Popular Salisbury Crags path could close permanently due to rockfall fears

Fears over falling rocks at Salisbury Crags could lead to the closure of a popular footpath in the area, according to a new report.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 10:21 am
The Radical Road walkway along Salisbury Craggs in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
The Radical Road walkway along Salisbury Craggs in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

The Radical Road path was closed temporarily in September last year after 50 tonnes of rock fell from various cliffs.

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Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which is responsible for the path, is now considering various options laid out by its engineers. One of these involves closing the path and containing the most dangerous sections with netting.

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A report prepared for HES by engineering geologists and sent to the BBC under freedom of information shows that, of the 27 significant rock fall incidents recorded around Holyrood Park since 2007, 17 have been above Radical Road path, including a 100-tonne fall in 2011.

The Radical Road is 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.

Angus Miller, chairman of the Scottish Geodiversity Forum who leads guided walks of Holyrood Park, told the BBC that permanent closure of the path would be "a real blow" as the path offers one of the best views in the city and the chance to get up close to a geological site of international importance.

Mr Miller acknowledged safety is paramount but highlighted that Hutton's section is only 50 yards beyond the closure barrier and hopes there is a way the dangerous section can be closed, if it comes to that, and access to the Hutton's section can be maintained.

The assessment of Salisbury Crags, prepared by engineering firm Fairhust, says closing the Radical Road would be the most efficient way of reducing or removing rock fall risk. It also says that netting should be considered, though warns this would be "highly visible" given the prominent nature of the site.

Strengthening or reinforcing the rock face with strapping or tensioned bolts was ruled out as "prohibitively expensive."

HES told the BBC they could not yet specify a timeframe for a decision to be made on the matter.