A wee trip to the east brought us to South Queensferry last weekend, one of my favourite places in Scotland. A short distance from Edinburgh, it’s a picturesque town with spectacular views across the Firth of Forth.
And, of course, those bridges. Three of them now.
It was a beautiful clear early winter’s day, yet still a bit too chilly for a spot of en plein air art. So we quickly abandoned that idea in favour of being tourists in our own land. Besides, it was a good opportunity to do a recce for when the days get longer, lighter and warmer (c’mon spring!).
An impromptu visit as we were outwith Glasgow delivering a painting. We’d sort of planned a trip to Rosslyn Chapel. But December days are short at this latitude and it would soon be dark. Since Blackness Castle was a nearby alternative, off we zoomed.
I remember reading about this castle on Forever Amber’s post. Blackness stars in the popular show Outlander (which I am yet to see any of, so that’s a boxset or three in waiting!). You can see from Amber’s photos why it’s such a great artist spot, both inside and out. And a wonderful setting with its views towards the docks at Rosyth (Stephen loves sketching industrial scenes).
But winter is coming and our sketchbooks stayed in the car, even though it was a beautiful day. That wispy sky and brisk sea air! We’ll be back with a picnic next spring, to see it properly and commit it to paper.
Some slightly more up-to-date buildings here. South Queensferry is picture-postcard pretty. The queen was St. Margaret and hers was the ferry taking pilgrims to St. Andrew’s way back in the eleventh century. Nowadays it’s a mere train ride from Haymarket (in Edinburgh) to Dalmeny if you’re not driving.
The Kingdom of Fife is a stone’s throw (I once walked there across the Forth Road Bridge) and also worth exploring for its stunning coast and little towns.
As well as a cobbled high street boasting cafes and interesting shops, you’ll see plenty of buildings to sketch or photograph here. The Harbour Lane is worth a visit to see work from local artists and to find out about workshops. On the water you’ll notice an island that sits almost under the rail bridge. That’s Inchgarvie, one of the Forth’s many small islands. Through half-closed eyes it looks like a gunship. And has, indeed, been used for all kinds of military purposes over the years.
From South Queensferry it’s easy to reach Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen. All roads across the new Queensferry Crossing lead north.
Ah, those bridges! They’re everywhere you look, dominating the views and begging to be sketched or painted. In fact, the Forth Bridge did beg to be painted until fairly recently – literally! No sooner did the decorators finish sprucing the bridge up, they had to start giving it another distinctive red coat.
South Queensferry holds happy memories for me. My Granddad would drive us here in his Hillman Imp to give Great-Gran Effie a day out. But the run back to North Berwick was the best bit, listening to the top twenty countdown with a bag of what I called “Musselburgh chips” on my lap (and I really thought that the Sweet, Mud and the Bay City Rollers were playing live in the studio – how did they manage to get one lot out and another band set up so quickly?!).
Of course, in those 1970s days there were only two bridges here. And the Forth Road Bridge itself was a spring chicken. In fact, in the early days of my grandparents’ marriage in Fife there was no road bridge at all. Granddad would take the car ferry across the Forth to his work at the Royal Bank (of Scotland) on Easter Road. It amazes me that he found a parking space, but it was a different time.
Meanwhile back in today, we rounded off our stoat through the town at the Railbridge Bistro. Great views of the rail bridge in a cosy setting, tartan carpets and twinkly lights – and decent choices for vegetarians.
I’ve started something that I don’t like to do – paint from a photo. I do use reference photos for my seascapes, of course. But I’m a firm believer that sketching from life allows you to understand what you’re drawing.
Nonetheless, those coloured houses – and the sparkly cobbled street! And so I allowed the cooler weather to get the better of me in the name of practising perspective. Very much a work-in-progress shot here, but expect the finished item by the end of the month.
And apologies if one of these is your house – but you have to admit they deserve to be painted!
Have you been painting or sketching lately? And are you enjoying winter? Leave me a comment below.