To be honest, I was feeling a bit sad. I was on holiday for a week and like the vast majority of the population, I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I was grateful for my allotment and for the temporary job I still had, but the sadness of everything was getting to me. I needed fresh air, new colours, new sounds, new smells (fortunately my ‘sense of’ was in tip-top condition), all within 5 miles of my flat.
And so I headed to Cramond, not for a promenade or a (tide-permitting) squelch along the Dragon’s Teeth, nor for the Island. Instead, I headed inland, along the stunning bank of the River Almond and away from everyone else.
At Cramond Brig, I headed through the car park and took a right across the bridge, following a blue cycle path sign for Queensferry (Route 76) and the green sign of the John Muir Way. I was heading for both trees, and the sea – Dalmeny Estate.
The Estate itself begins, rather uninspiringly, at a low metal gate beside which is a map. You can check out the route here. Keep in mind that this is a working farm and many of the fields contain livestock, so it’s important to stick to the Shore Walk.
To be honest, the west-side of the Almond Walk is a pretty dreary tramp along a tarmac path, but it’s only 15 minutes until you reach the sign on the right for Coble Cottage – where (until 2000) there was a ferry boat to take you across to Cramond.
Which brings me to a story…
A few years ago I took the bus to South Queensferry, planning to walk back to Leith (yes indeedy), it wasn’t until I reached Coble Cottage that I discovered that the rowing boat was no more. It was a horribly wet day and as I turned sadly to head up river I bumped into Louise Storie, former columnist at this very magazine…
Louise was – rather bizarrely – carrying a yellow welly. It transpired that the yellow welly in question was being carried around the Scottish Coast in aid of the RNLI and Louise had organised, she is very good at organising, for the Cramond Yacht Club to transport her and her two fellow walkers from shore to shore.
And so, with the promise of a donation, I joined the merry band of seafarers and set sail across the estuary in a rubber dingy.
However, let us walkers return to that sign for Coble Cottage in the present tense. Here, you can decide to follow the path left as it meanders through stunning mixed deciduous woodland or, if the tide is out, you can step out onto the shore and stroll a plethora of tranquil bays bordered by rocky cliffs, tall trees, native shrubs and grasslands. However, do watch out for the mudflats offshore.
There’s so much to look out for along the way - Eagle Rock, with its Roman carving, and Snab Point with views along to the ghostly looking Barnbougle Castle.
Just before you reach the golf course, there is a magnificent white stretch, not sand, but millions of whitewashed cockles, crunching underfoot and leading to a quaint bridge over the Cockle Burn.
The golf course itself is the front green to Dalmeny House, a private home completed in 1817 and part of the Rosebery Estates. Here you must follow the edge of the green round to the main path west through the woodland - passing Barnbougle Castle on your right.
And still there is more, here is Hound Point, reputedly haunted by a dog and the equally eerie Hound Point Terminal, where tankers upload the fuel refined at Grangemouth - an ugly blot on the view to Fife, though there’s also something compelling about this monstrosity. On the upside, you can also see the beauty of all three uniquely engineered bridges from here.
The walk ends at the edge of the Estate, opposite the Hawes Inn and just before the 19th century Long Craig Pier, from where the ferry used to set sail for North Queensferry.
However, just before you strike out for the main road, it is time for a well-deserved stop at the wonderful Honey Pot Creative Café. Pottery and painting for children and adult alike, with a shop and small area for coffee, cake, soup and sandwiches.
The café boasts the best panoramic views of the Forth and their outdoor area is almost directly below the Rail Bridge, resulting in invisible trains miraculously roaring by at regular intervals.
I was back again recently, for a joyful meander through the spectacular autumnal foliage, emerging onto a view of Dalmeny House resplendent in snow.
Snow? Yes. In October? Well, pretend snow. They were filming. Something. But sssshhhh! Like one of Lothian’s best-kept-secret-walks, they weren’t saying.
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The extraordinary view from the Honey Pot Café, South Queensferry