Climbing the Scott Monument for the best views of Edinburgh

A lone bagpiper plays Amazing Grace as locals hurry along their way to work. The morning sun is hidden behind clouds that threaten rain. We stand on the edge of the East Princes Street Gardens and stare up at the 200 feet tall gothic tower before us: the Scott Monument.

The Scott Monument in the East Princes Street Gardens
The Scott Monument in the East Princes Street Gardens

The largest monument in the world to commemorate a writer, the Scott Monument is dedicated to the life and works of Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.

From ground level, the top of the Scott Monument looks a long way up, much higher than the advertised 287 steps. 287 steps sounds easy (after all, in the last week we’ve conquered the 366 steps in the Belfry in Bruges and the 387 steps of Notre Dame de Paris, not to mention the 669 steps up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower!), but the black spire of the Scott Monument seems like it will take some effort getting to.

After finding the entrance and paying the four pounds to get in, we are presented with certificates certifying that we have climbed all 287 steps. My brother suggests we fill in the certificates and save ourselves the climb. Instead, we begin the ascent.

The certificate for climbing the Scott Monument
The certificate for climbing the Scott Monument

Getting to the first of the four levels feels like an achievement. While the stairs start off being wide, by the time you burst out on to the landing, the staircase walls are literally closing in on you: as you climb up the top of one of the towers and the walls become slanted.

View over the North Bridge from the Scott Monument
View over the North Bridge from the Scott Monument

The view from the first platform is worth the admission alone. You have a 360 degree view over Edinburgh, over to the castle, down Princes Street, across to the North Bridge and Calton Hill and out to the Firth of Forth. There are statues and gargoyles staring down at the people below. On this level, there is also a small museum about Sir Walter Scott and the building of the Scott Monument.

The next set of stairs are noticeably narrower than the first, although the third set are wider.

It’s the fourth (and final) set of stairs that present a problem. Not only are they narrowest stairs but the ceiling becomes lower, too. My 6 foot tall brother was worried he wouldn’t be able to make it to the top because he wouldn’t fit through the narrowing gaps. Though he did make it to the top, the folks at the Camera Obscura would later tell us that a Welsh rugby player hadn’t been so lucky, and needed the fire brigade to come and rescue him when he found himself stuck in the Scott Monument!

It is a bit scary – even though there is a sign at the entrance that you should keep to the right when passing other people on the stairs, you begin to hope you don’t meet anyone coming the other way, because there just isn’t enough room in the stairwell to push past someone, and you don’t want to go all the way back to the previous level only to climb more stairs!

Edinburgh Castle from the Scott Monument
Edinburgh Castle from the Scott Monument

The stairs are all part of the fun, and can easily be forgotten once you’ve made it to the top and can look over one of the best views in Edinburgh (and earned the right to fill in your certificate)!

The Scott Monument as night falls
The Scott Monument as night falls

Have you climbed the Scott Monument? Share your experience in the comments – I’d love to hear what others thought!