Audio Point One – Walter Scott Monument.

Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point One – Walter Scott Monument.

Walter Scott Monument.

Our tour of Edinburgh begins in the very heart of the city – Princes Street, near the monument to Sir Walter Scott – an iconic neo-Gothic tower with dark, weathered spire that stands at a height of 200 feet above the street level.

The monument was built in 1844 as a tribute to the Scottish author and poet, Sir Walter Scott, who was one of the best loved writers of the 19th century.

Since then, it has become an integral part of the city skyline and one of the most prominent landmarks which can be seen from almost any part of the city.

In 1836, four years after Scott’s death, an architectural competition was launched, inviting designs for an appropriate memorial.

Over 50 designs were received, some of them from famous architects, but the competition was won by an unknown, self-taught architect George Meikle Kemp.

He submitted a design of a 200 feet Gothic spire, decorated with carved figures and characters from Scott’s novels. At the base of the monument, on a platform with huge stone steps, there’s a marble sculpture of Scott with his beloved hound Maida.

The statue was carved from a single piece of marble weighing 30 tons, and it took the sculptor 6 years to complete.

The construction of the monument took around 8 years and was completed in 1844, but the official opening ceremony was held in 1846.

Sadly, George Meikle Kemp did not see the monument completed. On a foggy evening in March 1844, on the way home from the city, he fell into a canal and drowned.

The Scott Monument, originally built from light-yellow sandstone, quickly darkened in colour after its construction.

The dark and weathered complexion of the tower is due to high content of shale oil in the sandstone, which seeps through to the surface and absorbs dust and soot from the atmosphere.

In the 19th century, Edinburgh houses were heated by open coal and peat fires. Thousands of chimneys in the city were billowing huge amounts of black smoke into the sky. On windless, foggy nights, black smoke mixed with the fog and covered Victorian Edinburgh.

In the 18th century Edinburgh was known as Athens of the North. But residents of the city –often covered by a thick blanket of smog – called it Auld Reekie which means Old Smokey or Old Stinky in the Scots dialect.

Visitors can climb 287 steps to a viewing deck near the top of the Scott Monument. A narrow and winding staircase leads to the top of the monument offering fantastic views of Edinburgh and beyond.

Calton Hill.

To the East of Princess Street and Scott Monument you will see another iconic landmark of the city – Calton Hill.

Calton Hill is famous for its collection of historic buildings. The tower shaped like an up-turned telescope is Nelson Monument.

The tower was completed in 1816 to commemorate the death of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar.

The row of huge columns against the backdrop of the sky is the National Monument – a national memorial to Scottish soldiers who had died in the Napoleonic Wars – but was never completed.

Originally, it was envisaged that the monument would be a precise copy of The Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis with each stone the same dimensions as in the original ancient temple.

The foundation stone was laid in 1822, during the visit of George IV to Scotland. Construction of the monument started 4 years later in 1826 when £1600 – half of the required money was collected. It was assumed that the money needed to complete the construction would be raised later.

The construction of the monument was abandoned due to the lack of funds in 1829 after the first 12 columns were built. Although attempts to raise funds to complete the monument were made until the beginning of the 20th century– no significant contributions were received.

The National Monument was meant to be a grand memorial but became known locally as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’.

One of the main attractions of Calton Hill is the viewpoint at the top of the hill, which offers a breathtaking view of Edinburgh’s skyline. Visitors can see the city’s most famous landmarks, including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Princes Street.