On Saturday I ticked off an item from my Bucket List – ‘go to the top of the Forth Road Bridge’ – but not in the best of weather conditions!
The Forth Road Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in Scotland, opened on 4th September 1964. It replaced the centuries-old ferry service to carry vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians over the Firth of Forth. Its towers are 156m tall and the carriageway spans some 2.5km. There are various celebrations taking place throughout 2014, its fiftieth anniversary year, including tower top trips. Back in February, I booked myself a place on such a trip taking place on Saturday 19th July; the height of the Scottish summer. I envisaged blue skies, white puffy clouds, the Firth of Forth sparkling in the sunshine, a radiant Forth (Rail) Bridge, and panoramic views to the Ochil Hills, Pentland Hills, the Fife coastline, North Berwick Law, and the Bass Rock in the distance. Yeah.
I awoke to foggy conditions in Perth on the morning of my trip. Ever the optimist, I slapped on some sunscreen, tossed my sunglasses into my backpack, charged my camcorder and cleared space for 200 photographs on my camera’s memory card. I cruised down the M90, headlights shining, wipers gliding across the windscreen, chuckling to myself over my bad luck. Kinnoull Hill, Loch Leven and the Lomond Hills – the familiar sights of the M90 – were all obscured by thick fog. The gantry signs warned ‘heavy rain forecast’. Marvellous.
Seemingly I had picked the worst day of the entire summer for my tower top trip but thankfully the rain and haar didn’t dampen my spirits. After a health and safety briefing, the donning of a high vis jacket, harness, walking boots, gloves and a hard-hat, followed by a minibus trip up the footpath and cycleway, I was ready to ascend the North Tower. I squeezed into a lift the size of a phone box, with two other people, and we clunked our way up eleven floors. Harness safely secured, I then climbed a fourteen metre vertical ladder, followed by a few more steps out through a hatch, and there I was – on top of the Forth Road Bridge! What a wonderful view of the fog from up here!
The weather was disappointing but it was an awesome experience to stand 100m above the car deck, looking down on vehicles undertaking a crossing I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of times during my life. The fog lifted marginally and we could make out the distinctive profiles of the South Tower and the Forth (Rail) Bridge in the gloom.
Haar or no haar, the view from up here is going to change significantly over the next couple of years as the Queensferry Crossing (formerly the Forth Replacement Crossing) will rise out of the Firth of Forth, bit by bit, to reach a height of some 210 metres. The iconic views to be had around North and South Queensferry are about to get even better. Three centuries. Three bridges. Three very different designs. What a feat of engineering.