Cammo and the River Almond

You’ll take in plenty of history on this pleasant walk along the River Almond to visit the ruined Cammo Estate.

Distance: 9.5 km (6 miles)
Start and Finish: Cramond Brig car park (NT 17830 75515)
Access: Bus 43 from Edinburgh to Queensferry stops at Cramond Brig. Parking is available at the start of the walk.

This walk starts at the car park at the side of the A90 near Cramond. If traveling by bus, you’ll need to cross the road in order to reach the car park: if traffic is busy, you may wish to follow the road back towards the city where you’ll soon find a crossing.

At the rear of the car park, follow the road down to the river to reach the historic Cramond Brig (brig is the Scots word for bridge). It isn’t known exactly when the bridge was built, but it was likely around the late 14th or early 15th Century. The bridge once carried the old Edinburgh to Stirling road across the river, but now it’s most frequently crossed by walkers and cyclists.

Cramond Brig as it crosses the River Almond.

In his series Tales of a Grandfather, Sir Walter Scott wrote about the events that happened at the bridge on one dark night. King James V of Scotland was travelling in disguise when he met a group of bandits at the bridge. The bandits attacked the King, only to be chased away by a local farm worker named Jock Howieson who lived in a house nearby. The King was so thankful to his rescuer that he gave him the farm as a gift!

A statue depicting a bandit attacking King James V at Cramond Brig.

Cross the bridge, then bear right following a path signed for the River Almond Walkway. You’ll soon reach the ruin of Jock Howieson’s cottage (NT 18000 75380), which must have had a splendid view of the bridge. Past the cottage, bear left at a fork in the path then follow the steps down to the river’s edge and pass under the modern road bridge.

The remains of Jock Howieson’s cottage.

The path continues upstream until you cross the Bughtlin burn at a small wooden footbridge (NT 17740 75200). Climb the steps here, and a narrow pathway soon joins Cammo Road. Bear left here and follow the road south until you arrive at the entrance to the Cammo Estate (NT 17790 74860). Pass the visitor centre at Cammo Lodge and follow the tree-lined East Avenue. This leads to the ruined remains of Cammo House (NT 17400 74695) on a small knoll.

The ruined doorway to Cammo House.

In its heyday the elegant Cammo house was one of the most desirable places to be seen at. Built in the 1690s, its grounds were home to a canal, a water tower, and an expansive landscape garden. The house belonged to several different owners throughout its history, and in 1898 it was sold to its final owners: the Maitland-Tennants.

Between 1914-1920, Mrs Maitland-Tennant set off on a world tour with her two sons, Robert and Percival. When Robert decided to settle in America instead of returning home, Mrs Maitland-Tennant disinherited him and began to intentionally neglect the estate in order to reduce its value in case Robert tried to claim it after her death. When she passed away in 1955, Percival abandoned the estate and upon his death in 1975 it was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. Following vandalism and a series of fires, the house was demolished in 1980.

It is rumoured that the house inspired the author Robert Louis Stevenson to create the House of Shaws when he was writing his novel Kidnapped. While the same rumour is shared with several other houses in the area, the history of Cammo makes for an interesting parallel to its fictional counterpart.

From here, you have the option of taking a short detour of around 1 km to explore some of the sights that the estate has to offer. This distance is included in the length of the walk, so if you’d rather return to explore the estate another day you can reduce the length of your walk accordingly.

The estate’s South Avenue leads from the ruined house and past the old canal (NT 17400 74640), which was designed in the 1720s by the architect William Adam. Continue along the path to reach the former stable building at the edge of the estate.

Looking at the sky through the ruined roof of the stables.

From the stables, you can follow a well-worn path across a field towards Cammo tower (NT 17598 74250). Although the tower might look like a folly, it once served a practical purpose: it was built as a water tower to provide water for the estate and once had sails like a windmill. Today it stands solitary and surprisingly well preserved, and is perhaps the most photographed spot in the estate. When you’ve finished exploring, return to Cammo house.

The water tower on the edge of the Cammo Estate.

From the house, take a path leading north which leads back to Cammo Road. Cross the road here and follow the path to arrive back above the the River Almond. Continue upstream for a short distance to arrive at the old stone Grotto Bridge (NT 17095 75205). You can shorten your walk considerably here by crossing the bridge and returning to Cramond Brig on the river’s north bank, taking slightly under 5km from the total distance. For a longer walk, continue past the bridge – you’ll have the chance to cross it later.

Looking down to the River Almond from Grotto Bridge.

The sound of the roaring rapids soon dies away, leaving you in a peaceful stretch of the river that could easily be in the heart of the countryside. As you follow the meandering river, you might have an opportunity for plane spotting as you enter the flightpath for Edinburgh Airport. Eventually you will arrive at a railway bridge (NT 15605 74935), where you should bear left to leave the riverside and follow a track through the field to reach the road at Turnhouse farm. Bear left and follow the road, then bear left again after passing the house at Lennie Mains.

Following the River Almond upstream from Grotto Bridge.

When you reach the buildings at Nether Lennie (NT 16390 75050), follow a path into the trees on your right. Ignore the temptation to join any paths leading into the fields around you and you’ll soon come to a junction with the path you followed earlier along the river. Bear right here, and follow the path back to Grotto Bridge (NT 17095 75205). Cross the bridge to arrive on the north bank of the river. Bear right and follow the path downstream to arrive back at Cramond Brig (NT 17900 75480) near the car park.

The Grotto Bridge across the River Almond.

Are you interested in visiting the statue of King James V being attacked by bandits? It’s a short walk from the car park. Follow the pavement across the modern Cramond bridge. Take care when crossing the road there’s a crossing a little further along Queensferry Road. You can find the statue hidden in an otherwise unassuming residential development (NT 17945 75230).

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