An enormous telescope-shaped tower perched 456 foot above sea level on the summit of Calton Hill; the Nelson Monument is one of Edinburgh’s most instantly recognizable landmarks, dedicated to the revered Admiral Lord Nelson. Designed by Robert Burn to appear like Nelson’s naval spyglass, the 106 foot tall monument was built in 1816 to commemorate his victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Climbing the tower is a popular pastime for visitors, affording spectacular views over the city, but with a 170-step spiral staircase and a small trapdoor leading to the observation deck, it’s a feat best left to those fit enough.
The tower isn’t just monumental – it was designed to double up as a signal mast for ships coming into Leith harbor and in 1852 a 762kg mechanized time ball was installed to help ship captains reset their chronometers. Today, the ball still rises and falls at precisely 1pm each day, synchronized with the One O’clock Gun fired from Edinburgh Castle. Restored in 2009 as part of Edinburgh’s Twelve Monuments Restoration Project, the Nelson monument is now a category A listed building and still flies the famous Trafalgar flag signal 'England expects that every man will do his duty' each year to mark Trafalgar Day (21st October).