Built to commemorate ‘Ivanhoe’, ‘Waverley’ and ‘Rob Roy’ writer Sir Walter Scott, the Scott Monument is the world’s biggest monument to a writer and remains a rather touching reminder of how proud the city can be of its own. When the Scottish writer died in 1832, local dignitaries came together to plan a fitting monument to him. Self-taught architect George Meikle Kemp was selected to design it, and the rest is, well, history.
Under the imposing 200ft-high sandstone structure of the monument itself, there’s a large statue of Scott seated, sculpted by Sir John Steell in Italian marble. The more eagle-eyed should be able to find 64 smaller statues, which are mostly figures from Scottish history or characters taken from Scott’s novels.
You can simply wonder at it from below or, for just a few pounds, visitors are invited to climb the 287 steps to the top. It’s a bit of a slog depending on your fitness levels, but the sight of Edinburgh Castle, just across the Gardens, and the views over to the Forth of Fife make it more than worth the effort. A series of spiral staircases lead you to a clutch of viewing platforms, and those unfamiliar with Scott’s literary heritage can learn more in the small but well equipped museum room.
Located in the serene Princes Street Gardens, it all feels strangely, and rather wonderfully, at odds with the high street clothing stores and multiple phone shops set just across the road, on the capital’s busiest shopping street.
During the summer, when the sun shines, expect to find locals and tourists alike picnicking in the Scott Monument’s gargantuan shadow; or come winter, enjoy it all lit up for the festive season, by the surrounding German market, big wheel and ice rink that reside alongside it.