Putting the Firth foot forward

Weekend walk: in the outreaches of Edinburgh, Hamish Scott follows the shoreline from the quayside of Cramond

With the Edinburgh Festival approaching, what better time to explore the city's outreaches? Edinburgh, as Robert Louis Stevenson observed, is a city that overlooks the countryside around it. And indeed, from the Castle Esplanade, the visitor can gaze up the Firth of Forth, where the towers of the city's famous bridges rise just beyond the suburbs. Here there is an inaccessible and unspoilt shoreline to explore, between Cramond and South Queensferry.

Cramond's old stone cottages and quayside lie within a short bus ride of Princes Street, and just across the river Almond, fields and woodland slope down to the water's edge. The five-mile "shore walk" to South Queensferry was a favourite outing of Robert Louis Stevenson, who brought his father here one afternoon in 1871 to break the shocking news that he wished to be a writer rather than a lighthouse builder.

To reach the path, the walker must first meet a challenge. The only way across the river mouth at Cramond is by ferry, and to attract the ferryman's attention may require determined effort. He cannot be tempted out on Fridays, during lunch, or if the weather is dodgy. A notice also states that he will refuse to carry you should you have a dog, a pram, a bicycle or a picnic concealed about your person. All being well, however, energetic waving and a lusty shout should bring him sculling an old whaler from the farther bank.

The shore walk starts off as a grassy path that winds beneath the trees above a beach of sand and silt. Cramond Island stands offshore and the hills of Fife rise beyond the sparkling waters of the Firth. This is, of course, a man-made landscape, the immaculately managed parkland of Dalmeny House, but it has a rough-edged beauty that appears entirely natural.

Half-a-mile along the way, Eagle Rock juts out above the sands. An eroded carving on its face supposedly depicts a Roman eagle, though its date and nature are still open to wilder interpretations. The figure, with raised wings or arms, could represent a prehistoric astronaut, or indeed a Pictish prohibition against picnickers. Beyond some denser woodland, the path runs past a row of rose-clad cottages and an impressive tree house before crossing what may well be Scotland's most exclusive golf- course. To play here you will need to be a close friend of the Earl of Rosebery, or work on his estate.

Dalmeny House itself overlooks the course, and is well worth a short diversion when open to the public. Built in 1817 in an uneasy blend of classical and Gothic styles, it's not a pretty house to modern eyes, but it does contain some splendid furniture and tapestries.

As you continue along the shore below Dalmeny House, a battlemented tower- house is visible ahead. Perched precariously on a rocky headland, and often shrouded in sea-mists, Barnbougle Castle would serve as an ideal location for a horror film. The castle was Dalmeny's original Big House, built in the 13th century by Sir Roger Mowbray and used by his descendants as a base for the family's profitable occupations of piracy and smuggling. The Roseberys, who took over the estate in 1662, continued living there until well into the 19th century despite the inconvenience of waves occasionally pouring through the windows of the dining-hall. Now well restored and watertight, the castle is not open to the public and the shore walk skirts past, along a metalled drive.

Forking off the drive along a rougher track, the path continues to Hound Point. If the afternoon is misty and you hear an eerie howling from the rocks, it is probably Sir Roger Mowbray's hound pining for its master to return from the Crusades (phantom hounds are, apparently, excluded from the ban on dogs). There is a pretty little beach here, and as the path continues through wild woods and rhododendron thickets, the gargantuan structure of the Forth rail bridge looms above the trees. This huge Victorian structure dominates the last mile of the walk.

South Queensferry, though busier than Cramond, is equally unspoilt. But many pubs along the waterfront seem rather too efficient at processing tourists, so an alternative is to return to Cramond on the bus for a visit to the cosy and delightful Cramond Inn. Here, red snappers with herb sauce should satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

Directions

Cross river Almond by ferry at Cramond Quay and bear right in front of cottage along shore walk.

After passing estate cottages, cross metalled drive and continue along signposted path.

Cross golf-course and join estate road around Barnbougle Castle.

Fork right off road at signpost to continue along shore walk to South Queensferry.

Cramond ferry, 9am-7pm: adults 50p, children 10p

Dalmeny House (0131-331 1788) open July & August, Sun, 1pm-5.30pm, Mon & Tues 12.30pm-5.30pm

Ordnance Survey Pathfinder map 406

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us