Radical Road closure – urgent review needed of all options

A fence blocking a path on a hillside

Following widespread frustration over the closure of the historic Radical Road path in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, Ramblers Scotland has joined other organisations in sending a joint letter to the Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The letter formally sets out our concerns over the future of the historic Radical Road. It also highlights other issues relating to visitor management elsewhere in the Park.

Along with ScotWays, Mountaineering Scotland and the Edinburgh heritage body, the Cockburn Association, we have called for an urgent meeting with HES.  The impetus for the letter is the proposed permanent closure of the Radical Road and also the South Quarry, popular with the city’s climbers.

At the same time, over the past year walkers and cyclists have taken to social media to vent frustrations over other aspects of management within the park. These have included recent restrictions to a popular cycle path and an unsuccessful campaign to persuade HES to stop vehicular traffic using the busy park. There are also concerns over the poor state of the nature conservation management of this important site at the heart of Scotland’s capital city.

The Radical Road path leads up Salisbury Crags and showcases Hutton’s Section, widely seen as the birthplace of modern geology.  A rockfall in 2018 led to access restrictions to the path on health and safety grounds, but it was completely closed in 2021. A new report setting out proposals for the continued management of the path is due to be discussed by the board of HES shortly.  One option is for the permanent closure of the path to the public.  There has been no public discussion on these options.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said "much more detail" was needed about the true risk to walkers using the 200-year-old right of way.

"As a society we normally let people assess, manage and accept the risks involved with outdoor activity, as these are usually hugely outweighed by the benefits," he said.
"While we recognise HES has a duty of care to people on the route, we are concerned that it seems to be treating Salisbury Crags - a natural geological feature - like it would a crumbling historic building."

The full text of the letter can be read below

Dear Mr Paterson

Holyrood Royal Park, Radical Road and access issues

We represent a number of stakeholder organisations who are interested in the Holyrood Royal Park, its qualities, amenities and recreational access for the public.  Each of us, in one way or another, has raised serious concerns about the prevention of access to the Radical Road as one of the premier and historic rights of way in the City of Edinburgh Salisbury Crags themselves are also an important recreational resource for climbers and one that has been enjoyed for many years until the fencing was erected.

We appreciate that HES has significant management responsibilities and acknowledge the public safety issues that are in front of us.

However, we do not accept that the approach adopted is in any way suitable for a public open space with Holyrood Royal Park’s special characteristics and history of access.  We also believe that the approach to managing paths in the Park and public safety is inconsistent.  For example, in recent years, there have been serious injuries and even deaths due to falls on Arthur’s Seat but no attempt to prevent access here to protect public safety seems to be proposed.

As such, we believe that it is essential for a whole Park strategic management plan to be prepared as a matter of urgency.  The process must be open to public consultation and scrutiny.  Indeed, we believe that public engagement is required now as a means of both helping guide the creation of this plan and enabling its successful implementation. This could include a discussion on vehicular access and the inconsistency in approach to closures of the Innocent Railway path, which have been a feature of social media debate during the pandemic, as well as issues such as habitat condition and climate change mitigation. Furthermore, the necessary legal processes for closing a right of way (the Radical Road)  have not been followed, denying the public an opportunity to make their views known.

To this end, we ask to meet you and any members of your team to discuss our concerns and to see if there are areas in which we can assist HES in the preparation of a suitable management framework for the Park, and one which address the crucial access challenges posed by the current closure of the Radical Road.  We would be delighted to work collaboratively with HES to achieve the very best for this very special place.

Yours sincerely

The Cockburn Association
Mountaineering Scotland
Ramblers Scotland