Famous Bridges in Scotland

Written by Chris Thornton | 8th of April 2024
Bridges in Scotland

Believe it or not, I'm quite fond of bridges! Scotland is full of them; many are hundreds of years old, but this guide will also look at some of Scotland's amazing modern bridges. Prepare to be amazed at some of Scotland's most picturesque bridges.

Craigellachie Bridge

The Craigellachie Bridge is a testament to early 19th-century engineering, gracefully arching over the River Spey near Aberlour in Moray, Scotland. Crafted from cast iron, this bridge was brought to life through the genius of Thomas Telford, a civil engineer whose designs have left a lasting impact across the United Kingdom. Constructed between 1812 and 1814, it showcases the durability and elegance of cast iron in bridge construction.

Recognized for its historical and architectural significance, the Craigellachie Bridge was designated as a Category A listed structure. This classification underscores its importance as a landmark in Scottish heritage, preserving the visionary work of Telford for future generations to admire and study.

My family and I often stop at this bridge; it's the ideal spot for a picnic!

Craigellachie Bridge on Google Maps
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Craigellachie Bridge
The beautiful Craigellachie Bridge.

Clyde Arc Bridge

The Clyde Arc Bridge, which debuted in 2006, stands out among the 21 bridges that stretch across the River Clyde in Glasgow. It's renowned for its striking metal arch and serves as a modern architectural landmark in the city.

This bridge forms a crucial link between the SEC campus, home to the notable SSE Hydro Arena on the north bank, and the vibrant media village to the south. One of its unique features is the angled span over the River Clyde, earning it the affectionate nickname "The Squinty Bridge." This distinctive design adds to the bridge's visual appeal and highlights the innovative engineering that went into its construction.

Clyde Arc Bridge on Google Maps
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Clyde Arc Bridge illuminated at night.
Clyde Arc Bridge lit up at night.

Brig O' Doon

Located in Alloway, Ayrshire, the Brig O' Doon is a captivating cobblestone bridge dating back to the 15th century, stretching gracefully over the River Doon. "Auld" translates to "old" in Scots, while "brig" is the term for bridge, reflecting the structure's age and function.

This bridge is so esteemed that it features on the Bank of Scotland's £5 note, a testament to its cultural significance.

Robert Burns, the iconic Scottish poet born in Alloway in 1759, made the Brig O' Doon famous through his poem "Tam o' Shanter," immortalizing it in Scottish literary heritage.

Furthermore, it's believed that the bridge inspired the name for the well-loved Lerner and Lowe musical "Brigadoon." Despite the musical's village being a work of fiction, the bridge's real-world charm and historical relevance continue to captivate visitors and locals alike.

We visited this old bridge in 2023. The Robert Burns Memorial is close by, and the Robert Burns Museum and cottage are a short distance away. This is a fantastic day out for all the family.

Brig O' Doon on Google maps
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Brig O' Doon
Brig O' Doon, a very old bridge with links to Robert Burns.

Brig o' Balgownie

The Brig o' Balgownie, a historical bridge from the 13th century, stretches across the River Don in Old Aberdeen, Scotland. The initial phase of its construction kicked off in the late 13th century under the direction of Richard Cementarius, reaching completion in 1320 during the tumultuous times of the Scottish War of Independence. After a period of neglect led to its deterioration by the mid-16th century, the bridge underwent a significant renovation in 1605.

The Brig o' Balgownie played a crucial role in military and trade movements along Aberdeenshire's eastern coast for over five hundred years. It served as a strategic point for the movement of large armies. It facilitated trade routes to the affluent regions of northeast Scotland, underscoring its value as a vital asset throughout its history.

Constructed from granite and sandstone, the bridge features a single Gothic arch spanning 12 meters (39 feet) and stands over 17 meters (56 feet) above the water at low tide. It showcases impressive medieval engineering.

The bridge's role as a primary thoroughfare diminished in 1830 with the construction of the new Bridge of Don, located just 500 yards (460 meters) downstream, which took over as the main crossing point. Despite this, the Brig o' Balgownie remains a symbol of architectural beauty and historical significance, capturing the essence of Scotland's rich past.

Brig o' Balgownie on Google Maps
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Brig o' Balgownie
Brig o' Balgownie. Image: Tom Parnell.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Glenfinnan Viaduct, with its cinematic fame, is a striking feature of Scotland's landscape, stretching 1,000 feet (305 meters) and boasting 21 soaring arches, the tallest of which reaches 100 feet (30.5 meters). This architectural marvel is not just a feat of engineering but has also captured the imagination of audiences worldwide through its appearances on TV and film, most notably in the Harry Potter series, where it serves as the backdrop for the Hogwarts Express.

Located on the West Highland railway line, the viaduct spans between Fort William and Mallaig. It offers breathtaking views from the head of Loch Shiel and overlooks the historical Glenfinnan Monument. This area is steeped in beauty and history, providing a perfect setting for the iconic steam train's journey.

The Jacobite Steam Train, known to many as the real-world Hogwarts Express, runs twice daily and immerses passengers in the Scottish Highlands' magic and majesty. This journey is a must-do for Harry Potter fans and anyone looking to experience Scotland's unparalleled beauty from a unique vantage point.

For those interested in experiencing this world-famous trip, special one-day tours from Edinburgh and Inverness are available. These tours feature a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train and offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relive a piece of cinematic history while taking in some of Scotland's most stunning landscapes.

Glenfinnan Viaduct on Google Maps
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Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter film series.

Clachan Bridge

Located about 10 miles south of Oban, the Island of Seil is a destination celebrated for its stunning landscapes and rich history. Access to this idyllic island is via the Clachan Bridge, affectionately known as "The Bridge over the Atlantic" due to its unique positioning.

This intriguing name stems from the bridge's crossing over the Clachan Sound, which leads directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Constructed in 1792 by the engineer Robert Mylne, following designs by local architect John Stevenson, the bridge stands as a historic testament to the innovative engineering of its time.

Upon leaving the mainland and crossing the bridge, visitors are greeted by the Tigh and Truish Inn. This establishment holds a fascinating piece of history within its name, which translates to "house of trousers" in Gaelic. This name dates back to the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, a time when tartan and kilts were outlawed. Islanders heading to the mainland would stop at the inn to change from their traditional Highland attire into trousers, marking a significant cultural shift in response to the era's regulations.

Clachan Bridge on Google Maps
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Brig o' Balgownie
Clachan Bridge. Image: Ian Gratton.

Coldstream Bridge

The Coldstream Bridge, with its striking seven arches, elegantly crosses the River Tweed, creating a historical link between Scotland and England. Before its completion in 1767, traversing the river was possible only by navigating through fords. Coldstream's strategic location—being the first viable crossing point on the river north of Berwick—led to the town's establishment.

Throughout history, the Coldstream area has been a silent witness to the ebb and flow of Scottish and English armies marching across the border into battles that shaped both nations' histories.

One of the most notable moments in this bridge's vicinity occurred in 1513, when the Scottish army, under the command of King James IV, crossed en route to the fateful encounter with English forces led by the Earl of Surrey at Flodden Field. The devastating aftermath of the battle saw the loss of around 10,000 Scottish lives, including that of the king and the majority of his nobles, marking a significant chapter in the turbulent history between Scotland and England.

Moreover, the bridge's proximity to the English border rendered Coldstream a favoured spot for eloping couples. Many sought to marry secretly, often choosing the tollhouse just across the bridge in Scotland for their clandestine ceremonies, adding a layer of romantic lore to the bridge's storied past.

Coldstream Bridge on Google Maps
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Coldstream Bridge
Coldstream Bridge.

Forth Rail Bridge

The Forth Rail Bridge is a marvel of engineering and a symbol of Scotland's industrial heritage, so much so that it has earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. This iconic bridge is not just a crucial part of Scotland's railway infrastructure, carrying approximately 200 trains daily across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh to the Kingdom of Fife, but it also serves as one of the country's most recognizable landmarks. Each year, it facilitates the travel of around 3 million passengers, showcasing its enduring relevance and capacity.

Constructed by the North British Railway, the Forth Bridge, as it is officially known, was inaugurated on March 4, 1890. Its distinctive red hue has made it a visual hallmark, though this colour also represents the monumental effort traditionally associated with its maintenance. The phrase "painting the Forth Bridge" has entered common parlance as a metaphor for a seemingly infinite task. However, advancements in painting technology have significantly reduced the need for frequent reapplications, with the latest paint job expected to last for at least 25 years, thus ending the perpetual painting cycle.

The Forth Rail Bridge is part of a trio of bridges that span the Firth of Forth, each originating from a different century. The Forth Road Bridge flanks it, opened in 1964, and the Queensferry Crossing was completed in 2017. Collectively, these bridges illustrate the evolution of bridge construction over three centuries.

Forth Rail Bridge on Google Maps
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Forth Rail Bridge
Forth Rail Bridge.

Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing is a marvel of modern engineering and design, marking a significant addition to the trio of bridges spanning the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, Scotland. Opened in August 2017, this cable-stayed bridge alleviates traffic congestion on the adjacent Forth Road Bridge, ensuring a more reliable road connection between Edinburgh and Fife.

Distinguished by its three iconic towers reaching up to 210 meters (689 feet) above sea level, the Queensferry Crossing is the tallest bridge in the UK and one of the largest of its kind in the world. Its design incorporates 23,000 miles of cabling, enough to wrap around the Earth's equator, highlighting the project's monumental scale and complexity.

The bridge serves a practical purpose in improving transportation links and adds aesthetic value to the scenic landscape of the Firth of Forth. It was strategically designed to withstand the challenging Scottish weather, ensuring its operation under conditions that would have previously halted traffic on the Forth Road Bridge.

Beyond its functional role, the Queensferry Crossing symbolizes a forward-looking Scotland, blending state-of-the-art engineering with environmental sensitivity. Its construction reflects a commitment to sustainability, including measures to protect the marine ecosystem during its development.

As the newest addition to the Firth of Forth's crossings, the Queensferry Crossing is not just a feat of engineering; it's a testament to human ingenuity, a symbol of progress, and a vital artery for Scotland's social and economic life.

Queensferry Crossing on Google Maps
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Queensferry Crossing
Queensferry Crossing.

Old Inverness Footbridge (Greig Street Bridge)

The Grieg Street Bridge, more commonly known as the Old Inverness Footbridge, is a historic structure that has served as a pedestrian pathway across the River Ness since its completion in 1881. At 61.3 meters long, it provides a crucial connection within the heart of Inverness, allowing residents and visitors alike to traverse the often briskly flowing waters of the river.

This charming suspension bridge has earned the affectionate nickname "The Bouncy Bridge" among locals due to the unique sensation of movement felt as one walks across, especially at the midpoint. This bouncing effect adds a playful element to the crossing experience, making it a memorable part of any visit to Inverness.

Moreover, the bridge offers stunning views of the surrounding cityscape, including the picturesque Inverness Castle. These views become even more spectacular in the evening when the castle is illuminated by floodlights, casting a warm glow that enhances the area's beauty. The Grieg Street Bridge not only stands as a testament to Victorian engineering but also as a vantage point for some of Inverness's most captivating scenes, blending historical charm with natural beauty.

Old Inverness Footbridge on Google Maps
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Old Inverness Footbridge
Old Inverness Footbridge.

Kylesku Bridge

The Kylesku Bridge, with its graceful curvature and elegant design, stands as a pivotal landmark along the renowned North Coast 500, Scotland's premier tourist route. Strategically positioned to connect Scourie and Inchnadamph, it gracefully spans the deep-sea channel leading into Loch a' Chairn Bhaine, facilitating travel and exploration in one of Scotland's most picturesque regions.

Recognized for its architectural brilliance, the bridge has been designated a Category A listed structure by Historic Environment Scotland, underscoring its significance and innovative design.

In a historic move reflecting Scotland's cultural heritage, the bridge underwent a legal name change in 2019 to its Gaelic equivalent, Drochaid a' Chaolais Chumhaing. This made it the first bridge in Scotland to celebrate its Gaelic heritage through its official name. This change honours the rich linguistic traditions of the region and offers a nod to the importance of Gaelic in Scottish identity.

Kylesku Bridge on Google Maps
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Kylesku Bridge
Kylesku Bridge.

Sligachan Bridge, Isle of Skye

The Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye offers breathtaking views against the backdrop of the formidable Cuillin Mountains, making it a favourite subject for photographers and a staple in numerous travel albums. This picturesque bridge was constructed between 1810 and 1818 under the guidance of the renowned engineer Thomas Telford. It features a trio of arches that gracefully extend over the stream flowing from the Cuillins into Loch Sligachan, showcasing Telford's mastery of integrating functionality with natural beauty.

Sligachan is a crucial crossroads on the Isle of Skye, linking the main route to Portree with the west coast road to Dunvegan and Bracadale. Historically, it was a vibrant gathering place for cattle markets. By 1830, the establishment of the Sligachan Hotel at this site provided a welcoming haven for travellers and hikers, a role it continues to fulfil to this day.

Adding to the bridge's allure is a captivating local legend that the waters flowing beneath possess the power to bestow eternal beauty. It is said that immersing your face in the stream for seven seconds and allowing it to air dry will grant this enchanting gift. Whether seeking scenic beauty, historical exploration, or the chance to test an enchanting legend, the Sligachan Bridge offers a unique and memorable experience for all who visit.

Sligachan Bridge on Google Maps
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Sligachan Bridge
Sligachan Bridge.

Packhorse Bridge, Carrbridge

The Packhorse Bridge in Carrbridge, known for its historical significance and picturesque setting, stretches across the River Dulnain. Constructed in 1717 by John Niccelstone, a skilled local stonemason, this bridge was originally intended to facilitate the passage of funeral processions to Duthil Churchyard. This practical yet solemn purpose earned it the local moniker of "The Coffin Bridge," a name that reflects its deep-rooted connection to the community's past.

In response to the community's evolving needs and the wear of time, a "new" bridge was erected in 1797 to serve alongside the original. However, this successor has been supplanted by a modern construction designed to accommodate contemporary transportation demands.

Despite these changes, the original Packhorse Bridge remains a cherished landmark within Carrbridge. It embodies the craftsmanship and historical layers that contribute to the village's unique character. Its survival offers a tangible link to the early 18th century, inviting visitors and locals alike to ponder the lives and traditions of those who have crossed its span over the centuries.

Packhorse Bridge on Google Maps
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Packhorse Bridge, Carrbridge
Packhorse Bridge, Carrbridge.

Skye Bridge

Before the construction of the Skye Bridge, reaching the Isle of Skye required a ferry crossing, with the shortest route from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. Despite the availability of large vessels and frequent service, summer months often saw significant delays due to high demand.

The construction of a new bridge to Skye commenced in 1992, marking the beginning of a new era in accessibility to the island. The bridge's design is split into two main sections: the initial stretch connects Kyle of Lochalsh to Eilean Ban, a small island once inhabited by the renowned naturalist Gavin Maxwell, author of "Ring of Bright Water."

The project's second phase introduced a striking single-span concrete arch bridge, towering up to 35 meters above the Kyle, showcasing engineering prowess and blending aesthetically with the surrounding landscapes.

Upon its opening in 1995, the Skye Bridge became the centre of a heated debate due to the imposition of a high toll for crossing, leading to significant local and national protests. Responding to the widespread opposition, the toll was eliminated in 2004, allowing free access to the bridge. Today, the Skye Bridge stands as a toll-free gateway to the Isle of Skye, celebrated for its engineering achievement and the freedom it represents, ensuring unimpeded access to one of Scotland's most cherished landscapes.

Skye Bridge on Google Maps
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Skye Bridge
Skye Bridge.

Stirling Old Bridge

The Stirling Old Bridge, with its foundations dating back to the 15th or 16th century, serves as a historical beacon across the River Forth, succeeding a lineage of earlier timber constructions. This bridge not only connects two shores but also centuries of Scottish history. It stands on or near the site of a significant event in Scotland's fight for independence—the victory of William Wallace's forces over King Edward I's army in 1297, a tale of valour and strategy immortalized in countless stories and records.

The bridge as it exists today has witnessed substantial changes over the centuries. It was originally equipped with arched gates at both ends and underwent a pivotal modification during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. In a strategic move to impede Bonnie Prince Charlie and his advancing army, General Blackeney, the then Governor of Stirling Castle, ordered the destruction of the bridge's south arch. This demolition act was intended as a defensive measure, reflecting the bridge's role not just as a means of crossing but as a player in the tactical chessboard of Scottish history.

While the arched gates are no longer, the essence and historical significance of the Stirling Old Bridge endure, offering visitors a tangible link to the past and an insight into Scotland's tumultuous history.

Stirling Old Bridge on Google Maps
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Stirling Old Bridge
Stirling Old Bridge.

Swilcan Bridge, St Andrews

Despite its modest size, the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews commands a significant presence in the world of golf. This historic bridge elegantly stretches across the burn that meanders through the 1st and 18th fairways of the iconic Old Course, the very heart of golfing tradition and history.

The Swilcan Bridge has been a silent observer of 29 Open Championships, providing a strategic and symbolic crossing for some of golf's greatest legends. Its stones have witnessed momentous victories and personal triumphs, making it more than just a physical structure on the course. It embodies the spirit of golf, serving as a poignant reminder of the game's deep-rooted history and the memorable moments that have unfolded on the venerable greens of St Andrews.

Swilcan Bridge on Google Maps
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Swilcan Bridge, St Andrews
Swilcan Bridge, St Andrews.

Bridge of Avon

Found on the picturesque A95 road, the Bridge of Avon was once the main traffic bridge crossing the River Avon in central Moray. Today, the bridge is just for tourists and can be visited before or after Ballindalloch Castle. The bridge is nice, but the loveliest part is the nearby gatehouse, which looks like something out of a fairy tale!

Bridge of Avon on Google Maps
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Bridge of Avons
Bridge of Avon.

Craigmin Bridge

This is a lesser-known bridge in Scotland, located a short distance from Drybridge in East Moray. Built in 1779 to cross the Burn of Letterfourie, the bridge's unique look was inspired by Roman aqueducts. Some theorists believe that the upper part of the bridge was built upon the lower level to raise its height.

A walk to the bridge from Drybridge makes for a lovely day out.

Craigmin Bridge on Google Maps
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Craigmin Bridge
Craigmin Bridge.

FAQs on Bridges in Scotland

What's the longest bridge in Scotland?

The Queensferry Crossing is the longest bridge in Scotland. Spanning 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) across the Firth of Forth, it connects Edinburgh with Fife and is a major transport artery.

Where is the oldest bridge in Scotland?

The Brig o' Balgownie in Aberdeenshire is considered the oldest bridge in Scotland, built-in 1320.

What are the three bridges in Scotland?

When people say "the three bridges," they often refer to the iconic Forth Bridges, which span the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh.

  1. The Forth Bridge: This cantilever railway bridge, which opened in 1890, is an engineering marvel and UNESCO World Heritage site. It is celebrated for its distinctive red colour and impressive steel structure, which symbolize a significant leap in 19th-century engineering.

  2. The Forth Road Bridge: Opened in 1964, this suspension bridge was a major transport artery for vehicles crossing the Firth of Forth. It complements the rail bridge and marks an important phase in modern bridge construction.

  3. The Queensferry Crossing: The newest addition, opened in August 2017, is a cable-stayed bridge built to relieve traffic congestion on the Forth Road Bridge. It is notable for its sleek design and being the UK's tallest bridge.

These three structures represent engineering in Scotland across three centuries.

The three modern bridges crossing the Forth.
The three bridges crossing the Firth of Forth.

Conclusion

The bridges of Scotland, from the historic Packhorse Bridge to the contemporary Queensferry Crossing, are enduring icons of the nation's architectural ingenuity and natural splendour. I hope you get the chance to visit a few on your travels!

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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