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South Queensferry Scotland

By Brenda Vaniwarden

Queensferry

My Home Town… South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland.

I was born in Scotland in 1961, and spent my formative years living on the outskirts of South Queensferry, uprooting in my mid-twenties to move to the desert island of Bahrain for 12 years, with subsequent moves to Valdosta, Georgia, followed by Germany, Spain and then back to the U.S. in 2008, when Larry and I chose to settle in Tennessee. My immediate family still lives near South Queensferry. The town is a former Royal Burgh, and now part of the City of Edinburgh. With a population of around 12,000, it is located ten miles to the north west of Edinburgh, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, nestled between the Forth Rail Bridge (opened in 1890 after seven years of construction, and famously and continuously painted ever since), and the Forth Road Bridge, opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1964.

The Queen referred to is Saint Margaret of Scotland, wife of King Malcolm III. After their marriage in 1070, she established a ferry crossing at this point for pilgrims making their way north to Dunfermline Abbey and St. Andrews. This is how the towns of both North and South Queensferry came to be named. In Edinburgh castle, where Queen Margaret died in 1093, there is a small chapel which bears her name. Her remains were interred in Dunfermline Abbey, and she was canonised in 1250. Ferries continued to cross between North and South Queensferry for around 900 years, until the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in 1964 dispensed with the need for this service. Ferry trips for tourists have since been reinstated.

The heart of the town is a site of many fascinating historical buildings. Stroll along the narrow, cobbled Main Street, and you will pass Black Castle, a dark, imposing house built in 1623. It is rumoured that there is a secret stairway and tunnel leading from the house to the shore which was used by smugglers, although this has never been found. When the original owner, Captain William Lowrie was lost at sea, his sister-in-law, Janet Lowrie was accused of paying a beggar woman to cast a spell. Both women were subsequently condemned as witches and were most probably burnt to death at Ferry Muir, a site on the edge of town, which was where many accused witches were executed in the 17th century. A little further on is The Tolbooth which was built in the 1600’s, with the clock-tower added in 1720. On the next corner stands Plewlands House, a sizeable 17th century mansion which was restored in the 1950’s as apartments, and is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, and close by is St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, also known as the Priory Church, which is the town’s oldest building, built for the Carmelite Order of Friars on land granted to them in 1440. It is the only medieval Carmelite church still in use in the British Isles. At the east end of town is The Hawes Inn, dating from the 17th century and situated almost directly under the Forth Rail Bridge. It provided inspiration for Edinburgh author Robert Louis Stevenson when in 1886, while staying in Room 13, he came up with the idea for the novel, Kidnapped. The hero of the book also stays at the inn.

In my experience, you never have to travel too far in Scotland to find whisky! In 1882, William Sanderson prepared one hundred casks of blended whisky and hired a panel of experts to taste them. The batch from the cask (or vat) with number 69 was judged to be the best, and this provided the whisky’s brand name.

In my experience, you never have to travel too far in Scotland to find whisky! In 1882, William Sanderson prepared one hundred casks of blended whisky and hired a panel of experts to taste them. The batch from the cask (or vat) with number 69 was judged to be the best, and this provided the whisky’s brand name. The huge red brick building of the Vat 69 Distillery, now demolished, used to stand a little way up the Loan, the name given to the hill leading to the upper reaches of the town. It provided a major source of employment in the town and the place where my grand-father worked for many years. There is also a small, but quaint harbour to stroll round from where you will have a magnificent view of both road and rail bridges.

Travel a little further afield and you will find that South Queensferry is surrounded by three large and grand estates, similar to the fictional Downton Abbey. Hopetoun House, two miles to the west, is an imposing Georgian stately home situated in 150 acres of beautiful parkland. It has served as home to the Earls of Hopetoun since 1699, and is a place my school bus used to trundle by on a daily basis. Tucked away in the depths of Hopetoun estate is the small but exquisite Abercorn Parish Church, which is in part 12th century Norman, and was reconstructed in 1579. This special, peaceful place holds sweet and cherished memories, being the church where I was christened, attended Sunday School and walked down the aisle to be married first time round. Dalmeny House, two miles to the east, was built in 1817 and is the home of the Earls of Roseberry, and 15th Century Dundas Castle, once home to the Dundas family, is located one mile to the south.

Some Useful Links to South Queensferry

Tourism in South Queensferry