The National Monument of Scotland

Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857)  Return of Western Portico, 1826
Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857) Return of Western Portico, 1826

The Digital Imaging Unit has digitised many architectural drawings held in University of Edinburgh special collections over the years. They always present a challenge because of thier scale. They offer a fascinating glimpse of history in relation to many of the buildings in Edinburgh that we are familiar with on a daily basis. I think many of us have a positive relationship with the National Monument more commonly known as the Acropolis on Calton Hill. Its original meaning has been displaced over the years given that it was never completed. It was originally built to commemorate Scottish soldiers fallen in the Napoloenic war and its incompletion became a sensitive subject. It has become a different type of symbol and people have used it as an amazing photographic prop to commemorate all types of important mile stones in Edinburgh life. The Drawings by Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857) of the National Monument can be viewed in great detail by using the plus and minus buttons in the lower part of the image on our luna delivery page here.

Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857) The National Monument of Scotland, Front Elevation of Western Portico, 1826, No.3
Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857)The National Monument of Scotland, Plan and Section o Back of Western Portico, 1826

Malcolm Brown Deputy Photographer.


  1. That’s an interesting few pictures, not seen them before. I know some people still have strong negative feelings about the National Monument but I kind of like it. I would however be kind of curious to see what it would have been like if it had ever been fully finished!

    June 4, 2015
  2. Malcolm Brown said:

    Hi Tom,
    I agree I like it as it is also. It has an iconic Edinburgh feel to it. I think that whole space is being developed and it may not remain as unusual looking for long. I haven’t seen any plans for the original complete idea. That would be interesting.

    June 5, 2015
  3. Bill said:

    I would have thought a full set of plans would have existed at some point in time in addition to artists impressions of the finished monument. Documents such as these would have been used for pricing and promotion of the project, especially fund raising. I wouldn’t be surprised if a scale model existed also, such a shame if they have been lost or destroyed.

    November 12, 2017

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