Calton Hill, Photos, History, Location, Architects, Dates, Buildings, Images

Calton Hill Edinburgh: Buildings + Monuments

Historic Architecture, central Edinburgh, Scotland

Calton Hill Edinburgh

Athens of the North – the Scottish Enlightenment

The scattered monuments on Calton Hill go a long way to earning Edinburgh the sobriquet ‘Athens of the North’. I have never been keen on cities trying to impress by referring to another but in this case there are strong historical reasons why this came about.

Calton Hill is largely an area of civic parkland but to the East are the
Georgian Terraces of Calton, a desirable residential location including the grand Royal Terrace – facing East – and Calton Terrace – facing South.

National Monument Edinburgh
photo © Adrian Welch

Many people visit Calton Hill for the view back over Edinburgh and out to the sea. However, Calton Hill is very important architecturally. Almost every building on Calton Hill dates from the Enlightenment and the ubiquitous Greek and principally Acropolis references symbolised erudition:-

Duguld Stewart Monument is modelled on Tower of the Winds in Athens by Lysicrates. The primary example, dominating Calton Hill is the National Monument (to the Napoleonic Dead), which is based on Acropolis, Athens. Located on the southern edge of Calton Hill, the Royal High School’s Greek Doric columns are based on the Temple of Theseus, overlooking Athens.

calton hill memorial Calton Hill
photo © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill Buldings
The various buildings and monuments on Calton Hill or in the adjacent Calton Burial Grounds are as follows:-

Dugald Stewart Monument
Dugald Stewart Monument
image © Adrian Welch

National Monument
National Monument
photo © Adrian Welch

Nelson’s Monument
National Monument, Edinburgh
photograph © Adrian Welch

The City Observatory
City Observatory Calton Hill
picture © Adrian Welch

Buildings on the south slopes of the hill:
Royal High School

St Andrew’s House

Burns Monument

Calton Old Burial Ground:
Hamilton’s Obelisk
Governor’s House (former Edinburgh Gaol)
Memorial to David Hume

Calton Burial Ground
If you return here to the centre along Waterloo Place (hugely expensive ‘bridge’ from 1815), visit the Calton Old Burial Ground on the left. Here there is Hamilton’s Obelisk to Political Martyrs and Robert Adam’s Memorial to David Hume, 1777, and Bridewell.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh Calton Hill, Edinburgh
photo © Adrian Welch

David Hume Mausoleum
David Hume Memorial
photograph © Adrian Welch

Proposals being prepared by Simpson & Brown for David Hume’s Mausoleum on behalf of The Hume Enlightenment Trust. Apr 2008

To the East of the enclosure sits the Governor’s House, Archibald Elliot (architect of nearby Waterloo Place), 1817, the only remaining part of the huge Calton Gaol that was replaced by St Andrew’s House. Sir Rowand Anderson referred to this House as a toy castle on account of its fake battlements, but for many it adds to the romanticism of valley and hill.
More Scottish Architects:

Calton Gaol Calton Jail
Calton Gaol photos © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill viewed from south, Old Town:
Calton Hill
photo © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill is 108m high (355 feet). It is not the highest of the Edinburgh’s famous ‘seven hills’. Calton Hill was volcanic similar to Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock.

No larger images, apologies:
Edinburgh Monuments st andrew's stair tower Nelsons Monument
photo © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill buildings & monuments:-

Nelson Monument 1807-15 designed by Robert Burn
National Monument 1822, modelled on the Parthenon but also known as ‘Edinburgh’s disgrace’
City Observatory housing Observatory House 1776 designed by James Craig
Old Observatory 1818 designed by William Henry Playfair Category A listed – Home of Astronomical Society
City Dome 1895 designed by Robert Moreham
Monument to philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753 – 1828) designed by William Playfair
Monument to mathematician John Playfair (1748 – 1819) designed by William Playfair
Monument commemorating the success of the vigil for the return of the Scottish Parliament, 1998


Edinburgh Properties

Significant Edinburgh Property – Selection:

Scottish Parliament Building

Edinburgh New Town

Embarassing structure that needs to be removed:
Calton Hill building
photo © Adrian Welch


Calton Square

Hotel Missoni

Calton Road Flats

RBS Gogarburn

Comments / photos for the Calton Hill Edinburgh page welcome