REVIEW – Edinburgh Science Festival, Volcanic City Walk


The final assignment of the Edinburgh Science Festival for our junior reviewers, although the Festival continues until 22 April 2011.

By our family reviewers – the McNaughtons

We’d opted to go on the Volcanic City Walk as no matter what you do in Edinburgh, the geology of the city is important to your cross-city travels.

We met up at the Edinburgh city plan sculpture at the Mound.  Angus Miller is the expert geologist from Geowalks who was leading this tour round the centre of Edinburgh to show us the essential elements of the very rocks that built our city.  He pointed out that travelling east-west through the centre of Edinburgh is easier than travelling north-south because of the hilly nature of our city.

A walk through Princes Street Gardens

The walk took around 1.5 hours and took us on a stroll through Princes Street Gardens where we contemplated the volcanic activity that had created the volcanic plug on which Edinburgh Castle sits, and marvelled at the thought of the great ice floes which once swept over this land gouging out the valley which subsequently became the city’s cess-pit and then latterly the beautiful Gardens.

We learnt about the difference between sedimentary and igneous rocks using practical examples and even getting to try our hand with a rock file.  We were guided past a gift from the Norwegian people – a metamorphic rock which now rests in West Princes Street gardens as a testament to the friendship between the two countries.

Down into the Grassmarket and back up Granny’s Green Steps – a necessary diversion as the rock-workings to make the north-facing castle rock safe were blocking Johnston Terrace.  From there we caught a glimpse of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.  Angus also offers tours of this part of Edinburgh, as well as throughout Scotland and throughout the year.

Interesting Volcanic City Walk

On the way we contemplated the different types of rock which had been used to build the city’s houses and shops, and looked at the impact that pollution had had on some of the sandstone.  We also learned about the different hues of sandstone which were quarried in parts of Edinburgh and found out that a favourite sandstone building of ours (the former Craigwell Brewery) had been built with red sandstone which must have been brought from much further afield as the more usual pale brown/yellowish sandstone is more typical of local quarries.

One junior reviewer said “This was much easier to understand than our geography lessons.” and the other said “I really liked using the stone file to cut the sandstone.”

This particular walk was suitable for all ages, although not all abilities as there was a section of steep steps to conquer.  Angus Miller is a knowledgeable and friendly guide and we’d thoroughly recommend his walks as an introduction to the geology of our country, or if you simply want a guide to help you explore with a different view of the world.  He adapted his talks well to the age ranges in his group and was able to give practical examples which helped us to understand the theory as well as responding to questions being asked.

Our guide Angus

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