Virtual Literary Road Trip Stop 3: Edinburgh

Gardens and Castle

Now that we’ve hit lots of literary spots in California, our road trip is taking a big departure and heading to the United Kingdom where Stefani from Caught Read Handed is going to give us some advice for traveling around Edinburgh. Without further ado, here’s Stefani: 

When Alison emailed me about doing a post for her virtual literary road trip, I immediately started missing Edinburgh. I knew that I had to write about that city. It’s my favorite city in the world and it’s FULL of literary history.

Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. There are only seven of those in the whole world. A city is given this designation in recognition of the city’s commitment to literature, reading, and publishing (among other things). It’s fitting to me that Edinburgh was the first, because of its rich, full, and amazing literary heritage.

Some examples of Edinburgh’s literary history:

-Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark, Irvine Welsh, and a bunch of other cool people were born there.

-Edinburgh was home to J.M. Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Muriel Spark, James Hogg, and David Hume.

-Today, Edinburgh is home to Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and J.K. Rowling.

-Sir Walter Scott, who is credited with inventing the genre of historical fiction, lived there and contributed so much to the history of Scotland’s literature that the city built the biggest monument to a writer anywhere in the world in his honor. Look how cool it is!

Scott Monument 2

Scott Monument

-In August, Edinburgh is home to the world’s biggest book festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I worked there last year, and it is AMAZING.

-The Encyclopedia Britannica was first published in Edinburgh.

Here are some of the literary places I would HIGHLY recommend seeing:

-The Scott Monument, of course.

-Arthur’s Seat. A hike up Arthur’s Seat is totally worth it. The views of the city from the top are astounding. Arthur’s Seat features in many books, including The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg.

Arthur's Seat

The Elephant House. You should definitely go get lunch at The Elephant House on George IV Bridge. Not only are the elephant shortbread cookies DELICIOUS, but it is also where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books (it’s even called The Birthplace of Harry Potter) and where authors such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith have been seen writing.

The Writers Museum. It’s super cool and is chock full of rare books and personal items of several authors: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott. And, like all other museums in Edinburgh, it’s free.

-David Hume’s Toe, which you are meant to rub so it will bring you knowledge and good luck.

David Hume's Toe

-If you happen to be in Edinburgh on the last Tuesday of the month, you should definitely head down to The Wash on North Bank Street for the City of Literature’s monthly lit salon. Check out my blog post about them for more info.

Other awesome things to see (that aren’t so literary):

-Edinburgh Castle. Look how beautiful it is. The picture below was taken at the top of the ferris wheel that’s set up in Princes Street Gardens during the Edinburgh Christmas Market.

-St. Giles Cathedral (and The Heart of Midlothian outside)

-If you can, go see a play at The Festival Theatre. It’s gorgeous inside and out.

-If you’re interested in whiskey, The Scottish Whiskey Experience is pretty cool.

Best place to buy a new book:

-My favorite book store, or one of them, is Looking Glass Books just off the Meadows. First, awesome name. Second, three of the walls are all glass and it’s so pretty!

Best place to sit and read:

-When the weather is nice, Princes Street Gardens is the best place to read. I also love sitting in Hunter Square (which is where I lived the first time I went to Scotland). It’s right off the Royal Mile and it’s great. When it’s colder, there’s a Starbucks on Hunter Square that has a very comfy upstairs area to read.

So if you couldn’t tell, I LOVE Edinburgh. Feel free to ask me any questions about the city or its literary heritage, because I could go on for DAYS. I’ve been three times, and have lived there for a total of 15 months collectively. I also did my Master’s dissertation on the UNESCO Cities of Literature, with a focus on Edinburgh. I know a lot about the city. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Virtual Literary Road Trip Stop 3: Edinburgh

  1. Thanks for the the insightful and fun journey to Edinburgh. I didn’t even know that there were UNESCO Cities of Literature. I wonder what the other ones are?

  2. Beautiful. I’ve always wanted to see Edinburgh! I had everything planned, but then I had to cancel because I got sick. *mumble*

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