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Explore the Edinburgh of Sherlock Holmes

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Calton Hill looking down on Edinburgh

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

14 October 2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the publication of the first collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

But did you know that Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has his roots in Edinburgh?

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle spent his early childhood in Edinburgh before leaving to attend boarding school in England. He returned to Edinburgh years later to study medicine.

Here are a few elementary ideas to investigate Edinburgh’s connections with Arthur Conan Doyle and also explore the city’s wider literary heritage.

Sherlock Holmes Statue, Picardy Place

First see the Sherlock Holmes Statue in Picardy Place. The character of Sherlock Holmes was Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation. Complete with signature deerstalker hat, cape and pipe, the statue marks the location where the author was born on 22 May 1859. Across the road from the statue is The Conan Doyle Pub, named after the author.

The Real Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour

The Rooftops of Edinburgh

The skyline of Edinburgh

Take a step back in time to Victorian Edinburgh on The Real Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of Edinburgh. Discover the hidden history and forgotten places where the Holmes legend really began. On this guided tour, find out how, as a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle met the man who would inspire his fictional detective.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Visit the Surgeons Hall Museums on Nicolson Street. Here you can a look at the exhibition linking Edinburgh and medicine to the work of Arthur Conan Doyle. Exhibits in this museum focus on Conan Doyle’s relationship to Doctor Joseph Bell, outlining how he provided the main inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. The Surgeons Hall Museums is not only home to the oldest museum in Scotland, but it also holds the largest and most historic pathology collection in the United Kingdom.

Old College, University of Edinburgh

Across the road and just short walk from the Surgeon’s Hall Museums is the Old College at the University of Edinburgh. It was here that Conan Doyle studied medicine. This impressive building was designed by Scottish architects William Adam and Robert Playfair. Take a walk around the quad and visit the contemporary art exhibitions at the Talbot Rice Gallery.

You might also be able to fit in a visit to the Anatomical Museum, also at the University of Edinburgh. The museum and collection is still used by medical students today but is open to the public at various times of the year – please check the museum website to avoid disappointment.

Take a walking Tour

The cobbled street of the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Discover more of Edinburgh’s literary heritage on a walking tour. Why not join The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour on an entertaining tour through the wynds, courtyards and pubs of Edinburgh’s Old and New Town? Or, for something more historical or a bit more spooky, pick from one of the many other available tours. Many walking tours take in the historic Royal Mile and Old Town, including the sites associated with the infamous bodysnatchers, Burke and Hare. These 19th-century grave robbers were known to have close connections with the city’s medical school.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House

The Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House

The Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House

Do you enjoy a good story? Then a visit to The Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House is a must! Home to traditional storytelling, live performances and interactive displays. Take part in a workshop, see a show or just soak in the atmosphere of this unique attraction situated on the Royal Mile. The annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October showcases the best of Scottish and international storytelling at venues across Edinburgh.

The Writers Museum and Makars’ Court

Finally, visit the Writers Museum to discover artefacts relating to some of Scotland’s other icons of the written word; Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. As you leave the museum and walk across Makars’ Court, don’t forget to look down at the famous words of great Scottish writers inscribed into the flagstones.

Are you inspired to discover more? Then why not check out our Timeline of Scottish Literature eBook and read more on Scottish authors and literature to plan your own literary-inspired trip to Scotland.



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