If your idea of the perfect visitor experience involves relaxing with a drink in hand while you watch the world and some iconic Scottish scenery go by while learning about the local area then I may have the answer for you.
Last week I decided to go on a boat trip down the Firth of Forth with Forth Boat Tours and I can't recommend it highly enough, in fact I would go as far as saying it is one of the best things I've done in Scotland!
We were welcomed on board at the pier in South Queensferry and my four legged companion was suitably fussed over! It is so nice to find attractions that allow dogs and Willow does love a cruise being a frequent ferry traveller herself.
Our transport for the next 90 minutes was The Forth Belle, which was equipped with plenty of seats outside and an indoor lounge area with a bar on the lower deck. There are seats at the front and rear and a couple of small areas up top next to the Captain for an all round view.
On the day I travelled I'd say the boat was half full which meant it felt quite spacious, I would recommend travelling at off peak times if you want to move around easily for photographs.
I was out on a warm, sunny day and the lounge was nice and cool. On a rainy day it is heated inside so the boat is designed for all Scottish weather eventualities.
South Queensferry is where the world famous brick red Victorian Forth Bridge spans the Firth of Forth from the Lothians to Fife alongside it's neighbour the more modern Forth Road Bridge. This tour provides excellent views and photographic opportunites as it sails right under them both. As they tower over you the scale and engineering can really be appreciated.
Currently a new road bridge, The Queensferry Crossing, is being constructed and you also get up close to the foundations to see the work in progress.
The bridges may be the highlight of this trip but there is much more to come. The entertaining commentary explains about all the sights you pass above the water and some unseen shipwrecks below. There was so much we were told about the area that I wish I had taken notes! Some of the landmarks you pass include Inchgarvie Island with it's castle and wartime ruins, the Hound Point Oil Terminal and Oxcars Lighthouse.
The tour continues along to Inchcolm Island where at certain times you have an option of getting off and exploring at an extra charge. The island has a well preserved Abbey which is the main reason most people visit but I decided that after days of travelling it was nice just to sit with my feet up for a while longer!
This is also the half way point before heading back.
There were several things that made this trip special and stand out. Firstly was the wildlife spotting, we really got up close and personal to seals, puffins and other seabirds. The Captain impressed me by pulling up next to and stopping beside any wildlife of note. This let everyone get a great view and take a photo, I didn't feel we rushed from A to B, it really did feel spontaneous and I believe that while the destination might be the same every trip would be unique, especially with the ever changing busy river traffic.
Another bonus was the incredibly friendly crew who felt unobtrusive but helped point out upcoming wildlife/landmarks and assist passengers when required. Otherwise they left everyone to relax or wander around the boat as they pleased, I really felt at home!
I also saw two children standing in with the Captain full of questions which he happily answered. The pre-recorded commentary was excellent with just the right balance of information and humour with the Captain interrupting every now and again to add some relevant details about the unique sights we encountered that day.
As we returned towards the pier the sounds of Caledonia started over the tannoy and I genuinely felt quite sad my trip was over.
I took the Forth Bridges Tour which at the time of writing costs £13 for an adult and £32 for a family. Passes for Inchcolm Island can be bought on board and are priced at £5.50 for an adult and £3.30 for a child, Historic Scotland members go free.
The boat normally leaves from South Queensferry, however on certain dates it leaves from North Queensferry, check their website for details.
Combined bus and boat tours leave from Edinburgh at a cost of £20 for an adult and £48 for a family.
Forth Boat Tours also run other themed boat tours including an Edinburgh Festival fireworks cruise.
For full details check out the Forth Boat Tours website www.forthtours.com
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