Edinburgh’s Literary Sites are Everywhere.
Scotland’s well known city is not only one of the most popular destinations for visitors, but it’s a UNESCO City of Literature. A book lover’s dream come true. I mean, this is the city that hosts a freakin’ book festival every single August! Amazing, huh? If you love literary travel, then you will love Edinburgh.
As for me, I’ve been to Edinburgh twice, once on a solo trip in 2013 and again for a family trip in 2017. During both visits, the city’s bookish atmosphere awed me. I strolled the busy streets, rain and shine, and more than once, thought about how I should throw everything away and study poetry in a quaint corner cafe. Be an artist! A visionary! A writer!
On my most recent visit, I kept my eyes open for literary sites, not only because I was interested in them, but I also wanted to share Edinburgh’s artsy vibe with all you guys!
Besides … I realized that I haven’t written a literary post ever since I gushed about Shakespeare travel quotes way back in April. Whoops? My bad.
Anyway Edinburgh’s many literary sites will even excite casual readers. And if you’re a literature nerd like me? You better stay quite a few days in the city so you can see everything book-related. I still wasn’t able to see all the literary sites, and I spent four nights in the city. Four. Nights.
Oh well. I guess I have an excuse to go back, right?
Anyway here are a handful of Edinburgh’s literary sites that you ought to check out on your next visit.
Deacon Brodie’s Tavern
I normally avoid bars and restaurants located on the “main tourist” streets. High prices and too many American accents? Nahhhh. Not for me. However I simply had to visit Deacon Brodie’s Tavern for a pint. This pub, located right on the Royal Mile, has a fascinating literary history behind its walls.
Brodie supposedly is the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In the sixteenth century, Brodie was a respectable craftsman and appeared perfectly pleasant for years. Yet Brodie led a secret life as a burglar and a gambler. Yikes. Brodie was eventually hanged for his crimes. The idea of living a “double life,” one good and one evil, serves as the foundation for Stevenson’s famous horror story. Shudders.
The Elephant House
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I mean. J.K. Rowling inspired this blog.
Without a doubt, a visit to The Elephant House ought to be a priority for every traveler who has a soft spot for the Boy Who Lived and his two friends Ron and Hermione.
Now I’ve heard mixed things about the Elephant House – namely whether or not J.K. Rowling actually wrote anything there – but I don’t regret my visit at all! Mostly because of the establishment’s bathrooms. Yes, I’m serious. Graffiti covers the walls and doors. Passionate readers leave their thanks to J.K. Rowling scribbled everywhere. Quite frankly, their words made me tear up more than once.
After all J.K. Rowling inspired an entire generation to read. She even saved lives. One scribble claimed she saved the writer’s life and allowed him/her to make friends. Her influence is amazing if you think about it.
Okay, not to sound morbid, but I always visit graveyards on my travels. Even if they freak me out. Anyway, Greyfriars Kirk’s old intricate gravestones, along with its scenic setting right in Edinburgh’s Old Town, attract many tourists.
For Harry Potter lovers, one stone offers particular interest. The grave of Tom Riddell. What’s the significance? This grave provided the inspiration for Tom Riddle’s name in the novels. Pretty cool!
However, please keep in mind that this is a graveyard, a resting place for Edinburgh’s dead. Behave in a respectful way. And don’t leave letters behind. The city will remove them.
The Writers’ Museum
Located on High Street, this museum is dedicated to three authors: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louise Stevenson. You’ll see rare editions of classic books and personal items belonging to each of these famous authors. So, even if you’re not a huge fan of British literature, this museum still offers great historical information, giving visitors a deeper appreciation for life in Edinburgh.
Admission to the museum is also free, which is fabulous for budget travelers (or anyone, really, haha).
For more information about visiting The Writer’s Museum, check out their website.
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Scotland has an amazing cultural heritage – including some incredible stories. The Scottish Storytelling Centre showcases some of Scotland’s most famous stories such as Greyfriars Bobby and the legend of Nessie (or the Loch Ness monster). In addition, the John Knox House is very popular with tourists and worth your time. Finally, you can also check out the cafe, grab a cup of coffee, and write your own stories.
If you plan to visit Edinburgh for The Fringe Festival, the Scottish Storytelling Centre serves as a venue for a variety of shows.
The National Library of Scotland
Scotland’s largest library is a gem for all bookish travelers. The library hosts free exhibitions throughout the year, and the quiet reading rooms offer a nice place to relax if your legs hurt from trekking up and down the Old Town’s many staircases. … not that I’m projecting or anything.
In particular, you want to go to the John Murray Archive. Famous authors authors in this archive include Jane Austen (ahh! the best!), Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, and more!
Robert Louis Stevenson’s House
Robert Louis Stevenson’s House, which is nestled on 17 Heriot Row, is located in Edinburgh’s picturesque Georgian New Town. The beautifully constructed townhouse is privately owned, but it’s still worth a quick photo stop if you spend any time in the New Town. Built in the early 1800s, you get a sense of Stevenson’s upbringing, as well as an appreciation for the style of the New Town, which was constructed due to crowding and pollution that plagued the Old Town.
Hope you enjoyed reading about Edinburgh’s literary sites! Have you ever visited Edinburgh? Which literary sites appeal to you? Or you could just talk about your favorite books in the comments. That’s cool too!