Starry, Starry Night at the Nelson Monument

Edinburgh's historic Nelson Monument will be the centre of attention this weekend when it is specially illuminated to mark its new 4 star rating from VisitScotland.

The Council-owned monument, which has stood proud on Calton Hill for nearly 200 years, has gone from a 2 to a 4 star rating following a visit by VisitScotland 's Quality Assurance inspectors. To mark this achievement, four stars will be projected on to the Princes Street facade of the monument during the evenings of Thursday 25, Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February 2010.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture Leader for the City of Edinburgh, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Nelson Monument has scooped a prestigious four-star rating from VisitScotland. Such a lot of painstaking restoration work and TLC has gone into upgrading the iconic Calton Hill monument. This accolade is testament to the dedication and commitment of our Museums team, Edinburgh World Heritage and our partners in the Twelve Monuments Restoration Project.

"The historic time ball has been restored to working order and the monument itself now boasts a new display space for visitors. Particular credit must go to Margaret McLachlan, our fabulous customer assistant at the Nelson Monument, whose knowledge and friendly, welcoming manner no doubt wowed the VisitScotland inspectors when they paid their visit. Huge congratulations to everyone involved, and to those who haven't yet paid the Nelson Monument a visit - what are you waiting for?"

Tony Mercer, VisitScotland's Head of Quality and Standards, said: "Following its refurbishment and considerable investment in the entire visitor experience, we are delighted to upgrade the Nelson Monument to a four star award. The new award recognises the time, care and investment made into such a fine, high quality visitor attraction. Working together, we sell Scotland to the world, bringing thousands of visitors and millions of pounds to local economies and Visitor Attractions have an important role to play in that equation."

David Hicks, Communications Manager for Edinburgh World Heritage, said: "The new rating from Visit Scotland is great news for the Nelson Monument, and will hopefully lead to more people visiting this important Edinburgh landmark. The new exhibition inside reveals many fascinating aspects of the history of the monument, such as the role of the lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson in its construction. My favourite tale detail is how the monument was used for sending signals across the city, sometimes indicating that the Royal Garden party was cancelled, or even when a shipment of London fashions had arrived at Leith."

The Nelson Monument has always been important as a signalling tower and viewpoint for the best panorama in the city; now the ground floor area has been opened up and improved too. Originally the accommodation for the custodian, at one time they even had the idea that some wounded sailors might live there, though there is no evidence they ever did. An early custodian sold teas, soups and jellies, and even served Nelson dinners on Trafalgar Day, despite continual problems with the water supply on the very top of the hill. Until about ten years ago, it remained the family home of the custodian.

The rooms have now been opened up as a display space, with new graphic panels explaining the story of the Battle of Trafalgar, the history of the monument itself and the intriguing story of the time ball, installed in the middle of the 19th century as a navigational aid for shipping. The bathroom has been converted to visitors' toilets and the whole space upgraded. The new fresh welcoming atmosphere and interesting and informative displays have contributed to Visit Scotland's raising the visitor attraction star status, to reflect the improved visitor experience.

Restored last year thanks to the Twelve Monuments Restoration Project, the time ball at the top of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill dates back to 1852. Its purpose was to enable ship's captains to set their chronometers accurately by observing the dropping of the ball at one o'clock Greenwich Mean Time each day. Nine years later, the one o'clock gun at Edinburgh Castle was added, to give an audible signal. The time ball itself is a timber structure sheathed in zinc, which rises and falls around a central post, hand-operated by an employee of Ritchie & Son Clockmakers. The time ball has been restored with new timber and zinc parts. The operating mechanism for time ball has also been restored. A new gear wheel has been cast and installed to replace the original. All the repairs have been completed using traditional methods and removing the minimum necessary amount of damaged material.

The Twelve Monuments Restoration Project is supported by: Heritage Lottery Fund, J.Paul Getty Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Marquess of Bute, Babcock Marine, the Pilgrim Trust, The Binks Trust and others.

Nelson Monument - Visitor information:

Thousands of visitors each year experience the magnificent views of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas from the 360° viewing platform at the top of the Nelson Monument. The panoramic view is framed by Fife to the North, the Forth estuary to the East, the Moorfoot Hills to the South, and the Forth Rail and Road bridges to the West.

Opening Times

April to September:

Monday 1pm - 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 6pm October to March:

Monday to Saturday 10am - 3pm

Admission £3


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