The Scott monument is a brooding, 200-foot (61m), Gothic spire which opened in 1846 in honour of the prolific local novelist Walter Scott. It has been called "the largest monument to a writer in the world".
Situated opposite Jenners and very near Waverley Station, the "gothic rocket" has a very dark complexion, caused by pollutants and soot sticking to its oily, shale stone structure. In spite of attempts to clean up the monument - during the 1990s it was under scaffolding and covered up for many years - it still has a heavy, dark colouring.
When you climb the Monument's 287 steps to the top, via its increasingly narrow, spiral staircase you come to a series of viewing decks offering views of Edinburgh City Centre.
The museum at level 1 has the hallowed air of a small chapel with its wooden panelled walls and ornate arched windows. The four stained-glass windows were designed by leading 19th century Scottish artist David Roberts and made by James Ballantine. There's a small circular bench in the middle for resting and a display dedicated to Walter Scott. Audio installations offer readings of Scott's work.
After entering another door, you follow the stone, spiral staircase to the top. It becomes so narrow near the spire that you may find it a squash to pass visitors on their way back down. At the top of the stairs, a small door leads out to the 360° viewing deck. The wind-swept top offers fantastic views of the surrounding Edinburgh area (on a good day). You can walk all the round the deck, looking up and down Princes Street, over the top of the adjacent Festival Wheel, across to Edinburgh Castle and the line of Old Town buildings of the Royal Mile. The distinctive outline of the acropolis on Calton Hill is just visible behind the clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel, and Edinburgh's East Coast shoreline wraps around distant seaside communities.
Outside the Scott Monument is the starting point for a Fringe walking tour.
In 1836, four years after Scott's death, an architectural competition was launched, inviting designs for an appropriate memorial. Construction of the winning design by George Meikle Kemp began in 1840, after permission was obtained from Parliament to build in Princes Street Gardens, and it was opened in 1846.
Today, the Scott Monument is administered by the City of Edinburgh Council Museums department.
Admission to all levels is £8 (concession £6, children £5). Admission to level 1 and museum is £6 (concession £4, children £3).
10am-9pm (last admission 8.30pm). During the festive months the attraction is popular so you might want to consider going early or late in the day.