Read your way through Edinburgh

Read your way through Edinburgh

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Sir Walter Scott has his own fantastically ornate memorial on Princes Street: it looks like a miniature cathedral. You can climb it for a small fee and look out over the shops and gardens. Nearby Waverley Station is named after his novels; You would be hard pressed to find a more bibliophilic terminus. The High Street offers numerous literary walking tours including one by Ian Rankin/Rebus. The Scottish Poetry Library near Canongate has a wonderful collection and archive and a very good cafe. And at the Writers’ Museum, see Robert Burns’ desk and Stevenson’s riding boots.

Bibliophiles never miss out in Edinburgh. There are large branches of Waterstones and Blackwell’s with a wide range of genres. The Best Bookshop award goes to Topping & Company: housed in an old William Playfair building, it’s a delightful tangle of shelves and ladders tended by some seriously well-read booksellers. Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge is on perhaps the loveliest street in town with a fine selection of books. It also has a wood burning fireplace, making it a perfect place to warm up with a book on your lap. The Edinburgh Bookshop is a must-see, tucked away in a corner of the bohemian Bruntsfield; They are good at matching the right book to the right reader and have a particularly great children’s section.

August, no doubt, when the incomparable Edinburgh International Book Festival takes over the College of Art for a couple of weeks, hosting a fascinating and diverse program of hundreds of events and talks throughout the day. Miss it at your own risk.

David Nicholls’ One Day deserves a special mention as it perfectly sums up Edinburgh’s university experience. The novel is mostly set in London, but its two main characters meet here as students and almost – but not quite – fall in love. Therein lies the story.

Is there a kid somewhere that hasn’t heard of Harry Potter? Edinburgh is inseparable from the young wizard: JK Rowling lives and writes here. You can visit The Elephant House, the cafe where she worked on her manuscripts (although it is currently closed until further notice due to a fire locals speculate was caused by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was laid) and you can stroll around nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard and discover the headstones that inspired their names: McGonagall, Scrymgeour, Moodie, Tom Riddell, Cruikshanks and even a family of Potters are all buried here. And as you walk down dizzying, multi-storey Victoria Street towards the Grassmarket, you might get a few Diagon Alley flashbacks…

“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, Muriel Spark

“Restoring Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection”, TM Devine

“Kidnapped”, Robert Louis Stevenson

“The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner”, James Hogg

“Trainspotting,” Irvine Welsh

“The New Confessions”, William Boyd

“Knots and Crosses”, Ian Rankin

“A good turn,” Kate Atkinson

“Someday,” David Nicholls

Born in Northern Ireland, Maggie O’Farrell has made Edinburgh her home for over a decade. Her novels include National Book Critics Circle Award winner Hamnet and most recently The Marriage Portrait. She has also written a memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death.

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