A Bridge Too Far?

The trio of spectacular bridges over the Firth of Forth has quickly become one of Scotand’s most iconic images. The new Queensferry Crossing is the tallest bridge in the UK and its elegant, delicate structure of woven interlocking wires took many years to build, but was completed on time and on budget this month. Traffic is now using the new road bridge leaving the old Forth Road Bridge to taxis and buses.

Scotland has many beautiful bridges. One of my personal favourites is Clachan Bridge – a wee humpback stone ‘bridge over the Atlantic’ which joins mainland Argyll to Seil Island. It does cross the Atlantic as the sound opens up into the Atlantic and it’s also famous because the pub immediately over the bridge (on the island side) which goes by the name of Tigh na Truish – the House of Trousers in Gaelic – is where islanders changed from their plaid kilts (which the government had banned in 1746) to trousers before crossing to the mainland.

Another well known Argyll bridge is the old railway bridge (now a road bridge) at Connel that crosses above the Falls of Lora (one of Europe’s only seawater tidal falls). The Falls below the bridge are unique in Scotland and they were the feature of a recent BBC programme and it’s well worth viewing!

Bridges to islands are not that common in Scotland as most islands lie too far off shore and therefore have to rely on ferry crossings. However, the graceful arc of the Skye bridge, which despite the romantic allure of going ‘over the sea to Skye’, is an exception and it is my preferred route to this island idyll.

Some Hebridean islands are linked by causeways, but my definition of a bridge is that there must be space below and that the bridge goes over sea or land so for me they don’t count! However, no one can deny that a viaduct is a bridge – it may have been built to carry a railway line but because it is often built on a solid land base viaducts can be quite some length and their arches can be extremely tall.  Probably the most famous viaduct in Scotland (thanks to the Harry Potter film franchise) is the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Surely the best way to cross this viaduct is to take the steam train from FortWilliam as the Jacobite Express (which also featured in the Potter movies) rumbles its way across Glenfinnan Viaduct as part of the journey to the old fishing and ferry port of Mallaig. It’s a great day out for the whole family and the scenery is simply stunning.

Travelling around Scotland by car or train reveals many landmark bridges which are worthy or a photo. And even better these bridges are feats of engineering which demand respect, whether ancient stone cobbles, solid iron or modern steel, you can’t help but wander at the skill and mathematical precision required to complete these complex structures.  Glasgow’s much loved ‘squinty bridge’ the newest of the 21 bridges that span the River Clyde (and the Clyde Arc to give the bridge its Sunday name) shows just how clever modern bridge design can be. The new Queensferry Crossing (I don’t think it’s been around long enough yet to have a nickname) is the best of the crop.

 

 

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