Edinburgh Rock – that mysterious substance somewhere between candy and chalk, looming large in the memories of every Scottish child who ever made a dash for the gift shop on a school trip and named as a play on Castle Rock, which Edinburgh's most visible monument sits atop – is a stalwart of the Scottish experience for tourists and locals alike. However, until recently it was set to disappear from Scotland's sweetie counters.
Local manufacturer Ross's, which has been producing Edinburgh Rock since 1880 and is currently the only company making the confectionery in the country, was recently handed an eleventh-hour reprieve after a local entrepreneur stepped in to save its factory from closure.
Former chairman of the family firm Graham Ross – great grandson of founder James Ross – had announced in February that the company would be closing its doors after he failed to convince any of his descendants to take over its running after he retired.
But a deal was agreed in July, with businessman James Anderson taking over the factory. He told The Scotsman: “It’s an iconic brand and it would be a shame to just let it go. It was really just Graham’s age that led to him making the decision to retire and sell up – [the decision to buy] was about keeping the business going.”
The pastel-hued sweet, with its distinctive crumbly texture differentiating it from lettered Blackpool Rock, was first concocted in the 19th century by Alexander Ferguson – also known as “Sweetie Sandy” – who taught himself to make confectionery in his parents' Doune outhouse.
When his father attempted to force him to take up a different trade, seeing no future in Sandy's experiments with sweets, he moved to Glasgow to work for a confectioner, later moving to Edinburgh, where he set up premises at Melbourne Place, and eventually retiring a rich man off the back of the success Edinburgh Rock afforded him.
Legend has it he hit on the winning formula by mistake, after discovering a tray of sweets that had been accidentally left out for months and discovering that he quite enjoyed the desiccated texture.
Ross's began manufacturing it to coincide with the inaugural Edinburgh Festival in 1947 – it has been sold in the same iconic yellow box ever since. Flavours available now include Irn-Bru, peppermint, ginger, fruit and rhubarb, alongside the original variety.