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Issue 76 - Observation Point

Scotland Magazine Issue 76
August 2014

 

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Observation Point

Keith Fergus explores Blackford Hill

Blackford Hill is one of Edinburgh’s famed seven hills that the city is said to be built on and a climb onto its summit grants a wonderful vantage point to gaze over Scotland’s capital city and beyond. Also sitting on Blackford Hill is The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, decorated with its two magnificent copper domes, which provide a fabulous focal point to the location.

The original observatory, known as the Playfair Observatory, was located a few miles north on the summit of Calton Hill. It became the Royal Observatory in 1822 after George IV’s visit to Scotland. However in 1888, due to a mixture of city pollution and poor quality buildings and instruments, the whole operation was nearly given over to the University of Edinburgh. Later, when the Earl of Crawford presented the nation with his Aberdeenshire astronomy and library, including an outstanding collection of astronomy books, the decision was taken to build the new observatory on Blackford Hill, opening in 1896.

There are a number of paths leading on to the summit, all of which are steep. Perhaps the finest approach is from woodland of the Hermitage and Blackford Hill Nature Reserve, which surrounds the lower slopes of Blackford Hill.

The exertions required to reach the top are rewarded with a view par excellence including the Edinburgh skyline, the Lothian, Fife and East Lothian coastlines, the Pentland Hills, Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.