Perched upon high within a Victorian rooftop chamber sits the star of the show — the Camera Obscura. This nifty device, an age-old periscope, uses a mirror, lenses, and daylight to conjure up the most epic panoramic views of Edinburgh. Seeing it like this in all of its glory is the kind of experience that lasts a lifetime. The knowledgeable and endearingly funny guides provide the full works of a show and fascinating flash facts about the city.
Back in the 18th century, a chap by the name of Thomas Short, who happened to be a deftly skilled instrument maker, rented some space on Calton Hill, so the public could explore his works. 1827 came around and a lady named Maria Theresa Short descended upon Edinburgh causing quite the ruckus — she claimed to be Short’s long lost daughter. What’s more, she asked for his beloved telescope after he died. Sure enough, she got the telescope and formed Short’s Popular Observatory in 1835. By 1852, Maria moved the observatory to its current location on Castlehill and added an additional two floors. In 1892, Scottish urban planner and sociologist Patrick Geddes took over and renamed it the Outlook Tower, the purpose of which was to offer the public a new perspective on life. Being an urban planner and man of many hats, Geddes added other worldly exhibits, rendering it a most popular museum. Today, this fun house still casts a spell on all its visitors.
Or nightmares! Picture conniving swathes of light swerving and radiating in ways that trick the brain, senses and body into believing that they, like the light, are spiraling out of control. Liberating and downright surreal, the vortex tunnel can only be described as a strung-out portal to another universe. Beautifully suited to those always on a mission to test the mind.
As good a time as any for a bout of self-reflection, the mirror maze is as hallucinatory as it is enticing. Imagine a maze containing a myriad of mirrors and the only way out is to enter. With each little flicker and bounce of light comes an optical illusion. A worthy challenge, step into the shoes of Alice as you traverse through the looking glass into beyond.
Only by comparing a meticulously curated conglomeration of old, live, new and unique pictures of the city, can you truly examine the differences of Edinburgh over time. The Edinburgh Vision floor is essentially a time capsule, enabling visitors to view Edinburgh in 3D during Victorian times, thanks to an impressive array of stereoscopic lenses, mirrors and 3D specs. Live viewcams let you explore the city without even lifting a foot.
Although a tad terrifying, the Morph Machine is a definite conversation starter. Like something out of a sci-fi thriller, this contraption can transform folk completely. Ever wondered what you’d look like as an elderly person or even a monkey? Go to Camera Obscura. If that becomes too overwhelming, visit the Ames Room and feel larger than life itself.
Thrilling and astounding, this Scottish fun house boasts some exceptional holograms. Examine every tiny detail and learn all you need to know regarding the history of holograms. Some transform, others disappear, many stare.
From hat tricks with rabbits to unnatural contortions, society cannot help but remain infatuated with magic. Straight out of Neverland, The Magic Gallery is the most raved about floor. Imagine vanishing confectionary, swapping heads with other people, walls overflowing with inexplicable shadows, wavy mirrors and an uncanny kaleidoscope.