Video: Barnton Quarry nuclear bunker set to open to the public

A secret Cold War nuclear bunker in Edinburgh which was considered the 'first defence against the Russians' and could accommodate 400 politicians underground will open to the public.

Tuesday, 18th September 2018, 6:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th September 2018, 6:21 pm

The historic bunker in Barnton Quarry was built in the 1950s in the midst of fear of Soviet power – and remained a secret until the 1980s.

Deep underground in Corstorphine Hill, four miles from the Capital, it served as Sector Operations Centre for co-ordinating RAF fighter jets and protected Scotland from attack by Russian long-range nuclear bombers until around 1960.

It was used as a control centre where information was analysed, and became a base for a radar air defence system.

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Entrance tunnel at Barnton Nuclear Bunker. Pic: SWNS

Later it was reconfigured to become a regional seat of government in the event of a nuclear attack, designed to accommodate 400 politicians and civil servants for up to 30 days.

But in the 1990s it fell victim to vandals who torched it and raided the interior for scrap metal.

An amateur historian who grew up near the bunker and was fascinated by it became involved in the restoration project when he visited with a friend from Russia.

Grant More, 38, volunteered his time to help open the bunker to the public.

The plant room of Barnton Nuclear Bunker. Pic: SWNS

Mr More said: “I grew up in the area and am a bunker nut. I used to play around the site of the Barnton Quarry as a kid.”

The bunker was one of 38 which was built in Britain and measures 37,000sq feet.

It was built over three floors, including an operating room with two storeys.

The project began in 2011 and is hoped to be finished by 2021, with a huge telecommunications exchange which could be restored as it once was.

Barnton Nuclear Bunker pictured in 1950s.

The father-of-two added: “This sort of building you can’t preserve commercially, so there’s a kind of symbiotic relationship for the guys running the museum getting the place restored economically and us getting to restore a piece of history.

“In the early 1990s vandals set fire and pretty much devastated the building, so much so fire crews spent five days putting it out. Then in 2011 we started working on it, but the building had been open to the elements so we actually spent a good couple of years cleaning it out.

“The place was gutted by fire and people looking for scrap metal but we’ve got a lot of stuff in storage like original fire alarm systems and communications equipment.”

Mr More joked that the wives of the eight volunteers were referred to as “bunker widows” due to the dedication of the team, who turn up every weekend to help out.

Grant More at Barnton Nuclear Bunker. Pic: SWNS

“We call our wives ‘bunker widows’ because we work all week then go to work on the bunker each weekend, but no one else will do it. It’s an important part of our national heritage and I think everyone involved understands that.”

The bunker will be open to the public during the weekend of September 29 - 30 as part of Doors Open Day 2018.