Many millions of visitors come to Edinburgh each year to see the varied sights and sounds the city has to offer. It’s impossible to take in everything as you walk around this grand old city but the list below aims to assist those keen to find or identify the best monuments within the city centre.
Burns National Monument
Behind Calton Hill, on Regent Road you can find the national monument to Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns. It was built in the 19th Century. Burns lived in Edinburgh for many years and walked around this area, as was fashionable to do so at that time in the 18th Century.
Black Watch Monument
At the junction of Market Street and North Bank Street, near the top of the Mound you will find the Black Watch Memorial. The statue was erected in 1910 to remember the bravery of the men who died during combat in the South African War (Boer War) of 1899-1902. The monument is of a soldier, stands 11 foot tall, and is on a granite plinth.
Dugald Stewart Monument
Dugald Stewart was a philosopher (1753-1828) and professor of the University of Edinburgh. His monument can be found at the top of Calton Hill. The Royal Society of Edinburgh commissioned the monument, and it was completed in 1831. The monument was designed by William Henry Playfair, who modelled the design on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece.
The Gladstone monument was originally in St Andrew Square but was moved to Coates Crescent, in the West End of the city. William Gladstone (1809-98) was British Prime Minister four times, and served as Member of Parliament for Midlothian between 1880 and 1895, The statue depicts Gladstone in bronze on a red granite base. He is surrounded by eight figures representing his virtues.
If you go to St Andrew Square you can not fail to miss the Melville Monument. It stands 41m high and dominates the Square and the views along George Street. Lord Melville was an aristocratic politician and the King’s Chancellor during the 18th century. He is often described as the most powerful Scot of his day and this huge column backs this up.
Merchant Navy Monument
The Merchant Navy Memorial Trust’s sandstone Memorial in the port of Leith was unveiled in November 2010 by HRH Princess Royal. The monument is a tribute to the 6,500 Scottish merchant navy personnel who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts. The memorial was created by Jill Watson, who was born in Edinburgh.
Scotland’s National monument stands at the top of Calton Hill and looks down on to the Old and New Towns below. It is a memorial to those Scottish soldiers who fought and died in the Napoleonic Wars. The monument is based upon the Parthenon in Athens and was designed by Charles Cockerell and William Playfair. Although construction started in 1826, the monument was never completed for financial reasons. The story goes that the city of Glasgow offered to pay for the monument to be completed but the proud fathers of Edinburgh refused the charity. For this reason, the monument is often called Edinburgh’s Disgrace.
Again on Calton Hill is the Nelson Monument. It was completed in 1815 and commemorates Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. The monument was restored in 2009. The monument was funded by public subscription. The monument is 32m high and has a public viewing level at the top.
If you go into Princes Street gardens and walk to the end below Edinburgh castle you will come across the beautiful Ross Fountain. The fountain was an exhibit at London’s Great exhibition in 1862 and was soon after bought by Daniel Ross, an Edinburgh based philanthropist.
The four naked nymphs around the fountain represent the arts, science, industry and poetry. The nymphs surround a naked lady standing at the top. When the fountain was revealed to the public there was much disgust at the amount of nudity on display.
During the summer the fountain becomes a popular place to stay cool, just don’t let the park keepers find you in it.
Scottish-American War Memorial
Again in Princes Street Gardens you will find the Scottish-American War Memorial. The memorial was erected in 1927 and is called ‘The Call’. The statue shows a kilted infantry man looking to the castle. Behind the statue is an image depicting lines of men following a pipe band heading off to war. The monument was paid for my Scottish Americans to honour those who served in the Great War.
The Scott Monument
The final monument on our list is one you can’t miss, literally. In Princes Street Gardens, next to Princes Street stands the 200 foot high gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott (1771 to 1832). Scott was a highly acclaimed Scottish author.
There are 3 viewing levels on the monument that can be reached by narrow stair cases. The climb can be quite steep and a little claustrophobic. However, the view across Edinburgh from the top is worth the effort.
Upon Scott’s death, a competition to design a monument to the man was launched. George Meikle Kemp a local joiner, draftsman and self-taught architect won the competition and was awarded the contract. The marble statue of Scott sitting inside the monument was designed by John Steel. Scott’s dog Maida is seen sitting by his side.
The monument took nearly four years to build. However, Kemp never saw his completed monument. After working on the site one foggy night, he fell into the Union Canal and drowned.