Calton Hill photos, Historic Scottish capital buildings, History, Location, Architects, Dates, Memorial images

Calton Hill Edinburgh Buildings + Monuments

Historic Architecture in central Edinburgh, Scotland

post updated 21 April 2024 ; 25 November 2023 ; 28 October 2023 ; 7 July 2023

Athens of the North – the Scottish Enlightenment

National Monument Calton Hill Edinburgh
photo © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill Edinburgh

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.

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:-

Calton Hill Edinburgh buildings + monuments
photograph © Adrian Welch

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 Edinburgh monuments
picture © Adrian Welch

Calton Hill Buldings
The various buildings and monuments at this city centre landform, 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

There are a number of important buildings located on the south slopes of the hill:

Royal High School

St Andrew’s House

Burns Monument

Calton Old Burial Ground contains these key structures:

– 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 gaol building:
Calton Hill Edinburgh gaol building

‘door to nowhere’ at the northwest corner of Calton Hill, northside of Waterloo Place:
Calton Hill door to nowhere
photo © Adrian Welch

David Hume Mausoleum

Tomb of David Hume, 27 Waterloo Place:
David Hume Memorial Edinburgh
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.

Calton Gaol building:
Calton Gaol Calton Jail
Calton Gaol photos © Adrian Welch

The dramatic skyline of this landform 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’. This landform 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 – significant architectural selection from close by:

Scottish Parliament Building
Scottish Parliament

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

Calton Square
Calton Square – a major mixed-use property development located on the north west side of this totpography. The buildings were designed by local architecture practice allan Murray Architects. The small campus includes a cinema, hotel, food and beverage units, and offices.

Calton Road Flats
Calton Road Flats

Edinburgh New Town

Scottish Capital Building Designs

Contemporary Scottish Capital Property Designs – recent architectural selection below:

Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street
Royal Museum of Scotland

Scott Monument
Scott Monument

Hotel Missoni Edinburgh


RBS Gogarburn

Comments / photos for the Calton Hill Edinburgh monuments and buildings photos in the heart of the Scottish capital city page welcome.