Built between 1807 and 1815, the Nelson Monument has 143 steps to reach a viewing platform near the top. In 1852 a time ball was added to the top of the monument, synchronized with the 1 o’clock gun fired at Edinburgh Castle, which allowed ships in the port of Leith to set their chronometers by it. A museum on the ground floor features a number of exhibits, including the importance of the time ball for maritime navigation and the tactics that Nelson used at Trafalgar, as well as a model of Nelson’s ship.
The Nelson Monument features on many Edinburgh guided tours, along with other top attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood House, and the Scott Monument. It’s also features on hop-on hop-off bus tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
It’s free to enter the museum on the ground floor, though donations are appreciated.
There is a fee to climb the tower.
You should have a reasonable level of fitness to climb the 143 steps to the top.
Don’t forget to bring your camera for splendid views from the monument.
The monument is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The Nelson Monument is located on Calton Hill. Footpaths lead up Calton Hill from both the south (from the junction of Waterloo Place and Regent Road) and the east (from the Royal Terrace). Numerous buses pass by close to the eastern end of Princes Street, not far from Calton Hill.
When to Get There
The Nelson Monument is open daily, year-round, with extended hours June through August and much more limited hours in the winter (October to March). For the best views, visit on a clear day. Every year, on October 21, the anniversary of Nelson’s death, naval flags are flown from the monument signaling his famous words, “England expects every man to do his duty.”
Time Ball and 1 O’Clock Gun
When the weather was bad, the time ball atop the Nelson Monument could not be seen, so in 1861 a sound signal was added in the form of the 1 o’clock gun fired from Edinburgh Castle. The two were linked together by a telegraph wire, which was removed in the 1930s. The time ball was damaged by strong winds in 2007, but was repaired in 2009.
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