Studying in the unique city of Edinburgh is an unforgettable experience. In each edition we share your memories of an iconic campus or city landmark and its role in your student days.

Calton Hill is five landmarks in one: the hill itself, with its ancient volcanic origins, giving stunning views over the city; the famously unfinished National Monument modelled on the acropolis of Athens, the telescope-shaped Nelson’s Monument; the City Observatory; and the much photographed Dugald Stewart Monument, otherwise known as the pepper pot. Your contributions reflect the varied memories this unique place evokes.



“Calton Hill takes a very prominent place in my memories of the year I spent studying in Edinburgh. I used to climb up the hill with all the friends who came to visit me. I used to live down at Portobello, my lab was at the Royal Infirmary and I regularly danced at the Pleasance. You can see all of these places and the major landmarks like the castle and Holyrood from Calton Hill, so I always saw it as a good place to do the introduction to the city. Today, when I come to visit, I usually arrive at Waverley, get out of the train or airport bus, get some food and head up the hill for a picnic before I set out to visit friends and enjoy my time. One memory that stands out from the hundreds of times that I walked up Calton Hill was the Beltane Festival in 2011. I was there with a very special friend, and another friend had come along from Stirling to join in the fun. I remember the crazy number of people on the hill and the excitement of the whole thing. We took turns sitting on each other’s shoulders to have a better view of the display and the parade. I have videos and photos from that night and I love how happy everyone looks and how beautiful it was.”

By Julia Weber MSc Genomics and Pathway Biology 2011.

“I remember the start of Charities Week and a torchlight procession from the castle esplanade to Calton Hill, watching the fireworks display and joining in the chant, ‘We want a blue one!’. Ever since, at every fireworks display I watch, I gain an immense amount of pleasure from spotting the blue ones.”

By Nean Allman BSc Geology 1964.

“A couple of friends who were studying at Oxford came over for the weekend, and I played host by taking them around Edinburgh for sightseeing. Carlton Hill was more of an accidental stop, but its commanding view of the entire city paired with the striking monument kept us lounging around for the entire afternoon, chilling on the turf while watching friendly golden retrievers run by.”

By Gillian Chu MA English 2006.

“As an astronomer, and a graduate from Edinburgh’s astronomy department based at the Royal Observatory, you might think that Calton Hill would have memories for me about astronomy, being where it all started back in the days when Edinburgh was still dark at night, and as the first home of the Royal Observatory. But no, Calton Hill to me brings back memories of running, being both the start and finish of the famous Edinburgh 7 Hills race. The race heads off from Calton to Castle Hill, then Corstorphine, Craiglockhart, a hop over the Braids and Blackford Hill (and past my old office), a race through the backstreets to Pollock, and then the lung burster up the direct face of Arthur’s Seat, followed by a mad flight down past Holyrood and back up to Calton Hill again. It has a special place for me as I broke the course record in this race way back in 1986, just before writing up my PhD and wrapping up my three years in Edinburgh.”

By Michael Burton PhD Astronomy 1987.

“In the 1970s Calton Hill had a reputation as somewhere a bit dodgy (at least in the very unadventurous circles in which I moved). Last summer I met up in York with a Chinese art historian who was about to take his students on a visit to Edinburgh and enthused about the wonderful view from Calton Hill, obviously expecting me to agree. I had to admit, very shame-facedly, that I’d never been up Calton Hill, and promised that I would repair the omission the next time I was in Edinburgh. Later in the summer I was there on a beautiful day and duly kept my promise. The view fully lived up to my Chinese colleague’s rapturous description. I’ll be back!”

By Alison Hardie MA Chinese 1979.

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