South Queensferry tourism bid to highlight history

An artist's impression of a proposed Binks visitors centre. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of a proposed Binks visitors centre. Picture: contributed
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AMBITIOUS plans to revitalise South Queensferry and make the town more accessible to tourists have come one step closer to fruition with an £8000 boost from the Scottish Government.

Queensferry Ambition, which represents the interests of 185 local businesses, will use the money to pay for public and stakeholder consultations into the proposed changes to the historic town, which include the creation of a Tourist Information and Visitor Centre, more visibility for historic sites such as the Binks, and improved signage and parking facilities.

Project manager Diane Brown said: “There’s a chance we could be a World Heritage site soon, and there is also the opening of the Queensferry Crossing in 2016, and we really need to get more prepared before either of these things happen. About 11 years ago an interested group of local architects started looking at how the town could be improved, especially the Binks, which is the site where Queen Margaret landed and embarked nearly 1000 years ago.”

Queen Margaret, also known as Saint Margaret of Scotland and The Pearl of Scotland, established the ferry crossing across the Firth that gave South Queensferry and North Queensferry their names. An English princess, she was born in exile in Hungary and came to Scotland after marrying Malcolm III around 1070. She died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093.

“At the moment there’s just a very small plaque on a stone at the back of a car park, and they wanted to do more to draw attention to the site’s historical significance. There were also discussions about how to make the rest of the town more tourist-friendly, as at the moment we have very narrow streets, poor signage and not many options for parking.”

The establishment of Business Improvement District Queensferry Ambition in 2012 has given the project legs, with £8000 raised by stakeholders and supporters such as Scotmid now having been matched by the Scottish Government to leave a total pot of £16,000.

Ms Brown added: “We will use this money to fund a consultation with the public and other stakeholders such as local businesses, community groups and bodies such as Transport Scotland, to see what they think of our plans to improve the area. Once we have that information we can use it to unlock further, larger funding pots, for example from the European Union, especially if the World Heritage proposal is accepted.

“It looks like there will be a large jump in the number of visitors coming to this part of the country over the next few years, and the last thing we want is to become some sort of bypass and have tourists simply drive through here on their way to the Forth Bridge viewing platform, where they take pictures and then leave again.”

Burry treasure

Another local attraction which could be getting a makeover as part of the proposals is The Queensferry Museum, which contains exhibitions detailing the construction of the Forth bridges, plus information on local wildlife and customs, including the famous Burry Man, who walks through the town once a year to ward off evil spirits.

Diane Brown said: “At the moment the museum is not very easily accessible as to enter you have to go up a flight of stairs. It also has unusual opening hours and some days does not open at all.”