A Monumental Challenge

I have a confession to make.

Even though I have lived in Edinburgh for nearly a decade. I have never scaled the Scott Monument. Or the Nelson Monument. Two of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks, and I have never paid either of them a visit.

Sure, they have always been “on the list”. I guess because they are such a big part of the furniture in Edinburgh I have always taken them for granted. Yes, I will pay them a visit – one day. But here we are nearly ten years later and that day never came.

Until now, that us. I am very lucky through my day job to work with Edinburgh Councils Museums and Galleries, and as part of their latest drive to encourage more visitors they asked me to go up the monuments and take some pictures. Well, I didn’t have to be asked twice!

It was all part of the Monumental Challenge, which is encouraging locals to scale both the Scott and Nelson Monuments before the 8th December for the chance to win some great prizes.

How great, you ask? Well…

How about you and three friends up the Scott Monument on Hogmanay?

Safe to say, it’s a money-can’t-buy prize.

While I can’t win it, I was still excited to scale the monuments. If nothing else, it was about time that they were ticked off my “list”.

The Scott Monument


The “Gothic Rocket”, as Bill Bryson famously described it, it the centrepiece of Princes Street. It’s instantly recognisable to anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in our fine city and yet relatively few people know that you can go up it!

This isn’t for the fainthearted. The staircases that snake up the inside of the spires are very narrow, especially when you get near the top (be prepared to backtrack if you meet someone coming down the opposite direction)!

Still, a wonderful reward awaits those who are able to conquer their claustrophobia. The top of the monument offers a panoramic view that stretches over the rooftops of the New Town down to Leith, along Princes Street and across Princes Street Gardens to the Old Town. It’s an absolute must-see if you want to take landscape views of the city.







Yes, there are a lot of steps, but there are a good few breaks along the way where you can get out onto the monuments balconies(?) and admire the ever rising view.

While I was there, I would be very willing to bet that I was the only local in the monument (apart from the customer service reps, of course), which makes me quite sad. For only £5 and a little bit of cardio, you really can get one of the best views in town.

The Nelson Monument



As soon as I had descended from the Scott Monument, I hot-footed it east along Princes Street to Calton Hill. Now, if you have read my guide to Calton Hill you will know that the Nelson Monument is one of the key landmarks, along with the National Monument and the observatory.

There aren’t as many stairs in the Nelson Monument, but they do all come at once, making it a pretty relentless climb. Still, it’s a much quicker rise to the top and when you get there, the views are really something else.

If you thought the Scott Monument was high, think again. Being on top of Calton Hill, the Nelson Monument towers above the entire city and I can imagine you can see for hundreds of miles on a clear day.




Now that I have climbed both monuments, do I consider them ticked off my ‘list’? Yes and no – as you can see from the pictures I went up on a grey autumn day, and I want to see what the view is like on a sunny day, a winter’s day, a spring day. If anything, I just want to go up the monuments even more now.

At £5 each (or £10  for two) the Nelson and Scott Monuments really are a bargain and a joy to explore. Not just for tourists – but for locals too.

The Monumental Challenge competition runs until the 8th December, but both the Scott and Nelson Monuments are open all year round. Tickets are £10 for both monuments, or £5 for each. 

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