Discover one of the world’s most iconic bridges and follow in the footsteps of literary legends and haunted hounds in this coastal walk near Scotland’s capital.
Distance: 6 ¼ miles
Start and Finish: Dalmeny station (NT 13899 77862)
Access: Trains from Edinburgh and Fife stop at Dalmeny station. Bus 43 from Edinburgh stops outside the station.
Leave Dalmeny station and cross Station Road. Look behind the bus shelter and you’ll find a tree-lined path that runs parallel to the railway. This soon crosses a small bridge over a cycle route: this was once the course of the South Queensferry branch line, which connected South Queensferry with the main line at Ratho.
A short distance after the bridge, the path bends before passing beneath the railway line. After descending the flight of steps here, bear left at the road to arrive at Hawes Pier (NT 13695 78375) and one of Scotland’s most iconic structures: the Forth Bridge.
Throughout history, Stirling had held an important position as the first bridge across the River Forth. Once the river emerged into the Firth of Forth, travellers were required to take a ferry to cross to Fife – hence the name Queensferry. The Queen in question was Saint Margaret of Scotland, who established the ferry to allow pilgrims to travel north to St Andrews.
How does this connect to the large red bridge in front of you? With the arrival of the railways, the Edinburgh-Aberdeen line had to cross the Forth. This led to the construction of what was at the time the longest single cantilever bridge in the world. This meant that the ferries were no longer the main way to cross the river, and today they serve primarily as tourist routes to the islands in the Forth.
Although two further bridges have been built – the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing – the original bridge has an important place in Scottish culture, and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. The term “painting the Forth Bridge” is often used to describe a never-ending task, but since 2011 a different type of paint has meant that the bridge no longer requires constant painting to look its best.
Opposite the pier in the shadow of the bridge stands the Hawes Inn. This former coaching inn has strong literary connections – Robert Louis Stevenson came up with the idea for his novel Kidnapped at the inn, and the inn itself appears in the novel itself as the place where the plot to kidnap the protagonist David Balfour was hatched.
From the Inn, bear right at a junction onto Longcraig road, passing beneath the Forth Bridge. You’re now following the John Muir Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails that connects Dunbar in the east with Helensburgh in the west.
The road along the coast of the Firth of Forth, leaving Queensferry behind. Pass through a gate at the appropriately names Longcraig Gate (NT 14430 78670) to enter the Dalmeny Estate.
The path hugs the coastline, allowing you to enjoy superb views across to Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay in Fife.
The path bends to the right at Hound Point. You can make a short detour here (NT 15840 79470) by joining a well-worn path onto the outcrop of land. The views are well worth it, extending past Edinburgh and along the East Lothian coast as far as the conical lump of North Berwick Law.
From Hound Point, follow the path past the secluded Fishery Cottage. Through the trees to your left you can catch glimpses of Cramond island, and beyond to Edinburgh. Perched on the shore is Barnbougle Castle (NT 16880 78540).
Barnbougle Castle was built in the 13th Century by the Mowbray family. It would later become the seat of the Earls of Rosebery until they moved to Dalmeny House. The castle was used to store munitions until an explosion left it in ruins. It was reconstructed by the 5th Earl, who would later become Prime Minister in 1894, and used as his private library.
The castle and its founders, the Mowbrays, tie into a local legend about how Hound Point got its name. When Sir Roger de Mowbray was setting off on Crusade, his dog was eager to follow. After Mowbray was killed, his dog was lost in the Holy Land. The faithful hound, the legends say, never gave up searching for his master. On dark winter nights, howls can be heard as the wind whips around the point. On rare occasions, the dog is accompanied by the sinister spectre of a Saracen soldier – a dire omen for the Lords of Barnbougle, as death is sure to follow.
Continue past the castle to reach Dalmeny House (NT 16838 78051). The house was built in 1817 to replace Barnbougle Castle as the seat of the Earls of Roseberry. The house was the first in Scotland to be constructed in the Tudor Revival style. It also contains one of the largest collections of Napoleonic memorabilia outside of France.
Leave the John Muir Way to pass the house and the statue of the racehorse King Tom. Continue straight at the crossroads following the signs for the estate’s exit. Follow the estate road and pass through a kissing gate.
Cross the main road by the small house at Chapel Gate (NT 15320 77665), and join the pavement at the side of the lane opposite. This leads to the village of Dalmeny.
A church has existed at Dalmeny since at least the mid-1100s. It was built by Gospatric III, Earl of Lothian, whose son later granted the money raised by the parish to the monks at Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders. The village itself is much newer, and was built to provide accommodation for the workers at Dalmeny House.
Pass the war memorial on the village green. As you approach a bridge carrying the road across the railway below, bear left and follow the path to meet the cycle route adjacent to the railway line. Bear right, passing under the bridge, then follow the route of the former South Queensferry branch line Shortly after passing under the railway for a second time, a short flight of steps on your left lead to the bridge crossed at the beginning of the walk. From here, you can follow the path back to the station – or perhaps venture into South Queensferry for some refreshments.