Calls to reopen Edinburgh pathway six months after 50 tonne rock fall

The Radical Road walkway along Salisbury Craggs in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
The Radical Road walkway along Salisbury Craggs in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
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An Edinburgh geologist has called for urgency to reopen a section of a popular path round Salisbury Crags which has been closed for six months as a result of a 50 tonne rock fall.

Historic Environment Scotland decided to close the so-called Radical Road, which is well used by joggers, in September while a safety inspection is carried out.

Walkers on the Radical Road in Holyrood Park. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Walkers on the Radical Road in Holyrood Park. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Almost half a year later the pathway is still cordoned off with the public now unable to access a section of “international importance”.

It was here where the great James Hutton was able to examine the exposed horizontal bands of dolerite rock. At one exposure, now known as Hutton’s Section and widely-regarded as one of the most important geological sites in Edinburgh, Hutton 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.

Historic Environment Scotland has said safety is paramount, with Salisbury Crags having a history of substantial rock falls with “increasing regularity”. The organisation is awaiting an update on the rock faces from Geotechnical Engineers, which is due later this month. But Angus Miller, promotion co-ordinator at the Edinburgh Geological Society, says Hutton’s Section is needed to be reopened as soon as possible as it does not pose a risk to the public.

He added: “This section is important for geologists and should be available to the public. It is not under a high cliff and is easy to access, it isn’t dangerous. It is important for people to see James Hutton’s evidence. It is of clear interest and of educational value.

“It is such a shame people are missing out on this. I do sympathise with Historic Environment Scotland and I understand safety comes first, but I don’t know why it is taking so long. We’re six months on and this area, which is of international importance with people coming from all over the world to see it, is still closed.”

Rock falls occur naturally and are caused by a number of factors such as changes to weather conditions, fluctuations in temperature or plant growth. A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland said that specialists will be reviewing the situation and coming up with a plan of action before the park can be reopened.

They added: “The Radical Road and adjacent desire paths that lead to this area were closed to the public in September 2018 after a significant daytime rock fall when over 50 tonnes of rock landed on and around the pedestrian pathway.

“There have been a number of substantial rock falls from Salisbury Crags onto the Radical Road and surrounding area over the last few years with increasing regularity.

“Following the rock fall in September 2018, and with the continued risk of further rock falls, HES took the decision to close this path and adjacent desire routes to public access. These routes will remain closed while we assess the situation with advice from our geotechnical engineers.

“We are very conscious of the significance of Hutton’s Section and the desire for public access to it. However at present, visitor safety is our main concern.”