Over, Over, Over, Over, Over, Under

Posted on September 5, 2017. Filed under: Firth of Forth Crossing Swim, forth bridge, open water swimming, Queensferry Crossing, running, swimming |

Scotland is beautiful. It’s official. An internet survey said so. And not just a wee bit beautiful but THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

Aye, ya bass.

Everyone knows Scotland is beautiful. Or bonny, as we call it. Whether you learnt it from the picture on a shortbread tin or Brigadoon or watching the skag boys alight the train at Corrour as Rent Boy declared “It’s shite being Scottish”.

It’s not a one dimensional beauty though. Whether you long for the road through Rannoch Moor to the Buachaille moodily guarding Glencoe or wish your days away for the long trip up to climb the grande dammes of Suilven or Liathach of the most remote North West.

Or if water is your thing there are the vast lochs Ness, Lomond and Awe or the small but perfectly formed Venachar or Lubnaig.

Then there are the cities: the sparkling granite of Aberdeen always caught in the gloomy half light of the 57th parallel or the Athens of the North, my long since adopted home town, Edinburgh.

Then there are Glasgow and Dundee. We don’t talk about them.

But the beauty extends to our architecture. We love our Kelpies, for sure, but if you want to see a Scotsman get truly misty eyed you show him a bridge. Particularly a ginger bridge.

Not 5km from my house is the Forth Bridge, now a World Heritage site. And from the front of my house we can see the gleaming towers of the Queensferry Crossing.

This weekend was a big weekend for Scotland’s bridges. Before the Queen came to open it and before the Red Arrows flew over it, they gave the hoi polloi “the opportunity of a lifetime” to walk over the new Queensferry Crossing. Two hundred and fifty thousand people entered a ballot for one of 50,000 tickets to walk across the bridge before it becomes a motorway. AND WE GOT TICKETS.

And so the idea of a weekend of adventuring was born. How many times could I cross the Forth in a weekend by different means?

OVER (1)

Getting out of the car at North Queensferry station the sun came out to add a little sizzle to the first crossing. A gentle jog up past Gordy Broon’s house before a descent down past the scrappys and into the perpetual roadworks of the bridge construction.

If you have never run across the Forth Road Bridge the thing that you need to know is that it is quite a steep ascent and it shoogles. Quickly you are high above the Forth but as every lorry rumbles over the expansion joints (also known as the gi-doofs) your fillings get a rattle in your head.


The good news is that what goes up must do down so I always look ahead to the cables to see the inflection point where the descent begins. And, after passing two charity groups doing a crossing in the opposite direction, the run over the bridge is done and I am jinking through the streets to the station in South Queensferry. Or more correctly Queensferry. Or even more correctly Dalmeny. Or, as it is labelled in gaelic, Dail Mheinidh. A station so good they named it four times. How anyone actually manages to get on a train there is beyond me.

OVER (2)

I just miss a train so stand enjoying the sun with a great view of the Forth Bridge. This is the Forth Bridge by the way, the original, not the Forth Rail Bridge as some try to label it.


£2.50 for a 3 minute journey to retrace my 45 minute run. I wait for the train twenty minutes later but it is delayed by eight minutes. It occurs to me that I can swim across in about that time.


The conductor turns out to be a bit of a wag. He has a double take at my ticket.

“Saves walking across, I suppose”

“I’ve just run across”

“At least you didn’t have to swim it”

“Doing that on Sunday, actually”

He didn’t look like he believed me. Not even a “really?”.  As he sauntered off down the carriage I am convinced he thought I was the village idiot.

And then I had the chance to look down on the start line and, a few moments later, the finish line of Sunday’s swim glistening in the glorious sunshine.



OVER (3)

The opportunity of a lifetime.

First of all I should say that I had a sense of trepidation about the Queensferry Crossing Experience. The organisers were GSI events who “organise” the Edinburgh Marathon and I’ve just never had a very good experience with them. But let me be the first to say that they absolutely nailed the security, logistics and experience. They should do more bridge openings and other things that don’t require baggage or results or water or finisher’s t-shirts or any other run related stuff.

They started digging into the seabed of the Forth in September 2011 just after wee Roar was born and one of our regular trips has been going to see “how the bridge is getting on”. It has grown up with him for the last 6 years so it was great to take him for a walk over it.


Look at that wee abseil guy!

After much ID and security checking we were dropped off on the northern approach and let loose for an hour. In theory we had an hour to walk to the southern approach but once we were on the bridge it was really relaxed. And so the opportunity of a lifetime began.

Roar, as any 6 year old would do, found a white line and followed it. For 1.7 miles. Only looking up when instructed to.


Statistically the Queensferry Crossing is the longest of it’s kind in the world and the tallest in the UK. It also continues the trend of building a bridge over the Forth every century. I could excel at being a bridge bore but I’ll let her pictures speak for themselves.




OVER (4)

My fourth Forth crossing and still have never retraced my steps. An uneventful northbound council bus trip back to the car as a huge container ship crossed below the Forth Road Bridge and cruises out towards the Forth bridge.

OVER (5)

Another bus. This time southbound on the Forth Road Bridge. This time I wear a rubber suit and eat a banana.

I don’t mess around with making these trips unique.


The weekend closer. A swim in the shadow of the Forth Bridge.

After a wait for slack water 122 swimmers enter the water in a spluttering, salty stramash and then disappear into the vast dark water of the crossing. Progress marked only by kayakers and ribs man-marking the swimmers spread across the Firth.

I can’t begin to explain the entirely unique perspective that you get of all the bridges when your eyes are two inches above the waves. The old ginger bridge rises majestically on our right and the 20th century and 21st century bridges slightly more distant to our left.

The sun is warm. The water is cold. The waves are light but untamed. I increase my cadence to keep steady power through the steady flow of the river ever present even in slack water.

I sight the arch on the slipway. I swim through the floating wrack seaweed. My feet touch down.

Of course there is a full race report. As a spoiler I do quite well. But you’ll have to read it to find out the whole story.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 09.00.09

Quietly pleased with my race result. Very pleased with 6 crossings of the Forth without doing the same crossing twice – one on the Forth Bridge, three on the Road Bridge (one north, one south on road, one south on foot), one on the Queensferry Crossing and one by shoulder power in the shadow of the Forth Bridge.



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