The eastern half of Princes Street Gardens is dominated by the massive Gothic spire of the Scott Monument, built by public subscription in memory of the novelist Sir Walter Scott after his death in 1832.
In 1836, an architectural competition was launched, inviting designs for an appropriate memorial. Two years later, the trustees approved the design submitted by George Meikle Kemp, and construction began in 1840. The exterior is decorated with 64 carvings of characters from his novels; inside you can see an exhibition on Scott’s life, and climb the 287 steps to the top for a superb view of the city.
The Scott Monument, the largest monument to a writer anywhere in the world, is a truly unique building.
Since the day the competition to design it was announced, the monument has been the subject of much controversy. The gothic masterpiece we see today was chosen from a long list of entries by some of the leading architects working in Britain.
The winner was completely unknown, with no track record of designing anything on this scale. And although his design is now celebrated throughout the world, he never lived to see it completed.
Walter Scott painting
The story of the monument, and much more, is told within the monument’s Museum Room on the first floor. Visitors can discover more about Scott himself, his tumultuous life, his legacy on international literature, as well as the memorial built in his honour. Sound points enable visitors to listen to extracts from his writings.
The Museum Room is also the best place to view four magnificent stained-glass windows, designed by leading 19th-century Scottish artist David Roberts and made by James Ballantine. They feature two saints, Andrew and Giles, as well as the coat of arms of the City of Edinburgh and the coat of arms of Scotland. The room also provides a welcome pause before embarking on the climb to the top.
Visitors can find out more about Sir Walter Scott by calling into another of our city museums.
Sitting proudly at the base of the monument is Sir Walter himself, carved in Carrara marble by Sir John Steell. This monumental statue, fashioned from a single piece of marble weighing 30 tons, took the sculptor six years to complete. It features Scott and his beloved hound Maida.
The Writers’ Museum, just 7 minutes’ walk from the monument, is free to enter and is open from Wednesday to Sunday each week. The museum includes a display on Scott, with original artefacts that belonged to the great writer.