Our 3 Favourite Scottish Crime Dramas

From Highland escapades to gritty adventures on the mean streets of Edinburgh, here’s our pick of the best television crime drama shows from north of the border…

Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez in Shetland

Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez in Shetland

1. SHETLAND

On paper it sounds unlikely: a detective with the surprisingly colourful name of Jimmy Perez, dealing with a succession of brutal murders in the peaceful realm of the Shetland Islands? But who cares about realism, when you have a show that's so beautifully filmed, and is so thickly atmospheric, that we can't help be beguiled. Desolate landscapes have never looked more poetically vivid - from seagulls circling and screeching in the flinty air, to sparse emerald hills where hidden dangers lurk.

It's no surprise comparisons have been made with Nordic Noir television drama, although Shetland is very much its own beast, with a seriously Scottish flavour. With his sad eyes and slightly craggy but kind features, Douglas Henshall makes immediate impact as DI Perez, instantly joining the ranks of telly's most compelling (and likeable) crime-solvers. If there's anyone you'd want looking out for you in the isolated wilds of Shetland, it's this fellow.

Ken Stott and John Hannah as DI John Rebus.

Ken Stott and John Hannah as DI John Rebus.

2. REBUS

Ah, but WHICH Rebus? Two very different versions of Ian Rankin's celebrated sleuth made it to the small screen. The first was played by John Hannah, who was initially regarded by some fans as a bit too lean, fresh-faced and healthy-looking to play the hardbitten and cynical Rebus. But the Hannah adaptations were suitably dark and satisfyingly foreboding, capturing the gritty seriousness of Rankin's "Tartan Noir" tales.

Then came a rebooted series with a Ken Stott swiftly becoming a fan favourite for his more grizzled incarnation of Rebus. Whichever leading man you prefer, this is a grippingly sinister series which almost works as a kind of macabre love letter to Edinburgh, whose mean streets are the war zone for Rebus and a host of vicious villains, including sadistic serial killers and thuggish racists. All in all, a far cry from shortbread tins and comedy festivals.

Mark McManus as DCI Jim Taggart.

Mark McManus as DCI Jim Taggart.

3. TAGGART

The definitive, quintessential Scottish crime series, Taggart was originally broadcast under the slightly less memorable name, "Killer". From that acorn grew a mighty oak of a series - the longest-running cop show in the history of television, in fact - which did for Glasgow what Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles. Mark McManus, a former boxer, was perfectly cast as the tough, irritable copper, jaded by years in the underbelly of the city, who had as little time for preening, university-educated colleagues as he did for the criminals they were out to catch.

The show became so iconic that it was broadcast in countries as far flung as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and even spawned its own catchphrase ("There's been a murr'daarr") to be recited in clumsy Scottish accents the world over. Even after McManus passed away, the series carried on under the name Taggart, with various other characters taking centre stage over the years. Random trivia tidbit: the actor who played DCI Jardine actually applied to be a police officer in real life before changing his mind and choosing acting instead.