The Scotsman Steps: Work no. 1059

Colourful Old Town staircase

The Scotsman Steps: Work no. 1059

Jointly commissioned by the nearby Fruitmarket Gallery and Edinburgh World Heritage and first opened in 2011 as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Scotsman Steps are a permanent installation by the Turner prize-winning British artist and musician Martin Creed.

The steps start just before the entrance to the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge and finish on Market Street at the rear of Waverley Station. This hotel used to be home to the Scotsman newspaper, and there once was a small window halfway down the route where you could purchase your copy literally hotoff the presses! There are 104 steps in all, each individually clad in a rainbow of different marbles sourced from around the world. Many of them are from Italy,such as the Arabescato Carrara and Grey Saint Laurent, as well as the dark pink Rosa Portogallo stone from Portugal and the yellow Sunset Gold from the Lebanon. Some of the steps even have fossils embedded in the surface.

Your journey is different every time as the changing light highlights the various colours and hues throughout the day.

Before the installation, the most notable thing about the steps was the smell of wee, as they were regularly used as a rather grand outside toilet and were better known as the ‘pishy steps’. They are now protected by gates that open and close with the arrival and departure of the first and last trains from Waverley Station.

Other interesting works by the artist include ‘Work no. 254 The lights in a building going on and off’, ‘Work no. 2811 What The Fuck Am I doing’ and ‘Work no. 245 All of the bells in a city or town rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes’.

Don’t bother trying to make sense of any of it, just enjoy!

Martin Creed’s website