The Bridges of the Firth of Forth

The wheels on American Airlines, Flight 6404 gracefully departed the Edinburgh, Scotland runway and we rapidly ascended into the sky on the path towards home. Always a bit of a nervous flier, I tried my best to relax and breathe while our aircraft climbed ever higher.  I leaned my head back against my seat and tried to focus my mind on the wonderful memories of the previous two weeks.

Still ascending, our pilot banked a left turn.  My husband quickly turned my attention to the window where I caught sight of the massive Forth bridges rising out of the water below.  As if on cue, the floodgates opened as the realization finally hit me that I was being carried far away from the place that I love so much.

20170922_163941I stink when it comes to goodbyes.  It makes no difference if the thing I’m goodbye-ing is a person or a place.  My eyes will inevitably leak.  And, of course, my cry is never a dainty, pretty cry.  It’s quite the opposite.  As someone who normally keeps her emotions in check, this snotty outburst always renders me red, puffy, and embarrassed.  My tears on the flight that day were no exception.

The sight of those bridges…bridges that we once sailed under, bridges that we have crossed again and again…brought me to tears.  They are incredible structures-impressive and massive and magnificent feats of engineering.  But to me they are more than just concrete and steel.  For me, they represent the charming fishing villages on the other side in Fife, the farm shop where we purchased the best produce and meats we have ever tasted, the seals that we saw sunning on a buoy, the argument we had in the car over a Taylor Swift song that came on the radio, and seeing my husband the happiest I have ever seen him the day he got to man the wheel of our boat charter for four glorious hours.  Those bridges represent Scotland (the second love of my life) and the place I love to be with my first.


20170922_165510Because the bridges are so magnificent, I feel they deserve a little blog post of their own.  My pictures and words simply do not do them justice.  Kind of like people say about the Grand Canyon, you really have to see them in person to comprehend and appreciate the sheer size and scope.  But I’d like to tell you a little about them nonetheless.

Forth Bridge

20170922_163555The Forth Bridge, which was officially opened on March 4, 1890 by Edward, Prince of Wales, is the freight and passenger railway bridge that links Edinburgh to Fife.  It spans just over a mile and a half and connects the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry, stretching over the Firth of Forth.

This massive, iconic structure is the brain child of Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker.  Following on the heels of the Tay Bridge collapse in 1879 where 75 train passengers tragically died, these men presented a new, innovative bridge design based on the cantilever principle.  Construction was authorized by Parliament in 1882 and construction began the following year.  At the height of its construction, over 4,500 men worked to complete the project, fabricating some 53,000 tons of steel into the striking bridge that we see today.  Sadly, 57 men lost their lives in its making.

The Forth Bridge is utterly striking because of its size, color, and industrial aesthetic.

Today the Forth Bridge is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and transports some three million passengers each year.  If you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh, it’s well worth a look.

See the train?


 Forth Road Bridge

The Forth Road Bridge has long served as an important link between Edinburgh and Fife.

By the 1920’s, the purchase of private automobiles was gaining in popularity and people began to desire/have need for a bridge for vehicles that would connect them to Fife from Edinburgh and vice versa.  An initial bridge proposal was presented in 1923, but because of the Great Depression followed by World War II, progress was postponed.  It wasn’t until 1958 that construction finally began.  Once begun, the bridge was completed in six years.  Dubbed with the motto ‘Guid Passage’, it officially opened to the public on September 4, 1964 by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Forth Road Bridge is an impressive long-span suspension bridge constructed from 39,000 tons of steel.  It is a mile and a half in length, contains 125,000 cubic meters of concrete, and enough tensile steel wires in its main cables to circle the world 1 1/4 times!

20170922_164717With the completion of the new Queensferry Crossing this month, the Forth Road Bridge has now been closed to private vehicle access.  However, once repairs are conducted, the bridge is scheduled to reopen later this year as a route for public transport only-a significant reduction in volume from the approximately 80,000 vehicles per day prior.


Queensferry Crossing

Queensferry Crossing (taken from our car window) when it was still under construction.

On September 4, 2017, fifty-three years to the day that Queen Elizabeth II opened the adjacent Forth Road Bridge, she once again cut the ribbon, officially declaring the new Queensferry Crossing open to the public.

This new bridge is a much-needed, much-enhanced replacement for the old Forth Road Bridge.  1.7 miles in length, it is now the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world.  The bridge contains a whopping 35,000 tons of steel, 150,000 tons of concrete, and stands about 164 feet higher than its former counterpart.  It’s just extraordinary and I cannot wait to see the finished product in person.

I hope you have enjoyed our little tour of Scotland’s famous bridges and hope even more that you might have the chance to see them yourself one day.  Have a great Saturday, everyone.  See you next time.



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