The Scots have a word for a creative artist, specifically a maker of words: makar. This has become the title for Edinburgh’s version of the Poet Laureate, and the list of Edinburgh Makars is a who’s-who of Scottish literary masters.

Makar’s Court is a paved area next to the Scottish Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, and commemorates some of the best and brightest wordsmiths, each with a phrase evocative of their works.

But this isn’t the only writer’s shrine in the city. Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature for good reason! There are many other memorials to past and present masters, and if you are the kind who enjoys walking in the footsteps of famous authors, Edinburgh is the place to go.

Balfour & Stewart by itmpa
Balfour & Stewart, a photo by itmpa on Flickr.

Literary Locations


Home to a King: George Square Gardens features a poetry installation by contemporary Edinburgh poet Alec Finlay. This is a series of bird boxes, and according to “Each box displays a piece of skilful language-play alluding to various issues within research and study….”

Scott Monument, autumn 03 by byronv2
Scott Monument, autumn 03, a photo by byronv2 on Flickr.

Western Corner: At the Western Corner, or 46 Corstorphine Road, stands a statue of fictional characters Alan Breck Stewart and David Balfour. Those who paid very, very close attention to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped might remember that this is where the two parted ways at the end of the book. “We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine; and when we got near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked down on Corstorphine bogs and over to the city and the castle on the hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word said that we had come to where our ways parted.”

Memorials: The Burns Monument was constructed in 1831 and once featured a life-size marble statue of Scotland’s bard holding a cluster of daisies. The statue was later moved to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to protect it, but the grand pedestal remains. The Scott Monument stands at the very heart of Edinburgh, and is the world’s largest monument to a single writer. You can climb the 287 steps to the top platform (and get a certificate for your pains), or stick around at the bottom to view the double life-size marble statue of Sir Walter Scott and his great hound, Maida.

Home of Robert Louis Stevenson 2 by byronv2
Home of Robert Louis Stevenson 2, a photo by byronv2 on Flickr.


Monarch of the Glen fans can pay a call to 31 Drummond Place where Scottish novelist Compton Mackenzie lived from 1953 until his death in 1972.
Robert Louis Stevenson lived at 17 Heriot Row as a young boy, and his home is now an event center and bed and breakfast.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born at 11 Picardy Place, and today you can pose beside the larger-than-life bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes standing nearby.

Pubs and Cafes


Rutherford’s: Now called the Hispaniola, this has long been a popular meeting place for writers. Stepping inside you’ll find fond remembrances to Robert Louis Stevenson, Hugh MacDiarmid, and Sorley Maclean. Stevenson wrote of the atmosphere, “I was the companion of seamen, chimney-sweeps and thieves; my circle was being changed continually by the action of the police magistrate.” Today visitors come for a pirate-themed dining experience that draws heavily on Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Bobby’s Bar: If you were enchanted by the tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby, you might want to stop in for a dram at Bobby’s Bar near the kirk.

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern: This pub on the Royal Mile recalls the tale of Deacon Brodie, the real-life inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Rebus - The Oxford Bar by Terinea IT Support

Oxford Bar: This is the favorite pub of Ian Rankin’s fictional detective inspector, John Rebus, and is used as a set for the television series. “So they had their one drink in the smoky front room of the Oxford bar, the place loud with after-work chat, the late afternoon drifting towards evening…. Siobhan was watching the regulars: more entertaining than anything the TV could provide.” – A Question of Blood: An Inspector Rebus Novel

Spoon Cafe Bistro and The Elephant House: These two cafes are famous because of their connection with J.K. Rowling, who supposedly wrote her internationally famous Harry Potter books here. Alexander McCall Smith has also frequented the Elephant House.

Walks and Tours

True book lovers won’t miss the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Others who are coming to the city on a day trip or a weekend of sightseeing will want to book a tour. You can choose to pay for professional guides on The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour or The Edinburgh Book Lovers’ Tour, or find your own way on the Burns Walking Trail.



Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 1 comment

  1. R Bell Reply

    I prefer the word “bard to “makar”. It’s more neutral and is inclusive of our older writing tradition.

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