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Edinburgh - a literary adventure in UNESCO's first City of Literature

Follow the footsteps of Miss Jean Brodie and Inspector Rebus, and explore the origins of Dr Jekyll and Harry's Hogwarts
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.5 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview:  In 2004 UNESCO designated Edinburgh as its first City of Literature. It's a fitting tribute because Scotland's capital has bequeathed ... more »

Tips:  Be sure to carry a waterproof or windcheater - even on the sunniest day, sudden downpours are frequent, and hailstones can suddenly... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Introducing Miss Jean Brodie

Just over 50 years ago Muriel Spark's short novel, 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' described in sharp, crystalline prose the interaction of an unconventional teacher and her 'set' of chosen pupils as they canter through adolescence in the staid Edinburgh of 30 years before. It quickly established itself as a fixture on examination syllabuses, and ... More

2. In search of 'Marcia Blaine'

It's well known that 'Marcia Blaine School for Girls' is based on James Gillespie's School where Spark was a pupil. You can find the present-day James Gillespie's Primary School, bounded by Whitehouse Loan and Warrender Park Road, and James Gillespie's High School on Lauderdale Street in the Marchmont area, both a short walk from the Links, and... More

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Edinburgh South has no shortage of green spaces. If you cut across the Links, and cross Melville Drive, you will find another huge expanse of parkland, known as The Meadows. When the weather's kind this is a great place to enjoy a picnic, or a sunbathing session - or simply to curl up with a good book. It's a lovely spot, with a number of paved... More

4. Towards Hogwarts

From the end of The Meadows, continue along the side of the still-developing Quartermile estate of shops, eateries and apartments (both new-builds and conversions of flats within the Victorian former Royal Infirmary), and into Lauriston Place. Cross the road and in a couple of minutes you will be (firmly) outside the grounds of George Heriot's... More

5. The Grassmarket

Take Heriot Place, the narrow path that leads off to the right beyond the school's boundary and which broadens out at a bastion section of the Flodden Wall, an extension of the old town wall built as a defensive measure after the Scots lost disastrously to the English at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Take the flight of steps down, as Miss Brodie ... More

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6. Greyfriars Kirkyard

From the Grassmarket it's a five-minute walk via Cowgatehead and Candlemaker Row to Greyfriars Kirkyard. It's perhaps best-known for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier famous for displaying astonishing canine fidelity by maintaining a vigil over his master's grave for 14 years (though a recent spoilsport revisionist history claims that ... More

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From the graveyard, cross the road and walk up Merchant Street and turn right. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee at The Elephant House, a rather classy licensed coffee shop and famous - as the legend on the front window makes clear - as the 'birthplace of Harry Potter.' The boy wizard took shape as author Rowling escaped a cold flat by seeking... More

In the book, Miss Brodie and the girls walk into 'broad Chanbers Street.' In the movie, she accompanies them into the Grand Gallery of the National Museum (at that time the Royal Museum), recently spectacularly revamped. These days you can find Miss Brodie herself in the Museum (both as portrayed by Maggie Smith, and by Geraldine McEwen - a... More

9. On the case with Inspector Rebus

If the coffins have piqued your interest in Ian Rankin's books, Saturday visitors can take a crash course in the writer, his protagonist John Rebus, and assorted aspects of Scottish literature, culture and science.

Tour guide Colin Brown does a good job of setting Rankin's place in the pantheon of Scottish writers as a literary descendant of... More

10. Ancestor worship

Back at the Royal Oak, turn right onto South Bridge, then turn left onto the High Street, and continue until you reach Deacon Brodie's Tavern. This pub commemorates the locksmith, Deacon of Craft Guild and Town Councillor who relinquished his respectable life at night for the illicit thrill of burglary. Arrested, having fled abroad following a... More