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Nestled just under The Three Bridges that span the River Forth, South Queensferry is a popular town on the outskirts of Edinburgh. With a busy historic high street, abundance of cake shops and scenic boat tours launching from Hawes Pier, this harbour town is the perfect day trip.
South Queensferry is 10 miles from Edinburgh City Centre and can be reached by train, car and guided tour bus.
This article shares the best things do in South Queensferry so you can plan a day out or a hotel stay, where to eat and how to get there.
You may like our guide to South Queensferry hotels, B&Bs and rentals.
Best Things to do in South Queensferry
Be Impressed by the Architecture of The Three Bridges
The Forth Bridges connect Edinburgh with the Kingdom of Fife, an east coast region with beautiful beaches, historically important towns, Outlander locations and golf courses making both South Queensferry and West Fife a nice wee day trip from Scotland’s capital.
Alternatively, if you are going to Edinburgh and are looking to build your Scotland itinerary, consider visiting South Queensferry as a stop on the way to Fife or further afield to Dundee, Aberdeenshire and the Cairngorms or The Scottish Highlands.
The Forth Bridge was built in 1890 and is the bridge you will travel over if going to Fife by train.
Don’t worry, you don’t go up and over this UNESCO World Heritage bridge.
The Forth Road Bridge was built in 1964 and is used by buses and larger vehicles, it used to be the option for cars.
Can you see the St Andrew’s Cross in the architecture?
The newest, The Queensferry Crossing, was built in 2017 and is used by cars and motorbikes so if you are driving to Fife, you will go over the longest three-tower cable stayed bridge in the world!
This image was taken from the DoubleTree by Hilton in North Queensferry in Fife.
South Queensferry Boat Tours
As this picturesque town is situated on the River Forth, visitors have the opportunity to get on the water via the comfort of a covered small cruise boat with a bar and outside seating for fair weather days.
These tours sail under or close to the Three Bridges.
There are a couple of boat tours in South Queensferry to choose from which set sail from Hawes Pier across from the Hawe’s Inn.
Firth of Forth Sightseeing Tour
The Firth of Forth Sightseeing tour uniquely offers a cream tea and a hot drink whilst sailing out to Inchcolm Island.
The tour is around 90 minutes and gives you an unrivalled view of all three bridges over the river while a guide shares stories about the area over a speaker.
As you cruise along, you are able to see Blackness Castle which is featured in the TV show Outlander.
The sight of the pretty Fife village of Limekilns is another literary mention in the classic ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson which we’ll discuss below.
Sea life fans can spot sunbathing seals and the ‘Scottish penguin’ the puffin!
During the boat tour, you are served a cream tea which consists of a scone, jam, and cream along with a hot drink.
Three Bridges Cruise
Another South Queensferry cruise that you can take do is the 90-minute Three Bridges Cruise.
As you sail towards the Forth Bridge, which has UNESCO status, you can see the other two South Queensferry bridges in the distance.
You’ll want to take a photo or two of the bridges from this angle.
The cruise also stops at the historic Inchcolm Abbey so you can get off the boat for a self-guided tour of the island.
Known as the Iona of the East due to the similarities between this island and Iona, Inchcolm Island and medieval Abbey have a rich and varied history that is worth exploring.
As with the first tour, watch out for seals and puffins making an appearance.
You can also see the coastline of Fife as well as spectacular views of the Edinburgh skyline.
South Queensferry Bus Tour
Leaving from St Andrews Square, this bus tour begins in Edinburgh and ends in South Queensferry, taking you past the Georgian New Town houses on the way out of the city.
Your guide shares information and stories about South Queensferry and surrounding areas while you sit in the comfort on the tour bus.
When you arrive in South Queensferry, you join boat cruise tour, similar to the tours described above.
Before you head back to Edinburgh, you have time to wander along the cobbled High Street (main street) and grab a coffee or ice cream from one of the many wee South Queensferry cafes, restaurants or pubs.
South Queensferry Museum
South Queensferry Museum (53 High Street) gives you the history of South Queensferry and neighbouring Dalmeny, so you have a peek into what life was like for residents of the area in times gone by.
Walking you through the history of the ferries and into the engineering exhibitions, even locals will learn something new.
If you happen to be in South Queensferry on the second Friday of August you will see the traditional Burry Man festival.
A man covered in burrs (seed heads of the locally grown burdock plant) and his parade walk through the town making stops so locals can feed him with whisky.
You can learn more about the Burry Man at the museum.
Murder Mystery Trail
South Queensferry offers its own self-guided murder mystery trail which takes around 1.5 hours to complete.
As you follow the trail around the town, you will discover interesting facts that will help you solve the puzzle.
By the end of the route, you will have solved the murder mystery and also seen some of the sights that you wouldn’t normally see by just wandering along the waterfront.
The Loony Dook
Using the Scottish words for a ‘lunatic dip’, this is a well named activity as it involves going for a swim in the River Forth on New Year’s Day.
Probably one of the coldest times of the year to go for a swim, yet hundreds of people, dressed in fancy dress, take to the streets of South Queensferry and then into the cold cold waters!
Those that take part in the dip, need to register online and then raise some money for the charity of their choice.
As you can imagine, South Queensferry is very busy on the 1stn of January, so if you want to take part or spectate, get there early.
Also, book somewhere to eat after or you might be left out in the cold!
You might also like our guide to the most festive things to do in Edinburgh.
Eating Out in South Queensferry
For such a small town, South Queensferry has lots of places to eat at.
From traditional Scottish food to Canadian fayre, here is a quick guide to some of the best places to eat in South Queensferry.
Cafes in South Queensferry
The cafes in South Queensferry offer home baking and a place to grab a quick sandwich before you set off on your chosen tours.
The Little Bakery
Pink sign, pink canopies, pink flower wall, pink cups – The Littler Bakery (6-7 High Street) has nailed social media marketing and the tray bakes are a ten.
The rustic Manna House Bakery & Patisserie (45-46 High Street) is another recommended cafe for take out or sitting in.
Although relatively new to the cafe scene in South Queensferry, Manna House was an established brand in Edinburgh with over 15 years of cake providing service.
Catering to various dietary requirements, the menu includes salads, sandwiches, cakes, bread and artisan coffee.
You have to try the brownies! The best in Edinburgh.
The Little Parlour
If it’s just an ice cream you fancy, then The Little Parlour (52 High Street) is perfect.
You will rarely pass this cafe without seeing a line outside, which is a testament to how delicious the goods are!
Choose from over 40 flavours of ice cream and creative toppings or a gran a coffee to go.
Just over the road from the cafe is a viewing point with steps to sit on or access to the beach.
Restaurants in South Queensferry
If you are looking for something more substantial to eat and enjoy the views, then you have plenty of restaurants to choose from.
One of the most popular eateries in South Queensferry is not Scottish but Canadian.
Down the Hatch
Down the Hatch is located in Port Edgar Marina, just under the road bridge in South Queensferry.
The Canadian diner opened in 2015 and is a firm favourite with the residents of the central belt area.
The portions are huge and everything is cooked fresh to order.
There are no airs or graces about this diner.
You choose; you order; you eat.
Popular menu items include Mexican skillet breakfasts, Canadian poutine, dirty burgers and monster shakes.
Down the Hatch also features in our best brunch in Edinburgh guide.
Sticking with Port Edgar Marina area, there is another sought after spot.
Scotts Bar and Restaurant
Scotts, South Queensferry is a trendy Edinburgh-style restaurant with a laid back atmosphere.
It is popular with couples and friends who like to brunch.
The large industrial space has indoor and outdoor seating right next to the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing.
Reserve a tavke to avoid disappointment.
Moving back into South Queensferry’s High Street, Orocco Pier (17 High Street) is a boutique hotel that offers a fabulous place to dine.
Walking through the door, your eyes are immediately drawn to the huge expanse of windows that offer you views over the Forth and of the Bridges.
The menu showcases Scottish produce and locally caught fish.
There is a deck area where you can sit outside on a rare sunny day.
This is a popular wedding and events space.
The Boat House
Just along the High Street, The Boat House South Queensferry (22 High Street) is another well kept secret.
(It is one of my favourites as I had my first date with my now husband here!)
The Boat House is mainly a seafood restaurant but offers a choice of other meats and vegetarian options.
If you are in South Queensferry for the Loony Dook, book a table as they have a menu for New Year’s Day brunch.
Thirty Knots (2 Newhalls Road) is another South Queensferry restaurant with a smashing view of the bridge.
The interior is very pretty and there is a variety of tables for couples and small groups.
The menu is pretty extensive and features everything from burgers to bao buns, and seafood to salad.
Hawes Inn South Queensferry (7 Newhalls Road) is a popular restaurant at the weekends.
This vintage inn has links to Robert Louis Stevenson who is said to have penned some of his novel ‘Kidnapped’ here in the late 1800s.
The Inn is actually mentioned in this Scottish literary treasure.
Offering brunch, lunch and dinner, Hawes Inn is a great option for the family and it is dog-friendly.
The menu includes pub favourites such as lasagne, steak, burgers and stone baked pizzas.
On Sunday, there are a handful of roasts to choose from – lamb, pork, turkey, beef or vegetable.
There is also a beer garden but it is mostly in the shade so bring some layers.
The Railbridge Bistro (4 Newhalls Road) has huge windows that give you the perfect vista over the Forth and towards the Forth Bridge.
Inside the restaurant there is an interesting moving train that is set just under the mezzanine level.
A great wee conversation piece for you to watch while you await your lunch or dinner.
There is a lovely terrace just outside where you can sit in the sun and enjoy the views of the bridge.
Fish and Chips in South Queensferry
Every day trip in Scotland ends with a bag of chips to heat up cold fingers and empty bellies.
While there are several restaurants and pubs that offer fish and chips on their menu, nothing beats eating out of newspaper (or plastic carton) by the waterside.
Maurizio’s South Queensferry is one of the best ‘chippies’ in the area.
Fresh local fish cooked in their own secret recipe of batter creates the perfect takeaway choice.
There are often long lines so be prepared to wait.
Since you are still in the EH postcode it is customary to ask for salt n sauce on your chips although some people also like vinegar.
Pubs in South Queensferry
With all that walking, wandering and exploring, you will be in need of quenching the thirst with a beverage of your choice.
Luckily, South Queensferry has drinking establishments that will suit everyone’s taste.
The Ferry Tap
At the Forth Bridge end of the High Street, just before the colourful buildings is The Ferry Tap.
This striking red pub is full of character.
You can sample one of the 52 Scottish whiskies that are on offer while enjoying some traditional pub grub.
According to the history of the pub, the regulars have instituted the, “Tap Whisky Appreciation & Tasting Society’, an informal whisky sampling club, and there’s always at least one of the ‘TWATS’ on hand to talk you through their offerings!”
Well worth a visit, if just to meet this group!
For those who want more of a cocktail lounge feel, then Orocco Pier is the place for you.
The Antico Bar offers you a wide range of wines, cocktails, beers and soft drinks all while you take in the views out of the stunning full length windows.
‘Lite bites’ are also available in the cafe bar area.
Just enough to stave off the hunger until dinner.
Things to do Near South Queensferry
While visiting South Queensferry, you might want to take in some of the other attractions that surround this area.
One must-do activity is to walk across the Forth Road Bridge.
Forth Road Bridge Walk
The only bridge that is accessible to pedestrians, is the Forth Road Bridge.
This walk is around 2.5km and offers you the chance to see views of Fife and the Lothians as well as a nosey at the posh houses under the bridge.
The walk is accessible to cyclists and prams.
Often you will encounter groups of fundraisers making several crossings in aid of their chosen charities!
The photo opportunities of the UNESCO Rail Bridge ensure you have that perfect shot for your socials.
Local tip: Park at the Hilton in North Queensferry for free and walk across the bridge to South Queensferry. Remember to bring layers, it’s awfy windy!
Hopetoun House Events
Surrounded by 6,500 acres, Hopetoun House is a 17th century stately home that the public can visit and enjoy.
You may recognise this house as it has featured in Outlander, the Princess Switched series on Netflix and Rebus.
As you drive into the grounds, you understand why this is a filmmaker’s dream.
Known as Scotland’s finest stately home, the 5-star visitor attraction offers you an insight into how the current family lives as well as a wander around the vast gardens that the house sits in.
There are often different events offered at various times of the year such as their Wondrous Woods walk in winter.
Craigie’s Farm Shop
Craigie’s Farm shop (West Craigie Farm, Queensferry EH30 9AR) is another great attraction for families.
The farm offers a fantastic family-friendly cafe where you can enjoy the farm’s produce.
There is also a big garden with swings, chutes and tractor tyres.
One of the amazing activities is picking your own produce.
You pay a small fee and then are given the opportunity to go and pick your own strawberries, pumpkins, leeks, apples, plums, rhubarb – the list goes on.
A fantastic way to introduce the wee ones in your life to fresh produce as well as getting your seasonal fruit and veg fresh.
Craigie’s Farm also features in our guide to Edinburgh at autumn.
Not far from South Queensferry is Cramond Beach.
The walk to this beach takes you past an old fishing village and along to a causeway.
If you want to walk out to Cramond Island, you need to be mindful of tide times as crossing at the wrong time of day could see you stranded until the tide goes back out.
Check out our guide to Edinburgh beaches for more.
Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is a 187 kilometres (116 miles) multi-day route that starts at Kincardine and ends in Newburgh.
A section of the long distance walk runs through North Queensferry, just over the bridge from South Queensferry.
It is a relatively easy one-hour circular that passes by a beach, abandoned piers and some industrial yards.
The views across to the Lothians are stunning.
Park for free in North Queensferry.
Note: The Fife Coastal Path is not a circular, you would continue on to the next town if following the route.
Hilton North Queensferry
Just over the Queensferry Bridge, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (St Margarets Head, North Queensferry,) is set on the hill overlooking the Forth giving you views towards South Queensferry and the Lothians.
The hotel is modern, spacious and popular with weddings and corporate events.
The Shore Grill & Fish House is a fantastic restaurant overlooking the Queensferry Crossing with sunny seats and big round tables.
South Queensferry Hotels
Hotels in South Queensferry range from family-run B&Bs to large hotels with steak restaurants.
The Dakota South Queensferry (Ferrymuir, Queensferry) is a luxury hotel that looks like a large glass box from the outside.
Rooms are decorated with dark wood panelling and exposed red brick, akin to a NYC loft.
Downstairs, the cocktail lounge is a destination for many in the surrounding areas as the mixologists here really know their drinks.
The Dakota Grill prides itself on its steak but there are also other items on the menu such as oysters and pasta.
In addition to this there is a vegetarian, vegan and kids menu.
The Dakota is a 5 minute taxi ride or a 15 minute walk from South Queensferry High Street.
Innkeepers Lodge South Queensferry (7 Newhalls Road) is a traditional, small hotel that sits under the Forth Bridge.
Some rooms have the most incredible views over the water so you can see the local boats bobbing about as the sun sets over the bridges.
The rooms are basic yet spacious and include en-suite bathrooms.
If you are a literary history buff, then book room 13 as this is where Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have penned some of his novel ‘Kidnapped’.
How to Get To South Queensferry from Edinburgh
Trains leave frequently from Waverley Train Station and Haymarket Train Station to Dalmeny in South Queensferry.
The journey takes around 20 minutes.
There is a short walk from Dalmeny Train Station to South Queensferry High Street.
It doesn’t have the best lighting so it is not advised to be walk it yourself at night.
There is free parking in South Queensferry however it is limited so arrive early.
More spaces can be found at Port Edgar.
South Queensferry, while just on the outskirts of Edinburgh, offers you some fantastic ideas for a day out or an overnight stay.
As with most coastal towns, it does get busy during the summer months, so get there early or visit during autumn or winter to avoid the crowds.