Burns first arrived in Edinburgh on 28th November 1786, and, although he lived there for just over a year, he left a memorable mark on the city. To explore Burns legacy in Edinburgh we have compiled a map BELOW detailing the numerous landmarks and locations connected with the Bard. To find out more click on EACH OF the Burns Unbroke logos.
Alternatively, if you would like to visit these locations, Burns Unbroke have commissioned a very special map of Auld Reekie by Robert Powell. This fascinating map is currently on display at Summerhall but fold-out copies of the map can be purchased in the Summerhall shop or at any of the following locations:
And should you feel the need for a wee refreshment along the way we’ve shown you where to find some Isle of Arran whisky below.
A Drama Through Time
A Drama in Time (title taken from the words of Patrick Geddes) presents a narrative in neon, illuminating a possible journey of a life that might have been, had Burns travelled to Jamaica - and questions what lies beyond. From the shadows below the rail bridge - where New Street meets Calton Road - the steps of Jacob’s Ladder lead up into the Enlightenment monuments of Robert Burns and Calton Hill with panoramic views of Edinburgh. From this vantage point the port of Leith can be seen and it was from here, in 1786, Burns had booked a passage on The Roselle, sailing to Kingston and Savanah La Mar, Jamaica. His intention was to take up a post ostensibly as a book keeper, but he would very likely have found himself involved in ignominious work on a sugar plantation as an overseer of slaves – had he boarded the ship. Six years later, Burns would write the poem The Slave’s Lament. A Drama in time was Commissioned by the Edinburgh Art Festival 2016. With additional support from Edinburgh World Heritage; City of Edinburgh Council; Network Rail
Agnes Mclehose's House
The site, in what was once General’s Entry, Potterow, is marked with a plaque. Mclehose famous correspondence with Burns was carried on under the names of Clarinda and Sylvander. She herself was a poet, and upon meeting Burns, wrote him a letter almost immediately. Their writings to each other are packed full of mutual compliments and often transcend into the amorous. However, this didn’t stop Burns seducing McLehose’s maid who delivered her mistress’s letters. Subsequently the maid, Jenny Clow, gave birth to Robert Burns Clow. Hotel du Vin, ARRAN WHISKY LOGO Close to Potterrow is Hotel du Vin, where there is a dedicated Whisky Snug Edinburgh’s Hotel Du Vin is housed in what in the 18th century was known as “Bedlam” – the city’s “lunatic asylum” where conditions were notoriously horrific. While those with psychiatric illness from well-to-do backgrounds relied on family assistance for help, the poor were locked up in Bedlam. Patients were treated as inmates and locked in cold cells with straw for bedding. At one point Bedlam housed Robert Fergusson, considered to be one of Scotland’s greatest ever poets, who is believed to have suffered from depression. He died tragically aged 24 after only a few weeks inside the hospital. Fergusson’s poetry was a great source of inspiration to Burns. ( for further information, see 20)
Alexander Nasmyth's House
49 York Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
This was the home of the artist Nasmyth, whose portraits of The Bard adorn every modern collection of Burns’s poetry and a good many shortbread tins too. Fond of a good ‘social’, Nasmyth and Burns became tight buddies. There are some fascinating sketches by the artist of the poet when, after the pub, they went on a moonlit jaunt to Roslin
Anchor Close, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Site of the office of William Smellie, the printer and encyclopaedist. It was here that the poems of Burns were printed and where the poet sat upon the “Burns Stool” in order to correct the proofs. Down the stairs was Daniel Douglas’s tavern, where the Smellie-founded club, The Chrochallen Fencibles assembled. Robert Burns was indoctrinated as a member and participated in their rowdy, lewd and drunken meetings – the equally rowdy and lewd poems of the Merry Muses of Caledonia were presented at Anchor Close with the Fencibles as their first audience.
Look down towards Leith, where on Bernard Street the statue of Burns by David Watson Stevenson was unveiled on the 15th October 1898 and where, on Leith Walk, Thomas Carlyle experienced his everlasting yea, his eternal nay. Carlyle would write about Burns as a hero of letters in On Heroes and Hero-Worship.
153 Canongate, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Here is fascinating collection of graves. The statue that greets you at the entranceway is of the poet Robert Fergusson, whose mortal remains lie within. Burns was greatly influenced by the vernacular poems penned by this knight of the Cape Club, carouser and author of Auld Reekie. It was a pity that they never met - Fergusson was nine years older than Burns, but he died when he was only 24. The grave can be found on the east side of the Kirkyard. On the west side, is the grave of Agnes Mclehose, aka Clarinda. Not on the map, but only a scone’s throw from her grave you will find Clarinda’s Tea Room on the High Street – where you can find a welcome cup of tea and home baking before continuing on your tour.
Parliament Square, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Around St Giles’ Cathedral were the Luckenbooths: a ramshackle assemblage of street level shops with wooden hatches that could be folded down at night. In one of these structures, Allan Ramsay set up his lending library which later William Creech made into his bookshop. The whole building was subsequently known as Creech’s Land and it was here that Burns’s poems were sold. Unfortunately Creech’s Land was demolished in 1817. St Giles was also the setting, in 1637, of Jenny Geddes’ stool-throwing; her missile was directed at a hapless minister too absorbed in his attempt to corrupt the holy Scottish church with the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Burns, a century and a half later, would name his horse Jenny Geddes in her honour.
Doctor Blacklock's House
32 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Like Homer and Ossian, the poet, Doctor Blacklock, was blind, and perhaps, this stricken sense gave Blacklock the gift of prognostication for it was his letter praising the Kilmarnock Edition that persuaded Burns to abandon his plans of becoming a slave overseer in the West Indies. Instead, Burns was inspired to go to Edinburgh, and the two men became friends. David Hume described Doctor Blacklock as “a very elegant genius” and until recently, there was a pub on this spot commemorating The Blind Poet.
Dugald Stewart Monument
Dugald Stewart Monument, Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH1 3BJ, United Kingdom
Dugald Stewart held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and was one of the first Edinburgh intellectuals to meet with Burns. He did so at Catrine, near Mauchline (about 14 miles from Ayr). Their association was continued when the poet visited Edinburgh. This monument, by the architect Playfair, was built in 1831, and like the nearby Robert Burns monument by Hamilton, it was based on the monument of the choregos Lysicrates in Athens.
25 George Square, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
At number 25 there is a plaque commemorating the abode of the young Sir Walter Scott, where he lived when he met Burns at Sciennes Hill House. In the introduction to Waverley, he describes clashes between the youth gangs of George Square and those of nearby Potterow. Also on the square lived Jane, Duchess of Gordon. It was this “Empress of Fashion” who invited Burns to her drawing room to make his first public reading to Edinburgh high society. She then supported him financially, buying all of his early work. Burns, she said, was the only person whose conversation “carried her off her feet”.
9 Ramsay Gardens, Edinburgh
Otherwise known as Ramsay Lodge, it got its pastry-ware moniker from its octagonal shape and its steaming, savoury aroma. Nowadays it is incorporated into Patrick Geddes’ Ramsay Gardens, but it was once the home of Allan Ramsay, the famous wigmaker, who preceded Burns as a Scots vernacular poet.
Grave of Jean Lorimer
East Preston Street Cemetery, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Jean Lorimer, otherwise known as Chloris, or the lass with the lintwhite locks, was a beauty who inspired twenty four songs from Burns. The poet described her as “one of the finest women in Scotland”. Initially, Burns serenaded Chloris on behalf of a friend, with such poems as ‘Sweet closes the ev’ning on Craigieburn Wood,’ ‘Come and let me take thee to my breast’ and ‘Poortith Cauld’ but eventually the poet himself began to admire her. The grave is to the left of the entrance, in the main burial ground – enter, go through, turn left, and the grave is facing North.
The Meadows, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
A bit of Burns pre-history. William Burnes, the father of the poet, came to Edinburgh in 1745 following an economic slump that was a consequence of the Jacobite wars. He spent two years working as a gardener for Sir Thomas Hope, 8th Baronet Hope of Craighall, in the land that subsequently was called Hope Park and is now known as The Meadows. In the Laboratory Gallery, overlooking the Meadows, Derrick Guild has referenced this historical link in his installation, with his work, O’er ma faither’s gairden’.
25 Northumberland Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
John Gibson Lockhart was nicknamed The Scorpion on account of his vicious stinging wit, which was in full venomous display in his reviews for Blackwood’s Magazine. Responsible for a celebrated biography of his father-in-law, Walter Scott, Lockhart was also responsible for a far less celebrated biography of Robert Burns.
6 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Henry Mackenzie was author of The Man of Feeling, one of Burns’s favourite books. Mackenzie admired the writing of Burns too and they became friends in Edinburgh. Other books that Burns enjoyed: James Macpherson’s Ossian, and Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
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