This route forms part of National Cycle Network Route 76 which runs for 134 miles around the Forth, from Dunbar to Stirling and back to Kirkcaldy.Â Â This route is full of surprises with plenty of natural and historical interest and can easily be walked in short sections using public transport.Â Â The offroad sections in particular are great for walking, and on this section, from Blackness to South Queensferry, there is plenty of birdlife to watch out for as you walk through the estate.Â Â This part of the Forth is protected by a number of natural heritage designations, both national and international, due to its importance as a habitat for breeding birds, so there is always something to spot.
The start point is Blackness Castle, which is located on the Firth of Forth. The castle is just inside the boundary of Falkirk, but it was once the seaport serving the royal burgh of Linlithgow.Â Â Built in the 15th century, it stands dramatically on the shore, looking across to Fife.Â Â It has been a royal castle, garrison fortress and state prison, but now acts as a visitor attraction run by Historic Scotland.
The castle once stood in for Elsinore in a film of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson, and it has a bleak and brooding atmosphere, especially on a day when winter seemed reluctant to leave us.Â Â An icy wind straight from the Baltic whipped white waves on the Firth, blasting through the castle courtyard and around the forlorn picnic tables.Â Â It was not conducive to lingering so instead we ran along the shore into the shelter afforded by the woodlands on the Hopetoun estate.Â Â Here we joined an upgraded path which has been negotiated with the estate and built by Sustrans, and followed it back to South Queensferry.
The Hopetoun estate spreads over 6,500 acres and offers a variety of trails within farmland, woodland and a designed landscape.Â Â The house and its immediate grounds are open to the public from March to September, and you can glimpse the spectacular 18th century house as the route winds around the policies.Â Â As you leave the estate and approach South Queensferry keep an eye on the latest progress on the new Forth Road Bridge!
The route runs for 9km (5.5 miles) from Blackness to South Queensferry.Â Â If you are starting from Edinburgh, take the train to Linlithgow and then First bus 49 (Linlithgow to Boâ€™ness) to Blackness and get off at Blackness Square.Â Â Alternatively, take First bus X19 (Edinburgh to Falkirk) from Princes Street to Champany Inn where you can change to bus 49.Â Â From Blackness Square walk towards the Castle.Â Â Just before you arrive at the castle, follow a path to the right through a metal gate.Â Â This runs along the castle walls and on to the foreshore.Â Â Keep going until you reach a stream and cross the bridge.Â Â You are now on the waymarked National Cycle Network Route 76 which runs all the way to South Queensferry, where you can take First bus 43 back to Edinburgh.
You can find more information about organised local walks here
LOTHIAN AND BORDERS RAMBLERS ASSOCIATION