Plane Talking: Irvine Welsh

The Trainspotting author talks travel, life on the road filming latest novel adaptation Filth and what's it like really hanging out with James McAvoy

Featured September 13 Words by Monisha Rajesh
Plane Talking: Irvine Welsh

The first European city I visited was Amsterdam, on one of those smutty little boys' holidays. I was in my teens and there were about half a dozen of us. After that I went to Oslo on my own.

For me, travel is largely about getting lost in a city. When I got money in my early 20s, I would often jump on a flight. When you're by yourself, you make more of an effort to get on with people.

I once took off on my own to hang out in Barcelona. My mates thought I was an oddball. I checked into some scabby hotel, went to bars, chatted to people, and spent my time writing songs and ballads rather than prose.

Berlin has always been a standout for me. It's a comfortable city to navigate. Recently I visited with James [McAvoy] for a fun weekend jaunt. We're going back again in November.

I don't really care about physical things. One summer, my luggage got lost for three weeks, but it didn't bother me. In fact, when the case came back, it took another three weeks to unpack it.

I used to hitchhike off slip roads when I was younger. Now I need a proper bed and hotel. 

You go through phases as a traveller: as a kid I'd sleep under a tree or pretend to be sunbathing in parks. Then I had a thing for smart boutique hotels. But on tours, it gets alienating being in hotels, so I try and stay with friends.

It's weird being a writer - you have to be able to spend time on your own. A lot of people enjoy the idea of it, but it's not that great for their mental health.

Literature festivals are such a great jamboree for writers. Edinburgh is my favourite, as I can introduce other writer friends to my home city, as they often do for me in theirs.

Writers can be difficult on tour, as they're so used to being in control. It's quite infantilising to be taken from place to place.

Film promotions are fabulous. If you're doing book stuff, you're the only person. At film promos, they all want to talk to the actors, so in some way you're the sloppy seconds, but you feel much more part of a gang than a solo act.

Filth director Jon Baird and I became good pals. He wanted me to be quite involved, which is unusual for a writer.

When James first read the script he looked about 10. I thought, “No way is this kid going to be a 40-year-old divorced cop”, but he just morphed into this sleazy guy before our eyes.

It is emotional when your book becomes a film. Film is such a powerful medium that if you go back to read the book - which I don't often do - the actors colonise your mind, even though you wrote them.

Filth is in cinemas from 27 September


Irvine Welsh's Edinburgh

The writer shares his favourite restaurants, pubs and shops in his home town

01 Los Cardos
“This is the home of the legendary haggis burrito. It really works! They make them using Macsween's haggis and now I can't eat beef burritos in America - they're just too bland.”
281 Leith Walk, EH6;

02 The Basement

“A straightforward little bar that serves more than 18 bottled beers, big cocktails and big fun.”
10-12a Broughton Street, EH1; tel: +44 (0)131 557 0097

03 Prestonfield House

”This hotel and its restaurant seem to be out of the city, but are actually close to the centre. It's an illusion caused by the proximity to Queen's Park. The menu includes hand-dived scallops and braised haunch and roast loin of Glenalmond Estate roe deer, all served in a five-star setting.”
Priestfield Road, EH16;

04 Fishers

“I adore seafood, and these joints do Loch Tarbert queenie scallops with smoked salmon, Aberdeen haddock mornay and devilled Fraserburgh mackerel. I'd say the best one is in Leith (1 Shore, EH6; tel: +44 (0)131 554 5666), but they also have a spot in the city centre at 58 Thistle Street.”

05 Windsor Buffet
“Along with Robbie's pub, this is the haunt of the Leith Walk intelligentsia. It's a beautiful, old wood-panelled and mirrored bar serving decent lager and a few ales.”
45 Elm Row, EH7; tel: +44 (0)131 556 4558

06 Alhambra

“A great wee pub, full of atmosphere. Best appreciated on a Saturday before Hibs [Hibernian football club] games.”
227 Leith Walk, EH6; tel: +44 (0)131 554 4868

07 Borland's Darts and Television
“This eccentric, legendary shop, run by a husband and wife duo, specialises solely in darts and TV. You can try out your darts on the boards set up in the window, while watching TV and testing out the owners' patience.”
7 Croall Place, EH7; tel: +44 (0)131 556 4038

08 Word Power Books

“Great, left-inclined bookstore in a cool part of town. It lures in writers and activists, promotes non-mainstream literature and is responsible for running the Edinburgh Book Fringe.”
43-45 West Nicolson Street, EH8;

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