Edinburgh is a city that has attracted generations of writers. As a writer myself, I was drawn to the writer’s haunts and tributes all over Old Town. The Scott Monument was the first thing I saw when I arrived, an immense Gothic spire rising out of the fog. I had been wanting to visit the tiny Writer’s Museum off the Royal Mile for some time. And the Harry Potter fan’s mecca in Edinburgh, The Elephant House Cafe, was one of the best highlights of my time in the city.
The Scott Monument
I climbed up the Sir Walter Scott monument and admired both the view and the stone carvings of over 60 characters from Scott’s historic novels. The narrow staircase and dubiously screened walkways had me a little on edge (after all, it’s not even a tower, it’s a monument, and from the 19th century at that). It’s the largest monument to a writer, ever.
The Writer’s Museum
This diminutive museum is located on Lady Stair’s Close, meaning I walked through an archway off the Royal Mile and onto a courtyard whose stones are covered in various writers’ quotes. The museum is dedicated to three Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. There’s one floor for each writer, and a printing press on the top floor. Quotes from the 3 writers even adorned the bathroom. I am not overly familiar with these authors, but it was still pretty neat to visit the museum. According to the exhibit, Stevenson was a big believer in travel as an inspiration for writing. I’d have to agree.
JK Rowling at The Elephant House
Several modern authors have frequented The Elephant House, a friendly, quiet cafe overlooking the castle and the cemetery: Ian Ranking, Alexander McCall Smith, and famously, JK Rowling. Rowling worked on a few chapters on the first Harry Potter book in the Elephant, leading to its nickname “The Birthplace of Harry Potter.”
I enjoyed some tea and a really good vibe at the Elephant. Sure, there were Potterhead tourists who walked by and took pictures outside the cafe, but inside it was still just a great cafe, not a tourist hotspot. The one thing you do NOT want to miss if you visit the Elephant is the toilets. Yes, really. Thousands of fans have visited and left graffiti thanking JK Rowling for their childhood. Representatives from the Harry Potter fan community have left messages– thanks to JK Rowling, quotes from the books, drawings of the Potter world, references to AVPM, Leaky Con and Nerdfighteria, and signatures from all over the world coat every square inch of the bathrooms, wall to ceiling:
It was awesome!