Craigleith Retail Park

(Craigleith Shopping Park, The Quarry Retail Park)

An architecturally-uninspiring retail experience on South Groathill Road in NW Edinburgh, Craigleith Retail Park (also known as Craigleith Shopping Park) was developed around its anchor store, a large Sainsbury's supermarket, which opened in 1993. The retail units next to the supermarket extend to 12,075 sq. m (130,000 sq. feet). These were sold to Henderson Global Investors in 2002, who refocused trade around fashion and extended the park to become known as The Quarry Retail Park. The site includes 500 car parking spaces.

The name comes from its location on the site of the former Craigleith Quarry, the source of much building stone for the City of Edinburgh, particularly for the construction of the New Town in the 18th and 19th C. The quarry was active between 1615 and 1942 and once extended to a depth of 110m (360 feet). Thereafter the quarry was used as a reservoir by the Gas Board to provide cooling water to their gas manufacturing plant at Granton. Finally, it became the city's principal refuse dump and was gradually infilled until it reached capacity c.1980.

The quarry exploited pale grey-brown Craigleith Sandstone that was laid down during the Carboniferous Era, 350 million years ago. This was difficult to work, but was sought-after because of its consistent quality and has proved to be resistant to weathering. The stone was first recorded as being used on the orders of King James VI for work on Edinburgh Castle. Other early uses were in building the Tron Kirk and reconstructing sections of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Later notable projects executed in Craigleith sandstone include Register House, the City Chambers, Dean Bridge and both the City Observatory and National Monument on Calton Hill. The six monolithic columns at the front of the University of Edinburgh's Old College represent the largest single pieces of stone cut from the quarry, each weighing nine tons. Stone was exported to London, Europe and the USA. Several fossilised trees were found amongst the rock in the quarry, with the largest of these now displayed in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh at Inverleith. During a pause in quarrying operations around the time of the First World War, the site was sufficiently isolated to be used for the manufacture of explosives.

A section of exposed sandstone can be seen today behind the Sainsbury's supermarket and this has been preserved as a Local Geodiversity Site since 1999. Features of the site include ancient mud-cracks, cross-bedding that represents the remnants of river channels, fossil burrows, limestone bands with evidence of marine fossils and a dark band of oil-shale, a rock which formed the basis of the West Lothian oil industry.

The substantial monument at the entrance was installed in 1993 by J. Sainsbury to commemorate the industrial past of the site. Its stone alphabet makes use of twenty-six different types of rock brought from eighteen countries to remember progress in communication, science and the arts.

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