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Inspirational and intriguing, the countless sculptures and statues dotted around the cobbled streets of Edinburgh make for the perfect embellishments in the city. Some historical, others contemporary, the scintillating stories behind these sculptural artworks never fail to adorn the inquisitive mind of many a Culture Trippers. From literary icons and pioneering philosophers to modernist and otherworldly, discover our guide to the must-see sculptures and statues of Scotia’s darling seat.
The story of Greyfriars Bobby, who during the 19th century guarded his master’s grave for 14 years, touches all who discover it. Moved by his loyalty and persistence, onlooking locals installed a drinking fountain for both humans and dogs, complete with a life-size statue in his honor. Sculpted by William Brodie in 1872 and presented in 1873, this wee Skye terrier is immortalized not just by his tale, but through the monument, which sits close to Greyfriars Kirkyard. Recent events demanded restoration efforts regarding Bobby’s nose, which lost its color due to an influx of tourists rubbing it for ‘good luck’. It may be the smallest listed building in Edinburgh, but that’s no excuse to touch it!
Timeless and iconic, there’s nothing elementary about this one. A rightful tribute to Edinburgh-born literary wonder Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes statue commandeers the scenery that surrounds, along with many a passing heart. This statue sprung up from the concrete in 1991 like Holmes on a hunt for clues and was strategically positioned at Conan Doyle’s birthplace, Picardy Place. However, with the arrival of the inner-city tram system came some significant upheaval for Sherlock. In a bid to save his dignity (and the statue’s very existence), he was whisked away until tram construction was complete. Needless to say, Holmes resides at Picardy Place once more.
Created and finished by sculptor Sandy Stoddart in 1995, the David Hume statue is a magnet for philosophy buffs, intellectuals and tourists alike. After all, he was one of the most prominent thinkers of all time. A stone masterpiece and worthy selfie-spot, this statue of the famous Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist (famed for his views of radical philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism) proudly sits before the High Court Building on the Royal Mile, providing him with a prime view of the Fringe street acts in August. Cast in bronze, exalted upon high and scaled to one and a half times the life size adds to the aesthetic appeal of this famous statue.
Since the grand unveiling in 2004, the Robert Fergusson statue by sculptor David Annand has enabled the great folk of Edinburgh to walk alongside this famous Scottish bohemian poet, who was a great source of inspiration for Robert Burns. Situated just outside the Canongate Churchyard, this statue is a cut above the rest with meticulously thought out intricacies like the addition of the book, swaying coat tails and fluid nature. His contemplative face makes you wonder what is going on inside that brilliant mind.
Yet another masterpiece from the deftly talented Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi, The Manuscript of Monte Cassino is a three-part sculpture comprised of a welcoming palm, foot and part of a limb. Situated by St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral glancing towards Paolozzi’s birth area, this compelling artwork extends an olive branch in the form of a message, while addressing war’s devastating effects. You don’t need to look closely to notice that this sculpture is bursting with symbolism.
Due to his innate knack for words, Scottish writer and adventurer Robert Louis Stevenson lives on through his characters today. To celebrate this literary wonder, the good folk of Edinburgh craftily incorporated his most memorable creations. Basking in the glory of Corstorphine, the statue, which was created by Alexander Stoddart in 2004, features Kidnapped characters Alan Breck Stewart and David Balfour. Notably, James Bond himself, Sir Sean Connery, was responsible for the unveiling.
Entwined with history and graced with majesty, the Cramond Lioness is widely considered as one of the greatest sculptures to have survived and stayed in Scotland. Unearthed unexpectedly by a local ferryman in 1997 from the mud of the River Almond in Cramond, this sensational sandstone sculpture is speculated as being a memorial for a highfalutin Roman officer. The sculpture entails a fearless lioness gorging on a naked man.
On the Royal Mile near his friend David Hume sits the statue of Adam Smith, the Scottish philosopher, economist and author of The Wealth of Nations. 10-feet tall and composed of bronze, this statue was expertly crafted, like many of Edinburgh’s statues, by Alexander ‘Sandy’ Stoddart, Scotland’s most celebrated sculptor. A master of his craft, Stoddart is the Queen’s Sculptor in Scotland. The statue, which resembles Smith during his later years, was revealed by Nobel Laureate Economist Professor Vernon L. Smith.
Positioned within the unassuming natural beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens sits Ascending Form (Gloria), 1958, and Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964, two otherworldly sculptures by Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth. Hepworth, who was born in England in 1903, was an artist and sculptor of immense skill. Modernist tendencies and contemporary sculptural works garnered her widespread praise. Surrounding these stellar sculptures exists an ineffable sense of serenity.
A must-see for art buffs, Vulcan, by the revolutionary and immensely talented Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, is gargantuan in size and impact. After all, he is the Roman God of Fire and blacksmith responsible for the weaponry belonging to the gods and heroes. Situated in Modern Two at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art, hours upon hours can be spent marveling at this enormous masterpiece, which acts as some serious food for thought. Each reflection offers a new perspective into the mind of this great Scottish sculptor, who is regarded a true pop art pioneer, just as this hybrid machine-human sculpture is considered a snippet of the modern age.