Inaugural Edinburgh Enlightenment & The Age of Reason Tour

Today in Edinburgh, a new walking tour about the the enlightenment and the age of reason walking was organisedby Mercat Tours

Having helped create the tour, a group from the Humanist Society Scotland were invited to attend the first Enlightenment and the Age of Reason walking tour.

Clare Marsh, HSS Education Officer, recounts the day below.


On a breezy, overcast but dry day, Margaret, one of the guides from Mercat Tours led the inaugural outing.

At the foot of the Mercat (or market) cross she painted a vivid picture of the bustling scene as it would have been 300 years ago. The merchants from all over Europe would, she insisted, have recognised the area as it is today, since most of the buildings and layout of the roads remain unchanged.

At the door of St Giles’ Kirk we heard of the man who did more to lay the foundations for the great ‘Enlightenment’ than possibly any other. John Knox was instrumental in ensuring that every boy in Scotland learned to read and write in order to appreciate the bible. This however opened up a Pandora’s box and ,fuelled by the invention of the printing press, the writings of the great thinkers of the age were, all of a sudden, universally available.


From there a short step took us up the hill to David Hume’s statue then down again to his soul mate Adam Smith.

With philosophy and economics well covered we turned to literature and found the birth place of Sir Walter Scott and the lodgings of Robert Burns.

In the Old Town Square we heard of the prominence of Edinburgh University among the renowned centres of learning in Europe and why medical students flocked to this protestant country where the dissection of cadavers was allowed.

Back down to Princes Street and a visit to the Calton Hill cemetery where we found memorials to all the Scots who died in the American War of Independence and the Edinburgh martyrs and of course the tomb of David Hume.

Continuing to the summit of the hill we had a great view of Salisbury Crags while listening to the discoveries made by James Hutton, the father of Geology.

This was a most enjoyable experience which we can thoroughly recommend. The Glasgow Group have already put it in the diary for their summer outing in August.


The Enlightenment & The Age of Reason Tour is already available for private parties and is being run by Mercat Tours over the next few months. The tour is not yet available on their website and it is best to phone or visit their shop for details of the next event.

Contact Mercat Tours at for more information.



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