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The coastal town of Queensferry, standing on the south bank of the Firth of Forth just a few miles west of Edinburgh city centre, is perhaps best known for the iconic structures of the Forth Road and Rail bridges, which span the Firth of Forth, linking Edinburgh with Fife.
However there has been a crossing here for centuries. When Queen Margaret (wife of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland) established a church at Dunfermline during the 11th century she paid for a ferry service to transport pilgrims, on their way to St Andrews, across the Forth Estuary at its narrowest point. Subsequently the village of Queensferry began to grow.
The monks of Dunfermline Abbey initially operated the ferry service and a variety of ferries ran for several centuries. During the 1950’s the Queensferry service was the busiest in Scotland with four ferries annually carrying 1.5 million people, 600,000 cars and 200,000 goods vehicles by 40,000 ferry journeys. However the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in 1964 effectively ended the ferry service and when opened it was the longest suspension bridge in Europe, utilising 39,000 tons of steel.
Preceding this was the Forth Rail Bridge, one of the finest examples of engineering in the world. It took 4000 men seven years to build at a cost for £3.2 million and when opened in 1890 it had required over 54,000 tons of steel and 6.5 million rivets yielding a length of over 8000 feet.
The Queensferry Crossing will open in 2016 to carry motor-cycles, cars and heavy goods vehicles, relieving the pressure on the Forth Road Bridge, which will continue to take public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
Queensferry Harbour has also long been a focal point to the town and already existed when the town achieved Royal Burgh status in 1641.
Several industries have since taken place in and around its confines including fishing, whisky distilling and soap making. Herring used to be gutted, salted and packed here before being exported to Scandinavia and the Netherlands.
The island of Inchgarvie, which sits a little out on the Firth of Forth is named after the garvie, a local name for the young herring that brought wealth to the town.
The 18th century saw brandy being smuggled into the harbour while Queensferry’s first whisky distillery, Glenforth, was established in 1828.
During the 17th century Covenanters, rebelling against the introduction of Bishops into the Presbyterian Church by King Charles I, were forced to hide in the attics and cellars of the houses around Queensferry Harbour before taking the towns fleet of ships at high tide and embarking on a journey to the more tolerant Low Countries where they could freely practice their faith.