Illuminated trail on Royal Mile to showcase famous quotations

The light boxes have been installed in many Canongate windows filled with illuminated quotes. Picture: Greg Macvean
The light boxes have been installed in many Canongate windows filled with illuminated quotes. Picture: Greg Macvean
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An illuminated trail of 20 quotations will be switched on along part of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile this evening to celebrate the city’s outstanding print and publishing heritage.

Lightboxes will project quotations on to a range of windows including John Knox’s House, the White Horse pub – the oldest pub in the Royal Mile – and Clarinda’s Tearoom, named after the secret name used by Agnes Maclehose, one of Robert Burns paramours in their love letters.

Our literary heritage is now lit up in the window … sharing Clarinda’s secret love story and her role in Edinburgh’s literary history

Maggie Hetherington

The Canongate Stars and Stories project, led by the City of Literature Trust, covers 500 years and includes writers and poets such as Samuel Johnson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, finishing with present-day writers Jackie Kay and Yann Martel.

Each quote is surrounded by stars representing the motto of the Canongate – “thus you shall go to the stars”.

John Knox’s House features Robert Louis Stevenson words “The man who made Scotland over again”, while the humorous “Whaur’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?” yelled out by an enthusiastic 18th century theatre-goer lights up the window of Mama Said, speciality foodstore.

Maggie Hetherington, owner of Clarinda’s Tearoom, whose shop window has the Burns’ title Ae fond kiss, the love song Burns sent to “Clarinda”, said: “Our literary heritage is now lit up in the window for visitors and passers-by to see, sharing Clarinda’s secret love story and how she played a role in Edinburgh’s literary history.

“As a small business on the Royal Mile, Canongate Stars and Stories brings together so much for us,” she said.

Ali Bowden, director, 
Edinburgh Unesco City of 
Literature Trust, said the Canongate’s motto, a quote from Virgil’s Aeneid, “encapsulates the beauty in our literary city with such a rich 
publishing history, this trail is a glimpse at the books and writers our City of Literature has inspired for over 500 years.”

Jenny Niven, head of literature, languages and publishing at Creative Scotland, said: “Everyone who sees the messages may not know where the words came from, but the light carries the message and a spark is passed on, whether we know it or not.”

In 2004 the city was designated the world’s first Unesco City of Literature and is now home to over 50 publishing houses.

The Canongate Stars and Stories digital trail, funded by Edinburgh City Council, runs until March 2017, and is available in the Edinburgh World Heritage iPhone app. The City of Literature website describes each location and quotation.