The Scott Monument
Or: Looks older than it is
Sir Walter Scott was perhaps the leading man of Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Author, poet, essayist, and all around clever fellow, Scott essentially redefined the world's perception of Scotland, from ancient history right down to the modern kilt.
And then he died.
Happily, this gave the residents of Edinburgh occasion to build a monument in his memory, which they finally started building eight years after his death, laying the foundation stone on August 15, 1840. They wrapped production four years after that, in 1844.
George Miekle Kemp, in a name, who won the open design competition. A working joiner, Kemp earned himself a degree of fame as a draughtsman, whose drawings of Melrose Abbey and Glasgow Cathedral were of some reknown in the city.
In another name, Sir John Steell, who won the statue-of-Scott part of the contest. No good having a monument without the honoree's likeness preserved in expensive stone on a massive scale.
OK, What Is It?
The monument is essentially a gothic tower of ornate and complicated appearance. 55' square at its base with the statue in the center, the tower extends 200'6" into the air, supported by four massive buttresses. You're welcome to go up--but its 287 steps to the top, so bring a comfy set of trainers.
There are 64 niches, each of which contains a statuette representing a character from Scott's works. Though part of the original plans, not all niches were filled right away. Only half of the intended number had rolled in by 1870, and it took eleven more years for the rest.
Built of Binnie stone taken from the area around Linlithgow, the monument has a deep brown, sometimes blackened appearance. The stone is said to contain an oil which aids in its preservation.
The statue, of an impressive Sir Walter at over twice life size and attended by his faithful dog, Maida, is made from a single chunk of Cararra marble.
As always, best to take a look at a photograph-try one of these:
Location, Location, Location
You can't miss it. The Scott Monument is located practically at the center point of the singularly wonderful Princes Street, standing virtually alone above a recessed park. It truly stands out as a distinctive feature of the cityscape, and is to my mind more impressive at a distance, a better symbol of Edinburgh than it is of just Sir Walter. Emerging from the train station almost in its shadow, the tower instantly creates the atmosphere of another, bygone century.
But is it all really worth it?
It's Â£2.50 to get in, which you can do year-round from 10:00-6:00pm, except from November to February, when access stops at 4:00. You'll have to the judge when you get there; but with the many tourists that flock to Edinburgh during summer and Hogmanay festivals, they've probably more than made back the original building costs of Â£16,154 7s 10d.
That's about Â£764,696.15 in today's money.
For views of the city in all directions, the summit is worth the climb; but if you're strapped for cash, just give it an appropriately reverent walk-by or two.
For the Quest