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National Monument

Scotland's Shame

The National Monument of Scotland is situated on top of Calton Hill to the east of Edinburgh town centre. Only a small section of pillared wall can be seen and tourists often ask how and why the building was destroyed. In fact the one wall was all that was ever built!


The idea for the Monument came about in 1822 and it was intended to serve as a memorial to those Scots who had died during the Napoleonic Wars. The plan was to recreate in Edinburgh the Parthenon of Athens (Edinburgh is often described as being the Athens of the North, largely due to the abundance of pillars on local architecture).

The building was designed by William Playfair and the idea had support from many influential people of the time, including Sir Walter Scott. The only problem was cost: the estimate was over £40,000 which was a huge amount of money in the 19th century. However the backers were confident that Scottish patriotism would allow them to raise the required capital by public subscription, so work began.

The foundation stone was symbolically laid in 1822 during the visit to Edinburgh of King George IV. Serious work began a few years later.

Unfortunately much less money than expected was raised. By 1829 the money had run out and the building was halted. Various schemes were proposed over the years to finish the building however none of these ever came to fruition. The result is the solitary stone wall we have today.

The failure of Scottish patriotism to raise enough money for the monument has led to it being given nicknames such as Scotland's Shame and Edinburgh's Disgrace.