A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

The Stone Age wins the 2021 Highland Book Prize

Jen Hadfield’s beautiful poetry collection, The Stone Age, is named as the 2021 Highland Book Prize.

Presented by the Highland Society of London, the winning title was announced at a celebration of Highland talent and culture, live streamed from the heart and hearth of Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre, high in the hills above Loch Ness.

Along with a small live audience of special guests, the digital audience enjoyed readings and discussion with all four of the shortlisted authors: David Alston, for Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean(Edinburgh University Press); Cal Flyn, for Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape (William Collins); and Donald S Murray, for In a Veil of Mist (Saraband).

Lochaber based instrumentalists, Ingrid Henderson and Megan Henderson wove music from harp, fiddle, and Gaelic song throughout the evening, all set against the stunning backdrop of the mountains of Glen Strathfarrar.

The Stone Age, published by Picador, was described by a member of the volunteer reading panel as “a remarkable collection; highly polished, skillfully arranged, and elegantly composed.” Another reader added, “This exploration of neurodiversity in poetry is authentic and original. The individual poems each have a jewel-like quality that grab the reader with a host of fresh images and apercus.”

Alex Ogilvie, Trustee of the Highland Society of London and Chair of the Judging panel, said: “The judges undoubtedly had a difficult job selecting one winner from such a high calibre longlist and shortlist, but were ultimately unanimous in their decision.  The Stone Age does a rare thing in that every poem in the collection brings a fresh perspective to the reader; Hadfield makes the ordinary quite extraordinary. This is a special collection that we are delighted to honour with the Highland Book Prize.”

Jen Hadfield

Jen Hadfield said: “I was so glad to be part of this moving and important shortlist. I am deeply appreciative of this prize and so happy to celebrate it at Moniack Mhor.”

Rachel Humphries, Centre Director at Moniack Mhor, said: “This was a magical evening and such a fitting way to celebrate some of the finest literature of the year created in or about the Scottish Highlands.”


For more information contact Kirsteen Bell, Highland Book Prize Co-ordinator, on highlandbookprize@moniackmhor.org.uk or 07842 040 165.

Notes to Editors

  • Jen Hadfield lives in Shetland. Her first collection, Almanacs, won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003. Her second collection, Nigh-No-Place, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. She won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition in 2012.

The Stone Age, published by Picador, is an astonished beholding of the wild landscape of her Shetland home, a tale of hard-won speech, and the balm of the silence it rides upon. The Stone Age builds steadily to a powerful and visionary panpsychism: in Hadfield’s telling, everything – gate and wall, flower and rain, shore and sea, the standing stones whose presences charge the land –  has a living consciousness, one which can be engaged with as a personal encounter.

This collection is a timely reminder that our neurodiversity is a gift: we do not all see the world the world in the same way, and Hadfield’s lyric line and unashamedly high-stakes wordplay provide nothing less than a portal into a different kind of being. The Stone Age is the work of a singular artist at the height of her powers – one which dramatically extends and enriches the range of our shared experience


The Highland Book Prize, established in 2017, celebrates the finest published work that recognises the rich talent, landscape, and cultural diversity of the Highlands. This annual prize is open to work in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Presented by the Highland Society of London and facilitated by Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, this literary prize aims to bring recognition to books created in or about the Highlands. The winner is awarded £1000 prize money and a week’s writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.

The William Grant Foundation provides funding to encourage public engagement with the Highland Book Prize.

The Highland Society of London is a charity which exists to promote and support the traditions and culture of the Highlands of Scotland.

Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre is situated in a beautiful rural location in the Scottish Highlands, Teavarran, Kiltarlity, 14 miles outside Inverness. Since 1993, Moniack Mhor has been working with the finest writers from the UK and beyond to deliver creative writing courses, retreats, and other support for writers of all ages and abilities and from all walks of life.

Moniack Mhor is a registered charity and is supported by Creative Scotland as a Regularly Funded Organisation. It also offers courses, mentoring and a leadership programme for care experienced young people aged 14-26 in Scotland, via funding from Life Changes Trust.

The Centre also facilitates several writing awards as well as providing residential opportunities for professional, published artists to develop their work. It works closely with other key Scottish literature organisations and other UK and international partners, and runs a broad community programme. It also runs a wide programme of creative opportunities for care experienced young people in Scotland and provides writing tuition in Highland schools.

Moniack Mhor champions equality and aims to break down barriers to the creative process, including offering a bursary scheme to support fees where needed.

Reproduced from the press release.

May 27, 2022