the Brexit disagreements today. However, they were to culminate in a bloody end to the clan system at Culloden and the death of the Highland culture.”

The book project came to Charlotte out of the blue: “Briony Gowlett, non-fiction commissioning editor at Hodder, phoned me up to tell me she had woken up in the middle of the night and decided I was the person to write Sam and Graham’s book, which is like a book-deal fantasy.”

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In the book Sam praises Charlotte’s ability to juggle work and motherhood: “I have great respect and admiration for our wonderful co-writer Charlotte, who can not only draw on multiple narratives and sources but also juggle being a mother and even manages to deal with two demanding actors who fancy themselves as prolific novelists.”

Charlotte added: “The book is aimed at everyone with a passion for Scotland; its history, culture and landscape and, in particular, Outlander fans, who adore Sam and Graham, particularly when sporting their kilts and little else.

“Chapter One opens with Sam about to leave a Glencoe car park in their cumbersome campervan, Sam at the wheel, having not operated a ‘stick shift’ for six years. As he reverses at speed, Graham holds on tightly. It is the start of a white-knuckle ride as mischievous Sam forces a naturally cautious Graham farther and farther out of his comfort zone until he can take no more. The result is a laugh-out-loud tale of whisky, friendship (tested to the max) and Scotland, which I can honestly say was a joy to shape, edit and co-write with them.”

It’s a return to writing for Charlotte: “I co-wrote Robson Green’s Extreme Fishing book in 2013, then had two children and have just emerged from the baby cave to write Clanlands! If you are a writer, you can’t help but write – it’s an itch you’re compelled to scratch. I think there’s an ointment! I’m a journalist, author and script writer and started, aged 21, after studying English literature at university.”