calton hill edinburgh view with dugald stewart monument, balmoral hotel and edinburgh castle - everything you need to know about calton hill in edinburgh - wild lovely world travel blog
Edinburgh,  Scotland

Calton Hill Guide: Easy Walk & Famous View Of Edinburgh

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Last Updated On 6th February 2024 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

In this post, discover everything you need to know about Calton Hill in Edinburgh, including the history of Calton Hill, how to get there, the Calton Hill walk plus how to see that famous, beautiful view of Edinburgh.

Calton Hill, 103m (338ft), is a gorgeous little hill. It is an absolute must-do if you are visiting Edinburgh, even if you are on a short trip. Climbing Calton Hill is a great way to orientate yourself with the layout of Edinburgh, so I recommend going for a walk up Calton Hill on the first day of your itinerary!

Do you know the most famous view of Edinburgh? You know, the one that if you look up pictures of Edinburgh on the internet, then there is always that same photo that comes up?! Calton Hill is the location of the most famous view of Edinburgh. Which view am I talking about? The view is of Edinburgh city taken from Calton Hill with the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground. Here is a photo I have taken of this famous view from Calton Hill:

Calton Hill edinburgh
View from the top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh – Copyright Wild Lovely World

Calton Hill is so close to Edinburgh city centre. It is located at the east end of Princes Street, just a 5-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley Station! So easy!

With it being so accessible and with just absolutely gorgeous views of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, then you have no excuse not to do it!

Calton Hill is No. 4 in my Quick Guide to The Seven Hills of Edinburgh series. Check out the full series here: The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh: A Quick Guide

Quick Guide To Calton Hill In Edinburgh

Check out these posts for some more Edinburgh travel inspiration! 🏰 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 :

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FAQ: Calton Hill In Edinburgh

Is Calton Hill Worth Visiting?

Yes, it is definitely worth visiting Calton Hill in Edinburgh! Calton Hill is a wonderful spot to get a great view of the city and to see historical monuments and buildings. It does not take very long to visit Calton Hill and it is located in the city centre and is easy to get to, so you can surely fit it into your itinerary.

Calton Hill Is The Location Of The Most Famous View Of Edinburgh

Calton Hill offers excellent views of the city centre. There are panoramic views of Leith and the Firth of Forth, Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, and Holyrood Park.

You will of course also see all the incredible architecture including Edinburgh Castle, the old City Observatory, and all sorts of monuments such as the Scott, the Nelson, the Dugald Stewart Monument (that one in the famous photo!) and the National Monument of Scotland.

The view from Calton Hill is absolutely iconic. It is of Edinburgh city taken from Calton Hill with the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground. I reckon it is the most used imagery of Edinburgh for ads and travel websites to promote the city. To top it off, Calton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Of all places for a view, this Calton Hill is perhaps the best.” Robert Louis Stevenson, 1889

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Admire Edinburgh’s beautiful architecture from Calton Hill – © Wild Lovely World
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Dynamic Earth (white dome building) and Holyrood visible under Salisbury Crags – © Wild Lovely World
panoramic view calton hill edinburgh
Panoramic view from Calton Hill – Copyright Wild Lovely World

History Of Calton Hill

Calton Hill has quite a long and varied history. The short version is that in 1724 the town council bought the hill which made it one of the first public parks in the country.

The famous philosopher David Hume lobbied the council to build a walk “for the health and amusement of the inhabitants”. The walk around the hill is still there to this day for everyone to enjoy.

You can learn more about Calton Hill by visiting and reading the information signs dotted along the paths.

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View towards Leith and the Firth of Forth – © Wild Lovely World

Calton Hill Monuments & Historical Buildings

There are several monuments and historical buildings at the summit of Calton Hill. Here is some information about the Dugald Stewart Monument, the Nelson Monument, the National Monument and the City Observatory.

The Dugald Stewart Monument

This iconic monument on Calton Hill is a memorial to the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart. The Dugald Stewart Monument is world famous because it is a key feature of the iconic view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill.

Dugald Stewart lived from 1753-1828 and he was a professor at the University of Edinburgh. He was a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment (a period in the 18th – 19th centuries of intellectual and scientific accomplishments). If you want to know more about Scottish Enlightenment, you could join this guided walking tour (Viator). Dugald Stewart is buried in Canongate Churchyard and you can see his vault if you visit the burial ground.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh commissioned the monument in 1830 and it was completed in 1831.

William Henry Playfair, a famous Scottish architect, designed the monument. He also designed many historical buildings and monuments in Edinburgh, including many others on Calton Hill.

The Nelson Monument

The Nelson Monument commemorates the victory and death of Lord Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Robert Burn designed the monument in the shape of an upturned telescope. He is the same man who designed Hermitage House (link to my blog post about Hermitage House).

In 1852 the time ball was added to the top of the Nelson Monument. During summer the time ball is lowered to coincide with the daily firing of the 1 o’clock gun from Edinburgh Castle (get your tickets on Get Your Guide).

You can climb up the tower of the monument for a hefty £6 entry. The museum on the ground floor is free.

The National Monument

The National Monument, designed by Cockerell and Playfair, is (in my opinion) the most prominent of all the monuments on this hill. It was modelled on the Parthenon in Athens. Seeing it will help you to understand why Edinburgh is called the ‘Athens of the North’ (link to my Seven Hills of Edinburgh Guide post).

The monument was intended to commemorate Scottish soldiers and sailors who had died in the Napoleonic Wars.

Many people think that the National Monument of Scotland looks like ruins. However, they are not ruins. Funds ran out during the build of the monument and it was left unfinished in 1829. However, some say that it was intended to be this way. To me, this just adds to the allure of it. Because the National Monument was left unfinished, it is also known as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’.

It is an iconic structure which you can climb and observe the views. It also makes for a dramatic sunset silhouette.

The City Observatory

The City Observatory is a historic astronomical observatory building on Calton Hill. The collective arts organisation ‘Collective‘ redesigned the old observatory building and they have transformed it into a gallery space, shop and restaurant.

It’s worth popping in to see going what’s on in there as they have changing exhibitions and projects. I enjoyed my visit when I went and it gives something else to do at the top of Calton Hill.

The Portuguese Cannon

Once you get to the top of the steps heading up Calton Hill from Regent Road, you will see the Portuguese Cannon. The cannon points towards the city of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle. Even though it is a ‘Portuguese Cannon’, the cannon has the Spanish Royal Coast of Arms on it because Spain ruled over Portugal at the time the cannon was made in the 15th century. The cannon is made of brass.

The cannon has travelled all around the world. In the 17th century, the cannon went to Africa and Asia, being transported to the Portuguese colonies. The cannon ended up in Burma (under the possession of the King of Arakan – ruler of a state on the west coast of Burma) and was captured by the British during their invasion of Burma in 1885. It was taken to Edinburgh in 1886 and exhibited, and then placed on Calton Hill in 1887.

The cannon is free to be looked at and taken photos of, you can touch it and even climb on it!

According to HMDB.org, there used to the 6 cannons on top of Calton Hill but all the others were melted down in 1940 to supply metal for World War II.

calton hill monuments edinburgh
Calton Hill Monuments – © Wild Lovely World

Festivals & Events At Calton Hill

Edinburgh has many events and festivals happening all throughout the year. It’s a great city to enjoy a celebration! Calton Hill is an excellent place to watch these events and has even hosted some of them in the past.

Watching Fireworks In Edinburgh – Edinburgh Hogmanay & Edinburgh Festival

Calton Hill is a great place to watch fireworks throughout the Edinburgh Festival season (August) and the New Year’s Hogmanay celebrations (December). This is because Calton Hill is elevated and is so close to Edinburgh Castle from where the fireworks are released.

I’ve been up here on New Year’s Eve myself and the view is really amazing. Imagine the beautiful city buildings with their lights shining spreading out below you and being illuminated by sparkling fireworks – it is just stunning to see!

Bear in mind that if you are going up Calton Hill during any season or event, then it will be very busy! Calton Hill is one of the most popular locations to view fireworks from and celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you want some other suggestions of great locations to watch fireworks in Edinburgh, just get in touch or leave a comment below and I can give you some great tips!

Related Read: Edinburgh Christmas Markets & Fairs: What’s On

Beltane Fire Festival

Every year in spring, on the last night of April, Calton Hill is the scene of the Beltane Fire Festival. This is an interesting spectacle with lots of costumes, fire, drumming and acrobatics!

Over the years, this Celtic ritual celebration has grown massively in popularity. The event used to be free to join/observe, but now it is a ticketed event to help crowd control. Because of this, entry to Calton Hill is restricted when the festival is on.

If joining or watching the Beltane Fire Festival is something you are interested in and want more information on, check out the Beltane Fire Festival website.

calton hill monuments at sunset
Monuments at sunset on Calton Hill – © Wild Lovely World

How To Get To Calton Hill In Edinburgh

Where Is Calton Hill – Location Map Of Calton Hill In Edinburgh

Calton Hill is located in the city centre of Edinburgh. It is very close to Edinburgh Waverley train station. Below is a map of the location of Calton Hill in Edinburgh (Google Maps).

Walk Up Calton Hill From Edinburgh City Centre

There are several entrances/exit points on the hill and a variety of paths. So there are numerous routes to get to the summit of Calton Hill. Here I will share the best/most direct ways to get to the top of Calton Hill to make it easy for you.

The Most Direct Route To Walk Up Calton Hill

Climbing Calton Hill is super easy: it only takes about 5-10 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley Station on Princes Street.

The best way to get there is to go to the very east end of Princes Street. Basically, that means when standing in front of Edinburgh Waverley Station looking at Princes Street in front of you and The Balmoral Hotel is on your right, turn right and walk in that direction. Keep walking as it turns into Regent Road.

You will soon find the entrance to Calton Hill on the left of the footpath. It is very easy to find. Just look for all the steps going up! Here is the location on Google Maps.

From there, there are steps to climb going all the way up to the top of Calton Hill. There are quite a lot of steps going this way so take your time and have a rest if you need to.

After 5-10 minutes you will be at the summit of the hill. So, the walk up Calton Hill is not very long. Within a short amount of time, you will arrive directly where all the monuments are, plus that famous view of Edinburgh. Enjoy those awesome views!

Alternative Route To Get To The Top Of Calton Hill (Wheelchair & Pram Accessible)

Alternatively, there is a small entrance into Calton Hill from Blenheim Place/Royal Terrace. This wheelchair and pram-friendly path is located on the north side of Calton Hill near Leith Walk.

I think it could be quite tricky to locate this path if you are not familiar with it. It is located next to the Greenside Parish Church. Just look for the path to the left of this church leading into the trees. Here is the location on Google Maps.

This is an even, sealed path which climbs up quite steeply. However, it is definitely doable for most people.

The path is quite sheltered by trees and bushes until you approach the top. However, you will soon see beautiful views of the New Town emerge beneath you.

It takes a little longer to walk up this path but as it is not steps I think some people will find it a bit easier! As you get higher to the top, the path is not as steep as in the beginning. Soon it turns into a path that skirts around the edge of the hill, giving you an awesome panoramic view.

As you are coming from the other side of the hill, you will need to cross over the top of the hill to get to the monuments. The monuments are where that famous view of Edinburgh is! Just walk in the direction of all the buildings!

Exploring All Paths & Routes At The Top Of Calton Hill

There are paths going all the way around the top of Calton Hill. You could even go down a different way than you came up, and continue your route exploring the city. Edinburgh is a great city to just wander and ‘get lost’. So enjoy the panoramic views of the city and surroundings and explore!

There are a lot of information on signs about the geology, monuments and viewpoints on the top of Calton Hill. Enjoy reading these as you walk around and learn about where you are.

view of edinburgh from calton hill
View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill – © Wild Lovely World

Driving Up Calton Hill

You cannot drive or take a car up Calton Hill. The only way to get up Calton Hill is to use one of the walking paths. There are steps up Calton Hill and also an accessible path as I have described above.

There is a vehicle access road up the hill but it is not open to the general public. Only disabled visitors to the Collective Art Gallery can take a vehicle up Calton Hill through the gated access road. For more information, see their website here.

What To Wear To Walk Up Calton Hill

As all the paths are paved and well maintained, and the hill isn’t very high, you can do this walk in just any regular shoes. I’ve seen people up there in stiletto heels (but I wouldn’t recommend it)!

If you’re visiting after rain, then I recommend shoes which will deal well with mud – it can be quite muddy at the top of Calton Hill sometimes! The top of the hill is a large open grassed area.

Check the weather before you go – if it is raining or windy, I recommend a wind/waterproof jacket. Edinburgh can be very wet and windy most days, so carry one with you just in case.

There is no shelter/shade at the top of Calton Hill, other than the City Observatory art gallery and shop, so consider this if you’re walking in wet or hot weather too.

The Best Time To Visit Calton Hill

Calton Hill is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week! You can go to Calton Hill at any time of the day, including at night. It is a beautiful spot to visit in Edinburgh at any time of the day and year.

Occasionally the hill may close at certain times of the year for special events, such as the Beltane Fire Festival.

Visiting at sunset you will experience the wonderful golden hour and light across Edinburgh which is magical for taking photos. I love visiting Calton Hill at sunset as the colours are spectacular.

At night, you will see the incredible city lights. During the summer there are many festivals which show fireworks in the evening. At these times Calton Hill makes a great location to view the fireworks as they rise up and explode above Edinburgh Castle.

During winter, the Edinburgh Christmas Markets light up the city even more brightly. However, there may be snow and ice on the hill, so you should be careful not to slip and wrap up warm.

Calton Hill On The Edinburgh Sightseeing Bus Tour

The Edinburgh Sightseeing Bus Tour (Get Your Guide) is a great way to explore Edinburgh if you are not familiar with the city. This bus tour will take you to Calton Hill (but you will still need to walk to the top by yourself 🙂 !).

Edinburgh is a bus-dominated city and it can be a little confusing to know how to get around if you do not know which route you need to take.

The Edinburgh Sightseeing Bus goes to all the major destinations and stops in Edinburgh, so it makes it really easy to get to where you want to go. You can get a ticket to hop-on/hop-off with unlimited 24-hour journeys. As a passenger, you also get an audio guide so you can learn about what you’re seeing while you ride the bus.

My friend took this bus tour when she visited Edinburgh and she thought it was awesome!

It costs a very reasonable £15 and you can book it online here on Get Your Guide.

Find More Awesome Stuff To Do In Edinburgh

Book onto one these popular tours in Edinburgh with Get Your Guide:

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Quick Guide To Calton Hill – Everything You Need To Know – Thanks For Reading!

I hope this post has answered all your questions about Calton Hill and you have an excellent time visiting this wonderful feature of Edinburgh – Lauren x 😊

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Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Calton Hill is No. 4 in our Quick Guide to The Seven Hills of Edinburgh series. Check out the full series here: The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh: A Quick Guide


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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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