Visiting the Forth Rail Bridge: All About Scotland’s Man-Made Wonder

15 December, 2020

Scotland may be best known for its dramatic nature and scenic views, but there’s more to discover here than rivers and fens. Since the Industrial Revolution, several man-made wonders have sprung up across the country, chief of which being the Forth Rail Bridge – one of the world’s most iconic river crossings.

At Deep Sea World, we’re well acquainted with this incredible bridge, as it’s visible from our café! So, to introduce our illustrious neighbour, we’re taking a closer look at the Forth Rail Bridge and why you should consider paying it a visit after you’ve said “hello” to our wonderful animals.

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The Forth Rail Bridge Fact File: Getting to Know Scotland’s Famous Crossing

One of the great man-made icons of Scotland, the Forth Rail Bridge has an illustrious and fascinating heritage, and remains an engineering marvel to this day. Get to know this pioneering structure in our fact file below.

Where is the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge is located 9 miles west of central Edinburgh, in the east of the Scottish Borders region. It spans the Firth of Forth, the estuary which drains several Scottish rivers including the River Forth, the River Teith and Allan Water.

What Type of Bridge is the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge is a cantilever bridge. At the time it was built, this design was considered a key milestone in the history of civil engineering, and even today, the Forth Rail Bridge holds the record for the longest cantilever bridge ever built.

firth of forth rail bridge

How Long is the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge is 2,467 metres long, which is roughly 1.5 miles. To put that into perspective, it’s equivalent to 23 football pitches, 98 blue whales, 246 whale sharks, and about the same width as another Scottish icon, Loch Ness.

How Tall is the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge is 110 metres tall at its highest point visible above water. That’s 15 metres taller than Big Ben, and 10 metres taller than the Houses of Parliament. Or, from a fishy perspective, it’s the equivalent of 18 female great white sharks.

When Did the Forth Rail Bridge Open?

Opening in 1890, the Forth Rail Bridge was a turning point in railway engineering. The bridge linked both sides of the Firth of Forth for the first time in history; since the 12th century, a ferry had taken people between Edinburgh and the north. By the mid 19th century, this ferry had become so in demand, local leaders realised a bridge was desperately needed, with work commencing in 1882.

Who Designed the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge was designed by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, who submitted their plans to parliament in 1882. This isn’t where the story of the Forth Rail Bridge begins, however, as an earlier version of the bridge had already been planned a decade earlier in 1873.

Sadly, this earlier bridge, designed by Thomas Bouch, was scrapped in 1879 following the Tay Bridge disaster. This paved the way for Fowler and Baker to put forward their new, pioneering design, which relied on the cantilever principle.

Here’s a quick timeline illustrating the key dates in the building of the Forth Rail Bridge:

  • 1882 – Fowler and Baker’s design is approved by parliament
  • 1883 – Construction begins
  • 1886 – Foundations completed
  • 1887 – Towers completed
  • 1889 – Cantilevers completed
  • 1890 – The Forth Rail Bridge is opened on 4 March 1890

Such is the significance of the Forth Rail Bridge, that the structure received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2015 – the same inscription as the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge and Machu Picchu. Three years earlier, in 2012, a huge restoration project took place, returning the bridge to its original condition.

firth and forth railway bridge

Forth Rail Bridge Facts and Stats

Impress your friends and family on a visit to the Forth Rail Bridge by regaling them with some of the following facts about this amazing Scottish bridge:

  • 53,000 tonnes of steel were used to build the Forth Rail Bridge, with pieces joined by some 6.5 million rivets. That’s five times heavier than the Eiffel Tower!
  • 92,000 cubic metres of concrete can be found within the bridge’s huge piers, enclosed in a thick granite shell.
  • Some 240,000 litres of paint were required to decorate the bridge.
  • 1,040 lights are strung on the Forth Rail Bridge, connected by 40,000 metres of cable. That’s 24 miles, roughly the same length as Loch Lomond.
  • The Forth Rail Bridge carries roughly 3 million rail passengers a year, with over 200 trains crossing it every day.
  • Since the Forth Rail Bridge opened in 1890, there’s been an uninterrupted railway line between London and Aberdeen – a journey of 400 miles.

Visiting the Forth Rail Bridge: What to Expect

Planning a fun and educational visit to Deep Sea World? From our café, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Forth Rail Bridge, so why not pay it a visit while you’re in the area? Here, we take a look at what you can expect during a stop off at this icon of the Victorian age.

Why Visit the Forth Rail Bridge?

Until recently, the Forth Rail Bridge was a passive landmark, used purely for transportation and not open to the public. This all changed, however, with the creation of the Forth Rail Bridge Experience – a new programme of exhibits and activities designed to showcase the bridge’s rich heritage and impressive views to the public for the first time.

forth bridges at dawn

As part of your visit to the Forth Rail Bridge, you can enjoy a handful of immersive experiences, including a bridge walk at height, which is sure to appeal to thrill-seekers, and a dedicated viewing platform, where you can savour amazing views over the Forth and beyond.

Viewpoints of the Bridge

Prefer to see the Forth Rail Bridge from a distance? There are several well-known viewing points around the estuary where you can enjoy majestic views over the Forth Rail Bridge as well as its younger counterparts. These include:

  • South Queensferry
  • North Queensferry
  • The Forth Road Bridge – which has a footpath offering great views over the adjacent bridge.

Don’t forget that you can also cross the bridge by train, which makes for an enthralling journey. Dalmeny and North Queensferry are the closest stations to the bridge, between which you can take a scenic train ride across the Forth.We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to one of Scotland’s best-loved structures. For a memorable day out, why not combine a tour of the Forth Rail Bridge with a visit to Deep Sea World? For more information and tickets, visit our homepage.