I know that it probably makes more sense to visit the old burial ground before the new one, but it just happened that as I made my way up Calton Hill I ended up at the New Calton Burial Ground first. This cemetery is not far from the Old Calton Burial Groundjust down the hill, and was created for two reasons – one, the construction of Waterloo Palace cut through the old ground and thus about 300 bodies needed to be reinterred. Second, the old burial ground was already at capacity and there was a need for more burial space. So the New Burial Ground was constructed just up the hill, and was much bigger than the original, in part because of the re-interments, but also for the predicted increase in burials.
The first thing you notice before you even arrive in the cemetery is the huge memorial to Robert Burns that lies just outside of it. It’s a small (!) circular temple that was built in 1831. Once you pass it and enter the cemetery, you’ll also notice the largest structure there, the old watchtower that was constructed to provide lodgings for those protecting the cemetery from grave robbers. Apparently it once housed a family of ten! Today it needs a different kind of protection, as apparently it has been coated with some kind of anti-climbing solution, to deter those who would do just that.
I spent quite a lot of time here reading the various stones. Although in many cases it was just a list of the deceased, there was enough information to give a sense of time and place. Many of the stones predate the cemetery, as they were brought over from Old Calton Burial Ground, but they do in fact, match up with the actual place of internment. In addition, this is a lovely cemetery with an amazing view over Edinburgh – even more so than the castle I would say! It has a completely unobstructed view of Arthur’s Seat, and when I was there you could see people climbing it, although they really did look like ants doing so.
There aren’t a lot of grand memorials or statues here, but some of the graves had interesting reliefs or small sculptures on them. One of the most impressive is the family grave of Andrew Skene, who was once the Solicitor General of Scotland.
There are a fair number of family vaults that line the walls of the cemetery, although most of them are empty. Many gravestones have also been laid on the ground, I guess in part to protect them from vandalism. But many of them were in good condition, and still easy to read.
I am particularly fond of cemeteries that are on hillsides and have multiple layers of stones, memorials, and just general landscaping; I find them much more visually interesting and fun to explore. This cemetery was no different, and of course had the bonus of being an excellent viewpoint over Edinburgh as well.
Monuments: Mostly older, slab-style monuments, small obelisks and columns. Some reliefs and statues adorn the monuments.
Grounds: This is a hillside location, and although there are paths, it’s much more interesting to spend time on the verge to get close to all the different stones. The lookout over Edinburgh is fantastic.
Visitors: There were a fair number of people here when I visited, but that’s all relative – maybe 10 while I was here.
Notes: It would be worth coming here in the evening for sunset over the city.
Site: New Calton Burial Ground
Established: 1817, although it officially opened in 1820 for new burials
Notable Internments: Thomas Stevenson, lighthouse engineer and father to Robert Louis Stevenson; Andrew Skene; Dr. John Moir; William Know, poet
Location: 1759 Regent Rd, Edinburgh
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