In the middle of July, Emily and I finally embarked on our trip to Edinburgh after having had it planned for several months and waiting eagerly for it to arrive. After a six-hour train journey we made it: the sun was shining and so much waited to be explored. By no means is this post going to be an exhaustive list of everywhere we went, but I thought it might be fun to do something a little different, and document everything related to literature that we did and saw whilst there!
Climbing Arthur’s Seat was undoubtedly the number one thing I wanted to do during our visit to Edinburgh, and it was so worth it. Arthur’s Seat is literally what the name suggests – the supposed location of the legendary King Arthur’s castle in Camelot. Given the prominence of Arthurian literature in the medieval period, I felt justified in including this in the literary category of our trip! The views from the top were mesmerising and had everything you could possibly ask for: mountains to one side, city to another, and sea to the last.
Tom Riddell’s Grave
Although I knew that J. K. Rowling had taken inspiration for many of the names in Harry Potter from a graveyard in Edinburgh, I always assumed it would be somewhere on the outskirts, rather than right in the very centre. I was so glad that I was wrong! We decided, then, that it would be worth taking a quick detour to Greyfriars Kirkyard in order to see some of the gravestones for ourselves. If we were in any doubt that we were in the right place, we would definitely have been aided by the sight of a guy drifting around the graveyard dressed as Dumbledore leading a bunch of tourists! Skipping past that, and gravestones showing the likes of Scrimgeour and Moody, we headed for the most famous: the grave of a man named Tom Riddell. Evidently, this is the one that many people head for, because a path had been set up right to it. It’s so interesting to think that a man would go down in history purely for providing the name for someone else!
The Elephant House
I’m going to say that I’ve been to the site in which J. K. Rowling wrote much of The Philosopher’s Stone, despite the fact that we didn’t technically go in. We stood and admired from the other side of the road, sure. It turned out that Emily and I vastly underestimated the amount of time that we would need to explore the National Museum of Scotland, and given that we visited there on our last full day in the capital we still had other things – such as exploring the Royal Mile and going on the underground vaults tour – that we needed to fit in that day. I didn’t mind just viewing this café from afar and I definitely think it counts towards my twenty before twenty goal!
The Writers’ Museum
This was perhaps my favourite unplanned and unexpected part of the trip. Prior to visiting, I had no idea that Edinburgh housed a museum dedicated to writers but thinking about its history, it’s really not surprising. In a close off the Royal Mile, this little museum was dedicated mainly to three writers: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. Admittedly I was most interested in the memorabilia surrounding Burns as his are the only works that I’ve read from the three, although there were so many amazing things to see here that really made you appreciate how rich Edinburgh’s literary history is. My favourite item in the collection was definitely the writing desk belonging to Burns.
Arthur Conan Doyle pub
One of the main things that Emily said she wanted to see while in Edinburgh was the statue of Sherlock Holmes. I don’t claim to be brilliant at directions, but even I could tell we were in the exact spot that it should have been in – but the statue wasn’t there. Typically, it turned out that the Sherlock statue had been moved due to roadworks taking place nearby! To compensate, we decided to look for the plaque outside the Arthur Conan Doyle pub instead, which was near to the place where Conan Doyle was born in 1859. We decided that this would have to do!
Museum of Childhood
Initially, I didn’t understand what a “museum of childhood” was, nor why anyone would wish to go to one. After being assured by Emily that the one in London was very interesting, however, and realising that this was right along the path we planned to walk, we decided to take a quick look. Amongst the toys and clothing from years gone by, the museum also happened to be hosting a temporary exhibit on children’s literature in co-operation with the University of Edinburgh! It was fascinating to see what has been popular over the years. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any photos while there, though, but it was definitely worth a look!
I’m currently a little bit obsessed with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, so I just had to showcase this print that I bought in the National Museum, featuring the Skye Boat Song. Every time we saw something that related to Outlander – directly or indirectly – I felt as though I was living in a little piece of the story.
And so these are just some – and I guarantee that there are infinitely more – of the literary delights that Edinburgh held for us. It truly is a beautiful city, and I loved being able to experience the richness of its history and culture. I would definitely go back!
Let me know if you’ve ever been to Edinburgh, and whether you saw any other literary delights that aren’t mentioned on my list!
Have a beautiful day,