Written by Stéphanie de Geus.
Edinburgh at night steals your breath away. It’s love at first sight. In one glance, the historic buildings transport you to another time. During the day the city is bursting with life and the stunning views make you never want to leave. Most of city’s beauty is hidden in small spaces. Not only is it a gorgeous place to visit, but Edinburgh was also the home of the three greatest writers in Scottish history: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Given their literary contributions, it’s no wonder that the three have an entire museum dedicated to them, tucked away in a romantic corner.
The Writers’ Museum is located in the Lady Stair’s House at the Lawnmarket, not far from the Royal Mile. It can be found through a narrow pass but you have to know what to look for—as with everything in Edinburgh. You’ll find the entrance at the Makars’ Court while following the sign that says ’Lady Stairs’ Close’. Built in 1622, the Ladiy Stair’s House is a fitting structure for this particular piece of literary history. The winding, narrow stairs take you through the building past the collections of the three writers. It’s an intimate museum (read: small) so don’t expect to be wandering around for hours. For this trip, you might want to take a smaller bag and leave the books in your hotel room. Also be prepared to climb a lot of stairs, as there is no elevator.
Even though Edinburgh has a rich literary history (JK. Rowling started and finished Harry Potter there), the museum only focuses on those three writers—Burns, Scott, and Stevenson. In spite of it’s size, it does have a lot of interesting things that will get every book lovers heart racing. It showcases manuscripts, original furniture and even the printing press that produced Scott’s Waverley Novels.
One of the most interesting things is the wardrobe owned by Robert Louis Stevenson made by Deacon Brodie. It’s said that Brodie’s double life inspired Stevenson to write the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or how about a part of the original journal he wrote on his journey through Orkney & Shetland in 1869? Not only is it truly beautiful, it also contains sketches and doodles that show he had visual talents in addition to his literary skills.
If you’re most fascinated by Sir Walter Scott, you can see his dining room recreated with the original table, and for those more interested in books than meals, a first edition of his novel, Waverley. And then there is Robert Burns’ writing desk. It is a truly magnificent piece of furniture—any writer would love to sit there daily and write. There is also the original version of Burns’ poem Scots wha hae, with his markings, crossings-out, and notes.
If you’re a writer, a reader or just a lover of books and history, Edinburgh really is the place to go. Not only does the city proudly showcase its classic authors, but it’s also a place where new talents is born and inspiration can be found around every street corner.
Website: Edinburgh Writers Museum
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sunday 12pm – 5pm (during August only).
Stéphanie de Geus is a blogger, writer and photographer living and writing from the Netherlands with plans to travel the world. She specialises in writing about books, history, folklore and travel.
Photograph by Nicola Horscroft