Ian Rankin Literary Tour of Edinburgh

16 May 2022


Forever Edinburgh recently ran a once-in-a-lifetime competition offering the opportunity for a lucky winner to walk around Edinburgh and explore the capital’s literary history accompanied by world-renowned author and local resident, Ian Rankin OBE.

The competition, which was launched as part of Forever Edinburgh’s The Story Never Ends campaign, attracted widespread media coverage and more than 5,000 entries from across the UK.

The winner, NHS secretary and huge Rebus fan Julie Fenton from East Lothian (seen below in black jacket) enjoyed an amazing literary-themed walk around Edinburgh with Ian Rankin.


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The walking route began with a meeting at the iconic Greyfriars Bobby statue at the top of Candlemaker Row with a discussion around the literary legend of Edinburgh’s most famous dog.

Moving into the famous graveyard of Greyfriars Kirk, discussion turned to William Burke and William Hare, the city’s notorious serial killers. The dangerous duo were active in Edinburgh between 1827 and 1828 and their tales have influenced the writings of many crime writers, including Ian Rankin.

From there, a leisurely stroll across George IV Bridge led to discussions around the cafes where JK Rowling wrote her Harry Potter series such as the Elephant House and the significance of the prestigious Central Library and National Library of Scotland that stand dominant facing one another.

A walk past St Giles' Cathedral to Parliament Square allowed time to pause and reflect of the legal traditions still practiced in the Law Courts today, which have featured in many crime novels and thrillers. Julie was very surprised to discover that John Knox, the protestant reformer and former minister of St Giles’ who led the Scottish Reformation in 1560, is buried there under car parking space number 23!


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Moving across the Royal Mile into the City Chambers, Ian could show where his own handprints have been imprinted into the flagstone within the Courtyard, alongside other famous Edinburgh writers including Alexander McCall Smith and JK Rowling.  This is part of the Edinburgh Award scheme celebrating an Edinburgh citizen for their contributions to the city and the positive focus it has brought to Edinburgh from outside the country


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Heading further up the Royal Mile and tucked away in Lady Stair’s Close, Julie discovered Edinburgh’s Writers’ Museum, which features the work of great Scottish writers from Sir Walter Scott to Robert Louis Stevenson. Wonderful quotations from these eminent local authors in the Makar’s Courtyard greet you on arrival.

A stroll down The Mound to George Street allowed time to admire the splendor of Edinburgh’s New Town architecture, which continues to inspire authors and artists around the world and a discussion about statues of the historic figures celebrated around the city.


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While walking along George Street, Ian shared anecdotes of his internationally acclaimed Rebus novels – such as where the name originally generated from (an old Sunday Post puzzle he played as a child) to the casual conversations in the pub with long-serving police officers who helped influence some of his story lines.

The walking tour ended with a drink in the legendary Oxford Bar in Young Street. Tucked away in the New Town of Edinburgh, Rankin continues to be a regular visitor and the bar frequently receives packages from inspiring authors desperate for Ian to review their work!


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