10 Edinburgh… Museums & Galleries

Edinburgh’s bookish brilliance isn’t confined to its libraries, shops and storytelling venues. Get inspired at its excellent galleries and museums too.

The National Museum of Scotland image

The National Museum of Scotland

As well as hosting some of Scotland’s greatest treasures the NMS has a huge museum library open to the public with a special collection of pre-1800 printed. It’s also home to the creepy Arthur’s Seat coffins which appear in the Rebus novel The Fall.

Surgeon's Hall Museum image

Surgeon's Hall Museum

Some exhibits here are not for the squeamish, but fans of Sherlock Holmes will love artefacts relating to Joseph Bell. Arthur Conan Doyle worked as Bell’s clerk whilst a medical student, witnessing his use of close observation to make a diagnosis. He would later write to Bell, “It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes”.*closed for refurbishment, reopens summer 2015*

The Writers' Museum image

The Writers' Museum

The city has been home to so many leading literary figures over the years you won’t be surprised to hear it has its own Writers’ Museum. Well worth a visit to see the building itself, but also to enjoy visiting exhibitions or to explore some of the Scottish greats represented in its permanent collections, including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.

The Scottish National Gallery image

The Scottish National Gallery

Home to many masterpieces but fans of Scott might particularly admire Raeburn’s Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry, surely the model for the doomed chieftain Fergus McIvor in Waverley. And Callum, a Dandie Dinmont (the breed is named after a character of Scott’s) whose owner left a bequest to the gallery on condition Callum’s portrait was always displayed.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery image

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Get up close and personal with some of Scotland’s leading literary lights through the ages. Dame Muriel Spark is there, with Jackie Kay, Sir Walter Scott, Burns, Margaret Oliphant and Ian Rankin to name just a few. You can even have a cuppa with Robert Louis Stevenson in the café.

The Fruitmarket Gallery image

The Fruitmarket Gallery

The funky Fruitmarket Gallery gallery started life as a fruit and vegetable market in 1938 and was transformed into a visual arts space in 1974. Its ‘Bookmarket’ events are not to be missed with artists, designers, publishers and makers from the Gallery’s extended creative community presenting their wares. And its bookshop is terribly tempting.

The City Art Centre image

The City Art Centre

A huge nine story building boasting floors of excellent exhibitions and intriguing collections, The City Art Centre used to be part of The Scotsman newspaper buildings. Since its conversion in 1980 it has hosted everything from Science Festival events to a Star Wars exhibition.

The Royal Scottish Academy image

The Royal Scottish Academy

Dedicated to supporting the creation of visual arts and making sure everyone has the opportunity to see them, the Royal Scottish Academy also has a cracking research library.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art image

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Split between two buildings and an extensive outdoor space, the Modern Art Gallery is home to works by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud to name just three. To one side is Dean Cemetery, last resting place of Joseph Bell (the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes) and Francis Jeffrey (founder of the influential ‘Edinburgh Review’), amongst others.

The Anatomical Museum image

The Anatomical Museum

The Anatomical Museum is not only full of medical marvels, but also where you can see items connected to the murderers – not ‘grave-robbers’ – Burke and Hare. They supplied the respectable Dr Knox with cadavers for his anatomy lectures, perhaps inspiring a certain Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?