Scottish writing has a distinguished position in the pantheon of world literature, through the Scottish poets, novelists, short story writers, philosophers, screenwriters, playwrights, storytellers, historians and biographers.

A history steeped in literature

From heroic epics to poignant tragedy, early Scottish literature was dominated by poetry and in particular, John Barbour (c.1320-1395), Scottish poet and the first major named literary figure to write in Scots.

Perhaps the best known figure in Scottish literature internationally is Robert Burns (1759-1796), our national Bard, whose work is celebrated worldwide with Burns Suppers on 25 January each year. Regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, Burns’ work includes A Red, Red Rose, Tam O’Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss, not to mention Auld Lang Syne which is sung at Hogmanay.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), recognised in Europe as the creator of the modern historical novel, was the first British novelist to become a famous public figure, pioneering a new type of romantic historiography. His novels, ballads, poems and other writings have been translated into almost every major world language and the world’s largest monument to an author sits in Edinburgh, commemorating this Scottish author’s life and work.

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

In October 2004 Edinburgh became the very first UNESCO City of Literature. No surprise as the city has inspired over 500 novels, ranging from R.L. Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. Edinburgh hosts the world's largest International Book Festival every August and offers many literary tours year round.

Acclaimed contemporary Scottish writers

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

City of Literature official website