The Firth of Forth


Despite making all sorts of jokes about firth being on forth, and who’s on fifth, we quite enjoyed our visit to the Firth of Forth north of Edinburgh. It’s a large estuary (which in Scottish is a firth) where the River Forth meets the North Sea. Technically it’s a fjord, because it was carved out of the rock by a glacier, but it doesn’t really look like a fjord, plus I think the name The Fjord of the Firth of Forth would be a bit ridiculous.

There are two main bridges crossing the Firth of Forth,  the road bridge and the train bridge. We were on the train bridge, which offered a great view of the road bridge (below).

This maps shows where the Firth Bridge is in relation to Edinburgh. We took the train from the city centre out to the bridges, and it was only about 15-20 minutes. Apparently the river is tidal all the way up to Stirling, but new land reclamation projects above the bridges have made the rise and fall less noticeable. In the picture below the map, it’s pretty clear that it’s low tide! You can see a few boats sitting in the mud!

The Firth Road Bridge  opened in 1964 and replaced a very busy ferry service. (It was the Ferry of the Firth of Forth. Ha!) There have been all sorts of plans to toll the bridge, but they were all scrapped in 2008. Apparently the bridge is in some disrepair, and the issue of how to fix or replace it is constantly being debated in the Scottish Parliament.

We might have been tempted to walk across the bridge had we known that it carries pedestrians, but since we were on the other bridge, which is just for trains, we took the train back and forth across the Forth. (Saying that is never going to get old!)

The Forth Railway Bridge is slightly upstream of the regular bridge, and is a striking design that was hailed as an engineering marvel when it opened in 1890. (Have you ever noticed how EVERY bridge is an engineering marvel when it opens, and then it just becomes commonplace? It’s like how every building in NYC was at one point the tallest building, until they built something taller.)

The bridge is the most recognized piece of architecture in all of Scotland, and it’s being considered for nomination as a World Heritage Site. It’s also the longest cantilevered railway bridge in the world. The bridge is even featured on the £20 note in Scottish currency (yes, they have different bills than the English! That’s a separate post, though.)

More than 200 trains per day pass over the bridge, including pedestrian, freight, and really heavy coal trains (although these are now being diverted elsewhere). The stop just over the bridge has an overpass for passengers that provides a really great trainspotting location. On one side you can see the trains coming off the bridge, and on the other you can see them go in and out of a tunnel. Not that anyone in our little group enjoyed doing that, of course …

There are a few pleasure boats you can take out on the Firth of Forth. But like the tour boats in any city by the sea, they are mostly overpriced with bad service, so we didn’t bother. But apparently there is an island with an abandoned castle on it, which sounds pretty cool. The next time we go to Edinburgh we’ll have to make arrangements to go forth and explore the Firth of Forth!

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Posted on 17/08/2010, in Exploring the UK and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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