The handsome ginger Sam Heughan and the grumpy grey dog Graham McTavish return in their latest bestseller, Clanlands Almanac: Seasonal Stories From Scotland (Hodder & Stoughton/Mobius), the sequel to last year’s bestselling Clanlands (my review here). Once again, our travel guides are charming, funny and candid. They truly enjoy exchanging barbs with each other over Sam’s shilling for various brands (including his own Sassenach Whiskey), their physical competitions and familial ties to their Clanland.

As a reviewer, the clever format of this slender, jam-packed volume struck me. It’s an almanac. By its definition, an almanac is a dull reference guide, an annual calendar of important dates, events and statistical information. It is not a book we sit down to read like a novel. We check into it periodically when we want to predict the weather or determine when we should plant our garden.

What about the Clanlands Almanac? It is definitely not dull. It is part memoir, part travel guide, cookbook, calendar, history book and entertainment monthly.

But do we read it in one shot? Or do we savor it bit by bit over the year like a bottle of fine Scotch Whiskey?

THE PERFECT COMPANION TO STARZ’S “MEN IN KILTS”

There are several ways to enjoy this wonderful romp around Scotland and its environs. First, it is theoretically a follow-up to the first Clanlands, but it is not imperative that you’ve read the series debut. However, I strongly recommend that you watch the Starz series Men in Kilts, which is Sam and Graham’s travelogue about Scotland. 

The Almanac makes monthly references to the competitive nature of their relationship as characterized by their feats of surfing, golf at St. Andrews, rappelling off a 180-foot cliff, sheep shearing, basket weaving and even tug-o-war. You will laugh along with their good-spirited rivalry even more if you’ve viewed these uproarious video segments. The series and book are companion pieces, and they’ll wet your whistle for their next video diary when they storm Graham’s adopted homeland, New Zealand.

Since I was writing a review of Clanlands Almanac, I guzzled the book in one shot because I couldn’t put it down. I loved reading about the monthly recipes, the nature notes, the Battle of the Month, the Dram of the Month, the Region of the Month, the Competition Corner, Castle of the Month, Adventure of the Month, important dates and Great Scots. I couldn’t get enough of the bloody, barbaric clan histories, which seemed to be instigated by one clan stealing another’s sheep or kidnapping the most beautiful woman in the clan. And I learned all about the wee dreaded beastie/delicacy, the haggis, and the origin of the Outlander theme song, “The Skye Boat Song.”

A DELIGHTFUL PARADE OF ALL THINGS SCOTTISH 

It was also illuminating to be reminded that despite their fame and glory, Sam and Graham are only human. They swap stories, not only behind-the-scenes gossip about the Starz Outlander and Men in Kilts series but about their personal lives. Graham reveals the details of his first kiss at the age of nine, his obsession with the perfect latte, and his first sighting of the aurora borealis with his father in the cockpit of a 747. (His father was a commercial pilot.) Sam discusses a disastrous Valentine’s Day date as a teen, bartending and table waiting as a struggling actor, and growing up in Edinburgh in the shadow of the Castle. Sam derives great pleasure over Graham’s ancestral castle being a modern-day RV park, and Graham ribs Sam that he has no clan at all; he’s an outlier, a “Sassenach,” and not really a Fraser, although he plays the Laird of the clan in Outlander. Their tales and ribbing are fascinating, and they make you appreciate that we all struggle to achieve our goals, and that persistence, and luck, pay off.

I must reveal there is one other way to imbibe this parade of Scotch Whiskey, Scottish history, folklore or anything tangentially related to Scotland and Outlander. You could listen to the audiobook as you read the Almanac. Sometimes, when Sam and Graham cannot control their laughter, it feels as if these compatible opposites are visiting your living room and having a conversation with you. A year-long conversation, which you don’t want to end. 

I can’t think of a better way to spend each month of 2022. So in January, uncork the Dram of the Month (Man O’Sword 2015, Annandale Distillery), settle into your armchair, and prepare to get your clan’s tartan on. Sam and Graham are back in hilarious form in Clanlands: Seasonal Stories From Scotland


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Sam Heughan is an award-winning actor and philanthropist, best known for his starring role as Jamie Fraser in the hit TV show Outlander. From his early days at the Royal Court Theatre to his most recent role in the hit action film Bloodshot, Sam has enjoyed a career in theatre, television and film spanning almost two decades. With his growing success and fame, Sam has also lent his voice and platform to raise funds and awareness for many notable charities, including Marie Curie UK and Blood Cancer UK. In recent years he has raised over $5 million for blood cancer research, hospice care and testicular cancer awareness education. Due to his outstanding contribution to charitable endeavors and artistic success he was bestowed by the University of Glasgow and the University of Stirling with an honorary doctorate in 2019.

Graham McTavish has been acting for over 35 years in theatre, film and television. On film and TV he is best known for his roles as Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander, the fierce Dwarf Dwalin in The Hobbit trilogy, and AMC’s cult show Preacher as the Saint of Killers. He has performed in theatre all over the world from the Royal Court Theatre in London to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He is delighted that the dream of his 12-year-old self to be a published author has finally come true!