Book Review: “The Fabled Coast”


The Fabled Coast cover on map backkground

Abigail Phillips from the fiction team reviews “The Fabled Coast: Legends & Traditions from around the Shores of Britain & Ireland” by folklorists Sophia Kingshill and Jennifer Westwood – a compendium of stories from the coasts.

I’m absolutely fascinated by folklore. So, when I saw this book, I had to have it.

“The Fabled Coast” book review and synopsis

A coastal cruise

The book is split into several sections, covering each corner of the country – from Ireland to the Highlands. It feels like a guided tour as you cruise up and down each region.

Each section begins with a map so that you can follow along to see where each legend came from. This was handy for someone with little geographical knowledge of some areas!

I also liked to Google each place and have a nosy at what they looked like. It often added to my understanding of how or why the story might have started.

Reading order

I read the book page for page, and quickly realised I was probably meant to dip in and out of it.

Reading it chronologically started to feel repetitive, as there are common stories told in different parts of the UK. For example, there are many tales of people finding rings (and even a Bible) inside a fish!

Sometimes I felt that it would have been better if the book had been split into topics. However, splitting it by area did highlight the traditions and stories unique to each place.

For example, the stories of selkies or seal people in Scotland and Ireland.

Ghost ships, pirates and mermaids

I have to admit that I went into this book for the spooky stories, the smugglers and pirates and for tales of mermaid sightings.

These were all interesting, however there is so much more.

I’ve been annoying my partner with random sea-related stories for the last two weeks. It’s as though I’ve been on a voyage!

“The Fabled Coast”: a good reference book for fiction writing

I wouldn’t recommend to read this book cover to cover as I did.

However, if you’re writing a historical book or story set in a coastal town, there might be some interesting tales you can pepper in.

It may help give you an idea of your character’s beliefs and superstitions.

There is plenty here to inspire a story as well!


Read a review of “The Family Upstairs” by Lisa Jewell, “The Horizontal Oak” by Polly Pullar and “Songbirds” by Christy Lefteri. 

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.