Edinburgh! From medieval Old Town to Arthur’s Seat to the madness of the fringe, Scotland’s capital is packed full of history, culture, creativity and inspiration – the perfect place for writers to buckle down and smash out their magnum opus. Oh, and we also run a monthly writers’ retreat there, y’all. But in case you need more persuasion, here are five knockout reasons why Edinburgh is THE place to be for writers of all shapes and sizes:
1. ALL the Festivals
Summer kicks off with the Edinburgh International Film Festival where you can hide from the Scottish weather for ten days and be inspired by stories unfolding on the big screen. After that, you don’t have to wait long before the world’s largest collection of arts festivals take over the city in August, and with over 3500 different shows to choose from, you are truly spoiled for choice. You can’t walk down the Royal Mile without getting flyered for comedy shows, theatre, spoken word and anything in between. And once you’ve done the rounds at the Fringe, you can spend the rest of August fighting for a deckchair in the Georgian surrounds of Charlotte Square Gardens at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, before taking in a talk, or panel discussion, or cabaret show, involving one of the visiting authors.
2. Places to read, write and be inspired
As writers, and human beings, we all need some Vitamin D from time to time. So get out under the sky – there are so many places in Edinburgh to explore and gather inspiration from. Take a walk down the Royal Mile to discover the narrow closes and, if you feel brave, the subterranean vaults. Then, armed with ideas for a ghost story, you can start writing in Princes Street Gardens with a view of Edinburgh Castle for some more gothic inspiration or wander the paths of the Royal Botanic Garden. Or why not take your notebook to the Meadows, a large public park, one of the best places to people-watch? And if being outside gets too much or too wet, have a cuppa in the café of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and check out some of their live storytelling events or pop along to the Writers’ Museum, because why wouldn’t you? The Reference Library located on the top floor of the Central Library is a haven for when you need some quiet writing time with no distractions, and if you love poetry, a visit to the Scottish Poetry Library is kind of compulsory.
And what better way to be inspired than to listen to other writers? There are a load of regular spoken word events to choose from, but some personal favourites are: Inky Fingers and Listen Softly, both of which have open mic slots. Or, in case you need some book-related retail therapy, you can visit some of the brilliant independent bookshops around Edinburgh such as: Lighthouse Bookshop, Golden Hare Books (2019 winner of the Best Independent Bookshop from The Bookseller), Typewronger Books, and, later this year, the well-respected Topping & Company Booksellers are opening a branch in Edinburgh.
3. Literally the ‘City of Literature’ (no big deal)
Not only is Edinburgh the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, the idea of the City Literary Network started in a café in Edinburgh when Jenny Brown, James Boyle, Lorraine Fannin and Catherine Lockerbie had lunch and a brainstorming session. Fast forward two years to October 2004, the United Nations awarded the city for not only its rich literary history but also for nurturing and supporting the artform. What more could a writer want than to wander the streets of a city recognised for its literary importance in the world? And, let’s not forget, Edinburgh is home to many legendary writers, which leads us nicely on to…
4. Home of Literary Titans!
Some of these famous Edinburgh writers may not have been physically among us for hundreds of years, but the work of the writers born here can still be found in libraries, bookshops and maybe on your own bookshelves. Let’s start with the man whose monument is the second largest in the world dedicated to a writer (damn you, Havana). Say hiya to the marble version of Sir Walter Scott and his beloved hound Maida, before getting your daily steps in by climbing the 287 steps of the Scott Monument. It’s right next to the city’s main train station, Waverley, which is named after one of Scott’s novels. Next up, born seventy-nine years after Walter, is Robert Louis Stevenson best known for Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Think how many films and TV series we would be missing without his work. And how about
Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, created by the mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?
You could say that the city boasts the creme de la creme of the UK’s literary legends, which brings us to the fact that 2018 marked the centenary of the woman who put the Prime in Miss Jean Brodie, Dame Muriel Spark. Or, for a less ‘genteel’ side of Edinburgh, there’s Irvine Welsh. And while we’re on the subject of famous Scottish writers, very much alive and living in Edinburgh are Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Alexander McCall-Smith.
5. She Who Must Not Be Named
Apparently, there is a mildly popular series of books about a boy wizard written in Edinburgh by a woman who lives here. She finished the final instalment in Room 552 at the opulent Balmoral Hotel, and, if you’ve got some spare cash or feel particularly flush, you can stay in that very same room, sit at that very same desk, look for the graffiti she left, and write the next bestseller (just not about a boy wizard, since that’s been done).
BONUS: And if, at some point you find yourself needing time and space to write your OWN fantastic Edinburgh-inspired fiction, come along to our monthly writers’ retreat!