A Walk to Calton Hill

A walk to Calton Hill from Princes Street is a classic Edinburgh experience and highly recommended to any visitor to the city.

Prepare to be swept away by the city’s charm, its history and its breathtaking views. Let’s lace up our boots and begin.

Start of the Walk

Our walk starts from the east end of Princes Street where you will find the Scott Monument and the Balmoral Hotel. Look up and admire the ornate clock tower, a timeless landmark. Notice the time on the clock is three minutes fast. This has been tradition since 1902. Its to ensure that people don’t miss their train from Waverley Station below. The only exception is on the 31st of December (Hogmanay) for celebrating the incoming New Year at midnight.

A Walk to Calton Hill
East end of Princes Street, Balmoral Hotel Clock Tower and Calton Hill in the background

Continue eastward along Waterloo Place past the Apex Hotel and Howies on your left. A few yards further along you will find a set of steep steps and a path leading up to the top.

Alternatively if you prefer a gentler incline continue along Regent Road for a few yards more to the old Royal High School building. There you will find a road taking you up to the top. As you climb, the building on the opposite side of the road is St Andrews House a Scottish Government Building and the office of the First Minister. This building was built on the site of the Old Calton Jail

As you emerge onto Calton Hill the panoramic vista spreads before you. To the north and east you can see the Firth of Forth across to Fife and east toward Berwick Law. To the south Arthur’s Seat rising above Holyrood Palace. Turn westward and witness the grid of the New Town and its elegant Georgian buildings and Princes Street with Edinburgh Castle dominating the skyline.

A Walk to Calton Hill – The National Monument

Calton Hill is not just a viewpoint, its an open air museum. Dotting the summit are a collection of imposing monuments each with their own story. The National Monument inspired by the Parthenon in Athens and why Edinburgh is sometimes referred to as the Athens of the north.

A Walk to Calton Hill
National Monument

A Walk to Calton Hill – The City Observatory

The City Observatory was the main centre for the Edinburgh Astronomical Institution and the Astronomer Royal until 1896. It was decided to move to Blackford due to light pollution in the city centre. From 1938 – 2008 it was operated by the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.

Playfair Architect Edinburgh
The City Observatory

After extensive redevelopment the building reopened in 2018 and is now home to the Collective Gallery and used for exhibitions.

Nelson’s Monument

Nelson’s Monument is a towering structure built between 1807-1816 to commemorate Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish Fleets at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and Nelson’s own death in the battle. In 1852 a mechanised time ball was added to signal shipping in Leith Harbour. The time ball synchronised with the one o’clock gun firing from Edinburgh Castle. The monument was restored in 2009.

Today you can climb its winding stairs for an even better breathtaking view (and a bit of a workout!)

A Walk to Calton Hill
Nelson Monument

Dugald Stewart Monument

Don’t miss the Dugald Stewart Monument dedicated to the Scottish philosopher 1753 – 1828. Dugald Stewart was a professor at Edinburgh University holding the chair of moral philosophy. He was a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. The monument was designed by William Henry Playfair.

A Walk to Calton Hill
Dugald Stewart Monument

After exploring the monuments find a quiet spot to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Watch the city unfold below. This is a place to reflect, to connect with Edinburgh’s spirit and create memories that will last a lifetime.

So whether you’re seeking history, breathtaking views, or a moment of peace, a walk from Princes Street to Calton Hill is an experience you won’t forget.

More Walks from 2edinburgh.com

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New Town Walk Easy Walking Tour

Edinburgh Old Town and Arthur’s Seat