Scotland’s western islands get a deserved amount of attention. But if you want to do something different, why not explore the eastern isles scattered along the Firth of Forth estuary? Mostly uninhabited and reclaimed by nature, they are home to countless wild seabirds and ancient castle ruins, and hold stories of smugglers, military battles, fleeing monks and political treachery.
Here is our guide to these extraordinary islands.
Before it was incorporated into the Forth Bridge in 1882, battleship-shaped Inchgarvie was the main route between South Queensferry in Lothian and North Queensferry in Fife. There are a number of 'inchs' in the Firth of Forth, as it derives from the Gaelic word for island, innis. Innis garbh translates to 'rough island'. Built in 1513, its fortress was used during Cromwell's campaign, through the Napoleonic wars, up until the Second World War. Photo: Getty Images
A familiar site from Leith, Inchkeith sits close to Edinburgh and has historic significance defending the Forth from invasion, as an early syphilis quarantine zone, and as the site of a disturbing linguistic experiment. In the 15th century James IV ordered a mute woman and her young children to live there to find out what language they would speak. The island is now owned by Tom Farmer, founder of Kwikfit. Photo: Getty Images via Canva Pro
When the tide is low, the sea retreats to reveal a causeway over to Cramond Island. Found off the coast of Edinburgh, it has an extensive military history all the way up to the Second World War - with the concrete pylons lining the walkway designed to block boats. Incredibly peaceful despite its proximity to a capital city, Cramond Island has striking views of the Forth Bridges over to Queensferry, Fife, and Edinburgh. But be careful you don't get caught by the tide when it comes back in. Photo: Getty Images
The tiny isle of Inchmickery sits squarely in the middle of the Firth of Forth, between Edinburgh and Fife. Its cluster of concrete, abandoned wartime buildings give it the look of a battleship from sea level, but it is now a peaceful haven for birdlife. It is the setting for the climax of Iain Banks' novel Complicity, and also features in the film adaptation. Photo: Getty Images