robert louis stevenson

National Story Telling Week with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

To mark National Storytelling Week we send greetings from the childhood home of Robert Louis Stevenson, creator of among many others Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, who was known in Samoa, where he spent his final years, as “Tusitala”, the Teller of Tales.

Writing had been RLS’s lifelong ambition. He honed his talents for years before producing his best known works, and he moved among a wide circle of other writers too, such as Henry James (The Turn of the Screw), J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). Writing was also in his blood, as Graham Greene (The Third Man) and Dorothy E. Stevenson (who sold more books in her lifetime that RLS ever did) were both his cousins.

When our young family moved into our new home here all of twenty-eight ago, I never imagined how it would transform my life.  The house has always been of interest to the Stevenson community, so much so that previous owners had affixed a label to the doorbell telling the curious “Private House not a Museum”, as even in the 1950’s there were fans ringing the doorbell thinking they could view the house.

Having trained as a hotel manager in Switzerland, it was a small step for me to discover that the house could be run as a business: first as a private dining venue and film location and then renting out rooms to visitors as well as staging fashion sales and product launches.

It has always been difficult to strike the right balance between the needs of the modern traveller and preserving the fabric of the house, especially as it is a listed property.  We now pride ourselves in give our visitors a home from home and allowing them to feel what living in a historic home is really like - including the lack of room keys and air conditioning.

With only two guest bedrooms, we can concentrate on meeting our guests’ expectations and giving them our full attention.  Our allotment garden nearby provides a lot of the fresh fruit and veg that we serve and I was cooking “slow food” before the term was fashionable.

 

Unsurprisingly for a literary home it is filled with books and we are lucky enough to have it furnished with beautiful antiques showcasing our family’s diverse backgrounds as well as a growing art collection.  Already in the first round of renovations we installed bookshelves in all the toilets and actually in any available space.  There has been a steady flow of writers and journalists coming to soak up the Stevenson atmosphere and the exchange with them has been so enriching.  We even once had a travelling theatre company performing Treasure Island in our dining room with puppets and a converted double bass.

John and I are qualified tour guides not only for Edinburgh but the whole of Scotland and so we are very happy to help guests plan their trips through Scotland and to take them around Edinburgh according to their special interests.

As you can imagine the last year has been a particular challenge to everybody in the hospitality business.  We have used this time to learn more about Edinburgh and the photos taken during our lockdown walks have given us the material for our Instagram presence.

We look forward to welcoming guests again and to helping visitors discover Edinburgh and fall in love with this Gem of the North.

Written by our guest blogger, Felicitas Macfie, to mark story telling week.