Great Scott! New lighting will allow Monument to shine

Edinburgh’s iconic memorial to author Sir Walter Scott has been fitted with a new lighting installation by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The Scott Monument under construction, photo by David Octavius Hill, Capital Collections
The Scott Monument under construction, photo by David Octavius Hill, Capital Collections

The bespoke Scott Monument lighting will start shining on the anniversary of Walter Scott’s death tonight (Wednesday 21 September) and will remain in place every evening thereafter.

The structure has been floodlit in previous years but the new LED system - designed by KSLD - is the first bespoke lighting to be installed. The state-of-the-art design highlights the Monument’s intricate architectural features with a soft warm glow, allowing the landmark to shine as part of Edinburgh’s night skyline.

Edinburgh’s Culture Convener Councillor Richard Lewis said: “As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature we are proud to bring the largest monument to a writer in the world out of the shadows and into the night skyline.

“The Scott Monument is an iconic and imposing memorial in the heart of Edinburgh and the new lights are in keeping with the 170 year-old structure. The scheme has been carefully created by a local Edinburgh firm to provide a soft night-time glow I’d like to think the original architect George Meikle Kemp would have approved of.”

Natalie Redford, Associate Lighting Director, KSLD, said: “We were chosen to provide this beautiful Gothic structure with the lighting that both it and the city of Edinburgh deserves. The detailed statues and features of the monument provided the main inspiration and focus for the lighting scheme, which brings out the sparkle of the stonework. 

“The majority of the luminaires used have been locally designed and fabricated and watt per watt, the new scheme has lower energy consumption. Already, the project has been shortlisted for a major design award and as the nights draw in, residents and visitors will get the chance to see the lights shine.”

The decision to light the Edinburgh landmark forms part of the Council’s citywide project to install and upgrade lighting at some of the city’s key structures and buildings. 

Edinburgh World Heritage has supported the project with a £10,000 grant. Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “We were delighted to be able to support this project, enabling a bespoke lighting design to be commissioned for this important monument. Carefully executed lighting schemes can do so much to enhance how we appreciate our city’s extraordinary architecture, defining and revealing key features.

“The Scott Monument is one of the most recognisable features on the city skyline, but by night this new project will also bring to life its mass of superb sculpture and soaring beauty.”

The Scott Monument remains the tallest memorial in the world dedicated to a writer. Built by public subscription in memory of the novelist Sir Walter Scott after his death in 1832, it was completed 170 years ago in August 1846.

Today visitors can see an exhibition on Scott's life inside and climb 287 steps to the top for spectacular views of Princes Street Gardens and much of the city. The monument is often the first glimpse visitors have of Edinburgh as they arrive at Waverley train station, named after Scott’s famous Waverley novels.

Eleanor Pender from the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, added: “We are delighted that the Scott Monument is being lit up ahead of autumn and darker nights. It is an iconic city landmark celebrating celebrating one of the world's greatest literary figures and a great visual reminder of Edinburgh's status as the world's first UNESCO City of Literature.” 

Did you know...

  • Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) made a key contribution to Scottish literature and is often regarded as the greatest writer of his day.
  • His popularity stemmed from his books and poetry, his enthusiasm for public causes, and his work as an advocate, judge, and legal administrator. He had a lifelong interest in Scottish history and language, and reawakened public interest in both through novels such as Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and The Lady of the Lake.
  • Scott’s fame was guaranteed in 1818 when he rediscovered Scotland’s lost crown jewels (Honours of Scotland) within Edinburgh Castle. He himself was a national treasure, and passed away in Melrose on Wednesday 21 September 1832.
  • A nationwide fundraising campaign to build a memorial to Walter Scott was launched in the spring of 1836 and a design competition was announced. Fifty four entries were received of which 22 were Gothic structures and 14 were Grecian temples. 
  • The winning design by George Meikle Scott was was built between 1836-46. Kemp a little known draughtsman based in Edinburgh and his passion for Gothic architecture derived from a visit to Rosslyn Chapel when he was a boy. Unfortunately, Kemp died in an accident in 1844 before the Monument was completed later than year by his brother-in-law William Bonnar.
  • The marble statue of Scott by John Steell was added in 1846. It was the first marble statue in Scotland and was carved from a block of Italian Carrara marble that weighed 30 tons.
  • The completed monument is 220 feet 6 inches (61.1 metres) high. It remains today as the largest memorial in the world dedicated to a writer.

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