Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, Calton Hill sits proudly at the east end of Princes Street, offering a refreshing escape from the bustling city centre. This historic attraction can be easily accessed by foot, bus or tram, making it an ideal destination for a leisurely day out. With convenient transport links from Edinburgh Waverley Station, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a lush, green oasis in no time.
As you make your way up the hill, you’ll notice the unmistakable silhouette of the National Monument, an unfinished memorial to the Scottish soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. While the monument’s resemblance to the Parthenon in Athens was intentional, the structure remains incomplete due to financial issues during its construction. Nevertheless, it’s a sight to behold and a popular spot for snapping a few photos.
Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find the Nelson Monument, built to honour the life of Admiral Lord Nelson, a true British hero. Climb the 143 spiral steps to the top for a small fee, and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking, panoramic view of Edinburgh’s cityscape, including the iconic Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and the Firth of Forth.
If you’re keen on exploring the area on foot, Calton Hill has some lovely walking routes for you to enjoy. The most popular one begins at the Royal Terrace, winding through the hill’s lush gardens and leading you past some of the city’s most cherished landmarks. The walk is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, as the paths are well-maintained and the incline is gentle.
One of the lesser-known facts about Calton Hill is that it once housed the largest telescope in the world. The City Observatory, also known as the Old Observatory, was built in 1818 and was home to the Craig Telescope from 1850 to 1857. Nowadays, the City Observatory is a vibrant cultural hub, featuring an art gallery, a restaurant, and a café. The Collective, a contemporary art organisation, now operates the site, offering visitors a chance to appreciate the hill’s fascinating history while exploring modern art exhibitions.
After a day of exploration, a delightful picnic on the hill’s summit might just be the cherry on top. The grassy slopes and scenic views make for a lovely backdrop while you enjoy a well-deserved break. Alternatively, you can treat yourself to a meal at the Observatory’s restaurant, aptly named The Lookout, which offers not only scrumptious dishes but also spectacular views of the city.
If you’re visiting Edinburgh during late April, you might be fortunate enough to witness the Beltane Fire Festival, an annual event that takes place on Calton Hill. This vibrant, immersive celebration is rooted in ancient Celtic customs and draws crowds from all over the world, making it an unforgettable experience.
So, is a visit to Calton Hill worth it? Absolutely! Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat from the urban jungle, Calton Hill offers something for everyone. The combination of fascinating landmarks, lovely walking routes, and awe-inspiring views make it an unmissable destination for anyone visiting Edinburgh. Don’t forget to bring a camera, as the memories you make here will be ones you’ll want to cherish for years to come.