Calton Hill is an attractively landscaped park overlooking Edinburgh. It was built by the city elders to provide a cultural area for walking for the residents of the growing city below. Traditionally a place of recreation for Edinburgh residents, Calton Hill, with its numerous monuments and buildings is popular as a fine viewpoint over the city.
Most visible is the unfinished “National Monument”, based on the Parthenon in Athens. Calton Hill is five landmarks in one: the hill itself, with its ancient volcanic origins.
Calton Hill is a hill in central Edinburgh, just to the east of the New Town and is included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers some of the best views of the city. The hill also houses several iconic monuments and buildings including the National Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory.
The Calton Hill has best viewpoints in Edinburgh with a panorama that takes in the castle, Holyrood, Arthur’s Seat, the Firth of Forth, New Town and the full length of Princes St. On Regent Rd, on the hill’s southern side, is the Burns Monument (1830), a memorial to poet Robert Burns.
The panoramic views from Calton Hill have astonished and inspired visitors for centuries. Major landmarks can be seen from a bird’s eye view: Arthur’s Seat with the Crags behind Holyrood Palace and the Parliament, Leith and the Firth of Forth, Princes Street in its New Town grid and the Royal Mile climbing up towards the Castle.
Calton Hill is also famous for its collection of historic monuments, which form some of the most important landmarks of the city. One of the most striking is the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Intended to commemorate the Scottish servicemen who died in the Napoleonic Wars, it was never completed leaving just the twelve columns you see today.
Also look out for the Nelson Monument, shaped like an up-turned telescope. Completed in 1816 the monument commemorates the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. However, in 1852 a time ball was added to the top to enable ships moored in the Firth of Forth to set their time-pieces accurately.
The Nelson Monument is open to the public, and the Time Ball still drops at one o’clock six days a week.
The City Observatory is also located here, a Greek temple styled building designed by William Henry Playfair in 1818. It was here that Professor Thomas Henderson, appointed first Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1834, discovered how to measure parallax and the distance of the stars in this building.
Calton Hill is a favourite spot with locals for enjoying the Hogmanay fireworks and many of the August festival events take place here. The last day of April also sees the Beltane Fire Festival reviving an old Celtic tradition.
The 143 spiral stairs to get to the top of Nelson Monument are truly worth it!
To the south, Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags dominate the view. From here you can also see the white top of Dynamic Earth and the Palace of Holyrood.
At the bottom of the hill, you will come to Regent Terrace. Here there are many grand townhouses, also designed by William Playfair. Originally home to the wealthiest whisky and wine merchants, and the residential street has had many wealthy inhabitants since! The houses are elegant and a perfect example of old Scottish architecture.
A couple of which will grab your attention when you explore Calton Hill! The ideal location to spend time after walking the Fife Coastal Path. Incorporating a trip to Edinburgh will be very worthwhile. You can also visit Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.