(Last Updated On: 11th March 2019)

 

If Brad Pitt (think ‘Thelma and Louise‘) is the Mediterranean, then Edinburgh’s seaside is more like Gerard Butler; not your classic beauty, but definitely possessing a certain rough and rugged charm. One place where you’ll be able to judge for yourself whether I’m right about that is Cramond Island, about six miles from Edinburgh’s city center.

Located along the Firth of Forth (Firth is a Scots word for Estuary and Forth is the River Forth) and at around half a kilometer long and 19 acres in area, Cramond island is accessible via a causeway just in front of Cramond Village. Upping the excitement of a visit is the fact that the causeway is only fully visible during low tide. Provided you pay attention to the tides and don’t get stuck there for the night, exploring the island is a great way to spend a few hours away from the city’s often tourist overloaded attractions.

Cramond Island’s most interesting and definitely most visible attraction are the huge, concrete pillars leading 1.5km’s along the length of the causeway. Constructed to stop submarines getting into the firth during World War 2, up close they’re enormous. When the tide’s in, only the tops of them show, leaving them looking a bit like coastal speed humps peeking out of the water.

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Here’s the island and causeway from a distance. This far away, the pillars look like a simple walkway of some sort.
Here they are with a person on them to give you some perspective. Nice tights.
Here they are with a person on them to give you some perspective. Nice tights.

Until World War Two, the island was mainly used for grazing sheep. The ruins of an old farmhouse can be explored in the middle of the island, if you can find it hidden in some very overgrown woodland that is. During the second world war though, Cramond Island, along with other islands along the Firth of Forth, was taken over and fortified. Gun emplacements remain today on the south and north sides and the remains of military buildings for barracks and stores are dotted here and there.

From the island looking back to the mainland. In the middle there you can see one of the gun emplacements.
From the island looking back to the mainland. In the middle there you can see one of the gun emplacements.

Even if war memorabilia is not your thing, it’s worth crossing over from the mainland and having a wander, even just for the views back to Cramond or north to the Forth Railway Bridge. But whatever you do, pay attention to the tidal times on the noticeboard at the beginning of the causeway. If you miss high tide, you’ll either be in for a long swim or stuck there until the coastguard comes to rescue you. And if it comes to that,  you’ll more than likely find your face in the local papers the next day – not really the kind of fifteen minutes of fame most people are looking for.

The Forth Railway Bridge as seen from the west side of Cramond Island.
The Forth Railway Bridge as seen from the west side of Cramond Island.
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To the east you can see the industrial areas of Leith and behind that Arthur’s Seat. If you squint, you can also make out the castle and the Scot Monument.
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See what I mean about ‘rough and rugged charm’ now?
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I imagine this noticeboard once had useful local information on it. Now it’s more a diary of teen love.
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Watching the sunset – romantic. Being stranded on Cramond Island for the night – not so romantic. Don’t forget to check the tide times!
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The beginning of the causeway as seen from Cramond Island. See that water? That’s the tide coming in. If you see this and it appears to be getting larger, move it people.

Stuff to Know:

Bus 41 from the city will get you to Cramond in about 40 minutes. You’ll need to get off at Braepark, but just tell your driver to let you know. Then it’s about a ten minute walk into the village. From there, head to the sea and you won’t miss the causeway ‘speed hump’.

You can also cycle to Cramond, following this route here. It takes about the same time as the bus and apart from one heavy lifting session up some stairs, is a whole lot more enjoyable.

In case it wasn’t clear enough above, make sure you check what time high tide comes in and leave yourself plenty of time to get back across the causeway. It’s further than it seems.

There’s no amenities on the island so if squatting’s not your thing, make sure you use the public toilets at the roundabout before you go across.