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The 200-foot tall Scott Monument is the world’s largest monument to a writer. The Gothic tower was constructed in commemoration of the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott and it’s one of the most prominent features in Edinburgh city centre.
Visitors can climb the winding staircase inside the tower which opens up onto platforms that offer unrivalled views across the city.
Discover more places to visit with the Ultimate Tourist Map of Scotland
About the Scott Monument
In the centre of Princes Street Gardens, not far from Waverley train station, stands one of the grandest man-made landmarks in Europe – the 200-foot tall Scott Monument.
This beautiful gothic-inspired structure is famous for being the largest monument to a writer anywhere in the world and it has been an integral part of the Edinburgh city-scape since its completion in 1844.
On the death of Sir Walter Scott in 1832 it was decided by Edinburgh’s leading figures that a monument should be made to commemorate both the man and the literature he gave to the world, and The Scott Monument is the winning design from a competition to create an appropriate memorial.
The monument is absolutely enormous and towers over 200 feet (61 metres) above ground where it completely dominates Princes Street gardens. A narrow winding staircase runs up its centre that opens out to a series of viewing platforms, with the highest sitting at the top of 288 steps.
If you have the stamina to climb them you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in Edinburgh looking across Princes Street and the North Bridge, with Holyrood Park providing an appropriately impressive backdrop in the near distance.
You’ll find out all about Scott and his monument by visiting the museum room on the first floor, and tours every half hour will show you all the important features of this architectural masterpiece as you make your way to the top.
Visiting the Scott Monument
Constructed from locally mined sandstone, the monument is dedicated the famous Edinburgh writer Sir Walter Scott.
Scott was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet, and over the course of his writing career he created many literary classics including Ivanhoe and Rob Roy and his work is so highly regarded it continues to be studied worldwide to this day.
The design of the monument is inspired by the intricate carvings of Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey and the attention to detail in the stonework can be seen as you walk around the outside and gaze up towards the spires.
The Scott Monument is the perfect place to get an overview of the city and if you climb the steps leading up the spiral staircase you’ll discover dazzling panoramic views across Edinburgh from the viewing platforms.
That’s the best place to really appreciate the beauty of Edinburgh with Princes Street running east to west, the Old Town stretching out to the south, and the imposing Salisbury Crags of Holyrood Park to the south-east.
The Scott Monument is a must-do if you visit this remarkable city whether you know anything about Sir Walter Scott or not, and the only negative I have about the attraction is that the twisting steps at the top are really tight which is a bit of a nightmare when it gets busy.
It’s a bit claustrophobic in the stairway too so don’t be surprised if you find yourself climbing over strangers to get past them. I guess the 19th-century builders didn’t count on Edinburgh turning into such a booming tourist hotspot…
If you’d like to know the history of the city read my article Edinburgh – A Thousand Year Story.
The history of the Scott Monument
The monument was commissioned after a competition was run by the city council for ideas on how to commemorate the genius wordsmith Sir Walter Scott, and unknown architect George Meikle Kemp was awarded the contract.
The monument took four years to complete, though at its unveiling the architect was absent having unfortunately fallen into the Union Canal and drowned sometime earlier.
The foundation stone was laid in August 1840 and the works were finally completed in the autumn of 1844 at a total cost of £16,154. Quite a sum for the time!
At its base, the monument houses a white marble statue of Scott which depicts the writer taking a break from creating one of his many works with his dog Maida keeping him company.
This statue took four years to carve from a single piece of white marble weighing over 30 tons. In total, the monument has 68 sculptures of characters from Scott’s novels, all of which were crafted by renowned Scottish sculptors of the time.
It’s a seriously impressive structure which is probably why some of the world’s earliest photos are of the monument being constructed. The original photos can be seen in many of the museums in Edinburgh today.
Discover more places to visit in the Edinburgh with: The Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
- The monument is an amazing attraction but make sure you’re prepared for the very narrow winding staircase. The view at the top is stunning though, just don’t forget your camera!
- There are information boards inside the monument where you can learn about its history, as well as the story of Sir Walter Scott.
- You won’t get a better view of Edinburgh than from the viewing platforms of the Scott Monument.
- The attraction gets very busy and in my opinion they should reduce the number of visitors they allow in at any one time. Take my advice and visit as early in the morning as you can to avoid getting stuck behind lots of tourists in the claustrophobic staircase.
- The Scott Monument is slap-bang in the middle of the city so you’ll get a good overview of lots of other attractions from the top. After your visit I recommend taking a look at the Museum on the Mound, Calton Hill, John Knox House, the Scotch Whisky Experience and of course, Edinburgh Castle.
- Climbing those steps has made you hungry? There are more cafés in Princes Street than you can shake a stick at, but I recommend grabbing a snack at the café in the National Gallery of Art in the middle of Princes Street Gardens.
Directions to the Scott Monument
The monument can be reached on foot by walking towards the centre of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.
The Scott Monument,
East Princes Street Gardens,
Click map for directions
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Edinburgh – 350 Explorer.
Edinburgh – 66 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do near the Scott Monument
- Balmoral Hotel. 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ. 4-minute walk. Grand Victorian hotel in Princes Street. The Balmoral Hotel sports a luxurious interior and has several spaces to eat and drink including the glass-domed Palm Court and the ultra-chic Bar Prince.
- Princes Street Gardens. A sizeable public park in the centre of Edinburgh. There are several monuments and statues inside the landscaped gardens including the Scott Monument. The east and west sections are split by the Scottish National Gallery.
- Calton Hill. Edinburgh EH7 5AA. 12-minute walk. A prominent landmark in Edinburgh that offers panoramic views of the city. Also the location of the city planetarium, the National Monument and the Nelson Monument.
- Princes Street. 1-minute walk. Arguably the most famous street in Scotland. Princes Street is the first port of call for most visitors to the city as it offers a wide range of shops and restaurants and borders Princes Street Gardens.
- Museum on the Mound. The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. 6-minute walk. A museum located in the historic Bank of Scotland head office. Visitors can explore the history of money in Scotland with a collection of exhibits that include the country’s oldest banknote and £1 Million of real notes.
Accommodation near the Scott Monument
- Old Waverley Hotel. 0 miles.
- Mercure Edinburgh City. 0 miles.
- Hotel Indigo Princes Street. 0.1 miles.
- Cheval The Edinburgh Grand. 0.1 miles.
- Le Monde Hotel. 0.1 miles.
FAQ’s about the Scott Monument
How old is the Scott Monument?
The Scott Monument was 182 years old in 2022. It was built by George Meikle Kemp in 1841.
Why is the Scott Monument black?
The Scott Monument is built from locally-sourced yellow-coloured Binny Sandstone which is a type of shale stone that contains small amounts of oil. The black discolouration on the Scott Monument is caused by pollution from vehicles which sticks to the oil in the stone, leaving a thick coating of soot.
Can you climb the Scott Monument?
Visitors can pay a fee to enter the Scott Monument to climb 287 steps up a winding staircase to the top, which opens up onto viewing platforms.
How long does it take to climb the Scott Monument?
It takes around 5-10 minutes to climb the 287 steps to the top of the Scott Monument without stopping. However, visitors stop at the four levels inside the monument as well as the outside viewing platforms, so expect a visit to take around 30 minutes.
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- The Union Canal in Edinburgh Visitor GuideThe Union Canal in Edinburgh opened in 1822 and was originally built to transport coal from Falkirk to the capital city, but it is now mainly used by leisure craft. The footpath and cycleway that runs alongside the Union Canal joins the Water of Leith. It is part of the Sustrans route 75 which ends in Gourock, 30 miles west of Glasgow.
- Scottish Parliament Building Visitor GuideThe Scottish Parliament Building is situated opposite Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It is the seat of the Scottish Government and is open daily for guided tours. The building is a triumph of design but it has drawn a great deal of criticism over its cost which was more than ten times over the original budget. Learn this story of this fascinating building and find out how you can visit it in this complete guide.
- Scottish National Gallery Visitor GuideThe Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh is home to some of the world’s greatest artworks, as well as an extensive collection of Scottish masterpieces. The gallery is adjacent to the Royal Scottish Academy between East and West Princes Street Gardens where visitors can relax in a purpose-built restaurant and café with terrace seating. See all the highlights of this remarkable art gallery in this complete visitor guide.
- Lauriston Castle Visitor GuideLauriston Castle is a 16th and 19th century mansion house in Edinburgh that’s open for guided tours and walks around landscaped gardens. This historic attraction is managed by Museums & Galleries Edinburgh who maintain the sumptuous Edwardian decor that’s unchanged from the time the last owners moved out in the 1920s. Discover this hidden gem of a city attraction in this complete visitor guide.