A Literary Tour of Edinburgh

Emer Ní Chíobháin

Long before Edinburgh was designated as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004, Scotland’s literary greats were drawing their liquid inspiration in its pubs, cafés, museums, and bookshops. From wizards and detectives, to champagne, ale and locally roasted coffee, we explore the literary hotspots that Edinburgh has to offer its bookworms.

1. The Elephant House

Cafe, Restaurant, Coffee Shop, British

Gourmet tea & coffee house and restaurant

Opened in 1995, The Elephant House has established itself as one of the best tea and coffee houses in Edinburgh. It was made famous as the place of inspiration to writer J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Here, they have a bulletin board filled with newspaper articles on her inspiration to write and you really get a sense of the book being written here with the excellent views. The Elephant House of course boasts some of the best coffee in town using only locally roasted coffee that is stored unsealed for no longer than one day, ensuring unparalleled freshness. Experience the magic yourself and savour a cup of tea or coffee before venturing out to explore historic Edinburgh.

Price:Budget – mid-range

Opening Hours: Mon to Thurs: 08-22 / Fri-Sat: 08-23 / Sun 09-22

Watch out for: The graveyard out the back where, it’s rumoured, J.K. Rowling got some names from!

2. The Writers' Museum


Great Britain, Scotland, Edinburgh, The Writers Museum, Robert Louis Stevenson Room, Exhibit of Robert Louis Stevenson Memorabilia
© Steve Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo
Literary relics on display on 1622 house

The Writers’ Museum celebrates the lives of three great Scottish writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Manuscripts and personal effects of these literary greats are exhibited in the beautiful 17th-century Lady Stair’s House at the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile. Visitors can see portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were first produced, and Scott’s own dining table and rocking horse. There is also a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull, one of only three ever made. Even if you’re not a bookworm, it’s well worth a visit.
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat: 10-17 / Fri-Sat: 08-23 / Sun 12-17

Watch out for: Makars’ Court just next door.

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