Following in Literary Footsteps...

Joan Haig Student Services Officer


September 17, 2019

This year, Arcadia’s Edinburgh Center expanded the number of our optional walking tours; students can now choose from history, philosophy or literature-themed walks as part of their welcome to Scotland’s capital city.

I was delighted to be leading the literature group – Edinburgh is bursting with bookish connections, past and present, and became UNESCO’s first City of Literature in 2004. As Fall students arrive in Edinburgh, the city is sweeping up after its annual international book festival – the biggest of its kind in the world.

Our tour started on a spot overlooking Waverley Station, the city’s largest train terminus, which is named after a set of novels written by Sir Walter Scott. The Scott Monument, with its Gothic spire towering at 200 feet, is impossible to miss and the largest monument in the world built to honour a writer.

On our route through the Old Town, we paused at the beautiful St Giles Cathedral, which has a ‘Writer’s Corner’ and memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). We also dipped into the Writer’s Museum to learn more about Stevenson, Scott and national poet, Robert Burns.

Passing the old registry building, I noted some of the more famous writers who have been born, lived, visited, married, raised families, divorced or died in Edinburgh; over 500 novels have been set here over the centuries, and range in genre from romance to crime. Indeed, our tour ended in a well-known graveyard. The city’s architecture and spaces are inspiration for real-life stories, but also fantasy – not least the world of Harry Potter. Hogwarts isn’t the only school of note related to the city, however – Edinburgh schools feature in the work of Ronald Searle and Muriel Spark, and Ian Fleming’s James Bond was educated here.

This, of course, is just the start of our students’ literary journeys in Scotland – their university reading-lists await them! Some students will be part of our own Travel-Writing Cornerstone Course, and we also host an author talk each semester. The next author talk is in October – all Arcadia students currently in Scotland are invited to join us for an evening of drinks, nibbles and poetry in the company of Gerda Stevenson, who will talk to us about her recent collection, Quines – sign up via your Passport!