New digital 3D models available online provide "taster" of iconic Salisbury Crags

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New digital 3D models have been created of Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park, providing an online “taster” of the cliffs which are currently closed following rock falls.

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Virtual models of the “Hutton Section” and “Hutton’s Rock” provide an immersive online exploration of the areas along with historical facts about the sites named after the “father of modern geology” James Hutton, following his defining study of the crags in the 1800s.

Both sections are temporarily closed to the public due to concerns over safety due to rockfall but Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has confirmed there are plans to start park

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Crags Hutton SectionCrags Hutton Section
Crags Hutton Section

ranger-led educational visits for students and educational groups over the next few months.

It follows calls last month from tour guides for people to be allowed back to the popular Radical Road footpath below Salisbury Crags which is also currently closed.

Salisbury Crags and adjoining Hutton section which is adjacent to the park’s Radical Road boasts thousands of years of history and archaeology.

They were formed millions of years ago by rising molten rock forced under pressure between layers of sedimentary rock below the now dormant Arthur’s Seat volcano.

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Edinburgh's historic Radical Road footpath below Salisbury Crags should be resto...

Situated at the south end of Salisbury Crags, the Hutton Section is a key site in understanding the age of the planet – it’s the spot where James Hutton found evidence in the late

18th century to support his theories about the geology.

The new photorealistic model, available to view online via free platform Sketchfab, is made up of hundreds of overlapping images of the site combined with the 3D data, in a technique known as photogrammetry.

It’s created through a process of laser scanning using ultra-fast, high-resolution laser scanners to capture 3D spatial data in the form of a point cloud.

Devised by HES in partnership with Nature Scot, the models will support future conservation work at sites like Holyrood Park and with wider education programmes.

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The heritage body said the 3D data created is also becoming increasingly important in providing virtual access to places and buildings.

Dr Lyn Wilson, head of programme for technical research and science at HES said: “We care for over 300 historic properties and sites, and it is our aim to use a range of digital

technologies to capture accurate, highly detailed 3D information to both support our wider work in monitoring and maintaining our sites, and to offer additional, innovation experiences via virtual access to our sites and places.

“These latest Sketchfab 3D models are notable examples of that approach in action, not only helping with our crucial conservation work but in allowing new audiences to enjoy and increase their understanding of iconic areas like the Hutton’s Section and Hutton’s Rock within Holyrood Park.”

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Dr Colin MacFadyen at Nature Scot said: “It has been a privilege to work with HES on this exciting and innovative project. Salisbury Crags is a Scottish Geo heritage asset of major global significance where James Hutton gathered evidence for his Theory of the Earth. For those not able to visit Holyrood Park the digital models of “Hutton Section” and “Hutton’s Rock” will provide useful interaction with these famous geosites. They have considerable educational value and will act as a taster for Geo tourists from across the world planning to experience the locations at first hand.”

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