Last updated on February 24th, 2020
The Out About Scotland complete guide to Cramond Island near Edinburgh
Category: Beach, Historic site, Island, Military, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About Cramond Island
Situated just over 3/4 of a mile into the Firth of Forth, Cramond island is a tidal land mass located close the village of Cramond near Edinburgh.
Access to the island is via a causeway that leads from the water’s edge of the village along a WWII anti-tank barricade, and from the minute you step foot on the concrete causeway you’re given glorious 360 degree views of the Firth of Forth with the Fife coastline in front and the Forth bridges and City of Edinburgh on either side.
This is a tourist attraction that’s less ‘tourist’ and more ‘local’, mainly because it only seems to be known about by the people who live in the area, but if you’re planning to visit Edinburgh I really think you should do yourself a favour and add Cramond Island to your itinerary.
This part of the Firth of Forth seems to be a bit of an afterthought with Scotland’s visitors which is a real shame as it has so much to offer, especially when it’s so close to the capital city (the centre of Edinburgh is just 7 miles away) but you can easily solve this by catching a bus (look for Lothian Buses routes 41, 32 and 36).
The island offers a short walk but its main feature is the fact that you can find a quiet spot to lie in the sun with the sound of the Forth’s waves lapping on the small stretches of sand that ring the island.
It’s this ability to easily escape from the city that makes Cramond Island so popular with locals – and also why it gets incredibly busy at the weekend in summer.
But if you can get out there mid-week I guarantee you’ll have a relaxing experience. Just make sure you check the tide times that are posted outside the walkway entrance before you depart. When the tide returns the causeway is completely submerged so you’ll have trouble getting back to the mainland if you misjudge the time.
Things to do at Cramond Island
If you choose to drive there instead of taking the bus you’ll find that parking in Cramond village can be a bit hit-or-miss depending on the weather, so if it’s a sunny weekend be prepared to park a fair distance away and walk down to the coastline.
The facilities in Cramond are decent as it has a cafe and pub and you’ll usually find a van selling ice cream which goes down well while you’re strolling along the walkway, and there’s a public toilet near the causeway entrance.
There are lots of walks leading out of Cramond along the River Almond so if you’re unable to get onto the island due to the tides I highly recommend you follow the riverside path instead.
It’s a lovely alternative but can be a bit meandering so to prevent yourself getting lost you should consider getting an OS map that covers the area. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
The island is only a third of a mile across but the walk there and through it is particularly beautiful on a sunny day.
The crossing to Cramond Island allows you to view lots of rock pools left behind by the departing tide and children will love going on the hunt for the crabs and small fish that get inevitably caught in them.
The causeway only takes around ten minutes to cross at which point you’ll find yourself on a small shingle beach with a small hill that was once home to a WWII lookout post. Climbing up here provides stunning views across the Forth and it’s a good photo opportunity before heading out to explore the rest of the area.
A word of caution here though – people obviously get caught short on the island and decide to use the bunkers as impromptu toilets so they stink to high heaven when it’s warm. If you go inside stick a peg on your nose and watch what you step on…
The highest point of Cramond Island lies 68 feet above sea level and it’s a good vantage point to look over to nearby Granton and Leith, with North Queensferry and the famous Forth Rail Bridge clearly visible to the west.
To the north, you can view the coast of Fife as well as the other small islands that are dotted around the estuary.
The island is uninhabited apart from several species of seabirds that reside all along the Forth and the small areas of woodland and wild grasses are home to many insect species.
Although there aren’t any designated picnic areas on the island the north side is especially quiet and is perfect for an afternoon break away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh.
Please note that there are no rubbish bins on the island so you’ll have to take the remains of your picnic home with you.
I can’t really talk about Cramond Island without mentioning the nearby Cramond beach as it’s one of the nicest outdoor spaces in Edinburgh.
Ok, to be completely accurate I’d have to say Cramond beach is located in a suburb of Edinburgh, but the reality is that it’s near enough that most locals consider Cramond as an extension of the city.
The beach is just 5 miles from the city centre on the estuary of the River Almond and while it doesn’t look like much when the tide is in, when it goes out you’ll realise just how big it is.
There’s a large car park just above the beach which has toilets nearby along with a nice wee pub, and there’s usually an ice cream van nearby if you want a choc-ice or two. Or three. Yum!
You can access Cramond beach via a short causeway though most people tend to stay off the beach and go for a stroll down the promenade that faces it.
This short section of path offers beautiful views across the Firth of Forth and gets quite busy with cyclists, but thankfully it’s wide enough that you won’t have to worry about a rogue bike steaming into you from behind.
The dog-friendly beach is nice enough but as it’s completely submerged by the tide it’s also quite muddy. Even so, on a sunny day it offers a lovely walk and it’s worth taking the time to explore it if you’re already here to see Cramond Island.
The history of Cramond Island
The island was mainly used for farming throughout its history and it’s suspected that the Romans made extensive use of the site for cattle grazing as their remains have been found all around the area near Cramond village.
At the north-west corner of the island you’ll find a medieval jetty made from local stone, while the centre hides a small stone-built farmstead which is believed to have been built in the 18th-century.
The island was fortified for use as a lookout post and gun emplacement during the second world war and the remains of these military buildings are still standing today.
During the war, a garrison of soldiers were stationed on Cramond Island to protect central Scotland from invaders crossing up the Firth of Forth, and the remains of barrack buildings can still be seen in the undergrowth.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s a great natural attraction close to Edinburgh
- There are loads of places to explore on Cramond Island
- All ages can enjoy it
My top tips
- Some of the old WWII bunkers are full of broken glass so keep children and animals out of there
- keep an eye on the tide times. There’s an information board at the start of the walkway in Cramond
Address and map
Cramond Island is located five miles north-west of Edinburgh city centre.
Cramond is accessible on the 41 bus from Edinburgh city centre (George Street or Queensferry Road).
The island is open all year round but access is tidal. There is no fee to enter Cramond Island.
Take heed of the tide information and warning signs posted at the landward end of the causeway.
Tide times website: The Beach Guide
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Car park on-site
Getting around: Uneven paths
On-site conveniences: None. Nearest conveniences are in Cramond