The Scotsman Steps
Edinburgh has steps — lots of steps. Some are lovely, tourist-friendly curiosities and others are not. Some are just short cuts from here to there. In the recent past, The Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh have never really given anyone cause to stop and ponder. That is until British artist Martin Creed transformed them with a permanent public art installation in 2011.
The Scotsman Steps
Situated at the North Bridge in Edinburgh, The Scotsman steps were constructed in 1899 as part of the Scotsman Newspaper building, creating a passageway between the Old Town and the New Town. The almost spiral steps are covered and housed within an octagonal tower. This building is now the Scotsman Hotel. The Scotsman Newspaper has now moved to a fancy new building near the Scottish Parliament.
Commissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery (nearby on Market Street), Martin Creed’s installation took two years to plan and complete. Its official name is Work No.1059 in keeping with the naming tradition of his body of work. It is a public art installation in marble and part of a planned refurbishment of the formerly undesirable shortcut that is The Scotsman Steps. Each of the 104 steps is clad in a different and contrasting marble from around the world in every colour, shape and pattern you can imagine. Now it is a pleasant walk up or down, great for spotting period architectural details and fantastic views of Edinburgh as well as interacting with Martin Creed’s marble extravaganza.
The steps are considered a road, owned and maintained by The City of Edinburgh Council. Funding the refurbishment was aided by the World Heritage Trust.
The Scotsman Steps lead from Market Street up to the North Bridge and the Scotsman Hotel. Not only are they impressive as a regenerating work of art but they are a great short cut from Market Street to North Bridge.
Artist and musician Martin Creed was brought to public attention when he won the Turner Prize in 2001 with his Work No. 227. The Scotsman Steps connects music to art in subtle and practical ways as you climb up and descend the scaling steps, each one a different tone and hue.
The Scotsman Steps welcomes people from around the world to experience its beauty, made from different components which come together and progress to get us where we need to go. A truly practical and interactive example of public art combined with civic imagination.
Watch Martin Creed perform his special song on The Scotsman Steps and explain some of his ideas behind the installation. Find out more about Martin Creed and his work here.
How to get to The Scotsman Steps
From Waverley train station: from the Princes St exit turn right and right again. Walk over the North Bridge until you see the Scotsman Hotel. Look right. You will see the steps that go down by the side of the bridge to Market Street.
From Princes Street: walk down Waverley Bridge (between Waverley Train Station and the Scott Monument). Turn left at the end and you will be on Market Street.
From Market Street: walk towards and pass under the North Bridge which lies beyond the Fruitmarket Gallery and City Art Centre. To your right you will see the entrance to The Scotsman Steps at the foot of the bridge.