Tonight, I went on a literary pub tour with some people from my hall. The tour guide, Allan Foster, is a writer of literary travel guides for places in the UK, primarily Scotland. At the start of the tour, it was a little unclear just how much of the tour was going to be literary and how much was going to be “pub”. We started out at the Royal Oak Pub, a small place with good, lively folk music, where Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin apparently comes sometimes and where his novel character is also known to appear in his books.
More folk style music with less of that recognizable crazy fiddling, but it was really cool. The pub was super crowded though, especially with our whole group in there. We took up most of the room just by ourselves!
This old sign amused me. “We have halucinatory drugs from all tropical regions!” And then there’s a no smoking sign right next to it…
Our next stop was part of campus. Our guide took us to some of the old medical buildings where he showed us the place that they performed the autopsies on dead bodies. Charming, right? Well, that’s where the two men who inspired Robert Louis Stevensen’s Bodysnatchers took their victims.
Another building we walked past was where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went to school and where he met Joseph Bell, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes!
Later on, we passed by a townhouse where Conan Doyle actually lived while he was in school. It’s in the same row of townhouses as the School of Scottish Studies where all my classes are!
Our guide pointed out that the stones of the sidewalk on which we walked were put down in the 1770’s… Yeah, the sidewalk is older than our country. It was an odd feeling.
We passed by The Hispaniola, which is apparently a refurbished old pub where Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, and others have frequented (as is plainly advertised in the window – sorry for the glare!). We didn’t go into this one, but it looked decently cool from the outside.
We also passed by what is apparently a very important little cafe. JK Rowling is said to have really (no, really!) started her first book there. I found that sort of funny because there’s a much more public and well marked cafe in a different location that has a big advertisement in the window claiming that it is the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” all because she apparently went there sometimes.
But this it the real deal, which I am including for those of my friends who care.
All she got, though, was this tiny plaque on the wall that you don’t notice unless someone points it out. But this plaque got her approval, whereas the gigantical words in The Elephant House’s window did not. So there you go.
Spoon Cafe/Bistro is the name of the place, in case you were wondering. We didn’t go in though.
All you could see of the cafe was a lamp in the window, which wasn’t very exciting, so I don’t know how good of a place it actually is. I probably never shall…
The next pub we actually went into was Captain’s, which I really liked. The live music was extremely good and the decorations were absolutely charming. I mean, just take a look at that light fixture! Where do you get one of those?
It had a nicer atmosphere, I thought, than the first one, a little less crowded feeling, and they serve things like sandwiches, coffee, and tea as well as alcohol, so that was nice to know.
We went on to see a few other sites, including the hospital where Robert Louis Stevenson became acquainted with the man who inspired Long John Silver and where J.M. Barrie met the little girl who would inspire Wendy in Peter Pan. Very cool tour, overall with lots of live music and neat places and stories!