24 of the Best Scottish TV Mysteries & Crime Dramas


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Last Updated on April 24, 2024 by Stefanie Hutson

Scotland is the perfect place to set a mystery. Whether you're talking about the cobbled closes of Edinburgh, the dark alleys of Glasgow, or the impossibly beautiful landscapes of the Highlands and islands, it's a place that invites you to imagine things that don't normally happen – and sometimes, that means murder. In this post, we'll take a look at some of the best British TV mysteries and crime dramas set in Scotland. 

Note: Some of the shows below are only available on DVD. These things change from time to time, and requests from users can nudge those things along. If you want to know how to request shows at your favourite streaming services, click HERE

The Best Scottish TV Mysteries & Crime Dramas

shetland cast investigating
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Shetland – 2013 to present – This dark and atmospheric mystery is probably the first one that comes to mind for most people thinking about Scottish crime dramas. Based on the popular Ann Cleeves novels, it's mostly set in the Shetland Islands to the north of mainland Scotland. 

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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Hamish MacBeth is easily one of our favourite Scottish mysteries

Hamish MacBeth – 1995 to 1997 – In a small Scottish village, a police constable bends the rules and occasionally hides his true ability so he can stay in a place and job he loves. Standing in for the fictional Lochdubh is the real-life Scottish village of Plockton – an impossibly beautiful place a bit northeast of Kyle of Lochalsh and the bridge to Skye. 

Hamish Macbeth is based on the late M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth novels, but they bear little resemblance to her series. In fact, she wasn't even a fan of the series. Prior to her recent death, she had stated that while she loved Ashley Jensen and the Agatha Raisin adaptation, she always felt bad about what TV did to Hamish Macbeth.

Last Spotted On: Acorn TV, Tubi, Pluto, Freevee

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Taggart – 1983 to 2010 – One of the UK's longest-running police dramas, Taggart is primarily set in and around the Maryhill CID of Strathclyde Police. Given that Glasgow was once known as the murder capital of Europe, it's not surprising to see a gritty crime drama set there.

Early episodes do feel a bit dated, but it's enjoyable to see the show evolve over the years. Mark McManus played DCI Jim Taggart from 1983 until his death in 1994. After his passing, the show shifted direction a bit but kept the name. 

Taggart is also great for spotting beloved actors early in their careers. Pay close attention and you'll see Alan Cumming, Robert Carlyle, Mark Bonnar, Phyllis Logan, Amanda Redman, Iain Glen, Dougray Scott, John Hannah, Sharon Small, Ashley Jensen, Douglas Henshall, and more.

Last Spotted On: BritBox

karen pirie britbox premieres october 2022
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Karen Pirie – 2022 – Based on the Karen Pirie novels by Val McDermid, this series follows a young woman appointed to investigate a cold case in St. Andrews, Scotland. More than 20 years prior, a young woman was murdered, found dead in a ruined building by a group of university students. 

Immediately suspected but never proven guilty, the students go on to lead normal lives…until someone starts trying to kill them. Detective Pirie will have to get up to speed quickly if she's going to solve the case before too many lives are ruined.

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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Half Moon Investigations

Half Moon Investigations – 2009 – This comedy-mystery series for kids was filmed in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and follows young investigator Fletcher Moon as he goes on stakeouts and undercover operations with his partner, Red Sharkey. Though not a serious adult mystery, it's the ideal show for getting your kids or grandkids into British mysteries.

Last Spotted On: Freevee

Granite Harbour

After completing his work with the Royal Military Police, Davis Lindo (Romario Simpson) arrives in Aberdeen as a new recruit with Police Scotland. Though he dreams of one day becoming a Scotland Yard detective, he'll have to begin training as a DC in Aberdeen.

Monarch of the Glen fans will be pleased to see an appearance from Dawn Steele (who played Lexie).

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight – 2016 – This series covers serial killer Peter Manuel's crimes in 1950s Lanarkshire, Scotland. Though it’s a dramatisation, it’s based on the true story of the relationship between a violent psychopath and the determined police officer who pursued him.

After a housebreaking arrest in 1946, Manuel forever blamed Detective Muncie, even complaining that he framed him. After his release for that offence, he went on to send Muncie birthday cards and clues about his upcoming crimes.

Martin Compston (Line of Duty) stars as killer Peter Manuel, while Douglas Henshall (Shetland) plays William Muncie, the detective determined to catch him.

Last Spotted On: BritBox, Freevee

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David Tennant will star in Deadwater Fell

Deadwater Fell – 2020 – This four-part limited series stars David Tennant as a doctor (not THE Doctor) whose wife and three children die in a fire. He's the only one pulled out alive, and initially it all seems like a terrible tragedy. When it's discovered they were all drugged, an investigation begins and terrible secrets come to light. 

Last Spotted On: Acorn TV, AMC+, Sundance Now

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The Nest

The Nest – 2020 – Sophie Rundle (Bodyguard) and Martin Compston (Line of Duty) star in this Glasgow-based thriller about a couple who would do almost anything to have a child. When they hit a troubled young woman, Kaya, with their car. At the hospital, Kaya learns of their troubles and offers to become a surrogate for them.

Unfortunately, it gets complicated from there. Kaya is far from the ideal surrogate, but there may be more going on than they realise. At the same time, the couple's lives begin falling apart in other ways. 

Last Spotted On: AMC+, Sundance Now, Acorn TV

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Rebus, Series 1 comes to BritBox in July

Rebus – 2000 to 2007 – This Edinburgh-based detective drama is based on the Rebus novels by Ian Rankin, and takes the viewer into some of the darkest corners of the city. In the first series, John Hannah plays DI John Rebus. He left the role quickly, saying he felt he wasn't a good fit for the role and he'd been pressured into taking it.

When he quit, Ken Stott took over. Though many prefer his portrayal, others have suggested it didn't have as much depth as Hannah's, and that the storylines weren't as true to the novels. Either way, they're both enjoyable to watch – especially if you've read the books and you can compare the different portrayals.

Last Spotted On: Acorn TV, BritBox

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Annika – 2021 to present – Nicola Walker (Unforgotten) stars in this Scottish crime drama based on the BBC radio series Annika Strandhed (which was similar, but set in Oslo). Walker stars as DI Annika Strandhed, a recently transferred member of the Glasgow Marine Homicide Unit.

In between solving crimes along the coast and waterways, Annika deals with her teenage daughter Morgan and her struggles with their move to Scotland.

Last Spotted On: PBS Masterpiece

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Morven Christie (The Bay, Grantchester) stars in this crime thriller about a new mum with a seemingly perfect life on the outskirts of Edinburgh…until her husband is murdered in broad daylight. As she struggles to make sense of what happened, she learns he had been laundering money for notorious crime boss Cal Morris (Peter Mullan, Mum). As a partner in her late husband's accountancy firm, both Morris and the police will be very interested in her next moves.

Written by Debbie O'Malley and produced by Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty).

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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One of Us (aka Retribution)

One of Us / Retribution – 2016 – In this limited series, two rural Scottish families are thrown into upheaval after a newly-married couple is found brutally murdered just after their honeymoon. In the aftermath, an injured man shows up on a local doorstep after a car accident…and signs suggest he might be the killer.

Originally called Retribution, the title was later changed to One of Us

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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Traces – 2019 to present – New chemistry graduate Emma Hodges begins work at The Scottish Institute of Forensic Science and Anatomy, but when she joins an online course to build professional skills, she notices a sort of eerie familiarity to the case she's working – it's the case of how her own mother's body was found back when she was just a child. Along with her new bosses and a committed detective, she begins following clues that lead her straight into a live investigation.

This series was co-created and written by novelist Val McDermid and screenwriter Amelia Bullmore, based on an original idea by McDermid. If her name sounds familiar, it's because McDermid is a popular Scottish “tartan noir” writer whose books have been adapted for shows like Wire in the Blood and Karen Pirie.

Last Spotted On: BritBox

Loch Ness image for fans of Shetland
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Laura Fraser and Siobhan Finneran in Loch Ness

The Loch / Loch Ness – 2017 – When a murderer strikes in a small Highland town along Loch Ness, local police and outside investigators scramble to get to the bottom of the case. The victim has been left dead at the bottom of a cliff, with part of his brain removed…and a human heart belonging to someone else is found nearby.

Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey) stars as DCI Lauren Quigley, while Laura Fraser (Lip Service) plays DS Annie Redford. Fans of the popular Scottish TV series Monarch of the Glen will also recognise a slightly older Alistair Mackenzie among the cast. 

Last Spotted On: AMC+, Acorn TV

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Field of Blood

The Field of Blood – 2011 to 2013  – Based on the novels of Denise Mina, this series follows a young female journalist in 1980s Glasgow as she covers – and solves – crime in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry. Jayd Johnson (River City) stars as Paddy Meehan, and David Morissey (The Walking Dead) and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) also take on prominent roles.

Last Spotted On: Tubi, Pluto, Roku Channel, Acorn TV

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The Omega Factor

The Omega Factor – 1979 – This late 70s Scottish series follows a secret branch of government charged with investigating paranormal phenomena and the untapped potential of the human mind. Though not a mystery in the traditional sense, the 10 episodes contain elements of horror, mystery, thriller, and conspiracy drama – a bit like an early version of The X-Files.

Last Spotted On: DVD

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The Victim premieres in September on BritBox

The Victim – 2019 – Years after a woman's son is killed, the man she believes to be his killer is released from a juvenile detention centre. Before too long, someone has posted the man's new identity online, leading to a brutal attack that nearly takes his life. The still-grieving mother is arrested for attempted murder and everything gets quite complicated from there.

Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting) stars, Craig Myers (The English Game) takes on the role of murder suspect Craig, and John Hannah (Rebus) plays DI Stephen Grover.

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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Guilt – 2019 to present – After two brothers accidentally kill an old man, they're drawn together in the interest of keeping the secret between them. As time passes, however, the impact of that night grows and complicates their lives in ways they might never have suspected.

The series was filmed in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and offers great scenery from both cities. Mark Bonnar (Unforgotten, Line of Duty) and Jamie Sives (Annika) star as brothers Max and Jake in this critically-acclaimed Scottish mystery/thriller. 

Last Spotted On: PBS Masterpiece

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Stonemouth – 2015 – This two-part miniseries is based on the Iain Banks novel of the same name. When a man returns to his home village for the funeral of a friend, he's drawn into a number of old conflicts, along with new information that there might be more to his friend's suicide.

This is another show with lovely scenery (even though they make it look a bit dark and foreboding at times). The on-location work was done in Macduff, Scotland – a lovely fishing village located a bit north of Aberdeen along the coast.

Last Spotted On: BritBox

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Brond – 1987 – This three-part crime drama is based on Scottish author Frederic Lindsay's thriller novel of the same name. The story is set in Glasgow, where Stratford Johns plays Brond, the leader of the Scottish Liberation Army. John Hannah stars as Robert, a student who witnesses Brond murdering a young boy on a bridge before he's drawn into a series of dangerous events.

Last Spotted On: DVD

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Vigil – 2021 to present –  Though set in Scotland, this series doesn't offer as much scenery as some of the others on this list – mostly because a large portion of the action takes place on a ballistic missile submarine belonging to the Royal Navy.

It opens when Scottish police officer DCI Amy Silva is sent to HMS Vigil to investigate a death that's taken place on board. Unfortunately, her investigation creates all manner of conflict between the police, the Royal Navy, and MI5. 

The all-star cast includes Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), Shaun Evans (Endeavour), and Martin Compston (Line of Duty).

Last Spotted On: Peacock

Where to watch hope springs
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Hope Springs

Hope Springs – 2009 – This light-hearted crime drama includes a fair bit of comedy in telling the tale of four female thieves who go into hiding after pulling off a multi-million pound robbery. Though the ladies had intended to start their new lives in Barbados, problems lead them to the remote Scottish village of Hope Springs instead.

The gorgeous scenery makes this one worth a watch even if you hate the sound of the plot. It's set in the village of Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway.  DVD

Last Spotted On: Tubi

Baby Reindeer

Based on Richard Gadd's play of the same name, this Netflix series follows the relationship between a writer and his female stalker, Martha (Jessica Gunning, The Outlaws). Her obsession forces him to come to terms with past traumas he's suppressed. Though not a mystery or crime drama in the traditional sleuth/police procedural sense, stalking is most definitely criminal behaviour, and this is a dramatic series that was filmed largely in and around Edinburgh – so we're including it. 

Last Spotted On: Netflix

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The Best Scottish TV Mysteries and Crime Dramas


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