Quite a few years ago, I was in South Queensferry one Saturday and had the notion to walk across the Forth Road Bridge. I got to the bridge and only got so far, indeed I was still over land, when I decided to chuck it. The height might have had something to do with it, possibly the constant traffic. All I knew is that I couldn’t do it and off I went for a bus back into Edinburgh.
Fast forward to the other week. I made a list of thirty things to do before my thirtieth birthday, which is in 16 months from now. Most of the items on the list are little personal touches, places to go, things to do. I achieved four in fairly quick succession though it’s not a great rush at this stage. I was talking about the list with my dad and I mentioned that one of the targets was to walk across the Forth Road Bridge. He was up for that and thus it was that one bright spring Sunday morning we were on a bus out to Queensferry.
Since the last attempt, the Forth Road Bridge had been supplanted by the shiny new Queensferry Crossing a little way west. The new bridge now carries the majority of traffic, the old bridge mainly the preserve of buses. This made walking up by the old Forth Bridges Hotel quite eerie, some punningly-named gritters parked by the road. I still felt anxious as we started to walk. It was a bright morning with very little wind. I knew that nothing much could happen to me save some freak event right out of a disaster movie. The path was one of those dual-purpose ones with separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. The cyclists got more room, which as a committed pedestrian I grudge. I felt safest roughly in the middle and that’s pretty much where I stayed the whole way across. I had some jitters and went very quiet just before our feet left dry land. Some deep breathing and keeping my eyes straight propelled me forward.
What also helped was the location. We were on the eastern walkway which was closest to the greatest bridge on the planet, the Forth Bridge, the original and best. As we walked on, I could see both the Fife and Lothian coastlines, Edinburgh and beyond to North Berwick Law. In the other direction, though I tried not to look that way too often due to the slatted gap between the walkway and the road, was a clear view up the Forth, including to Blackness Castle cradling its promontory a few miles down river. I got more comfortable the further we got, grateful for the good conditions and that the bridge was perfectly still throughout. That there were loads of joggers, walkers and cyclists going in both directions gave me precious little comfort. Below the central towers of the bridge were lots of padlocks that people had left to signify their love or whatever. It only made me think the force of all those locks must be doing the bridge some damage. I’m of the ‘leave only footprints, take only photographs’ school of travelling though I balked at taking a selfie as some signs suggested.
After about 45 minutes or so, we came back over dry land and we were duly welcomed to Fife by the inevitable road sign. Remarkably the first wobbly bit I had was walking down steps from the bridge towards North Queensferry. We ate lunch under the Light Tower. I had only been to North Queensferry for Deep Sea World, a muckle aquarium which sits by the Rail Bridge, though I knew that the village itself is pretty, not least the Light Tower designed by Robert Stevenson in 1817. A ferry ran across the Forth for eight hundred years until the Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964. The Light Tower was built to aid mariners and travellers in that endeavour. It was poky inside but I could get up to the light itself. Right by the light was a pair of binoculars, left by the local community to aid nosy visitors who might want to look out to sea. I desisted as I was happy to geek out being in a real-life lighthouse.
Now and then it’s good to do things that scare you. If we didn’t keep a sense of adventure, life would be horrendously dull and this blog would be about my collection of cats. (I don’t have any cats. I don’t like cats.) Having said that, I’m in no great hurry to walk over the Forth Road Bridge, or any other big bridge, again any time soon. I’ve done it. The views were great. I didn’t piss my pants. It’s all good. But I’m happy to travel across it on the bus in the future, content in the knowledge that even if I did walk it again, I and the bridge would both survive the experience.