Inchgarvie (also Inchgarvie Island or Inch Garvie) lies beneath the Forth Rail Bridge, where the channel narrows to just a mile (1.5 km) wide between North and South Queensferry. The island occupies a location which was key to the defence of the upper reaches of the Forth estuary and a castle was built here c.1490 by King James IV (1473 - 1513). This served as a state prison between 1519 and 1671. The island was visited by Charles II in 1651, who inspected the fortifications built to resist Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1654), but these were allowed to fall into ruin after Charles' defeat.
Having been rented to Archibald, 1st Earl of Rosebery (1661 - 1723), for an annual fee of one penny in 1707, Inchgarvie was fortified again in 1779 as a response to the appearance of John Paul Jones' Franco-American fleet in the estuary. The island was sold to the Forth Bridge Railway Company for £2700, but its defences were reconstructed once more to protect the Forth Rail Bridge and the nearby Rosyth Dockyard from air-attack during the First and Second World Wars.
Inchgarvie was seen as a key staging point in various plans to bridge the River Forth. Foundations for a railway bridge designed by Sir Thomas Bouch (1822-90) were laid on the island in 1878, but following the Tay Bridge disaster and Bouch's disgrace building was suspended. When, in 1882, work began on a redesigned bridge by William Arrol (1839 - 1913), Benjamin Baker (1840 - 1907) and John Fowler (1817-98), one of the huge cantilevers was centred immediately to the west of Inchgarvie and a pier built to allow foundations to be sunk and the structure to be constructed. Offices, workshops and sleeping accommodation all had to be built on the island to support the construction of the bridge.
Today, Inchgarvie is known for its fulmars, and roosting cormorants and grey herons.