Best tours for book lovers at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Edinburgh has inspired writers for centuries with a clutch of walking tours allowing us to trace the footsteps of our literary heroes. Here we look at six tours to satisfy the book lovers amongst us this August.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 14th July 2017, 6:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:26 am
The Edinburgh roots of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holme's also merit a walking tour. PIC:TSPL.

Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour

Set around Edinburgh’s taverns and ‘howfs’, this tour takes the form of a hot debate between two fictional characters, literary bohemian Clart and the intellectual McBrain.

Visitors will tour the favoured Old Town haunts of writers such as Burns and Sir Walter Scott where they mixed with the ‘common people ‘of the city.

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Rebus Tours looks solely at Ian Rankin's creation with 2017 marking 30 years of his Edinburgh detective. PIC: Contributed.

In a duel of wits, Clart and McBrain demonstrate how Edinburgh’s pub atmosphere offered creative and intellectual thought - as well as plenty of ale to help the pen flow.

When and where: Every day through August at 7.30pm. Meet outside the Beehive Inn.

The Edinburgh Book Lovers Tour

Robert Burns' connections with Edinburgh are examined on a number of the city's literary tours. PIC: Contributed.

Scotland’s literary heroes come to life on this tour from the Edinburgh-based author Allan Foster, who takes guides through the sites and streets linked to writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and JK Rowling.

Foster has been widely credited with bringing the ‘real’ Edinburgh to life and showing tourists a slightly off-beat version of the city with Parliament Square, Barrie’s Close, the Old Infirmary and Potterow Port among stops on the trail.

Where and when: August 4 to 28 (not Monday and Wednesday) at 11am and 1.30pm. Meet outside The Writers’ Museum, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket.

Rebus Tours looks solely at Ian Rankin's creation with 2017 marking 30 years of his Edinburgh detective. PIC: Contributed.

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Rebus Tours

Starting in the Rebus pub The Royal Oak, this two hour ‘hidden’ Edinburgh tour also features the Royal High School, the Flodden Wall and the grey Carnegie Housing Scheme.

Guests will be then taken to the heart of Rebus’ Edinburgh - Saint Leonard’s Police Station - before Drummond Street and its literary connections are examined.

Robert Burns' connections with Edinburgh are examined on a number of the city's literary tours. PIC: Contributed.

Guide Colin Brown treats guests to short readings from Set in Darkness‚ Dead Souls and Exit Music, among others. Brown has appeared in the dramatisation of Dead Souls and a number of documentaries with author Ian Rankin.

When and where? August 5 to 26 (not Sunday) at 12pm. Meet outside The Royal Oak on Infirmary Street.

The Potter Trail

A robed guide sets the tone for this tour deep into Harry Potter’s Edinburgh where guest will discover the locations that inspired characters in the series.

Guests will find out where Lord Voldemort is buried and the identity of the world’s worst poet who inspired a Hogwarts teacher. The places visited by JK Rowling while writing the book will also be shared with a story or two about the capital’s real-life witches and wizards of medieval times.

When and where? Everyday during August at 12pm and 4pm plus a 2pm tour on Saturday and Sunday. Meet at

Greyfriar’s Bobby statue on George IV Bridge

The Real Sherlock Holmes Tour

There could perhaps be no better start to this outing than to meet Holmes, complete with deerstalker, Inverness cape and smoking pipe outside The Cigar Box tobacconist on the Royal Mile.

Organisers promise a “step back in time” to Victorian Edinburgh with a look at the forgotten places where the Sherlock Holmes legend began.

Uncovered on this two-hour tour will be the details of the meeting between Edinburgh University medical student Arthur Conan Doyle and the man who inspired his literary creation.

The tour ends outside the Conan Doyle pub on York Place.

When and where? Every day from August 4 to 28 at 10.30am. Meet at The Cigar Box, Royal Mile.

Edinburgh Poetry Tours

Walk the historic and dramatic Royal Mile with poet Ken Cockburn who promises to take guests through the narrow closes, open squares, graveyards and secret gardens that have inspired writers for centuries.

The city will be connected to writers such as Burns, Victor Hugo and Dorothy Wordsworth with the work of the medieval ‘makars’ of the Scottish court also brought to life. The poems of the Edinburgh ballad singers along with those of Edinburgh poet Robert Fergusson, a major influence on Burns, will also be explored by Cockburn who recites poems along the way.

When and where: Aug 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-28 at 11.20am. Meet outside Edinburgh Poetry Library, Chrichton’s Close, EH8.