Another entry in this occasional series, highlighting some of Edinburgh's amazing museums and galleries, all with FREE entry and worth checking out during your visit! See also The Museum of Edinburgh and the National Museum of Scotland.
The Writers' Museum can be found on Lady Stair's Close, a narrow lane leading off the Royal Mile at Lawnmarket, just a short stroll from Edinburgh Castle.
With such a wealth of literary history to celebrate - Edinburgh became the world's first UNESCO City of Literature in 2005 - this compact museum focuses on three of the most significant literary figures associated with the city: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns.
Inside the museum are collections celebrating the life and work of the three writers often thought of as the holy trinity of Scottish literature.
Sir Walter Scott was the father of the historical novel, as well as being a major influence on the way Scotland was perceived and represented in the early 19th century. Today much of the traditional imagery used to promote Scotland is based on Scott's writing.
One of the most poignant pieces in the Scott exhibition space is the small wooden rocking horse which belonged to Scott when he was child, living on George Square in the Old Town. Having suffered from polio, Scott's legs were at slightly different heights, and on the rocking horse the stirrups for his feet are at different levels to compensate for this minor disability.
At the top of the building is one of the original hand presses used for printing books, and it is believed the press on display here was the one on which Scott's Heart of Midlothian was originally printed. Scott became the most widely read British author of the 19th century, with books like Rob Roy and Ivanhoe selling in their thousands to readers all around the globe.
In the centre of the building is a double-height atrium space with a balustraded walk with its wooden decorations, plaster work, and original fire place giving a sense of the style of the original property.
Lady Stair, who lived in the building at one time, was also associated with a local legend relating to her husband and a strange dream that she had. The story was adapted by Walter Scott into his short story, My Aunt Margaret's Mirror. It's rather nice that Lady Stair herself helped inspire the writing of one of the authors who is celebrated in her former home today!
Also in this large open area is a contemporary tapestry weaving which represents all three of the writers, although Scott is most prominent because the piece was created in 1971 to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.
In the room celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson you can find a large wooden cabinet, which is one of only a handful of pieces of furniture surviving today that is known to have been made by the master craftsman William Brodie. Brodie had his offices and workshop just a short walk from Lady Stair's Close, and is best regarded today as one of the original inspirations behind the creation of Stevenson's character(s) of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Edinburgh also influenced characters and settings found in many of Stevenson's other works, including Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
Stevenson ended his life living on an island in Samoa in the western Pacific Ocean ,and the exhibition at the Writers' Museum includes several artefacts and objects relating to this later stage of his life.
All in all the museum is a small but intriguing venue that provides a fascinating glimpse of the life and times of some of Edinburgh's literary heroes.
Entry to the museum is free - check the museum's website for updated opening times and details of restricted access.
If you're visiting the Writers' Museum it's also worth checking out the stones along the lane on which it is located. Known as Makar's Court, after the Scots' word for a poet or a bard, the paving stones feature a variety of quotes from Scottish writers and poets, celebrating the country and the city in which they lived.
You can also see a Celtic cross monument celebrating the First World War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, who have links to Edinburgh, at the former Craiglockhart military hospital where they were treated for shellshock.
To explore literary Edinburgh in more detail, contact me to arrange a customised walking tour of the city!
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