Three Forth bridges to be a first class visitor destination
Scotland’s trio of iconic engineering marvels spanning the Firth of Forth and linking three centuries of innovation and achievement are to be promoted as a leading global tourist destination.
Over the next 10 years a new strategy will be rolled out to turn the Forth Rail Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing into a world-class visitor experience.
The three bridges, each one a world record holder in its own right, are unique and considered a major national asset. There is nowhere else in the world that can boast three major bridges spanning three centuries of engineering and ingenuity in such close proximity.
However the stories behind the bridges are about much more than technical statistics. Each one is a tribute to the workers who battled with wind and tides to fit together the pieces of some of the world’s largest jigsaws.
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The Forth Bridge was built by more than 4,600 workers between 1882 and 1889. Over the years it has experienced the drama of two World Wars and inspired the creativity of writers, artists and film makers.
In 2015 UNESCO added the Forth Bridge to the World Heritage list, making it Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site and elevating it to the same status as the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
When the Forth Road bridge opened in 1964 it was the largest suspension bridge in the world outside of the United States.
All three bridges have found international fame.They have featured on banknotes, coins, a multitude of souvenirs and even in computer games played worldwide. The bridges are already the backdrop for local sports and charity events as well as the inspiration for writing and photographic competitions.
They are also a monument to the brave men and women who built them and a testament to the changing standards of safety.
When the Forth Bridge was being built in the 19th century at least 73 people lost their lives. In the 20th century seven men died building the Forth Road Bridge and in the 21st century one man was killed in an accident during construction of the Queensferry Crossing.
All three bridges are world-class icons attracting more than 117,000 visitors a year. However, tourism isn’t a new. Visitors have been drawn to the Forth Bridge since construction began in 1882. Over the decades numbers have continually increased. While some visitors are students of engineering others are ordinary families looking for a different day out and tourists seeking to tick off another sight on their bucket list that they can share on social media.
Others, more hardy souls, visit the bridges each Hogmanay to take part in the annual Loony Dook which involves celebrating the New Year by bathing in the chilly waters of the Forth under the iconic bridges.
According to a report by the Forth Bridges Forum into turning the bridges into a tourist destination the aim is that “visitors will be able to step on to a dramatic, 21st century viewing platform at the south end of the Forth Road Bridge to engage their senses with unparalleled views.
“They will have the opportunity to learn the headlines of the bridges’ story in the landscape as they move towards the Forth Bridges Welcome Hub where the chapters unfold through creative exhibitions. The adventurous may soon be able to walk in the sky, travelling up the Forth Bridge to a viewing platform 100 metres above the river, in an experience of a lifetime.”
Attracting more visitors to the bridge is forecast to create a major boost for the communities of North and South Queensferry which mark the traditional crossing point of the Forth ever since Queen Margaret paid for a ferry to carry pilgrims in the 11th century.
“The location of the bridges is one of their strengths.They sit within the growing visitor market of Edinburgh and the Lothians, which attract around 4.25 million staying visitor trips a year, 38 per cent of which are taken by overseas visitors. To the north, Fife generates over 650,000 such trips with over 20 per cent of visitors coming from overseas,” claims the report.
Each bridge offers a distinctive experience. The Queensferry Crossing is a contemporary expression of a long engineering heritage. Its appearance is constantly changing with the weather and the light.
“The Forth Bridges are much more than a means of travel,” said Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Tourism Secretary.
“The Forth Bridge has taken its place alongside the Pyramids of Giza and Spain’s Alhambra as one of the world’s most iconic monuments and has been inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Its two magnificent neighbours are themselves great engineering achievements. The bridges span both time and distance as the three bridges were built in three different centuries.
“The Tourism Strategy sets out the Forth Bridges Forum’s plan to tell the story of the three bridges for the first time, creating a unique experience which will allow visitors to learn about their history as well as marvel at their majesty.
“It’s an exciting development which will secure the area’s reputation as a top destination for visitors.”