The Forth Road Bridge is one of the most significant long-span suspension bridges in the world, with a length of 1,006 metres between the two main towers. It is located next to the UNESCO heritage-status Forth Rail Bridge.
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Review of the Forth Road Bridge
You might be wondering why a bridge has been included in a website about Scotland’s tourist attractions, but bear with me because I think the Forth Road Bridge is well worth taking the time to visit if you come to explore Edinburgh and the Lothians.
This bridge is enormous and still impresses visitors more than fifty years after opening, but it’s the views from the footpath that draw in tens of thousands of cyclists and walkers each year.
As you cross the span between South and North Queensferry you can view an amazing panorama across the Firth of Forth, with Fife in one direction and Edinburgh and East Lothian in the other, and it’s probably the closest you’ll get to the iconic Forth Rail Bridge without actually hopping on a train.
The Forth Road Bridge is one of the most significant long-span suspension bridges in the world with a length of 1,006 metres between the two main towers and a total length of 2.5km end to end.
When the bridge was opened in 1964 by Queen Elizabeth II it was the longest bridge in Europe and the fourth-longest bridge in the world, with the three longer bridges located in the United States.
Things to do at the Forth Road Bridge
The road bridge stands 46 metres above the Forth river which flows underneath it and due to the fact that it runs between North and South Queensferry it offers fantastic views of the Edinburgh and Fife coastlines.
The Forth Road Bridge is one of three bridges that cross the Forth, with the unmistakable red Forth Rail Bridge on one side and the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge on the other.
As you follow the pedestrianized section of the bridge you’ll likely stop and take a good look at the Forth Rail Bridge which runs alongside it.
Built in 1890, the red-painted rail bridge was regarded as the eighth wonder of the world at the time of its construction and to be honest it’s still an impressive example of Scottish engineering today.
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With an overall length of 2,467 metres and standing 137 metres above its foundations, The Forth Rail Bridge was once likened to the Eiffel Tower and even though it’s not as pretty it was deemed significant enough to be given UNESCO world heritage status in 2015.
Another thing to note as you continue your walk between the banks of the Forth are hundreds of padlocks secured to mesh railings on the Forth Road Bridge, left there by lovers of all ages over the course of many years. So if you’re taking in the view with a partner you might decide to place your own ‘love lock’ there as well.
One negative point about visiting the bridge is that it can be a bit noisy with passing traffic, but now that the majority of vehicles are diverted onto the new Queensferry Crossing it’s a lot quieter than it once was. Even so, I’d think twice before taking your four-legged friends with you on a walk across it.
The South Queensferry side of the bridge has an information area that is open to the public that describes the construction of the bridge as well as educating visitors about its history. There is also a public car park and a viewing platform and there’s usually a snack kiosk nearby.
To find it, head to Ferry Muir road near the bridge entry point and take the turning onto Ferrymuir Gate. The car park is 500 feet down this road and the footpath onto the bridge begins another 500-feet past the car park.
Find more places to visit in the area with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
The history of the Forth Road Bridge
The first proposals for a road bridge across the Firth of Forth were raised with the Scottish government in 1923, just as private cars were becoming increasingly popular.
Before the bridge was built motorists had to cross the Forth via a small ferry which was slow and awkward to make regular journeys on. With the citizens of Edinburgh clamouring to make frequent trips to the north of the country it was inevitable that a road bridge would eventually be built.
One of the biggest construction feats that were accomplished during the building of the bridge was the manufacture of over 30,000 miles of high-tensile steel wires that had to be wound together to create the main cables.
This was a system that was so new to Europe a special school had to be built in South Queensferry just to teach the construction workers how to spin the wires together.
The bridge was finally completed in 1964, 6 years after construction first started and by that point an incredible 40,000 tonnes of steel and 125,000 cubic metres of concrete had gone into its construction.
The total cost was around £19.5 million, an immense sum for the early 1960s and it marked the bridge as one of the most costly engineering endeavours in Scotland.
- The views across the Firth of Forth are spectacular and now that traffic has been diverted onto the new bridge it’s nice and quiet.
- There’s a superb viewpoint on the Edinburgh side of the road bridge which also has a commemorative display of the bridge opening.
- There are lots of other places to visit near the Forth Bridges. If you stay on the Edinburgh side I recommend having a look around South Queensferry before heading west to Hopetoun House.
- It’s occasionally closed for maintenance or bad weather so check the official website before departing.
- Take an engraved padlock ‘love lock’ to place on the bridge railings. You’ll find the love lock railings midway on the path in the centre of the bridge.
- If you enjoy your time walking across the Forth Road Bridge you’ll probably be interested in getting closer to the water. Two nearby sites that will let you do that are Cramond Island where you can stroll across a walkway (at low tide) and Inchcolm Island (which you can visit with an organised boat tour).
Although there’s a car park at the Forth Bridge offices on the south side of the bridges, it’s often easier to park in South Queensferry and follow the footpaths.
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Things to do near the Forth Road Bridge
- Forth Bridges Viewpoint. Newton, Broxburn EH30 9SN. 6-minute drive. The Forth Rail Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is best seen from this viewpoint on an elevated position just outside of South Queensferry. The small platform has parking for around 5 cars and offers stunning views across the three bridges and the Firth of Forth.
- Forth Boat Tours. 2 Hawes Brae, South Queensferry EH30 9TB. 7-minute drive. South Queensferry is the main departure point for pleasure cruises up and down the Firth of Forth as well as visits to Inchcolm Abbey. Ferries operate from the pier in the village centre.
- Hopetoun House. South Queensferry EH30 9RW. 12-minute drive. Stately home built in the 17th-century that is set in outstanding grounds. The house is open to the public for guided tours and there is a highly-rated restaurant in a converted stable block. The 6,500-acre estate is home to Midhope Castle (seen in the TV series Outlander) and a number of walking trails.
- House of The Binns. Binns View, Linlithgow EH49 7NA. 13-minute drive. A grand 17th-century country manor house that was home to the Dalyell family but is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland. In addition to tours through the house there is a parkland trail and a woodland walk in the expansive grounds.
- Blackness Castle. Linlithgow EH49 7NH. 16-minute drive. A 15th-century fortress overlooking the Firth of Forth. Blackness Castle is known as the ‘ship that never sailed’ due to its unusual bow-shaped front. The castle features restored rooms, a Victorian pier and a military barracks with a shop and toilets. Nearby Blackness Bay has footpaths running along the shoreline.
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- 360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in EdinburghAs well as being the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is one of the most-visited cities in the world thanks to its incredible collection of family-friendly tourist attractions. Discover a collection of virtual tours of attractions in Edinburgh with this article, where you can explore each one through a series of high-definition and ultra-immersive 360° photographs.
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideCamera Obscura and World of Illusions – located near Edinburgh Castle – is one of the oldest purpose-built attractions in Scotland. Visitors can experience six floors of interactive displays with exhibits that showcase optical illusions including holograms, a mirror maze and a mind-spinning vortex tunnel.
- Princes Street Gardens – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuidePrinces Street Gardens in Edinburgh is one of the largest public spaces in the city. Originally a body of water called the Nor Loch, the gardens were designed in the 1770s but weren’t created until 1820 when the loch was drained. Today, the gardens are a popular recreational area that features a number of popular landmarks including The Scott Monument, The Ross Fountain and The Ross Bandstand.
- The Balmoral Hotel – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Balmoral Hotel is a historic building situated in the heart of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The luxury hotel is located next to Waverley train station and was built in 1902 by the North British Railway Company. Today, it is a popular landmark that attracts visitors to its superb restaurants and bars.