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Literary Landmarks Tour (Self Guided), Edinburgh

Edinburgh is proudly the home of many great writers: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.K. Rowling, just to name a few. For those wishing to tread in the footsteps of your literary heroes, follow this self guided tour visit the places that have had an impact on the writers' live and career.
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Literary Landmarks Tour Map

Guide Name: Literary Landmarks Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Edinburgh (See other walking tours in Edinburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: Helen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • The Elephant House
  • Greyfriars Church
  • Writers' Museum & Makar’s Court
  • Scott Monument
  • Robert Stevenson's Childhood Home
  • The Conan Doyle Pub
Scottish Storytelling Centre

1) Scottish Storytelling Centre

The Scottish Storytelling Centre, the world's first purpose built modern centre for live storytelling, is located on the High Street in Edinburgh's Royal Mile. It was formally opened on 1 June 2006 by Patricia Ferguson MSP, Minister for Culture in the Scottish Executive. Donald Smith is Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and himself a storyteller, playwright, novelist and performance poet.

The new building, designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, replaced the former Netherbow Arts Centre, which itself replaced the Moray-Knox Church, demolished in the 1960s. It incorporates John Knox House.

It is also used as a venue during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In 2017, the Centre was nominated for Best Performing Arts Venue in the Sunday Herald Culture Awards.

*** The Scottish Storytelling Centre is a vibrant arts venue dedicated to the fine art of telling stories. With a seasonal programme of live storytelling and free exhibitions, visitors can discover traditional Scottish tales and listen to excerpts from Edinburgh’s most famous storyteller, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Elephant House

2) The Elephant House

Established since 1995, The Elephant House in Edinburgh is renowned as one of the top destinations for tea and coffee connoisseurs. Eventually, the place has also become famous through association with J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling Harry Porter series, who used to come here often, as an emerging writer, and create her early novels while sitting in the back room with a view of Edinburgh Castle. Among other literary names to have frequented The Elephant House over the years have been Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Love Over Scotland and other novels. If you consider a writing career for yourself and seek inspiration, or simply want a nice cup of tea or coffee prior to venturing out into historic Edinburgh, feel free to pop in and enjoy the place!
Greyfriars Church

3) Greyfriars Church

It is easy to find ancient buildings in Edinburgh as the whole city is divided into two quarters: Old Town and New Town. You will find Greyfriar’s Church in the former.

The construction of the church started in 1602 and it was consecrated in 1630, making it one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town district, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built on the site of an abandoned Franciscan monastery and took its name from the monks who wore grey cassocks and were called the “Grey Friars”.

In 1718 a dividing wall separated the nave for the worshippers of Old Greyfriars and New Greyfriars so that the Covenanters were separated from the Roman Catholics, while worshipping in the same church. In 1845 part of the church’s roof and interior was destroyed by fire.

During restorations in the mid 19th century the beautiful stained-glass windows were added. It was the first time that such windows appeared in a Presbyterian church and it caused something of a scandal. A little later an organ was placed in the building, which caused a further scandal. The church was further renovated in 1929 and at this time the dividing wall was removed.

The adjoining graveyard is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of George Mackenzie, called the “Bloody” Lord Advocate as he was responsible for the persecution of the Covenanters. According to legend, you will have cuts and bruises wherever his hand has touched you.

Today the church hosts fashion shows, exhibitions, lectures and drama productions. The church museum is full of artefacts found in the area and you will find a comprehensive history of the Covenanters there.

***Literary Landmarks Tour & Hary Potter Tour ***
Hidden behind the Elephant House Café is another place of interest for the avid Potter fan visiting Edinburgh. The grave of Thomas Riddell can be found within the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard, with many fans citing it as author JK Rowling’s inspiration for the character of Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort). From here you can also view George Heriots School, which is often believed to have inspired the fictional Hogwarts.

In Greyfriars Kirkyard you will find the gravestones of Robert Potter, Tom Riddell and William McGonagall. Other gravestones with potential links include Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-Eye Moody?) and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn (Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic in the final Harry Potter book?)

From August 2019, a map is available to purchase in the cemetery for 50p. This map locates all of the Harry Potter themed gravestones in Greyfriars Kirkyard with proceeds going to the upkeep of the grounds.
Writers' Museum & Makar’s Court

4) Writers' Museum & Makar’s Court

Lots of people dream of being a successful author with the riches and acclaim that go with the job. A visit to the Writer’s Museum on the Mound probably won’t help you on your way, but it will give you a great insight to some of Scotland’s most distinguished writers, so you shouldn’t miss visiting it.

You will find the museum in the Lady Stair’s House in the Close of the same name. The house was built in 1622 and was bought by the Dowager Countess of Stair in the late 18th century. Her descendants donated the house to the city of Edinburgh in 1907 on the premise that they use it for a museum of some sort.

They turned it into a museum dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, with mementoes by other Scottish writers. The house is beautifully decorated in clear colours and you really get the feeling of stepping back in time.

This lovely house is full of the three great writers’ personnel objects, from a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull, Sir Walter Scott’s wooden rocking horse to a book won by Robert Louis Stevenson when he was at school.

You will see Scott’s personal dining room, taken from his house and lovingly recreated here, along with his chessboard and the original printing press where his Waverley novels were printed. There is also a scale model of the Scott Monument.

On Robert Burns’ writing desk you will find manuscripts and rough copies of his works, with mistakes neatly crossed out and jottings in the margins of the pages. You can admire Stevenson’s favourite fishing rod and photos of his life in Samoa.

There are many temporary exhibitions displaying the works of contemporary Scottish writers and a great gift shop where you can buy copies of the writers’ books and poems.

Makars' Court is the courtyard next to the Writers' Museum. It forms part of Lady Stair's Close, which connects the Lawnmarket with The Mound to the North. Described as an "evolving national literary monument", the courtyard incorporates quotations from Scottish literature inscribed onto paving slabs. The quotations represent works in the languages used by Scots past and present: Gaelic, Scots, English, and Latin.

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Scott Monument

5) Scott Monument (must see)

Sir Walter Scott was perhaps Scotland’s best-loved poet and novelist, so it is only natural that the nation wanted to pay him homage. You will find the Scott Monument in Princes Gardens.

When Scott died in 1832 an architectural competition was launched to build a monument in his honour. A great many noted architects submitted their ideas; the winning design was by George Meikle Kemp, a draughtsman who had no architectural experience and who had submitted his design under the name of John Morvo, a 15th-century stonemason and architect.

The 61-metre high monument has several viewing galleries reached by narrow winding stairways. The highest gallery is reached after climbing 287 stairs and when you reach the top you are given a certificate to prove that you survived the climb!

The monument was built out of Binny Sandstone, a substance so oily that it attracts dirt very fast, so that a year after the construction was finished, it looked as if it had been there for centuries. The American author, Bill Bryson described it as a “Gothic rocket-ship”.

The lovely marble statue of Sir Walter, seated with his writing implements and his faithful dog at his feet, was sculpted by John Steell. The 64 statues decorating the monument feature characters from Sir Walter’s books. You will also see many grotesques – those hideous character faces so beloved by Gothic architects, which Kemp included in his design to add to the monument’s “ancient” appearance.

Why You Should Visit:
You can enjoy the monument casually at its base, or you can climb up to have a 360-degree view that is open-air (though there's a fee attached to that).

It might be good to know – especially if you are claustrophobic – that this gets a little tight, especially if others climbers happen to be going the other way.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-7pm (Apr-Sep); 10am-4pm (Oct-Mar)
Robert Stevenson's Childhood Home

6) Robert Stevenson's Childhood Home

Robert Louis Stevenson (born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson; 13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, most noted for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child's Garden of Verses.

A celebrity in his lifetime, Stevenson's critical reputation has fluctuated since his death, though today his works are held in general acclaim. He is currently ranked as the 26th most translated author in the world.

Born and educated in Edinburgh, Stevenson suffered from serious bronchial trouble for much of his life. Stevenson inherited a tendency to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the family moved to a damp, chilly house at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1851. The boy was 1 year old.The family moved to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years old, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was 11.

Stevenson was an only child, both strange-looking and eccentric, and he found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at age 6, a problem repeated at age 11 when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy. His frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, so he was taught for long stretches by private tutors. He was a late reader, learning at age 7 or 8, but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse, and he compulsively wrote stories throughout his childhood.

****Retaining its original architectural features, the building is currently run by owners John and Felicitas Macfie, as a venue for hosting receptions, dinners and conferences.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Conan Doyle Pub

7) The Conan Doyle Pub

On the corner of York Place sits a public house celebrating the life and works of Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stationed opposite the esteemed crime writer’s original residence on Picardy Place, the pub is adorned with portraits and paraphernalia inspired by his famous works. Visitors can also pay homage to Doyle at a commemorative statue of Sherlock Holmes, located across the street.

Walking Tours in Edinburgh, Scotland

Create Your Own Walk in Edinburgh

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Famous Squares and Streets Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Royal Mile Walking Tour

Royal Mile Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Edinburgh Pub Crawl

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Old Town Museums

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Edinburgh Introduction Walk

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Comfortably yet tightly packed on the hilly terrain, Edinburgh – the Scottish capital – is a picturesque city much popular with tourists, in large part, due to its unique architecture comprising medieval (Old Town) and elegant Georgian (New Town) buildings. The cityscape is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, once the seat of the Scottish royals and now home to the country's crown jewels. To...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles

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