Explore The Forth Bridges
09 May 2022
Flowing from the Trossachs, through Stirling and down the Forth Valley before widening out at Kincardine, onto Edinburgh, and out into the North Sea, the Forth River is spanned by five bridges.
Three of these bridges dominate Edinburgh’s skyline and as well as providing essential transport links between Edinburgh & the Lothians on the south coast and Fife on the north coast, have a few stories of their own…...
The Forth Bridge
A ferry passage operated between North and South Queensferry as far back as 11th century, transporting pilgrims across the Forth to holy shrines in Dunfermline and elsewhere.
The town of South Queensferry had become a flourishing seaport by the 17th century, trading in coal, wool and hides and importing wine, silk, linen and timber from Europe and Scandinavia. In 1627, as the town continued to grow in prosperity, South Queensferry was made a Royal Burgh, and by the 18th century it was thought to be the busiest ferry in Scotland.
It was the spreading of the railway network in the middle years of the century, however, that underlined the need for a bridge. Considered to be one of the most impressive feats in Victorian engineering, the Forth Bridge was formally opened by Prince of Wales on 4 March 1890 and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
The Forth Bridge Facts & Figures:
* 53,000 tonnes of steel and 6.5 million rivets were used to construct the bridge.
* At the height of its construction, more than 4,000 men were employed.
* 200 trains use the bridge every day, carrying 3 million passengers each year.
The Forth Road Bridge
(Image Credit: VisitScotland Kenny Lam)
By the mid 1920’s and the steady advance of the motor age, it became apparent a road crossing over the Firth of Forth was required. Proposals for a bridge won the support of the Ministry of Transport in 1924, but the Great Depression and Second World War postponed progress, with construction beginning in 1958.
1961 saw the completion of the main cable anchorages, bored into the rock on both shores, and the two main towers. By August 1962, 30,000 miles of high-tensile steel wires had been spun together to make up the main cables.
The final box girders for the completion of the main span were swung into place at the end of 1963, covered in the Union Flag and Lion Rampant to mark the occasion.
The bridge was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 4 September 1964. At the time, it was the first bridge of its kind in the UK, the longest outside the USA, and the fourth longest in the world.
The Forth Road Bridge Facts & Figures:
* 'Guid Passage' was the fitting motto given the Forth Road Bridge at its opening.
* Together with the approach viaducts, is a just over 2.5 km in length.
* The Forth Road Bridge was designated a Category A listed structure in March 2001.
The Queensferry Crossing
(Image Credit: Visit Scotland Stuart Brunton)
Despite significant maintenance since its opening in 1964, by the early 2000’s the Forth Road Bridge was beginning to show signs of significant deterioration. Given the large number of vehicles that used the bridge daily and the potential impact of major maintenance works, the Forth Road Bridge was no longer deemed practical as the long-term main crossing of the Firth. It was decided that the existing bridge would solely be used for buses, pedestrians and cyclists, and a new bridge built for all other traffic.
Carrying the M90 motorway across the Firth of Forth, the Queensferry Crossing was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 4 September 2017, 53 years to the day after she opened the adjacent Forth Road Bridge.
The Queensferry Crossing Facts & Figures:
* It was the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation.
* The bridge spans 1.7 miles (2.7km) making it the longest three-tower, cable-stayed
bridge in the world. It also has the highest bridge towers in the UK, at 210m.
* Over 23,000 miles of cabling were used, which is almost the same distance as the
circumference of the earth at the equator (24,874 miles).
Top tips to enjoy the Bridges
Today, not only do you have the choice of traveling on the bridges by car, bus or train, but you can also discover the majesty of these famous structures from other viewpoints:
1. Walk or cycle across the Forth Road Bridge
With the opening of the Queensferry Crossing as a motorway, the Forth Road Bridge now has a new chapter to its story - it is now a public pathway, opening up the route for walking and cycling across the Forth. With stunning views across to Edinburgh & the Lothians on the south coast and Fife on the north coast, this is a real Instagram picture-perfect location.
2. Book a boat trip
If you fancy seeing the bridges from a different perspective, why not book a boat trip. Available from South Queensferry, you’ll travel up the Forth and under the bridges, explore the wildlife and even land on Inchcolm Island which is home to both a 12th century abbey and the fascinating remnants of Second World War defences. Providers include Maid of the Forth and Edinburgh Boat Charters.
3. Visit Queensferry Museum
Queensferry Museum showcases the past and traditions of historic Queensferry and neighbouring Dalmeny. As well as permanent displays, the museum hosts a room dedicated to temporary exhibitions, curated by community groups.
With stunning views out onto the Firth of Forth, whether your interest is social history, folk traditions or civic engineering, there's something here at this small but enjoyable museum.
Queensferry Museum is temporarily closed. Please check their website for updates on opening dates.
4. Wine & dine with a view
After exploring, why not treat yourself (and your feet) to a relaxing meal at one of the many delightful restaurants in South Queensferry. With several offering stunning panoramic views across the Forth, you’ll be rewarded with both a treat a treat for the eyes and senses.
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Situated within the stylish boutique hotel Orocco Pier, a mouth-watering selection of the finest seafood and prime Scotch steaks is on offer at Samphire Seafood Bar & Grill; or why not tuck into sumptuous pan-fried scallops, wild Scottish halibut, local lobster, crab and rock oysters at The Boat House. If an extensive wine list, classic cocktails and plenty of favourite local artisan gins and craft beers is more to your liking, alongside a menu featuring everything from traditional fish & chips, to dry aged steaks and freshly landed seafood, be sure to pay a visit to Scotts at Port Edgar Marina.
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Keen to learn more about South Queensferry and plan your next trip to this small coastal community, just a few minutes' train ride from Edinburgh Waverley? Be sure to check out our guide to South Queensferry. Featuring shopping, attractions and food & drink, it’s got everything you need for your next day trip!