South Queensferry is a town of 10,000 people (2020) 10 miles (16 km) west and upriver of Edinburgh in central Scotland. Historically it was the south pier of the Queen's Ferry, established almost 1000 years ago by St Margaret, wife of King Malcolm III, to ensure regular transport from Edinburgh across the Forth to Dunfermline (then the capital) and to the pilgrimage town of St Andrews. The railway bridge opened in 1890, while the car ferry remained in service until 1964 when the Forth road bridge opened. So nowadays most traffic bypasses the town, which has become a commuter suburb for Edinburgh. The main reasons to visit are to stroll through the old town and across the Forth Bridge, and to visit the ruined abbey on Inchcolm Island.
Four Scotrail trains an hour run from Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket, taking 15 min to 1 Dalmeny Station which is half a mile south east of town centre. These trains continue north over the bridge to Inverkeithing, then either inland via Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath or along the coast via Kirkcaldy, to Glenrothes then they loop back to Inverkeithing, Dalmeny and Edinburgh. Inter-city trains from Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness don't stop here, change at Inverkeithing north of the bridge. From Glasgow, Newcastle and elsewhere in England, change at Edinburgh or Haymarket.
To reach town centre from Edinburgh, take Lothian Bus 43 from St Andrews Square (stop YD) via West End, Blackhall and Barnton junction. These run ever 20 min or less, taking 45 min. Lothian Bus 63 wanders from South Queensferry along a leisurely tour of the city's western edges; you'd only use it to reach Heriot Watt University at Riccarton.
Buses from Edinburgh and the airport into Fife stop at the south end of the Forth Road Bridge above South Queensferry. This stop is convenient for the top end of town near the retail park, and for connections from the north without backtracking via Edinburgh, but it's a 20-min walk from the historic centre. Services include:
- Stagecoach Bus 747 from Edinburgh Airport, continuing north to Ferrytoll Park & Ride, Inverkeithing, and Halbeath for buses across Fife.
- Stagecoach buses 53 (Edinburgh - Dalgety Bay) and 55 (Edinburgh - Dunfermline).
From Edinburgh, follow A90 west then branch off onto B924, the old road to the ferry.
Avoiding Edinburgh, from M9 join M90 and exit at the A90 interchange, immediately turning off onto A904. The M90 junctions were re-numbered when the new bridge opened and the motorway was extended: these may not show on older maps. From Stirling and the west, shortcut by leaving M9 at Jcn 2 and follow A904 east into town.
South Queensferry is 3 miles (5 km) from Edinburgh Airport (EDI IATA). Bus 747 from the airport (Stand G) to Fife stops on the Forth Road Bridge, every 20 mins 7 days a week. Otherwise travel via Edinburgh Haymarket.
From Edinburgh, National Cycle Route 1 follows disused railway tracks out of the city across golf courses onto A90 Queensferry Road. Branch off onto B924 the old ferry road. Nearing town, the route forks left towards Dalmeny station to join the Forth Road Bridge, but keep right down the hill to come into town centre. About 17 km in all. A longer but leafier route from east or west is to follow the Union Canal towpath, leaving it at Winchburgh to come into town along the B-roads.
Reaching the stately homes listed below will need a car, bike or taxi. Everything else is a short walk.
Most visitors' first sight of South Queensferry is of the bridges spanning the Firth of Forth between Fife and West Lothian. You'll see them as you come in to land at Edinburgh Airport.
- 1 Forth Bridge. This is the cantilever railway bridge, completed in 1890, carrying the East Coast Mainline railway from London to Aberdeen. It's of very sturdy construction, as in 1879 the winter winds had tragically brought down the Tay rail bridge. That bridge's designer was sacked from the Forth project, and the design allowance for wind strength raised 5-fold. Painting the Forth Bridge was long a by-word for a never-ending task, but in 2011 they finally finished, as modern paints were much longer lasting. In 2015 the bridge was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It's not worth crossing by train just for the view, as trains rattle across in a couple of minutes.
- 2 Forth Road Bridge. Opened in 1964, this suspension bridge carried the A90 until replaced in 2017 by the new bridge. It now carries only public transport, making it the world's most elaborate, expensive bus lane. There's a footpath and cycleway on either side: exit onto A904 Ferry Muir Rd and follow signs for Visitor Centre, free parking. Normally pedestrians and cyclists use the east walkway, with the west used for maintenance vehicles. Occasionally use is switched, when they need to carry out maintenance on the east side. Use the steps and underpass either end to cross between walkways. No tolls.
- 3 Queensferry Crossing. This cable-stay road bridge, opened in Aug 2017, carries the M90. There's no walkway or cyclepath, so it's best viewed from the old bridge. No tolls.
The old town of South Queensferry stretches along the seafront of the Firth of Forth. Its east end lies beneath the railway bridge, with a slipway and the historic Hawes Inn (see "Sleep"). Here in an early scene from Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped, young David Balfour is tricked aboard a ship, knocked out and carried away, to cheat him out of his inheritance. The slipway used to be the ferry jetty: it's still used for boat-trips to Inchcolm Island (see "Do"), and for landing tenders from cruise liners. The street is wide at this point, and is the main car & coach parking lot.
The best views out to sea are from this eastern part. Tankers, Royal Navy warships and big cruise liners are often seen here. The small fortified island forming the base for one of the rail bridge cantilevers is Inchgarvie: you can't visit.
The road then narrows into the cobbled High Street, where some houses date from the 15th century.
- Queensferry Museum, 53 High St, EH30 9HP, ☏ . Th-Sa M 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-17:00. Small exhibition of the history of town, ferry and bridges
- 4 St Mary's Episcopal Church (Priory Church), Hopetoun Rd EH30 9RA (Google map wrongly gives street name as Farquhar Terrace). Built in the mid-15th century as a priory for the Carmelite Friars, but falling into disuse until restored in 1889 when it became an Episcopal Church. The stumpy tower was once three storeys high. The rest of the Carmelite monastery buildings here have entirely disappeared.
South Queensferry is bordered by four stately homes:
- 5 Hopetoun House, South Queensferry EH30 9RW (2 miles west of town, ignore Satnav EH30 9SL). Apr-Sep: daily 10:30-18:00. Magnificent Georgian mansion house, built in 1701 but greatly extended in the 18th C by the Adams. With landscaped gardens looking out over the Firth, great display of daffodils in spring. Adult £10.50, child £5.50, conc £9.50.
- 6 Dalmeny House, South Queensferry EH30 9TQ (follow signs off B924, the old ferry road. Ignore Satnav.), ☏ . June & July Su-W by guided tour at 14:15 & 15:30. 19th-century ersatz-Tudor/Gothic pile, with Regency interiors and landscaped gardens. Open in summer only for guided tours, or by arrangement for groups. You can see the exterior from the public footpath along the coast. Adult £10, child £6.50, conc £9.
- 7 Dundas Castle, EH30 9SP (take B800 south, follow signs into private drive), ☏ . No tours. With its original 15th-century keep, but mostly in 19th-century retro-Tudor/Gothic style, this castle is a venue for private or corporate events, with luxury accommodation.
- House of the Binns: see Linlithgow. The house is closed but you can enjoy the grounds.
- Walk the John Muir Trail along the shore. East of town, the path starts near the slipway & Hawes Inn, follow Longcraig Rd. Good views out across the Firth, the bridges are soon lost to view as you turn the headland towards Dalmeny. The path leads over the lawns of Dalmeny House, admire but please respect private property. Near Cramond, find Eagle Rock on the shore, a Roman carving of circa 200 AD. Beyond this you fetch up against the muddy tidal creek of the River Almond: there's no bridge, and the ferry (a little rowboat) ceased in 2001. Its replacement is continually debated, but for now, you either have to re-trace your steps, or divert a mile or two inland to the A90 bridge.
- Visit Inchcolm Island, lying to the northeast in the Forth estuary 1. The main draw is the Augustinian abbey, a well-preserved miniature Iona. There are also wartime fortifications, and wildlife - watch for seals. Regular boat trips in summer from the slipway, operators include Maid of the Forth and Forthtours.
- Port Edgar Marina and Sailing School, Shore Road, ☏ . Daily 09:00-16:30. Dinghy saliing, Kayaking/canoeing, powerboating. Hire and tuition available at this council-run facility. Berthing facilities available for visiting yachts.
- 1 The Loony Dook. A traditional New Year's Day swim in the "refreshing" waters of the Firth of Forth. "Dook" is a lowland Scots word meaning dunk. If you're feeling fuzzy-headed after the Hogmanay festivities this will certainly clear it.
- The Ferry Fair. Annual festival held in August in which the entire community participates enthusiastically. Perhaps the strangest aspect is the Burry Man procession, where a local man is covered from head to toe in burrs (the sticky hooked fruit of the burdock) and then leads a procession throughout the town's streets. As his odd garb restricts the Burry Man's movements the procession is a slow one taking several hours, so he is accompanied by 2 assistants who fortify him with nips of whisky through a straw.
- 1 Orocco Pier, 17 High Street EH30 9PP, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Food 07:00-22:00. Restaurant, bar and boutique hotel, right on the waterfront in the centre of South Queensferry. Three levels of outside decking for those sunny days, with great views of the Firth of Forth and the bridges.
- 2 The Boathouse, 22 High Street EH30 9PP, ☏ . Daily 12:00-21:00. Seafood restaurant with views overlooking the sea.
- 1 The Ferry Tap, 36 High Street EH30 9HN, ☏ . Su-W 11:00-00:00, Th-Sa 11:00-01:00. Character-laden old pub with good real ales and pub grub. Nautical memorabilia and occasional live music. Pint & burger (no sides) deal for around £6 is always offered.
- 1 Hawes Inn, 7 Newhalls Road (facing slipway at east end of seafront, pretty much under the rail bridge), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00-23:00, check-out: 12:00. Historic pub with lodging, where the 19th-century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson often stayed when journeying to and from the north of the country. The inn is mentioned in his novel Kidnapped. £65-90 per room.
- 2 Dakota Edinburgh, Ferrymuir EH30 9QZ (in retail park off B800, S edge of town), ☏ , email@example.com. 4-star hotel with restaurant, handy for airport. Rooms from £99.
As of Aug 2022, South Queensferry and its approach roads have 4G from O2 and Vodafone, and 5G from EE and Three.
- Most visitors to South Queensferry come from Edinburgh on a day-trip; it's easy to do the reverse.
- Cross the bridge to Fife. Just after crossing is North Queensferry, where the main attraction is Deep Sea World. The Fife coast to the east has wooded coastal walks, but for the most attractive section of coast you have to get beyond industrial Kirkcaldy and Leven. Here you come into the "East Neuk", a series of small fishing villages; then the coast turns north to St Andrews.
- Branching off M90 north of the bridge, see historic Dunfermline, or turn west along the coast to charming Culross.
- A short drive or bike-ride west on A904 brings you to House of the Binns, a 17th-century mansion. Turn off to the coast for Blackness Castle, a 15th-century fort looking like a stone ship about to sail; continue on the main road to Linlithgow with its palace; in Bo'ness the main attraction is the old working railway.
- South Queensferry has a good coast, with views and wildlife, but not a beach: it's too muddy this far up river. Decent beaches that you can build sandcastles on are much further east, around Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar.
- Glasgow, Stirling, Perth and Dundee are all within an hour or so by train or car.
|Routes through South Queensferry|
|Perth ← North Queensferry (via Queensferry Crossing) ←||N S||→ Edinburgh Airport → Edinburgh|