Walks to Cramond and Cramond Island

Cramond is a part of Edinburgh I've visited a few times now, it's lovely and one of those places where you really don't feel like you're just minutes away from the city centre. As a result it's rapidly become an area I love to go to.

On our first visit we decided to follow a walk taking us from South Queensferry and finishing at Cramond. I've said before and written plenty of previous posts, both here and whilst we were in Singapore, that we enjoy getting out and going for walks. We have a great book full of Edinburgh walks, both long and short, city centre or further afield which includes this lovely one. Before going that first time I knew nothing about Cramond so it was lovely to discover this gorgeous little spot so close to the city.

South Queensferry to Cramond

From Edinburgh we took the train to Dalmeny, there's a very regular service to here and it's just a short journey from the city centre. On arrival you'll soon spot the Forth rail bridge and a short walk from the station later you'll find yourself looking up at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, a beautiful structure and instantly recognisable. Note to self that I still need to take a train somewhere that takes me across the bridge to enjoy it from a different angle. After heading down to the edge of the Firth to get a better view and some photos we walked back towards the little town of South Queensferry and the official start of the walk.

Before the first road bridge was built in the 1960s (there are two now with the second opening in 2017) South Queensferry was the main point to board ferries headed for Fife. It's a pretty town to wander around with several options for refreshments if you need them. After a look around we returned back again towards the rail bridge to continue our walk beyond it and on to Cramond.

Forth Rail Bridge (and yes I know it's not in Cramond despite the title of this post 🤣 )

The majority of the walk from here follows the coastline along the Firth giving you some stunningly peaceful viewpoints, great for wildlife enthusiasts. For a lot of it we were the only people around, so if you're thinking of doing it too personally I'd say it's one to do with others as it did seem quite remote at points. However most of the walk was reasonably level and would be suitable for all ages but I imagine it could get quite muddy at times so go prepared.

The first point of interest we came to is a spot known as Hound Point which is reputedly haunted by the dog of Sir Richard Mowbray who was a knight killed in the Crusades, maybe the loneliness of the spot adds something to this story too. We were soon able to see Barnbougle castle, originally constructed by the Mowbray family. Unfortunately when we did this walk it was largely covered in tarpaulin etc. (hence no photos) but on visits to Cramond since and looking back towards this area of the coastline the castle seems to have been revealed again, so perhaps it's time to do this walk again to check and see.

The history of the castle goes back to the 13th century but the current building is the result of rebuilding in the 1880s. Barnbougle castle lies within the Earl of Rosebery's estate and walking on a little further we spotted the grand looking Dalmeny House completed in 1817 and home to the current Earl and Countess of Rosebery. Although it's a private house there is a public path through the grounds which this walk follows, giving some nice views of the house as you pass it. 

Dalmeny House

Continuing on we returned to our relatively remote coastal path and the views out to the sea eventually sighting Cramond island in the distance. Before this though we found the Eagle Rock (photo below) which is a very weather warn carving of what is believed to be an eagle dating from the Roman occupation of Cramond between approximately AD 140 and the early AD 200s. No one is sure for certain though if it definitely is Roman or if it is from some other time period. The excavation of a Roman fort nearby though has led to the suggestion that it could have been carved by a Roman soldier stationed at the barracks there. Have you seen it? What do you think?

As I mentioned above we eventually spotted Cramond island but on this occasion we didn't venture out to it, instead we headed away from the coastline and inland towards the River Almond and eventually Cramond bridge. On this occasion we were ready to call it a day and so we finished with a lunch stop and then the bus home. All the same though we knew that we would have to return and get out to Cramond island at some point and, of course, we eventually did just that!

Looking towards Cramond island 

Can you make out the supposed Roman carving of an eagle?

Cramond Island

After that first visit and our promise to ourselves to return we eventually managed to do that a few weeks ago. This time we headed straight for Cramond village where the island is easily accessible. I have to mention first though the lovely 17th century Cramond Inn in the village, well worth the stop for some food and incredibly reasonably priced drinks as opposed to Edinburgh city centre prices! In between that first walk to Cramond and our visit to the island we went to the village over the Christmas period too with visiting family. We arrived mid-afternoon and were in desperate need of some food, we only arrived just before they stopped serving lunch but they kindly prepared our orders and whilst I can't recall what everyone else had I can vouch for the pie. The portions are enormous though as it comes with both chips and vegetables, so go hungry.

On the day we actually got out to the island we had to kill a bit of time first waiting for the tide to go out far enough to get across and the Inn was once again well placed to do just that. If pubs aren't your thing though there are also a couple of cafes close by and we stopped at one of those too on our Cramond Island visit with the added bonus of then being able to sit outside with our coffees as it had turned into a lovely day.

Cramond island is one of several islands in the Firth of Forth close to Edinburgh. The island is tidal, hence us having to kill time before we could get across to it and once the tide goes out far enough is accessible twice a day via a causeway. A little interesting fact for you, Cramond is apparently one of seventeen islands in Scotland that can be walked to from the Scottish mainland and in the UK as a whole it's one of forty-three tidal islands all of which can be walked to.

Before I get to my island visit though I firstly need to rewind a little as we took yet another different (fairly short) walk to get to Cramond village that day following the route of the River Almond. This visit to Cramond began as our first walk above had ended, by taking the bus from the city centre back to Cramond bridge. From there it's then easy to join the path following the river and on to the village. When we decided to go to Cramond Island we went the day after a day of heavy continuous rain so at the time the river seemed high and to be flowing very fast. I've since learnt that the river is teeming with weirs, the remains of mills and other riverside industries of the past so I guess it may actually always be a fairly fast flowing river. Continuing on the walk we passed Cramond Falls and walked literally through the remains of a building which was just one of those many mills I mentioned, known then as Fair-a-far mill. 

Eventually the walk brings you to the mouth of the River Almond where it meets the Firth of Forth and to Cramond village, where the cafes I mentioned earlier are situated. From here you can access Cramond island if the tide is favourable. At the start of the causeway there is lots of information about the tides, telling you when it's safe to cross and so on. There is also a number you can text to get instant tidal information as well. There are plenty of stories of people getting stranded on the island and having seen photos of high tide if you did get stuck on the island there really would be no way of getting back by foot so be aware if you visit and take note of that information.  

Just a bit too keen

As I said, we had to wait to cross on our visit hence that stop in the Cramond Inn. Although the first part of the causeway seemed clear enough it was soon apparent as we walked further that we were being a bit too keen so had to turn back. The good news by the time we tried again was, obviously that the tide had retreated enough for us to actually get across but also that the sunshine had come out and it had turned into a really lovely day.

The most obvious thing on the causeway crossing that you can clearly see in my photos are those triangular shaped concrete pillars to the one side of it. I just assumed at the time that they were fairly recent additions, perhaps added as markers to stop people straying off the path or boats on to it but it turns out they actually date from the Second World War. They were constructed as an anti-boat boom, an obstacle across a navigable stretch of water to block or control navigation. They are a truly striking feature of the causeway whether it's low or high tide and are noticeable from a good distance away, as can be seen in one of the photos above taken on our very first visit to Cramond. 

The island itself is now unoccupied but throughout its history has been predominantly used for farming and there are the remains on the island still of a farmstead which was occupied until the 1930s with sheep continuing to be kept on the island until the 1960s. The island was once famous for its oyster beds but sadly these were destroyed due to overfishing. Evidence has also been found on the island to suggest it may have had significance for prehistoric people who lived along the coast and with the nearby Roman connection it's also been suggested that it may have been used by them. It was used during both world wars, in the First World War it was part of a line of defence in the Forth estuary to protect an anchorage for warships. There was an anti-submarine net that ran from Cramond to another nearby island and Cramond and the other islands were armed with guns as part of that protection. During the Second World War as well as the anti-boat boom I've already mentioned it was also refortified and armed again with guns designed to tackle fast moving torpedo boats. Several of the buildings constructed for use during WW2 still survive on the island.

As the day had turned into a really lovely one we were able to explore a couple of those old buildings I mentioned, as well as take in the views from the higher points of the island and enjoy a stroll along the shore. The island was somewhere I wanted to get across to as soon as I heard about it and it and the whole Cramond area has definitely become one of my favourite areas of Edinburgh. For a day away from the city and a totally different experience that's all just a short bus ride away Cramond is the perfect choice. I can't wait to get back again soon.