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Hot Rocks! The Volcano at the Heart of the Capital

7 May 2009

Ever since man first walked the earth, volcanoes have both fascinated and frightened him. Today, the Earth’s 1500-plus active volcanoes – and those which are dormant or extinct - still capture the imagination of young and old all over the globe, intriguing scientists and lay people alike.  

Here in Scotland, we often forget that all around us we can see evidence of volcanoes which shaped our country.  And how many of us are aware that our capital city boasts its very own 350 million-year-old volcano?

This Sunday, 10th May, there’s an opportunity to learn all about this geological gem in an event at Holyrood Park. Graham Checkley of the Park Ranger Service will be hosting a special ‘Hot Rocks’ guided walk during which he’ll be sharing his knowledge of Holyrood Park’s wealth of geological treasures and talking about the history of the Arthur’s Seat volcano.

Graham says: “When Arthur's Seat was an active volcano, Scotland was still on the equator and the most advanced form of land-life were very early lizards. Following the initial eruption at the site of Edinburgh Castle, the volcano grew to between 500 and 750 metres in height; at its greatest extent, the volcanic cone would have covered most of Edinburgh. The remains of this cone can still be seen as Whinny Hill in Holyrood Park; I’ll be pointing that out during the guided walk. And there will be an opportunity to touch 350 million year old lava flows.”

You can join Graham on his ‘Hot Rocks’ journey to the centre of Edinburgh’s volcano from 12am to 3pm on Sunday.  The event is suitable for anyone aged 12 years and over, and under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.  Booking for the event is essential, either by calling The Holyrood Park Ranger Service on 0131 652 8150 or emailing it at hs.rangers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

Sturdy footwear with grips and rainproof outerwear (and sunscreen if the weather is fine) are recommended for those taking part, who should assemble for the event at the Holyrood Park Education Centre, bringing along a snack and water.

Notes for editors

  • A volcano is a geological landform (usually a mountain) where magma (rock of the earth's interior made molten or liquid by high pressure and temperature) erupts through the surface of the planet.  The name ‘volcano’ has its origin from the name of Vulcan, a god of fire in Roman mythology.

  • The Arthur's Seat volcano is a renowned international geological site and was the subject of study by James Hutton, often known as the father of modern geology.

  • Holyrood Park is one of Edinburgh’s most famous and popular historic landmarks. It encompasses a 5-mile radius of land and has probably been a Royal Park since the 12th century. The dramatic crags and hills of the Park - including its most famous landmark, Arthur’s Seat - are integral to Edinburgh’s distinctive skyline.  

  • Holyrood Park is designated as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest; it is full of geological and archaeological features dating back thousands of years. These include Arthur's Seat, one of four hill forts dating from around 2000 years ago, a prehistoric farmstead of scooped circular hut, east of Dunsapie Crag, and the remains of medieval and later rig-and-furrow cultivation.

  • Holyrood Park is in the care of Historic Scotland which is responsible for maintaining the natural environment and presenting the Park for the enjoyment of the local community and visitors. The Ranger Service based at Holyrood Park cares for this unique historic and natural attraction and provides a range of important educational services.

  • Over 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites are in the care of Historic Scotland.  Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys.  For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information


Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871
rebecca.hamilton@scotland.gsi.gov.uk