The Scott Monument
The 200 foot (60 metre) high Scott Monument towers over the eastern end of Princes Street and is visible from much of the city centre, providing some great photo opportunities (for example Advocate's Close). The monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott so it's location by Waverley bridge and station is appropriate - the station was named after Scott's Waverley novels.
The name of the monument has nothing to do with the word 'Scot' or 'Scots' as in Scotland!
Sir Walter Scott was a massively popular and important figure in the culture of Scotland. When he died in 1832 it was decided that some form of monument should be erected in his honour. A competition was held and the winner was George Meikle Kemp. Work on building the monument began in 1840 and it was officially opened in 1846.
Unfortunately Kemp never saw his design realised - he fell into a canal and drowned before it was finished. The final capstone was symbolically placed by his son Thomas.
The monument is in the Victorian gothic style and was built from Binny sandstone This has blackened over the years which accentuate the gothic feel.
If you look carefully you will see a number of small human figures carved around the various levels. These represent characters from Scott's novels.
At the foot of the statue is a double life size statue of Scott himself, along with his dog Maida. The statue was designed by local sculptor John Steell and is made from white Carrara mable; it makes a magnificent nighttime photograph.
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous... next time you see the Scott monument, try to imagine it painted bright red. It would then look extremely similar to Thunderbird 3! When I used to mention this on tours it was only visitors of a certain age who understood the reference. With the 2015 Thunderbirds reboot hopefully a lot of younger people will also see the similarity.
Why Is It So Black?
Why is the Scott monument so black? Why don't they just clean it?
Many of the buildings in Edinburgh are blackened, especially those in the Old Town. This is a result of many years of smoke, soot and general pollution - Edinburgh used to be called Auld Reekie in part because of the smoke.
Although the Scott Monument is in the New Town it was still exposed to the smoke, especially from steam trains in later years. The sandstone from which it's made contains a large amount of oil which gradually seeps out of the stone and binds with the soot.
Cleaning the monument has been considered. A restoration project took place in the early 1990s to replace bits of the monument that had become damaged (that's why some sections are whiter - they're new). As part of this project cleaning was considered but it was decided that the process would cause too much damage.
Personally I rather like it the way it is.
As well as being a great photo opportunity to look at, the Scott Monument is also a great place for tourists to look from.
There are steps leading up the monument and for a few pounds you can go inside. If it's a clear day then from the top you can get some superb panoramic views of the city.
The monument is open most days, but is sometimes closed at short notice because of bad weather. If you're thinking of going up be aware that it's a long way up - there are 287 steps and it gets very narrow near the top.
This page last updated: 9-10-2016