EDINBURGH LIFE listings
ON YOUR DOORSTEP Eve hing you ever wanted to know about the EDINBURGH LITERARY PUB TOUR
City tours are for tourists and anoraks, right? Perhaps, but this is a tour with a difference. Here's why. First of all, the tour guides actively encourage you to partake in a little tipple. No bad thing when you're traipsing around the streets of Edinburgh on a chilly autumn evening. Secondly, it's not like an educational tour; it's more like a group of friends getting together and having a laugh, and as the guides profess, they're actors not academics and want to paint a colourful picture of Edinburgh's history. Finally, everyone really gets into the spirit of the tour and that has nothing to do with the alcohol.
So what exactly happens on a literary tour and what have Edinburgh's literary merits got in connection with pubs anyway? Well, the organisers of the tour have tried to concentrate on the theme of duality and use two tour guides, a Ms Clart and a Mr McBrain, to convey that idea. Ms Clart concentrates on the seedy side of Edinburgh’s literary history and would have you believe that every writer was addicted to the drinking holes and brothels of Auld Reekie, whilst Mr McBrain takes an intellectual stance and does his best to sanitise the lifestyles of writers. All this takes place during a walking tour of the city, from the Old Town moving to the New Town, stopping off at various pubs along the way.
Much of the tour is spoken in Scots‘ tongue, reciting, and at times re-enacting, poetry and literature, and you quickly develop an appreciative ear. Starting with the work of Allan Ramsay, the pair banter their way through the selected history and myths of the lives of Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, James H099 and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Without giving too much away, Clart and McBrain give an entertaining and amusing insight into the lives of the great Scottish writers, and tell you the type of facts that would have made English literature at school infinitely more interesting. Apparently Sir Walter Scott‘s nickname was Colonel Grog, Robert Louis Stevenson was high on opiates when he wrote The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekle And Mr Hyde, and Milne's pub in the New Town had a corner named the Little Kremlin because it was frequented by so many left-wingers.
The only niggling aspect of the tour was a lack of information about recent Scottish writers: Irvine Welsh and Iain Banks got little more than a passing mention. A pop quiz rounds off the evening nicely, and believe me you‘ll be amazed at how much you've learned and how much fun you've had learning it. Now where did I put that Stevenson anthology . . .? (Maureen Ellis)
Fun Factor 4/5 Informative 5/5 Value for money 4/5
How do you take part? Just turn up at the Beehive Inn on the Grassmarket and bag a comfy seat - for the first fifteen minutes at least.
How much does it cost? £7 (£5). When does it take place During Nov, the tour operates Thu—Sun at 7.30pm. 3 Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, 226 6665, wwwscot-lit-tour. co.uk
98 "IE HST 2—16 Nov 2000
EDINBURGH UFE USTINGS continued
Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, 550 7800. Wed—Sun 10am—5pm. £5.95 (£3.50-£4.40); family ticket £16.50. With volcanoes erupting beneath your feet, a tropical rainstorm pouring down, earthquakes and tidal waves at every turn, the history of the earth has never been more interesting. Edinburgh’s latest visitor attraction uses stunning new developments in interactive technology to piece together the history of the planet, creating a thoroughly modern way to step back in time.
Edinburgh, 225 9846. Daily 9.30am—5pm (last admission 4.15pm). £7 (£2—£5). Although much of the castle’s medieval character was lost when it was converted into barracks in the 19th century, continuing excavations aim to redress this. Other attractions include James IV’s famous cannon, Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun with its own exhibition, lots of military silverware and, of course, The Stone Of Destiny, used to crown Scottish kings since time began.
magniﬁcent gardens to look at, it’s hard to feel too sorry for her.
Roslin, Edinburgh, 440 2159. Mon-Sat 10am—5pm; Sun noon—4.45pm. £3 (£2.50); children £1. What you get out of a trip to Rosslyn Chapel may depend on your familiarity with books of the conspiracy theorist genre: a stronghold for the Knights Templar?; proof of pre-Columbian trans- Atlantic travel?; even the ﬁnal resting place of the Holy Grail?!? What is certain though is that the chapel contains enough historically fascinating carvings and symbols to hold the attention of even the most determined philistine.
Royal Botanic Garden
lnverleith Row, Edinburgh, 552 7171. Daily 9me. Free. A sea of tranquillity in the hubbub of the city, the Botanic Garden is home to a wealth of flora from all over the world. The glasshouses give you the opportunity to check out tropical plants as well. The site also hosts art exhibitions, horticultural courses and various countryside events, including daily guided walks in the summer.
Edinburgh Literary Pub ‘I’our
Meet at The Beehive Inn, 18—20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, 226 6665. £7 (£5). Pre-booking required for parties of ten or more. An excellent way to imbibe culture by visiting the favourite watering holes of Scotland’s literary heroes. See On Your Doorstep.
142 Canongate, Edinburgh, 529 4143. Mon—Sat 10am—5pm. Free. Packed with historic artefacts, this restored 16th century mansion tells the story of Edinburgh’s past and its people, and houses important collections of Edinburgh silver and glass, Scottish pottery and shop signs.
Midlothian Ski Centre
Biggar Road, Hillend, Edinburgh, 445 4433. Mon-Sat 9.30am—9pm; Sun 9.30am—7pm. £6 for a one hour session; under 18s £4. Europe’s longest artiﬁcial ski slope is the perfect place to learn or hone skiing and snowboarding skills. Mountain bikers can take the Chairlift before enjoying the new 600 metre downhill mountain bike trail.
Museum Of Childhood
42 High Street, Edinburgh, 529 4142. MoHat 10am-5pm. Free. Founded in 1955, the museum has ﬁve public galleries with all manner of archive material and old toys relating to childhood through the ages. From antique dolls to 19805 computer games, there’s plenty here to send you off on a trip down memory lane.
Museum Of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 247 4219. Mon—Sat 10am—5pm; Sun noon-5pm; Tue loam—8pm. £3 (£1.50); children under 18 free. Devoted solely to the history and heritage of Scotland, the building contains ﬁve thematically-arranged exhibitions, moving from pre-history, through the Industrial Revolution, to the present day.
Newhaven Heritage Museum Newhaven Harbour, Edinburgh, 551 4165. Mon—Sun noon—5pm. Free. Memorabilia and reconstructed scenes tell the story of Newhaven and its sea-going heritage, from its origins as a naval dockyard to its continued use as a ﬁshing port.
Palace 0f llo use
Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 556 1096. Daily 9.30am—4.30pm. £5.50 (£2.70-£4); family ticket £13.50. Starting life as a 13th century abbey, the palace has evolved into a sumptuous regal residence crammed full of paintings and artefacts dating back primarily to the 17th century. The tower apartments housed a sad and lonely Mary Queen of Scots fora time, but with a spectacular view of Arthur’s Seat, and
2 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 247 4219. Mon-Sat 10am—5pm; Sun noon-5pm;1\ie 10am-8pm. £3 (£1.50); children under 18 free. A 19th century museum housing international collections of natural history, geology, science, technology and the decorative arts, plus two permanent exhibitions: Art & Industry and The Ivy Wu Gallery.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh, 555 5566. Daily 10.30am—6pm. £7.50 (£3.75-£5.75); family ticket £20. The former royal yacht has opened its doors to members of the public after a £25 million reﬁt. The on- shore visitor centre contains historical information on the boat and its furnishings while, on the yacht itself, members of the public can have a good nosy round the Royals’ former quarters.
St Giles' Cathedral
Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 225 9442. Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 1-5pm. Founded in the 1100s, this church has witnessed executions, riots and celebrations. With spectacular stained glass windows, ornate stonework and guided tours it’s a good starting point for exploring the Royal Mile, or if you’re feeling in need of spiritual rejuvenation, go along to one of their regular services or music events.
The People's Story
Canongate Tolbooth, 163 Canongate, Edinburgh, 529 4057. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Free. Situated in the Canongate Tolbooth, the sights, sounds and even smells of Edinburgh folk from the 18th century onwards are faithfully reproduced.
Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh, 529 4901. Mon-Sat lOam—Spm. Free. A treasure-house of items relating to three of Scotland’s most famous writers: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
OUTSIDE THE CITIES
Woodwise ‘I’oys & Exhibition Sale Thu 9—Sat 11 Nov, 10am—4.30pm. Free. Abbot House, Maygate, Dunfennline, 01383 733266. Exhibition and sale of dolls houses and wooden toys.
Hot Marques Sun 12 Nov, Knockhill Racing Circuit, Knockhill, Dunfennline, 01383 723337. Thrilling fuel-injected competition.
let's Relax Sun 12 Nov, 2—4pm. Free. Calderglen Country Park, Strathaven Road, East Kilbride, 01355 236644. Leave your worries behind and treat yourself to an Indian head massage or reflexology. Meet at the conservatory next to the cactus beds.