Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Literature

Home and the inspiration to many great writers, Edinburgh is rightly proud of its accreditation as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Home and inspiration to many great writers, Edinburgh is rightly proud of its accreditation as a UNESCO City of Literature, having been the first city to receive the award.

The title recognises not only Edinburgh’s historical literary roots, but also gives credit to its on-going activity to promote and champion Scotland’s literature and the development of international literary partners through its tours, festivals, and events.

Literary Destinations

Edinburgh has long been a haven for literature lovers, and offers an abundance of cosy cafés in which you can retreat and lose yourself in a good book. Or you can take a wander and experience first-hand the streets your favourite characters and their authors knew. From immersing yourself in the magic of the city that inspired JK Rowling to exploring the closes and alleyways known to William Dunbar and Muriel Spark, there's something for all tastes. The Writers' Museum is an ideal place to begin if you're not sure where to start. 

The Writers' Museum
Edonburgh Writers Museum

Makars Court, tucked off the top of the Royal Mile, is a tranquil courtyard with carved paving stones celebrating writers from the 14th century to the present day. Here you will find The Writers' Museum, which contains the works of some of Scotland’s greatest writers including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Visitors can see portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels were first produced, as well as various items from Stevenson's travels around the world.

Scottish Storytelling Centre 
Storytelling Cafe 09 600 X 250

A vibrant arts venue located on Edinburgh's Royal Mile showcasing Scotland's rich storytelling heritage, the Scottish Storytelling Centre features live storytelling, theatre, music, exhibitions, family events and workshops all year round.

National Libraries of Scotland 
National Library Of Scotland 600 X 250

The Scottish Poetry Library is a unique national resource, and advocate for the art of poetry, and Scottish poetry in particular. It offers a warm welcome to budding poets and in addition to an extensive range of poetry books and leaflets, regularly hosts poetry evenings.

The National Library of Scotland is Scotland’s largest library situated on George IV Bridge. A reference library hosting world-class collections, it is one Europe’s major research libraries. The library runs a regular programme of talks, workshops and events.

Literary Tours Edinburgh

For those wishing to tread in the footsteps of your literary heroes, there are a variety of tours which come highly recommended.  Designed to entertain, thrill and amuse, why not start by exploring the Edinburgh City of Literature website to view the latest events and tours.  

Pub Tours

 

Edinburgh literary pub tour The very popular and informative and highly entertaining tour conducted by professional actors. The award winning Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour was the first literary tour launched in Edinburgh in 1996! Since then it has carried in excess of 150,000 satisfied customers on a dramatic literary trail across Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh Book Lover’s Tour spans 500 years and penetrates the capital’s ancient wynds, closes and graveyards.  From historical writers to modern favourites, it caters to all tastes. All prominent Scottish writers from the fourteenth to the twenty-first century are included and discussed in their literary, historical and cultural contexts, set in the landscapes where they were born and which inspired them. 

Scottish Parliament Literature Tour invites visitors to explore its links with literature over the years from renowned, historical writers to today's popular authors. This tour will appeal to visitors with an interest in literature but no prior knowledge of Scottish Literature is required to join.   

Edinburgh International Book Festival The largest public celebration of the written word in the world. Every August we bring over 800 writers and thinkers from across the planet together to rub shoulders with you, the audience. A visit to the International Book festival is an absolute must for literary fans and a key highlight of the year. Find out more here>

Our Celebrated Writers

Sir Walter Scott, renowned for his historical novels, plays and poetry was the first English writer to be recognised globally for his contribution to literature in the 19th century.  The Scott Monument was erected in his honour in 1846 and dominates the Princes Street skyline.  A climb up its 287 steps is well worth the effort to view the stunning views stretching across the city. See here for more on Monuments>

Robert Louis Stevenson thrilled readers with his tales of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought the well-liked characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to the imaginations of readers and audiences with its scripts and subsequent filming in modern times of their exhilarating adventures. 

Modern Litrature 

More recently Edinburgh writers Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin have delighted readers with their detective novels and JK Rowling is a global phenomenon thanks to the bravery and heroic acts of a young wizard and his friends in the acclaimed Harry Potter books.Experience Edinburgh as your favourite characters and authors once did, use out literacy map to guide you through the historical streets and relive the stories that were written there. 

Book Banner Cover
 

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- Muriel Spark

Revisit the classic setting of the wonderful book which has become beloved by many, the Grassmarket plays to an iconic moment when Miss Brodie leads her girls into the Grassmarket and observes the dramatic stature of the castle.

Trainspotting -Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting made waves across the literary world when it was published in 1993 though set all across Edinburgh and even further afield, Leith Walk is the most iconic location of Irvine Welshes story as well as walking tour you can take in Leith which reveals Irvin Welshes true inspiration throguh where he lived and where he spent his time. 

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin 

You can visit Marchmont. This is not only the home of John Rebus but home to author Ian Rankin himself, where he lived during his final year at Edinburgh’s University.

One Day – David Nicholls 

Follow Dexter and Emma’s footsteps: climb Arthurs Seat early in the morning and view Edinburgh from above and from afar. Locations also to see include Stockbridge and the University’s Old College. Take a wonder down Rankellor Street, where Emma home was during her university years, and enjoy the gorgeous coffee shops and boutiques of Newington.

Harry Potter – JK Rowling 

Though not directly set in Edinburgh it's clear where JK Rowling’s inspiration came from. Visit The Spoon cafe the offical location in which she wrote the first of the Harry Potter books or have a drink in the stunning Balmorals Hotel, which overlooks Waverly station, the location said to be where she finished the final chapters of the magical saga. There is also the opertunity to take part in the Potter Trail Tour, which uncover all the true inspirations of the magical word.

44 Scotland Street - Sir Alexander McCall Smith

Based in the New Town, visiting street Scotland Street means stepping into the heart of Pats intrepid journey which takes her through twist and turns.

Sherlock Homes –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Visit 25 Palmerstone Pl, Edinburgh EH12 5AP the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and now a centre which is dedicated to him and his life works. You can also pay homage to Doyle at his statue on Picardy Place, where he was born.

 

If you're a book lover check out our blog on the Top 6 Independent Book Shops in Edinburgh>

And once you found the perfect book setle into one of the stunning cafes and coffee house that edinburgh has to offer, here is what we believe to be the top ten >