The lockdown revealed how important quiet reflecting, reading and writing spaces are. The lockdown also deprived many of their usual writing and thinking spots – in cafes, galleries and libraries.
However, it didn't prevent writing outdoors. You can sit and jot quick notes in any place, in almost any weather. But sitting down and doing an extended period of writing requires a fairly comfortable seat and a table of some sorts. It's a great joy when I discover such places. Especially those which are accessible at any time in the day. Tables outside cafes are popular spots for putting pen to paper but aren't available all day.
After the deluges of May, we've had sufficient dry, warm and still days – days on which writing outdoors has been a pleasure rather than something to endure. The open-air can be invigorating and give you energy and fresh ideas. During this time, I've found a few such outdoor writing spots around Edinburgh. I'm keen to find more.
My current list includes:
Two picnic tables at the rear of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One). A sheltered and secluded spot, ideal for a bit of reflective prose. Your main competition for these seats will be visitor assistants from the gallery, keen to have a quiet break in the open air. There is plenty to draw inspiration from here. Not only from what you can see inside the gallery but also from Charles Jencks' Landform
Concrete tables next to Edinburgh University's Main Library in George Square. The library building prodes some shelter, so it's possible to write here on a drizzly day. This area can get busy at times, though this 'buzz' might provide some scribblers with a spark of energy. A good spot to compose after a wander through the Meadows.
Three picnic tables at Dynamic Earth. An inspiring spot with views up to Salisbury Crags. The Scottish Parliament a stone's throw away might inspire some towards a pungent polemic. The only downside is the constant stream of tourist buses which terminate here.
Picnic tables in Spylaw Park in Colinton. Truly one of the loveliest spots to sit and write, albeit it on the edge of the city. With the Water of Leith trickling past, writers should be able to quickly get into their flow here. Modest shelter is provided by the attractive trees which fringe the park.
Picnic tables in Exchange Crescent – behind the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Not exactly a picturesque spot. Indeed, it had a post-apocalyptic feel mid-lockdown, with all the offices and gyms shut and litter blowing through. Now a bit busier, especially with the conference centre being used as a vaccination centre, but still quieter than most places in the city centre.
A couple of round picnic tables in a small park at the Ferry Road end of Wester Drylaw Drive. This is just off the Blackhall Path section of the North Edinburgh Path Network. A handy spot to stop off for some jotting or sketching as you make your way along these wonderful paths.
So, where else can you comfortably sit and write outdoors in Edinburgh or indeed around Scotland? As we near autumn and cooler weather, are there any good sheltered outdoor spots?
Charlie Ellis is a researcher and EFL teacher, based in Edinburgh