Six ways to enjoy visiting the Forth Bridges
Connecting Fife with Edinburgh across the River Forth are three remarkable bridges spanning three centuries. Crossing the Forth used to require a ferry and the original ferry dates to Queen Margaret in the 12th Century and this Queen’s ferry is responsible for naming North and South Queensferry.
The mighty Forth Bridge, marvel of Victorian engineering, opened its railway in 1890, but the last passenger ferries ran until 1964 when the Forth Road Bridge was opened to vehicular traffic.
Here are some top tips to make the most of your visit to the Forth Bridges today:
1. Cross the bridges!
The Forth Bridge is a marvel of Victorian engineering and opened to rail transport in 1890. It is one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still carries around 200 trains a day through its steel cantilevers. It is one of the stops on the new UNESCO Trail. Take a train on the routes between Fife and Edinburgh, the Forth Bridge runs between two charming Victorian stations at North Queensferry and Dalmeny (by South Queensferry) to experience a rail journey across the Forth Bridge.
The Forth Road Bridge is a suspension bridge which was opened on September 4th 1964 by Queen Elizabeth II. At this time, it was the first bridge of its kind in the UK, the longest outside the USA, and the fourth longest in the world. After over 50 years as the main road crossing, today the Forth Road Bridge leads a quieter life carrying public transport, but you can walk or cycle the 1.5 miles across on one of two dedicated walkways to enjoy great views. Check out the viewing platform at the south end of this Bridge.
The 21st Century Queensferry Crossing was also opened by Queen Elizabeth II on September 4th, but this time in 2017. The 1.7 miles structure is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. It is the part of the main motorway network, so you’ll need to be in a suitable motor vehicle have a close-up of this elegant architectural addition.
2. See the Bridges from the water
Getting on the water to see the Bridges from below is a truly memorable experience with opportunities to see some of the river’s seals and birdlife too. There are several boat tour operators running daily boat trips with great commentaries, covering the three bridges, with routes up to Blackness Castle and an optional stop at Inchcolm Island. A luxury yacht or catamaran will help you mark a special occasion, or for a more exhilarating ride, buckle up for a RHIB outing. You can get even nearer the water with one of the water sports options at Port Edgar marina or join in the annual New Year’s loony dook!
3. Dine with a Bridges view
There are many places to sit and enjoy a coffee or ice-cream along the shores, but you will catch some of the closest view of the bridges from some of the local restaurants.
Close to the South Queensferry end of the Forth Bridge, try out Honeypot café, the historic Hawes Inn or suitably styled Railbridge Bistro; while North Queensferry brings you Rankins café and the Wee Restaurant closeby.
Good panoramic views of all three bridges are guaranteed at the Boathouse, Orocco Pier or Scott’s along at Port Edgar marina; with the Shore restaurant from Doubletree Hilton on North Queensferry bringing you within almost touching distance of the road bridges.
4. Things to do on land
Starting in North Queensferry, you can find out more about the Bridges in the Heritage Centre at North Queensferry Station, visit the world’s smallest working light tower and the Pierhead Museum. Scotland's national aquarium, Deep Sea World, features one of the world’s longest underwater tunnels and can be found under the Forth Bridge.
The historic South Queensferry has a free museum at its heart, with peaceful lanes and parkways to explore. There is a wonderful choice of independent shops, boutiques, artisan cafes, authentic bars and stylish restaurants to explore.
5. Connect to a longer route
There are several long-distance walks which pass the bridges too – the John Muir Way passes through South Queensferry, the Fife Coastal Path and the Pilgrim Way both take in North Queensferry.
If you are on your bike, National Cycle Network Routes 1 and 76 will take you across the Forth Road Bridge.
There are plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants, and hotels in North and South Queensferry to stop off for a break on your longer excursion.
6. Rooms with a view
The area is blessed with a selection of hotels, Bed & Breakfasts and self-catering accommodation. Adding on a night or two will easily allow day trips to the southwest coast of Fife, Dunfermline and Edinburgh to see more.