Discover Edinburgh Things to Do in Edinburgh Tourist Attractions National Monument Calton Hill


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Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Opening Times

Apr to Sep, Mon 1pm – 6pm
Tue to Sat, 10am – 6pm
Oct to Mar, Mon to Sat, 10am – 3pm
National Monument
Perched high above the eastern section of Princes Street, Scotland's National Monument in Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh's most prominent landmarks, lending to the city being affectionately known as 'The Athens of The North'. Arguably regarded as a folly, The National Monument features the hallmarks of the Acropolis in Athens.

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Construction started in this colossal architectural project in 1822 by architects C R Cockrell and William Playfair. Original drawings unveiled exactly what stands today, incorporating and unfinished looking appearance. Renowned for his Grecian influences, English architect C R Cockrell's masterpiece is Liverpool's St George's Hall, one of the most featured and celebrated buildings in British Architecture.

In 1824, the first foundations for the National Monument were laid during King George IV's visit to Edinburgh and more than a century later, the last pieces of stone were placed in 1929 when public funding ran out. Although incorporating all features and 12 columns illustrated in the original specifications, The National Monument is described as complete to some and an unfinished 'national disgrace' to others.

Modelled on the Parthenon, Scotland's National Monument commemorates those who died in the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s, a powerful symbol in its own right. This remarkable structure dominates Edinburgh's breathtaking skyline and can be vaguely traced from 20 miles to the east as Gosford Bay in East Lothian, a stunning beauty spot overlooking the North Sea.

The much disputed National Monument in Calton Hill is a classic example of Scotland's strong allegiance to the period of Enlightenment, an era when the arts embraced Hellenic styles and influences. Evidence of such architectural styles can be viewed around Edinburgh, particularly in and around the Georgian New Town where many buildings feature the hallmarks of Grecian columns, however, the National Monument is indeed the most significant.

Whether visiting for a short break or vacation, The National Monument serves as an integral part of Edinburgh's historic cultural trail and is certainly a must see attraction. Guided tours are available and a small admission fee is charged to gain full access to the monument, offering superb panoramic vistas over the city of Edinburgh, The Firth of Forth, Pentland Hills and beyond.