Cramond Island in Edinburgh is a tidal island nestled in the Firth of Forth. When the tide is low, you can walk across to the island that is filled with relics from World War II and has spectacular views out to Fife, Edinburgh and the Forth bridges.
Cramond village, located on the mainland, is another fantastic area to explore. It’s steeped in Mesolithic, Bronze Age and Roman history. In fact, Cramond village is one of the most important archaeological sites in Scotland!
It takes just a couple of hours to wander around Cramond Island, making it the perfect day trip from Edinburgh. I visited Cramond Island and the village on a warm, summer day with friends.
We had the perfect day exploring ruins scattered across the island, and the ancient history in and around the village. We also packed a picnic, and took a moment to soak in the views from the northern section of the island.
This guide contains everything you need to know about visiting the village and the island so you can plan the best day trip possible!
Covid-19 notice: While I’ve tried my best to keep this article updated with the latest information, due to the pandemic some attractions and places mentioned in this article may be closed. Be sure to plan ahead, check what’s open before you visit and read my Covid-19 Scotland guide for more information on travel in Scotland.
Table of Contents
Cramond Island: The Edinburgh Island you can walk to
Cramond Island Map
Cramond Island History
The island has a varied history and it’s possible it was once inhabited by the Romans. Because Cramond village was once a Roman settlement, it’s likely that they made use of Cramond Island too.
There are some incredible historic sites in Cramond village- including the remains of an old Roman Fort that was built in 140AD.
During the 1800s, Cramond Island was a popular summer vacation spot. You can still see the remains of an old farmstead turned holiday home, which once housed up to four people.
Up until the 1960s, the land was farmed by shepherds and used by game shooters and fishermen.
Cramond Island was also used during World War I and II. An anti-submarine net to prevent incoming invasions ran from Cramond Island to the Fife coast. Cramond Island was also armed with two naval guns.
During World War II, Cramond Island was again used as a fortress to prevent an invasion via the Firth of Forth. This time another anti-submarine net was laid from Cramond Island directly to Inchcolm Island. The expected invasion never came, and so Cramond island was left deserted. Today you can still see the remains of old concrete bunkers and buildings from World War II. Many of the buildings are now covered in graffiti, which in my opinion looks pretty cool!
Pylons that look like a line of giant teeth and run alongside the causeway were also built during World War II to ensure boats and submarines could not access the mainland.
Today, Cramond Island is no longer inhabited. The ‘ghost island’ is popular with walkers and wild campers. The large grassy areas on the island make it the perfect spot for a picnic. There are plenty of spots where you can take off your shoes and stroll along the sandy beach and hunt for seashells.
The Cramond Island Walk
Cramond island is fairly small at just 0.3 of a mile long, with a land mass of 19 acres. The causeway path to reach the island is around 1 kilometre, and you can walk around the entire island in less than two hours.
There is an easy walking path that stretches to the north of Cramond island, which will take you past the many graffitied ruins from World War II that are dotted throughout the island.
Look out for Duck House on the north-west tip of the island. This was once a holiday home that could accommodate up to four people.
The highest point of the island offers views of the islands of Inchmickery and Inchcolm, and the Fife coast to the north. To the west you’ll spot the three Forth bridges. From the southern part of the island, looking back towards Edinburgh, you can see Granton and Leith. You can also see Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat on a clear day.
>> Read more: Edinburgh to St Abbs day trip
Cramond Island Tide Times
As I mentioned earlier, Cramond Island is a tidal island.
What is a tidal island, you may be thinking? It’s an island that can be accessed by foot when the tide is low, usually by a man-made causeway. At high tide (when the water flows back to the shore) the footpath that leads to the island becomes flooded with water.
Before you visit, it is essential you check the Cramond island tide times online.
You can also text CRAMOND to 81400 to get safe Cramond Island crossing times sent to you.
It is possible you will get stranded on the Edinburgh island if you don’t make your way back when the tide rolls back in. People have been rescued after getting stuck on the island before, so make sure you’re back in time!
The causeway can be crossed for up to two hours either side of low tide. There is a board at the start of the crossing that has the safe crossing times so always check that before you cross.
My biggest tip is to allow yourself plenty of time to explore Cramond island. Aim to arrive well in advance of the tide so you can make the most of your time on the island.
How to get to Cramond Island
Getting to Cramond Island is easy. From the city centre, take bus 47 from Lothian Road (XC Stop). There are also several other bus options from the city centre. I use Google Maps to search for bus routes in Edinburgh; it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty reliable. The bus journey takes around 40 minutes. From the bus stop, there is a short walk to get to the causeway that will lead you to the island.
A single bus ticket will cost you £1.70 or £4 for an all-day ticket. Buses run fairly regularly, at least once an hour.
There is a free car park in Cramond but it’s often busy on weekends, so if you plan on driving, allow yourself plenty of time. Remember, when it’s low tide everyone will flock to the island!
What should you wear?
Weather can always be unpredictable in Edinburgh, with rain and wind making regular appearances on the island. I love my Rab waterproof jacket and carry it everywhere with me. It’s super lightweight, good quality, great for layering and it’s fashionable enough to be worn in the city or hiking in the highlands.
Jeans and/or gym tights and a plaid shirt layered over a singlet is a good outfit to wear. It can get quite boggy and wet on the island, so make sure you wear waterproof shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty or sandals you can easily remove if you want to feel the sand between your toes!
Be sure to take a warm jacket too- it can get quite cold when the wind picks up.
Bring your camera to capture some great snaps, and bring a towel to sit on as the ground is often damp.
I’ve written a great guide on what to pack for a trip to Scotland, so make sure you give that a read too.
>> Read more: How to spend 2 days in Edinburgh
Other things to do near Cramond Island
Next to Cramond Island is the village of Cramond– which has an interesting history itself, thanks to its Roman history.
In the village there is a Roman archaeological site called the Cramond Roman Fort. The settlement was built around 140AD (during the time of Emperor Antonius Pius) and occupied until 170AD when the Romans retreated to the safety of Hadrian’s Wall. It was also occupied from 208 to 214AD, and served as the main supply base for the Roman forces in Scotland. The harbour facilities nearby would have been used for unloading food and military supplies from vessels which had sailed from southern Britain and the Rhine.
Near the Roman Fort is Cramond Tower, which is thought to have been built in the fifteenth century by the Bishops of Dunkeld.
One of the most important Roman discoveries also occurred in Cramond: the statue of the ‘Cramond lioness‘. The sculpture, that depicts a prisoner being killed by a lioness, was discovered in 1997 at the mouth of the nearby River Almond, where it lay hidden for 1800 years. The sandstone monument is thought to be part of a tomb, probably for a high-ranking Roman officer. You can see the sculpture at its new home at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Eagle Rock or Hunter’s Craig is an Historic Environment Scotland scheduled monument located half a mile north-west of Cramond. It is possible that a Roman soldier was commissioned to carve the six metre rock into the shape of an eagle.
Located 2 kilometres away is Dalmeny House, a Gothic revival mansion. You can follow the John Muir Way from Cramond to reach this awe-inspiring mansion.
Just north of Dalmeny House is Barnbougle Castle, a tower house. It is thought to date back to the 13th century, however the present castle was rebuilt in 1881. Today it is used as a wedding venue.
If you fancy something to eat or drink after exploring the island, head to Cramond Gallery Bistro located in the village. Keep to the right as you reach the mainland, and follow the path along the water. You’ll find it behind the public toilets, opposite the firth.
Have you visited Cramond Island? What did you think?
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