Five years of Radical Road closure marked with call for urgent action

Campaigners today marked the fifth anniversary of Edinburgh’s Radical Road closure with an urgent call for Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to “see sense”. 

HES shut the iconic 200-year-old path on 11 September 2018 due to concerns about rockfall. It is one of the most popular ways up Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s top attraction on TripAdvisor – yet five years on, it remains blocked and ringed by ugly fencing. 

Stakeholders including Ramblers Scotland, Cockburn Association, Edinburgh Geological Society, Mountaineering Scotland and ScotWays are urging HES to make a more holistic assessment of risks.  

They want HES to weigh the low risk of rockfall injury against the harm the closure causes to the economy, landscape, tourism and people’s health and wellbeing.   

Leaders of these groups met at the path to call for urgent HES action and to discuss their options. They agreed to begin running their own process to consult those affected by the closure of Radical Road and that HES will be invited. 

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said: “It is farcical that Historic Environment Scotland has failed to reopen the Radical Road, following half a decade of missed deadlines and broken promises. It is a national embarrassment that the body tasked with caring for and promoting Scotland’s historic environment has left this iconic 200-year-old path shut away behind ugly fences for five years, with no end in sight. HES must immediately see sense and stop managing this world-famous geological feature like a crumbling historic building. Residents and tourists should be advised of the risks then allowed to make informed decisions, like everywhere else in Scotland.” 

ScotWays chair Katharine Taylor said: “The Radical Road is a recorded right of way. There is a process which should be followed before closing a right of way, but this path was blocked unilaterally without using formal procedures and there has been little engagement since. We acknowledge that HES has an obligation to ensure public safety, but landowners and managers in Scotland also have a legal duty and responsibility not to obstruct or deny public access unnecessarily. It is very disappointing that a national agency has closed a popular right of way in our capital city, right next to our Parliament building. If it can happen here, what protection is there for other, less well-known rights of way?” 

During face-to-face meetings in summer 2022, HES committed to publishing a park management plan by autumn 2022 and to keep communicating with stakeholders. Since then, there has been no update to the campaign partners. 

Cockburn Association assistant director James Garry added: “The Radical Road is just one issue of many to be considered as part of a much overdue revised management plan for Holyrood Park as a whole.” 

HES’ own risk assessment fails to mention that outdoor recreation is enjoyed at people’s own risk across Scotland every single day, by thousands of people. This includes popular sites where signage is used to advise of potential risks such as cliffs, tides or forestry and farming. 

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