Bridges of Scotland
On the 30th of August, it will be 5 years since the Queensferry Crossing opened. If you have ever travelled to Fife and beyond by car then you will have crossed it! This lifeline artery was built as a replacement for the old Forth Road Bridge which was beginning to suffer from corrosion in the suspension cables. This resulted in a loss of strength with weakening calculated to accelerate. This would result in traffic restrictions to limit loading and would impact heavily on tourism, logistics and commuting from Fife, Perth, Aberdeen, Dundee and the Highlands. In 2007 Transport Scotland decided to proceed with a replacement bridge. Known as the Forth Replacement Crossing, the bridge was finally named in 2013 following a public vote with Queensferry Crossing receiving the most votes. Scotland has many interesting and attractive bridges and here are a few you may be interested in:
Remote from a town or village this tall bridge over the River Dulnain seems quite out of place to modern eyes, but at one point this was part of General Wade’s military road and a vital crossing. Originally the crossing was merely a ford, but a two-arch bridge was built in the 1760s. This was swept away in a flood in 1829 and was replaced in the 1830s with the single-span bridge you can see now. Major repairs were carried out to the bridge in 2001/02 by Sustrans as part of the National Cycle Network Route 7. Sluggan Bridge is category A listed and a scheduled monument. The Wade Road is an ancient right of way.
This elegant bridge spanning the River Spey is the oldest surviving iron bridge in Scotland. Built between 1812 and 1815 it was designed by the world-famous engineer Thomas Telford. Telford allowed for floods and the bridge withstood a major flood in 1829 when the Spey rose by 4.7 meters. The spandrels are formed of diamond lattice to form a delicate design. The castellated towers that decorate the abutments are hollow with false arrow slits. The bridge, with minor modifications, continued in use until 1963–64 and was bypassed and closed to vehicles in 1972 when its pre-stressed concrete replacement just downstream, was opened. Craigellachie Bridge is now an outstanding historical and scenic amenity used by pedestrians and cyclists.
This iconic bridge is sometimes referred to as the Forth Rail Bridge, but that’s not its official name. It spans the Forth estuary carrying the railway lines connecting the north and south of Scotland, and when it opened it was the world’s longest single-span cantilever bridge. The first design to be approved for a rail bridge across the Forth was by Thomas Bouch. This design was abandoned following the Tay Bridge disaster because that bridge had also been designed by Bouch. In the end, the design by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker was chosen and the bridge opened in 1890. At the busiest point in construction, 4000 men were employed; unfortunately, 57 men died. The bridge carries 200 trains each day and 3 million passengers each year. In 2015 the bridge was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in its 125th anniversary year.
The short 500m crossing between Skye and the Scottish mainland was made by ferry until the Skye Bridge opened in 1995. The bridge is a concrete arch supported by 2 piers and it is 2.4 km long with the main arch being 35m high. Although the bridge is free to cross now, this was not always the case. The bridge was built with private rather than government funding. This meant that the private company that owned the completed bridge could charge a toll to cross it. This charge applied to locals and tourists alike which meant that whenever an islander needed to access services or visit family on the mainland, they had to pay the toll. A campaign group SKAT (Skye and Kyle Against Tolls) was set up and in 2004 the Scottish Government purchased the bridge and abolished the tolls. The bridge has made Skye much more accessible and in recent years this has caused a large increase in tourism due to exposure on tv programmes promoting the outdoors and the historical fantasy series Outlander. Islanders now complain of rubbish being dumped, busy roads and erosion of paths due to the large numbers visiting Skye.
Scotland’s newest bridge-Lossiemouth East Beach Bridge
The town of Lossiemouth in Moray relied heavily on fishing and when the industry fell into decline in the 1970s the town began to rely on tourism. There are many lovely walks and interesting attractions to visit in the area, but the town’s biggest asset is the several miles long sandy East Beach. With pristine sands and a large dune system, the beach was well used by tourists and in recent years supported a surf school. But in order to get to the beach, the estuary of the River Lossie had to be crossed. Access was by an old wooden bridge and in 2019 a member of the public reported hearing a loud crack as they crossed it. The bridge was surveyed, and it was decided it was a risk to the public, so it was permanently closed. This was devastating to local tourism with shops and hospitality businesses reporting large falls in trade and cancellations of bookings. The estimated collective annual cost of closure was £1.5 million. However, help was to come from an unexpected source. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the UK government put financial help packages in place for hotels, restaurants and shops across the country. This ensured that Lossiemouth’s businesses were protected not only from the effects of the pandemic but from the loss of its biggest tourist attraction.
Meanwhile a tendering process was carried out and eventually, preparation works for a new bridge began in November 2021. The new bridge was completed in April 2022 and was officially opened in May. If you would like to see the bridge, beach and do some people watching, then click here.
You can use Library Search to find books and articles on more bridges of Scotland, bridge construction and tourism pressures.
By Vivienne Hamilton
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