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photo Tour guides Paul Murray and Sharon Erskine pose in the late-evening gloom of Lady Stair's Close.

The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour

Pubs and poetry, booze and books have a long collaborative tradition in Edinburgh, a city that's said to have more pubs per square mile than any other European capital. The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour celebrates that collaboration in a two-hour excursion through 300 years of Scottish writing and five of Edinburgh's historic literary pubs.

The tour starts at The Beehive Inn on the Grassmarket, where Robert Burns is said to have watched cockfights during his time in Edinburgh. Over the course of the evening, you'll visit or stop at The Jolly Judge, The Doric Tavern, and Milnes Bar before having a final drink with your tour mates at The Abbotsford on Rose Street in the New Town, a handsomely preserved Victorian-style pub that Stuart McHardy's Edinburgh and Leith Pub Guide describes as "a superb bar" and "a magnificent example of late Victoriana."

Don't misunderstand: The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour is a literary tour, not just a pub crawl. Your two hosts, professional actors who portray "the uncouth Clart and the intellectual McBrain," will treat you to a "sparkling duel of wits," quotations, and anecdotes about writers such as Rabbie Burns, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and more recent Scottish literary notables such as Muriel Spark and Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting.

(To keep the tour fresh, the organizers draw the hosts from a pool of actors. On the night that I took the tour, the guides were Paul Murray and Sharon Erskine; on another night, you might be hosted by two men or two women, depending on the duty roster.)

You can save a pound by pre-booking online. Tickets can also be purchased at the Edinburgh tourist office, in the Old Town Information Centre in the Tron Kirk, at the Hub on Castle Hill, or at The Beehive Inn in Grassmarket. (At the Beehive, just go to the bar, buy your ticket and a drink, and go into the private room to the left of the main bar. The tour begins at 7:30 p.m..)

The Scottish Literary Tour Trust also runs The Makars' Literary Tour at The Writers' Museum during August and on demand at other times of the year.

For information on both tours, or to book online, visit

Next page: Other walking tours in Edinburgh

In this article:
Mercat Tours (history and ghost tours)
City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour
Other walking tours in Edinburgh

Related article:
Edinburgh Bus Tours

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