The Hill


Rising in the East above Scotland’s ancient capital, Calton Hill gives rise to some of the greatest, most revered & scenic views of Edinburgh and is one of the 7 hills that Edinburgh is built on. An iconic landmark of the city and a worthy home to Scotland’s National Monument Calton Hill enjoys an unrivalled presence over Edinburgh and cuts an enviable backdrop that is both instantly and quintessentially Scottish.

Like the hill, Calton Gold is born of tradition and reverence, it may even prove to be as desirable to your senses as the vistas afforded from Calton Hill.

Image Credit: Kim Traynor http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kim_TraynorEdinburgh’s graveyards are the stuff of legend. During the plagues that swept through the city there were so many bodies that the traditional burial place, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, became uncomfortably full, turning from a valley to a small hill over the course of a couple of hundred years. Mass graves were created in what are now The Meadows and Princes Street Gardens, but for a select few the Old Calton Burial Ground was available. Philosopher David Hume was afforded a place in the cemetary, and while his request for a “simple Roman tomb” was honoured it was decided that he didn’t specify the size, resulting in a rather huge monument.

The towering ashlar obelisk is the Political Martyrs Monument, erected to commemorate five campaigners for parliamentary reform: Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald, who in the closing years of the 18th Century were convicted of sedition and transported to Australia.

Image Credit: Kim Traynor http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kim_TraynorCalton Hill housed several jails complex comprising the Debtors’ Prison, the Bridewell, and a Felons’ Prison. in the early 1900s Saughton Prison opened and the Calton Hill jails fell into disuse, finally being demolished in 1930 to make way for St. Andrew’s House, home to Scotland’s civil servants. The Governors House (pictured) is the only remaining building from the original prison complex.

Being held in an Edinburgh prison could be a rather short life sentence or a fairly cushy affair, depending on your income. Friends and family were free to bring you anything you might need, meaning rich inmates would lead a substantially cushier life than their fellows.

Image Credit: Kim Traynor http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kim_TraynorWilliam Henry Playfair designed many of the monuments adorning Calton Hill, and many of the New Town streets surrounding it. One of his best known works is the National Monument, intended to mimic the Parthenon, it was conceived as a memorial to Scottish soldiers who had died in the Napoleonic wars.

Construction work started in 1826 but lasted just three years, when the money ran out and the building was left partially finished. There have been many suggestions and campaigns over the years to finish the job, although these have slowly waned as Edinburgers have become accustomed to the structure as it is. Originally dubbed “Scotland’s Disgrace” by detractors, the name is now bandied around in far more affectionate, tongue in cheek manner.