Edinburgh Castle: No rockfall incidents for four years despite safety fears leading to concert curbs

The heritage body responsible for Edinburgh Castle has not recorded any rockfalls from the landmark for four years – despite health and safety fears being blamed for a clampdown on major events that has killed off a series of pop and rock gigs.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has insisted there has been no increased risk of debris falling off the castle rock in recent years, even though one of the main access routes has been closed off by the city council.

It is understood there have been no incidents since a man was left seriously injured by a falling boulder in 2018 while using a footpath beneath the castle.

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New rules limiting the number of major events in West Princes Street Gardens were introduced last week after officials warned there was a need to protect a graveyard recently used as an alternative route to transport infrastructure.

Picture: Ryan Johnston

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    The move to allow just four days of large events was attacked by promoters DF Concerts, effectively spelling the end to their annual Summer Sessions shows.

    There has been a lengthy impasse over the need for “remedial safety measures” at the foot of the castle rock and who should be responsible for them.

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    HES has insisted it has carried out annual inspections of the castle rock and also done extensive work to reduce the risk of debris falling onto the footpaths or railways lines

    The council said the King’s Stables Road entrance to the park remained closed based on advice from its own legal, and health and safety experts, but pointed out HES was responsible for the rockface itself.

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    HES insisted it had not been involved in any discussions about the environmental impact of the Summer Sessions concerts. It is understood the agency believes the main aim of reducing the number of events was to reduce pressure on the church graveyard.

    An HES spokeswoman said: “We have an annual pro-active programme of inspections where specialist geotechnical consultants carry out inspections of the rockface and, when required, carry out controlled removal of naturally occurring rock debris using rope access techniques. Rockfaces are also treated regularly to control invasive plant species.

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    “HES has carried out major capital works on the south face of the castle rock to form a rock exclusion zone on Johnston Terrace and also installed rock containment mesh on the north face to protect the railway and footpaths below.

    "In line with our statutory obligations, we shared information received from our consultants with the council, as they are responsible for the management of all areas around the castle, including King’s Stables Road, and it is for them to decide when to reopen road access depending on their own risk analysis.”

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    Council culture convener Val Walker said: "The entrance to and from King’s Stables Road has been closed since 2019 following rockfall in the area.

    "Whilst we've been able to find ways to help events going ahead this year, it is not a long-term solution and we revised the guidelines to make sure we can facilitate events safely whilst increasing our environmental protection measures for both our gardens and St Cuthbert’s Church.

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    “We continue to work with HES towards a permanent solution and, in the meantime, these temporary guidelines provide information on what we're able to facilitate in West Princes Street Gardens."