Take A Trip, Come Away With Us—to Scotland!

glasgow, scotland kirkcaldy, scotland edinburgh, scotland

Sabine El-Chidiac for AdamSmithWorks

Adam Smith's Scotland: A post to plan a trip, remember a trip, or just enjoy the idea of one.
Fans of Adam Smith have long made the trip to the town of Kirkcaldy in Scotland to experience his birthplace and hometown, and to check out Adam Smith House, the location where he once lived with his mother and where he wrote the An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Wealth of Nations). However, there are so many other spots in Scotland to visit for the avid Smith fan. I had the opportunity to visit Scotland several years ago for the wedding of one of my best friends, and took the time to tour as many Adam Smith–related locations as I possibly could while I was there. 

If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, or want to take a virtual tour of some places related to Smith from the comfort of your home, follow me as I guide you through the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh as we explore statues, cemeteries, and the old stomping grounds of Adam Smith, David Hume, and many of his contemporaries from the Scottish Enlightenment

We begin our Smith tour of Scotland at the University of Glasgow: I took an incredible tour via bus all around Glasgow with stops at the university and many other lovely places. At the time that we visited, they had just moved the statue of Adam Smith from where it usually stands, so we went on a campus-wide search for the statue, and we were not going to leave until we found it.
We ended up finally finding the statue at Bute Hall, which is the building where the university holds its convocations. The statue is at the bottom of the grand staircase, and an investigation of Facebook photos from the University of Glasgow’s recent graduation ceremonies show that the statue is still at that location. The statue is incredible, but beware that it might be cordoned off and you won’t be able to get too close. However, it’s beautifully done and to be at the university that Adam Smith taught at was is a wonderful experience itself. 

There are also many campus buildings named after Adam Smith at the University of Glasgow, namely the Department of Economics, so I do recommend taking a look around the rest of campus, as it is quite nice to see his name on everything. The university’s gift shop has a wide array of Adam Smith memorabilia for sale. They might still be restocking years later after I cleared out the Adam Smith section. They have everything from Adam Smith mugs, to busts, to Christmas ornaments, so it’s worth checking out. Unfortunately, the gift store worker did not know much about Adam Smith, and was quite keen to understand why I was so interested in him as someone visiting from Canada. I took that opportunity to chat with her about why I loved Smith so much and about the impact he and the Scottish Enlightenment had on me and my development in academia and in my work. I left with several bags of Smith memorabilia and a new friend. 

While in Glasgow, my friend and I visited Prezzo’s, a British chain serving delicious Italian food, located in Merchant City. Glasgow’s Merchant City is one of Glasgow’s oldest quarters where in the 1750s you would find the warehouses of wealthy merchants who shipped tobacco, sugar and tea, and later Glasgow’s fruit, vegetable, and cheese market in the 19th century. Although it is now home to trendy bars and restaurants, dining in a quarter with this kind of history might help you connect with the world of Smith and his ideas on trade. 

Smith may have taught in Glasgow, but Edinburgh is also a city that commemorates him well. On a trip to Edinburgh, we spent a lot of time on The Royal Mile, or the stretch of street that leads to the British Monarchy’s Scottish residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Palace itself is quite the sight, and I would recommend taking a tour if it is available during your visit. 

Located at around 192 The Royal Mile, you will find a famous and impressive statue of Adam Smith. Be sure to take a look at the plaque that sits underneath it, as you might recognize some of the names and organizations that helped make this statue a possibility (such as Milton and Rose Friedman, and Liberty Fund, to name just a few).  Selfies look great when taken right under the statue with Smith looking on approvingly from above!

A little bit farther down the Royal Mile you will also find the Canongate Kirkyard, a cemetery that is located on the side of the Canongate Kirk Presbyterian church where Adam Smith is buried. Smith’s plot is small and unassuming (as he likely would have liked it), along with a larger tombstone dedicated to him. It’s also worth taking a look around the church itself, as it is quite nice inside. 

Farther along the Royal Mile you will also find a fantastic statue of David Hume, fellow Scottish Enlightenment thinker and Smith’s best friend, which was unveiled in 1995. It sits right outside the Edinburgh High Court, a fact that his enlightenment enemies would probably hate.

While in Scotland, I also encourage you to visit some sights that Adam Smith might have liked. The Central Library and 7-9 George IV bridge in Edinburgh is a delightful place that I imagine Smith might have visited to read and write. There is also a breathtaking monument to Sir Walter Scott at East Princes St. Gardens, an author I would venture to guess Smith might have very much enjoyed. Some believe Scott was influenced by Scottish enlightenment thinkers to include ideas of sympathy and progressivism in his writing, while remaining somewhat skeptical of modernity. 

One sight that Smith might have snickered at is the Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington located at the Royal Exchange Square in Edinburgh. Legend has it that some drunken revelers climbed the statue and placed a traffic cone on his head, and ever since then each time a city official climbs up to remove it, it is replaced almost immediately the same evening by other drunken revelers. The Duke is rarely ever seen without a traffic cone perched upon his head. As you can see:

Of course, Kirkcaldy should be a stop for all Smith fans, and one suggestion from a local is to grab a meal in South Queensferry with a view over to Fife, one restaurant they would recommend for such a view is Scotts at Port Edgar Marina. It’s important to remember, however, that all over Scotland the keen Smith-loving traveller has countless opportunities to walk in the footsteps of the giants of the Scottish Enlightenment, and encounter the sights and people of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh through their eyes.

Want More?
Paul Mueller's A Short History of Scotland Before the Scottish Enlightenment
Craig Smith's A Hotbed of Genius: An Introduction to the Scottish Enlightenment
Great Antidote Podcast: Henry C. Clark on 1776 and the French and Scottish Enlightenments - Deep Dive
Elias Bejjani

Great piece