South Queensferry and the Highlands

After the two island groups, our ship arrived in South Queensferry on the mainland of Scotland.  And not an island called Mainland, but the actual body of land that is attached to England.

South Queensferry

South Queensferry is the port for Edinburgh.  It used to be a small fishing village, but got attached to Edinburgh as part of urban sprawl.  The historic part of Edinburgh is a 20 minute bus ride from South Queensferry.  Tom and I are going to Edinburgh as part of our land tour, the next month of our time in Europe.  As a result, we decided to take a shore excursion to the Scottish Highlands.  Specifically to Trossachs National Park, the first National Park of Scotland.  Established in 2003.  Not a typo.

We rode a tender in to shore.  When we arrived at the dock, we were greeted by a piper and drummer.  That was fun.  Then we boarded the bus for our shore excursion.

Although the countryside was beautiful, the shore excursion was a mistake on our part.  It was basically a four hour bus trip with 45 minutes of walking around the least interesting place in the Scottish Highlands.  We drove past the William Wallace Monument – what, we aren’t stopping?  Then we drove past Stirling Castle.  The saying is “Whoever controls Stirling Castle controls Scotland.”  But again, we didn’t stop.  We drove past the site of the Battle of Bannockburn and still didn’t stop.  The tour guide continued talking and the bus driver kept driving.

William Wallace Monument – from the bus

Into Trossachs National Park.  Up and through the Dukes Gap.  And down into a town that straddles the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.  Aberfoyle, where the bus pulled into a car park and the tour guide told us we had 45 minutes to explore.  Explore what?  Aberfoyle only has 1,000 people, two ice cream shops, a couple of restaurants, and the Scottish Wool Center.  The Scottish Wool Center is a tourist shop that has everything wool, much of it made in Scotland, but none of it in Aberfoyle.

Highland cow or “coo”

Tom and I walked from one end of the town to the other and got some ice cream.  Then we checked out the tourism information center.  Finally, we went back to the Scottish Wool Center.  They had sheep and a border collie herding demonstration.  The border collie, who was just being trained, was supposed to herd ducks but she was more interested in showing us how fast she could zoom around.

The most interesting part of the Scottish Wool Center was a shop called “Ew’ve Been Fleeced.”  They sold yarn spun from the sheep at the center.  I bought a skein of yarn from one of the Jacob sheep.  It still smells like sheep.

The Kelpies – from the bus

After our 45 minutes, we climbed back on the bus and headed back to South Queensferry.  We drove by a beautiful sculpture, The Kelpies, and our guide told us all about it.  But, of course, no stopping.

Tom and I were glad to get off the bus when it arrived back in South Queensferry.  It was a fine shore excursion, just not one that we should have booked.  We need more activity in order to enjoy the scenery.  We had time to get the bus into Edinburgh, but decided to use our feet to explore South Queensferry.  Turns out the old part of town close to the harbor is a wonderful place to explore.

Firth of Forth Bridge

We had a great view of the Firth of Forth bridge, from a lot of angles.  We were able to walk up and down the cobbled streets and check out a bakery and some other stores.  Tom and I shared a cheese, sausage, and pepper roll for a late lunch and got some chocolate chip cookies for later.  We found a lovely walking path that rose above the town and gave us some spectacular views over the harbor.

South Queensferry Tollbooth

We saw the South Queensferry Tollbooth from all angles.  The South Queensferry Tollbooth was built in 1630 and the tall part of the building was added in 1720.  Two clock faces were added in 1888 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  By the time we finished exploring the town, it was getting ready to rain and we were ready to get back on the ship.

I’ll have one of everything, please.

Although Tom and I were glad to see some of the historic landmarks, doing drive-by sightings was really frustrating.  Just a tease.  And being in the Highlands without being able to take a single hike or walk made it worse.  But the town of South Queensferry saved the day for us.  Seeing a place on foot is always the best way to explore.