This was my first coastal walk of 2015. I tend not to go for trips to Scotland in winter as it gets dark too early to be able to get much of a walk done on a weekend trip once I’ve got there and I prefer to save my precious annual leave for the summer months when the days are longer and (hopefully) the weather is a bit better. So I’m travelling up on this, the last Saturday of March 2015. The clocks move to summer time tonight so today is the last day the sunset is quite so early.
I’m travelling by train from my home to Edinburgh. The fastest way is usually to take the train into London Waterloo then the tube to London Kings Cross and another train from there to Edinburgh Waverley. However today there is engineering work on the East Coast Mainline meaning that to travel that way I would have to endure a bus replacement for part of the journey. Yuck. So instead this time I managed to book a train ticket from my local station to Edinburgh for just £24.50. This time I am routed via the West Coast Mainline instead, from London Euston to Carlisle where I have to change for another train to Edinburgh. It’s not a route I’ve used before, but it doesn’t take that much longer than the normal route via London Kings Cross and York (when it is not disrupted for work). Better still this was the price from my local station and includes the journey to London Waterloo and the tube to London Euston (usually it is cheaper to book separately from London), so overall quite a bargain for over 400 miles, I thought.
I took the train to London Waterloo where even the guard commented that I’d got a “fantastic price there” when he saw my ticket! From there I took the tube to London Euston station and then a train from there to Carlisle. I’m used to the lovely journey (at least once north of York) on the East Coast route where the railway line follows the coast for much of the way through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. This time I’m on the West Coast so expecting less spectacular scenery. But It’s equally lovely in fact because whilst I only get a brief glimpse of the coast around Lancaster soon the train heads through the highly beautiful Lake District, where I can enjoy the views of some stunning countryside. I have to change at Carlisle but the train onwards is on time and makes it’s way through the spectacular hills of south western Scotland to reach Edinburgh. All in all it is a pleasant journey and made a nice change to travel via a different route.
At the busy Edinburgh Waverley I bought another ticket to Dalmeny which is the station that serves Queensferry (also known as South Queensferry). I don’t know why the station is called Dalmeny since Queensferry (where the station is in the edge of), is a much larger place than Dalmeny, which the station is near.
The station is just south of the famous Forth Bridge, which carries the track over the Firth of Forth ahead. This is an incredibly famous bridge, not just in Scotland or even the UK, but worldwide. I suspect it’s probably as well known as the Golden Gate Bridge or perhaps Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’d only ever seen the bridge close too once or twice, a couple of years ago, so I was looking forward to seeing it again and indeed I could already see part of it from the station.
One thing that did surprise me the first time I saw it up close is just how high it is. That meant I had to take quite a steep and meandering route down from the station to end up at sea level, beside the Firth of Forth which was only about 300 metres from the station.
I passed under the bridge and stopped to admire it.
It really is an astonishing structure. Of course the old saying was that a never-ending job was like “painting the Forth Bridge”, so the story goes that by the time it had been painted, it would need doing again, so you’d have to start all over again (I believe now some sort of better paint has been used so this is no longer strictly true).
The other thing that surprised me is the sound. Some people live near airports and as a result have to put up with the noise of jets passing overhead at regular intervals. But here I was discovering that trains could be just as noisy, as they passed high overhead on this bridge and made quite a racket as they crossed the bridge, the sound resonating in the vast amounts of steel that the bridge is made up from.
The bridge is now a World Heritage Site and was voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in 2016. I can’t disagree! It was the first crossing of the Forth of Firth (the road bridge coming later) and prior to that the crossing was via ferry, hence the name of the town, Queensferry. The original design of the railway bridge was quite different and was planned along a similar design to the Tay Bridge over the Firth of Tay further north. This had been designed by Thomas Bouch who was also the main engineer behind plans to bridge the Firth of Forth. However the Tay bridge collapsed during a storm in December 1879 as a train was crossing the bridge, killing all on board. The public inquiry into this disaster found that the Tay Bridge was “badly designed, badly constructed and badly maintained”. As a result confidence in Thomas Bouch evaporated and so a new design was sought, Sir John Fowler, W H Barlow and T E Harrison were invited to give proposals for a new bridge. What they proposed is what we saw today the mighty Forth Bridge.
Presumably not wanting to repeat the mistakes of Thomas Bouch they opted for something that is almost certainly way over-engineered for the weights it has to carry and the conditions it has to cope with. But it’s stood the test of time and is a quite remarkable bridge.
So having admired the bridge for so long it was time to get walking! By now it was gone 1pm and so I didn’t have all that long before dark. The main road along the short of the Firth of Forth in Queensferry (the B924) turned inland under the Forth Bridge but immediately a very minor road along the shore began, which is used by the John Muir Way. So I followed that. It had little traffic, but was narrow enough it was a bit of a squeeze when a car did come.
It ran through the edge of woodland, offering occasional glimpses through the trees to the magnificent Forth Bridge. The view now looks a little different now since a new road bridge has also been built but when I did this walk the construction of that was only just beginning. (Now it is completed and part of the M90 motorway).
I passed a little tiny waterfall to the right of the road, which was unexpected (it is not marked on the map) and enjoyed the changing views of the Forth Bridge.
Ahead I soon reached the pier at Long Craig Pier.
I’m not sure what this is used for now though. At the pier there was a cottage and this also marked the end of the route as a road, as a gate blocked the route for through traffic.
An information sign welcomed me to the Dalmeny Estate and indicated that there was a 4 1/2 mile coastal route through the estate to Cramond Bridge, which was good news. Indeed this was signed again as the John Muir Way and also open to cyclists, since it is part of National Cycle Network route 76. This was well signed as a shore walk, a pleasant tarmac path through the edge of the woodland.
However I soon spotted there was now a bit of beach below the path and this made for a more pleasant route.
I was now a couple of miles from the bridge yet I could still hear, very clearly and loudly whenever a train passed over it. The sound really carries!
Oil and Gas are I believe big business in Scotland and whilst I associated this more with points further north, such as Aberdeen, there were some “Tanker Births” out in the Firth of Forth. These are the metal structures out in the water on the photo below. I believe they are used by ships to unload oil or gas into pipelines.
This part of the walk was very pleasant with the beach backed by trees, it was rather more rural than I had expected this walk to be, which was nice.
The Forth Bridge was now getting further away, too.
To my surprise I even began to see dunes ahead as I reached Peatdraught Bay ahead.
Soon I rounded the corner and had the fine sandy beach of Drum Sands ahead. Out in the Firth of Forth I could now see an island too.
This I found is Inchcolm Island and part of Fife, on the other side of the Firth of Forth. In fact it was the second island I had seen since there is also the small island of Inch Garvie right underneath the Forth Bridge (indeed I think it provides some foundation to the bridge). The island looked quite hilly, I had expected it might be flatter than it was.
I continued on the beach which made for easy and pleasant walking and soon ahead I could now see a very grand building ahead.
This is Barnbougle Castle (what a great name), which is shown on the map as having been restored. I think if you were dropped here with no idea what country you were in you would soon work it out from the architecture alone which I think is so Scottish in style.
It was a wonderful building and I watched it grow steadily closer as I walked along the beach.
It is used as an events venue now. Rock armour was piled up in front of the sea wall here presumably to provide it with more protection from the sea. Thankfully as the tide was out, so I was able to get past this rock armour on the (slightly muddy) beach.
I continued along the beach which had a line of shells washed up onto it and passed an old pipeline of some sort.
I could see some larger tankers that looked to be moored up on the other side of the Firth of Forth. Ahead the beach reached Snab Point where the cliffs got a bit higher. So I left the beach and re-joined the path here.
This took me through woodland again, now raised up giving a nice view back over the beach.
I like it when there is woodland behind the beach and it was a lovely path now. The tarmac cycle route had gone a bit further inland so now the path was a more pleasant narrower path which was not tarmac and so easier on the feet.
A short distance ahead I could soon see the town of Cramond ahead. The view through the trees was a bit limited so I dropped down to the beach to get a better view.
Whilst it looked just a short distance away it was about 2.5 miles walking to get there. The reason for this is the River Almond flows out to the sea here and the nearest bridge is over a mile inland so I’d have to head to it to cross the river. So having walked to the end of the beach I had to re-trace my steps a short distance to rejoin the John Muir Way and the cycle path and follow this tarmac path south to the A90. Although initially beside fields a bit away from the river it got closer to the river as I neared the A90.
Earlier I commented about the noise of trains but now I was also quite near to Edinburgh Airport so the noise of the trains on the Forth Bridge was now replaced with the sound of jet engines instead! (The river Almond goes alongside the airport runway).
Thankfully I didn’t have to join the A90 since just before it, there is a much older bridge over the river. This was the original bridge, replaced by a newer wider bridge on the A90, it’s now only open to pedestrians and cyclists. The road sign called it Cramond Brig Toll so presumably it was once tolled but thankfully the tolls are no more.
I enjoyed the views of the river from the old bridge.
Here the John Muir Way now disappears off inland. However I was pleased to find that despite this there was now a “River Almond Walkway” I could follow back to the coast.
This was a pleasant tree-lined path beside the river and made for a lovely walk (and was popular with the local dog-walkers, too).
The river was quite fast flowing and there was evidence of former industry here, with blocks of concrete visible in the rushing waters and some small brick structures beside the river.
In places little islands had formed, some large enough for trees to grow.
Near the mouth of the river there was a sizeable weir so if river traffic had one headed upstream from the coast it hadn’t done so for a long while.
The river had formed a deep valley here with cliffs on both sides. This is known as Cramond Falls and just beyond it the path went right through a ruined stone building, presumably more remnants of past industry (a mill, perhaps?).
Indeed I could also see some bricks of some sort of old structure built into the river.
Having passed this (and the Cramond Falls cafe) I was now approaching the houses I had seen earlier at the eastern mouth of the river.
The houses a little further upstream were partly built into the cliffs, but a recent rock fall of these seemed to have taken out a stone wall of a garden (and part of the garden with it). Not sure I’d want to live there! (See near the bottom right of the picture below).
Further up the houses were built down to ground level, not raised up onto the cliffs and looked rather lovely. Warehouses of some sort in the past I suspect.
At the mouth of the river here is something else rather interesting – another island. Specifically this is Cramond Island, a tidal island strictly as you can walk to it at low tide along a causeway of around 3/4 of a mile long. The tide was out. I love islands. I think you can guess what I did next.
So I followed this causeway out to the island.
It followed alongside a pipe line (perhaps providing a water supply to the island). Soon I reached the edge of the island and could look back to the shore. I knew I wouldn’t have long to explore as the tide would soon start coming in.
So I followed the main path up onto the island. The island has an interesting history. An ancient stone burial cist has been found suggesting the island has been lived on for a very long time and archaeological remains suggests it was occupied in Roman times. Sheep were grazed here to and the island was farmed up until 1904 though sheep were kept here until the 1960s though I believe the last human resident left in the 1930s. The island was heavily defended during World War I and World War II and I was seeing the now derelict remains of that ahead.
Sadly most had been vandalised with graffiti and tagging.
Still the path took me up to a high point on the island where I had a really good view back to the mainland. It was lovely I was lucky with the tide I was able to visit the island.
Indeed from the top I could also look back and sea the Forth Bridge once more.
The island had a bit of beach on it’s west side and soon I had reached the northern most point. Sadly there was vast amounts of litter on the island with broken bottles everywhere and numerous plastic bottles and drink cans. At the far end of the island I had clearer views to Fife and also to another island, Inchmickery.
This too had clearly been heavily fortified and seemed to be almost entirely occupied by a derelict concrete fort presumably from World War II.
Some more concrete structures were here, probably lookouts manned with flash lights to look for invading ships coming up the Firth of Forth (and to act as a deterrent), during World War II.
Some had now grassed over on the roofs. Reaching the east side of the island I could make out the skyline of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh ahead.
Returning to the high point, it was soon time to head back to the mainland. I later read the island is a notorious problem with raves etc taking place here, where teenagers go to drink, takes drugs and whatever else they get up to away from their parents and (at high tide at least), the thin blue line of the law!
This accounts for the huge numbers of broken bottles etc that I saw. Now I headed back over the causeway as now coming the other way was one such group of teenagers carrying Tesco bags clinking with the sound of bottles (I only hope they bought them back afterwards, rather than leave them on the island).
Having enjoyed my island explore, as I neared the shore rather than head all the way back along the causeway I headed out onto the sands east of the causeway to provide a little short-cut.
Soon I was back to the shore and rejoined the tarmac path along the shore, again part of the National Cycle Network route and also a bit of a promenade for the village of Muirhouse.
I followed the pleasant tarmac path through a sort of coastal park but sadly soon the pleasant part of the walk was coming to an end. I was now nearing Edinburgh and that bought with it lots of industry.
Soon the grassy greens around the path had gone and to my right were industrial warehouses. Soon the path ended too and I was now turfed out onto West Shore Road. Thankfully this did have a (narrow) pavement on the land-ward side, which I joined. Soon it became West Harbour Road, with Granton Harbour to my left. I stuck to the main road passed this since the harbour itself was a dead-end soon passing this very curious building, an ordinary brick little warehouse except with a lighthouse built onto one corner of it. I’ve never seen a lighthouse like that before!
Thankfully I soon passed the industrial area though as I did so the road now became the A901. I was now in the part of Edinburgh called Wardie which had a bit more of a resort field to it, with a bit of a beach and some brightly coloured houses along the shore, where there was again a green I could walk on to avoid the traffic.
I passed the Eastern Breakwater of the harbour and continued on the pleasant path along the shore again, though it soon became pavement beside houses again. This time though the houses were rather grander stone affairs, several stories high.
Soon I reached the small Newhaven Harbour (wasn’t that in East Sussex?) and beyond it the much larger Leith Harbour.
This is the commercial port of Edinburgh and is where the larger tankers and cruise ships birth. It stretches for almost 2 miles along the coast. The first part of the harbour arm looked to be derelict industrial land slowly being redeveloped with retails parks and “luxury apartments”. I continued on the busy A-road (the A199) beside the harbour though for parts I could switch onto a less busy road to the left.
There was not much to see here really, it was just pavement pounding mostly next to busy roads, though this rather cheeky shop amused me.
Soon I reached North Leith. This is around 2 miles from the centre of Edinburgh and has clearly been somewhat gentrified.
The docks now partly filled in and surrounded by restaurants and nice looking flats and houses. It was a lovely area with some really beautiful buildings and was clearly now a desirable place to live (perhaps it has always been).
Over in the docks too is a large shopping centre (Ocean Terminal) which is also where the former Royal Yacht Britannia is now moored as a tourist attraction. I’d have liked to have a look at that but it was gone 5pm so it was closed by now.
Inland too, over a bit of industry and housing, I could clearly see Arthur’s Seat brooding over the city.
Sadly just beyond North Leith the surroundings soon became industrial again. This continued for about a mile passing warehouses and also a large sewage works. This part of Edinburgh is certainly not glamorous!
Time was getting on now and it would soon be dark. I could end here because there were buses along the main road but I decided I’d rather end somewhere nicer, so I could begin from somewhere nicer tomorrow. My feet too were tired and getting sore now from all the pavement pounding I’d been doing along the urban streets of Edinburgh (I was also getting blisters, which I didn’t realise until later).
I continued through the depressing industry until at last I reached the sandy beach of Portobello.
This is more the resort part of Edinburgh with a nice sandy beach and the usual seaside attractions such as ice creams and arcades.
I soon dropped down onto the beach as the sun was now setting, it made for easier walking for my now sore feet.
It was nearly dark by the time I reached the end of the beach.
The end of the beach is known as Joppa and behind the beach here is the B6415. I headed to the road here and ended the walk here. Now I was on the lookout for a bus to Edinburgh. I found a bus stop almost as soon as I reached the road. I had just missed a bus though so had about 15 minutes to wait.
The bus got me back, very slowly, to Edinburgh city centre. This was where I discovered that buses in Edinburgh are very unfriendly and don’t give change (exact fare only) and I didn’t have the exact fare so they got to pocket the difference (I suspect why this policy exists in the first place!). From here I took a train back to Dalmeny. I was staying at the Premier Inn South Queensferry. This was just under a mile walk from the station, near the approach road to the Forth Road Bridge.
I was pleased to get there where I could then check in to my room and have dinner. I prefer to stay out of city centres as I am a light sleeper and British cities tend to be very noisy on Saturday nights (as this was) as so many head out to enjoy the night life and get drunk. Hotels too can be noisy as those returning from the night life make their way back to their rooms nosily late at night or early into the next morning. I hoped that being a bit further out it would be quieter, as indeed it was.
This was a walk of two halves then really. I was stunned by the Forth Bridge at the start of the walk and also found the beaches and coast there to be lovely. Cramond Island was also an unexpected and very enjoyable bonus. Even the walk beside the river Alomond had turned out to be lovely. It just a shame after that so much of the walk was on the pavements of main roads beside industry at the edge of Edinburgh. However I was pleased to have made it past most of this industry, as it would make the next days walk more pleasant (which was the previous walk I wrote up!).
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Lothian Buses route 26 : Seton Sands – Port Seton – Cockenzie – Prestonpans – Levenhall – Pinkie – Musselburgh – Joppa – Portobello – Meadowbank – Abbey Hill – Edinburgh (Centre) – Edinburgh (Haymarket Station) – Corstorphine. Approximately every 8 minutes Monday – Saturday and every 15 minutes on Sundays. It takes a little over 20 minutes from Edinburgh to Joppa/Portobello.
Scotrail Trains Edinburgh – Fife (Circle) : Edinburgh (Waverley) – Edinburgh (Haymarket) – Edinburgh Gateway – Dalmeny – North Queensferry – Inverkeithing. Four trains per hour run on this route Monday – Saturday and beyond here 2 of them go clockwise around the loop and 2 anti-clockwise. On Sundays there are 2 trains per hour between Edinburgh and Dalmeny with one each going each way around the loop. It takes 15 minutes between Edinburgh and Dalmeny.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Photo Album