Breathes there a man,
with soul so dead,
who never to himself
“This is my own.
My native land”.
While many visitors read about these landmarks in guide-books, the ELPT version brings Scotland's literary past to life as it whisks us through courtyards, closes and pubs. In a few short hours, we span 300 years of literature from Robbie Burns to Ian Rankin.
Led into a warren of alleyways by a pair of droll actors who engage in a clever exchange of witty banter, we are hopelessly captivated. In opposing roles -- the sophisticated romantic versus the gritty realist -- they brilliantly perform, recite, sing and provide a historical context that brings this museum of a city to life.
Taking on the characters of Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander McCall Smith, and more, they tell intriguing tales of this land.
J. K. Rowling, though not a Scot, wrote in Edinburgh cafes. And far from the city's drawing rooms, the pub also played a key role with Edinburgh authors.
At the Beehive Inn -- our starting point in Grassmarket, Old Town -- one would have found Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, James Boswell sharing a pint with the everyman. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have dropped in and Burns attended cockfights there.
After nipping into the Jolly Judge for a dram of Scotland's namesake beverage, we step outside the cellar pub off the Royal Mile into an intimate stone courtyard. There our guides reenact more rousing scenes from well known stories.
Next, the moving stage takes us to Makars' Court, home of the Writers' Museum, where the pair -- with some surreptitious fortification from a small flask -- continue to entertain in the open courtyard. At our feet, inscriptions on flagstones celebrate Scottish writers from the 14th century to today.
The blustery soft rain (come prepared as tours take place rain or shine) only enhances the experience.