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Carlingnose Wildlife Reserve is a strip of semi-natural coastal habitat at the western end of the Firth of Forth.

Habitats include herb-rich calcareous grassland, neutral grassland, scrub, cliffs, rocky shoreline and sandy beach.

It was mainly for its grassland that it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1988. The SWT acquired the reserve in 1999.


Access to the Reserve

Just north of North Queensferry Railway Station, turn into Carlingnose Point, then first left into Carlingnose Way. After the second bend there is a very small car park.

If it is full, then park on the road, but please be considerate to local residents and do not block any driveways.

Alternatively, park in Battery Road Car Park and follow the Fife Coastal Path signs to the reserve.

Access around the reserve is mainly by the Fife Coastal Path and a couple of other obvious paths. Please be careful near the steep coastal slopes and old quarry cliffs.

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NT135 809
O.S. Sheet 65


For such a relatively small site, Carlingnose has a high degree of habitat and plant diversity (over 170 species recorded). One notable species to look for is Dropwort, a rarity in Scotland, being more commonly associated with the grasslands of southern England.

Several locally scarce species occur, such as Field Gentian (over 400 individual plants), Bloody Cranesbill, and Lesser Meadow-Rue. Both Heather and Harebell, listed as priority species in Fife's Biodiversity Action Plan, occur on the site, along with Bell Heather, Burnet Saxifrage and Hairy Rockcress.

On the cliffs left by past quarrying, Fulmars have begun to breed, and can be seen soaring and wheeling about the cliffs during the summer.

The dense scrub of hawthorn and gorse provide cover and nesting sites for many species of warblers and finches.

During the winter, Carlingnose is a good viewpoint to watch the bird life of the Forth Estuary, with divers, grebes and sea ducks present offshore.

Historical Perspective

The name Carlingnose is possibly derived from its appearance to mariners sailing up the Firth of Forth, to whom it looked like an old witch (Carlin is Norse for old woman).

Because of its domination of the point where the Forth narrows, it has probably been fortified since early times. For most of the time Carlingnose has been used as farmland, but quarrying started in the early 1800s. The hard dolerite rock was used in the building of the bases for the Forth Bridge. Quarrying ceased during the First World War, but was re-started after the war for a short time.

Much of the land was sold to the War Department in 1898 when barracks and a gunsite were constructed. Two cannon were put in place for coastal defence, but replaced by anti-aircraft guns for the Second World War.

The barracks ceased to be used by 1957 and the War Department sold the land on. From the sixties to the nineties Carlingnose has been developed for house building, planning permission having been given before it was designated a SSSI.


Because Carlingnose has only recently been acquired, very little conservation management has so far taken place.

The site's first management plan has been written for the period 2000-2005, and will concentrate on managing the remaining areas of grassland.

The site has suffered in the past from a lack of management, so the natural process of succession has meant that the grassland areas are being invaded by scrub, thereby shading out the rare plant species and their habitat.

The main aim of the management of the site will be to reverse this process. Although scrub itself is a valuable habitat, plenty will still remain on other parts of the site.

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