Bill Bryson was right when he said the Scott Monument looks like a gothic rocket ship. That is exactly what it looks like.
Unfortunately, so far as anyone has been able to tell, it is not a rocket ship, but rather an impressively and apparently intentionally dirty tribute to Scottish author Walter Scott. You’ll find it on Princes Street in Edinburgh, and if you’re there you might as well pay the £3 they’re asking to walk yourself to the top.
Completed in 1844 and standing 200 feet and six inches up from the earth, the Scott Monument offers impressive views over the many hills of Edinburgh stretching out below. To enjoy these views, however, you need to be a dwarf. And a skinny one at that.
There’s a spiral staircase that winds its way up the legs of the monument, getting narrower with every one of the 287 steps, and not a single thought was given to comfort or easy negotiation. The suggestion that you ‘Keep Right’ is laughable when your shoulders are wider than the space between the walls.
Despite the discomfort, I managed to arrive at the top viewing level, employing the contortionist skills that I’ve picked up over many years of budget airline travel, and the view from the top is just about worth the £3 plus the price of a session with a chiropractor.
Up close, and also from afar, I quite like the look of the Monument – part rocket ship, part medieval blade – and I enjoyed the challenge of getting myself up the inside of it. Without doubt, though, the highlight of the ordeal was hugging the inner wall to let a group of pretty Scandinavians pass. You see, well, there was contact as they passed. Practically the sort of contact that is advertised in telephone booths.
Climbing the Scott Monument I was reminded of a recent trip to the top of the Belfry in Bruges, which in turn reminded me of the film, In Bruges, which brings us conveniently back to dwarfs. And that’s as good a place as any to end.