Today we’re in the pretty village of South Queensferry which has ancient royal connections. Back in the eleventh century, it provided a ferry service at the request of Queen Margaret Canmore to transport the faithful to her chapel at Dunfermline. Many of the early medieval Scottish kings and their royal parties would have made the crossing from this point in all weathers.
Nestling beneath a famous Scottish landmark – the Forth Railway bridge, Hawes Inn has played its part assisting the travelling public since its inception as a coaching inn. In 1886, one of its renowned guests, Robert Louis Stevenson, is reported to have begun writing his novel, “Kidnapped”, and the inn features in the story’s plot.
Sir Walter Scott also found inspiration and possibly libation, there.
Nowadays, visitors can still enjoy the views across the Forth whilst partaking of the traditional fare. Relaxing beside the fire in the dining room, we have enjoyed the roasts and sumptuous fish pies on offer here.
As a small waterside village, South Queensferry has many features notwithstanding its accessibility to Edinburgh and various points north, as well as the stone buildings lining its main thoroughfare. These reflect its ancient heritage as well as its unique history.
Archaeologists discovered the remains of a previous dwelling, lived in some 10,000 years ago. From the food samples, they believed it was only used on a temporary basis so perhaps a Mesolithic holiday home to fit in with changing seasons.
On the High St, one building was owned by a sea captain. After he was lost at sea, his maid was accused of paying a beggar woman to cast a spell leading to his ultimate demise. Both women were subsequently burned as witches.
In more current times, ferries take tourists out, past the seals, to Inchcolm Island with its ghostly ruined monastery. Some of these visitors might also come for the festivals and to witness the strange annual procession of the Burry Man. With perhaps a nod to Pagan times, his outfit, complete with eyeholes, consists of the hooked fruits of the burdock plant attached to completely cover his bodily undergarments. It’s such a treat to see his mysterious figure, complete with a sash and a cute floral hat. On our last visit, his two attendants led him along the High St, offering him, from time to time, whisky supped through a straw. Excited children followed collecting money for a local charity.
But some of the sadder residents lie in the local cemetery where a large number of Royal Navy graves lie, holding the casualties from the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
Perhaps if you were to visit South Queensferry on New Year’s Day, you might be surprised to see folks tentatively jumping into the freezing Forth as part of the ‘Loony Dook’. Originally designed as a hangover cure, it has become a great favourite with tourists and residents alike and is another way to raise much-needed money for charity.
I’m sure you’ll agree this tiny village offers so much. With the characterful Hawes Inn, its cafes and old pubs set beside the gently lapping waters of the Forth and the imposing bulk of the railway bridge, it would make a great base for your next visit to Scotland.