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Over the Calton Hill: Things To Do In Edinburgh

If you’re visiting Scotland’s captivating capital and looking for things to do in Edinburgh, why not take a leisurely walk up Calton Hill? Famous for its historical monuments, breath-taking views and some of the most important landmarks in the city, Calton Hill is definitely an Edinburgh Attraction not to be missed.
View from Calton Hill

Image title Calton Hill by xlibber is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Rich in history and the beautiful architecture of William Playfair, the hill forms part of the bustling city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking Arthur’s Seat, Leith and the Firth of Forth, to Princess Street and the Royal Mile, its been a beacon for locals and tourists to view the panoramic views of Edinburgh city for centuries. It hosts a number of events throughout the year, including the Beltane Fire Festival and Dussehra Hindu Festival, and is home to some of the most iconic monuments and buildings in Edinburgh.

Calton Hill


Image title Edinburgh – Holyrood Park – Calton Hill by Graham van der Wielen is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Something To Write Home About

For all the sceptics out there, take a slightly morbid stroll through the Old Calton Burial Ground and visit the final resting place of David Hume – a notorious radical sceptic. If that’s not one of the things to do in Edinburgh you had in mind, walk along 14 Calton Hill Street on the west side instead. At no. 14, you’ll find the home of Robert Burns’ elusive lover Clarinda. As Scotland’s national poet, Burns sent Clarinda many love letters over several years in an unsuccessful attempt to seduce the beautiful married woman.

Calton Hill Burial Ground

 Image title DSC_1428 by Ryan Finn is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Edinburgh’s Shame – It’s All Greek To Me

Inspired by Greek architecture, the National Monument was built to commemorate the many Scottish soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars. After defeating Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, the monument started taking shape in 1816. In 1822, funds ran dry and Playfair’s replica of the Parthenon was never completed. Leaving just twelve columns standing, it was dubbed “Edinburgh’s shame”.
Image title Calton Hill, the National Monument by DncnH is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

The Nelson Monument – All In Good Time

Shaped like an upside down telescope, the Nelson Monument was completed in 1816 in commemoration of Admiral Lord Nelson who died at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In 1852, a 762kg time ball was added to enable ships in the Firth of Forth to set their chronometers accurately by observing the dropping of the ball at one o’clock each day. Nine years later, the one o’clock gun was added at Edinburgh Castle. Today, the time ball still drops at exactly one o’clock in Summer, and noon during the Winter months.Nelson Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh

Image title Nelson Monument, Edinburgh by Andy Hay is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

City Observatory – The Sky’s the limit

There are two observatories on Calton Hill – the Old Observatory House,designed by New Town architect James Craig in 1792, and the City Observatory, another inspiration of Playfair’s. Built in 1818 and designed like a Greek temple, the City Observatory enabled Thomas Henderson (the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland) to discover how to measure parallax and the distance of the stars. If you’re still at a loss for things to do in Edinburgh, you can enjoy one of the many exhibitions at the City Observatory and view of distant galaxies far far away.

Observatory on Calton Hill in Edinburgh

Image title City Observatory & Playfair Monument, Calton Hill, Edinburgh by dun_deagh is licensed under (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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