National Library of Scotland

Scotland’s largest library is free to use. Don’t miss its exhibition of one of the world’s most important literary archives.

The National Library of Scotland is the country’s information hub for the study of its history and culture. It houses millions of items including priceless manuscripts, books, maps and archive film footage.

Among the collections are the earliest books printed in Scotland, more than 32,000 films covering over 100 years of Scotland’s history, and current information in many research fields. Rarer pieces include one of the only complete copies of the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible of 1455, and the last letter by Mary, Queen of Scots, written just six hours before her execution.

Anyone can peruse the library’s collections and use the reading rooms. To do so you need a library card. This can be obtained on the day of your visit. Just go to Readers’ Registration with proof of your identity and address. You can also register online beforehand to speed up the process when you arrive.

The Visitor Centre is a good place to start your visit. You can browse the online collections, find out how to use the building, and unwind in the café. Then, visit the Discovery Area that contains a selection of the library’s holdings.

While you are in the building, inspect the free permanent and temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. Stop by the John Murray Archive, a permanent collection spanning more than 200 years of this renowned publisher’s history. The collected works include manuscripts, private letters and business correspondence with some of the world’s greatest thinkers and writers, such as Charles Darwin, Lord Byron and Jane Austen. For details of the temporary exhibitions, visit the library’s website.

The National Library of Scotland is located on George IV Bridge, an elevated street close to the city center that’s served by several bus routes. It’s advisable not to come by car as nearby parking is hard to find.

The library is open every day except Sunday. Check the library website for opening times.

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