With the sun blazing under blue skies, we used our Itison voucher for a boat trip on the Forth to spend a day on the water. We took the car, but could as easily have hopped on the train to Dalmeny to reach the lovely town of Queensferry.
Queensferry is an ancient Royal Burgh set on the Forth and today has a pretty main street with enticing shops, restaurants and cafes. The harbour is for yachts rather than fishing boats and from both ends of the town, the skyline is dominated by its bridges.
There are 2 tour boats that depart from Hawes Quay – the Maid of the Forth
and the Forth Belle – our choice
The boat travels East along the Firth passing the oil terminal at Hounds Point – it may not sound beautiful but getting so close to a mega-tanker and watching it depart for China was quite a sight.
Slowing carefully near buoys in the shipping channels, we got great views of seals sunning themselves.
and after about 90 minutes we approached the island of Inchcolm.
This island is home to lots of seabirds and migrants. When we went there were several groups of Eiders bobbing around and puffins swimming offshore. About 20 pairs will nest there in the summer.
It is also the site of a 12th century Augustinian monastery which is set between two picturesque sandy beaches.
In the care of Historic Scotland, as members we were able to explore the island for free, if not, you can buy a pass on the boat.
Although a ruin, it is very interesting to visit and you can go up to the top of the tower for great views.
The island is also home to a lot of wartime structures when the Forth was a heavily defended area with its naval boatyards and critical ports for goods and munitions.
Just offshore is the island of “Gnome Holm” with an amusing array of gnomes!
We returned on the next boat which arrives after about an hour and a half and apart from seeing more birds and seals, we also got a really good look from the Firth of all the bridges as we passed beneath them all before heading back to Queensferry..
The 19th century rail bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site and with its rusty red appearance is an iconic sight. There are plans to install a viewing platform on its southernmost cantilever with a walkway to allow you to climb up as you can on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The 20th century road bridge is a classic suspension bridge which is reaching the end of its useful life as it is experiencing traffic levels which way exceed its design specification. It is also prone to regular closures in the winter due to high winds. It will remain as an extra bridge for pedestrians, public transport and the emergency services once the new bridge opens this summer.
The 21st century bridge is called the Queensferry Crossing and is the largest 3 point cable-stayed bridge in the world. It has a length of 2700 meters and should be far more reliable in high winds as it will have special baffling along both sides.
Finally we caught a glimpse of the new Aircraft Carriers being fitted out at Rosyth Dockyards. The Queen Elizabeth II is due to begin testing in June and we will try to get a glimpse of her as she sails out to begin her sea trials.