Edinburgh was designated as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004. Cities of Literature are recognised as not only having a rich history of literature, but also a vibrant literary culture with an eye on the future.
Edinburgh World Heritage, working with the City of Literature Trust, created a series of podcasts for those interested in discovering more about the city. Written by Edinburgh’s first Makar, the poet Stewart Conn, these podcasts present unique views of the city, explore famous city landmarks, their architectural history and their literary links.
To explore Edinburgh’s literary past, the Writers’ Museum in Lady Stair’s House, just off the historic Royal Mile, is a fascinating showcase for three writers closely associated with Edinburgh – Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Artefacts include Scott’s childhood rocking horse, Stevenson’s wardrobe (made by the infamous Deacon Brodie, who could have inspired Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Burns’ own writing desk.
Burns would, no doubt, have approved of a poetic jewel in Edinburgh’s literary crown – The Scottish Poetry Library. Housed in the world’s first purpose-built poetry library, just off the Canongate, the Scottish Poetry Library is not just a resource for study but, through its packed programme of events, a passionate campaigner for poetry for all.
Advocacy, debate and an international outlook has always been at the heart of literary Edinburgh and the city is home to two organisations which continue these virtues. The Saltire Society promotes and supports the best of Scottish culture and recognises excellence in writing and publishing through its annual literary awards. Scottish PEN brings together Scottish and international writers to promote Scottish writing and translation, as well as campaigning vigorously on behalf of writers imprisoned and repressed around the world. Both organisations organise public events, conferences and talks.
Whether you live in Edinburgh or are visiting, there are many ways to enjoy it as a City of Literature. Information on everything from events, bookshops, trails and tours to storytelling and libraries can be found on the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust website.