Could this futuristic option help reopen a key pathway on Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat?

A futuristic sky walkway could be installed on Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat to help tackle the risk of rock falls on a currently closed path, although some believe this would be an “excessive and inappropriate” option, it has been reported.

By Emma Newlands
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 3:14 pm

The steep path – known as the Radical Road, running along Salisbury Crags – was closed in 2018 due to safety concerns after 50 tonnes of rock fell from cliffs onto the path.

BBC Scotland has now cited a study revealing the walkway as one option, as well as reopening the route at users' own risk; installing avalanche-style shelters like those at Lochcarron or wire mesh; or shutting it permanently.

Ramblers Scotland and Edinburgh heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association reportedly said they wanted it reopened, echoing previous calls to do so.

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The forgotten history of Edinburgh's Radical Road

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) manages the site, and an internal report into its risk-management is said to cite the sky walkway at Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies as an example that could be emulated.

The Radical Road is deemed historically significant, and was where geology pioneer James Hutton examined exposed horizontal bands of dolerite rock. At one exposure, now known as Hutton’s Section, he was able to better understand the relationship between the different layers of rock, using the example to support his theory that igneous rocks are formed from magma.

The road got its name in the aftermath of the Radical War of 1820, when unemployed west of Scotland weavers protesting at what they felt were unjust conditions paved the track round Salisbury Crags, in a plan suggested by author Sir Walter Scott.

Edinburgh could soon have something similar to this Skywalk in Canada.

Additionally, stone from the Salisbury quarries was used to pave Regent Road and Waterloo Place in Edinburgh, for example, as well as in London and further afield.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy is quoted as saying "much more detail" was needed about the true risk to walkers using the path, and he said people are usually left to take their own call about the dangers involved with outdoor activity, “as these are usually hugely outweighed by the benefits”.

Concerns

He added: "While we recognise HES has a duty of care to people on the route, we are concerned that it seems to be treating Salisbury Crags – a natural geological feature – like it would a crumbling historic building."

Other suggestions to help reopen the route include avalanche-style shelters or covering the rock face with wire mesh. Picture: Greg Macvean Photography.

James Garry, the assistant director of the Cockburn Association, deemed the plan for a sky walkway an "excessive and inappropriate intervention", adding: "Other more sustainable and more sensitive options may be possible. It would be interesting to hear from the managers of similar sites worldwide who have successfully tackled the same sort of issues. HES needs to raise its game to deliver what Scotland's capital deserves."

A HES spokeswoman was quoted saying the risk of rockfall could "cause death or severe injury" on part of the Radical Road.

"We continue to consult external specialists and partners on what is the most appropriate option to best remedy this situation," she added. "This includes a number of options including the permanent closure of the path to the general public and scoping the feasibility of intervention methods.

"We will be undertaking further technical assessments before coming to a decision. However, no final decision has been taken yet."