Boat trips, Castles & ancient ruins, Scotland, Things to do

A Maid of the Forth sightseeing tour to Inchcolm

Inchcolm bound on Maid of the Forth

One sunny morning in June Mr G, The Teen, The Wee White Dug and yours truly boarded the dog friendly Maid of the Forth in the shadow of the iconic Forth Bridge for a sightseeing Boat trip on the Firth of Forth.  We were off to visit Inchcolm Island – yippee.

Maid of the ForthMaid of the Forth

We’d booked a Maid of the Forth, Inchcolm Island landing sailing, which takes around 35 minutes to reach Inchcolm, then there’s 90 minutes of free-time to explore the small, historic island.

We sat on the outside deck of the boat to enjoy the view and sea air.  The wee dug was in his element, peering overboard and enjoying the smells of the sea.

Maid of the Forth

En-route to and from Inchcolm an audio tour played, highlighting lots of interesting information about the Firth of forth, its islands and the land bordering it.  There were tales of ghostly goings on, murder, conspiracy and more but I won’t spoil it for you, as you should take a tour yourself and hear the stories first hand.

As the Maid of the Forth neared Inchcolm we were lucky enough to spot Grey Seals on a small rocky outcrop, basking lazily in the sun.

A spot of sightseeing on Inchcolm Island

Inchcolm is often referred to as the Iona of the East, and it’s easy to see why when you catch a first glimpse of the island with its beautiful medieval abbey, white sandy beaches and azure blue waters.  Inchcolm Abbey was originally a priory founded by King David I who reigned between 1124 and 1153.

Maid of the Forth

Like Iona, it’s thought Inchcolm was once a significant holy island, and a place it was considered a great honour to be buried.

Preserved inside the small museum at the visitors centre is a rare 11th century hogback tombstone typical of those from the Viking era.


It was a gorgeous day so we explored Inchcolm Abbey from outside first.

No sooner had we taken a handful of steps into the abbey grounds than an angry duck had flown into Mr G’s face!  The Teen and I struggled to keep a straight face as Mr G rocketed 10 feet into the air with fright.  It turns out the poor duck had been snuggling with her babies, when along stomped Mr G like Gulliver in Lilliput.  Once she realised he wasn’t a threat she settled back down and let us admire her adorable new brood from a safe distance.


Inside Inchcolm Abbey was shady and cool, and the cloisters and courtyard garden reminded me of Iona Abbey, but with a much more authentic medieval feel.

Inchcolm Abbey Inchcolm Abbey

We explored a maze or interiors rooms and corridors, all remarkably well-preserved, gaining a good understanding of what life must have been like for the medieval holy men who once lived and worked on the island.

As I dashed from room to room exploring, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would encounter my Inchcolm Abbey nemesis.  The terror that I’d failed to conquer on my last visit – a narrow and claustrophobic handrail free, turnpike staircase that twisted and turned up to a precarious looking wooden platform, leading to a near vertical wooden ladder to reach the abbey roof!

Inchcolm Abbey

The Teen point-blank refused to shoehorn herself into claustrophobia hell, but Mr G was straight in and ascending like a rat up a drain pipe.

Knowing he’d spend the rest of the day waxing lyrical about the amazing rooftop view I cautiously followed.  I’m no giant but the staircase felt like it completely enveloped me.  Even my tiny UK size 3-4 feet struggled to find purchase on the narrow stone steps.  I crawled up slowly on my hands and knees, trying to put any thought of how I’d get down again to the back of my mind.

Once out of the coffin like stairwell the precarious wooden platform and near vertical wooden ladder were a breeze.

On the roof I was delighted to have conquered my fear as the view was amazing.  I could see the whole island and across to Edinburgh and Fife too.

Inchcolm Inchcolm

Trophy photos snapped, I descended backwards, slowly and inelegantly.  Once my feet were planted safely back on firmer ground I felt ecstatic and relieved.

Back outside our plans to explore the island’s WWI & WWII buildings were scuppered when we realised nesting season meant that much of the island was off-limits to visitors.

I’d visited the island before so I was happy to potter around the abbey area, but as Mr G was a first time visitor he was keen to see more.

He decided to explore a field directly behind the abbey.  Seeing a large number of Herring gulls sitting in the field The Wee White Dug, The Teen and I decided to observe his efforts from afar with bemused curiosity.

We didn’t have to wait long for what turned out to be the highlight of the day – pure comedy gold.  Mr G tiptoed into the field, clearly deciding that a stealth approach would fool the gulls eyeing him suspicious.

I stood poised, camera at the ready.  The gulls were having none if it, and a small formation flying posse swooped angrily down on the fool hardy intruder sending him packing.

How I managed to capture the scene on camera without doubling over with laughter I’ll never know.

It reminded me of the cheesy old joke.  What do you call a man with a seagull on his head? Cliff.

For the rest of the day Mr G was dubbed Cliff.

Inchcolm seagulls Inchcolm seagulls Inchcolm seagulls

We spent the remainder of our time on Inchcolm  relaxing by the two small beaches near the abbey, well out of reach of any nesting gulls.

Scottish travel blog Scotland blogInchcolm

More sightseeing on the Maid of the Forth

When the Maid of The Forth returned to collect us, we grabbed a table with a window view, inside the bar for our return sailing to South Queensferry.

Maid of the Forth

As the Maid of the Forth sailed past Inchcolm I snapped some final shots of the island, keeping my eyes peeled for the points of interest being covered on the audio tour.


The return crossing was much choppier than our journey to Inchcolm.  The Teen slumped on our table, eyes closed and head in hands.  When I asked if she felt sea sick she vehemently denied that she did, claiming to be exhausted instead!

When I looked around the bar there appeared to be several equally exhausted passengers on board.  It’s amazing the toll a 90 minute potter around an old abbey can have on your energy levels!

Maid of the Forth

I loved sailing under the iconic old rail bridge, and the Forth Road Bridge which I cross regularly on my Scottish travels.  It was also great to get a close up sea view of the new Queensferry Crossing.

As a child the thought of crossing the rail bridge terrified me as I believed the trains travelled along the top of it and over the humps!

I must have been a naive child as I also thought San Fransisco and the USA were very close to where I lived.  After seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on TV, I was absolutely convinced that it was the Forth Road Bridge.

Forth BridgeForth Road Bridge Queensferry Crossing

Food after a fun sightseeing tour of the Firth of Forth

Back on dry land and disembarked from the Maid of the Forth The Teen’s sudden tiredness passed as if by magic, so we all enjoyed a tasty lunch at the dog friendly Little Bakery in South Queensferry.

Banana milkshakes, toasties and red velvet brownies were devoured in record time after a morning of fresh sea air – delicious.

Little Bakery, South Queensferry

I’d like to offer a big thank you to the Maid of the Forth for a great day out. Although our trip to Inchcolm was kindly provided on a complimentary basis all opinions, musings and comments contained within this blog are accurate and entirely my own.

We had a wonderful time sightseeing on the Firth of Forth.  If you also love boat trips, and are looking for more in this area then you may enjoy this blog which features trips to the Isle of May and Bass Rock.

Until next time …….

18 thoughts on “A Maid of the Forth sightseeing tour to Inchcolm”

  1. Seems the internet is ganging up on me and I seem to be losing a number of posts. I did comment on this but it seems to have gone – and no I am not cracking up :o) Anyway, what I said was wonderful post and great photographs. I Particularly like the photographs of the WWD with the Abbey in the background. Felt sorry for Mr. G. We get swooped and attacked by Magpies in summer so it’s not fun. Two places I regret not being able to get to before I left Scotland – this was one, Rosslyn was the other.

    1. Such a shame you missed Inchcolm – hopefully you’ll get to see it some day. It’s a fantastic, atmospheric place. Rosslyn has been turned into a soulless cash cow thanks to the Da Vinci Code – its a depressing place these days with one aim only – to make
      Money. I’m glad to have visited many years before the book. Sadly, I hate it now.

  2. Marvelous! I’ve missed your lively blogs with the fantastic photos! What a great trip for the Wee White Dug and his family…and the bird attacks were a riot! Your words painted the entire picture. You are brave to have conquered that staircase…or tunnel with steps? Good for you! I think my American size 11 feet would not have made it! Glorious photos of your victory! Have a blessed weekend. (shared on FB)

    1. Thank you – I did wonder what on earth size of feet they must have had if mine were large on the stairs. It’s so nice to get back to blogging again. It feels like such a long time. Enjoy your weekend. 😊

  3. Always enjoy reading about your travels and this one is no exception. Have been over the firth via both bridges a few times but never on it so that’s next on the list. Incholme looks so peaceful and yes, very Iona like.
    Keep travelling with the Wee white dug.

  4. Missed you! Glad you are feeling better, and safely back home!
    Love that shot of Casper, with the abbey in the background, showcase that smart bow tie! Such a handsome Westie!! Mom on her tummy for that one I suspect!

  5. I absolutely love your blog! I am an American living in Florida with our Wee White Dug, Molly! Like your “dug,” our Molly is an absolutely wonderful traveler, too. I attribute her love of travel to a family vacation we took when Molly was only about five months old. We packed up the kids and the dug and drove from Scottsdale, Arizona to Yellowstone National Park in Montana. We put over 3,000 miles on our car that summer and Molly was probably a better traveler than the kids! She still loves the car and eagerly awaits her daily car ride to pick up the kids from school. I truly believe that accurate descriptions of Westies should include the fact that that are such wonderful traveling companions.

  6. Great post as per usual! Love the bow tie on your wee doggy. Very smart and colorful. I had no idea that Inchcolm was known as a partner to Iona but I can see now why that would be so. I will have to make the trip out to the Abbey next time I’m in Scotland.

    1. The abbey is a real surprise as you’d never know such a historic gem was sitting out in the Firth of Forth. I adore Iona so it’s great having a mini one on my doorstep. The boat trip is really interesting too with lots of fun info on the audio tour.

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