South Queensferry – The Perfect Day-Trip From Edinburgh

The Forth Rail bridge spans the Firth of the Forth and connects North Queensferry to South Queensferry. South Queensferry

Like all little sisters, who scratch your CD’s and steal your phone charger, South Queensferry pilfers tourists and day trippers from its elder sibling, Edinburgh, for a peek at its innards – there’s a lot to like about a place with a big red bridge.

A short 20 minute train ride into Dalmeny Station drops you in the picturesque village on the edge of the Firth of Forth. If you’re anything like me, the prospect of photographing 3 epic bridges in the same frame has me rubbing my thighs, but if Scotlands greatest landmark doesn’t get your pulse racing there is still enough going on to make this a handsome day trip from Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

Edinburgh has some great little neighbourhoods and villages and South Queensferry is no exception. A short bus ride from Edinburgh, this historical little town steals tourists from the city and they come for the good food, the shopping and the great views. Visit the forth bridges or take a boat trip around the islands for some great photo opportunities of Edinburgh and the surrounding area. #edinburgh #scotland #queensferry #uktravel #harrypotter

South Queensferry stares at its counter-part, North Queensferry, over a drafty estuary in the biggest face-off known to northern sea-birds, who watch from the many tiny islands between the two shores. Queen Margaret off-of the 11th century, initially established a ferry service to bridge the Forth gap for pilgrims on their way to Dunfermline but nowadays there is nothing more pleasant than taking a £3 (return) train ride across the Forth rail bridge to the even smaller North Queensferry and back again. You must, however, stop for lunch while you are there at The Wee Restaurant – a gorgeous little bistro type establishment with the best locally sourced produce and an excellent wine list. Order the photo spot for forth bridges South Queensferry

South Queensferry’s Heritage

Back in ‘the Ferry’, south of the Firth, you are greeted by the prettiest of high streets, with the occasional glimpse through a gap in the colourful houses towards the monstrous bridges behind. Cafe’s and gift shops aplenty have been opened in the last several years to mainly take the cash from cruise-goers who are making a pit-stop before the Norwegian Fjords or the Outer Hebrides. But, I don’t think this is a bad thing – older people with lower paunches may flood the ferry a few days a month but it brings in cash for the area and little businesses are able to survive selling the most charming of Scottish crafts and goodies. And if you happen to visit on a day that hasn’t been swarmed by cruisers you’re just as likely to hear locals natter to each other as they collect their morning papers – it’s a sleepy little village, albeit with a colourful history and heritage.

Peeks of the Forth Rail Bridge in South Queensferry can be seen through the gaps in the pretty fishermans cottages along the High Street

Many of the 17th century buildings still stand tall in this tranquil little town but the grandeur of some of the architecture is a testament to the wealth that South Queensferry used to enjoy – merchants, ship-owners and craftsmen took advantage of their geographical position and traded wool, coal and wine to the rest of the country – sounds like ingredients for a perfect cozy night in to me! But at the same time the place was always fraught with threats from pirates and witches, so some of the local legends and narratives are pretty colourful. Pop in to the South Queensferry Museum on the High Street for more tales and artifacts, it’s a really great little museum (and free) and has some fantastic information about the construction of the bridges.

The boats in the harbour make for a pretty backdrop in the fishing village of South Queensferry, Scotland - a great day trip from Edinburgh

Forth Boat Tours

If you’re looking for things to do in South Queensferry one of the highlights of my many visits to South Queensferry has been a trip on the Forth Belle. Granted, the name conjures images of a majestic Tall Ship with masts flapping in the breeze, an opportunity to don a head scarf à la Audrey Hepburn, however the reality is a boat that resembles something from Bay Watch and face-chaffing winds that even Elemis would struggle with BUT the experience is amazing. An hour and a half trip leaving from the Hawes Pier takes you under the big red bridge and around Inchcolm Island, Inchgarvie Island, oil supertankers and Haystack Rock. Onboard commentary gives you stories and facts about the islands in their hay-day and directs you to the spots where seals bask and puffins and kittiwakes waddle along. Some days, lucky passengers have also spotted dolphins and even killer whales near the bridges. The boat also disembarks at Inchcolm Island if you choose to get off and explore the old abbey and get closer to the puffins for some better photo’s.

Inchcolme Island, under the Forth Rail Bridge - one of the Islands, along with Inchgarvie, that you pass when you take a boat trip on the Maid of the Forth

South Queensferry’s Pubs And Bars

There are plenty of establishments in the Ferry and most with good reputations. Have a pint of Jaipur at The Hawes Inn – an old 18th century drinking hole mentioned by both Robert Louis Stevenson in the book Kidnapped and Sir Walter ScottIn the winter you can cozy up in front of the fire, in the summer you can take in the views from their beer garden, either way you’re reliving history from some of the greats!

Or, if you didn’t get your mussels at The Wee Restaurant over the water, then The Railbridge Bistro won’t disappoint. The window seats have great views and they sell local art work from their walls.

The kids would be happy with an ice-cream from The Parlour on the High Street – a high end sweet shop with the loveliest of welcomes.

South Queensferry beach is a perfect look-out spot for capturing the little fishermans cottages that line the shore. It's a picturesque town with views over to North Queensferry and the grand Forth Bridges - only a short trip from Edinburgh.

So, there you have it – the perfect day-trip from Edinburgh and the tiniest of villages brimming with history and things to do. Local transport links into the city are pretty good too if you wanted to make it your base for further exploration – Orocco Pier Hotel is the prime spot for accommodation in South Queensferry – a modern boutique style hotel with lovely rooms and views of the water and the bridges. And, if you are here for longer be sure to check out some of the local beaches, Cramond and Hopetoun House too, there is plenty to do and see around the city of Edinburgh.

Have you been? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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South Queensferry - a day trip from Edinburgh and a really cute place to visit in Scotland #Southqueensferry #edinburgh #scotland

30 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    Hi Tristan. You can contact me at [email protected] Thanks.

  2. Nadine says:

    My husband is going to be spending a lot of time working near Edinburgh in the coming months, so I’m keeping this on hand for when we go to visit him! Looks like a great way to spend a day exploring..

    1. Alex says:

      Lucky guy. Such a great city – if he’s into cool bars tell him to check out the hidden bar ‘panda and sons’ I think it’s on queens street. Great place. And enjoy queensferry. Tie it in with cramond while you’re there if you can.

  3. So funny that after all my trips to Edinburgh without ever investigating much outside the city, there have been two great posts on the linky about heading down to the water and looking out to the bridges – I absolutely love your photos, so great to see the views. And I think the universe is trying to tell me something… Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    1. Alex says:

      I noticed that too – I read the other post with interest too, it’s a great little area!

  4. There’s no better way to explore than by boat – love all the bridges and seaside villages – the perfect day trip! Your photos are amazing and love that big red bridge – reminds me a little of the Golden Gate! #farawaytravels

  5. I am a huge bridge fan! I loved that bright red bridge when we were there in May. We crossed over and visited North Queensferry for the day though and loved the world’s smallest lighthouse and charming tiny town under the bridge! Must get back to Scotland – will have to try South Queensferry next time! Cheers from Copenhagen and thanks for linking with #FarawayFiles – Erin

    1. Alex says:

      Well you do have a pretty awesome bridge on your doorstep too! Thanks for commenting Erin!

  6. Really enjoyable blog post! It’s interesting what you write about the cruise-goers; I’m one of those anti-cruise people who believes that mass tourism generally takes more from a local community than it gives. So it is very heartening to hear that these visits are mutually beneficial and well-received in the community – the way it should be! 🙂

    Thanks, and greetings from Luxembourg (where we also have a big red bridge)
    #CityTripping and #FarawayFiles

  7. Jo Addison says:

    We are hoping to go to Edinburgh next year, so I will bear this in mind for our visit. Sounds like the perfect place to go for a break from city life. #citytripping

    1. Alex says:

      It is! Have fun!

  8. interesting bridge! nice photos:) #citytripping

  9. What a great post, Alex! This looks like worlds away from Edinburgh. I’m such a fan of seaside towns and good seafood that this would be very high on my list when visiting the area. Thanks so much for sharing this great find with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks Clare. The wee restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you like great seafood.

  10. Katy Clarke says:

    I love perfect little seaside towns like these. Great find Alex. I’d love to go and spot some of the wildlife. I have a growing obsession with puffins! Thanks for sharing South Queensferry with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Alex says:

      They’re so cute aren’t they!

  11. I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times and I’ve heard of South Queensferry, but never thought anything about it. I certainly never considered it for a day trip, but may do so in future. Anywhere with a high end sweet shop will always make it onto my ‘Must visit’ list! #kcacols

    1. Alex says:

      It won’t disappoint, it’s a lovely village, as is cramond if you wanted to do the two together

  12. We went to Edinburgh back in June and are going back for New Year. We will have to check out South Queensferry x #KCACOLS

    1. Alex says:

      It’s a cute wee place and some lovely shell beaches to the left and right of the bridges to entertain the kids!

  13. Wow, that sounds wonderful! I love the sound of the architecture and you describe it so beautifully. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday!

  14. Jane Taylor says:

    I shared and liked and forgot to comment because I nodded off! Not because you bored me, but because it was way past my bedtime and I nutted my phone as I scrolled through this post in bed. Anyway, it was a lovely bedtime story. I just adore your writing. You could write a travel blog about your day trip to the Thompson Local or the Yellow Pages and I’d be enraptured. South Queensferry Sounds Idyllic. #KCACOLS

    1. Alex says:

      You’re too kind. It’s just a good job it wasn’t read to you in my squeaky north-eastern awful accent. I’d cure any narcoleptic.

  15. melbtravel says:

    I don’t think I have ever heard of South Queensferry but I would love to add it to my list of things to do when I visit Edinburgh next time. I especially love a good water hole to have a drink in too… Thanks for sharing.

  16. Ann Williams says:

    What can I say – I’m Alex’s mother in law and I have lived in SQ for the last 45 years. I just love living here and am never happier than putting on my “tour guide” had for my many visitors. I love reading Alex’s blogs.

    1. Alex says:

      Aw thanks Ann – we love being your guinea pigs 😉 xx

  17. Jurga says:

    Looks like a beautiful quiet day trip from the busy Edinburgh. I’m saving this for when we go back to Scotland one day! Thanks for sharing, Alex!

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks Jurga, it’s a special little place!

  18. My favourite town on the planet. I was there in 1990 for the Forth Bridge Centennary celebrations and it was a magic night. It was also the first time the bridge had ever been illuminated. Many happy childhood memories are always brought back when I think of Queensferry.
    A well written blog. Many thanks.

    1. Alex says:

      Aww, that’s sweet. One of my favourites too.

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