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Starry, starry night at the Nelson Monument

posted 25 Feb 2010, 07:24 by myEdinburgh Admin
Edinburgh's historic Nelson Monument will be the centre of attention this weekend when it is specially illuminated to mark its new 4 star rating from VisitScotland.

The Council-owned monument, which has stood proud on Calton Hill for nearly 200 years, has gone from a 2 to a 4 star rating following a visit by VisitScotland's Quality Assurance inspectors.

To mark this achievement, four stars will be projected on to the Princes Street façade of the monument during the evenings of Thursday 25, Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February 2010.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture Leader for the City of Edinburgh, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Nelson Monument has scooped a prestigious four-star rating from VisitScotland. Such a lot of painstaking restoration work and TLC has gone into upgrading the iconic Calton Hill monument. This accolade is testament to the dedication and commitment of our Museums team, Edinburgh World Heritage and our partners in the Twelve Monuments Restoration Project.

"The historic time ball has been restored to working order and the monument itself now boasts a new display space for visitors. Particular credit must go to Margaret McLachlan, our fabulous customer assistant at the Nelson Monument, whose knowledge and friendly, welcoming manner no doubt wowed the VisitScotland inspectors when they paid their visit. Huge congratulations to everyone involved, and to those who haven't yet paid the Nelson Monument a visit - what are you waiting for?"

Tony Mercer, VisitScotland’s Head of Quality and Standards, said: "Following its refurbishment and considerable investment in the entire visitor experience, we are delighted to upgrade the Nelson Monument to a four star award. The new award recognises the time, care and investment made into such a fine, high quality visitor attraction. Working together, we sell Scotland to the world, bringing thousands of visitors and millions of pounds to local economies and Visitor Attractions have an important role to play in that equation."

David Hicks, Communications Manager for Edinburgh World Heritage, said: "The new rating from Visit Scotland is great news for the Nelson Monument, and will hopefully lead to more people visiting this important Edinburgh landmark. The new exhibition inside reveals many fascinating aspects of the history of the monument, such as the role of the lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson in its construction. My favourite tale detail is how the monument was used for sending signals across the city, sometimes indicating that the Royal Garden party was cancelled, or even when a shipment of London fashions had arrived at Leith."

The Nelson Monument has always been important as a signalling tower and viewpoint for the best panorama in the city; now the ground floor area has been opened up and improved too. Originally the accommodation for the custodian, at one time they even had the idea that some wounded sailors might live there, though there is no evidence they ever did. An early custodian sold teas, soups and jellies, and even served Nelson dinners on Trafalgar Day, despite continual problems with the water supply on the very top of the hill. Until about ten years ago, it remained the family home of the custodian.

The rooms have now been opened up as a display space, with new graphic panels explaining the story of the Battle of Trafalgar, the history of the monument itself and the intriguing story of the time ball, installed in the middle of the 19th century as a navigational aid for shipping. The bathroom has been converted to visitors' toilets and the whole space upgraded. The new fresh welcoming atmosphere and interesting and informative displays have contributed to Visit Scotland's raising the visitor attraction star status, to reflect the improved visitor experience.