Literary Edinburgh – McCall Smith – Friends, Lovers, Chocolate

One thing which I love to do on holiday is to read books about where we are visiting.  Not guidebooks, but fiction set in a particular city or county.  Think EM Forster’s “Room with a View” when visiting Florence, or Patrick Gale’s “Notes from an Exhibition” when in Cornwall, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Fortunately for those wishing to visit Edinburgh, there is a wide range of different types of fiction available to choose from – historical tales from Sir Walter Scott to the gritty crime fiction of Ian Rankin, and so much in between.  We’ve even had visitors to Craigwell Cottage heading straight to the Elephant House café on arrival, just so that they can soak up the atmosphere which helped JK Rowling to pen the early drafts of her Harry Potter series.

Elephant House Edinburgh

Big Harry Potter fans!

One author I’m really enjoying reading at present is Alexander McCall Smith.  I’ve worked my way through most of the 44 Scotland Street series and listened to the podcasts of the Dog Who Came in From the Cold, but the reading I’m doing over this winter holiday season is of the Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring the moral philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie.

I was completely hooked as I started to read the second of the series, “Friends, Lovers, Chocolate“. Not only had the title captured my imagination, but the opening chapter is set as a mysterious character walks down the Royal Mile towards Canongate Kirk, where he means to visit the grave of Robert Fergusson, the young poet who inspired Robert Burns.

Statue of Robert Fergusson at Canongate Kirk

Robert Fergusson wintry statue Canongate Kirk

I fear Mr Burns would not be happy if he were to see the statue of his inspiration being treated with such lack of respect.

However, there are others who continue to revere the poet, including the mystery man of McCall Smith’s opening chapter.  In the graveyard of Canongate Kirk, you can visit the grave of Robert Fergusson.  Robert Burns paid for his gravestone to be erected, and wrote the lines of its inscription:

This simple stone directs Pale Scotia’s way

To pour her sorrows o’er her poet’s dust.

I hope that if you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh, you’ll consider adding some of the Sunday Philosophy Club series to your reading list, and I for one can’t think of a better way to spend some of my leisure time in Edinburgh, sipping hot chocolate in one of the cafés featured in the series, and walking the streets along with the characters of the book.

ScotlandHour – this is one of a series of features for ScotlandHour in January 2013 where the theme is “Burns, Creative Scotland, Arts and Culture”.  If you’re thinking of visiting Scotland, or want help in planning your visit here, then join us on Twitter for a monthly chat about Scotland – just search for the tag #ScotlandHour to join in.  Many tourism businesses and fans of visiting Scotland join in the chat on the last Wednesday of each month, from 9-10 pm (UK Time) on Twitter.  To find out about the full schedule for ScotlandHour 2013, visit my social media for tourism article.