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September 18th, 2014 • Posted in Edinburgh

Take a literary walk in Edinburgh

Credit W. Lloyd MacKenzie Wiki   Walter Scott monument, largest  for any writer in the world. 

This from the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group

Countless writers have lived and worked in Edinburgh over the centuries. Get to all the important literary sites on a city centre walk, or pick up a copy of the ‘Explore the City of Literature on foot’ leaflet so you can recommend locations to visitors.

1. Start on the High Street at St Giles’ Cathedral, where there’s a plaque commemorating the life of Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island). He was born, raised and attended university in Edinburgh before living out his final years in Samoa. The huge west window of the Cathedral is inspired by the works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard.

2. Continue down the Royal Mile to St Mary’s Street where a plaque commemorates the visit in 1773 of Dr Samuel Johnson, the author of the first, authoritative dictionary of the English language.

3. Make your way up to the Tron Kirk and along South Bridge to the beautiful Old College buildings of the University of Edinburgh. Among the many noteworthy people educated here are famous writers such as David Hume (historian and philosopher), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), and J. M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan). More recent graduates include Ian Rankin (the modern crime novelist) and Alexander McCall Smith (author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street series).

4. Take a walk up Chambers Street and you’ll find a plaque commemorating the birthplace in 1771 of Sir Walter Scott. Famous for writing books such as Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, Scott is perhaps the most celebrated Scottish writer in Edinburgh. Scott never wandered far from here. He spent much of his childhood at 25 George Square (also marked with a plaque) and then went to the University of Edinburgh.

5. You can follow more of Scott’s story around the city. Make for George IV Bridge and the National Library of Scotland with its original copies of important pieces of Scottish literature.

6. At the Royal Mile end of George IV Bridge are Lawnmarket and The Mound where, down a narrow close, you’ll discover The Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court. The museum is inside the charming Lady Stair’s House, which houses collections relating to the lives and works of Burns, Scott and Stevenson.

7. Head over Princes Street to Castle Street. At number 39 is a plaque and a seated statue of Sir Walter Scott above the door. (While you’re there, take a look at number 30 where you’ll also see a plaque commemorating the birthplace of Kenneth Grahame, author of ‘The Wind in the Willows’.)

8. Back on Princes Street again and the garden side is dominated by a huge monument to Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter Scott sits under a 200-foot high canopy with Maida, his dog, at his feet, surrounded by 64 characters from his many books.

9. Carry on down Princes Street and along Waterloo Place until it becomes Regent Road. On the right is the Robert Burns memorial.

10.After all that walking, it’s time for some refreshment. Stop off in Young Street at the Oxford
Bar, Rebus’s favourite pub.

July 27th, 2013 • Posted in Bookstores, Edinburgh

Armchair Books ekes out an intense and blustery existence in Edinburgh

This from the website:
“Armchair Books……ekes out its intense and blustery existence on Edinburgh’s hallowed West Port…ancient home of booksellers. In view of the castle, above the Grassmarket, it bakes under the torrid Scottish sun. The dangers are manifold; Our overburdened shelves groan like masts in a squall, our threadbare and quasi-oriental rugs may distractingly catch the eye or foot. Books in the window may spontaneously burst into flames, and the Manager must be kept locked in at all times… Sporadically under feeble but sinister attack by the government, we struggle under goad of Fear, towards Beauty.”
Visit mandatory, if nothing else to seek out, find and shake the hand of the person who scribed these fine words.
For details on this and other bookstores and literary destinations activities and events in Edinburgh, check out the Literary Tourist listings map here.
November 16th, 2012 • Posted in Edinburgh

Guest Post: Match the scene to the location – A literary tour of Edinburgh

From Robert Lewis Stevenson novels to the hugely popular work of Ian Rankin, Edinburgh has inspired creation of some of the world’s best literature. Many of city’s prolific writers have felt compelled to set their narratives here because of the wealth of ‘character’ found in the place – its local people and its surroundings.

The following excerpts from novels, written by top Edinburgh literary talent, provide the starting points for a grand literary tour.

Sir Walter Scott references The Royal Mile in  The Heart of Mid-Lothian, best known of his magisterial Waverly novels. Note the scene’s atmosphere of oppression, as prison blends into adjoining city centre.

“He stood now before the Gothic entrance of the ancient prison, which, as is well known to all men, rears its ancient front in the very middle of the High Street, forming, as it were, the termination to a huge pile of buildings called the Luckenbooths, which, for some inconceivable reason, our ancestors had jammed into the midst of the principal street of the town, leaving for passage a narrow street on the north; and on the south, into which the prison opens, a narrow crooked lane, winding betwixt the high and sombre walls of the Tolbooth and the adjacent houses on the one side, and the buttresses and projections of the old Cathedral upon the other.”

Edinburgh: Tolbooth

Irvine Welsh’s modern classic, Trainspotting  is written in thick Scottish dialect. It provides an amusing and raw depiction of Edinburgh’s ‘Leith Walk’ through the troubled underclass perspective of Sickboy.

“Supposed tae be a rank. Supposed tae be a fuckin taxi rank. Nivir fucking git one in the summer. Up cruising fat, rich festival cunts too fuckin lazy tae walk a hundred fuckin yards fae one poxy church hall tae another fir thir fuckin show. Taxi drivers. Money-grabbin bastards … Sick Boy muttered deliriously and breathlessly tae hissel, eyes bulging and sinews in his neck straining as his heid craned up Leith Walk.”

Robert Lewis Stevenson‘s Kidnapped  is set in 18th-century Scotland and brings historical drama thrillingly to life.

“We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine, and when we got near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked down on Corstophine bogs and over to the city and the castle on the hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word that we had come to where our ways parted.”

Views from the castle are just as spectacular.

Ian Rankin has used Edinburgh’s dark secrets and alleyways as backdrop to his Inspector Rebus novels for the past 24 years. In A Good Hanging, Parliament Square’s bloody history sets the tone for murder.

“It was quite some time since a scaffold had been seen in Parliament Square. Quite some time since Edinburgh had witnessed a hanging, too, though digging deeper into history the sight might have been common enough. Detective Inspector Rebus recalled hearing some saloon-bar story of how criminals, sentenced to hang, would be given the chance to run the distance of the Royal Mile from Parliament Square to Holyrood, a baying crowd hot on their heels. If the criminal reached the Royal Park before he was caught, he would be allowed to remain there, wandering in safety so long as he did not step outside the boundary of the park itself … Frankly, Rebus would have preferred the noose.”

Parliament Square is a relaxing part of the old town where you’ll find street performers and many striking civil buildings.

Where to stay and other attractions

UNESCO’s first City of Literature, Edinburgh has many literary attractions to offer, including lots of writerly pubs, and The Writers’ Museum.

If you’re looking for somewhere comfortable and central to stay try Edinburgh B and B. It hasn’t appeared in a novel yet, but its grand Georgian history doubtless contains many a fascinating story. From your room you’ll get a fantastic view of the city and Edinburgh Castle.