Radical Road: Plans to reopen beloved footpath around Arthur's Seat welcomed by Edinburgh mountaineer

Plans to reopen a historic path in the Capital have been welcomed by world-renowned mountaineer Stephen Venables.

The 68-year-old climbed cliffs on the Radical Road in Holyrood Park regularly before it was closed four years ago over safety concerns.

Now site managers are looking to reverse the decision, after Edinburgh heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, access group ScotWays, and Mountaineering Scotland among others criticised the move.

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The path starts next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and runs along Salisbury Crags at Arthur's Seat, one of Edinburgh's top landmarks.

Photo: Greg Macvean
Photo: Greg Macvean
Photo: Greg Macvean

It was closed in 2018 after 50 tonnes of rock fell from cliffs onto the path.

Geologists and historians have also previously called for the path to be reopened due to the significance of the site.

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Before its closure, the path was popular with walkers and climbers. It was also famous for being the spot where Scottish geologist James Hutton found proof in the layers of rock

that the Earth was much older than was previously believed.

Historic Environment Scotland which manages the city centre park including the kilometre-long path set high in rock is now looking into ways to reopen the site, after saying it

hadn’t ruled out permanent closure.

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HES had said in a report in 2021 that shutting the site would be the safest and most cost-effective option for its future.

But Mr Venables, who lives in Edinburgh believes that a few signs warning people of the dangers is sufficient for the path. He is not convinced there is a serious risk of rock fall.

Mr Venables was the first from the UK to ascend the summit of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen

He told the BBC:

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"I have seen this happening more and more all over the world. Well-meaning officials love to restrict people's access.

"This creeping health and safety is a global problem. I'm not convinced of the seriousness of the risk of rockfall at this site."

Mr Venables, who in 1988 became the first Briton to ascend the summit of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen, added that it had been a great shame when the path and cliffs were closed.

The mountaineer said: "Edinburgh is almost unique in having a mountain in its city centre, and some of the world's finest mountaineers first learned their craft here on Salisbury Crags.

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"I am always highly sceptical of 'health and safety' concerns overriding the public's need to access wild country, so I am delighted to hear that Radical Road may soon be re-opened."

James Garry, the assistant director of the Cockburn Association, said he was delighted plans were being looked into to reopen the road.

He said: "This is the most popular and traditional access through the King's Park in Holyrood.

"It is the unique experience the path provides that makes it crucial that it is reopened and accessible."

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A spokeswoman for Historic Environment Scotland said: "We hope to strike a balance between the current risk from rockfall and access that will provide benefit for all whilst meeting our statutory obligations, and we will continue to explore how we can minimise the current access restrictions on the Radical Road as part of any future proposals.

"We are reviewing how we assess and manage rock risk safety with specialists from the British Geological Survey and our specialist geotechnical engineers."