The 200-foot tall Scott Monument is the world’s largest monument to a writer. The gothic-style tower was constructed after the death of Sir Walter Scott and it’s a popular tourist attraction thanks to the winding staircase that leads out to viewing platforms that offer panoramic views of the city.
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Review of 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.
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Things to do at 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…
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.
If you’d like to know more about the history of the city read my article Edinburgh – A Thousand Year Story.
- 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.
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,
Photo gallery and video
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.
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- 360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in EdinburghAs well as being the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is one of the most-visited cities in the world thanks to its incredible collection of family-friendly tourist attractions. Discover a collection of virtual tours of attractions in Edinburgh with this article, where you can explore each one through a series of high-definition and ultra-immersive 360° photographs.
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideCamera Obscura and World of Illusions – located near Edinburgh Castle – is one of the oldest purpose-built attractions in Scotland. Visitors can experience six floors of interactive displays with exhibits that showcase optical illusions including holograms, a mirror maze and a mind-spinning vortex tunnel.
- Princes Street Gardens – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuidePrinces Street Gardens in Edinburgh is one of the largest public spaces in the city. Originally a body of water called the Nor Loch, the gardens were designed in the 1770s but weren’t created until 1820 when the loch was drained. Today, the gardens are a popular recreational area that features a number of popular landmarks including The Scott Monument, The Ross Fountain and The Ross Bandstand.
- The Balmoral Hotel – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Balmoral Hotel is a historic building situated in the heart of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The luxury hotel is located next to Waverley train station and was built in 1902 by the North British Railway Company. Today, it is a popular landmark that attracts visitors to its superb restaurants and bars.