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Guide to the Firth of Forth holiday cottages

Guide to the Firth of Forth

Lauren 26 January 2023

The Firth of Forth is perhaps one of the most recognisable parts of Scotland, and it has so much to offer visitors to the area. The Firth of Forth is the estuary, or firth, of the River Forth and opens at the easternmost tip of Stirling, stretching out past Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife before connecting up with the North Sea. 

It really is the gateway to the rest of Scotland, with its three iconic bridges that allow for easy transport links, and is a worthwhile destination in itself due to the rich history of its islands and the stunning vistas that the three bridges offer. It’s also one of the reasons why staying in Edinburgh is such a great choice. So many wonderful corners of Scotland are accessible from Edinburgh with the three different bridge options to choose from, and there are a number of ways to explore – on foot, by bike, train or car. 


Here, we’ve compiled a guide to everything you might want to know about the Firth of Forth, from the history of the bridges to the wildlife found on its islands, as well as things to do in the Edinburgh area. 

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The Firth of Forth Bridges

The Queensferry Crossing

Open to motorway traffic and toll-free

a view across the water of the three-tower cable stayed Queensferry Crossing bridge

The Queensferry Crossing was built in 2017, primarily because the Forth Road Bridge - built much earlier in 1964 - was showing signs of deterioration. Heavy goods vehicles were often restricted from the Forth Road Bridge due to the high winds, and so a more suitable crossing that could handle these conditions was needed to keep this important link open.

The Queensferry Crossing is quite the feat of engineering and is considered the longest three-tower cable-stayed bridge in the world, and the highest in the UK. It stretches for 1.7 miles, and approximately 35,000 tonnes of steel was used in its construction.

35,000 people were involved in the naming process, and there were some interesting shortlisted names that almost made the cut:

  • ‘Caledonia Bridge’ – this name refers to the historic region of Caledonia, which was the name of the region of Scotland that sat north of Roman Britain.  
  • ‘The Firth of Forth Crossing’  – this option does what it says on the tin! The bridge would have quite literally referred to the Forth estuary which separates Edinburgh from Fife.
  • ‘Queensferry Crossing’ – the winning name was inspired by the name of the communities situated on either side of the estuary, North and South Queensferry. The ‘Queen’ in question here is Queen Margaret, who is said to have established a ferry to carry pilgrims from St Andrews to Dunfermline. For the same reason ‘St Margaret’s Crossing’ was also a shortlisted option.
  • ‘Saltaire Crossing’ – Saltaire is the name of the national Scottish flag which features the St Andrews Cross, and so would have been a very fitting option, though its usage may have caused people to confuse the crossing with the Forth Road Bridge.


The distinctive blue and white St Andrews flag

Transport for Scotland has provided a panoramic camera which offers stunning views of the bridges and the estuary and can be watched from afar. Though of course, the best view to catch a glimpse of the bridge is to see it in person!

This bridge really does make Scotland your oyster, once you cross it, continue up the M90 to reach Perth from where you can continue onto the A90 east to Dundee and up to Aberdeen, or head north on the A9 to the Cairngorms, Inverness and the rest of the Highlands – eventually reaching Thurso, not far from John O’Groats!


The Forth Road Bridge

Open to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport

a view across the water of the Forth Road Bridge

First proposed in the 1920s with the rise of private car ownership, the Forth Road Bridge was originally open to motor vehicles, but since the opening of the Queensferry Crossing, it is restricted to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

The early plans to build the Forth Road Bridge were interrupted by the Great Depression and then by the Second World War, so no work was started until 1947 when Mackintosh Rock was identified as being the ideal location to site the bridge’s foundations. Construction began in 1958, and by 1968, 30,000 miles of steel wire had been spun, 40,000 tonnes of steel used and 125,000 cubic metres of concrete used in its construction. Queen Elizabeth II opened the bridge to travellers in 1964, and work to strengthen the bridge due to increased traffic volumes took place in the 1990s.

Distinctively Scottish in its appearance, the Forth Road Bridge has ‘St Andrews Cross’ bracing. The cables seen on this long-span suspension bridge were formed by spinning a few wires at once, back and forth across the Forth Estuary, gradually building up a cable capable to carry the load needed. This spinning technique was first used on the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1800s and has also been used on the Golden Gate Bridge, but why travel so far to see this amazing feat of engineering, when a stay in Scotland can offer it too?

Work began in 1996 to construct defences at the base of each of the main towers, to protect them from the risk of colliding ships. However, it was not plain sailing – rare roseate terns nest on the nearby Long Craig Rocks and so work could only be completed outside of their breeding seasons in order to be the least disruptive to the birds.


The Forth Bridge

Recognised on the  UNESCO World Heritage List and it's only open to trains

a view across the water of the distinctive red painted Forth Bridge

Opened in 1890 by the then Prince of Wales, the Forth Bridge is an icon of the cantilever design and the most easterly of the three bridges to cross the River Forth and estuary. Full-scale restoration work was completed in 2011 and the Forth Bridge joined the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015, becoming the sixth World Heritage Site in Scotland at the time.

The Forth Bridge almost had a very different appearance to what we see today, however. Originally, the plans were being worked on by Thomas Bouch, but were abandoned when the Tay Bridge, which Bouch has designed, catastrophically failed during a bad storm, killing 75 rail passengers.

The main structure of the Forth Bridge stretches for 1,630 metres, with a maximum height of 110 metres above the high-water level. Huge volumes of resources were used in its construction, including:

  • 53000 tonnes of steel
  • 6.5million rivets 
  • 24,000 litres of paint 


Today, the bridge carries 200 trains every day, transporting three million passengers across the estuary every year. The bridge means that passengers can enjoy an unbroken route from Aberdeen to London, essential for connecting Scotland with the rest of the UK. Keen trainspotters in the area are occasionally treated to the sight of the Flying Scotsman, perhaps the UK’s most iconic steam train which passes from Dalmeny Station, across the bridge, and on through to North Queensferry Station.

The famous Flying Scotsman train travelling across the Forth Bridge

Work on repainting the bridge began in 2001 and was deemed a 'never-ending task', made worse by the difficulty of ensuring the safety of the painting crew, given the exposed nature of the bridge. Despite this, the job was completed in 2011 and the characteristic red oxide colour of the original structure was maintained for many more years to come – that is until 2031 when the team estimates the job will need doing all over again!

If you choose this option to cross the Firth of Forth, you’re truly opting for a world-class experience. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views of the estuary and its islands from the carriages.

Want to travel the tracks a little further? From North Queensferry, you can access a number of routes, with ScotRail operating a number of trains departing towards Perth, Aberdeen and the Highlands.


Islands in the Firth

Another great way to explore the Firth of Forth is to take a boat trip to the islands to see the three bridges all at once from a completely unique angle. There are a number of islands in the Forth, with the Isle of May being the most easterly, and Inchmickery the most inland. 

There are several boat trips available to visit the islands, including the Maid of the Forth and Forth Boat Tours, with some operators allowing passengers to spend a couple of hours on the islands before returning home. The estuary and its islands are not only great to explore in their own right, but they’re also a good way to catch a glimpse of what the coastline of Scotland has to offer. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration for your next trip to Scotland’s coast!

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The Isle of May

the sheer cliffs and green surface of the Isle of May, the island's lighthouse can also be seen

The Isle of May is the outermost island in the Firth of Forth estuary and is a great island to visit in the summer months to catch a glimpse of the abundant birdlife that calls the island home. Species you might spot include puffins, guillemots, razorbills, black-legged kittiwakes, oystercatchers, fulmars – and even some fluffy grey seal pups if you are lucky! 

Because the island is such an important habitat, it is closed between October and May each year so that the animals are left undisturbed, however, the Seabird Centre based in Edinburgh has set up live streaming cameras so you don’t miss out and can watch from afar!

two grey seals on the rocky shore of the Isle of May

There are no permanent residents, but the island was the site of St Adrian’s Priory during the Middle Ages. It is thought that the island may have got its name from Old Norse, perhaps meaning Seagulls Island. Or, it may derive from the Scots Word ‘May’ meaning maiden, as it is said that the mother of St Kentigern floated to the island on a small boat.

The island was home to one of the earliest Christian churches in Scotland, built in the 9th century on the site of an ancient mass burial mound. Bones at the site have been dated to the 7th century, though there are Bronze Age funeral artefacts that indicate the mound may be even older still.

If you make the trip out to the Isle of May, be sure to visit the lighthouse. The first lighthouse on the island was built in 1636 and enabled the island’s owner to charge a toll to passing ships. It is said that he charged Scottish ships roughly half the charge for non-locals!

There are many dark tales to have come from the Isle of May as it is said that one of the lighthouse keepers, his wife and five of his children were reportedly killed by the fumes of the lighthouse, which originally ran on coal, in 1791. Other lives have been lost in association with the lighthouse too, such as in 1810, when the HMS Nymphe and HMS Pallas were wrecked off the island’s shore when they mistook a nearby lime kiln for the beacon.

Improvements were made to the lighthouse in the 1800s and in 1924, and in 1989 the lighthouse was fitted with a fully automated beacon. A smaller lighthouse, the Low Light, was used temporarily on the island to help ships avoid the North Carr Rock 7 just north of the island, and this is now used as a bird-watching tower.


The Bass Rock

the distinctive chalky white appearance of The Bass Rock, the island's white lighthouse can also be seen

The Bass Rock is considered one of the hardest islands of the Firth to land on due to the strength of the waves against the steep cliffs. Like many of the islands, it has been a fortress and a prison and given its height of 351 feet, it dominates the skyline.

The rock is a Site of Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to it being home to the largest single rock gannetry in the world. The distinct white surface of the rock can be viewed from the mainland and is a clear indication of the birds’ presence! In the past, the eggs of the gannets were harvested as they were considered a delicacy, though there are now protections in place to prevent this. The rock is also home to guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, puffins, and eider ducks.

The earliest recorded owners are the Lauder of the Bass family, who are said to have received the island as a gift from King Malcolm 111 of Scotland. In 1497, King James IV visited and stayed in the Lauder of the Bass’ castle - he is said to have been so charmed by the island that he wanted to buy it but the owners would not sell.

The Lauder’s eventually lost The Bass Rock during Cromwell’s invasion, with the castle becoming a gaol for religious and political prisoners. In 1706, the island came under the ownership of Lord Dalrymple, and it has been in possession of the Dalrymple family since.

The Bass Rock has inspired many creatives for generations, it is thought to have been the inspiration for the famous text The Seafarer given the accuracy of the gannet details it contains. The Bass Rock also features in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Catriona, Bruce Marshal’s Father Malachy’s Miracle and more recently as inspiration for Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock.


Craigleith

a view across the water to Craigleith

The name ‘Craigleith’ is thought to be Gaelic in origin and means ‘the Rock of Leith’, given its proximity to the Leith shoreline. It is part of a chain of islands near North Berwick, along with The Bass Rock, Fidra and the Lamb. The distinct shape of the island is a result of its ‘lava dome’ formation, meaning that it was formed from a circular mound of lava erupting slowly from the volcano.

The wildlife on Craigleith has suffered a difficult history, in the 1950s the rabbit population was wiped out by myxomatosis, and due to the invasive plant tree mallow, the damage has been done to the puffin nests on the island. Populations have been in decline as a result, but efforts since 2007 have caused an upturn. 


The Lamb

a view of the North Berwick Coastline close to where The Lamb is

Flanked by two rocks known as the North and South Dogs, The Lamb was formerly owned by the feudal Barony of Dirleton, but in more recent years was bought by Uri Geller, known as a TV personality, magician and illusionist. He claimed that he was interested in the island because he believed it to be the hiding place for a hoard of Ancient Egyptian treasure, due to the arrangement of the islands of The Lamb, Fidra and Craigleith mirroring that of the pyramids in Giza.


Fidra

a view of Fidra across the water, the island's white lighthouse is just visible

Fidra takes its name from a Norse word meaning, ‘feather island’, which is very appropriate given the vast population of birds on the island. It is an RSPB reserve and live footage of the bird's activities is live-streamed by the Seabird Centre, similar to the Isle of May.

Key things to look out for when visiting the island include the lighthouse, which sits on its own hill and is only accessible via a jetty to the east of the island, and the ruins of an old chapel, known as a Lazaretto, a historic place for ill maritime travellers.

Like The Bass Rock, the island has made its way into several cultural pieces. Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have visited the beaches of the area and based his ‘Treasure Island’ map in the shape of Fidra. Fidra and its lighthouse also make an appearance in a song by the band Marillion, making use of the local lore that the coast of the island was a popular romantic meeting spot.


Eyebroughy

a purple sandpiper, as can be found on the island of Eyebroughy

Just off the mainland of East Lothian and 3 miles from North Berwick, Eyebroughy is an RSPB reserve, noted for its cormorants and the wintering purple sandpiper.

Two notable shipwrecks have occurred here – a wooden schooner called Jane which was carrying cargo and one passenger in 1892, and the second, Bertha, a flatbottomed barge which was carrying salvage equipment in 1900.


Inchkeith

a view across the water of Inchkeith, a green island with many buildings including a yellow lighthouse

Inchkeith is uninhabited today but has had inhabitants intermittently for the last 1,800 years. The island is well worth a visit to catch a glimpse of its many springs, and its history, which given its position on the old ferry routes between the Leith and Fife coasts, is pretty eventful!  

In 1497 it was used as a quarantine island, along with Inchgarvie, for victims of Grandgore, a variant of syphilis which emerged in Edinburgh. It was later used for plague victims in 1589 and 1609, and later in 1799, it was used as a burial site for Russian sailors, the victims of an infectious disease.

You may have already visited the Royal Yacht Britannia which is docked in Edinburgh, but did you know that in 1915 the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Britannia, ran aground here, suffering considerable damage?

The island is perhaps most known for being the site of King James IV’s ‘linguistic experiment’. The experiment saw him arrange for two children to live on the island with a mute nurse, intending that they would discover the ‘original’ language, or ‘God’s’ language if not influenced by European languages. The reported results conflict, with some saying that the children did not speak at all, and others, that they spoke ‘good Hebrew’.

Like a number of the islands in the Firth of Forth, Inchkeith has been fortified many times in its history, first during the 16th century at the end of the War of Rough Wooing. After the demise of Mary Queen of Scots, the fort was demolished. The island was largely uninhabited in the 18th century, but in 1803 lighthouse construction began and this is now a listed building that visitors to the island can see. The lighthouse keepers were withdrawn in 1986 when it became automated and the island was sold to Kwik Fit owner millionaire philanthropist, Sir Tom Farmer.


Inchcolm

a jetty in the water leading to Inchcolm island, the island's partially ruined abbey can be seen in the background

Inchcolm gets its name from the Augustine monastery of St Columba’s that was built here, and is separated from the Fife mainland by a stretch known as Mortimer's Deep - itself named after a nobleman ‘De Mortimer’. It is said that De Mortimer was being taken to the island for burial, but was lost to the water when the transportation boat got into difficulty.

A must-see on the island is the hog-backstone (an Anglo-Scandinavian grave marker) that dates back to the 10th century and is now preserved in the abbey’s visitor centre. There are a number of medieval bishops buried in the abbey churchyard, and in the 1880s, an upright skeleton was found to have been built into one of the abbey walls!

Another reason to visit is to catch a glimpse of the pre-Reformation buildings. The island largely avoided the destruction that was happening on the mainland during Cromwell’s reformation and many remain in good condition today.

The island, like many in the Firth of Forth, was fortified during the World Wars. Today the Navy, Army and Air Force building is used as the island’s shop which is manned by the two Historic Scotland stewards who live on and maintain the island. They share their home with seagulls, fulmars and seals.

You may recognise Inchcolm as having featured in Macbeth; it appeared as Saint Colms Ynch, and given the subject matter, it is thought that the islands’ past as a burial site was the inspiration.


Inchgarvie

the heavily fortified island of Inchgarvie, set against the red paint of the Forth Bridge

Another of the uninhabited islands of the Firth, Inchgarvie is the closest island to the historic Forth Bridge, sitting just to the east. It is thought that the name has Gaelic origin, meaning ‘rough island’, though locals suggest that it derives from the young herring, known as 'garvies' that could be seen around its shores.

Given its position in the middle of the Firth, close to where the modern-day bridges now connect the two sides of the estuary, Inchgarvie was an important stop point on the ferry journey across. As a result, it has been fortified in various forms since the Middle Ages to defend the surrounding areas from various attacks between Scotland and England, as well as historic attacks from the Danish. For similar reasons, King James IV built a castle on the island. King Charles II continued to maintain the island which was inspected by him in 1591 until it fell into disrepair when his army was defeated by Cromwell.

Evidence of the original plan for the building of the Forth Bridge by Thomas Bouch can be seen in the bricks that were left behind on Inchgarvie.


Cramond Island

the distinctive causeway leading to Cramond Island, with its concrete submarine defences emerging from the water

Cramond Island is perhaps most recognisable for its mile-long causeway, which can be crossed on foot at low tide. The causeway takes approximately 20 minutes to cross and a walk around the island typically takes an hour. It’s important to keep an eye on the clock and tide times here as they can come in faster than expected and many have been stranded on the island in the past. Camping is not advised as there are no facilities on the island and once the tide comes in, there is no access to the mainland except by boat.

The causeway is flanked on one side by a row of pylons which were used as submarine defences in the second world war but offer an interesting sight today. Primarily, Cramond Island has been used for farming, and was once famous for its oyster beds, though these have unfortunately been destroyed by overfishing.

A key thing to look out for when visiting the island is the remains of a medieval jetty to the north corner of the island. At the centre of the island, visitors can also find the ruins of a stone farmstead, thought to be from around the same time.

Like many other islands in the Firth, Cramond was fortified during the Second World War and many of the buildings remain today, including gun placements, stores, engine rooms and shelters which can still be explored.


Oxcars

Oxcar's white lighthouse with a red stripe across the middle

Oxcars is just over an acre in size and is dominated by its lighthouse, with a bold red stripe across its middle. The lighthouse was originally manned by two keepers, but in 1894, after just 8 years open, it became the first Northern Lighthouse (the board of Scottish and Isle of Man lighthouses) to be automated using a clockwork timer. Powered by gas, it only required a weekly visit to deliver the gas and to wind up the timer.


Inchmickery

a distant view across the water to the island of Inchmickery

Inchmickery’s name comes from the Gaelic meaning ‘Isle of the vicar’, suggesting a religious settlement here in the past, as on Inchcolm. Despite being just 100x200 metres in size, Inchmickery was used as a gun placement in WW1. Now uninhabited, the wartime buildings remain and were used for scenes of the film Complicity, along with Inchgarvie.

Like a number of the islands in the Firth of Forth, Inchmickery is an RSPB reserve, home to breeding pairs of common eider, sandwich terns and gulls. In the past, roseate terns have made their home here, but they have since moved on to other locations.

‘Inch’ in the name of a number of the estuary’s island names is the Scots word, literally meaning ‘Island’.

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Things to do near the Firth of Forth

Even with all those islands and iconic bridges to explore, the Firth of Forth still has more to offer! Being located in the south of Scotland means that it is well-linked to a number of vibrant cities, cultural spots, and dramatic scenery. Here, we’ve compiled a few ideas for even more things to do in the area:

South side

Perhaps you want to explore the area a little before crossing one of the bridges to the other side of the Forth Estuary or hop on a boat to one of the islands. Here are our top five things to do, on the south side of the water.

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The Forth and Clyde Canal

The magnificent metal horse head sculptures known as 'The Kelpies'

The Forth and Clyde Canal towpath stretches 35 miles between Bowling on the River Forth just outside Glasgow and Grangemouth on the River Forth just outside Falkirk, but there’s no need to walk the whole length to take in the scenery. A great route starts at the Falkirk Wheel - the famous and world’s only rotating boat lift - and finishes at the Kelpies, two statues which pay homage to the working horses of Scotland. This route takes 90 minutes each way and is relatively flat, so a great one for the whole family, whether on foot or on two wheels!

At the Falkirk Wheel, you can hop on a boat and try out the boat lift for yourself, or if you are keen to carry on walking, you will encounter the Union Canal which travels some 30 miles all the way back to Edinburgh. There are a number of pit stops along the way, including a great one at Linlithgow where you could stop for a bit to eat and a look around the palace and loch before hopping on a train back to Edinburgh. Canal boats are of course welcome along the whole route!


Stay nearby at Ochil View | Sleeps 4 guests and 2 dogs | 6 miles from the Kelpies



Edinburgh

the glasshouse at Edinburgh Botanic Garden

Edinburgh is arguably the most bustling city in Scotland, and being recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature, is home to so much culture and heritage that you need as many days as you can spare to take it all in. We’ve compiled an extensive guide on doing just that, and with a number of historic buildings such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House, as well as the dramatic landscape of Arthur’s Seat, there are plenty of ways to see it for yourself.

If we had just enough time to visit one spot in Edinburgh, it would have to be the Royal Botanic Garden with its majestic glasshouse and iconic snowdrop walk in late winter and early spring. But next time, we’d make sure to book a longer break!

Stay nearby at Ingle Apartment | Sleeps 5 guests | 1 mile from Edinburgh Botanic Gardens


Blackness Castle

The iconic Blackness Castle set against a murky sky

Blackness Castle is definitely one to visit if you have enjoyed any of the fortified Firth of Forth islands, as it captures a similar sense of awe with its foreboding fortress. The castle was built in the 15th century for the Crichton family, who were one of Scotland’s most powerful families and ruled Dumfries. The castle is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’ because when looked upon from the Firth of Forth, it looks like a ship run aground.

Like many of Scotland’s historic buildings, it has had an interesting past. In 1537 James V converted the castle into an artillery fort and state prison, motivated by the coming threat of Henry VIII. The castle survived several sieges until 1650 when it was eventually breached and heavily damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s army.  

It is also an important wildlife habitat, with the mudflat and shore on the castle’s eastern side being part of the area’s Site of Special Scientific Interest. A rare plant called glasswort grows here, and historically has been used, as the name suggests, for making glass and soap. In more recent times, the castle stood in for Fort William in the TV show Outlander because of their similarities.

Entry fees are £7 for adults and £4 for children, with the castle open to visitors year-round, though with slightly reduced hours between October and March.

images of Deagh Mhonadh cottage

Stay nearby at Deagh Mhonadh | Sleeps 7 guests and 2 dogs | 5 miles from Blackness Castle


The Pineapple

The distinctive pineapple architecture at 'The Pineapple'

The Pineapple is a great place to visit, especially if you are looking for things to do with kids near Edinburgh and the Forth Valley. The intricately carved pineapple-shaped building is sure to delight any SpongeBob SquarePants fans, and anyone who takes pleasure from fine craftsmanship. 

The pineapple was built in 1761 as a summerhouse for the Earl of Dunmore, and in the walled gardens that surround it, there were an extensive number of glasshouses and pineapple pits, ideal for growing exotic fruits in the Scottish climate. Today, it is a peaceful haven for wildlife, and visitors can enjoy walks around the woodland and former curling pond. Given the pineapple’s location, staying in the Stirling area will give you the best access.


Stay nearby at Crosshill Barn | Sleeps 4 guests and 1 dog | 7 miles from The Pineapple

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North side

Perhaps you were so desperate to see the iconic bridges first that you’re now thinking, what can I do next? 

Here are our top five things to do on the north side of the water:

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Dunfermline

The distinctive pink walls of Abbot House in Dunfermline

Dunfermline was once the capital of Scotland and its rich history is still on offer today, with a heritage quarter to explore, several medieval buildings and a 12th-century abbey. It’s well worth a visit to

Abbot House, a distinctive pink sandstone building which houses the city’s heritage centre and microbrewery, as well as a stunning walled garden which offers views across the graveyard to the abbey. Inside the Long Gallery at Abbot House, visitors will see a mural painted by Alasdair Gray called The Tree of Dunfermline History which illustrates the lives and events of Dunfermline’s people. 

There is much to explore in the city, from the linen and coal industries of the past to the resting places of Scottish kings and queens, including King Robert the Bruce whose tomb remains in Dunfermline Abbey. Dunfermline is a great city if you are keen to explore Scotland’s heritage and culture, and is one of many great locations in the Kingdom of Fife.

Images of Orchardfield Farm Cottage 


Stay nearby at Orchardfield Farm Cottage | Sleeps 6 guests | 16 miles from Dunfermline


Fife Coastal Path

The fishing village of Anstruther on the Fife Coastal Path

The coastal path stretches from the innermost section of the Firth of Forth at Kincardine and travels around the northern edge of the estuary up to Newburgh. There are 8 main sections to explore, each section stretching between 11 and 17 miles.

The path offers not only stunning views of the Fife coastline, but also a number of historically and culturally important sites along the way. From the Longannet Power Station near Kincardine, which was the last coal-fired power station in Scotland, past the Wemyss Caves, a series of 11 caves home to a number of Pictish carvings, and to the heritage fishing town of Anstruther, as seen in the photograph above taken by Gavin from our local team. You can, of course, follow this coastal path further up the country to see more of what the east coast of Scotland has to offer – all the way up to John O’Groats!


Stay nearby at Fishermans Loft | Sleeps 2 dogs | On the Fife Coastal Path


Vintage Bus Museum and Lathalmond Railway Museum

A vintage bus, similiar can be seen at the Vintage Bus Museum

Previously a Royal Navy stores depot, the Vintage Bus Museum Exhibition Hall is filled with around 200 vehicles, from the 1920s to 2002 and is sure to delight all the generations of the family. Children will love the chance to explore the museum on one of the vintage buses, and the older members of the family will delight at the chance to step back in time.

Entry fees are £5 for adults and £3 for children, and open to visitors every Sunday, between April and October.

The site is also home to the Lathalmond Railway Museum, which has two operational railway lines and three individual sections: Lathalmond Wartime, a wartime railway weighbridge, the last working one of its kind. West of Fife Munitions Railway, a narrow-gauge railway with a locomotive rescued from a peat works and rail tracks from a defence site. Lathalmond Halt, this locomotive shed and museum details the railway story of the area.

Entry fees are £3 for adults, £1.50 for children, also open every Sunday between April and October.

Images of Devonshaw House

Stay nearby at Devonshaw House | Sleeps 10 guests | 11 miles from the Vintage Bus Museum


Loch Leven

A view across the water to Loch Leven and the surrounding hills

There are a number of small lochs within easy reach of the Firth of Forth including Loch Ore, Loch Glow, Loch Fitty, and Loch Gelly, but Loch Leven is the nearest loch of considerable size and is home to Europe’s largest population of breeding ducks. There is something to entertain here all year round, with the large groups of overwintering birds, and ospreys that can be seen looking for their next meal in the summer. 

The marsh edges are home to the sweet scent of ‘holy’ grass, which historically was used as incense. The bogs, wet grasslands, and willow and reed beds here are also home to a number of otters and kingfishers, and occasionally white-tailed sea eagles.

a sea eagle coming into land on the water

The best way to make the most of the loch is to walk the 13-mile heritage trail, which follows the edge of the loch. There are a number of hides and viewpoints along the trail, and being mostly level all the way around, it is great for all members of the family. During the summer, there is also the option to travel by boat across from Kinross Harbour to Castle Island.

Images of Loch Leven Osprey Lodge

Stay nearby at Loch Leven Osprey Lodge | Sleeps 4 guests and 1 dog | On the banks of Loch Leven

Loch Leven might be one of the smallest lochs in Scotland but if it has piqued your interest in these characteristically Scottish landmarks, why not explore some of the larger ones? Perhaps a trip up to see Loch Ness, the most famous of them all? Or Loch Shiel close to Fort William in the Highlands, which Harry Potter fans will recognise as Hogwarts’ Black Lake? Wherever you let the water take you, we’ve got plenty of lochside cottages which make for an ideal base.

A view of Loch Shiel and its distinct tower, as seen in Harry Potter

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Stay nearby and explore

We hope that this guide to the Firth of Forth and its surrounding areas has inspired you to explore for yourself. Whether you make the trip with your canine companion or with the whole family in tow, we have a large collection of cottages in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, that will make the ideal base for exploring the Firth of Forth.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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