No, we are in Edinburgh, Scotland, yet there on Calton Hill is an Athenian acropolis. It is very similar to the Parthenon in Athens as it was meant to be a replica of it, sadly this national monument from 1822 was never completed. The idea was to build a memorial in memory of those who died in the Napoleonic Wars, how-ever, money ran out and only the facade was completed. The scottish people called it "Edinburgh's shame", perhaps by now they have come to terms with it being unfinished as it's a great landmark and one that visitors love!
I have mentioned other points of interest on Calton Hill in previous reviews, but another two are the Old Observatory House from 1792, and the City Observatory, built in 1818, which has exhibitions and viewings of the night sky. The Monument to philosopher Dugald Stewart, was erected early in the 19th century and it too was based on Greek architecture, namely the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.
Other than that, from the hill are far reaching views of the city and the surrounding hillsides and castles. There is a walking trail right round the edge of Calton hill.
You can either walk up to the summit of Calton Hill from a staircase at Regent Road on the South side, Royal Terrace on the North side, or you can drive up and park.
The Governor's House is situated on a craggy outcrop on the southernmost spur of Calton Hill. From there, the Governor had wonderful views over Waverley Station, the Canongate and Holyrood Park.
Depending from where you view this building, is whether you think it looks like a house or a Castle. Viewing the Governor's house from the cliff face side reminded me of a small Castle with turretted towers, but when I saw the other side, I could see this part of the building was designed like a large house.
I never dreamt it was used between 1815-17 as Calton Gaol, once the largest prisons in Scotland. Inside the House was the Committee Room used by the Commissioners who governed the prison.
Because of the castellated and turreted design, it is similar to James Craig's Old Observatory House on Calton Hill. Nearly all the Gaol was demolished in 1937, only the Governor's house survived.
Is the house haunted by the ghosts of former prisoners? I guess we will never know as it isn't open to the public
Located next to the Governor's house and in the Old Calton cemetery, is the 27 metre high obelisk made from sandstone blocks known as the "Political Martyrs Monument."
In 1837, Joseph Hume MP, put forward a plan to build the monument in memory of five men, two from Scotland and three from England, who were imprisoned for campaigning for parliamentary reform under the influence of the ideals of the French Revolution. They were sent by ship to the British penal colony in New South Wales, Australia
Enough money was raised by public subscription for the foundation stone to be laid in front of a crowd of 3,000 people in 1844.
This monument commemorates those five men whose names are inscribed on one side-
To the memory of -
Thomas Fyshe Palmer
Erected by the Friends of Parliamentary Reform in England and Scotland - 1844
Other inscriptions are
"I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause—it shall ultimately prevail—it shall finally triumph. Speech of Thomas Muir in the Court of Judiciary on the 30th August 1793.
I know that what has been done these two days will be Re-Judged. Speech of William Skirving in the Court of Judiciary on the 7th January, 1794."
I first saw Calton Hill from afar, going by bus on one of the bridges. The view, with all the amazing constructions, looked like something taken from Greece and yet it was Scotland. I stared at it every time I passed it, at least twice a day, but it only whetted my curiosity. I never went there - didn't have the time. Left it as something to look forward to on my next visit. In the meantime I did find out what the strange buildings were: the giant columns looking like the Parthenon were supposed to commemorate Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Never completed for shortage of funds, they give the view of Calton Hill that Greek flavour. The reddish tower looking like a lighthouse is Lord Nelson's Column with a ball at the top, which is lowered at noon and in the past allowed the passing ships to get their time right. You can climb the tower for great views of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. The monument you can see in one of the pictures is Dugald Stewart's Memorial by the architect W. H. Playfair and dedicated to a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in the early 19th century.
An oasis of peace most of the time, on 30th April Calton Hill comes alive with the celebrations of the coming of summer in the old Celtic calendar, the Beltane Fire Festival.
The painted faces of the dancers performing the ritual fire dance, the drums, the fire eaters in the darkness of the hill all create a great spectacle (I've only seen pictures of it in The Scotsman). The Scotsman says there is also a lot of alcohol, noise and litter left afterwards but that's the price to pay for the fantastic show. I should certainly love to witness it at least once in a lifetime.
2nd photo by Barbara Godlewska
Calton Hill is the most popular hill in Edinburgh (after the castle rock of course), hard to me missed as it is topped with an Athenian acropolis which is known as the National Monument. It was made in 1822 as a memorial for those who died in the Napoleonic Wars (Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was just six years earlier) but in reality it just an unfinished structure that was supposed to be a replica of Athens’ Parthenon but they run out of money and left as it is since then.
I never made it to walk up the grassy slopes but I’ve read that it’s a nice quite place with some great panoramic views over the town (but I decided to do a daytrip to Glasgow and missed this one and its great photo opportunities). I regret I didn't go up but it's definitely on my list for my next visit to Edinburgh…
As you can see from my photo the hill is full of structures, it actually houses two observatories (from late 18th and early 19th centuries), Nelson’s Monument (the famous admiral in the 1805 battle of Trafalgar), a memorial for the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) and the Political Martyrs Monument (a 27m tall obelisk that commemorates five political reformists from late 18th century).
Pic 1 was taken from street level just above Princes Street Gardens while pic 2 from Edinburgh Castle
The Royal School of Edinburgh was constructed between 1826 and 1829 in Regent Road and is a masterpiece of Greek Revival Architecture by Alexander Thomson. The origina!l school was built in 1198 and was relocated several times before moving to Calton Hill. There is a panel in the present building from a 1578 building, but in 1968 the school moved out to newer premises and remained empty until 2010 when the city council decided to lease it to some hotel developers.
St. Andrews House took years to complete during the war years but when it finally opened in 1945 it was the largest metal framed building in Europe. It was also the first time that Scottish government departments were housed under the same roof.
In the 19th century there was a notorious prison on the site, where prisoners were dealt with very harshly and had an atrocious diet. In 1930 the prison was demolished and soon work started on the new building. A day after the war ended the civil servants moved in and got the building ready for the king and queen to officially open it the following week. Today it is still busy with government workers in various departments after 70 years.
When you reach the top of Calton Hill you will come across a newer Monument called the Democracy Cairn but it is surprising that the stones came from Bruce's castle, Burn's house, Auschwitz and Paris. The are two plaques, one of which mentions yes to the Scottish Parliament and the other mentions a few lines from Hugh MacDairid
for we ha'e faith in Scotland's hidden poo'ers, The present is theirs but a'the past and future's oors
Although I did not have time to visit the Old City Observatory I was surprised to discover that this was constructed on Calton Hill near the end of the 19th century. A 15cm Cooke refractor was donated by William McEwan and placed on top of the dome on the Playfair building. Additional refractors were installed on top of some newer domes. The observatory opened in 1898, run by astronomer William Peck until his death in 1925 when Hi assidtant, John Field took over. Field became the first president of Edinburgh Astronomical Society before coming Astronomer Royal for Scotland. In937 Field died so the building was leased to the society until 2009 when vandals destroyed the roof. In 2014 the building reopened and hosts exhibitions by local and international artists.
While you are at the top of Calton Hill you will see a cannon on display but exactly where it came from remains a mystery. The cannon was captured by the British in 1885 during the Burmese Invasion. (From the Portuguese). There is the Spanish Coat of Arms cast in relief at the top of the barrel and somehow it was transported to the Portuguese colonies in SE Asia before 1785. There is an inscription in Burmese just below the coat of arms and it has been suggested that it was once owned by a Burmese king.
NOTE. The beautiful girl by the cannon is nothing to do with me but she kept asking her partner to take more photos and I was getting a little impatient !
Calton Hill is well worth visiting, not only for the panoramic views but to spend some time looking at the monuments,the city observatory, Rock House, the park and the canon. Look at my individual tips for more detailed information. These are things you can see at the top of the hill but on the slopes themselves you can also explore St. Andrews House, the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood Palace, Robert Burns Monument and Calton Cemetery.
In 1456 James II granted the land to the city of Edinburgh,but back then it was not known as Calton Hill but as Cragingalt, and later as Caldtoun until about 1700 when it adopted its present name. The king origin granted the land for warlike games so the people were military prepared so golf and football were banned. A monastery was built there in 1518 but became disused 50 yeaater because of the Reformation and was converted in town home for lepers. The conditions were severe and if any of the lepers tried to escape they were hanged at the gallows erected at the gate. The village of Calton as at the bottom of the hill but it was demolished in 1816 to make room for Waterloo Place and Regents Bridge. OldCalton Burial Ground was on the side of the hill. In 1826 the construction of the Scottish National Monument began but remains in finished. It was supposed to look like the Parthenon in Greece. Rock House was built in the 1840s, Nelson's Monument was completed in 1815, thr City Observatory in more recent years.
I actually lived in Edinburgh for six years as a child but I certainly have no memories of my Dad taking me to Calton Hill, but I am glad I did this many years later. Calton Hill is located just past the east end of Princes Street and can be approached by a path from Waterloo Place. It is a short climb to he top of the hill and ten minutes should be enough to reach the top. Calton Hill is included in the city's World Heritage Site and offers excellent views of the city. You can see Edinburgh Castle, Arthur's Seat and along the coast in the Firth of Forth as well as the Fire coastline, so don't forget to bring your camera.