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In the beginning

Maria Short arrived in Edinburgh from the West Indies in 1827, claiming to be the daughter of Thomas Short. This caused quite a scandal – the scientific instrument maker had died almost 40 years before.  Maria’s claim (though never proven) made her the rightful owner of Thomas's masterpiece: The Great Telescope.

Continuing the legacy

Maria chose Calton Hill as the telescope’s new home. Wanting to share her newest prized possession with the public, she opened a ‘Popular Observatory’ there in 1835. Soon after, she launched an attraction that would mesmerise visitors for years to come: Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura. Sadly, under pressure from the council, she had to close in 1849. 

Undaunted, in 1853 Maria relocated her business – now called Short’s Observatory – to the Royal Mile. She added two floors to the 17th-century tenement building, guaranteeing visitors the very best views in the city.

A new beginning

After Maria’s death, a famous polymath named Patrick Geddes bought the building, complete with the Camera Obscura. Geddes was a man on a mission – to improve living conditions in Edinburgh’s Old Town. He renamed the observatory ‘The Outlook Tower’ and transformed it into a centre of learning, designed to expand the world-view of local residents.

Back to the present

In 1977 David Hayes, and his growing company Visitor Centres Ltd, took over the running of the then named Outlook Tower. It’s been a family business ever since. From the beginning we’ve continued the work that Maria Short and Patrick Geddes started. We collaborate with artists, inventors and technical wizards – to plunge you even further into our world of wonder and delight.

tower from tattoo stand

Our Sister Attractions

If you're visiting other areas of Scotland, why not check out one of our sister attractions? Our company Visitor Centres Ltd also operates Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Inveraray Jail and Landmark Press
Landmark Forest Adventure Park is a great day out for all the family, situated in Carrbridge. Voted by TripAdvisor as one of the UK's Top 10 Adventure Parks you can explore Dinosaur Kingdom, get on board the Wild Water Coaster, be amazed by our Butterfly House, and climb amongst the trees in Ropeworx. 
At Inveraray Jail experience one of the finest and best-preserved Jail and Courtroom complexes in the world. Explore this unique collection of historic buildings brought to life by real characters from the Jail’s past. Experience the true stories of what life was like for the men, women and children who were tried and locked up here.
Inveraray Jail family
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