The fort or station at Cramond was known to the Romans as Alaterva, according to a stone altar dug up in the grounds of Cramond House that is dedicated to 'the mothers of Alaterva and of the fields', the Latin inscription reading Matribus Alatervis et Matribus Campestribus.
In the centuries that followed the end of the Roman occupation, Cramond passed into the hands of the Votadini, who spoke Cumbric, a Brythonic Celtic language, and gave the settlement its name. Cramond is derived from the compound Caer Amon, meaning 'fort on the river', referring to the Roman fort that lay on the River Almond.
Archaeological excavations at Cramond have uncovered evidence of habitation dating to around 8500 BC, making it the earliest known site of human settlement in Scotland. The inhabitants of the Mesolithic camp-site were nomadic hunter-gatherers who moved around their territories according to the season of the year. Although no bones survived the acid soil, waste pits and stakeholes that would have supported shelters or windbreaks were excavated. Numerous discarded hazelnut shells were found in the pits and used to carbon-date the site, the waste product of the inhabitants' staple food. It is thought the site was chosen for its location near the junction of the River Forth and the River Almond, where the rich oyster and mussel beds proved a reliable natural resource. Many microlith stone tools manufactured at the site were found, and predate finds of similar style in England.
The medieval parish church of Cramond parish (which retains its late medieval western tower in altered form), was built within the Roman fort.
Though knowledge of the Roman presence at Cramond was recorded afterwards, the remains of the fort itself were only rediscovered in 1954. Substantial archaeological research was carried out upon its discovery to build up a reasonably accurate picture of the site in Roman times. The fort was rectangular in shape, with walls fifteen feet high on all sides. A gatehouse was set in every wall, allowing access in all four directions. Inside, there were barracks, workshops, granaries, headquarters and the commander's house. Later excavations revealed other constructions outside the boundary of the fort, including a bath-house, further industrial workshops and a native settlement.
In 1997 the Cramond Lioness was uncovered in the harbour mud by a local boatman (who received a substantial monetary reward for finding this major antiquity), and was identified as a sandstone statue of a lioness devouring a hapless male figure, probably one of a pair at the tomb of a military commander. After conservation, the statue was displayed in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It is one of the most ambitious pieces of Roman sculpture to have survived in Scotland.
After the departure of the Romans, little is known about the state of Cramond for several centuries. The historiography of the period is perhaps best summed up by the historian J. Wood, who wrote 'a dark cloud of obscurity again settled over the parish of Cramond, of which I cannot find the smallest memorial in any historian till the year 995.'
A tower-house, probably built in the early 15th century, and part of a now-demolished larger establishment, was once a manor house of the Bishops of Dunkeld, of whose diocese Cramond was a part. It was made structurally sound and converted to a private dwelling in the 1980s.
Cramond developed slowly over the centuries, with Cramond Kirk being founded in 1656. After a brief period spent as an industrial village in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, by the late 19th century it become a desirable suburb of Edinburgh, which it remains to this day
Historically, the parish of Cramond extended from the shore of the Firth of Forth in the north to the parish of Corstorphine in the south, and was bounded on the west by the parishes of Dalmeny and Kirkliston and on the east by the parish of St Cuthbert's. It covered an area of fifteen square miles, and encompassed the villages of Granton, Pilton, Muirhouse, Davidson's Mains, Blackhall, Ravelston, Craigcrook, Turnhouse and Craigiehall.
The area has a low, gently undulating topography that drops down from the top of Corstorphine hill to the shore in three gradual stages and is intersected by the River Almond which flows northward into the Forth. During the last ice age the area was heavily glaciated, and the main direction of the ice flow was west to east. Consequently, there are rock deposits on the east side of landforms such as the Almond river valley, and until the Cramond promenade was built in the 1930s large glacial boulders were strewn along the shore. The geology of Cramond consists of calciferous sandstone, which mixed with two later sills to give the area its characteristic chocolate-brown soil.
The older houses along the wharf are typical of traditional south-east Scottish vernacular architecture, constructed in stone with harling white lime render finish, with facing stone window and door surrounds and crow-step gables, roofed with orangey-red clay pantiles imported from the Netherlands. A ruined water mill lies further up the Almond along a quiet walk past a yacht club and sailing boats moored in the river.To the east a sand beach and waterfront esplanade provides a popular walk to Silverknowes and Granton. On the other side of the Almond, (once accessible by a rowing-boat ferry) the Dalmeny Estate has a pleasant walk through Dalmeny Woods along the shore of the Firth of Forth.
Offshore, Cramond Island has WW II fortifications and is linked to land by a causeway with a line of concrete pylons on one side, constructed as a submarine defence boom. At certain low tides sand extends to the island, tempting visitors to visit the island, though occasionally some are stranded by the incoming tide.