Cramond Island – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor Guide

Cramond Island is a tidal island in the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh that is reached via a long walkway formed from the remains of a WWII anti-tank barricade. The island is mostly covered in grassland, although there are a couple of small beach areas on the side facing Cramond village.

Cramond Island

Review of Cramond Island

Cramond Island is located near the village of Cramond in Edinburgh, around 3/4 of a mile inside the Firth of Forth.

Access to the island is via a causeway that leads from the village along a WWII anti-tank barricade that offers glorious 360-degree views of the Firth of Forth, with the Fife coastline in front and the Forth Bridges and the 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.

Cramond Island

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 it’s one that’s very popular with families when the tide is out, especially when combined with a stroll along Silverknowes beach.

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 an enjoyable time. Just make sure you check the tide times that are posted outside the causeway 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 leave it too late.

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Cramond Island

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 café and a pub and you’ll usually find a van selling ice cream which goes down well while you’re strolling along the Silverknowes walkway. There’s also a public toilet near the causeway entrance and a car park around the corner.

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 caught in them.

Cramond Island

The causeway only takes around ten minutes to cross at which point you’ll find yourself on a shingle beach with a small hill that was once home to a WWII lookout post. Climbing up there 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 Road 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 live on the Forth (sometimes gannets, always seagulls) 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.

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One word of warning though. The WWII bunkers on the north side of the island are littered with broken bottles so I would definitely keep dogs and small children out of them.

Cramond Island

Edinburgh/Silverknowes beach

I can’t really talk about Cramond Island without mentioning the nearby beach as it’s one of the nicest outdoor spaces in Edinburgh.

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 walkway at the Cramond end 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.

Note that while the walkway offers good views across the Firth of Forth it often gets quite busy with cyclists and scooters so it’s advisable to keep dogs on a lead.

Another point to note is that because the beach gets completely submerged the sand is wet a lot of the time so there’s every possibility Fido is going to come back caked in it. Plastic seat covers are very handy in this instance (click here to buy a set from Amazon).

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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 a 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.

Likewise, the causeway to the island was built during WWII as an anti-tank blockade. Makes a nice footpath these days though.

The highlights

  • Cramond Island is a very attractive natural attraction close to Edinburgh that doesn’t feel like you’re near the capital city. That’s perhaps why it’s so popular with locals.
  • There are loads of places to explore on Cramond Island as well as the surrounding area, including the walkway along Edinburgh beach and the footpath that follows the River Almond.
  • All ages can enjoy Cramond Island but young children will especially like exploring the rock pools on the causeway.

Visiting 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 so you don’t get stranded and have to call the rescue services. There’s an information board with tide times at the start of the causeway in Cramond.
  • Another island in the Forth of Forth that’s worth visiting is Inchcolm Island, although you’ll have to book a ferry from South Queensferry to get there.

Directions

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).

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Things to do near Cramond Island

  • Dalmeny House. South Queensferry EH30 9TQ. 14-minute drive. A Gothic country mansion built in 1817 that is home to the Earls of Rosebery. The house is open to the public for guided tours in summer only.
  • Lauriston Castle. 2 Cramond Rd S, Edinburgh EH4 6AD. 6-minute drive. A 16th-century castle in the style of a Georgian manor house. The castle overlooks the Firth of Forth and features expansive grounds with a woodland walk and a Japanese garden.
  • Silverknowes Beach. Edinburgh EH4 5ER. 1-minute walk. A large shingle and sand beach that is famed for its views across the Firth of Forth and Cramond Island. There is a large car park and a wide causeway next to the Gipsy Brae recreation ground.
  • River Almond Walkway. Caddell’s Row, Cramond, Edinburgh EH4 6HY. 11-minute walk. This picturesque footpath follows the River Almond from Cramond to the outskirts of Edinburgh Airport. The walkway is suitable for cyclists and walkers.
  • Forth Bridges Viewpoint. 9XY, South Queensferry. 10-minute drive. The Forth Rail Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is best seen from this viewpoint at the Forth Bridge operations centre. From the car park it is possible to walk onto the footpath that runs along the Forth Road Bridge.

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Cramond Island
Craig Neil Out About Scotland

Craig Neil: Scotland travel writer and specialist 360° photographer. Founder of the Out About Scotland travel website and Vartour virtual tours. Follow him on Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.