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).
Today, not only do you have the choice of traveling on the bridge by car, bus or train, but 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.
Or 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. Providers include Maid of the Forth and Edinburgh Boat Charters.
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 Queensferry Neighbourhood Guide. Featuring shopping, attractions and food & drink, it’s got everything you need for your next day trip!