*New* Vintage images of Outlook Tower from our collection were added to this page 7/2004.

Outlook Tower, Castlehill, Edinburgh Scotland
Our visit on June 5, 1996
The camera obscura in the Outlook Tower at the top of the Royal Mile, next to the castle was established in the 1850's by the optician Maria Theresa Short and was originally known as Short's Observatory. The optics were replaced in 1947.

Our initial visit to this beautifully operated camera obscura with its panoramic views of historic Edinburgh was in the summer of 1978. It was the first operating camera obscura we ever saw and we fell in love with the magic of the experience. Until that point the camera obscura room had been an interest from books on the history of photography. We have been back for four visits in the years since.

There is a ticket counter and gift shop at the entrance. Tickets are sold for a specific time shown on a sign when you buy the ticket. The camera obscura is located about six flights up in the tower. There is no elevator but there are exhibitions of camera obscuras, pinhole photography, and art on the floors you pass on your way up. These give nice stopping points in the climb. At the top is an observation deck with telescopes. At the appointed time the group files into the camera obscura and the guide (on all of our visits they have been enthusiastic and well rehearsed young people) gives a 15 minute demonstration of the camera obscura. In the few minutes between presentations they have always been happy to turn on the lights to let us photograph and videotape the interior.

Images of Edinburgh Outlook Tower from Our Collection
Since Outlook Tower was the first camera obscura that we visited, we wanted to find early images for our collection. We were frustrated to find no 19th century images. We looked at hundreds of early photographs of the area around the castle but never found one that showed a clear view of the distinctive cupola. In a recent search through the several hundred stereoscopic views of the British Isles in our collection we spotted a familiar silhouette on the skyline of the card shown below. Below it is a closeup showing Outlook Tower to the right of the Free Church of Scotland building.

Below is a booklet published in 1906 called A First Visit to the Outlook Tower. It describes the history of the tower and camera obscura.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

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Modified 8/2004