Edinburgh World Heritage

Views on the view

Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander McCall Smith and Charles Dickens have all written about Calton Hill.

For Robert Louis Stevenson Calton Hill was the place in Edinburgh for a view of the city. In his book Picturesque Notes he describes the scene:

“Return thither on some clear, dark, moonless night, with a ring of frost in the air, and only a star or two set sparsedly in the vault of heaven; and you will find a sight as stimulating as the hoariest summit of the Alps. The solitude seems perfect; the patient astronomer, flat on his back under the Observatory dome and spying heaven's secrets, is your only neighbour; and yet from all round you there come up the dull hum of the city”

The author Alexander Smith thought that the best views were to be had at night from the Burns Monument, next to the hill on Regent Road:

“A city rises up before you painted by fire on night. High in air a bridge of lights leap the chasm...That ridged and chimneyed bulk of blackness, with splendour bursting out of every pore, is the wonderful Old Town, where Scottish history mainly transacted itself; while, opposite the modern Princes Street is blazing throughout its length.”

However not everyone was impressed.

Charles Dickens described Calton Hill as: “littered over with waste fancies — a rubbish heap of  imaginative architecture—a hill to be looked from with an elevation of the spirit but to be looked at with an elevation of the nose.”

‹ Return to List