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EDINBURGH more than meets the eye?

A new look at the city through the photographs of Allan Wright and the poetry of Gerda Stevenson

HOW DO YOU see Edinburgh? What are your thoughts about our capital city? I’ve lived and worked in Edinburgh at different stages of my life and my memories and feelings towards the city are shaped by those experiences. My grown-up children live there now, as do many of my family. And they all see the city in different ways. Love it, and worry about it, for different reasons. Experiencing it on a daily basis, they see beyond the picture postcard images that adorn the tourist brochures. Images which give a one-sided view of what is a complex city. After all, Edinburgh was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s nightmarish tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: that chilling fable where a cultivated exterior belies the dark side lurking within. For underneath all its history and culture Edinburgh is not simply a tourist trap; there’s a real city there, with real people and all that that entails. And here’s where this book is important.

Edinburgh has always enthralled. It’s awash with character, in places it’s visually stunning. The unforgettable Royal Mile with its magnificent castle, tolbooth, tenements, wynds and closes, all the way down to its turreted palace. It’s a filmmaker’s dream, and it’s been a treasure trove for writers from Hogg to Rankin. Mind you, with its true-life villains, its Deacon Brodies, its Burke and Hares, who needs fiction!

I met a young woman from Ashford in Kent who brought a torch with her to Edinburgh in case there weren’t any street lights!

Gerda Stevenson and Allan Wright, image credit Anna Wiraszka

I’ve just finished re-reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels Kidnapped and Catriona. Set in the year 1751, our young hero, Davie Balfour, has finally reached the ‘tall, black city’ of Edinburgh. He and his companion-in-adventure, Alan Breck Stewart, have been shipwrecked and forced to flee for their lives across the wilds of Scotland, the relentless redcoats in hot pursuit. Yet despite surviving all these dangers, the size of the city comes as a shock to the young man, “The huge height of the buildings, running up to ten and fifteen stories, the narrow arched entries that continually vomited passengers, the wares of the merchants in their windows, the hubbub and endless stir, the foul smells and fine clothes, and a hundred other particulars, struck me into a kind of stupor of surprise, so that I let the crowd carry me to and fro.”

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The one with the 'Sneering Brittannia' on the front cover. Enjoy this cornucopia of Celtic content and read about the real Scotland from a Scottish lens.