When I heard about Cramond Island, I couldn’t wait to go. It’s only an island for some of the day and, when it’s not, you can walk to it along a mile-long gas pipe incompletely covered in barnacle-covered concrete. And it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from our house. How could any adventurer resist?
The path to the island begins just a minutes’ walk from the free car park, making it an adventure that’s unusually accessible! There are two concrete paths to take, one low and one high, the high one ending about a quarter of the way along with some narrow steps down to the lower path. Both are rough and uneven, dotted with random girders and bolts, their sides strewn with seaweed. I was surprised by how delapidated it was – clearly there haven’t been any recent efforts to maintain the path – but it all adds to the feeling that you shouldn’t really be walking along it, making it feel more adventurous! Anti-submarine pylons run along the side of the causeway. These tall concrete spires are coated in barnacles and in various states of crumbling degradation, some of them broken in half. When crossing the path at low-tide, vast mudflats stretch out on either side of the path, as far as the eye can see. It’s certainly an unusual walk.
The impression of having entered a dystopian world is strengthened when you reach the island and the first thing you see is a derelict building perched atop a mountain of rocks. This hollowed-out, graffiti-covered box of brick is the first of several old structures used in World War 2 as gun emplacements, barracks, ammunition stores and shelters. These days they’re sadly empty but for empty drinks bottles and other rubbish, but remain a fascinating spectacle. We crept into this first building and took advantage of its ruined edges, hanging precariously over the cliffs, to get a new perspective of the vast flat watery landscape below.
From here things begin to get a lot prettier. The gentle hill rising from the initial building is covered in beautiful wildflowers and shrubs. At this narrow end of the island it’s possible to see the shore on both sides: one a sandy beach, the other a cascade of blackened rocks. These rocks are preceded by a vast forest of ferns, creating a strangely Jurassic landscape.
At the top of the hill you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the island and its surrounds. We spotted Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat on the southern side of the Forth, and the telecommunications tower of Burntisland to the north.
Continuing to walk forwards, we found ourselves descending the hill again through a verdant thicket of long grass and bushes, all of it shining brightly in the sun. We emerged on a wide grassy plateau on the opposite side of the island, with views right across to the Forth Rail Bridge. This wider side of the island holds several more buildings, some of which seem almost to have merged with the island’s undulating cliffs to create different levels to clamber over and underneath.
Following the island’s edge round to the left, we found a perfect patch of grass on which to eat our picnic. It provided peace and quiet, shelter from the wind and beach views on either side. Once finished we descended again, this time to the beach that we’d seen on approach to the island.
This isn’t really a beach at which to sunbathe, build sandcastles or swim, but it is picturesque nonetheless. Past the initial strip of golden sand the beach becomes wetter and flatter, with parts almost entirely covered in shells. The stretch closest to the tide has a stunning rippled texture, and is so wet in parts as to act like quicksand! We braved walking across this to get a closer look at a heron fishing in the shallow water.
We’d now walked the entire circumference of the island and been amazed at how many ecosystems this tiny island holds. We returned to the mainland but, before going home decided to find the Cramond Falls. These are no more than 10 minutes’ walk away from the shore and past the many yachts docked in the harbour. They’re definitely worth the trip if you have some more time spare!