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The Out About Scotland complete guide to The Scott Monument
Category: Historic building, Landmark, Monument
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
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 the whole of 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’s 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 through 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.
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 clearly 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 288 steps leading up the spiral staircase you’ll discover fantastic 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 to 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 once you get near the top. 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 during its construction, and the originals can still be seen in many of the museums in Edinburgh today.
What I liked about this attraction
- The view from the top is amazing
- It’s an incredible looking monument and is great for photos
My top tips
- The staircase gets really narrow near the top so don’t attempt the climb if you’re claustrophobic
Address and directions map
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,
Prices and opening times
Special offer: Click this affiliate link to purchase an Edinburgh City Pass from Viator. You’ll get free entry to 22 tours and attractions – including the Scott Monument – over 1, 2 or 3 days from just £45 (as of 2019). It’s a genuine bargain.
Access to all levels:
- Adult: £8
- Concession: £6
- Child: £5
Level 1 and Museum only:
- Adult: £6
- Concession: £4
- Child: £3
- April through September: Monday to Sunday 10am – 7pm.
- October through March: Monday to Sunday 10am – 4pm; last admission 3.30pm.
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Train station nearby
Getting around: Stairs
On-site conveniences: Conveniences available in Princes Street gardens