HE is one of Scotland’s best-known authors, whose books have sold more than 20 million copies around the world.
Alexander McCall Smith has already created a cast of characters for his 44 Scotland Street stories, about the comings and goings in a bohemian corner of Edinburgh’s New Town.
Now he is turning his talents to develop his own trail around some of the capital’s leading cultural and heritage attractions.
The best-selling author is masterminding a night-time “Culture Crawl” which will allow hundreds of art-lovers to secure after-hours access to a host of his favourite buildings.
His tour, designed to let people appreciate each site “in a unique way”, will take in the likes of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Fettes College and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in the New Town.
McCall Smith has created his own story for the occasion and will hopefully be introducing the event, which will cover a ten-mile route, when it gets under way around 6pm on 25 September.
Edinburgh is one of the world’s great citiesAlexander McCall Smith
The Royal Mile, including the law courts at Parliament House, and Festival Square, which looks on to the city’s official culture quarter on Lothian Road, will also be part of the tour, which the writer pledges will visit some of the city’s “best kept secrets”.
The event, which is expected to finish around midnight, will also take in the Dovecot Studios and Summerhall arts centres, which were created in a former swimming pool and the city’s old vet school buildings respectively.
Maggie’s fundraisers hope to attract more than 400 walkers for the event, which could become an annual fixture if it proves popular, and has been dubbed a cross between “a night-walk and a cultural adventure”.
Tens of thousands of pounds are expected to be raised for cancer charity Maggie’s, which was founded in the capital nearly two decades ago by a garden designer Maggie Keswick Jencks.
Along with her husband, the landscape architect Charles Jencks, who designed the grounds of the modern art gallery, she produced a new blueprint for care centres as she fought her own battle with advanced cancer.
The Culture Crawl bears some similarities with the popular Moonwalk events which have been staged in Edinburgh over the past decade and have seen thousands of women, sporting decorated bras, walking a 26-mile route through the city after midnight to raise money for breast cancer research.
Special “cultural, architectural and artistic surprises”, expected to be announced over the next few weeks, are promised in each venue as part of the project, which will cost £25 to take part in, along with a £150 fundraising commitment.
McCall Smith said: “Edinburgh is one of the world’s great cities, much loved by visitors and residents alike.
“The Culture Crawl provides an enjoyable and unusual way of seeing some of the city’s well-known landmarks, as well as providing access to some of its best kept secrets. It is particularly pleasing this will also help raise funds for Maggie’s Edinburgh, which continues to provide much-needed support for those affected by cancer.”
Maggie’s will be staging similar events in London, Oxford, Nottingham, Newcastle, Swansea, Cambridge and Liverpool in September.
Andrew Anderson, head of the Maggie’s Edinburgh centre at the Western General Hospital, where the Culture Crawl will end, said: “Maggie’s Edinburgh relies on donations to continue to develop our unique, high quality programme of support.
“I really hope the local community gets behind the event to help us support as many people affected by cancer as possible, as well as their family and friends.”