City Observatory (Edinburgh)

City of Edinburgh | Calton Hill | Gallery | ★★

[City Observatory, Calton Hill]

For centuries, astronomers in the City Observatory (or Playfair Observatory) on Calton Hill, Edinburgh monitored the movements of stars to set the observatory clock, which from the 1850s sent an electronic pulse to a time ball on the nearby Nelson Monument. At 1pm daily, the time ball was dropped, sending a visible message to ships in the Firth of Forth, the crews of which could then set their own clocks to aid navigation. To deal with foggy days, a wire was later added between the monument and Edinburgh Castle, from which a cannon was fired: the "one o' clock gun", which remains a popular sight today. Through the 20th century, the observatory changed hands several times before vandalism led to its closure. There's a happy ending though: the site re-opened its doors in 2018 as a contemporary art centre, museum and upscale restaurant with views to die for. The varied assortment of minor attractions works surprisingly well inside the equally varied mix of buildings, and even better: admission is free (donations welcome).

[City Observatory]

Location & info

📌 City Observatory (Edinburgh) ★★
Calton Hill summit, 15-min walk northeast of Edinburgh Waverley station, G.R.: NT 262742 ///cook.gather.broom
Open Tuesday to Sunday | Free

[City Observatory]

[City Observatory]

[Temporary art exhibition]

[View north over Edinburgh from the observatory]


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