Top 10 Marvelous Scott Monument Facts

A man must leave an amazing mark on history to have a monument built at a scale of this famous attraction in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some interesting facts about the Scott Monument, a structure designed in honor of one of the most famous men in Scottish history.

1. It was built to commemorate a famous Scottish Author

The Scott Monument is a monumental landmark that was constructed shortly after the death of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), a famous Scottish author and historian. He wrote multiple evergreen classics in literature, including but not limited to:

  • The Lady of the Lake (a narrative poem)
  • Waverley
  • Old Mortality (or The Tale of Old Mortality)
  • Rob Roy
  • The Heart of Mid-Lothian
  • The Bride of Lammermoor
  • Ivanhoe

His knowledge of history was second to none, something that allowed him to write engaging novels in an accurate historical setting.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about Sir Walter Scott is that he was only a part-time writer. His main occupation was that of an advocate, judge, and legal administrator, mainly as Clerk of Session.

Sir Walter Scott and his dog
Sir Walter Scott and his dog / Wiki Commons

2. It’s located in a public park in the heart of Edinburgh

The monument is situated in the Princes Street Gardens, two adjoining public parks in the heart of Edinburgh. It faces the famous Jenners Department store on Princes Street, a store that was established in 1838.

Also nearby is the Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, a transportation hub that was named after one of Scott’s novels and which is the second-busiest railway station in Scotland after Glasgow Central.

Princes Street Gardens Scott Monument
Princes Street Gardens / Jaakko Sakari / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

3. It’s one of the tallest monuments of its kind in the world

One of the most remarkable Scott Monument facts is that there’s only one monument dedicated to a writer in the world that is taller. The monument in Edinburgh stands exactly 61.11 meters (200 feet 6 inches) tall.

That’s quite a bit shorter, though than the 109 meters (358 feet) of the José Martí Memorial, a monument in Havanna, Cuba that was dedicated to one of Cuba’s national hero’s, writer and poet José Martí.

Regardless, the structure in Edinburgh has a much nicer design, that’s for sure.

José Martí Memorial
José Martí Memorial / Wiki Commons

4. It was designed by an unlikely architect in the 1830s

The monument was designed in the Victorian Gothic, also referred to as the Gothic Revival, architectural style. Because of its distinctive appearance, it’s also sometimes referred to as the “Gothic Rocket.”

Planning to build a monument happened shortly after Scott’s death in the year 1832 and finding the design was done through an architectural competition. One design immediately stood out according to the judges, but the entry was signed with the name “John Morrow,” a man who designed Melrose Abbey during the Middle Ages.

The entrant was soon identified as George Meikle Kemp, a self-taught architect who feared that his entry would be disqualified because of his lack of credentials.

Nothing like that happened and he was awarded the contract to build the monument in 1838!

William Bonnar George Meikle Kemp 1795 - 1844
William Bonnar George Meikle Kemp / Wiki Commons

5. It took over 4 years to build the landmark at a staggering price

The construction of this massive structure started on August 15, 1840, which was the day that the foundation stone was laid. It would eventually take over 4 years to be completed, something that happened in the autumn of 1844.

The price to build the monument was staggering as it cost £16,154, which is the equivalent of exactly £2,098,930.97 today when calculated with inflation in mind!

scott monument construction 1840s
A rare picture of masons working on the monument in the early 1840s / Wiki Commons

6. The architect of the monument never saw its completion

One of the most peculiar Scott Monument facts is that its designer, George Meikle Kemp, never saw the monument completed. About 6 months before the structure was finished he drowned in the Union Canal after walking home from the construction site on a foggy March evening.

This also means that he wasn’t present during the official inauguration, an event that took place on August 15, 1846, exactly 6 years after construction started.

They didn’t choose this date accidentally because August 15 was Sir Walter Scott’s birthday.

scott monument facts
The amazing monument / Gregg M. Erickson / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

7. The monument features a statue of Sir Walter Scott and his dog

Right in the center of the monument and on its pedestal, there’s a statue depicting Sir Walter Scott and his dog Maida. It depicts the author the moment he’s resting while writing one of his novels.

This statue was created by one of the most renowned Scottish sculptors in history, Sir John Robert Steell, a man who sculpted statues of many famous people in Scottish history. It was created between 1840 and 1846 from one 30 tonnes block of white Carrara marble.

Scott monument statue of walter scott and dog
Sir Walter Scott and his dog / Stinglehammer / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

8. It’s adorned with 68 more statues that refer to Scott’s novels

The statue of Sir Walter Scott isn’t the only statue that decorates the monument. There are a total of 68 statues that are positioned on the monument.

All of these statues depict characters in Scott’s most famous novels and were created by many of the most renowned sculptors at the time. The lower sections also feature reliefs of 16 Scottish poets and writers.

64 statues are visible from the ground, the 4 on top of the monument can only be seen from the observation deck above.

Ivanhoe on Scott Monument
Ivanhoe on the monument / StephencDickson / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

9. The stones of the monument will never be cleaned

Most of the buildings dating back to before the Industrial Revolution have suffered from pollution. That’s why many old buildings in Edinburgh appear to be quite dirty. This is what happened to the Binny sandstones that the Scott Monument was built with, stones that were quarried near Ecclesmachan in West Lothian, not too far from Edinburgh.

The question was raised in the early 1990s whether or not the monument could be cleaned and returned to its former glory. Unfortunately, this was impossible because it would damage the structure, so only the damaged stones were replaced.

The Binny sandstone quarry was reopened for this purpose and the total renovation project eventually cost £2.36 million. This is also the reason why not every stone is equally dirty!

Scott Monument stones
Detail of the stones / Source

10. It has an observation deck that offers stunning views of the city

The monument features spiral staircases which allow visitors to travel all the way to the top of the monument.

If you’re in good shape then can take the 287 steps to reach the viewing platform on the top floor. This section allows you to get some of the most amazing views of Edinburgh and its surroundings!

Scott Monument view
View from the monument / Saskia van de Nieuwenhof / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en